Tag Archive | "Bay Burger"

Carrot Tasting Goes to the Root of the Vegetable

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Ric Kallaher photograhy

Ric Kallaher photograhy

By Kathryn G. Menu

Colin Ambrose

Colin Ambrose

It all started with a bland carrot.

Standing in his restaurant kitchen garden on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in September of 2013, restaurateur and chef Colin Ambrose crunched down a newly harvested carrot fresh from the soil. It looked great—bright orange, long and tapered—but the flavor wasn’t there. Mr. Ambrose, who has been at the forefront of the local, fresh food movement on the East End since his days at the helm of the original Estia in Amagansett in the 1990s, hatched a plan then and there to gather together local farmers, gardeners and chefs in a growing experiment aimed at identifying keys to successfully cultivating different carrot varieties.

And the results were delicious.

Earlier this month, on a cool Wednesday before the first frost, a group of chefs, farmers and journalists gathered at Mr. Ambrose’s Estia’s Little Kitchen for a tasting of raw and blanched carrots produced as a part of this experiment, as well as a variety of composed dishes inspired by the multi-hued root vegetable. Mr. Ambrose had the event filmed, and hopes to make this an annual tradition—exploring various root vegetables with the experts that grow them, but also the East End chefs that serve them, specifically those that support local farms or have their own kitchen gardens.


The concept was simple. Mr. Ambrose ordered a control seed, the Scarlet Nantes Carrot, and distributed it to a select group of farmers. These included growers from poet/farmer Scott Chaskey, the director of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Marilee Foster, a farmer and author who runs Foster Farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack to Jeff Negron, a restaurant kitchen gardener who worked with Mr. Ambrose on his own garden, and who currently works the kitchen gardens at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Sag Harbor’s own Dale Haubrich, who owns Under the Willow Organics with Bette Lacina just yards away from the Little Kitchen, was also invited to participate. Each farmer also planted their own choice crop of carrots for the tasting and paired up with a local chef who presented a complete dish with carrots as inspiration.

Bay Burger manager and sous chef Andrew Mahoney presented a bright, light carrot panna cotta. Todd Jacobs, of Fresh Hamptons, also located on the Turnpike, offered zesty carrot fritters with a yogurt dipping sauce. Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futterman of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton offered Harissa carrots, spicy and blanched perfectly, leaving just a slight crunch. Chris Polidoro, a private chef, offered steamed and lightly fried gyoza, and Topping Rose House pastry chef Cassandra Schupp presented mini carrot cake squares, moist and a nice sweet treat at the end of a row of savory dishes.

Mr. Ambrose, having the most fun with the subject, crafted McGregor’s Fall Garden Pie, filled with braised rabbit, leeks, kale, and of course, carrots, topped with luscious mashed potatoes.

And while the room, filled with friends, quieted as the food was served to satisfying groans of approval, it was when discussing the carrots, and the growing process, that it was most alive.

While Mr. Ambrose is a chef, and a restaurateur with a second Estia—Estia’s American—in Darien, Connecticut, it was on his grandmother’s garden in Whitewater, Wisconsin, that he truly developed a passion for food. Serving fresh, seasonal produce is something Mr. Ambrose has made a priority in his kitchens for over two decades. Five years ago he set out to create a kitchen garden like nothing the Little Kitchen had ever had before, working with Mr. Negron for three years before setting out on his own to tend to vegetables and fruits that make their way onto the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Mr. Negron, who noted that Mr. Ambrose was the chef that gave him his first real chance at developing a formal kitchen garden for a commercial business, said for this exercise he grew Purple Haze carrots for Nick & Toni’s and a White Satin variety as well as a mixed bag of carrot varieties for The Topping Rose House.

Both Mr. Negron and Mr. Chaskey (“my guidance counselor in all things,” said Mr. Ambrose) noted that the Purple Haze variety of carrot has a hue that mimics the original carrot in vibrant bright purple with red and orange undertones. Carrots were then bred to the traditional orange hue, said Mr. Chaskey. Interestingly enough, he added, now at markets and on farms, requests for multi-colored, and purple carrots are on the rise, returning to the roots of that vegetable, so to speak. “Orange is not how they started, but we are going back to that,” he said.

