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OPINION COLUMN: TED KRUCKEL

Hamptons Report: I Saw Shaggy, and Tasted the Greatest Scallop of All

Tom Colicchio of Craft restaurants was one of the celebrity chefs on hand for the fourth annual Great Chefs Dinner at the Hayground School.

Photo: Courtesy of WordHampton Public Relations

Tell your greeters, your door girls, and especially your security team that the world’s most relentless party crasher has somehow figured out the jitney and is now making the scene out here in the Hamptons. 

If you’re not familiar: Shaggy, whose real name I once knew, has a full, frizzy grey mane styled improbably like a rock singer. You’ll spot him; he looks inappropriate wherever he goes. He once crashed my birthday party—there were only 40 people invited and I still don’t know how he found out about it—and was incredulous when I asked him to leave. “But I’m already here, what’s the big deal?” is what he always used to say.

At my old firm we kept his picture in the Xerox room, like restaurants do with food critics, so that interns and newbie staffers could pick him out of a crowd.

As my old boss, Valerie Salembier (now the publisher of Harper’s Bazaar), once wisely told me, “Problems don’t just go away.” I say ditto with cockroaches and Shaggy.

So I was riled by seeing the infamous crasher at the East End Hospice’s Summer Gala on June 28. I will support any charity with the word hospice in it. The way I see it, hospice care workers are as close to God as you can get—if you believe in God. This is a small, conservative charity. I was there because my cousin Meredith McBride (along with Christian Dior’s charming Bryn Kenny) was on the committee.

So there appears Shaggy under the tent in Quogue, scarfing the free food, quaffing the free spirits, fingering the fine linens. Oh, it makes me so mad.

All Hail the Great Nick & Toni, Even Though There's No Nick

I love Nick & Toni’s. I couldn’t give a hoot about what celebrities eat there—in fact, for me they detract, draining staff and energy away from my table.

The food is better than just OK. I usually try to eat whatever comes out of the Eric Fischl-decorated open brick oven.

I like no-nonsense Bonnie who runs the front of house with low-key efficiency. There are all these rules about what day you can call for what reservation; I could never keep it straight. For a few years In Style magazine kept an account there that I managed, and let me tell you—if you forget the rules, Bonnie will remind you.

Jeff Salaway, the co-founder with his wife, Toni Ross, was such a likable guy, introduced to me by Charla Lawhon of In Style. He catered a few parties for me (their catering is very good and surprisingly fairly priced). His tragic death, a car accident after his company party, was so sad I just stopped going. Plus now I live 25 miles away.

The Hayground School, founded by Toni, Jeff, and others, is a progressive school where they group students by talents and interests, not just age. It is not to be confused with the Ross School founded by Toni’s stepmother, Time Warner heir Courtney, where they send girls to Paris and Lisbon to learn which forks to use.

Toni opened her doors to the madding crowds for the Great Chefs Dinner last Sunday. Well, kind of—actually she only let them stand in a tent in her parking lot—the real restaurant was V.I.P. only, which I skipped despite my fancy press pass (thank you, organizers). As a rule I can’t abide celebritydom and, besides, I know what the inside looks like.

Instead I made my way through the tasting tent where celebrity chefs including Alfred Portale, Eric Ripert, and Toshio Tomita were mini-plating up their grub alongside various vintners. Normally I skip these things; they always pour you just a tiny sip of wine (and I need more than a sip, let me tell you) and then you eat this little plate of food and there you are with an empty glass in one hand and a dirty plate in the other and look at you, you’re a mess and you just got there.

They avoided this problem in so many smart ways. They had tall drop tables with seating everywhere. They had capable waiters walking around with big trays constantly collecting plates. They had vintners pour full glasses. They had their act together.

Except of course the tent was too hot. Hamptons party people, please! Get with the program—read my tents and temperature column.

I beelined to Tom Colicchio’s table, not because I like Top Chef (sorry, Tom, I don’t), but because I like him and his food. He does not disappoint. Here he proffered a square chunk of short rib with a sirloin medallion, enough meat for me for the night, served over tiny crunch niblets of haricot verts and some other tiny vegetable. It was like a whole meal. I thought I smelled truffles but Tom said no. “Why is it so aromatic then?” I asked. “Because we’re good cooks,” he responded.

After gassing the tank with Wolffer rose (I normally insist on French rose; it has this bite, but so did this one), I made my way to Jonathan Waxman’s station, hoping for some seared foie gras (you know he invented seared foie gras, at Jams, don’t you?). But his team was carving up rack of lamb. Now, I make rack of lamb 2 to 3 times a week (the dog likes it), so I have my opinions, and Mr. Waxman agrees with me. First, almost everyone undercooks it so the center is  “gooey, bloody, and gross,” as he says. Secondly, he served New Zealand lamb (not Australian, people, pay attention) which are a little smaller and I think gamier than the American version. I like gamey.

Finally I bellied up to the Nick & Toni table to Hoover down some of chef Joseph Realmuto’s Greatest Scallop of Them All, as I will now be calling it. Now here are some truffles for you. Perfectly cooked, from crunchy outside to sweet and soft (but not gooey and gross) middle.

The Shinn Estate Coalesce white (from the North Fork, near Mattituck; you’re hip to the North Fork being hot now, aren’t you?) was a soft but sophisticated wine (it’s four grapes, I got the percentages and all, but can’t you just trust me?) that I found a tad too understated for the tent, but at $14 retail think I’ll be trying again soon.

I need to close with a thank you to Hayground staff and volunteers. I idiotically left a checkbook with over $300 cash and a signed Tom Colicchio book on a table. But Lukas Weinstein, a school administrator, scooped up my valuables and, more smartly, alerted people on the headsets. My money and mood were restored in moments.