It was hard to imagine the depths of despair that a lot of people felt when, in the middle of last winter, one of our favorite restaurants abruptly closed their doors. Not only that, but they auctioned off the contents of the place, leaving us all wondering if Almond was gone forever.
|The original Almond on Montauk Highway|
Chef and Co Owner
|The Host with the Most
For the last 10 years, Almond (now at 1 Ocean Road, Bridgehampton NY (Tel: 631-537-5665) was beacon of good food at moderate prices. Wonderful French bistro food was the real draw here. Delicious short ribs, simply grilled fish and homespun favorites like Roast Chicken on a bed of smashed potatoes with crisp Haricots Verts. It was a non-descript place to say the least, housed in a old house on the Montauk Highway. But once inside, the place hopped. The owners were veterans of the Hamptons restaurant scene. Jason Weiner, the chef, named the place after his then-girlfriend, Almond. And in the front of the house was his co-owner and partner, Eric Lemonides. Let it be said of Eric that no one has ever been a better host. He is simply a force of nature and lord knows how but he seems know every customer by name. It’s one thing to remember Bill Clinton, Bette Midler and whole host of local luminaries who have been to the place, but Eric remembers everyone.
I vividly remember a conversation with Eric the very first year we became Almond aficionados. We’d been going to the restaurant frequently that Winter and Spring. Memorial Day was fast approaching, the time when a certain entire population of Manhattan beats a path to our shores. So Andrew and I were basically bidding farewell to the place by saying “See you in September, we’ll never get a table now”. Eric appeared genuinely taken aback telling us “No way. There will always be a table for you. You stick with us in the off-season, you will always be first on the list when you call’.
|The New Almond in beautiful downtown Bridgehampton|
I have to say that was a promise kept. Laura Warner, Eric’s right hand is as good at hosting as her boss. And Laura, like the new Almond itself, is back! The new place is bang in town in Bridgehampton, right on the corner of Ocean Road and Main Street. New décor, new staff and packed with familiar faces. Everything has been flawless and the menu familiar except for one huge loss.
The Frisee Salad with Lardons and a poached egg was the start of many a memorable dinner. It’s gone. But take heart, the restaurant has a new star in the appetizer column. It’s a wonderful dish, using lardons again and the perfectly poached egg. But gone is the frisee and in its place—Asparagus! We have beautiful asparagus here and I’m happy to say it’s still very much in season. I wish it could go all summer. But take advantage of what’s out there now and make this dish. I took some liberties with what’s on Almond’s menu. I roasted the asparagus, cooked the lardons and fried the eggs in the pan after removing the lardons. I also used a gentle hand with a vinaigrette dressing, napping it over the asparagus and lardons before topping the dish with the egg. This delicious dish is a perfect light supper or brunch dish or go with its original intent and serve it as a first course. It takes all of about 15 minutes to cook, a little more if you peel the ends of the asparagus. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Lardons and Fried Egg
2 lb. green asparagus
freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. thickly cut pancetta* or 4 oz. blanched thick-cut bacon, blanched
2 Tbs. vinaigrette dressing
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
*Locally, Boar’s Head brand sells a 4 ounce package of pre-cut pancetta perfect for this dish.
To roast the asparagus, preheat a oven to 450 degrees. Peel the tough ends off the asparagus, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until tender, about 7 minutes until tender.
To prepare the lardons, cut the pancetta or bacon into 1/2-inch dice and cook over a medium heat until brown and crispy.
In the same pan, fry the eggs sunny-side up. While the eggs are cooking, put the lardons on heated plates, add the asparagus, spoon over the vinaigrette, top with an egg for each plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.