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!

Jamesport Vineyards: No Pizza Today February 3, 2018

wehttp://www.jamesportwines.com/

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Don’t let the sunshine fool you–It was COLD!

In the summer, Jamesport has a wood-fired oven on the back patio, where they make thin-crust pizzas.  They also often serve local oysters, and we have enjoyed sitting outside there with a glass of white wine and a plate of oysters in the summer sun, listening to music.  However, this was the day after Groundhog Day, the icy parking lot made it clear there would be no sitting outside today, and when a couple came in seeking pizza they were referred to the restaurant Grana, just down the street.  They were offered a cheese and charcuterie plate ($42), which a couple of large parties were having at their tables. (Jamesport does not allow pets or outside food, and allows children only outside in the back yard, not in the bar area.)

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In the summer it is lovely to sit out here and enjoy music, oysters, and pizza from the wood-fired oven.

While some people might have been disappointed at the lack of pizza, they would not be disappointed in the wines.  We tried ten (well, actually eleven) and liked most of them.  The tasting menu offers any five wines for $20 from a list that includes six whites, six reds, three petillant naturels (sparkling wines), and a verjus.  We decided to share two tastings, starting with the whites and then doing reds.

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The nice-sized barn-like tasting room was surprisingly full for a mid-week winter day, but the lone server bustled about and was able to attend to everyone’s needs, including chatting with us about the wines and customizing our tasting.  I am often so impressed with the people who serve in the wineries, with their ability to keep everyone’s tastings straight, recommend wines for varying tastes, and stay cheerful throughout.

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  1. 2015 East End Chardonnay        $18.95

Through a window in the wall of the tasting room you can see the steel vats in which this chardonnay is fermented.  We sniff and identify citrus, orange, flowers, and another smell and taste we can’t quite identify until our server suggests almonds.  Yes, bitter almond it is.  We like this chardonnay, with its full taste and long finish, not too sweet, with a bit of minerality.  We discuss what to pair it with, and settle on tuna, like the lovely tuna steaks we bought at the Riverhead Farmers Market last week.

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What’s the difference between East End and Estate? At Jamesport, the former is their less expensive line. Legally, I’ve been told, “estate” doesn’t mean anything, so wineries can define it as they like.

  1. 2015 Estate Chardonnay $22.95

Oaked chards are not my favorite, but this one is not too oaky, with some lime and pear tastes, and almonds again.  Both chards have a long finish.  The tasting notes say “honey,” which I identify as the mouth feel of the wine.  I could see having this with a spicy Italian seafood dish, like a fra diavolo.

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  1. 2014 Sauvage Reserve $30.95

Our server is able to tell us that this wine uses sauvignon blanc clones, but not whether or not the word “sauvage” refers to wild yeast.  In any event, this is another nice wine, a bit on the light side even though it is aged in oak, with a taste that reminds me of a fruit salad seasoned with a bit of liqueur.  If I were here in the summer and having oysters, I’d get a glass of this, though we are told that a new vintage of this will be coming out soon, so I’d try a taste before I committed to a glass.

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See my notes before you decide which riesling to try.

  1. 2013 Estate Riesling $22.95

There are two rieslings on the menu, and we choose this one because the other is called Demi-Sec, and is described as slightly sweet.  Interestingly, this one is actually sweeter, as we discover when we tell our server it is too sweet for us.  Here, he says, try a little taste of the 2013 Demi-Sec Riesling ($22.95).  We like it better.  It is less cloying and lighter, with an aroma that reminds us of cider.  The menu describes the Estate Riesling as “crisp.”  Nope.

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By this time, we were friends with the server, so when he noted the bottle was almost empty he gave us the rest in our taste.

  1. 2015 East End CINQ Blanc $18.95

No surprise, this is a blend of five whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, albariño, and pinot blanc.  We describe this as a good, everyday table wine, and our friend the server agrees.  It has a touch of sweetness, but not too much, with tastes of kiwi and peach and some minerality.  You could have it with an omelet in the morning, he suggests, which leads to various humorous comments about a day that starts like that.  How about with a quiche, I offer.  If I needed some whites at home, I might have bought this one.

