Eastern Front Brewing Company: Sort of New Kid on the Block March 23, 2019

https://www.facebook.com/easternfrontbrewing/

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The entrance to the tasting room on Main Road. Brewing is still done in the Westphalia Avenue building.

First, about three years ago, a family member noticed the Eastern Front Brewing Company sign on a warehouse building on Westphalia Avenue, just north of the railroad tracks in Mattituck. Then we tried the beer at a First Friday celebration two summers ago on Love Lane. Then Eastern Front opened a tasting room on Main Road, southeast of Love Lane. Then, before we could get there, they closed the tasting room due to issues with getting a permit from the town of Southold. However, with the issues finally solved, we were able to get to Eastern Front for a tasting on a blustery but sunny Saturday, after our visit to the Riverhead Farmers Market.

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One side of the tasting room.

The tasting room is an attractively renovated space in what had been a fence store and a florist. Were the large healthy plants in the tasting room a leftover from the florist, we wondered. We’ll ask next time, and there will surely be a next time, because we enjoyed both the beers and the setting. Dark blue walls make the room cozy, and a slightly elevated alcove contains a display of local art. Any local artists are encouraged to enquire, as they hope to have a constant series of gallery shows.

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The artist whose work is currently on display.

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Yes, this is the parking lot. Perhaps they will improve it in the future.

The small parking lot is still rather primitive, though serviceable, and is located to the west of the tasting room. Right across the street on Main Road is another welcome newcomer to the Mattituck food and drink scene, North Fork Donut Company. One person in the tasting room suggested they build a bridge across Main Road to connect the two. Ah yes, I could see having a maple bacon donut with a beer, for sure!

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That’s the North Fork Donut Company right across the street.

A flight consists of all five beers on tap, costs $12, and comes in a well-designed wooden tray, with holes for each generously-filled glass. We were glad we had decided to share, as one shared flight was more than enough beer. You can also purchase a growler or beer by the glass.

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We took our flight to a table, and as we sipped and listened to quiet jazz being played on the sound system, we also enjoyed eavesdropping on a generously bearded fellow, who was clearly a brew aficionado (what is it about beards and beers, anyway?), discuss the ins and outs of brewing.

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Oops. We drank half the Fat Old Sun before I remembered to take a picture of the flight.

1. Fat Old Sun 6.3 ABV (alcohol by volume)
This is described on the menu as an American lager, and it is a clean, light, very drinkable classic beer—like Budweiser, but with taste. The flavor is yeasty and grainy, with a pleasant finish. If the name is a reference to drinking this in the summer, it is a good choice, because I could definitely see sipping this on the deck with some barbequed ribs and cole slaw.

2. Anomalous Ale 6.7
Why anomalous? Perhaps because, though it is an India-style ale, it has a unique flavor. I get lots of spice, perhaps cardamom, plus a slight but pleasant bitterness. It has a bit of a chemical smell. Though this is not a beer I would choose to drink by itself, I could see having it with food, perhaps an Indian curry.

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3. Love Lane Lager 6.2
The servers were quite busy solving some problem with filling a growler, so I didn’t get to ask why this is called a “pre-Prohibition lager.” In any event, it is light brown in color and light and somewhat sweet in taste. We decided it is more of a hot dog beer than a burger beer. It would be a good drink for someone who doesn’t like the bitterness often present in beers, but we found it too sweet, with an evanescent finish.

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It’s not as heavy as you would think from the color of Sexy MF.

4. Sexy MF 5.1
I do like it when brewers get creative with the names for their beers. This “dry Irish stout” smells like chocolate and coffee, and tastes of them, too, with a touch of saltiness. Though not having as much oomph as a Guinness, it is certainly good. My husband said he felt cognitive dissonance, because he expected more gravitas in such a dark beer. However, I liked it.

5. Wee Heavy Scottish Ale 8.8
The server explained to us that, though this is a somewhat lighter beer than the Sexy MF, they put it last in the tasting because it is so high in alcohol. Once you have this, you may not be able to appreciate any beers that follow it. I appreciated it. This is a very tasty beer, with lots of spice flavor, perhaps cardamom again, or nutmeg. If I were getting a growler here, I would choose this one. Perhaps next time we’re in Riverhead we’ll stop in at a Polish grocer and get some of their kolbassi to grill, then stop by Eastern Front for a growler of Wee Heavy. Yum.

