By Emily J. Weitz
When Muse in the Harbor hosted a party in the heart of HarborFrost weekend last year, it was its introduction to Sag Harbor. Chef and owner Matt Giuffrida may have enjoyed several years in Muse’s original Water Mill home, but he always dreamed of opening a restaurant in his favorite East End village – Sag Harbor. A year ago, it finally happened. Perhaps that’s why Giuffrida, now an active member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, wanted to be the one to host the inaugural First Frost Ball this year.
The weekend will be filled with wintry festivities, but the party will all kick off around the giant fish tank in the main dining room, with frosty ice blue rum punch cocktails served in goblet-style glasses. Passed hors d’ oeuvres will include tuna lollipops with a wasabi candy on top, vegetable spring rolls, pulled pork in a blanket (Giuffrida’s take on the classic mini hot dog appetizer), and mini sliders. For a restaurant that specializes in creative ways to taste a wider variety from the menu (read: Tuna Ménage a Tois and the Three Little Pigs), passed appetizers are a cinch.
This time of year, the local sourcing that Muse strives for gets a little trickier.
“We got the very last bag of local potatoes from Jimmy Comfort over in Water Mill,” says Giuffrida. “We got produce from him ‘til he ran out. When the bay scallops were in, we were pulling all we could.”
But in the darkest days of winter, only a few local resources remain.
“Our blowfish on the menu is local,” says Giuffrida. “I bought 200 pounds of local blowfish, and we portioned and cryovacc’ed it, so we will have them for the rest of the winter season.”
But primarily, the focus of the restaurant shifts to what people really need in the depths of an East End winter — food that is a little familiar.
“People gravitate towards comfort food in the winter,” says Giuffrida. “You want to walk in to a nice, cozy restaurant and have something that’s gonna warm you up. Our two best sellers right now are the turkey meat loaf, which has craisins and roasted carrots in it, and the braised short ribs.”
They haven’t completed the menu for the Harborfrost Ball and the weekend to follow, but Muse will be open for brunch, lunch, and dinner and will have specials in honor of the festivities.
“HarborFrost was our first day last year,” says Giuffrida, a little bit wistfully. “We didn’t know what to expect, and that kind of set the tone. People were really excited to have us here even though the history of this building was hit or miss. We were received with open arms and it was a good feeling. I guess this is our anniversary.”
The First Frost Ball will kick off Friday evening at 6 p.m. with revelers expected to celebrate until about 10 p.m. Included in the cost of the ticket are an open bar with “local legend Jimmy Mac” serving specialty cocktails, as well as unlimited passed hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, a raffle, and live music.
Tickets are $65 for members of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and $75 for non-members. They can be ordered by visiting http://frostball2013-es2003.eventbrite.com.
The event will support the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which joins The Sag Harbor Express in hosting this year’s HarborFrost celebration. The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce also hosts mixers, dinners, and, of course, the annual Sag HarborFest weekend in September.
HarborFrost is a celebration of Sag Harbor in the bleakest month of February, and Giuffrida wanted to be a part of it.
“We’re staying busy throughout the winter because of the locals,” he says. “Sag Harbor is a tight knit community. What happens in Sag Harbor stays in Sag Harbor. Everybody supports the local businesses and it’s important for us to do the same. On my day off we eat at Il Cappuccino and Sen. Everybody stays open because of it. That local support is a big part of our success.”