In the News:
Award Presented to: Estia Little Kitchen
New 2013 Star Rating: 5
We would like to extend our congratulations to Estia's and staff for reaching another milestone in customer satisfaction. Iin 2012 the business was awarded the Talk of the Town Customer Satisfaction Award by Celebration Media, and through hard work and commitment, the Estia Little Kitchen team has achieved a consecutive win for 2013.
Featured Artist Ross Watts above in the garden of Little Estia’s Kitchen
with his “Schooling Bass” installation;
Top Right-hand corner, Colonial Flag of reclaimed books, Ross Watts
Photography by Daniel Gonzalez
“The food is what draws crowds and I like to think it’s the artwork created for us by our friends that adds to our atmosphere.”
—Chef and Owner, Colin Ambrose
Unassumingly delightful, Little Estia’s Kitchen is located off of the Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton, New York. Opened in 1998 by (award winning) Chef Colin Ambrose, Estia’s not only boasts amazing flavors from the area’s finest farms and fishermen, it also claims an art collection of successful local artists. The restaurant’s atmosphere is casual — making you feel like you are in someone’s home. The juxtaposition of local fare and art creates a symmetry that is undeniable.
Artist, Ross Watts and his family live a block from the Sag Harbor location, they visit weekly and dine there often with their children. His work fits both concepts decorative focuses, striped bass in Sag Harbor and Americana in Darien. He also shares a focus on renewing things that others may see as waste. “His work is created from found objects, we like to compost from the kitchen, buy plates and tableware at auction and recycle old food preparation techniques.”—Ambrose
Similar to Estia’s, Chef Ambrose recently opened Estia’s American in Darien Connecticut—bringing the home cooled and local art collection model to a second location.
posted on 11 September 2013
by Annette Hinkle
When Colin Ambrose moved to the East End in the early 1990s and opened Estia restaurant in Amagansett, he not only made a commitment to his customers — he also vowed to be loyal to the region’s artists.
“The first week we are there, who do I meet other than Marvin Kuhn?” recalls Ambrose who, prior to moving to the East End, had read the book “Striper” by John Cole which was illustrated by Kuhn.
Ambrose told Kuhn, the cartoonist for the East Hampton Star, that he was interested in creating a décor in the restaurant that would be striped bass intensive. He asked Kuhn if he would do a painting of a striped bass.
And when Ambrose asked, “How much?” he recalls, Kuhn smiled and said, “Why not a couple hundred dollars and a couple hundred dollar tab and we’ll be even?”
And that’s how the tradition of artists “singing for the supper” so to speak began at Ambrose’s restaurant. More were to follow – and many of them were artists who hardly needed to work for food — artists like John Alexander, Dan Rizzie, Terry Elkins and Jim Gingerich.
And each time, Ambrose paid the artists for their work with a combination of cash and a food tab at Estia.
“I felt there should always be a quid pro quo with them getting paid,” says Ambrose. “But the restaurant tab would also justify them putting in their time in a way that respected them.”
More than 20 years later, Ambrose has remained loyal to the artists (and vice versa). Though Amagansett’s Estia is long gone and Marvin Kuhn has passed away, Ambrose still has Estia’s Little Kitchen on the Sag Harbor Turnpike (he also now has Estia’s American in Darien, Conn.).
Today, Ambrose’s art collection contains 75 works and each has a different story surrounding it. Ironically, one of the newest artists is Peter Spacek the cartoonist and illustrator who has taken over for Kuhn at the East Hampton Star.
“They add depth and I feel they add movement,” says Ambrose of the presence of the work at Estia. “Each of these relationships have involved some cheeseburgers and Greek salads. It means a lot to me.”
Mansell Ambrose, Colin Ambrose’s 18 year old daughter, literally grew up surrounded by art, both at home and in the restaurant. The backdrop to her childhood, while she was intimately familiar with the pieces, she didn’t know much about the artists who created them …. until this summer.
That’s when Ambrose gave his daughter, an accomplished photographer in her own right, an assignment (or internship, if you will) — to document the restaurant’s art collection through the artists’ perspective.
“I gave her a list of 20 artists and she got all their email contacts, communicated with them, secured interviews and photographed them,” says Ambrose.