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Reasons to visit: convenient location on Main Road, right near the food mecca that Love Lane has become (Village Cheese, Lombardi’s, North Fork Donut Company, Love Lane Kitchen, etc.); attractive tasting room with a little art gallery; the Fat Old Sun, Sexy MF, and Wee Heavy Scottish Ale; good place for both those who love beer and those who prefer sweeter drinks, as the beers tend toward the sweeter side.

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Interesting contest. I think I’d have trouble choosing!

Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Random Restaurant Notes

“You will never know hunger,” believe it or not, was the message I got in a fortune cookie just as I embarked on a series of restaurant reviews for a newspaper in Pittsburgh. The reviews were based on the premise that it was useful to point out at least one good dish in each place, regardless of the rest of the menu. That fortune became the logo of the column, and would not be a bad slogan for this post as well.

No winery this week, so instead I thought it would be fun to write about some of the restaurants on the North Fork.  This is, like my post on the farm stands, totally idiosyncratic, and not really reviews, but just some notes on places we like.  A few weeks ago a friend asked for restaurant recommendations on the North Fork, and after going on for about half an hour on the phone I thought it would have been so much more convenient if I could have sent her to my blog—as I did for wineries!  I’ve organized them by town.  Oh, and though I usually use my own iPhone snaps for the photos, here I’ve borrowed pictures from the websites.

Riverhead:

Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar

http://www.tweedsrestaurantriverhead.com/

Since it is right in the middle of Riverhead, on East Main Street, the easiest way to access this restaurant is to go to the municipal parking lot (free) off Peconic Avenue.  When you pull into the lot, head to the left corner, where you will see the back entrance to Tweeds.  In an old hotel that has been there since 1896, Tweeds’ narrow room has lots of charm, and is particularly cozy on cold winter nights when there is a fire in the fireplace.  We love all the bison dishes, made from bison raised nearby on a farm owned by the restaurant’s owner, and I’m a big fan of the bison burger.  The first time I had it, I had one portion for dinner…and lunch…and dinner.  Thank goodness for “doggy bags.”  The bison hangar steak is also delicious, but be sure to get it rare or medium rare. With very little fat, bison well-done is not a good idea.  As you dine, you can contemplate a huge shaggy bison head, allegedly the last one shot by Teddy Roosevelt.  There are plenty of other menu items (in case looking at an animal’s head while you eat its relative creeps you out), including local seafood and fish, and the salads are very good.  A bit pricey, but worth it.

Greenport:

Hellenic Snack Bar

http://www.thehellenic.com/

On the North Fork, “snack bar” actually translates as diner, or informal restaurant.  I love that the Modern Snack Bar has décor that immerses you in the 1950s.  The Hellenic, out past Greenport, is worth the trip.  In the summer they have lots of outdoor seating, though the dining room is quite plain.  The food is great, and served in such generous portions that we invariably take home enough for one or two more meals.  Anything Greek is worth getting, from the various spreads—hummus, taramasalata, etc.—to the grilled fish to the Greek salad.  If you want to get the spreads, I suggest you go with a party of at least four, because your meal will seem somewhat superfluous by the time you devour them.  Everything comes with piles of toasted pita. Nofowineaux is happy to report that the wine list features quite a few local wines.   Reasonably priced.

Noah’s

http://www.chefnoahschwartz.com/

It’s fun to sit at one of the sidewalk tables and watch the passing parade on Greenport’s Front Street.  The small plates here could easily add up to a meal.  We don’t care as much for the inside, which feels somewhat cold and can be noisy.

Mattituck:

aMano Osteria and Wine Bar

http://www.amanorestaurant.com/

Upscale Italian food is their specialty.  I particularly love the carbonara with local smoked duck and the roasted beet and Catapano Farms goat cheese salad.  My husband is a fan of the lasagna.  They have a lovely menu that is worth reading just for the salivary factor, and feature local wines as well as many local ingredients.  They also make very nice thin-crust pizzas.  They can get quite crowded, especially on weekends in the summer, and during the summer they don’t take reservations for small parties, so if you go then you may have to wait in the crowded bar area.

