It’s Official: Juniper and Bread & Brine Have Merged to Create a Seafood Mecca – Food for Thought
Food for Thought
by Linda Viertel –
For those of us who have missed Chef Alex Sze’s inventive cooking at Juniper in Hastings (both locations), customers can now experience his culinary skills at the recently expanded Bread & Brine, now a vibrant informal eatery where fish shack meets tiki bar meets a melding of East/West tastes.
When the original Bread & Brine owner Jeremy McClellan and Chef Sze joined together to form Hastings Hospitality Group, then became next-door neighbors in a restaurant partnership, the beginnings of their culinary dreams came true. Instead of having one kitchen create menus for two different restaurants – Bread & Brine and Juniper – they merged two dining spaces and two bars into one, while maintaining unique atmospheres in each space.
The original menu at Bread & Brine, a tribute to McClellan’s love of Maine’s iconic lobster shacks and Portland’s quintessential seafood restaurant, Eventide, now gets special treatment thanks to Sze. Choose perfectly prepared, traditional, hearty Maine steamers as a “small plate,” or chicken wings given Sze’s Eastern touch via General Tsao, sesame and chili. New England clam chowder is a rich creation brimming with quahog clams, potato, leek, celery, salt pork in a creamy base and topped with toasted, piping hot cornbread. Buffalo shrimp gets an unusual taste from sambal oelek (an Indonesian chile paste), accompanied by scallions and house-made pickles. In addition, Sze’s housemade soft milk buns served with whipped butter subtly flavored with crustacean broth have become a signature appetizer.
Six types of fresh oysters are always on the raw bar menu, a weekly selection from both coasts, with an emphasis on the Northeast. Accompaniments include a lemon pepper mignonette, house pickle granita, classic cocktail sauce and fresh horseradish. Little necks and sweet jumbo shrimp are also available. It’s important to note that McClellan sources his sustainable seafood daily from 5 to 6 top-notch purveyors, from the Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point and Beal’s Lobster Pier in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Classic lobster rolls get two treatments: Maine style – cold lobster/mayonnaise salad on a buttered roll; or Connecticut style – hot lobster sautéed in butter on a roll – both come with fries. Chef Sze spent time in the famed Chef Michel Richard’s kitchen at his iconic D.C. restaurant, Citronelle, and pays homage to his mentor with his justly popular Tuna burger a la Michel Richard- served with potato crisps, ginger mayo, and toasted tomato with a soy vinaigrette. Daily market fish specials always change: selections might be dorade, haddock, striped bass or a fisherman’s stew.
Vegetarians (or anyone, in fact) will love Sze’s roasted cauliflower- a crunchy exterior complemented by a sweet interior, accompanied by a fried egg, ricotta, raisins, capers all in a scallion vinaigrette. Linguini with white clam sauce gets the East/West treatment with wonton noodles, steamed cockles, pancetta, garlic and chili. And, carnivores (or anyone, in fact) will delight in Bread & Brine’s patty melts, grilled as requested, and topped with griddled onions, cheddar cheese, B&B pickles, Sze’s special sauce and served with butter fried French fries.
Creative cocktails get special treatment from mixologist, Christina Andrews. She is passionate about tiki cocktails, fun and energetic concoctions that are slowly catching on. She plans to expand her two bars with more classics and special tiki drinks beyond the four she created initially. Red and white wines are offered by the glass or bottle. And, there is always a featured red or white for customers to try, give their opinions about, and, if popular, the featured item stays on the wine list. Craft beers, lagers and ciders are also offered.
THE SHED: McClellan has created a charming, intimate room within Bread & Brine’s larger, airier space by enclosing a private dining area, which he calls “the shed.” Eight to 12 diners can sit comfortably around a large table in what looks much like someone’s New England dining room. Nautical paintings, a fireplace, antiques, lamps lit low and forest green walls all give a feeling of comfort and warmth. It’s a great place to reserve for family dinners or a true Maine clambake (newspaper on the table, lobsters, steamers, corn, potatoes, chorizo) when everyone dons bibs and gets to hone their shell-cracking skills. McClellan and Sze will also help customers craft their own menus for a “shed party” or just reserve a night out at Bread & Brine for a group who would enjoy ordering a la carte off the menu.
Every Sunday night Mama Sze, Chef Sze’s mother, makes her famous traditional dumplings, and local families can’t get enough of them. Every Wednesday oysters are $1 all night long. Dollar oysters are also available at the “Adult Swim” happy hour from 5 to 7 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday – the best deal on fresh raw oysters in all of New England!
Chef Sze wants guests to have a good time at their meal. “Though my background was in fine dining,” he explains, “Juniper was casual, and my hope is that customers come often and experience some tastes that might be new to them and be surprised. I enjoy making even simple, traditional choices taste better.” Partnering with McClellan, who grew up in Maine, and for whom seafood is his “soul food,” Sze is able to let his pure ingredients shine at Bread & Brine where traditional and unique “ Down East” cuisine has found a home on the Hudson River.
If You Go
19 Main Street, Hastings on Hudson
914-479-5243 (and to reserve The Shed)
Hours: M, W, TH, F, S: 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sun.: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Closed Tuesday