Winter’s Catch at Harvest in Montauk

Harvest's peconic bay scallop supplier, Stuey Heath.

Looking at magazine covers, we could believe winter dining consists entirely of whole birds, meat stew and holiday cookies. But anyone who spends time in Montauk knows fish is always in season. At Harvest on Fort Pond—open all year, closed Mondays—winter is the perfect time to eat the local catch.

Colder water makes for tastier meat, says owner John Erb. And fish in winter is even more of a treat for him because his less harried schedule allows more time to get out on a boat. Luckily Erb’s brother-in-law, Tom Cusimano, owns and captains the Sea Wife, a 51-footer custom made for the heavy seas of the Gulf Stream and the northeast winds of Montauk. “With 30 plus years on the water,” says Erb, “he is one of the most productive boat captains in Montauk.”

The Harvest kitchen staff fishes nearly once a month, year-round, but in November Erb was out four consecutive days at the using live herring to catch striped bass and blackfish.

John Erb and two black sea bass.

Both were on that week’s menu. After December 15, when bass season ends, cod will have a starring role. No matter what’s being hooked, someone from the Montauk community catches more than half of the restaurant’s fish, says executive chef Jake Williams. (He was out on the water recently; however, unlike his boss he prefers summer).

Williams can name the slew of certified and licensed fishers who regularly provide swordfish, yellow fin tuna, sea scallops, oysters, littleneck clams and, depending on the season, black sea bass, blackfish, codfish, fluke, monkfish, striped bass and tilefish. Stuart Heath, for one, wholesales bay scallops and oysters. He’s a well-known and liked longtime bayman.

Williams appreciates knowing which boat brought in his fish and when. And the favor is returned. His fishermen and fishmongers frequent the restaurant. Mutual respect and community are Harvest themes.

And with good friends and good food comes good drink. Laurel Edwards, who buys the wine for Harvest and sister property East by Northeast, created a winter special that few will be able to refuse: the $20 list. This supplement to the larger regular list is a rotation of five whites and five reds, including less familiar varietals customers might otherwise be hesitant to try, like a barbera instead of a cabernet. “The idea is to hopefully go out on a limb and try something, as twenty dollars isn’t much of a gamble,” says Edwards. Look for Long Island producers here too.

“Harvest is always nice and cozy this time of year to come by for a drink, or an excellent meal,” says general manager Christine Peluso, reminding us that half portions as well as family-style plates are served. Tuesdays to Thursdays check out the three-course fixed price dinner for $24 ($29 through 12/27). And of course there are always menu options beyond fish. But we’re going to further tempt your pescatorian side with Harvest’s always-popular Fish Piccata, a dish you can make at home with any fish.

Harvest’s Fish Picatta

The Sauce:
1oz chopped shallots
1oz chopped garlic
1 oz capers
4 oz white wine
4 oz sweet cream unsalted butter
1 oz chopped olives
1 oz diced tomatoes
1 oz chopped Italian parsley

In a hot sauté pan sweat the shallots and garlic till translucent
Add capers
Add white wine and reduce to a gloss
Add butter slowly so you do not break the sauce
Add olives, tomatoes, and parsley

The Fish:
16 oz of any Montauk fish, skin off, filleted

Season fish with salt, pepper, fresh-picked thyme and olive oil
On a hot plancha or other griddle or heavy flat pan, place fish and cook for about four minutes to form a crispy crust.
Turn and cook for about one more minute.
Add to sauce. Plate and serve immediately.

Harvest on Fort Pond
11 S. Emery Street, Montauk