Crazy Fork

http://crazyforkny.com/

This is the newest place we’ve tried.  The restaurant itself, across the street from the Mattituck shopping center, is very plain, so you might prefer to get take-out.  They specialize in seafood, much of it fried, but very well done. We have fallen for the Rhode Island-style calamari, fried, mixed with hot pepperoncini peppers, and served with a marinara dipping sauce.

Love Lane Kitchen

http://lovelanekitchen.com/

Love Lane Kitchen

This is a popular spot, and you’ll see crowds there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (dinner on weekends).  It is particularly nice in the summer to sit outside and have lunch while you watch people pass by on Love Lane.  They feature all sorts of local produce and products, and everything I’ve had there has been good.  Inside, the restaurant can get a bit noisy, so I prefer to go there in the winter, when it is less crowded.

Michelangelo’s Pizza (also spelled Michael Angelo)

No web page of their own!

A local chain, with several places on the North Fork, this is one of those typical storefronts with a brightly-lit pizza eatery and take-out place in front, and a more formal restaurant in the back.  The one in Mattituck, in the Waldbaum’s shopping center, is particularly nice, especially since they expanded the back part.  We generally get the pasta dishes, and don’t bother with an appetizer since the house salad that comes with the entrees provides that for us.  This is a place where one dinner often produces enough leftovers for a second dinner, so the reasonable prices become even more reasonable.  There’s nothing refined or fancy about the food, but it’s always good.

Old Mill Inn

http://www.theoldmillinn.net/

We’ve been here for dinner, which is fine, though the service tends to be slow, but what we generally come here for is oysters.  From 3-5 p.m., the bar serves fresh local oysters for $1 each.  We each get a dozen and a glass or two of wine.  Lovely way to while away an afternoon.  They’re closed in the winter, so if you’re going you need to go soon—or wait for the spring.  If you come for dinner, try to sit near the windows so you can look out on the water of Mattituck Inlet.  I don’t recommend the outside tables once the mosquitoes have hatched…

Southold:

A Lure Restaurant and Oyster-ia

http://www.alurenorthfork.com/

As you might guess from the name, this is owned by the same people as aMano, but concentrates on seafood.  What is nice here is that you can sit at dinner and look out at the water, as it is located in Port of Egypt Marina.  Recently they had a special of a whole grilled sea bass that was delicious.  You can also get that roasted beet salad here!

Founder’s Tavern

http://www.founderstavern.com/

With one side a popular Irish-style pub, and the other side a nice family restaurant, Founder’s is great for many reasons.  I’ve had specials there that were really good (I’m thinking of the tuna steak with wasabi mashed potatoes, for example.), but we often just get the same dishes each time:  a shared order of Buffalo wings, the Tavern Burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos, the home-made potato chips (themselves worth a detour, as the Michelin Guides say), and beer on tap.  Reasonably priced, too.

North Fork Table and Inn

http://www.nofoti.com/

The best—and priced accordingly. With Manhattan-level prices and food quality, the best bet here is to get the tasting menu, especially since it includes dessert, which is spectacular.  We’ve gone here a few times for special occasions and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the service.

O’Mally’s

http://www.omallysisopen.com/

O’Mally’s main claim to fame is that when other places close, they are still open (note their URL), with a kitchen open until midnight, unusual on the early-to-bed North Fork.  They have a huge burger menu, and though theirs are not as good as Founder’s, they’re not bad.  Plenty of other options, plus a nice list of local wines by the glass or beers on tap, make this a good casual place.

 

New Suffolk:

Legends

http://www.legends-restaurant.com/

Legends has a split personality.  To the right of the entry foyer is an informal sports bar, with a menu of burgers, salads, and other snack-type foods, while to the left is a lovely little restaurant with fusion dishes they call New American, such as shrimp and vegetable spring rolls with ginger pineapple dipping sauce.   When I recently made a reservation for eight, they asked somewhat anxiously if the party included children, so I would guess they prefer that children dine on the right side.  All eight of us, by the way, were happy with our entrees (except for one that came out cold—twice—and was eventually comped).  If you check out the on-line menu you’ll see that they have interesting dishes, plus there are specials.  We’ve been happy eating on either side!  The sports bar side does have one advantage—the big windows give you a nice view of the somewhat scruffy waterfront of New Suffolk.

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.