Soil nutrients and composition, as well as seed variety and soil temperature, all play a role in the development of each carrot and the characteristics it will have in terms of its flavor profile.

“Today is November 12,” noted Mr. Ambrose at his event. “And it is kind of interesting to note that we have not had a hard frost yet. That was not part of the plan, but that is what happens with growing.”

Carrots, said Mr. Chaskey, become sweeter after the first hard frost—a seasonal moment that sets a natural timeline for when farmers want to harvest their carrot crop. An unseasonably warm fall, and the absence of a hard frost before Mr. Ambrose’s carrot tasting, led to more mild carrot varieties.

“I know one thing in planting,” said Mr. Ambrose, “If I plan on one thing, another is going to happen.”

“It’s kind of the year before that matters,” said Ms. Foster, talking about prepping soil for planting. “Is your pH where you want it?”

Ms. Foster plants her carrots in a raised bed, tilling the soil with a rototiller to allow for depth, but also greater germination. Keeping the soil damp throughout the growing process, she added, is key.

Once the seeds are set, said Mr. Chaskey, keeping an eye on weed growth is critical.

“Well, we don’t have weeds,” said Mr. Chaskey. “They are not allowed.”

“That is what you have to worry about because carrots take a long time to germinate—sometimes in the spring up to three weeks, so there are going to be some weed seeds that germinate before them, so the most important thing you can do is get ahead of the weeds.”

Thinning out the carrot crop, for size and shape, said Mr. Chaskey, is another choice each farmer must make.

“Then you just stand back, watch them grow, and then harvest.”

Mr. Chaskey said after this experiment he intends to plant the Bolero variety of carrot at Quail Hill next year–a hybrid carrot, although the farm traditionally does try and plant open pollinators as much as possible.

“It grew twice the size and it tastes better and has great storability,” said Mr. Chaskey of the Bolero.

As a chef, Mr. Jacobs, who works with Mr. Haubrich and Ms. Lacina for much of Fresh’s produce, said each season brings different challenges.

“One season, carrots might be great,” he said. “Another they might not be great. No two years are ever alike. We plant and we hope.”

“We all had different approaches, but the same goal, which was to put sustainably raised food on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose in an interview after the carrot tasting.

Next up? Beets, said Mr. Ambrose, who wants to spend the next 18 months working on a series of tastings revolving around root vegetables, ending likely with garlic.

“I would like to put together a series of informational videos for potential farmers and home cooks with enough collective knowledge to be able to set a bed, make choices in terms of seeds, learn about the growing cycle.”

“We need to start thinking more about the food we are producing and putting on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Vegetables need to be given greater priority, and grains as well.”

While examining the big picture of sustainable food production, Mr. Ambrose said it just made sense to start at the root.



Bay Burger Jam Session

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Trombonist Ray Anderson (left, photo by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe) and trumpet player Alex Sipiagin (right, photo courtesy of alexsipiagin.com) will join the Jam Session on June 12.

By Genevieve Kotz

Trombonist Ray Anderson and trumpet player Alex Sipiagin will join the jam session with the Thursday Night Live Band as part of the Special Guest Series at Bay Burger on Thursday, June 12, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Mr. Anderson, who began playing the trombone in the fourth grade and has been doing so for over three decades, has played in many jazz groups, trios and duos, including the Slickaphonics, BassDrumBone and Alligatory Band. Mr. Anderson has composed nearly 100 tunes and is currently the director of Jazz Studies at Stony Brook University.

Mr. Sipiagin, who was born in Yaroslavl, Russia, has been playing the trumpet since the age of 12 and was first introduced to jazz when he was 15. Mr. Sipiagin has toured throughout Europe and Asia and has recorded 13 solo albums, as well as played on a number of Grammy-winning recordings.