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  1. 2014 East End CINQ Red $19.95

New glass as we switch to our red tasting, starting with another blend of five, this time of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  I decide it smells like a Bordeaux, and if I had to guess I would bet that it has more cabernet sauvignon than merlot.  It smells like dark fruits and berries and tastes like that, too.  It is a somewhat light red, with no depth and some tannins, and would make a perfect picnic wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Estate $27.95

This is another easy to drink wine, with the expected cherry aroma and taste, plus some hints of dark chocolate.  It would go well with lamb or pork, but is not big enough to have with steak.

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The sign tells you how many bottles of wine you can get per acre of grapes. An acre can yield about 300 bottles!

  1. 2015 Estate Syrah $24.95

I tend to like syrahs, and I like this one, too.  I smell and taste dark fruits, especially purple plum, plus some spice, perhaps pepper.  Really dry, this has strong tannins that make me think it could age.  This wine would be fine with steak.

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  1. 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc $32.95

And aging is what I think this cab needs.  It doesn’t have much aroma.  Lots of tannins, and it is dry, but the fruit seems underdeveloped to me.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mélange de Trois $34.95

If you know French, you can deduce that this is a blend of three grapes and a play on “ménage à trois”:  cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.  It is aged for two years in French oak, and then another two years in the bottle.  We get into a discussion of the various grapes in this wine, and our server tells us how cabernet sauvignon does not do well every year.  In fact, last year rather than use their cabernet sauvignon grapes in their own wine, they felt they did not meet Jamesport’s standards and sold the whole crop to Premium Wine Group.  We like this wine, too, though it is more austere than luscious.  Dry, with good tannins, it has blackberry and spice tastes.  I could see having this with leg of lamb or steak frites.

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Seems like a nice selection of cheeses.

Reasons to visit:  in the summer, a big outdoor area with music and wood-oven pizza and oysters; in the winter, a cozy tasting room with cheese trays; the East End Chardonnay, the Sauvage Reserve, the East End CINQ Blanc and Red, the Mélange de Trois.  We didn’t get to try the sparkling wines, but they have three if you were interested to try them.

Pindar: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day February 20, 2016

http://www.pindar.net/

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

A beautifully deep rich voice singing “sunshine on a cloudy day” greeted us as we entered Pindar’s large tasting room, and that seemed like an appropriate message.  It was a cloudy day, and, as the French say, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.”  Pindar often offers musical entertainment, and is often crowded.  Today, however, there were only a few couples at the bar and the tables in a room that, according to their web site, can accommodate 3,000 (!).  Because of the crowds, we hadn’t been there in a few years, but this visit reminded us that we like many of their wines, though not all.  Their prices also are quite reasonable, which may have something to do with the economies of scale, as they say they are the largest vineyard on Long Island.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

The menu offers 5 tastes for $10, out of 14 choices, including four characterized as “sweeter” and two dessert wines, plus another list of three “limited” wines at $3 per taste, and a sparkling wine.  The list is further divided into reds, whites, and “proprietary blends,” so it took us a while and some discussion to decide what to do.  We finally decided to share two tastings, first the whites, including two of the proprietary blends (marked with an * in my review), and then five of the reds.  We chose to skip the rosés, as we tend to find no one’s measure up to Croteaux’s.   Since the pour is rather generous, we were glad we chose to share.  They also offer a selection of cheeses and crackers, and do not allow outside foods.

One view of the bar--one of the bars!

One view of the bar–one of the bars!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc    $14.99

In general, we feel Long Island sauvignon blancs tend to go better with food, as they tend to be too lemony to just sip, and that’s true of this one as well.  The aroma is of mineral and peach.  Very refreshing, I could see having this with lobster, as its tartness would offset the crustacean’s richness.  My husband notes that the end is too lemony for too long for his liking, especially sans food.

