Long Island Dispatch: The Kitchen Garden at Nick & Toni’s

Chef Joe Realmuto with some late-season artichokes in the garden behind Nick & Toni's.

East End EDL Report

From the heirloom tomato Bloody Marys spiced with peppers from the restaurant garden outside to wood-roasted peaches with biscotti, the Eat Drink Local menu at Nick & Toni’s  clearly was no accident.  You could trace executive chef Joe Realmuto’s  determination to spotlight the best of the East End’s local or regional foods in every dish.

The result was an amazing menu and an amazing meal.  As our waiter handed us the menu “celebrating the local harvest,” he pointed out that 10 percent of the sales of the EDL menu would go the Springs Seedling Project — which is responsible for the new green house used by students at the Springs school.

We chose a bottle of a bottle of 2007 Merlot  from Bedell, but we could have sipped Channing Daughters “Scuttlehole” Chardonnay or experimented with Rosemary’s Baby–a concoction of muddled rosemary, limoncello and Farmer’s gin; a Halsey Farm apple martini  with Crop organic vodka, Halsey cider and from Warwick (NY) Valleny Winery, apple liqueur, or beers from Southampton (Altbier), Brooklyn, Fire Island or Cooperstown, NY.

The lively play of flavors and textures in our Cavalo Crudo antipasto was no accident either. Thin ribbons of blanched kacinato kale from the garden a few steps from the kitchen, tiny squares of roasted butternut squash with postage-stamp-sized slices of almost-crunchy house-cured pancetta and tiny soft cubes of pecorino Romano formed a palette of textures and flavors that changed with every bite.

In contrast, agnolotti, filled with squash from the same garden, was soothing– near comfort food.   It was served in a tawny, richly-flavored broth as a brodetto of swiss chard from Quail Hill and Grana Padano cheese. Then we forked into the day’s local catch– striped bass first sauteed and then finished briefly in the oven served over braised tomatoes and tapered dark green leaves of kitchen garden lacinato Kale.   There was one dessert,  a peach from Wesnofske’s North Fork farm roasted in the wood-burning oven in the front room of the restaurant.  It was served with mascarpone cream, local honey and a house-made biscotti completing a meal that leaves you thinking ahead to what Realmuto will dream up for EDL 2011.

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