This will be the first time that there will be two guests for the Jam Session Special Guest Series.

For more information, visit thejamsession.org.

Erik Lawrence Joins the Jazz Jam

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Saxophone and flutist Erik Lawrence will join this week’s Jam Session with The Thursday Night Live Band at Bay Burger on the Sag Harbor Turnpike on Thursday, May 22 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Mr. Lawrence began playing sax at the age of five under the instruction of his father, Arnie Lawrence, a jazz musician, founder of the New School of Jazz in Manhattan and the International Center for Creative Music Studies in Jerusalem. He has performed at Carneie Hall, and been featured at Montreal Jazz, Bonnaroo, Merlefest, Mountain Jam, the Free Jazz Festival in Brazil and the Berkshire Jazz Festival, leading a number of ensembles and performing with groups including the legendary Levon Helm Band.

For more information on The Jam Session at Bay Burger, visit thejamsession.org. 

Fiveash Takes a Bite Out of Bay Burger Lobster Roll Eating Contest

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sunday afternoon was crisp and clear in Sag Harbor — ideal weather for the second day of the annual HarborFest celebration. But for six brave souls it was also a chance to stretch their eating skills (and stomachs) at Bay Burger’s third annual lobster roll eating contest on Long Wharf.

And it was a repeat customer who took the top prize.

Emory “E Train” Fiveash, who took a second place prize in the contest last year, won the event this time around, consuming four and a half lobster rolls in five minutes, according to Bay Burger owner Joe Tremblay.

Fiveash, a caddy at The Bridge Golf Course, was cheered on by fellow golfers and according to Tremblay was the only contestant who took to strategizing to earn the $250 first place prize. Fiveash poured water over his lobster rolls to make them more easily consumed, a decision that aided in his victory, although likely impacted the flavor of Bay Burger’s lobster rolls, which were made this week with a lobster delivery from Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett.

Fiveash also took home the coveted Bay Burger lobster roll eating contest trophy, handcrafted by Tremblay himself, who cooks (and paints gold) a five-pound lobster claw each year for the winner.

Bay Burger, located on the Sag Harbor Turnpike, will continue to sell its lobster rolls through Columbus Day weekend, said Tremblay.

…Just in case you want to practice for next year.

Rebuilding Marine Meadows at Bay Burger This Weekend

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For the second year in a row, residents in the Sag Harbor area will have the opportunity to participate first-hand in helping to rebuild the eelgrass population throughout the East End bays and estuaries. Eelgrass is a critical component of the local ecosystem that allows marine life to thrive.

On Saturday, September 15 at 3 p.m. the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) will bring its Marine Meadows Program to Joe and Liza Tremblay’s Bay Burger restaurant on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike.

The program is a community-based, collaborative component of CCE’s overall eelgrass restoration effort, which is funded in part by Suffolk County’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program. CCE offers these workshops throughout Long Island, giving residents an opportunity to learn about the importance of eelgrass to the marine ecosystem.

At this weekend’s workshop, participants will weave eelgrass shoots — harvested from healthy donor meadows in local waters — into burlap planting discs.  Once assembled, these discs will be planted by SCUBA certified CCE Marine Program staff in restoration sites in local estuaries.

These newly created “marine meadows” will serve as important marine habitat for many species of finfish and shellfish such as striped bass and bay scallops.

To date, CCE and various partners have facilitated 19 workshops in which nearly 500 volunteers have come together to assemble over 52,000 shoots of eelgrass into the planting discs.

“We are thrilled to be able to assist Cornell’s team in restoring our bay’s most critical and most threatened marine habitat,” said Joe Tremblay. “This is an issue that many of our friends and neighbors feel strongly about, and it’s wonderful that we can give them an opportunity to get their hands wet and participate in a restoration.”

CCE will also host a Save Our Seagrass (SOS) fundraising celebration at the South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO) in Bridgehampton on November 10. That benefit will directly help fund the Marine Meadows Program.