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  1. *Autumn Gold $10.99

This is a blend of Cayuga, Seyval, and chardonnay grapes, our server informs us, as will be our next choice, though in different proportions and different residual sugar amounts. We ask if the Cayuga is from upstate, since it is an upstate grape, and are informed that they grow all their grapes in their own vineyards.  We like this better than the first wine.  It has a touch of sweetness and a bit of funkiness which are well balanced with green apple and citrus tastes.  I also smell some minerality.  This is a very buyable wine, and we get a bottle of it to take home.

  1. *Winter White $10.99 for 750 ml., $17.99 for 150 ml.

“Our most popular white,” notes our server as he pours this blend.  We smell tropical fruits, and are ready to like this one but find it much too sweet for our tastes. The menu describes it as “semi-dry,” which makes us wonder about the wines they categorize as “sweeter.”   You could serve it to someone who actually would prefer soda—or maybe with Thai food.  We dump it.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera's favorite bird.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera’s favorite bird.

  1. 2013 Peacock Chardonnay          $9.99

There’s a pretty peacock on the label, so we ask (as we did two years ago) about the name of the wine.  Still no answer!   This spends eight months in French oak, and we do smell a bit of that woody smell.  We don’t really care for this one, either.  The taste reminds me of over-ripe bananas plus a really tart grapefruit—they say “citrus rind”—and then too much sweetness.  We don’t dump, but we also are not fans.

  1. 2013 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

Why sunflower?  This time we get an answer—a sunflower appeared spontaneously in the midst of the vineyard.  The menu describes this as “100% new barrel” fermented, from a “special 3.9 acre vineyard block.”  Sniff—vanilla and grape juice.  This has more body than any white so far.  I say nice.  My tasting buddy says it is “not offensive at the end.”  One could sip this, and it would also be good with a seafood diavolo, since it has some sweetness to it, but not too much.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $21.99

Now we switch to reds, and get a new glass.  Our server tells us this was just released.  Hmmm…smells good.  Berries, forest floor, maybe wet leaves.  Tastes light, more of a roast chicken or game bird red than a steak red. It would have gone well with the quail from Feisty Acres we bought at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market and had for Valentine’s Day dinner.  But it is soft, pleasant, and quite drinkable.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

Another pretty label, this one with Pegasus, the flying horse, on it, reminds us that Pindar is named for the Greek poet and owned by the Damianos family, who are Greek.  The wine spends two years in American oak barrels, and has just been out for six months.  I like the aroma, which has a bit of a black olive smell.  This is another fairly light red, dry, with some tannins and tastes of stewed prune and spice, maybe allspice.  My husband thinks it could use more time.

Pegasus, the flying horse

Pegasus, the flying horse

  1. 2013 Merlot $18.99

Merlot is the most popular red wine grape around here, and this is a fairly typical example of a merlot, though with more of a café au lait aroma than most.  My tasting buddy says it reminds him of Hopjes candy.  I’m thinking mocha.  Again, nice and soft, dry at the end, with some nice fruit flavor, but not particularly interesting.

Another Greek reference--the Argo, Jason's chip.

Another Greek reference–the Argo, Jason’s ship.

  1. 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99

“This,” says our server enthusiastically, “is my favorite!”  Yes, I can see why.  It is quite good.  Oak (two years in French oak), cherry, and tobacco aromas, with lots of berry tastes, this would have gone well with the lamb chops we had last night.  Very drinkable.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $34.99

The menu informs us that these grapes were hand-picked and the wine spent two years in French oak.  We smell black cherry and dark plum and taste lots of dark fruit tastes.  Yes, it is better than their other merlot.  Then again, everyone says 2010 was a very good year, especially for reds.

Lots of snacks

Lots of snacks

Reasons to visit:  big room that accommodates a crowd (which might also be a reason not to go!); frequent music performances; good prices for Long Island; the Autumn Gold, Sunflower Chardonnay, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Reserve Merlot; they sell cheese and crackers and other snacks; lots of choices; wines that non-wine drinkers may prefer.

