NORTH FORK TABLE AND INN
57225 Main Rd, Southold
Last September, North Fork Table lost their gifted executive chef and driving force Gerry Hayden to Lou Gehrig’s disease. Two months after, 28-year-old Stephan Bogardus, an NFT chef de cuisine from 2011 to 2013, returned to become the new kitchen commander. Mr. Hayden’s wife remained, the talented pastry chef Claudia Fleming, as did much of the dining room staff and kitchen crew. Thus NFT remains a relaxed, new American style spot where a man wearing shorts wouldn’t look out of place.
Different is the à la carte menu that lets diners order individual dishes from either the three- or five-course tasting menu ($67 or $125) or pinpoint the one entrée or starter they want. Walk-ins can even elect to have desserts only. Most of the preparations still have the Hayden stamp and local ingredients are still prominent. As Bogardus humbly stated, “It’s Gerry’s food.”
Warm slices of house-made focaccia bread with ready-to-spread butter kickoff the meal. Starters went three for four. Even the simple salad of young lettuces and spring vegetables replete with snap peas, asparagus and radishes in a noteworthy shallot-Dijon mustard vinaigrette ($15) gave off a fresh, effervescent aura. And the appropriately named “assortment of roasted baby beets” provided small squares of various colored beets with harmonizing quinoa, almonds and goat cheese ($15). Homemade ricotta cavatelli ($27, $15 half portions) boasted a base of super young pea shoots, English peas and ricotta salata. Only a grown-up grilled cheese on house-made focaccia ($16) left much to be desired. It was tough to cut and awkward to eat. Among the most inventive (and recommended) Hayden-type concoctions is the assertive prosciutto-wrapped Berkshire pork tenderloin with polenta, greens and fennel ($36).
Two commonly encountered dishes—a lobster roll ($20) and a hamburger ($22)—were extraordinary. The 100% wild caught lobster on a Blue Duck bakery roll is also 100% filler free, while the two-fisted, husky hamburger of McCall Ranch Charolais grass-fed beef (even better with a $2 add on of crisp bacon strips) is running with juices from the superior piece of cow. Sides of smooth, substantial whipped potatoes and rich, creamy polenta enhanced both dishes.