On Monday, Mansell started her senior year at Millbrook School in upstate New York. Soon, she’ll apply to colleges and among the portfolio pieces she’ll submit is this summer’s collection of photographic portraits and profiles detailing the lives of the various artists whose work has hung on the walls of Ambrose’s restaurant over the years.
“I grew up knowing the artists, but not having a close relationships except for their work,” says Mansell. “When I started doing the project I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
“I met with Jim Gingrich to form questions and get more comfortable. Them I opened up his website and saw one of his paintings – I know exactly where his painting is in my house and I knew exactly who he was. It came together that their art was around my entire life — and it grew my eye to appreciate good artwork.”
Part of Mansell’s goal with the project was not just to shoot a portrait, but to also photograph a detail of their hands in close up — either holding a tool or working on a piece.
“Some of them are huge artists, but I had never thought of them in their professional world,” says Mansell. “I knew them as friends of my dad. It was so casual. When I went to their studio and saw how amazing their work was, it’s really cool to get that experience.”
As an example, she mentions artist John Alexander who lives in Amagansett in summer.
“He had eaten at my dad’s restaurant everyday,” says Mansell. “He told me stories about being in my dad’s restaurant and how he welcomed him in. A lot of them think of my dad as the coolest guy.”
Ultimately, however, this project really helped Mansell to see art in an entirely new light.
“When you’re looking at art, you usually don’t have any information about who the artist is,” she says. “That changed for me and made me have a connection with the work. I literally scootered by it 6,000 times and saw day in and day out growing up. It’s cool that I now have a larger meaning to what the art’s about.”
For the artists, as well, the friendship that has developed over food and art is one that has remained strong.
“I love to barter and over the years, I’ve had a great tab at Estia,” says Dan Rizzie who once created a “Lymanade” stand for Ambrose’s elder daughter, Lyman. “Mansell was very professional. I was impressed in her genuine interest and in what she was doing.”
“I remember when Lyman and Mansell were babies – we’ve known each other that long,” he adds. “It’s a mutually interesting situation and brings the idea of community to a whole other level.”
The notion of community is one that is echoed by artist Paton Miller and he has particularly come to appreciate his long friendship with Ambrose and, by extension, his family.
“Mansell was a bright and charming young woman,” says Miller. “We’ve all really enjoyed our relationship with Colin – he’s the quintessential good guy and it’s one of those relationships you get by living in the same place a long time.”
“I made this home when I was 21 years old,” he says. “I like that continuity and being part of the fabric of the community. Colin’s kids reflect that.”
Mansell Ambrose’s artist portraits are on view at Estia Little Kitchen, 1615 Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike, through mid-October. Call 725-1045 for information.
July 2013 - By Brandon Cohen
With chefs whipping up charcoal creations using fish, poultry, beef (like Estia's Little Kitchen's shredded beef tacos here), and pork, there'll be something to satisfy everyone. Except for vegans, they might want to stay home and watch Whale Wars or something.
......read full article on thrillist.com
Is it possible to dine out but feel like you’re eating a home cooked meal? Colin Ambrose, chef/owner of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, NY and the new Estia’s American in Darien, CT seems to have hit the nail on the head. He’s been on the scene for years sourcing local ingredients to create the perfect dish. In fact, he has his very own garden at his little local hotspot eatery. Ambrose’s talents stem from a childhood around growing and cooking food to create eats of utter deliciousness. Colin will share his passion and what it takes to marry the essence of home cooking with a great dining experience.
Estia's American Restaurant Just Celebrated Its
Sag Harbor, NY, 03/01/2013 – Chef Colin Ambrose, of Estia's, has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America. This is the first-ever peer review guide of U.S. chefs, who were chosen after extensive interviews between their fellow chefs and Best Chefs America analysts. Chef Colin Ambrose has been showcased in the informative and exquisitely produced 386-page coffee table book that was released on March 1, 2013.
: When you are in the Hamptons, where do you like to eat?
Tom Colicchio: I love having breakfast on the weekends at Estia’s Little Kitchen. They have it down. When you walk in there to have breakfast, you really feel like you are in the country. Even though this is supposed to be the country, part of the Hamptons can feel more urban, but Estia’s really nails it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Award Presented to: Estia Little Kitchen
New 2012 Star Rating: 5
We would like to extend our congratulations to you and your staff for reaching another milestone in overall customer satisfaction. As you recall, in 2011 your business received the Talk of the Town Customer Satisfaction Award, and through hard work and commitment, the Estia Little Kitchen team has achieved a consecutive win with 5 stars for 2012!
