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Jamesport: All aboard the Luce local

Keith Luce in front of his kitchen garden

Keith Luce in front of his kitchen garden at Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jameport. April 17, 2010 Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

After months of retooling, the Jedediah Hawkins Inn is serving food again. A few weeks ago, the inn’s casual dining venue, Luce’s Landing, quietly opened for business. The more formal restaurant, Luce & Hawkins, is slated to open some time around Memorial Day.

The “Luce” in question is executive chef Keith Luce, also a partner in the inn, who is committed to bringing a new level of local to the North Fork. In the past month, he has planted a 7,500-square-foot kitchen garden, and he is overseeing a small flock of laying hens.

Luce, whose impressive resume includes stints at the White House, The Little Nell in Aspen and PlumpJack Café in San Francisco, was most recently the executive chef at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Wash. (outside of Seattle). “At Herbfarm,” he told me, “ninety-nine percent of what we served, we raised.” Luce raised his own hogs, churned his own butter, made his own sea salt.

Born and raised on the North Fork, Luce always had it in mind to “come home and open a country inn.” He observed that while California, where the 40-year-old cooked for close to a decade, is widely considered to be “a locavore’s paradise,” his heart belongs to “the temperate regions, like Long Island.”

“Things don’t rush to maturity here,” he said, “and I think you get a depth of flavor—in the wines, in the produce—that you don’t get out West.”

Luce’s Landing’s menu is based on small plates that range in price from $4 to $10: duckling pate with fig mustard, lobster salad with fresh tarragon, pastrami-cured bluefish, bison skewers, duck wings with cucumber-feta raita, to name a few. The larger plates top out at $20 (milk-braised pork loin with local potatoes) and include pizza, pasta and an intriguing burger served with “house-made ‘velveeta.’ ”

Luce’s Landing is at 400 South Jamesport Ave., Jamesport, 631-722-2900.

Keith Luce and his in-progress kitchen garden (April 17, 2010)

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