“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine,/And thou beside me” may be enough for some people, but I also would like some Insalata Caprese, freshly picked corn on the cob, and seared local duck breast—desires that can easily be fulfilled by visiting a farm stand after that tasting at a winery.
One of the great pleasures of life on the North Fork is the plethora of farm stands of every type, from store-like establishments like Bayview or Briermere, which accept credit cards, to rickety old umbrella tables with a few extra bushels of tomatoes and a coffee can for payments. My main problem with farm stands is the impulse I have to over buy. I head out to get one or two items, and then—oh, look at those crisp Kirby cukes, or those shiny green peppers or deep red heirloom tomatoes. Maybe I’ll make gazpacho when we get home. Or later in the season, I see dark purple eggplants and long green zucchini, and then perhaps ratatouille is in our future.
At any rate, I’ve been to most of the stands, and really, in July and August you can stop in almost anywhere and get lovely fresh local vegetables and fruit. However, some of the stands have their own specialties, and are particularly good for individual items. So, here is an alphabetical and thoroughly personal list of some reasons to go to certain stands.
Some of Bayview’s assets: they are open later in the fall/winter and earlier in the spring than most other places, so they are great to go to for when asparagus first poke their tips above the ground, at which time you can also get huge bags of just-picked spinach. Then, at Thanksgiving time, you can find piles of heavy Cinderella pumpkins, perfect for pie-making. They also take credit cards, convenient if you are running short on cash. They have a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and a white board behind the cashiers lists which are local, so this is a great place to go if you have just caught a bluefish and need corn and salad and…a lemon. Yes, they have lemons, which are NOT locally grown, in case you were wondering. They also carry Crescent Farms ducks and duck breasts, duck eggs, and excellent locally made mozzarella (for that Caprese salad). In the store area, also look for artisanal North Fork sea salt. Next to the cashiers you’ll also see pies, but I recommend you go to Briermere if you want the best pies on the North Fork.
As far as I’m concerned, “Briermere” is a synonym for “pie.” Apple, blueberry, peach, blackberry-apple, peach-raspberry, strawberry-rhubarb…pick any variety and you will get a nice flaky crust and a not-too-sweet filling made with their own fresh or frozen fruit. Their jams and jellies are also excellent (and make nice gifts) and come in every flavor, including beach plum and quince and our family favorite: strawberry rhubarb. They also make their own breads, muffins, and cookies, but we rarely stray beyond the pies. Outside of the bakery room they sell fruits and veggies, most of them local, but we rarely buy any, partly because their prices tend to be a tiny bit higher than elsewhere. Oh, and they take credit cards as well.
This is a farm stand, but for goat cheese, not vegetables. If you want to know where the cheese comes from, just walk a few steps from the cute little building where goat cheese, yogurt, and soaps are sold and you can look at the goats, who look back curiously at you, and come over to the fence to have their heads scratched. Walk a little further, and you can see the ponies, llamas, sheep, and chickens who share the grounds with the goats. The cheese is excellent, and comes in various flavors, including herb, honey, and hot pepper. Often they have samples out so you can decide which you want (or buy several!).
I almost didn’t include Cooper’s, because I actually don’t want more people going there. Mr. Cooper, who presides over the stand in a broad-brimmed hat, will provide you with a little red wagon and a carton so you can go out into his fields and pick your own eggplants and other vegetables, but we go for the eggs. I don’t know why, but they are the best eggs we’ve ever had. On a couple of occasions, he’s gone off into the hen house to fill our egg carton—it’s a nice idea to bring your own carton—and we’ve gone home to scramble eggs still warm from the hens. Ambrosia. (He’s down Cox Neck Road to Breakwater Road.)
Harbes is another semi-commercial operation, with lots of agritainment, like October pumpkin picking and corn mazes, but they have the best sweet corn on the North Fork. Their other produce is fine, and you can even get cider doughnuts and coffee, not to mention roasted corn and other treats, but we go there for the corn. They keep it behind the counter, so you have to ask for it, but don’t worry about checking the ears or peeling back the husks. Every ear is a winner.
Patty’s Berries and Bunches
Right across the street from Harbes, and related to it, is Patty’s Berries and Bunches, which we go to for…berries! Duh. Best berries, starting with strawberries, and then moving on to blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. You can also do u-pick there, if you care to. The “bunches” in the title refers to flowers, and she has huge bunches of beautiful flowers. I feel as though the sunflowers are particularly appropriate for the North Fork. They carry a few other items, and I once bought an excellent banana bread there.
Do you want to buy organic vegetables and grass-fed meat? Stop in at Sang Lee Farms, which is also the place to go if you want some more exotic vegetables, such as bok choy. Our favorites there are the heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, which come in a rainbow of colors, and which our daughter found so addicting she dubbed them “Crack-matoes.” Since they are basically just across the street from Catapano, you could plan a lovely goat cheese and tomato salad. There are a few other organic farms, including Golden Earthworm, Garden of Eve, and another place across the street from Old Field Vineyard, but we like Sang Lee. Do note, however, that organics tend to cost a bit more than other veggies.
We love Wesnofske! They sell only their own produce, and it is always good and freshly picked, and reasonably priced. In addition, this stand is the place to go in the fall when you want to make your own tomato sauce, because you can buy big boxes of Italian tomatoes for about $25. Their stand is in Peconic, on the south side of the road, but when they have a lot of stuff they open another, somewhat ramshackle, venue on the north side of Sound Avenue.
This is only a partial list, and I will probably add to it in the future, plus I want to take some photos, but now you can get started frequenting the farm stands, too.