Plenty of room at the bars

Plenty of room at the bars

Me

Pretty stained glass window

Pretty stained glass window

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Clearly they've won lots of awards.

Clearly they’ve won lots of awards.

 Moustache Brewery: No Facial Hair Required January 9, 2016

http://www.moustachebrewing.com/

We almost missed the entrance!

We almost missed the entrance!

Thanks to Google Maps, we had no trouble finding Moustache Brewery, hidden away on a side street in Riverhead in an industrial area.  Once inside the industrial vibe continued, with the small tasting room open to the brewing facility and stacks of materials on open shelves.  The small size also encouraged a friendly attitude, as we got into conversations with a couple sharing our table and various individuals, some of whom had clearly stopped in for a pint.  Matthew and Lauri (as the owners are identified on the web site) are also quite friendly, and clearly passionate about their beer, and with good reason.  We liked all of the beers we tried.

Preparing our flight

Preparing our flight

The tasting flight gives you four 5-ounce pours for $8.00, so though we would have liked to try all the beers we decided to share one flight, which was more than enough.  Maybe we should go back and try the rest another day!  Their beers are also available on tap at various places around Long Island, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order them.  They also have a small selection of beer-themed gift items.  Pints are $6 and growlers (to go only) are $21-$22, depending on the beer (less if you bring your own growler bottle—even if it’s from a competing brewery).

The menu and price list

The menu and price list

While we were there two young-looking couples came in asking for flights, but when they were unable to provide proof of age they were denied and left in a huff, declaiming that they were off to Long Ireland Brewery.  Lauri quickly phoned Long Ireland to give them a heads up, which I thought was very collegial of her, and also smart.  Why jeopardize your livelihood to give someone a drink?

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  1. Everyman’s Porter  5% (alcohol, a figure provided for most of the beers, as they can vary)

The menu accurately describes this as “light bodied with chocolate and coffee notes.”  We agree that it is light for a porter, so it is good for someone who wants to start trying darker beers but is not ready for a really heavy one.  This has a pleasantly bitter flavor with a touch of citrus at the end and a bit of a tingle on the tongue.  I say that I could see sipping this in a pub, and my husband agrees, but adds that in that case it would be warmer.

  1. Sailor Mouth IPA  5%

Okay, where did this name come from?  Lauri chuckles and admits that it was named for her tendency to, um, use strong language.  “Potty mouth” would not be a good name for a beer, we all agree.  This is a good IPA, with a strongly piney taste and more lime than lemon in the citrus category.  It would go well with a summer barbeque, especially if you were having ribs with a sauce that was more on the sweet side.

Halfway through our tasting.

Halfway through our tasting.

  1. Wet Hop Harvest Saison 3%

“Local Cascade, Mt. Hood, and Pearle Hops” reads the menu, and yes, it is somewhat hoppy.  Saison means it is in the Belgian style, and we find it lighter in taste that one would expect from the dark color.  It is also pleasantly bitter, but not as interesting as we had hoped.  Still, it was fine.

  1. You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out 6%

This is described as “Rye Scotch Ale,” referring not to whiskey but to the Scottish style of brewing and to the use of fermented rye.  And indeed, this is another beer we could definitely imagine ourselves drinking in a cozy wainscoted pub somewhere in the north of the British Isles.  Although again it is not very heavy (I should mention that we both love Guinness Stout.), it has lovely notes of mocha—chocolate and coffee—and is very drinkable.

You'll Poke Your Rye Out

You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out

Reasons to Visit:  all the beers were good; you could fill a growler and enjoy some good craft beer at home; you’re in Riverhead and you would like to try a tasting somewhere new; the friendly vibe.

