In a small seasonal community like Shelter Island, a good new restaurant is cause for celebration. This year, there's plenty to cheer about. In fact, Shelter Island's dining scene is well worth the short ferry trip from either Greenport on the North Fork, or North Haven on the South.
Hearts sank when Bayville's 18 Bay closed last summer, but now the restaurant has resurfaced in Shelter Island, where it has become, if anything, even more 18 Bayish than before. Chef-owners Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels have always been seasonal, market-driven chefs with a tightly focused menu. Now they offer one menu every dinner service. The bill of fare changes every week, sometimes every day, depending on what Ronzetti and Kopels see at the farms and markets. (The couple lives on the North Fork and regularly hauls many of their ingredients over on the ferry.) The $50 fixed-price menu includes four courses: an antipasto (which itself comprises four antipasti), a pasta, choice of fish or meat, and dessert. With advance notice, the chefs can adjust for allergies and aversions.
On a recent Friday evening, appetizers included a delectable beef short rib with pickled cucumber, fava beans with pecorino and mint, and a duo of clams -- baked littleneck and fried steamer. Then it was on to handmade fazzolettini (handkerchief pasta) with homemade chicken sausage, wild mushrooms and cream. Main courses that night were both winners, seared filet of Montauk striped bass atop a tangle of wax beans and snap peas in a chunky corn vinaigrette, and Painted Hills New York strip steak with parsnips, chard and pearl onions. I was very relieved to learn that Ronzetti's supernal chocolate cupcake had made the journey from Nassau's North Shore. Also on offer, a refreshing lemon semifreddo with local berries.
18 Bay's wine list, drawn from Italy, France, California and the East End, features about two dozen well-priced selections, most of which are available by the glass. We enjoyed a Paumanok chenin blanc straight from the keg, $32 for a carafe.
The restaurant is in the gracious old building that used to house Planet Bliss. Sit in the well-appointed dining room or on the wide porch. At the bar, items from the fixed-price menu can be ordered a la carte.
18 Bay is at 23 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0053, 18bayrestaurant .com. Open for dinner Thursday to Monday. Expect to spend $80 to $100.
It's been a rocky road back to her own restaurant for the chef-owner of Kyle's. The willowy Lindenhurst native, who goes simply by "Kyle," bought the building in 2000 and, two years later, opened Shelter Island Bake Shop. "Then Atkins happened," she said. In response, Kyle and Thomas Ritzler opened Café 27 from 2005 to 2008. The next year, the space became Mark It With G, a bakery that also served dinner. That lasted a little over a year. In April 2010, Kyle took back the kitchen, redid the dining room and opened Kyle's for breakfast and lunch. In June, she fell and broke both arms. No more cooking that summer.
This year, Kyle is back with a vengeance -- and, for the first time, for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Her menus change weekly according to the market, but count on plenty of vegetable-based appetizers and main courses that reflect years of traveling the world and collecting cookbooks.
Breakfast is more straightforward: whole-wheat pancakes with blueberries are nutty and tender, served with good maple syrup and softened butter. Every day brings its own frittata. For lunch, burgers, falafel, a BLT on homemade bread. The chicken salad, made from freshly poached poultry, mayo and snipped herbs, is garnished with a zesting of lemon rind and sits atop well-dressed greens. This plus Kyle's shady porch equals a perfect lunch.
Kyle's is at 27 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0579.
Open Friday and Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner; Sunday for brunch; Monday for breakfast and lunch. Expect to spend $13 at breakfast, $15 to $20 at lunch and $40 to $60 at dinner.
LA MAISON BLANCHE
Shelter Island's old Olde Country Inn has been reborn as La Maison Blanche. The new hotel-restaurant-scene opened at the end of April, a joint venture between local John Sieni and hotelier Alistair MacLean, who manages the Smyth hotel in TriBeCa and, for many years, ran Shelter Island's Sunset Beach.
MacLean gave the rambling old building a fresh coat of white paint (it hadn't been "blanche"), modernized the 10 guest rooms and, in general, gave it some "beach chic." There is a wealth of public spaces in which to eat, drink, lounge, sunbathe and even play pétanque (a sort of French boccie). Lunch and dinner are served indoors, outdoors and on a shaded patio.
To run the kitchen, MacLean hired Charles Le Tous, a Frenchman who cooked at Bistro Vendôme and L'Absinthe in Manhattan. Le Tous is a baker and a chef; his excellent baguettes are served at dinner, and his brioches cradle the burgers. For breakfast, guests or visitors can enjoy his croissants and pastries. I loved his profiteroles, filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a bittersweet chocolate sauce so thick it just sat there.
One evening I enjoyed a late, light dinner of steamed mussels with a glass of the house rosé, made by Mattebella Vineyards. The dinner menu is low-key, with lots of small plates, burgers and mostly casual entrees (steak frites, spaghetti carbonara).
A few days later, three of us sat on the back porch and had a lovely lunch: scampi-like baked calamari, a Niçoise salad starring a rosy-rare chunk of tuna, a very correct croque monsieur that went the extra kilometer -- in addition to ham and cheese, the grilled sandwich had a layer of béchamel sauce. An intensely savory lamb burger topped with a slab of feta and cumin mayo was compromised only by a slice of semi-ripe tomato.
La Maison Blanche is at 11 Stearns Point Rd., Shelter Island Heights, 631-749-1633, maisonblanchehotel.com. Open for dinner every day at 5 p.m., and brunch Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast pastries available every day from 6 a.m. to noon. Expect to spend $7 at breakfast, $20 to $30 at brunch and $40 to $70 at dinner.
Three years ago, the historic Sylvester Manor established a farm, and now Shelter Island residents have access to truly local produce. Lead farmer Creek Iversen has more than 4 acres under cultivation, and his goal is "to grow whatever you can grow in this climate." Among his more unusual crops: okra, peanuts, husk cherries and artichokes.
Opportunities to work the farm abound. About 80 Shelter Island families belong to the farm's co-op and are allowed to harvest their own bounty on Saturdays.
During the summer, the farm offers a weeklong "Young Farmers Program" for kids. Aug. 13 and 14, Sept. 10 and 11, Oct. 8 and 9 are designated "Work Weekends," when, Iversen said, adult volunteers can "get a taste of being a farmer."
Information on these and other programs can be found at sylvestermanor.word press.com.
If you're simply looking to buy farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, stop by the farm stand. It's open every day from 9 a.m. to 9p.m. Sylvester Manor is at 80 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0626. The farm stand is on Manwaring Road, about 300 yards east of the main entrance.