Story and photos by Babbie De Derian

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Port Jefferson, Long Island -- a seaside gem on the North Shore

The ride from New York City to the Village of Port Jefferson Island, in the back of a stretch limo is a great start to what promises to be a special weekend that has been organized by the Graceful Rose Restaurant  and Danfords Hotel and Marina.

When we arrive at the hotel, General Manager Stu Weiner and Director of  Sales Therese Coppola are waiting to greet us; a crackling fire in the  lobby fireplace adds to the warm welcome. My room is spacious and cozy  with a rainwater shower and a large porch overlooking the marina. The  sloops and yachts that fill the slips in the summer are still in dry  dock, but the PT Barnum ferry to Bridgeport is in its berth. I watch it  leave the dock and make its way out into the sound.

Graceful Rose Interiot

The Graceful Rose, a family owned restaurant, is a happening place with  live music in the bar; a well appointed dining room, flattering lighting and a gracious ambiance. Chef Joe Dimaggio, a humble master of  gastronomy whose career spans many continents and cuisines, takes great  pride in pleasing our palates with a fusion of peppery, tangy, tart,  salty, sweet and garlicky courses. Our knowledgeable waiter and Chef Joe himself set the stage for each course, describing the ingredients and  preparation that went into each savory dish. The six course feast begins with torchon of foie gras in cumquat syrup on brioche. Peekytoe crab  cakes, made with lump crab meat and garnished with fuzu marmalade and  lemon are savory, moist, and delicately seasoned dish. 


Chopped lobster, shrimp, fresh spinach and roasted garlic over angel hair pasta in a chardonnay garlic sauce is decadently rich and delicious. Chef  cleanses our palate with his grandmother’s Sicilian orange salad: chunks of orange, fresh unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, the juice of the  orange and a little Italian basil. The well orchestrated symphony of  flavors hits high notes in my culinary repertoire, reaching a crescendo  with fresh strawberries macerated in cane sugar and a teaspoon of  Sambuca... served with a light lavender, mint and vanilla bean sauce.

Saturday begins with breakfast at Toast, a charming local hangout voted the best breakfast on Long Island. Seats are at a premium; walls are lined with  colorful paintings by local artists; there is a happy buzz in the room.  Owner Terry Scarlatos wows me with a signature vegetable stuffed omelet, served with his take on home fries... a mix of sweet and white potatoes;  the peanut butter and banana French toast, made with thick slices of  seven grain bread challenges my appetite. Toast and Terry are as warm  and welcoming as its comfort food menu; no doubt the place to be for any meal. Soon to open, Terry’s new 80 seat eatery in Patchogue.

Seafood Kitchens Raw Oysters

Danfords Chef Jonathan Levine, a personable dedicated professional, has traveled far in the culinary world: from working with three stars Michelin Chef Guy Savoy to creating “the best buffet in Las Vegas” at the Wynn Hotel.  His new menu and farm-to-table concept for the hotel’s Wave Seafood  Kitchen, earned three star rave reviews from Newsweek. The lunch menu is innovative and inviting. Local raw oysters on the half shell are fresh  and sweet; succulent short ribs over sweet potato puree melt in my  mouth; the Caesar salad is crisp and tangy, and the crème brulée, the  most delicious I have ever tasted.

Our group heads off for a tour of the Port Jefferson Brewery, but I prefer to spend time at the hotel’s Blue Sapphire Spa.

Saturday Evening, we return to Graceful Rose for another taste of their  impressive menu; Chef Joe has promised more surprises. Deputy Mayor  Larry La Pointe joins us for a lively exchange of Port Jefferson  shipbuilding history, and future plans to attract more visitors and  residents. In the summer a high speed ferry connects New York City, and a complimentary jitney meets the Long Island Railroad trains.

Salmon in a tarragon beurre blanc

Chef Joe does not disappoint; he is unrelenting in expressing his passion  for cooking and desire to please. Highlights of tonight’s culinary  concert: char-grilled langoustine in lemon, parsley and shallot butter,  pumpernickel herb crusted salmon in a tarragon beurre blanc -- and a trio of deserts, my favorite: the traditional tiramisú.

After dinner, we brave the elements to attend an entertaining performance of  the musical: “I Love You; You’re Perfect; Now change” at the historic Theatre Three.

Sunday at Danfords Hotel and Marina includes one of Chef Tiny’s made to order  omelets and Chef Jonathan Levine’s in house smoked bacon; there is a  buzz of activity: locals and guests, here for the great water views and  sumptuous weekend brunch.

I head back to the city reflecting on the historical lore of ships to this port... restored sea captain houses on the hilly tree lined streets... the diversity of restaurants, shops, and art galleries... and the  calendar of year round recreational activities for the young and the  young at heart... such as the Dickens Festival and the Dragon Boat Races.

My thanks to: Chefs Joe DiMaggio, Terry Scarlatos and Jonathan Levine for  sharing their passions and integrity. There is a New England charm about this Long Island village that welcomed me into its embrace. To quote  Mayor Margot Garani: “Port Jefferson is a great destination for a day or a lifetime”.

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