Have you ever asked someone where they get their really cool stuff, and the answer is: “I got a guy …”?
Jonathan Bernard, farmer, forager and finder of really cool foodstuffs, is owner and operator at Hen of the Woods, a specialty gourmet food store in downtown Southampton, which opened in 2021. If you’re looking for mushrooms and cool things made from them, he’s your guy.
For years here on the South Fork, the Southampton resident became a favorite among local chefs as one of the few who could acquire unusual mushrooms, particularly morels and maitakes (aka, hen of the woods).
Across the East End, specialty food stores can seem to be a dime a dozen, but Bernard and his team, including chef Anna Lembo, have refined their product and line of prepared foods to include some of the rarest and most unusual items that simply cannot be found anywhere else.
As of last weekend Bernard and company moved the operation just a few storefronts down, nestled in between Sip ‘n Soda and Citarella, with the intention of expanding their new home over the upcoming winter months.
“We’re going to run through the holidays then close January and February to do a proper buildout for the spring and summer season,” he says. Hen of the Woods‘ new location (36 Hampton Road) will open in upcoming weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving.
“This whole store, all of this, it’s all because these are the things that I love,” Bernard says of his cool and unusual inventory. Trust us, you’re going to love them too.
- Tsuru Bishio, $14.50. A rich, nuanced Japanese soy sauce brewed and aged for four years in kioke, old wooden barrels traditionally used for fermenting food. A little goes a long way with this, as it packs the ultimate umami flavor and makes you feel like you’re tasting soy sauce for the very first time.
- Iron + Salt Bakery focaccia, $17. Southampton resident Michael Ferran has found his true calling with bread baking. The former owner of Barrister’s restaurant honed his skills during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown bread-baking party of 2020 — and hasn’t looked back since. Baked less than 10 minutes away, the loaves usually arrive still warm.
- Le Beurre Bordier, $12 to $16. Life is better with butter. This world-renowned, preservative-free, silky-smooth butter uses milk sourced from small scale, local farmers in France. It takes a total of 72 hours to make, allowing the cultures to deepen in flavor. Lightly salted, it’s available in a slew of flavors. If they have the yuzu one, jump on it.
- Rebel vegan cheese, $14 to $16. Austin, Texas-based Rebel Cheese changed the cheese game forever, giving dairy a serious run for its money. Rebel comes in over 20 original flavors with styles ranging from cream cheese to sandwich cheese. The creamy goat’s milk-style ash chevre is a crowd pleaser, made predominantly from fair-trade cashews, coconut milk and oil, onion and nutritional yeast. It’s spreadable, meltable and, most importantly, delectable.
- Monte’s tomato sauce, $12.50. This pantry staple comes from a Monte family recipe born in Brooklyn in 1906, after the family immigrated from Italy but before they became the owners of Gurney’s in Montauk. Currently carried on by third-generation family members, this no-frills jarred sauce consists of hand-peeled plum tomatoes, fresh onions, shallots, garlic, basil, sea salt and black pepper. Less is always more.
- Bonilla a la Vista patatas fritas, $5.50 to $16.50. Made from Galician potatoes, these little gold-hued gems are olive oil-fried, generously dusted in sea salt and packed in a darling paint can-like tin or individually sized bags. Ditch the blinis and do these with a caviar-crème fraiche situation.
- Panko-crusted chicken fingers, $15. Lembo cracked the code on crafting the perfect chicken finger. Using high-quality non-GMO organic chickens that are hand-breaded in crispy Japanese-style panko, they are accompanied by her homemade honey-mustard dipping sauce.
- Japanese-style egg salad sando, $15. Lembo has also perfected the viral Japanese egg salad sando, classically served on fluffy Japanese milk white bread with Kewpie mayonnaise, scallions and a delightfully jammy heirloom egg at the center.
- Marianna’s vine leaves, $12. Made by the Kazakis family in Greece, these grape leaves are preserved in an oil-filled jar and stuffed with seasoned rice and aromatics. A cut above the typical diner fare, they pack a balanced punch of flavor.
- Sushi, starts at $17. Keeping with the predominantly Asian theme of the store, Bernard’s rolls consist of aged bluefin spicy tuna and, according to Bernard, “the best” Ōra King salmon with avocado. There’s also an 8-piece omakase ($100) option available, created with the help of an in-house master sushi chef.