For details call the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Habitat Restoration Outreach Specialist, Kimberly Barbour, at 852-8660, ext. 27 or email her at kp237@cornell.edu.

Music on Main Street, Sag Harbor Flourishes

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photo by Michael Heller

Sag Harbor has long been known for its quaint Main Street, the yachts that line Long Wharf and the artist and writers who call the village home. But over the last five years, Sag Harbor has also become known for Thursday nights and a growing music scene. It’s a scene that has developed with musicians and restaurateurs working hand-in-hand to offer a diverse menu of musical genres — from serious jazz to folk, rock and reggae and seemingly everything in between.

This is one of the reasons that musician Bryan Downey, owner of the Noyac-based Bulldog Studios, launched the Hamptons Singer-Songwriters series two-years ago in the lobby of Bay Street Theatre. Over 30 almost sold-out shows later, Downey has brought the series to Phao Thai Restaurant on Thursday nights where all summer between 8:30 and 11:30 p.m. the original work of artists — both well known and emerging — can be heard in the intimate setting of the restaurant.

“There are not a lot of venues out there for singer songwriters,” said Downey in an interview on Tuesday. “There are plenty of venues for people who want to cover The Beatles or Jimmy Buffett, but there wasn’t a place where a singer songwriter could play three songs and put their guts out there on the table.”

The Hamptons Singer-Songwriters series developed organically, said Downey. Inspired by the number of musicians crafting original work on the East End, he and John Monteleone opened the series after musician Jim Turner was unable to make a gig at an open mic session at Blue Sky, now Page@63 Main.

“I called all the singers I knew to see if we could have a concert and it just came together,” said Downey. “It was a February and we had more than 100 people in that room. I thought maybe we could bring it to Bay Street Theatre and serendipitously [Bay Street Theatre creative director] Murphy Davis stopped on me on the street and it just grew from there.”

What separates Hamptons Singer-Songwriters from most live music is that while Downey will occasionally allow musicians to play covers, primarily it is a venue for original music. This gives artists a space and audience to develop work and allows patrons the opportunity to experience something unique.

In addition to local performers like mainstays Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks, Dick Johansson and Inda Eaton, the series also features artists like American Idol hopeful Leah Laurenti (a Patchogue native) and young artists from Sag Harbor eager to perform outside the classroom or Downey’s studio, where he helps young musicians develop their talents.

Tonight, in honor of Bob Dylan’s birthday, part of the session will feature Michael Michaels, a tribute performer to Dylan. It’s a rare allowance Downey admitted, but fitting in celebration of one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time.

Downey said Sag Harbor is the perfect fit for a series like this because of the community’s commitment to the arts.

“It is the center of music out here,” he said. “I feel like this all started off with Jim Turner, one of the great local musicians who plays everywhere, but a lot in Sag Harbor. He is a professional who has kept the music playing and I think most of us are riding on the coattails of Jim Turner.”

Turner traditionally hosted the Thursday night open mic at Blue Sky, now Page @63 Main. That restaurant continues to host live music events, but Turner can now be found on Sunday nights at Muse in the Harbor from 6 to 9 p.m.

Muse in the Harbor owner and chef Matthew Guiffrida has also joined the Thursday night music club, presenting guitarist and singer Steve Fredericks from 7 to 10 p.m. Guiffrida has worked with Fredericks, who performs covers as well as original tunes, since he opened Muse originally in Water Mill.

“No matter where I was, whether at The Patio or The Inn at Quogue — Sag Harbor was always the place I went on my night off because you can walk around and there is love of music,” said Guiffrida. “There is no village like it. It’s down to earth, laid back and there is always something to do.”

Downey credits the Jazz Jam Session at Bay Burger, also on Thursday nights, as creating a venue to celebrate jazz and expanding the growing tradition of music in the village. He even timed singer songwriters session to begin at 8:30 — a half hour before the 7 to 9 p.m. jam session at Bay Burger ends so musicians could experience both events.

