Looking for somewhere interesting to eat when gathering with family and friends this winter? There’s a new hot spot in Woodbury that serves the freshest and most seasonal food, and prides itself on its farm-to-table philosophy. Under the leadership and guidance of Chef Thomas Gloster and restaurateur Keith Giannadeo, Rustic Root Kitchen and Drinks has been making a name for itself on the local restaurant scene since it opened in June 2017.
“My focus here was to take ingredients that people grew up with and are comfortable with, and to expose them to these ingredients when they are available,” said Gloster. “People can get food all year long from places like Holland, Mexico and California. I’m trying to re-introduce people to the fact that there is a season for vegetables in their peak. It’s something we believe in. We believe in being sustainable, and being local, and to show our customers what Long Island has to offer, while at the same time supporting local farmers.
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Gloster, a 2014 Food Network Chopped Champion, is a graduate of the Long Island Culinary Academy. He then went on to train with renowned Parisian chef Richard Farnabe, and American celebrity chef Kerry Simon, both of whom gave Gloster what he calls “the old school culinary mentality.” Gloster has worked in both Long Island and New York City kitchens, and had been the executive chef at Rothman’s Steak House in East Norwich. Rustic Root is his first restaurant.
Gloster’s understanding of fresh, local ingredients actually comes from his childhood. Growing up in Queens, Gloster’s parents would send him to live with his grandparents each summer in Upstate New York in the Catskills. It is here that he became passionate about where food comes from.
“It’s important to know what you’re eating and where it is coming from,” said Gloster. “To be able to know exactly where something is harvested from, I think, is a great thing. More and more people are aware of food allergies, and I think now it is more important than ever for people to know what’s in their food. That’s what we’re really about—not only putting forth a great product, but educating people at the same time.”
Vegetables, like local corn this past summer, came from Meyer’s Farm which is just around the corner from Rustic Root. Other produce comes from Rottkamp Farm in Old Brookville, MarGene Farms in Mattituck, and Elija Farm in South Huntington. Goat cheese comes from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic or Gooddale Farms in Riverhead, while other cheese is from dairies Upstate. Salt comes from Amagansett Sea Salt Company, and even some of the fish is local. Brook trout comes from the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery. Gloster loves the fish that comes out of the hatchery because natural, underground streams feed the trout ponds. The hatchery tests the water for chemicals daily, and they make sure their water is toxin-free. The fish are also not over-penned, so you don’t have to worry about bacteria forming. Meat comes from Double R Ranch in Washington State, and is sourced through Prime Foods in Port Washington. All the animals are humanely raised and are GMO and antibiotic free.
“We try here to buy the best ingredients possible, and to do as little as possible with them,” said Gloster. “Simple, clean cooking. Most of our dishes have four components maximum, and it’s taking into consideration texture and flavors in everything we do. So we like everything to have a certain amount of acid, a certain amount of fat, some texture, crunch, bite, whatever that may be, but when you take a bite of our food we’re hoping for an explosion in your mouth, playing off the tongue and sensory.”
Gloster’s statement is true to the food he cooks. I have been there three times already, and each dish I have had definitely plays on the mixing of textures and flavors.
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The atmosphere at Rustic Root is warm and inviting. The modern rustic look is comprised of 100-year-old barn wood from Pennsylvania and is surrounded by lots of brick. The beautiful tables were made by the Amish using reclaimed wood. Even the wooden menu boards are handmade. It is a comfortable setting where great quality, high-end food is presented at affordable prices.
Gloster started me off with an impressive cocktail, one of their signature craft cocktails, a smoked old fashion made with Bulleit bourbon, demerara, and walnut bitters in a smoked glass. This cocktail, with its slightly sweet finish, was strong and smooth, and was served with a lemon twist over a big square ice cube, perfect for a cold winter night.
For an appetizer, I was served a decadent mushroom flatbread made with ricotta, truffle, chive, pecorino cheese and a perfectly cooked organic egg which added a flavorful richness to the dish. This dish was followed by crispy Brussels sprouts, which of course were in season. This simple vegetable was elevated to a new level with the addition of honey, a touch of tabasco, yogurt, sea salt, mint and almonds. I would come back for this dish again and again.
Both the flatbread and the Brussels sprouts are perfect for sharing. I was eager to try the brook trout next, made with charred cauliflower, leeks, and thinly-shaved fennel in a light salmoriglio sauce. The fish was tender and moist, while the skin was crispy and well-seasoned. It was surrounded by beautiful multicolored cauliflower, which brought a brightness to the dish.
On my return trip I enjoyed a delicious fig and honey salad with assorted figs, butter lettuce, truffle honey, goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. For salad lovers, this is definitely a winner. And I must mention the bread. It is worth the $10 it costs for this pull apart, homemade bread dripping with a delicious honey, sea salt glaze. It is served warm with garlic herb butter, and it is made fresh daily so quantities are limited. Gloster arrives at 6:00 a.m. every morning just to make this bread.
Other popular dishes include their house-made pierogis made with potatoes, local cheddar, herbs and onion jam, and the oven-roasted organic chicken wings seasoned with rosemary, sea salt and honey.
The dishes Gloster creates have been very well received by patrons, many of whom are now regular customers. According to Gloster, guests like what is being done at Rustic Root, and they see what sets the restaurant apart from other places.
“What I like about being a chef is that I can reinvent myself and the concept of this restaurant every day,” said Gloster. “I think that’s one of the good things about doing farm-to-table. We’re staying true to what we believe in, and we are staying true to local vendors. I can evolve this restaurant every day and can cook whatever I want. It really is a lot of fun.”
Rustic Root Kitchen and Drinks is open Monday – Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday brunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and dinner from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday brunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and dinner from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are not accepted.