Save your calories for Shelter Island this summer. Pound for pound, the small village suspended in the waters between Greenport and Sag Harbor packs just as much culinary punch as its mainland counterparts on the North Fork and the Hamptons.
Top-notch chefs preparing fresh seafood and farm-to-table fare have taken the dining scene to new heights with seemingly more options to choose from than any season before.
To help navigate the burgeoning food destination, we asked five Shelter Island chefs to share the must-try dish off their summer menus.
Naw’lins Lobster Roll at SALT
The seafood selection at SALT is always hearty. The laidback waterfront restaurant is well known for its steamed mussels, innovative sushi rolls and daily dock-to-table specials.
New for this summer, executive chef Darren Boyle is ticking up the heat, putting a New Orleans spin on SALT’s classic New England-style lobster roll. The Naw’lins lobster roll features butter-poached lobster meat tossed with Cajun spices and topped with pickled jalapeño relish.
“The natural sweetness of the lobster balances the spice and vinegar of the relish,” Boyle said. “It has been the surprise favorite of dinners this year.”
SALT’s sister restaurant, PORT in Greenport, is also serving up their own unique take on the classic lobster roll.
SALT is located at 63 South Menantic Road, Shelter Island
Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese Salad at Caci Shelter Island
Caci North Fork is regarded for its authentic Italian cuisine courtesy of Umbrian-born executive chef and partner Marco Pellegrini. So when the Southold staple opened a second location at the former The Tavern at the Shelter Island House in May, the chef decided to keep a good thing going by offering the same rotating seasonal bites in both restaurants. When the weather heats up, Pellegrini’s go-to is the Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese Salad.
“This is one of my favorite dishes for the summer since it is truly an expression of Italy, offering the classic Italian flavor combination of tomato, mozzarella and, basil — but with my own modern twist,” he said. “We have an amazing fresh Buffalo mozzarella imported directly from Italy every week, then we add incredible local heirloom tomatoes and, for that touch of fresh basil, I created our own house-made basil sorbet. The sorbet adds a refreshing and aromatic element and the unique basil flavor is the perfect complement to this classic dish.”
Caci Shelter Island is located at 11 Stearns Point Road, Shelter Island Heights
Crispy Duck Confit at Vine Street Café
Since opening in 2003, Vine Street Café has really made a name for itself as a foodie destination that is embraced by locals and visitors with equal measure. Chef Terry Harwood, who co-owns the restaurant with wife Lisa Murphy Harwood, puts local and fresh ingredients on a pedestal for all to savor.
This summer, Terry invites you to try one of his favorite dishes to make: Crescent Farms Duck Confit with lemon spinach, coconut rice, strawberry-rhubarb chutney and natural port reduction.
“The confit process takes several days, but the effort is always worth it, resulting in a crispy skin, fork-tender duck,” he said. “Next is the chutney. The secret is my pickled strawberries from last season and the sweet and sour pickling liquid that comes off the berries. It’s my favorite right now because I’ve been waiting so long to use those strawberries.”
Vine Street Café is located at 41 South Ferry Rd, Shelter Island
Shrimp Fra Diavolo at Isola Bar & Restaurant
Isola Bar & Restaurant opened last summer with a menu that marries modern Italian and seasonal dishes featuring fresh provisions. Look no further than chef Seth Nathan’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo to see that notion come to life.
“It’s my most conceptual dish on the menu as it is purely meant to represent summer, and pairs beautifully with a local rosé,” he said. “I utilize spaghetti, tossed in squid ink from Point Judith, topped with chopped white shrimp tails in a piquant white wine and San Marzano tomato sauce. It has a little heat, a little brine and a little funk. It brings you right to a sunny Peconic beach day at first bite.”
While you’re visiting the restaurant, be sure to check out the “Sun-kissed Summers” exhibition of photos and postcards from The Shelter Island Historical Society on display this summer.
Isolais located at 15 Grand Avenue, Shelter Island Heights
Grilled Octopus and Boudin Noir at Ram’s Head Inn
When chef Matthew Murphy took over the helm at the Ram’s Head Inn last year, he told northforker it’s important that people traveling to a destination have an opportunity to eat what’s local. In that spirit, he took the New American menu in a seasonally focused, farm-to-table direction that is far from dull.
The Grilled Octopus and Boudin Noir shows off the chef’s culinary chops — and perhaps those of the diner as well.
“I like to shake things up with flavor combinations,” Murphy said of the appetizer that is paired with a baguette, sweet jam, goat cheese and tapenade. “This dish is for the adventurous, the richness of sausage and the piquant of the chutney are a great flavor combinations, unusual and delicious.”
Ram’s Head Inn is located at 108 South Ram Island Drive, Shelter Island Heights