Conceived by drummer Claes Brondal along with Bay Burger owners Joe and Liza Tremblay and John Landes, the jazz jam opened in the spring of 2009 and has developed a cult-like following among jazz enthusiasts.

Brondal said it was not only the crowds who fill Bay Burger each Thursday in the summer season that constantly humble him, but also the musicians who show up to sit in on sessions.

Saxophonist Morris Goldberg, recognized as an early pioneer of jazz out of Cape Town, South Africa, and a collaborator of Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon, has often graced the jam session stage. Backed ably by Brondal on drums, Peter Weiss on upright bass and Bryan Campbell on guitar, the jam session house band is coined The Thursday Night Live Band. Trumpet player Randy Brecker has also joined the group as has saxophonist Alex Picton.

There are evenings, said Brondal, where the concentration of world-class musicians gathered in a little burger joint on the Sag Harbor Turnpike is almost startling. He hopes with the proximity to New York that not just the jazz jam, but local music in general continues to grow.

Brondal has recently started working with Wölffer Estate Vineyards to coordinate live music Thursday through Saturdays, bringing different genres like Afro-Cuban jazz and reggae to the stage.

“Even before we had the jazz jam they hosted live music and they continue to draw huge crowds to this day,” said Brondal. “My idea originally with the jazz jam was to bring different styles to the session, but it got too complicated, so I am glad we can start to introduce some new styles at Wölffer. We want diversity and accessibility for everyone when it comes to live music out here.”

Local Food Flourishes at Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market

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On the opening day for the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market last Saturday afternoon, patrons nibbled warm empanadas and homemade organic strawberry rhubarb ice cream, crusty loaves of bread from Blue Duck Bakery and greens from one of five organic farmers at the market.  Dave “the mushroom man” Falkowski spoke to one shopper about recipes, while Art Ludlow of Mecox Bay Dairy and Kevin Dunathan of Goodale Farms offered samples of their cheeses. Meanwhile, a crowd gathered around Sag Harbor farmers Dale Haubrich and Bette Lacina’s “Under the Willow Organics” produce stand, appropriately located in a shady spot of the Bay Street market, while one booth over, someone inspected fluke at Colin Mather’s Seafood Shop.

Organized in 2004 as a way to showcase local farmers during HarborFest weekend in September, the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market became a model for other East End communities and has grown by leaps and bounds since its first fall in front of the Dockside Bay & Grill.

Now located on village-owned grassland on Bay Street in front of the Breakwater Yacht Club, the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market runs from the end of May through the end of October. Managed by Ana Nieto and Ivo Tomasini, the market is cooperatively governed by its vendors to ensure that local food and its producers and protected and given priority.

From Montauk to Riverhead and out to Greenport, virtually every community has developed its own farmers’ market in the last five years.

“In many ways, on the East End, the Sag Harbor market was the first, which is why it is very special,” said Nieto. “There is a truly local feeling to this market and outside of the vendors, who are wonderful, it is also a beautiful location and something I think the community looks forward to.”

In addition to longtime vendors like Mecox Bay Dairy, Falkowski’s Open-Minded Organics, the Seafood Shop, Under the Willow Organics, Quail Hill Farm, Blue Duck Bakery and honey producer Bees’ Needs, among others, this year Nieto said the market has added a handful of new vendors meant to compliment what already exists at the market.

Farmer and author Marilee Foster chose to pursue other ventures this season and opted out of the market, said Nieto. One of the markets’ rules is to limit the number of vegetable farmers to five to ensure it is profitable. With Foster gone, North Haven’s own Sunset Beach Farm, a certified organic, community-based farm petitioned to become a part of the market and was accepted.

For farmers Karin Bellemare and Jon Wagner, while they also work other farmers’ markets like many vendors, being in Sag Harbor is home.

“We were finally a part of the community we are growing in,” said Bellemare. “I feel like the vendors are really committed to the community in this market. I think everyone has same values. There is a really nice vibe.”

