Head east on Route 25 (Main Road) from Riverhead, and the landscape relaxes from strip mall big-box stores to a winding route passing farms, farm stands, green vineyards, and colorful garden-farm markets. This tranquil vista is punctuated by white steepled hamlets like Jamesport, a picturesque spot of about 1,500 households nestled between Aquebogue on the west, and even tinier Laurel to the east. Ignore the ironic welcome sign sponsored by an East End asphalt and paving company.
Today, late Colonials and modest Victorians remain the visual heart of this hamlet defined by rural serenity and sandy beaches discovered over time by waves of “summer people.” Local farmers, fishers, teachers and second homeowners are neighbors to B&Bs of white country farm houses and pastel homes, welcoming the winery tourist, beachgoer, boater, and antique collector.
For such a small town, Jamesport has its share of show-stopping, critically acclaimed restaurants and the Jamesport Manor Inn is one of them. “I had a vision,” says owner Matt Kar of the 1850s Manor Lane landmark. And he held onto that vision when, two years ago, the newly restored ornate Victorian treasure, only a month away from its restaurant debut, burned to the ground. Originally built by local seafarer, Captain John Dimon, the Jamesport Manor Inn has been lovingly reproduced, from distinctive tile pattern to mansard roof.
A serious chef reigns in the kitchen. Eric Rickmers, formerly of Starr Boggs in Westhampton, has created an ambitious menu of complicated dishes using fresh, local ingredients, with a hint of Mediterranean pizazz. At past meals, friends and I have enjoyed the classic veal cutlet: a chop, breaded, pan fried, and smothered in Sang Lee Asian greens, with a whisper of the Sicilian—Mandarin oranges, prunes, sundried tomatoes and hot pepper.
We also marveled over perfect Jamesport oysters with a tangy mignonette sauce, meaty oxtail ragu, and homemade gnocchi topped with tinsel-thin leek ribbons, rich, complex mushroom risotto, and impressively juicy chicken cutlets—thick slices of tender white meat in a brown, wine-infused sauce—served with whole sweet baby carrots and a dose of corn polenta. “The best chicken I’ve ever had” was the pronouncement from a world traveler. It was agreed: a great chicken is the mark of a great chef.
A 70-label wine list includes eight local wines by the glass. And the desserts, prepared daily, cannot be missed: bread pudding and warm plum tarts.
Locals pick up a breakfast of coffee, buttered rolls, and half a dozen blueberry confections at Junda’s Pastry, Crust, and Crumbs, just east of the hamlet. “Everyone in Jamesport is known for something,” said owner Christopher Junda.
The Golden Earthworm Organic Farm on Peconic Bay Boulevard, just before you hit the bay, offers produce at its farm stand in season (Wednesdays, and Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and a subscription to a weekly box of veggies for members. Locals debate whether Cliff’s Elbow Room offers decent steak or is just a tourist trap with a secret marinade.
If you make the trip this Friday, February 27, the Jamesport Manor Inn is hosting a five-course tasting and pairing dinner, including five wines from nearby Martha Clara Vineyards. The menu features: Hog’s Neck Bay oysters, leek and fondue caviar, lamb loin, acidic parsnips with a green curry sauce, almond macaroon and dark chocolate ganache “burger." The meal starts at 7 p.m. and costs $70 per person. (Call for reservations first.)
If you've got time to kill before dinner, or end up staying the weekend, just west of the hamlet is visit-worthy Jamesport Vineyards, and the mini-mall outside of town strangely called the Jamesport Centre includes perhaps the friendliest post office on the planet, but not much in terms of memorable food offerings, except for Lenny’s Pizza and Pasta, which turns out a nicely spiced, thin-crust pie.
Jamesport Manor Inn
370 Manor Lane, Jamesport NY 11947
Junda’s Pastry, Crust, and Crumbs
1612 Main Road, Jamesport NY 11948
Golden Earthworm Organic Farm
652 Peconic Bay Blvd, Jamesport NY 11947
Cliff’s Elbow Room
1549 Main Road, Jamesport NY 11947
1216 Main Road, Jamesport NY 11947
Lenny’s Pizza and Pasta
Main Rd, Jamesport NY 11947
About the author: Brian Halweil is the editor of Edible East End, the magazine that celebrates the harvest of the Hamptons and the North Fork. He is also publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. He writes about the things we eat from the old whaling village of Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his wife tend a home garden and orchard and go clamming when the tides allow.