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Food|Travel

A Swedish-inspired spin on the Hamptons

The lounge at The Living Room, where James Carpenter is chef. The trendy restaurant is located in The Maidstone hotel. The lounge at The Living Room, where James Carpenter is chef. The trendy restaurant is located in The Maidstone hotel. (Allison Lizars)
By Ann Trieger Kurland
Globe Correspondent / August 10, 2011

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EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. - Don’t be surprised if Katie Couric, Alec Baldwin, Steven Spielberg, Senator Olympia Snowe, or George Stephanopoulos is sitting at the next table. This picturesque, ritzy town on the east end of Long Island is where celebrities and millionaires converge in the summer. The list of famous people who own a second home in the Hamptons is long, and The Living Room is a favorite restaurant.

The luxury starts as you enter The Maidstone, the boutique hotel where The Living Room is located. A Greek Revival structure with white wood shingles, green shutters, and a striped awning, it was once a 19th-century inn and operated for decades as The Maidstone Arms. Three years ago Swedish hotelier Jenny Ljungberg bought and overhauled the inn, turning it into a 19-room hotel that overlooks the idyllic Town Pond on a street lined with art galleries, boutiques, and designer stores.

Chef James Carpenter came to The Living Room after 15 years working in the Hamptons, first at Della Femina Restaurant and later at The American Hotel. He brought his loyal following with him. The seasonal menu uses organic ingredients from local farms. The restaurant has its own herb garden on the property. Vegetables are supplied by Early Girl and Balsam farms; free-range ducks are raised at Jurgielewicz Duck Farm; artisanal cheeses are bought at family-owned Mecox Bay Dairy, where milk comes from the small herd of cows. Fluke, striped bass, and bivalves come from the waters around Montauk and Peconic Bay. The wine list includes a range of eco-friendly selections, some from vineyards on Long Island and New York’s Finger Lakes region.

The menu has a twist: Swedish-inspired dishes to acknowledge the hotel’s ownership. Carpenter went to Sweden to learn the cuisine, and he works alongside Swedish sous chef Bjorn Eriksson. “Scandinavian cuisine is very simple, very fresh, and it’s not too saucy or complicated,’’ says Carpenter.

A Swedish smorgasbord appetizer ($18) features homemade gravlax, pickled herring, grain mustard sauce, and toast Skagen, a shrimp and bread nibble. This version has baby shrimp, crème fraîche, and dill topped with caviar on toasted brioche. The köttbullar and klimp entree ($32) is a rendition of two Swedish comfort foods: meatballs and dumplings for soup. These meatballs are made from lamb and the dumplings from sheep’s milk ricotta, both steeped in a flavorful tomato broth.

Lingonberry in a demi-glaze sauce gives pan-seared local duck ($38) a Nordic spin; it is served with a pea flan and smashed fingerling potatoes. There are a few standard items, such as seared Atlantic salmon ($30) in dill sauce and a roast chicken served with root vegetables ($30). The heritage bird comes from Satur Farms, one of Long Island’s organic growers.

Among the desserts by pastry chef Laura Donnelly, who has appeared on the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa,’’ is a light toffee date cake covered with caramel sauce, served with a scoop of honey vanilla ice cream ($9), an ethereal melding of flavors. A lighter option is the cookie plate ($9), a changing assortment that might include salty chocolate peanut butter truffles and hazelnut and chocolate cookies.

The room is Scandinavian sleek with pale wood floors, warmed by floral wallpaper and a vibrant patterned fabric on the chairs. For an after-dinner drink, head to the cozy lounge area. The couches and chairs are so comfortable it feels like home.

That is, if you could afford to live like this.

The Living Room, 207 Main St., East Hampton, N.Y., 631-324-5006, www.themaidstone.com.

Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at atrieger@comcast.net.