Foodie Tour: Liquids Too
For years we’d seen the posters advertising the North Fork Foodie Tour (This is the 12th annual one.), but somehow we’d never managed to go. The dates or the weather never quite worked, but this year it was scheduled for a weekend we were free and the forecast was for a beautiful day, so we stopped in to the Mattituck Florist and bought two tickets for $25 each.
You bring your ticket to whichever stop you choose to go to first, where volunteers at a little table sign you in and give you a wrist band, which then gives you admission to the rest of the sites.
There are twenty in all. I laid out a somewhat ambitious itinerary which we ended up scrapping, visiting only three of the stops on the tour. However, we felt we had gotten our money’s worth.
Our first stop was Browder’s Birds, on a back street in Mattituck. http://browdersbirds.com/
We got there in time for the 11 a.m. tour, led by Mr. Chris Browder himself. He told us that he’s had anywhere from 15 to 50 people in past years, but this time it was just us and one other couple. After sampling a yummy quiche made with Browder’s eggs, we set off across the field to the mobile chicken and turkey coops. Along the way we learned about the rewards and perils of raising fowl—the satisfaction of hands-on work, the depredations of foxes—and the methodology he uses.
After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Chris visited one farm described in the book, where the farmer uses a system of mobile hen houses to move his chickens from one square of pasture to another. Chris decided to put the same system into effect on his organic farm. We could see the denuded earth where the coop had just been and the new growth where it had been the previous week.
The chickens eat a diet of insects and greens they get from the field plus organic feed. We were struck by the total absence of any foul odors, as you sometimes find around chicken coops. Chris explained that the constant movement of the coops keeps everything clean. Then he showed us how he can move the lightweight coop himself, and how when the chickens realize he’s about to start pulling it they line up along the front of the coop so they can move along with it.
He also showed us his one turkey coop, which had originally held 60 young turkeys. Unfortunately, a fox got into the coop a week or so ago and killed 29 of them.
After our tour of the fields, we returned to the area near the house to check out the greenhouse-like structure where the baby chicks live until they are big enough to be out in the field. We also learned about how the Browders slaughter their chickens themselves, in a very humane and efficient way. We then said hi to the sheep and ducks, which like to hunker down in the shade next to the house. Finally, we looked over the little store, which is open on weekends and Friday afternoons, where they sell their chickens, eggs, duck eggs, home-made honey, brining mixture, etc. Since this was our first stop, we weren’t ready to buy anything, but we promised we’d be back.
It was almost noon, and I saw from the tour booklet that Greenport Harbor Brewery was giving a tour at noon of their Peconic facility. Despite being caught behind a tractor on one leg of our journey, we made it there just as the tour was beginning. https://greenportharborbrewing.com/
Rich Vandenburgh, one of the co-funders of Greenport Harbor, led the tour. An engaging and amusing guide, he explained all the stages of making beer as well as regaling us with some stories from his years with the brewery. If you ever go on the tour, make sure you hear about the strange scrapes on the high ceiling of the storage room. We learned about hops and barley and grain and yeast. Among other things, we learned about how they try to be responsible about the environment at the brewery. They plan to install a water catching system so they can use rain water, and another system which captures the CO2 from the brewing process which can then be reinjected into the beer to carbonate it. The spent mash goes to farms for animal feed and mulch. Because it tastes sweet, the animals really like it, including the bison at Tweed’s bison farm on Roanoke Avenue. Rich related how when the bison catch sight of the truck approaching the farm they hurry over to the fence, eager for their treat.
It was almost one o’clock by the time we had finished seeing the bottling room and asking all the questions which Rich patiently answered. Then we showed our bracelets at the bar and were told we could each have three free tastes of any beers we liked. After all that walking and standing around, we were ready for a respite, so we bought a big pretzel to go with our beers. Although we’d been to Greenport Harbor twice in recent months, they already had some new beers for us to taste. We sipped Tidal Lager, Lawn Chair ale, Devil’s Plaything, Respect to Process, and Black Duck Porter, which remains my favorite, but we liked them all.
Where to go next? We could have headed to Craft Master Hops, to learn about how hops are harvested, or to Shared Table Farmhouse, to see a “homesteading operation,” or any of a number of other places, but we decided to rest until 3 p.m., when a tour was scheduled at Macari Vineyards.
We checked in for the final time with the Foodie Tour volunteers, and headed around to the back of the property where a group of foodies—some of whom we recognized from the brewery tour—gathered. We were soon joined by two employees of the winery who laid out a platter of cheeses and crackers and served us tastes of three of Macari’s wines. As we sipped, our guide explained the philosophy behind each wine and how it was made, as well as some background on the Macari family and how they had come to own a winery. Joseph T. Macari, Jr., started making wine with his father in their cellar in Corona, Queens. We also learned a little bit about their commitment to biodynamic farming. Common to all three places we visited was concern for the environment and a sincere commitment to making a great product.
We started with the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty, crisp, refreshing white. I agreed with the guide that it would pair well with local oysters. Then we moved on to the 2016 Chardonnay Estate, a very nice steel-fermented chard. It was interesting to hear his discussion of the differences between the grapes and how they were treated. We ended with Sette, a red that mixes half merlot and half cabernet franc. The wine is named for Settefratti, the town in Italy to which the Macari family traces their roots.
Well-fortified, we headed inside to tour the various aspects of the wine-making facility, from huge steel tanks with precise temperature control to stacks of oak barrels where wine is aged. Our guide’s parting words were that our Foodie Tour wrist bands would get us 10% off any wines in the winery.
And that was the end of our day. Though we only got to three of the twenty possible sites, it was a thoroughly satisfying experience. I hope that next year weather and timing cooperate so we can do this again!