The history of modern agriculture reads like a mass extinction event. Small farms gobbled by large ones. Crop varieties narrowed and lost. Real options limited. But to live and eat on the East End today is like watching that process unfold in reverse.
Just this year, no fewer than three farms added substantial acreage in hops. The expanding fields have been commissioned by the Southampton Publick House and Greenport Harbor Beer Company to meet the demands of a blooming beer-drinking culture.
All the way down the beer chain are bars like the Good Life in Massapequa, whose thoughtful food stands up to its awesome selection of beers—24 tap lines, including many hooked up to New York–made kegs. And at Legend’s in New Suffolk—where many a Long Island vintner goes to drink beer—the owners are as anxious to get a microbrew from Long Island into the tap rotation as they are to wow their customers with global flavors and local ingredients that go really well with beer.
New farmers, like the chef-turned-grower Patty Gentry of the three-acre Early Girl Farm, help push this all along. And start-up food makers, like Amagansett Sea Salt Com- pany (featured on our cover), are finding new markets for ancient products lurking right below our noses.
If there’s any realm in which the East End’s food diversity thrives it might be the ever- changing restaurant landscape, with newcomers each year, some of whom, like a spring pig, don’t always get to see winter. For this issue, we ate at a few that we suspect will stick around,including the mollusk-forward North Fork Oyster Bar in Green- port, Lobster Roll Northside in Baiting Hollow (the lesser- known country cousin to Lob- ster Roll/Lunch on Napeague) and South Edison, whose from- scratch dishes and mingling of global and local tastes is a great contribution to Montauk’s recent restaurant revolution. Babette’s in East Hampton has wel- comed its regulars for nearly two decades with adherence to comfort, organic principles and nearly all-day breakfast.
Speaking of eating options, there is also the very timely matter of whether wineries might serve more food, which some reactionary restaurants and town officials have resisted. Wineries already host cooking classes—Croteaux Vineyards is coming out with a cookbook linked to its Farmhouse Kitchen. And a handful of wineries (and growing) have acquired licenses from New York State to serve food as a complement to their wine—an allowance granted under the state law that helped launched the Empire State wine industry a few decades ago. We welcome this move, and anything that broadens the potential for eating and drinking experiences. As Jamesport Vineyards owner Ron Goerler says of the oysters he’s recently been serving, “I don’t want to be in the restaurant business. This is just finger food.”