Last Bite: Robbie’s Gringo Hash at Estia’s Little Kitchen
By Kathryn G. Menu
One of the biggest trends in the way we eat breakfast and lunch in 2016 was a shift towards the bowl — composed dishes, often sans bread, offering a variety of fresh flavors that compliment each other in a meal healthier than most sandwiches, and more refined and creative than your average salad.
For Colin Ambrose, the executive chef and owner of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, this method of cooking was adopted in his kitchens long before it became a trend. Coined “Breakfast Bowls” on the Little Kitchen menu, all are suitable for breakfast or lunch. There are vegetarian options (Spinach & Mushroom Hash with organic brown rice and two eggs), exotic flavors (Shakshuka features mixed vegetables, tomato, green curry and two poached eggs), and classic comfort (Red Flannel Hash is chorizo, potato, peppers, onions and two eggs cooked to your liking).
Robbie’s Gringo Hash, homemade red beans with chorizo, served with rice, topped with two eggs cooked to your liking, a side of Feta cheese, with corn tortillas and avocado on the side, is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Ambrose added it to the menu originally as “Gringo Hash.”
“I like composing things and topping it with an egg — for me, it’s all about the composition,” said Ambrose.
Creating the dish was actually a function for Ambrose not to waste red beans and rice, which a decade ago wasn’t nearly as popular a menu item at the Little Kitchen as it is today. The red beans are made daily and carefully, with onions, peppers, seasoning, bacon and Andouille sausage, sitting overnight in a hotel pan, marinating, and building flavor.
“My goal is to sell fresh food — to sell everything we have made in a couple hours, not a couple days,” he said. “Brown rice and red beans were not popular in my shop and I had to put them in a rotation where we were able to serve fresh food. So we created Gringo Hash.”
The “Robbie” in “Robbie’s Gringo Hash” came later, when playwright, screenwriter and actor Jon Robin Baitz (known as “Robbie”) became a regular at the Little Kitchen.
“Well, it was just a special one day, Gringo Hash,” said Baitz in an email. “And I kept insisting they make it for me. And of course people would ask what it was, and then demand it. For me, you know, spending some time in Mexico, particularly Oaxaca, it just felt like something one could find if you walked into some little hidden place off the town square (the zocalo), usually a private home that served meals.”
“Artists need nurturing sometimes and the coffee shop or restaurant nurtures,” said Ambrose. “Robbie Baitz was out here writing, working on his property, and he was at the restaurant a lot. One day, he said this should be my dish.”
“The only problem with having something named after you at a restaurant, is you really feel obligated to order it every time you go there,” added Baitz. “But I am very honored. It’s also a perfect meal.”