August 17, 2012
By PATRICIA BROOKS
Estia’s American is new to Darien and is the chef-owner Colin Ambrose’s first venture in Connecticut; he prides himself on serving local and natural foods. The small space, which seats 38, looks a little bland inside, with Formica tabletops and a few Americana artifacts. Outside, on the brick-lined patio that seats 18, big umbrellas shield tables from the morning sun.
The menu is unusual. It offers generous portions, some with a Mexican touch: Nacho Mamma’s (jalapeño, chorizo, potatoes, Jack cheese, peppers, onions and corn tortillas, for $12.50), Robbie’s Gringo Hash (red beans, rice, two eggs and corn tortillas, $14.50) and Happy Jack’s breakfast burritos (toasted flour tortillas with two scrambled eggs, andouille sausage, corn, peppers and onions, $13.50).
Not all is south-of-the-border here; customers can choose from eight customized omelets, accompanied by toast and home fries, a Cajun omelet (with andouille, tomato, onion and peppers, $13.50); or Whittie’s Delight (oatmeal with apples, two poached eggs and a sausage patty, $12.50). Three thick, double-size blueberry buttermilk pancakes had lots of fresh berries and came with a creamer brimming with Vermont maple syrup (also available with bananas, apples or chocolate chips, $8.50 to $11.50).
Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times
The menu at Estia's American restaurant, new to Darien, is unusual.
April 10 2012
by Casey Donahue
Estia's Restaurant Crosses the Sound: Opening in Darien, Connecticut
In April the second incarnation of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor will be expanding into Darien, CT in the form of Estia’s American, a charming Café that will offer Owner Colin Ambrose’s signature healthy, vibrant, freshly prepared foods. The Café will serve breakfast, lunch and a juice bar, then transform itself into an urbane restaurant and bar for dinner service.
Estia’s from-scratch approach, and local sourcing whenever possible, will remain at the forefront, paying homage to where it all began. Estia’s has always had heart, and that will be felt in this new modern, old-style neighborhood restaurant and gathering place.
March 28, 2012
IrishAurora posted a review for Estia's Little Kitchen on Jan 24, 12 10:31 AM 5 Stars.
"Went here this Sunday for brunch (a little after 1) and was delighted to find that breakfast was still available! Both me and my dining buddy were thrilled with our meals (we both ordered what I think was called the Grand Ranch?) Delicous! The service was super friendly and quick! My only complaint was they were super busy and we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table but we expected this as former reviewers had mentioned how little the place is and busy. I say, good for them! I don't mind waiting when the dining experience is this good."
September 22, 2011
On most summer days at Estia’s Little Kitchen on the fringe of Sag Harbor Village,
families meander outside under apple, pear and peach trees while waiting for a table at
the celebrated café. Children wait hungrily for fresh fruit pancakes while they poke at
bright yellow zucchini blossoms, finger cherry-red stalks of Swiss chard and smell mint
nestled among a kaleidoscope of native flowers.
For chef and owner Colin Ambrose, the image evokes memories of his own children’s
earliest interactions with food, beginning at his first farm on Lorne Michael’s Amagansett
property where he created a chefs co-op for local produce. The fruits of that venture
made his first restaurant, Estia’s Coffee Shop, the kind of place where locals and visitors
alike wouldn’t bat an eyelash at waiting in line down Main Street, Amagansett for a
sample of blueberry pancakes or the signature two-hour salad, a seasonal selection of
produce plucked warm from the ground just hours before it was artfully presented on a
That coffee shop’s lease was sold years ago as Ambrose began to focus his culinary
energies on Estia’s Little Kitchen after buying the once sleepy Tony’s Coffee Shop in
Ambrose ceased farming at Michaels’ property in part because of geography but also
because of a hungry deer population. However, The Little Kitchen, as it is known to
scores of regulars, has retained the devout loyalty of Ambrose’s clientele, and this year,
Ambrose has returned to his roots, building a kitchen garden on one-third of an acre
behind his restaurant. The garden teems with fruits and vegetables that make their way
onto plates at the Little Kitchen, supplemented when needed by the produce of local
farmers like Bette Lacina and Dale Haubrich, Marilee Foster, David Falkowski, Alex
Balsam, Ian Calder-Piedmonte and longtime friend and mentor Scott Chaskey of Quail
Hill Farm in Amagansett.
