Gourmet, With a Twist

East Hampton Gourmet Food
In addition to its regular menu, East Hampton Gourmet Food offers a sophisticated version of a vegan Thanksgiving dinner and several solutions to food concerns such as gluten allergies. Jo M. Johnson

    East Hampton Gourmet Food, in the back of 66 Newtown Lane, has occupied the same space for the past 17 years, although its first incarnation was as a wholesale shop, specializing in baking for Dean & DeLuca’s and Balducci’s.
    “When Ina [Garten of the Barefoot Contessa] closed the shop in East Hampton, we saw it as a nice opportunity to open our doors,” said Kate Pratt, the shop’s co-owner with Michel Mazuret.
    The first year of their retail business, 1996, the shop sold over 5,200 pies in three days. “That was pretty intense,” Ms. Pratt said with a laugh.
    The refrigerated case displays a rainbow of dishes, the freezer is filled with heat-and-eat hors d’oeuvres and desserts, the shelves are stocked with cookies, crackers, and other dry goods, and on the counter are fragrant pies.
    So what’s the twist?
    If one looks at the ingredients, healthy rules the day.
    Many of the ready-to-eat salads are vegan, or gluten-free. If meat is used, it is only fish and poultry, as local and free-range as possible. Pigs in blankets are available frozen — but instead of traditional hot dogs, the tiny sausages are chicken and apple. The three-berry, cherry, and apple pies are vegan, and gluten-free cookies and crackers dominate the walls.
    A steady stream of customers visited the store on Sunday afternoon, some picking up salads, pies, frozen food, and fresh-squeezed organic juices for the ride back to the city; some placing orders for Thanksgiving, which includes a vegan main course featuring a homemade tofu turkey bearing an eerie resemblance to the real thing.
    Ms. Pratt said that the shop may be able to squeeze a few more orders under the wire if they are made within the next day or so.
    Those who prefer animal products are not left behind: East Hampton Gourmet Food also offers a free-range herb-roasted turkey, along with crab cakes and other specialties like steamed vegetable and tofu dumplings which are delicate and fresh — a far cry from what passes for this Asian delicacy in some fast food joints.
    Some of the dishes are infused with the spices of the Far East — Ms. Pratt spent some years in India and has “always made a lot of paneers and dals.”
    Although Ms. Pratt and Mr. Mazuret have long been health conscious, it is in recent years that they have become “bothered by using white flour,” Ms. Pratt said. Gradually, over time, the shop has substituted brown rice flour, or gluten-free substitutes, in most of its dishes.
    The shop even offers gluten-free chocolate chunk and peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies in frozen balls, ready to drop on a baking sheet and serve up hot and gooey. “We’re trying to encourage our customers to drop the Tollhouse habit,” Ms. Pratt said.
    “And the containers are biodegradable,” she added. Even the to-go forks and knives are made of corn.
    The East Hampton Gourmet Food team is now branching out into skin care, too. Its line, Hampton Botanicals, is due out in the spring. Ms. Pratt has a background in biochemistry. “Sixty to 70 percent of what you put onto your body goes into your body,” she said. The products are made with essential oils, are plant-derived, and are as organic as possible.
    The shop is open Thursdays through Sundays through the winter. Sample menus can be found on its Web site, easthamptongourmetfood.com.