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September 29th, 2003

The Inn Spot

by Thom McVann

The last Saturday in July was one of those perfect summer days when everyone talks about the beach but almost no one ever gets there. Naturally I said to the love of my life, right about noon, that we should go to the beach. Her reply was so totally consistent with her feminine nature. “Not before I eat. After all it is lunchtime.” “How about that casual little place in Quogue called the Inn Spot,” I suggested. “It would be quick and we can still get to the beach while the sun is strong.”

We drove to 48 Quogue Street and easily found a parking place right in front of what looked like an old-fashioned country luncheonette, with canvas awnings lowered against the strong summer sun and a small outdoor dining patio shaded on one side by a large, leafy tree. We were greeted at the door by the lilting Irish voice of Colette Conner, a co-owner of this vest-pocket eatery with Pamela Wolfert. Upon hearing the sweet ancestral strains of her Celtic genes, my favorite luncheon companion knew that a kindred spirit stood before her and she launched into a new chapter in her eternal search for her roots.

“Have you ever been to the town of Navon in the County Meade?” asked my bride, hoping to obtain some new scrap of information about the birthplace of her maternal grandmother.

“I was born in Drogheda in the County Lough, which is just up the road. and know Navon well,” was the welcome reply from Colette.

I began to read the menu to avoid being drawn into what I suspected would be a long, conversational trip across the plain of Meade ending at the passage tomb on the hill of Tara at New Grange, where the true Irish race and my bride ultimately laid their first common ancestor to rest some five thousand years ago.

The Weekend brunch menu was filled with good ideas like eggs benedict (Atlantic or Florentine), huevos rancheros, omeletes, salads, crab cakes, burgers, Belgian waffles, sandwiches and sides of bacon, sausage, gravlax and home fries. As Colette and my sweet Kate continued up the hill of Tara, I found the lunch menu and continued with my reading, noting such delights as Croque Monsieur, a classic B.L.T., a fresh roasted turkey club sandwich, grilled cheese served with French fries if you wish. Pre-lunch appetizers include homemade soup, shrimp and crawfish spring rolls, Oriental chicken wontons and mini crab cakes served with rouille sauce. As the hill-climbing lasses neared the top, I discovered the delights of the rather extensive list of available “gourmet pizza,” which includes combos named after the streets of Quogue. Try the Dune Road Pie (lobster, ricotta and fresh mozzarella), the Quanquanatuck Pie (duck, scallions, hoisan sauce and fresh mozzarella), the Woodland Way (wild mushrooms, special white velvet sauce and fresh herbs) or make your own combo from a choice of 23 toppings. How about clams, bananas and lamb kidneys?

I was now out of reading material and my life companion was deep in conversation with the gabby Colette. I decided to chat with Pam Wolfert, the non-Irish member of the team that runs the Inn Spot. Pam, it seems, had come to warn me not to bring up the subject of Ireland with Colette, lest I starve to death waiting to order. Alas it was too late, as Colette and my first love had only reached the third century with the much-heralded coming of St. Patrick leading to the departure of the snakes. Pam’s roots are blissfully the short roots enjoyed by most sane Americans. She hails from the North Fork of Long Island, where her grandfather Wolf Wolfert was the arborist at the now famous Bayberry Estate. Pam told me that she and Colette are in their fifth year in the Inn Spot and are open for breakfast and lunch five or six days a week year round. The cheerful staff of charming Irish colleens is always ready to serve with smiling eyes.

Pam was just telling me the proper way to prepare poached salmon in parchment when I heard the voice of my sweet Kate softly demanding that I cut out all this chitchat and get her some food. “Did we come here to eat or just talk? This girl is feeling like the potato famine has struck again!” Since I’d had plenty of time to read the menu, I was ready to order and asked for the caviar omelet. The lady selected the quesadilla. Pam disappeared like a wizard from Harry Potter and must have reappeared in the kitchen, because the meals appeared shortly thereafter like magic. And magic they were. The quesadillas turned out to be wonderfully light homemade flour tortillas stuffed with an excellent Jack cheese grilled and served with sour cream and fresh salsa. My caviar omelet was a wonder to behold, a perfect omelet folded over a generous portion of red salmon roe and cr?ɂ?me fraiche and topped with tiny black American paddlefish eggs which look and taste like Russian beluga caviar. The glistening little black jewels on top of my yellow omelet instantly caught the full attention of my dining companion, who claimed them as her own.

“Do you remember that Sunday last March when we were wrapping up a weekend at the Peninsula Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fifth Street in Manhattan and you promised me a caviar brunch at Petrossian at Seventh and Fifty-eighth? We never got there because you wanted to see the polar bears at the Central Park Zoo. You said that it would be romantic standing as the snow fell watching the big white furries frolic in their rocky pond. Well it was just plain cold there and all I got was a hot dog, which was a damn sight cheaper than brunch at Petrossian. I haven’t forgotten and you owe me!” Thus I lost the black paddlefish eggs to the ancient Irish right of glomb and watched with new respect as she ate them all.

“Now to the beach?” I suggested. “No,” she replied, “a nice nap in the air-conditioned part of our house would be better. It’s so hot in the sun and I feel so full.”

-Thom McVann

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