“I buy from who I can, who I trust and what works for us,” said Ambrose on Monday
morning, sitting at a table outside of his restaurant. “I bought Milk Pail peaches for our
blueberry peach pancakes while I wait for my peaches to ripen. I just bought a bunch of
carrots and potatoes from Bette and Dale for South Fork succotash.”
The Little Kitchen has long supported local farmers, and while Ambrose remains
committed to the South Fork farms, he added he is pleased he is now able to bring more
of his own food into the Little Kitchen.
The kitchen garden was designed by Susan Meyer and Ambrose, and was established
this past fall making this spring and summer The Little Kitchen Garden’s first harvest.
The garden is tended to by Ambrose, but also by Jeff Negron who on many days can be
seen from the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike pruning the Little Kitchen’s
decade-old blueberry bushes or inspecting heads of delicate lettuce nestled under the
natural shade of a birch tree.
True to Ambrose’s lifelong culinary commitment to chemical-free, seasonal local produce
– something the restaurateur has embraced long before the practice became trendy –
the kitchen garden is fertilized by Ambrose’s own compost, turned in three concrete
compost bins at the edge of the restaurant property. Bits of eggshell can be seen poking
up from soil in the rows of basil.
Ambrose’s career began in 1991 when he bought Estia’s in Amagansett, creating a
restaurant focused on local produce, fish with a Mexican influence finding its way into
menu items. After befriending Chaskey and becoming enamored with the idea of farming
his own crops, Ambrose reached out to regular customer and artist John Alexander and
asked him if he knew of any fallow land he could use.
Enter Lorne Michaels. The Saturday Night Live creator allowed Ambrose to create a
two-acre garden on his property. A pasture for 50 years, Ambrose nearly drools when
describing the “enhanced Bridgehampton loam” that his vegetables took root in. A
regular customer, Rhett, agreed to clear the acreage for coffee and eggs at Estia for five
months and Ambrose’s first garden was born.
His partners in what would become known as The Basil Brothers Chefs Co-op included
famed chefs Charlie Palmer and Rick Moonen, along with local chefs Dennis MacNeil,
Gerry Hayden and the late Kevin Henry.
“They were all so influential in the easy days of East Hampton’s culinary development,”
said Ambrose of the latter three.
For two years, the chef’s co-op flourished, and while Ambrose still considers many of
those men his brothers, the co-op eventually dwindled and after buying The Little
Kitchen in 1998, Ambrose eventually stopped gardening on the property.
Ambrose continued to be a member of Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, his daughters
Lyman and Mansell and wife Jessica joining him, as they did on the Michaels property, to
collect vegetables for the family dinner table.
Now with the garden in place, Ambrose said he is not only thrilled to see the property
take on a whole new aura, animals finding their way onto the property that never have
before, and families finding their children drawn to the garden, just as his own children
were when they were young.
“This is beyond a place to eat,” said Ambrose, slightly tearing. “Children wander through
the garden and I tell their parents to let them pick a green bean. That is getting me to the
Lyman and Mansell, who formed their own company – A. Sisters Food Company — two
years ago, selling “lymanade” of various flavors, fresh pasta and pesto, have taken on
the family tradition of celebrating fresh, local food.
“We were so connected to the garden,” said Lyman on Tuesday. “It was fun to just be
there with my dad, but it also really opened our eyes up about what is right to eat.
Friends would tell me I was a picky eater, but that was because I grew up eating the
best. That sad salad they served to me at boarding school was not something I was
going to touch.”
Lyman, who is studying business and nutritional sciences at Bucknell this fall said she
was always proud of her father, but once she and Mansell started their business and
began selling their goods at local farm stands they witnessed first hand the kind of
relationships he has built with people over the last two decades.
“It has been great to see the reaction everyone has to him,” said Lyman. “To see that
side of it and how much people love that restaurant, it’s mind blowing that one man can
produce that kind of following.”
Ambrose would likely blush at those comments.
“It’s not my goal to be anything more than I am today,” he said, wrapping up the
interview. “I am that guy who will spend the next three hours getting this garden ready
for the weekend. My job is to be a good father and just do what we do here.”
Phone (631)725-1045 | 1615 Sag Harbor Bridgehampton Turnpike | Copyright © 2002-2013 Estia's Little Kitchen