The other night, my wife and I went to Shinn Estate Vineyard for a special dinner prepared by Chef Keith Luce. There were 32 guests there, some were friends of Keith, some were friends of David Page and Barbara Shinn, some were Shinn wine lovers. The dinner featured a menu paired with Shinn Estate Vineyards wine. For this post, I will not talk about the wine, I want to give the attention to Keith since this dinner was more about Keith.
For those of you who do not know Chef Keith, here is a little history. Keith has won the Best New Chef award from Food and Wine in 1997 and the Rising Star Chef award from the James Beard Foundation in 1998. Chef Keith has been at such prestigious places as The Rainbow Room, Le Cirque, Windows on the World and the White House…yes THE White House under the Clinton administration. Currently he is the Executive Chef at The Herbfarm in Washington State. You may also have seen him on “Top Chef” as a guest judge.
Chef Keith was born and raised on Long Island, in and around Riverhead on his family’s farm. After traveling the world and cooking for the world, he has decided to return to his roots. He is in the process of establishing his soon to be restaurant in Greenport called “Luce’s Landing” and establish his farm which he will use in his restaurant, just as he has been doing at the Herbfarm. This is a dream of Keith’s to come full circle and return home.
Our first course was Pastrami Spiced Blue Fish and Caraway Corn. Blue Fish? Yes, Blue Fish. Anyone who grew up on the North Fork of Long Island, knows that the L.I. Sound was a haven for blue fish. Well what better way to start off the meal than with a little bit, well actually a lot of Long Island. The blue fish was seasoned perfectly and served on a piece of toasted bread and a wonderful creamy sauce on top of the sweetest corn I have ever tasted. The fish was slightly chilled and cooked perfectly. The corn was creamy and so sweet with just a hint of caraway. A real eye opener and tasty introduction to what were would have the rest of the night. This was served with Shinn Estate Vineyards First Fruit Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2008.
The next course was Fluke and Tomato Tartar with Sweet Basil and Summer Squash “Caviar”. I remember fishing with my grandfather in his boat on the sound in Baiting Hollow for Fluke and Flounder…so I was a little nervous having it as a tartar. But my fears soon turned to a smile and found myself savoring this dish. There was a slight spice to the tartar which was very nice, it made the dish sing. The summer squash diced every so finely, gave the plate a wonderful color and twist. This was served with Shinn Estate Vineyards Chardonnay 2008.
Our third course was one I was looking forward to, Clam and Lobster Risotto with lemon thyme and wiejska. I love risotto, but it is too time consuming to cook at home, but when I eat out and it is on the menu, I order it, but restaurants don’t always have it on the menu. This was probably my favorite dish. It was comfort food, it was homey. The clams and lobster were cooked perfectly, there were subtle flavors from the wiejska, which is a polish sausage, like kielbasa. And the slightest hint of lemon and thyme were present. This was an amazing dish, the risotto was cooked to perfection, smooth, creamy and just al dente. This dish was paired perfectly with Shinn Estate Vineyards Rose 2008. The wine and the food was perfection. I really liked this dish and wish I had more.
The last course before desert is one of my favorites at Shinn, Crescent Duckling Breast. If you have never had duck breast before, shame on you. I love grilled duck breast and when it is cooked right, like Keith did and the way David does, then you don’t even know its duck. It could have passed for slices of Filet Mignon. The duck was perfectly cooked to a medium rare, the crunch and saltiness of the duck fat were perfect. The duck could melt in your mouth. It was served along with fresh, crisp green beans and a wonderfully sweet wood roasted peaches. This dish was divine. It was paired beautifully along with Shinn Estate Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2006.
Our last course was a desert. Catapano Yogurt Panna Cotta with Sound Avenue Blueberries and Rosemary scented Cabernet Franc Syrup. This was so creamy and tart, it ended the meal nicely. The blueberries were so crisp flavorful and the sauce was so nice, a perfect blend. The fact that this was Catapano Yogurt really made the dish extra special. This was paired with a bone dry Shinn Estate Vineyard Ultra Brut 2006.
I don’t know if this was Keith’s coming out party or coming home party, but no matter what it was, it was very Long Island and very good. Keith’s return to Long Island is a great sign for Long Island and the wine country we have on the east end. To have a chef like Keith open shop here is a step in the right direction. We could see a change to peoples thought about what Long Island has to offer. There could be more respect this way. With this menu, even if half of what we ate tonight will be on “Luce’s Landing” menu, than ladies and gentlemen…Long Island Food and Wine will be on the map for sure!
Keith’s Restaurant, “Luce’s Landing” is hopefully going to open in the fall of this year. Go follow Keith on Facebook and you will find out all the details there. I already am following Keith and will camp out to get my name on the list for opening night! Welcome Home Keith…we missed you and the timing is just right.