A small herb garden, tucked behind the Maidstone, sets the tone for the 19-room inn and its Scandinavian restaurant, the Living Room. Sections of the white shingled building date back to the 1600s. From the sheepskin-draped Adirondack chairs on the porch, the view of East Hampton’s iconic town pond and South End Burial Grounds has not changed in four centuries. The settlers were not serving up caviar tacos, however.
Chef Mathias Brogie hails from Stockholm and keeps the Living Room menu true to his Scandinavian roots. Like a typical Swede, he is influenced by many cultures but likes to keep things simple. “The Nordic way is work hard to highlight every flavor on the plate,” he says. “Compared to French, it’s cleaner. Its beauty is simplicity.”
The chef’s favorite dish, arctic char, is roasted and served with fennel puree and “some nice herbs.” He laments the slow start to their seasonally sustainable herb garden. “The winter has been so long,” he says, in what may be the understatement of the year. Winter days were wisely used to revamp the kitchen, everything from the floor to appliances. “Anything a chef would want in a new kitchen,” he says.
Chef Brogie also found time to marry his Swedish bride at the romantic inn, and the couple has adjusted well to country life. “East Hampton is like a small village in Sweden,” he says. “Except within two hours there’s New York City, the food mecca of the world, the inspiration for all chefs.” The diversity in Sweden coupled with the fact that Swedes love to travel—for food—is the perfect recipe for a creative culinary landscape.
Swedes sometimes forget tacos are Mexican. “Tacos are a national movement basically,” says Brogie. His foie gras tacos were certainly a hit in the dining room. “I’ve never seen an item sell that well.” Caviar tacos are currently on the menu, served as an appetizer. A delicate shell filled with sour cream, finely diced onions, seasoned with black pepper and overflowing with löjrom.
Löjrom may be a salmon hue, but vendace or bleak fish (Coregonus albula) is a whitefish in the salmon family. The roe is harvested during spawning in Bothnia Bay’s brackish waters just south of the Arctic Circle every autumn. Unlike sturgeon, the Swedish delicacy is not endangered.
The more familiar salmon (in Swedish kall inkokt lax), is marinated, chilled and served cold, as a traditional Swedish lunch with new potatoes, dill mayonnaise and pickled cucumbers.
The Swedes also adopted the Argentinian asado and refined the macho barbecue into a garden party. Brogie roasts a whole lamb over an open fire in the formal garden for a regular special event.
This summer, every Saturday afternoon is an opportunity to mingle in the garden with the chef as he grills up seafood and meat skewers. “It’s a unique opportunity for a chef to get some true feedback,” he says. “Customers are always the main inspiration.”
COOK: Chef Brogie’s kebab recipe.