There is no shortage of options for a NYC-weekend excursion to the Long Island shores. What gets tricky is choosing among the countless opportunities. Having spent years vacationing along the New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut beaches, I've certainly had a few memorable stays, but it's easy to fall into a partner: Beach, sun, barbecue, repeat.
I recently visited Montauk's Surf Lodge for its summer opening weekend. I've since visited and am gearing up to go again in August. Not only is The Surf Lodge a cool summer spot for city-escapers like me, but it's also a go-to for the local Montauk community. Standing among those diners on that first Friday night, I repeatedly saw old friends reuniting and new visitors excited to be a new part of the simple, cool and classy Surf Lodge atmosphere.
The Surf Lodge's staying power is due in no small part to Imperial No. 9 chef Sam Talbot, who steers the kitchen. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Talbot was voted 'Fan Favorite' on Bravo's "Top Chef" TV series. A diabetic actively involved in diabetes awareness efforts, Talbot's upcoming book, "The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries," is due out soon.
I had the chance to catch up with Sam and get his take on what makes The Surf Lodge distinctive.
Laura Cococcia: You're known for multiple reasons, primarily from your success on Top Chef, the fairly recent opening of Imperial No 9 (to name a few). What, for you, makes Surf Lodge special?
Sam Talbot: Surf Lodge is grassroots for me, it doesn't get any better. It's not our just our restaurant, it's our lifestyle.
LC: I get the feeling of a real sense of community at The Surf Lodge, different from other summer vacation places I've visited. Is there anything about The Surf Lodge's that inspires your creations?
ST: Location, location, location. It's the beach so people are laid back and easy. Just like the food -- no bells, no whistles, just clean and simple fun. It works every time for folks of all ages. Surf Lodge is a community based on great food, laid back vibe and amazing bands from all over.
LC: You've built a solid and admirable career - what or who inspired you to break into the culinary world?
ST: I worked at Dean and DeLuca at a young age - actually, at 16. I just loved it so I ran with it. My mom is a bad ass cook too though.
LC: Any personal favorites on this summer's Surf Lodge menu?
ST:Fish tacos, quinoa and the fried chicken are all good to go.
LC: What's up next for you?
ST: At the end of October, my first book is being published by Rodale Press called, "The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries." The book is part cookbook and part lifestyle book, a mixture of diabetic friendly recipes as well as tips on how to live life to its fullest while managing the condition.
I am also working on the launch of my foundation called The Sweet Life Kitchen. In partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the Sweet Life Kitchen is dedicated to raising awareness about the issues of diabetes and how we can work towards a cure and ultimately get some awareness out there. I am also exploring a partnership with the fashion designer Rogan Gregory of Loomstate on creating a line of clothes and accessories that would raise funds for the charity.