View from The Beacon. Photo by Beth and Peter Whiteley
There’s no shortage of great places to eat on the East End. Although you would never think so on a Summer weekend when you can’t get a table anywhere without advance reservations. There is, surprisingly, a dearth of restaurants right on the water–especially considering we’re surrounded by it. And sad to say, several of those have traded in good food and decent service to trade on their view. So you are even more limited if you want to eat well.
Of all the restaurants out here, with waterviews or without, our hands-down favorite is The Beacon at 8 West Water St. in Sag Harbor. I’d give you the phone number but it’s not much use. The Beacon doesn’t take reservations. It doesn’t have to. The line forms downstairs before the place opens at 6. The last time I was there, the place was jammed by seven. Those of us who were early birds had snagged the open air tables on the deck overlooking the Marina.
The restaurant is the brainchild of one of the truly great restauranteurs out here: David Loewenburg. His chef is the superb Sam McCleland. The food never varies: It stays sensational from appetizer to dessert.
Below: Beth and Peter
This was a really happy dinner for me and not just because I was taken there. My hosts were my college roommate, Peter and his wonderful wife Beth. Visiting from California, where they know a thing or two about food, I wanted them to like the place. They loved it. (Unfortunately, Andrew, who had to go into the city for work, missed our marvelous meal.)
The food is a mixture of truly inventive dishes. Appetizers like Crispy Fish Tacos with Salsa Verde, Jack Cheese and a Tomato Emulsion and Braised Pork Belly with Soft Tortillas, Pickles and Hoisin are not just unique, they’re delicious ways to start a meal of phenomenal fresh seafood. Or choose the Pork Chop Milanese. I would likely request this item for my last meal, if I have an option. But at the top of my list of things to love at The Beacon is the Crispy Portobello Mushroom, with roasted red peppers and a lemon beurre blanc.
I enjoy recreating recipes as you know from my research into April Bloomfield’s Lamb Burger and Bayburger’s Fish Sandwich. My friend, Blaze, does the same thing. He has conquered the Beacon’s superb Branzino. So it was fun to make this recipe and share it with Blaze and his wife and my very good friend, Tracy. I took this over to their house because it was a school night for their daughter Alexandra. It travelled very well. I was able to interrupt the cooking process after ‘crisping’ the Portobellos. I did the rest at their house—filled the mushrooms with the red peppers and topped them with smoked gouda. Under the broiler and they’re done. A word about the Beurre Blanc. Do not be intimidated about making this sauce. It is really simple to make and a great counterpoint to the crispiness of the mushroom and the smoky goodness of the cheese. I switched the Beacon’s Lemon version for a Shallot Beurre Blanc—this one incorporating Raspberry Vinaigrette and Crème Fraiche. (Crème Fraiche is a snap to make: It can made with a tablespoon of whole cream combined with a tablespoon of Sour Cream).
When all these ingredients come together, you get the crispy meatiness of the mushrooms, the tang of the red pepper and the smoothness of the cheese nicely set off by the slightly tart taste of the beurre blanc. While we served it as a starter, this would be a great centerpiece of a vegetarian meal. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Crispy Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted Peppers and a Shallot Beurre Blanc.
For the Mushrooms:
4 Portobello Mushrooms, stems removed
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water.
Canola Oil for frying.
Roasted Red Peppers (jarred are perfectly acceptable)
1 cup Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated
For the Shallot Beurre Blanc:
2 tbsp. finely diced shallots
1/3 cup Raspberry Vinegar
¼ lb. (1 stick) of Unsalted Butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch squares.
2 tbsp. Crème Fraiche
1. Choose mushrooms with good ‘bowls’ for holding the peppers. Remove stems. Heat enough canola oil so that the mushroom will float on top of the oil in the skillet.
2. In one bowl, put the panko breadcrumbs. In a second bowl, put the lightly beaten egg and water mixture. Dip each mushroom first into the egg mixture, then into the panko. Repeat this once again to really give yourself a good crumb on the mushroom.
3. Fry the mushroom in the hot oil until it is crispy and brown on the outside. Remove and drain the mushrooms on a paper towel.
4. Next, make the Shallot Beurre Blanc by putting the shallots and raspberry vinegar into a small saucepan. Turn the heat up to medium high and reduce until there is a scant two tablespoons of liquid. Then add the butter, piece by piece, whisking continuously and only adding another piece after the first has completely melted. Remove from heat. Add the crème fraiche and stir. Check for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
5. Put each mushroom in a separate oven-proof gratin dish, if you have them. Otherwise use a sheet pan. Turn the broiler up to high.
Fill each mushroom with red peppers, top with smoked gouda. Briefly broil the cheese covered mushrooms watching like a hawk to make sure the cheese does not burn. If you have used individual gratin dishes, spoon the Beurre Blanc sauce onto each one. If not, put ¼ of the sauce on each of 4 plates, and put a mushroom in the center of each one. Serve at once.