Seasons by the Sea: Signature Local Favorites

By Laura Donnelly
A little love: Holly Dove’s pound cake from the now-defunct Della Femina restaurant. Laura Donnelly

    One of the great pleasures of working in the restaurant industry and writing about food is getting to know our local chefs. And when you get to know the chefs, sometimes you can get recipes from them. If you’re really lucky, you may get some of their signature recipes or favorite dishes to cook at home.
    I have been collecting recipes from local restaurants and chefs for many years and they have become some of my absolute favorite tried-and-true meals, often with a story attached, such as “Tom Schaudel gave me this recipe when he was writing his book ‘Playing With Fire.’ ” Or “this recipe is from Tsunami nightclub on Three Mile Harbor Road, may it rest in peace.” I have the original Laundry restaurant’s recipe for crab cakes with chipotle mayonnaise, Holly Dove’s divine pound cake from the defunct Della Femina restaurant, and best of all, one of Kevin Penner’s recipes for salmon tartare, of which there is always some variation on the 1770 House menu.
    When Bamboo restaurant, now Shiki, opened on Montauk Highway, a local chef, Patrick Fromm, had a lot to learn about Japanese cuisine. Using his French training on Asian ingredients and working side by side with the sushi chef, he came up with one of the most delicious steak dishes I have ever tried. As much as I love sushi and sashimi, sometimes you just want a piece of meat for dinner. The recipe included below is a perfect example of French technique (with a reduced sauce), combined with fresh and light Asian ingredients, tofu, mushrooms, and soybeans.
    Tom Schaudel’s restaurant empire is now generally focused on the North Fork. But once upon a time he owned the Downtown Grille in Montauk. He said, “I love Montauk mussels. A local fisherman friend of mine, Larry Keller (who I affectionately call Capt. Grum­py) used to bring me these at the Downtown Grille. They were always very clean (no sand), plump, and the flavor is incomparable. Make sure you serve this with lots of bread and soupspoons. I guarantee there will be very little of the broth left.” And like a true locavore, he suggests serving this with a local wine, such as a Bedell gewurtztraminer.
    When Tsunami nightclub was ensconced at the revolving-door-of-nightclub-locations on Three Mile Harbor Road, it attempted to stay open for its first winter season. This seemed oddly inappropriate because the decor was clearly meant for 2 a.m. dancing, Cristal swilling, and the occasional celebrity sighting. To go to the dark-walled cavern with sensuous billowing curtains and dusky Moroccan lanterns with a gaggle of gal pals on an early winter evening felt peculiar. But the food was damn good and we went often for the chef’s stir-fried vegetables with wasabi mashed potatoes. I believe his name was John Donnelly (my bro’s name!) and I don’t know where he ended up, but his food was fresh, lively, and creative. I have made his wasabi mashed potatoes many times to go with a simple grilled striped bass fillet, halibut, or cod, and people always ask for the recipe.
    Power couple chefs Michael Rozzi and Holly Dove were in charge of the kitchen at Della Femina’s for many years until its closing last year. Holly Dove shared this unusual recipe for pound cake and described it as one of her favorites to make at home. But it was also showcased at the restaurant, paired with a variety of fruit compotes to suit the season.
    Some of these recipes call for unusual ingredients. Feel free to improvise. For Patrick Fromm’s grilled filet of beef with mushrooms you can use any variety of tasty wild mushrooms. You can find red curry paste and lemongrass at supermarkets, and I think King Kullen has yuzu juice or a yuzu marinade.