Long Island Dispatch: How Chef Keith Luce Cooks Duck Back Home in North Fork Duck Country

The herb garden and the harvesting chef Keith Luce at Luce & Hawkins.

Last night we arrived at the Jamesport’s Luce & Hawkins — the Back of the House profilee in this summer’s Edible East End–our appetites primed for Chef Keith Luce’s Eat Drink Local week menu. Seated in the handsome glass enclosed porch of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, we were handed menus from a man who was a 2007 Best New Chef from Food & Wine magazine, sous chef in Clinton’s White House and executive chef at the fabled Herbfarm Restaurant outside Seattle.

The night before he had served 400 diners at the jam-packed $350-a-plate HARVEST East End fund-raiser, where chef Luce, along with neighboring North Fork Table Inn chefs Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming, wowed the crowd bidding for Long Island wine. The Festival Tasting that proceeded that dinner was a joyous coming together of 14 East End restaurants–many of them Eat Drink Local partners–and a who’s who of Long Island wine country. We’re already looking forward to next year’s.

But tonight we were there for the $32 EDL prix fixe.  The seemingly simple NoFo duck wings, christened after the North Fork (which was duck country before it was wine country) were almost as amazing as the work that went into them: First Luce confits the duck, then fries it crisp, then creates a sweet glaze of red chili and garlic to finish, serving with cucumber raita and seriously hot chili sauce, as well as a salad of yellow roasted Satur Farm beets with Catapano chevre was dressed with a vinaigrette made from prized olive oil from the grove of olives in Greece owned by Luce’s restaurant partner Lia Polites, and herbs from the inn’s garden.

We were plied with the house-made fettucini, made with the eggs from Luce’s chickens out back and a recipe passed down from Luce’s grandfather who ran a restaurant nearby, and ragu from ground duck confit, grass-fed beef and pork from Cutchogue’s polish butcher, the sort of protein combination that only a Riverhead native could concoct.

Presiding over the wine was Michael Kaminisk, former sommelier of The Herbfarm, who introduced us to 1/4 liter carafes of “Wines from the Keg.” And so we sipped a 2009  Paumanok “Luce & Hawkins” blend of chardonnay and a 2008 Paumanok Cabernet Franc.

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