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Also, if you happen to find yourself in Riverhead on a Saturday you should definitely check out the Farmer’s Market.  We bought locally caught cod, shiitake mushrooms from the East End Mushroom Company, organic hydroponic greens, some delicious olive bread, a lovely soft brie-type cheese from Mecox Dairy, and delectable mini chocolate-covered red velvet cakes, and made a terrific dinner.  Next time we hope to try the quail from the Browder’s Birds stall, raised by Abra Morawiec. 

Serious conversation

Serious conversation

The view from the tasting room into the brewery.

The view from the tasting room into the brewery.

Out of the way, industrial location for Moustache Brewery.

Out of the way, industrial location for Moustache Brewery.

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A Food and Drink Miscellany

A bad cold has put me hors de combat for tasting wine, so instead here are some random notes on food and drink on the North Fork.

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Greenport Harbor Brewing Company

http://www.harborbrewing.com/

In preparation for our annual junk food feast during the Super Bowl (which I watch for the commercials), we decided to get a growler of Greenport Harbor beer.  But which one to get?  We had to do a tasting of them all, since there were several new ones on the menu.  Oh, what a burden. The new ones were Antifreeze, a great name for a winter ale; Spring Turning, a Belgian style saison; and Gobsmacked IPA, an English style IPA. We also, in the interest of completeness, sampled  Harbor Ale,  Black Duck Porter,  Otherside IPA and  Leafpile Ale.  We liked them all, but finally decided that Antifreeze would go best with our Mexican-style snacks of nachos, guacamole, and bison chili. And so it did.  (P.S.  I was amused by the Free Beer Tomorrow sign, which reminded me of a line in Alice in Wonderland about jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.)

Riverhead Farmers Market

As it turned out, we were not the only ones excited at the thought of a winter farmers market in Riverhead, since when we got there just at 11, when it was scheduled to open, there was already a crowd inside.  We could barely find a parking spot in the large lot behind the stores on Main Street.  We bought scallops which had just been opened that morning, bread from Blue Duck bakery, fresh pasta, and locally grown oyster mushrooms for dinner, plus eggs from Browder’s Birds for breakfast.  We could also have bought wine from a couple of wineries, beer from a local brewery, cheeses, and various desserts and other prepared foods, such as empanadas and spanakopita.  Wow.  We’ll be back.  We heard that everything was basically sold out by 2, so it pays to come early.

The raw ingredients for dinner from the Riverhead Farmers Market.

The raw ingredients for dinner from the Riverhead Farmers Market.

And the finished product, with a glass of Comtesse Therese Chardonnay.

And the finished product, with a glass of Comtesse Therese Chardonnay.

Village Cheese Shop on Love Lane

http://www.thevillagecheeseshop.com/ 

If you like good cheeses, this is the place to come.  They not only have a large selection of excellent cheese, they are quite good at giving advice.  “I’d like a creamy blue,” I said, and they knew just which of the many blues to steer me towards.  “And how about a cheese for someone who is lactose intolerant but loves good cheese?”  They had that one, too—a lactose-free well-aged cheese.  In addition to cheeses from around the world they also carry local cheeses, such as Catapano’s goat cheeses and Mecox Dairy’s excellent cheeses, plus patés, olives, and great baguettes.  In addition, they carry a small but select stock of gourmet groceries and also serve fondue and a few other cheese-based dishes for lunch.  I’ve been here frequently and never had a bad cheese.  If you want to add bread and cheese to a wine country picnic, stop in here.

Wayside Market

http://waysidemarketsouthold.com/ 

Now let’s say you want to barbeque some meat that is better than what you can get in the supermarket.  Where to go?  Wayside carries a small but top quality selection of steaks, etc., and, though their prices are not cheap, their meats are good.  I once ordered a butterflied leg of lamb from them which I then marinated.  My husband grilled it and our guests devoured it.   They also carry really good sausages, plus various interesting grocery items.  Whenever we are there, we see people coming in to get sandwiches made at their deli counter, but we haven’t tried those yet.

Okay, time for another cup of hot tea with honey and lemon.  Maybe by next week I’ll be ready to visit another winery!