Croteaux: Still Our Favorite Garden August 26, 2016

http://www.croteaux.com/

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It’s a hot Friday afternoon, but in Croteaux’s shady garden it is just pleasantly warm.  We settle into the pair of Adirondack chairs the hostess indicated, and peruse the simple menu.  We have plenty of time to do so, since service is a bit overwhelmed by what is clearly a larger-than-expected crowd in the garden, but when our waitress appears we order two tastings of all six of their still rosés for $15 each, plus a basket of delicious herbed goat cheese and fresh baguette slices for $10.  They have a few other snack items as well, which is good since they don’t allow outside food.  We could have ordered a tasting of three of their sparkling rosés, also $15.  The first three on the list are $20 per bottle and the last three are $25.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, all they make is rosé.  The name also hints at the style of rosé, which is lean and flinty and dry, in the manner of French rosés.  All their wines are steel fermented and made to be drunk young.  We just finished the last of the case we bought last year, and we are here to decide whether or not to get a case this year.  As you will see, vintage clearly matters, as we found some of the wines quite different from last year.  Another difference—they used to have a rather extensive boutique with clothes, jewelry, etc., but that is no longer so.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

  1. Merlot 181 (Pomerol)

“181” refers to the clone of merlot used for making this, the lightest of their rosés.  The aroma has a hint of strawberry, and also flowers and, believe it or not, asphalt.  No, really.  There is a distinct chemical smell.  The wine itself is dry, mineral-y, and salty, with not a lot of fruit.  It is very refreshing, with a long finish of the mineral and salt flavor, but not our favorite.

All our tastes at once!

All our tastes at once!

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

  1. Merlot 314 (St. Emilion)

Sniff.  “Auto repair shop,” opines my tasting buddy.  I counter with one of my favorite aromas, though not one usually associated with wine:  “hardware store.”  For the last few years 314 has been our favorite rosé on the North Fork and we’ve bought cases of it.  Not this year.  It’s not bad, despite that aroma, but it is very tart and subdued, with very little fruit.  Some might even say sour.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

  1. Merlot 3

This is a blend of three clones:  181, 314, and 3.  More fruit “on the nose,” as wine people like to say, though it always conjures for me an image of someone balancing a glass of wine on his or her nose.  It would be a mistake to limit your use of this wine to a balancing act, as it is quite nice.  Still there are notes of mineral and salt, but not overwhelmingly so, with nice strawberry flavor.  “More interesting than the usual rosé,” says my husband.  I agree that it has layers of flavor, and we both agree that we’ll get a case of this.

Just barely pink

Just barely pink

  1. Sauvage (Merlot 181)

“Sauvage” means wild, or savage, and this wine is made with wild yeasts.  We like it better than the other 181.  Though it has a touch of that chemical smell, it is much fruitier and sweeter than the other wines, with just a touch of minerality.  Red candy, I say.  It would pair well with spicy food, like Thai duck salad.

  1. Chloe (Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc skins)

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and indeed it is more like a sauvignon blanc than like a rosé.  It has a sweet pine smell, like a Christmas tree, and tastes a bit like pine as well.  Quite dry, it would pair well with oysters, which gives us an idea.  When Happy Hour comes we will head to the Old Mill Inn for their dollar oysters and $3 glasses of wine.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

  1. Jolie (Cabernet Franc)

Bright pink, this looks more like what one expects a rosé to look like than the other types.  The aroma is somewhat vegetal, maybe like a salad, but also with some fruit.  The wine is still dry, but with a fuller flavor.  A “red wine lover’s rosé,” they call it.  There’s a touch of Meyer lemon on the finish.  I like it, but my tasting companion does not.  I think you could sip this by itself, though of course it would be fine with roast chicken (as are many wines).

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance--it is quite pretty.

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance–it is quite pretty.

Reasons to visit:  all rosé all the time; a very pleasant garden setting where you can relax and sip at your leisure; better-than-average snacks; prettiest bottles on the North Fork; they allow dogs; the Merlot 3 and the Jolie.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

They've created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

They’ve created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

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Kontokosta Winery: Sounds Good to Me January 17, 2016

http://kontokostawinery.com/

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

It was time to revisit Kontokosta Winery, with its lovely location overlooking the Long Island Sound, and we found the perfect reason to go there.  We recently learned that old friends of ours had bought a house near Greenport, but, what with work on the house and not much time for other activities, had yet to visit a winery.  Well, we said, it is high time to remedy that situation, and they were happy to go with Nofowineaux to a winery so close to their house.