Sunset Beach Farm has been operating for three years, farming 13-acres between their land in North Haven and land owned by the Peconic Land Trust next to Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

The farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for community members, who can pick up a weekly share of the farm’s organic harvest. At the farmers’ market, Bellemare said she is selling pea shoots, Asian greens, green garlic, bean spouts, lettuces, kale and Swiss chard, but the farm grows a full palate of vegetable offerings throughout the season.

Bellemare said the farm has also expanded into raising organic chickens for sale and for eggs, and soon enough Sunset Beach Farm organic chicken will be on the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market menu.

Perhaps the newest addition to the East End food shed, long awash in seafood and produce, are locally produced meats. While East Hampton’s Iacono Farm and North Sea Farms on Noyac Road have long sold local chicken, Sunset Beach Farm will offer the first certified organic chicken grown locally. Mecox Bay Dairy, which last year expanded to offer local beef, will also offer local pork this season, according to Ludlow.

Also new to the market is Goodale Farms, which sells goat cheese and milk products, Good Water Farms and its microgreens, and True Blue Coffee fair trade Jamaican coffee from Montauk.

The Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market will also feature two food producers who seek to make their goods out of local ingredients. A former chef from East Hampton, Luchi Masliah has opened Gula-Gula Empanadas at the market and hopes to use local products as often as she can.

From Uruguay, Masliah used to own the Amagansett Fish Company, but just recently has returned to the culinary arts. She makes her empanada dough from scratch and for her vegetable empanadas, sources greens from Haubrich and Lacina. She would also like to work with Ludlow to develop a pork empanada using Mecox Bay Dairy products and is keeping her eyes open for other local options.

“It’s more expensive for me, but they are quality ingredients and we manage to put our product out there at a price that people seem happy with,” said Masliah.

Joe and Liza Tremblay, owners of Bay Burger and Joe & Liza’s Ice Cream, spent the last year evolving their ice cream from a traditional formula with emulsifiers to a completely all-nature recipe using dairy from a small cooperative in the Hudson Valley.

At the farmers’ market, Joe Tremblay says they would like to craft locally inspired recipes — like Quail Hill Farm rhubarb and strawberry ice cream or Fat Ass Fudge, another vendor, and local mint ice cream.

“Just being in an agricultural area and having friends in this business, we want to support our farms and use their produce as it becomes available,” said Tremblay. “We have such a strong food community and we are happy to be a part of that.”

The Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday through October 27 on Bay Street at the intersection of Burke Street in Sag Harbor from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Image: Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Sag Harbor Village Trustee Bruce Stafford help Ana Nieto, Ivo Tomasini and market vendors open the season with a vine cutting. Photo by Bryan Boyhan)

Local Ice Cream Biz Sees Expansion

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By Claire Walla

When Joe and Liza Tremblay opened Bay Burger on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike in 2007, they knew they wouldn’t just be flipping burgers.

From the get-go, the Tremblay’s launched Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream alongside the burger business, dolling out scoops of sweet cream as well as burgers and fries. A winning combination, some sweet/salty connoisseurs might say. The only problem?


“We were trying to manufacture the ice cream in the restaurant,” Joe Tremblay explained.

As it currently stands, the ice cream is whipped up in the same kitchen space used for cooking the beef patties. Tremblay said they’ve been able to serve up enough ice cream to order, but the relatively small kitchen space has prevented the ice cream chain from expanding — wholesale had always been their goal.

“In the summer, the ice cream would get put on the back burner” — so to speak — “and we could only serve a certain count,” Tremblay continued. “The next thing we know, we have a line out the door, and we’re in the kitchen as they’re preparing the burgers!”

This clash of culinary tastes will finally be mitigated this year, as the Tremblay’s have finalized a lease on a new kitchen space right on the turnpike, where they will relocate their ice cream business and focus on expanding for the wholesale market.

“We’d like to really give the ice cream a real go on its own,” Tremblay continued.

