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Panama Hatties in Huntington Station

Panama Hatties in Huntington Station Credit: Newsday File, 2008 / Ana P. Gutierrez

On this wet, nasty day, I'm thinking about great, sunny meals at two restaurants: Soigne in Woodmere and Panama Hatties in Huntington Station.

The reverie is spurred by the news that the three-star Soigne has closed, an event tempered only by the fact that owner George Echeverria is taking over four-star Panama Hatties from chef-owner Matthew Hisiger.

At its peak, under Hisiger, Panama Hatties was one of the four or five best restaurants on Long Island. Hisiger took terrific ingredients and made exceptional, subtle, artful, whimsical, wonderful food. I remember a dessert called "The Scream," a lemon-meringue tart accompanied by a chocolate frame that offered an edible version of the classic expressionist painting -- something to Munch on, for sure. Or a delectable chocolate-pecan tart capped with a cookie recreation of the Manhattan skyline. Hisigner extracted maximum flavor with pan-roasted quail and white-truffle risotto; duck breast with peppercorn sauce; and a rack of lamb paired with a napa cabbage, white bean and olive ragu, too. And there were excellent cheeses. His fixed-price lunch was the best deal in Suffolk. If Hisiger continues in a kitchen somewhere, it's no leap of faith to say, in advance, that you should go there.

Soigne was a little jewel box. Echeverria's gem succeeded Blake's Bistro, a first-rate New American eatery that, to go full circle, was run by Blake Verity, who preceded Hisiger at Panama Hatties and earned four stars, too. Echeverria's Woodmere destination was eclectic, but rooted in classic technique, from risotto with shrimp, scallops and chorizo to a smoked duck confit quesadilla, filet mignon au poivre to, yes, penne alla vodka.

It will be a treat to see what he does fusing the two restaurants. But a bittersweet one.

At table, Panama Hatties.

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