East End Eats: Heirloom Dinner at the Old Mill Inn

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Theme meals can be painful, but the inaugural 1903 Heirloom Dinner at the Old Mill Inn in Mattituck at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 18, should be delicious, and not just for the nostalgic and gastronomically curious. (It’s $40 per person, not including tax or gratuity. Reservations at [email protected] or 631.298.8080.)

We often say that the East End of Long Island is in the midst of a food renaissance. But the truth is people were eating well out here long before the invention of the word locavore or the Wine Advocate called Long Island vino world-class.

A hundred years ago, East Enders still had one of the longest growing seasons on the East Coast (cauliflower and cheese pumpkins), abundant fish and fowl (from scallops to woodcock), and comfort-food-esque colonial cooking traditions (from doughnuts to dumplings, from salt pork to everything fried in lard). And don’t forget the generous culinary advice of the Shinnecock Nation and other native tribes.

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1903 was the year when the Old Mill Inn, a marvelous red shingled structure on Mattituck Harbor, ceased being a tidal mill and became a tavern. It was also the year Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company, Crayola crayons were invented, Freud published the Interpretation of Dreams, Frank Baum published The Wizard of Oz, and Fannie Merritt Farmer published The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. On the largely rural, electricity-less East End, fish, oysters, cauliflower, lima beans, corn and potatoes flowed by the young Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan markets and restaurants.

Under its latest owners, the Old Mill Inn is one of a handful of East End restaurants, like Foody’s in Water Mill and the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold, who take farm-to-table cuisine seriously. So the meal’s well-researched menu will include a starter of relishes, including radishes, pickled cauliflower & carrots; Bonacker clam fritters (named after the East Hampton residents descended from the first British settlers on the East End, including cuisine-keeper Al Lester, pictured here with his famous clam pie); and consommé with dumplings. Next, diners will tuck into baked cod with oyster stuffing accompanied by potatoes, succotash, samp, sweet potato croquettes, and string beans; and a course of ham and gravy with a salad of butter lettuces. The drink will be rum punch and the meal will finish with pumpkin spice cake, apple brown Betty and trifle.

The Old Mill Inn

5775 West Mill Road, Mattituck New York 11952 (map) 631-298-8080