July 18, 2005 | Ask Gael

What's worth the Hamptons hassle?

        A gringo chef from the popular Bridgehampton bistro Almond is tossing off more or less Mexican hits at Almondito in Wainscott. From the hugs and kiss-kiss at the door, it’s clear everyone loves co-owner Eric Lemonides’s TLC. Sip a potent margarita thickened with local strawberries. If the weekend grandees no comprendé pork carnitas or huitlacoché quesadillas (that’s corn fungus, sweetheart), they’ll feel safe with the savory chopped salad, crusty salmon with salsa verde, or fabulous hanger steak on mashed plantain. Portions are huge; prices are not. And who cares how authentic it is when crispy flautas with avocado crème fraîche and chicken mole poblano are that good? It can’t hurt to share just-fried buñuelos with dulce de leché dip.

290 Montauk Highway nr. Stephen Hands Path, Wainscott 631 329 6700

    East Hampton’s once-imperative lit-clique hangout The Laundry survives as a port of civilized calm and skilled pampering. Regulars come for a respectable burger beside a hill of fries or juicy, caramelized ribs. The Caesar and an appetizer-size ribs make my evening. The kitchen tends to overcook fish, but I said “rare” and got deftly grilled organic salmon alongside a tangy nest of Asian slaw and soba noodles. On weekdays, $32 buys a prix fixe.

31 Race Lane nr. Railroad Ave., East Hampton 631 324 3199

Providing a continuous lifeline to homebound elderly New Yorkers