Proving that you can’t rely on last year’s review, a major change in the menu switched the Anemometer white and red from their least expensive wines to their priciest—and they weren’t even on the regular tasting menu, but needed a supplement of $5 each to taste.  So I can’t tell you if they’re worth it, but many of the other wines are.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

The menu offers five whites for $15 or four reds for $15, so we opted to share one of each, and our friends chose to follow our lead.  Since it is a carefully metered one-ounce pour, that was fine.  They also have a menu of snacks and sweets and non-alcoholic drinks (called “Sound Bites,” a play on their location and their motto of “Sound Wines”), and forbid outside foods.

The tasting room is a high-ceilinged large space, with tables and a bar, where we opted to stand.  Considering it is January, we were impressed by how many people were there, but it was a three-day weekend.  Our server did a good job of keeping track of where we were in our tasting, and, as she saw our seriousness, began to give us more information on each wine.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

  1. 2014 Orient Chardonnay              $22

Like many North Fork tastings, this one began with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which our friend compared to a “non-sweet Limoncello.”  Not a bad comparison, since this had plenty of lemon flavor and aroma, plus some nice minerality, and maybe even a salty tang.  Good.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25

As we sniffed the aroma of mango and citrus, one of our friends compared it to “Joe Malone perfume.”  Not being familiar, I can’t confirm or deny this, but the wine does have a lovely flowery scent.  The taste is equally pleasant, with good grapefruit and pineapple and other tropical fruits, plus mouth-watering acidity.  When we comment that this would be good with oysters, a discussion of North Fork oysters and where to get them ensues.  When the Old Mill Inn re-opens in the spring, we’ll have to meet there for their happy hour oysters.

  1. 2014 Viognier $25

Getting into the spirit of commenting on each wine, our friends describe the viognier as “more restrained and less dramatic” than the first two wines, and we agree.  The aroma is a bit sweet, with some mineral or rock and maybe a spice.  Cinnamon?  Nutmeg?  We can’t decide.  But this is another very drinkable wine, again on the tart, dry side, and would be good with creamy clam chowder.

  1. 2014 Field Blend $22

63% viognier and 37% sauvignon blanc.  Why?  Because they had that much of each left over last year, and only one vat in which to ferment them!  Nice to be able to drink your experiments, though we don’t like this as much as the previous wines.  It is quite light, and smells just like the viognier.

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

Dry!  Just .2% residual sugar, says our server, and we believe her.  It tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than their sauvignon blanc, very tart, with lots of acidity.  If you like a fruity somewhat sweet riesling, or even if you are thinking of a riesling to complement spicy food, this is not it.

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  1. 2008 Blum Merlot $19

A year ago we had the 07 Blum Merlot, and was told this was the last of it, but I guess they had one more year of these vines before Ray Blum’s vineyard was sold to Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines.  The aroma has lots of sweet cherry in it, and none of the barnyard which we detected in the 07.  Our friend thinks there’s a bit of a whiff of creosote, which is possibly from the French oak it was aged in.  It tastes less fruity than it smells, with some woody notes but no vanilla.  We get new glasses for the reds, by the way.

  1. 2013 Estate Merlot $34

We like this merlot much better, and all agree that we taste and smell lots of blackberry, plus minerals and flowers.  “Easy on the tongue,” opines our friend.  That may be the tannins, since the end taste is quite dry.  This one is aged in Hungarian oak, as are the rest of the reds.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

As our server pours this, she brings out another bottle and two fresh glasses and pours us another wine, the 2012 Cab Sauv (about which more in a moment).  Our friends are impressed with what I call the power of the book.  Often, when wineries see you are serious about the wine, they give you a little something extra.  Sometimes it is another taste of a wine not on the menu, or other times just some extra attention and more stories about the making of the wine.  I appreciate both.  We like this one, as it has lots of rich fruit flavors and aromas but is still pleasantly dry.

Our special extra taste!

Our special extra taste!

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

I should really label this 8A, since it is an “extra.”  Our server explains that she thinks we should try this, as there are only a few cases left, and she thinks it is really excellent.  She’s right.  It is similar to the ’13, but mellower and smoother and fruitier.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $40

“Hmmm,” muses our friend, “I think I detect a note of Robitussin.”  Ha ha.  But it does taste of dark fruits, perhaps plums, again with some nice minerality and some promising tannins.  We get into a discussion of the meaning of “terroir,” and wonder if Kontokosta’s wines have more minerality than some others because of their location on the Sound, which we can see out of the windows.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Reasons to visit:  you are in or near Greenport and don’t want to travel too far; almost all of the wines, but especially the Orient Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Estate Merlot, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (but hurry before they sell out); the location on the Sound (maybe some time we’ll get there in the warm weather so we can stroll towards the water).

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The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

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.