Party Report: Chefs and Champagne in the Hamptons

July 22, 2013
by Beth Landman

After a week of record-breaking temperatures, chefs from the tri-state area were happy to be heading to the beach for the annual Chefs and Champagne food fest, where 36 top toques showed off their skills at Wolffer Vineyard’s Estate in Sagaponack.

“It was the most fun Chefs and Champagne in years, mostly because a cool breeze was wafting through the tents and particular restaurants like ABC Kitchen went that extra mile to serve up something not only good but super generous,’’ said Steve Cuozzo, the New York Post’s restaurant critic, referring to Dan Kluger’s Skuna Bay salmon with corn, tomatoes and housemade bacon. 

“We have a lot going on, so I need to get back tonight,’’ said Kluger, who was busy dressing the hefty filets and is currently overseeing ABC Kitchen as well as its new, immensely popular Latin sister, ABC Cocina. “In some ways, we are competing with ourselves.’’
Todd Mitgang, whose co-owns the hit Montauk restaurant South Edison along with Crave in New York, and is about to open Bo’s in Chelsea, also opted for salmon, which he torched and served with fava beans, kaffir lime and sun gold tomatoes.  
A couple of stations away, Dean James Max from Parallel Post in Trumbull, CT, went for local striped bass, which he used in the light orange soup he was ladling out. “When you add basil, parsley, dill and olive oil it lightens up the color of a gazpacho,’’ he explains.
Todd Jacobs, who opened the Bridgehampton restaurant Fresh, looked like a work of Hamptons legend Jackson Pollack in a white apron splattered with purple, as he stood behind his smoked Long Island duckling breast with honey dijon drizzle, wild greens and blackberry vinaigrette. “I’m a mess; my vinaigrette exploded all over me,’’ he explained. “I cook at this event because the people here are my customers.’’
Eric Miller, who opened popular Madison and Main this summer in Sag Harbor, was grilling up local clams and Montauk pearl oysters.
“Smell these tangerine flavored greens, or these that taste like popcorn,’’ he said, of local produce he used to top the shellfish.
Local boy turned insect devouring TV personality, Andrew Zimmern, was the evening’s honoree.  “We had a horse farm that we sold a few years ago,’’he noted. “I grew up out here: My first cooking job was at the Quiet Clam, and my first chef’s job at Conscience Point. Neither are around any more.’’
The line that formed for Morimoto’s tuna trio was so big that the sushi master ran out of fish. In an act of quick teamwork, Michel Richard, who is readying his restaurant in the Palace Hotel for a fall opening, and happened to be serving up his tomato tartare at the next table, offered up some of his chopped vegetables as an impromptu substitute for the red fish.  

“I was so impressed!,’’enthused the Japanese chef. “At first I thought it was steak tartare.’’Morimoto appeared to appreciate his bucolic surroundings. “I don’t have time to relax,’’ he said, echoing the vibe of many of the evening’s chefs. “But I know this is heaven.’’