By Kathryn G. Menu
Ty Kotz is a chef who was born into the world of the farm-to-table movement. The first 10 years of his life, Kotz grew up on 50-acres in western Pennsylvania, his family working to live off the land in a house built by his father’s own hands, celebrating July birthdays with a strawberry layer cake that no one to this day can quite recreate.
However, for Kotz, the chef de cuisine at Chef Tom Colicchio’s Topping Rose House, the success of the menu at Bridgehampton’s newest culinary destination does not lay simply in his own talent or background. It is found in a cumulative vision, with emphasis on quality ingredients, derived from the farm fields and waters that surround the South Fork, as well as respect and mastery for classic cooking techniques. During a recent interview, Kotz said a strong work ethic and the joy of reaching higher each day to draw out flavor and beauty in food is a philosophy espoused and practiced daily at the Topping Rose House by everyone from Colicchio to pastry chef Cassandra Shupp, sous chefs Kyle Koenig and Jeff Shields and the servers who guide diners through their meal. Farmer Jeff Negron helps cultivate the ample kitchen garden found on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike property.
And at the end of the day, it is the produce that is meant to shine at the Topping Rose House, with local farms and their ingredients given top billing on a menu that is seasonal, and sustainable, without lacking refinement.
“We are taking wonderful ingredients and cooking them properly, putting them on the plate with a sense of elegance and care and respect for everything that goes into that dish,” said Kotz, seated in the restored 1842 Greek Revival-style mansion that has been transformed into the Topping Rose House, a restaurant, but also an inn and spa that will open next year. “It’s something instilled in all of us. Being a part of this team is how we create great food. We believe in it every day and we are a part of it every day.”
It is also a lot of hard work. And for Kotz, who worked under chef Ali Barker after moving to New York City following culinary school to work at Rick Moonen’s Oceania before joining Chef Floyd Cardoz at Tabla, there is a visible excitement when he talks about Colicchio’s newest venture and the possibilities ahead.
Colicchio, founding chef and owner of the Craft Restaurants, cookbook author and head judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef” series, said Kotz is involved in every aspect of the Topping Rose House.
“He is a part of the whole process,” Kotz said about Colicchio.
A living menu, based on what the kitchen is able to source from its own garden, but also from local purveyors like Stuart’s Seafood, Dale & Bette’s Organic Produce, Quail Hill Farm, Howard Pickrell Oysters and Channing Daughters, to name a scant few, translates into a kitchen in constant movement.
“It’s inspiration derived from what is available,” said Kotz. “We are not a vegetarian restaurant, but these are amazing vegetables and Tom’s philosophy was always that he wanted to do something different and vegetable forward. The excitement about these dishes is in this beautiful produce we have to work with.”
Most recently, the Topping Rose House menu included baby carrot risotto, blanched, barely-cooked, sweet baby carrots from the kitchen’s own garden laid over risotto with caraway and lemon thyme, layered over toasted pumpernickel breadcrumbs.
An autumn vegetable ragout with bone marrow and a poached organic egg joins the risotto as a first course highlighting fall root vegetables. A gnocchi pasta course featuring red kuri squash and brown butter is among several pasta dishes that also include spaghetti with Bottarga, and fresh plum tomatoes harvested in peak season late this summer by Pike’s Farm Stand.
Main courses include heirloom beans from Marilee Foster’s Sagaponack farm with Linguiça sausage and Peconic bay scallops – a treasured East End shellfish just available earlier this month. Diced sweet potato, collard greens, pancetta and fresh syrah jus, created from Channing Daughters unfermented syrah grape juice, accompany roasted duck, served with a duck confit leg.
The restaurant has started serving Sunday brunch, including its own house cured brown sugar, chile or black pepper bacon served among pastries created by Shupp, roasted figs with lemon ricotta pancakes and sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and sunchokes in an organic egg frittata.
“It’s day to day depending on what is available,” said Kotz. “If you looked at our menu a week ago as opposed to today there are six new menu items.”
“At the end of the day, we are not going for a wow factor or shock value,” said Kotz. “We are looking to cook something properly. When we say ‘gnocchi, we all know how to prepare that dish and how to do it right. The ingredients around the plate are always going to change, but we want that. We are trying to be a part of what is happening around here with food, but also want to continuously push the bar to the next level.”
The Topping Rose House is located at 1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in the historic Bulls Head Inn, recently renamed the Topping Rose House. For more information, visit www.toppingrosehouse.com or call 537-0870.