Currently sold in the standard variety, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, the Tremblays also sell more adventurous flavors like pistachio and “cookie jar.” The Tremblays won’t go into details on intended plans for the future, other than they’d like to get their product into markets and restaurants out here on the East End.

While Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream will get a kitchen all its own, it won’t be moving very far. The space in question is a former garage on the Sag Harbor Industries site on the turnpike — right next to Bay Burger.

“The summer is such a scramble,” Tremblay continued. “It just wasn’t getting anywhere trying to [make ice cream] out of the restaurant.”

According to Tremblay, the new facility — which has been permitted by Southampton Town — should be up and running in another few weeks.

Considering the prospect of giving the ice cream biz room to grow, as well as its proximity to Bay Burger, Tremblay said of the move: “It’s going to be perfect.”

Pierson/Bay Street Meeting Sparks More Conversation, Draws No Conclusions

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By Claire Walla

Finally, the two boards came to the same table.

On Tuesday, January 31, school officials and Bay Street Theatre board members held a meeting on the Pierson Middle/High School campus to discuss the potential for a collaboration between the two. The idea of the Bay Street Theatre collaborating with the Sag Harbor School District to create a new theater venue has been floated for a few years. And with Bay Street’s impending move from its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, discussions have been spurred with greater urgency in the last few weeks.

The dialogue oscillated in scope for much of the two-hour meeting, wavering back and forth between small details (like whether it’s possible to obtain a liquor license on a school campus since Bay Street serves alcohol), and larger ideas, such as the school and theater working together to build an entirely new performing arts center in Sag Harbor.

But, while no board member on either side of the aisle completely put the kibosh on the potential for collaboration, there were aspects of this hypothetical partnership that raised red flags for both.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on the issue, but I can’t possibly see how [an independent theater] can be in this school district, in this area,” school board member Walter Wilcoxen said.

Based on a memo the school district received from its attorney, Tom Volz, Wilcoxen pointed out some of the smaller issues, like limited parking and storage capacity.

But Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director, expressed some concerns with the overall picture.

“One of the biggest issues for us, from a creative perspective, is we need to be able to have complete control over what we produce,” she said.

Though Mitchell and the theater’s creative director, Murphy Davis, assured the school that no expletives would be used on any signage related to the theater, some of the theater’s productions can be a bit, well, “racy.”

While Davis said there are elements to what Bay Street does now that could shift to conform to a different production model — for example, the theater could stop selling alcohol if it managed to secure other revenue sources — creative freedom is non-negotiable.

“We can do some pretty racy content,” he continued. “It’s imperative that we don’t feel hemmed in by that.”

Then there’s the time frame.

At best, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the process would take three years to complete. (Later, he explained that the time frame would more realistically take up to five years.) It would take six months for the school’s architect to draw-up a new design and then for the state education department to review the plans, another three months for the school to bid the project, then at least a year to construct the building.

“We’re talking two years after voter approval,” he continued. “And voters would have to approve such a project.”

The district’s current design for a 415-seat theater comes in at an estimated $12 million. Even if private funds were used for the project, Dr. Gratto said state aid would still kick-in for 10 percent of the cost, but that would trigger the need to put the project up to a vote.

Mitchell said the theater has a certain degree of flexibility for discussing future plans because it’s not scheduled to leave its current space until spring of 2013.

“The board would be able to back us renewing our current lease if we were working toward a pre-approved plan,” she said. “But, what we can’t do is say it’s going to take us another year to figure out whether we can get through these hurdles, and in the process lose all our other options.”

According to Mitchell, the theater is actively pursuing all possible options, including in Sag Harbor the Schiavoni property on Jermain Avenue, the National Grid lot on Long Island Avenue, the Sag Harbor Cinema, and in Southampton Village the soon-to-be vacant Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane. At this point, Mitchell said the theater has put together several committees to further explore these options.

“It doesn’t sound like [the school] is going to be at the forefront,” Davis stated at the end of the meeting. Besides issues of parking, storage space and creative control, he said the time frame doesn’t seem viable.

