by Bob Banfelder
A treat is in store for those who savor seafood, steaks, and fowl—served at their finest. The fare is simply fantastic
. Riverhead spearheads an outdoors mecca of the north and south forks of Long Island. It is where Donna and I begin our fishing, clamming, crabbing, and boating adventures come spring through fall. The east end of Long Island's new upscale/laid-back/casual
restaurant is but steps away (across the street) from the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. Wait! If you think for a moment that I'm carelessly positing a series of self-contradictory locutions, please reserve judgment. We'll begin with a curious juxtaposition of old and new. Foreground: 1902-03 renovated Preston House Restaurant
Background: 2018 ultra-modern Hotel
The descriptions of fare presented at the Preston House Restaurant have been identified as "New American
" and/or "Rustic-Elegant
," the latter of which surely paints a picture in one's mind as, well, rather oxymoronic. Much like the seemingly incongruous phrases of ‘JUMBO shrimp
' or ‘LARGER half
.' While these expressions may seem clearly confusing
, it all makes perfect sense after a dining experience and a tour of the establishment, for the hundred-plus-year-old house has been transformed into a highly refined eatery.
Rather than raze the Preston House as was initially intended, architects and engineers saw great potential for both refurbishing and preserving. For example, remnants of an old stone wall were restored along with traces of other building materials that accent an eight-hundred bottle wine cellar. Presently, the restaurant seats eighty-eight folks, with expansion in mind for the near future.1905 Wine Lounge
Donna and I started off by relaxing with a glass of Vietti Barbera d'Asti ‘Tre Vigne' from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, a medium-bodied ruby red with a cherry aroma and hints of vanilla ~ $13 by the glass.Preston House Dining Room
For appetizers we gravitated to and shared, for openers, the East End Clams Casino. A generous portion and presentation of four beautifully plated, mouth-watering melding of clams, diced bacon, shallot, butter and breadcrumbs; not mere morsels but rather a step up between top neck and cherrystone size shells, yet delivering the delicate flavor of fresh, sweet littlenecks. The best we've had in our travels, and a bargain at $7.East End Clams Casino
Paired with a second appetizer, Donna and I split an order of Seared Point Judith Calamari, prepared with watermelon radishes, fat green olives, and pepper jelly. The dish was pleasingly presented with a light golden-brown dusting of breadcrumbs and a flavorful, truly tender
texture upon the palate—the way calamari should arrive at the table ~ $16.Seared Point Judith Calamari
Before ordering our main courses, I had to indulge myself with what turned out to be a bottomless bowl of Preston's Down East Style Chowder [spelled Chowda on the menu so as to give it that down-home folksy, rustic flare]. The server had the good sense to bring a second spoon for sharing. The chowder is comprised of local clams, North Fork potatoes, and garlic croutons; in a word, scrumptious.Down East Style Chowda
We relaxed a bit with a second glass of wine before ordering our main course. This time around, we selected a glass of Firesteed Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. The aromas consisted of raspberry, blueberry and cherry and was lighter in color, body, and on the palate than the Barbera d'Asti grape variety. Donna and I lean toward a heavier, heartier bodied red. And although the fare thus far consisted of seafood, white wine being the so-called usual rule of thumb as an accompaniment, we rarely subscribe to rules save lawful ones. So, there. Firesteed Pinot Noir ~ also $13 by the glass. A suggestion would be to add a couple of affordably priced bottles of red wine to their fairly extensive list as selections start at $36.
Turning our attention to the main course, Donna ordered the Crescent Farm Duck Confit, served with seasonal chutney (sweet and sour relish), farrotto (wheat substitute in lieu of rice and more nutritious), and herbed artichokes. Simply stated, a Crescent Farm duck (Aquebogue, L.I. N.Y.) is always a winner. Donna's duck was delicious. Crispy on the outside; moist, tender, and succulent ~ $35.
For my main course, I ordered the titled "A Nice Piece of Fish (market price)," which happened to be halibut that day. It was especially pleasing to the palate: a golden brown crust surrounding a thick brick-sized shape fillet, unbelievably moist yet flaky—Wow! Prepared to pure perfection ~ $36.
From the Sea Bar or main menu, another winner catches the eye: #1 Big Eye Tuna Tartar, served with seasonal citrus, whipped avocado, taro chips ~ $23. Go for it! At the expense of mixing metaphors, you'll be as happy as a clam that you did. Delectable.Tuna Tartar
We passed on dessert for two reasons: one, we usually forego dessert; two, we couldn't handle it if we had to as our tummies were replete. However, the list certainly sounds seductive: Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie with candied popcorn, buttermilk ice cream; Warm Beignets in a Brown Bag with dusted powder; Burnt Basque Cheesecake with organic Meyer curd; 4-2-8 Cookie Jar (the restaurant's address—cute): ginger snap, chocolate chip, lemon sugar, almond date; Today's Ice Cream & Sorbets ~ all desserts are $12. Now, if they would only add a ‘Sweet Tart
' to their dessert menu, it would help balance out what is ostensibly another contradiction in terms.
Humor aside, in a nutshell, the fare and service at the Preston House Restaurant is purely fantastic! The very best eatery we've been to in Suffolk County, and that's saying something after dining in the area for thirty-one years.
Ah, Donna and I did manage another visit during Restaurant Week. I opted for a sampling of their Shinnecock Sea Scallops, served with smashed celery root, winter mushrooms, and wilted rocket (leafy, peppery) greens ~ $35 on main menu for larger portion. Shinnecock Sea Scallops
Chef Matty Boudreau is the wizard behind the curtain . . . ah, apron.
Annexed to and owned by the restaurant group is their luxurious twenty-room hotel. Be ye a boater or a landlubber, tie it all together in a splendid visit: aquarium, fine dining in a relaxed setting, touring the areas many nearby vineyards, and/or staying for a spell in their most comfortable hotel [studio, one bedroom suite, or corner suite], taking in, too, the alluring Peconic River.One Bedroom Suite
Next month, we'll be angling on the Peconic River after a fly-tying lesson referencing a deadly hopper pattern for brackish waters. Stay tuned.Donna Boating on the Peconic River
Award-Winning Crime Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who in AmericaSeveral of My Award-Winning Crime Fiction Novels Incorporate The Great OutdoorsTop to Bottom:
Fiction:The Richard Geist Three-Book Series ~ TrilogyDicky, Richard, and I
. A story of madness in the making. A curious mix of a mother's care and cruelty concerning her young son, Dicky Geist, and the precocious boy's metamorphosis into that of a multiple murderer. The Signing
. An account of a clandestine murderous cult monikered the Inner Circle of Friends, led by Richard Geist. Geist and cult members are hellbent on creating chaos and bringing about the eventual collapse of our government. The Triumvirate
. A tale of Neo-Nazism. Three most powerful men covertly control governments around the globe. Fifty-year-old secrets begin to surface referencing Hitler's progeny, the Manhattan Project, and Nazi gold in this mystery within a mystery. It is the genesis of the Fourth Reich. The Justin Barnes Four-Book Series ~ TetralogyThe Author
. A prolific serial killer is the author and architect of a covert operation whose job it is to place government operatives within the ranks of worldwide extremist groups. Justin Barnes, a street savvy Afro-American maverick, searches unrelentingly for the madman who viciously murdered Justin's female cousin. The Teacher
. Justin Barnes, working clandestinely with Suffolk County homicide detectives on Long Island, is assigned to help track down Malcolm Columba's associate, serial killer Professor Clarence Emery. The pair had worked in concert, and Justin is out to stop Emery before he strikes again. A terrifying tale of evil and what it takes to stop it in its tracks.Knots
. Kalvin Matheson, an out-of-work insurance salesman obsessed with immortality and hero worship regarding two notorious serial killers, follows in the footsteps of his two diabolical pals
, but with a subtle signature twist, utilizing intricate knots. The Good Samaritans
. In this final four-part series, Justin Barnes, once again, assists Suffolk County homicide detectives as part of a covert operation in tracking down Sep Cramer, a politically well-connected, ruthless serial killer.********** Trace Evidence
. Inspired by the Robert Shulman Serial Killer Trial in Riverhead, N.Y., Robert Banfelder spent every day for 15 months as a spectator to obtain fodder for this novel.**********Battered
. Based on a true story of an abused woman who murdered her husband, Robert Banfelder communicated with abused women, one of whom spent 15 years in prison for her crime.Nonfiction:
The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water
. A concise yet comprehensive angling and on-the-water activities handbook covering spin, bait, fly-fishing, fly tying, clamming, crabbing, kayaking, canoeing, seafood recipes and much more. For novice through experienced anglers. Endorsed by Left Kreh and Angelo Peluso. [black & white photos] The North American Hunting Smart Handbook: Bonus Feature: Hunting Africa's & Australia's Most Dangerous Game
. A concise yet comprehensive small and big game hunting handbook covering guns and bows. Includes upland bird hunting, land management, whitetail tactics and much more. Special bonus feature includes stories of big game hunting in Africa and Australia by seasoned hunters. [color photos]The Essential Guide to Writing Well and Getting Published
. A must-have guide for both novice and veteran writers. This handbook includes tips on how to make money and gain rewards from outdoors writings. Color-coded lessons for easy comprehension.