“Just what I’m hearing tonight, it makes me uncomfortable that we’re going to have to wait,” he said.

And while nestling into the Pierson campus may seem like a dream sequence too riddled with legal complications to become a reality, school board members were energized by the idea of a potential collaboration off-campus.

Dr. Gratto directed interests to the piece of empty land directly across the street from Pierson, at the intersection of Division and Marsden streets, where the Trunzo family owns four parcels. According to community member John Landes, who’s already investigated the site, the cost would roughly total $4 million — just to purchase the land.

As for the overall idea of collaboration, Bay Street Board Member Robbie Stein said, “When you look at it, there are a lot of problems. But, on some level, starting this dialogue is bringing to the community the idea of: is there a place for arts in the community?”

The Bay Street Board will meet again next week to further discuss all its options.

East End Fair Foods Market Supports Farmers, Community

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On Saturday morning at Bay Burger just outside of Sag Harbor, families meandered around the inside and outside of the popular café, sampling foods and sharing stories with friends as children scampered from one table to the next.

The interesting thing about this moment is the fact that Bay Burger is closed for the season. However, owners Joe and Liza Tremblay have opened up their establishment each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to host the East End Fair Foods Market.


The market, which is run by Ana Nieto and Ivo Tomasini — partners in life and in their health and wellness business, Turtle Shell Health — offers residents in the area a winter alternative to the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market.

Nieto and Tomasini also run that market, but the entities are separate, in location and in the kind of vendors they support.

The East End Fair Foods Market features a diverse group of vendors offering local vegetables, eggs, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, local preserves, wine and even wreaths and gifts in celebration of the holiday season.

On Saturday, farmer Marilee Foster, farmers from Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett and Sunset Beach Farm in North Haven, as well as East Hampton farmer Regina Whitney manned outside tables overflowing with bright orange carrots, winter greens, salad greens, cauliflower, beets and potatoes.


Inside, three-year-old Finny Dianora-Brondal waited somewhat patiently with his parents for Bridgehampton farmer and Mecox Dairy founder Art Ludlow to dole out pieces of his sweet, yet sharp, cheddar cheese. Across the room, residents sampled goat cheese from Riverhead’s Goodale Farms, tried dots of sauces from Pete’s Endless Summer on toasted tortilla chips, sipped wine samples from Wölffer Estate Vineyards and sampled pound cakes from the Polka Dot Pound Cake company.

According to Nieto, while this is the market’s second year it is first organizers opened as soon as the summer farmers’ market closed, and unlike last year will remain open through the spring.

The winter market, said Nieto, not only supports local farmers and food producers who are looking for an opportunity to sell their goods in the off-season, but it also allows vendors like Greeny’s Natural Food Market from Shelter Island the opportunity to branch out into the Sag Harbor market. In the summer, Greeny’s is not at the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market, but instead sets up shop at the Southampton Farmers’ Market.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone,” said Nieto. “Our main goal is just to keep supporting our local community, its businesses and the economy. Having a market in the winter, we hope, keeps more money here.”

For Whitney, one of several farmers at the market on Saturday, having a market to continue to share her goods, which includes handcrafted wreaths for Christmas, after all of the markets have closed is an important way for her to stretch her revenue stream through the holiday season before taking a much needed break in the winter.

“People seem to really be getting what this is all about,” added Whitney. “They are asking themselves, ‘What am I eating and where is it from’?”

For Mare Dianora, the market has also encouraged her to get out into her community and support local food producers. Her husband, Claes Brondal, said seeing the community come together in the off-season was refreshing, especially since it is in the winter that people need to feel a sense of community more than any other time of the year.

“My favorite part is the social aspect,” said Dianora. “It is so great to bump into people. I love seeing new vendors and what they offer.”

As for their son, the child eyeing Ludlow’s cheese display, it is pretty obvious why he loves coming to the market.

“He wants a cow and to live on Art’s farm so he can eat cheese all day,” said Dianora.

The East End Fair Foods Market is held every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bay Burger on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike.