On the day before Halloween a crowd of more than 60 Slow Food East End members and friends, several sporting costumes, sampled local food and wine at five stops along Main Street in downtown Riverhead, the site of the Slow Food East End Restaurant Crawl.
“The idea is not to get into a car, but to walk in a leisurely way, to introduce people what’s available in that particular town,” said Slow Food East End member Linda Slezak, a Riverhead Town resident who was one of the event’s chief organizers. She credited Riverhead Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill with helping secure the cooperation of the restaurants and businesses.
The slow food movement is a grass roots organization that champions local food and defines itself in opposition to fast food, according to the Slow Food International Website.
The crawl began at East End Arts where guests sampled cheeses from Goodale Farms in Riverhead. Hal and Anne Marie Goodale — owners of the cow and goat dairy farm along with partners Kevin and Laura Dunathan — were on hand to present their wares, along with cheesemaker Karen Danzer and interns Lane White of Oklahoma and Audrey Cerchiara of Upstate New York. Wines from The Lenz Winery complemented the cheese.
The second stop on the crawl was Dark Horse Restaurant, where guests enjoyed North Quarter Farm bison paté and smoked Crescent Farms duck in the company of owner Dee Muma, a longtime supporter of local food. Long Ireland Beer Company proprietor Liam Hudock presented his Celtic Ale and pumpkin martinis. The brewery is located on Pulaski Street in Riverhead’s Polish Town.
A few doors back up Main Street, guests stopped in at the Athens Grill for modern Greek appetizers — including mini crab cakes and other seafood — prepared by owner/chef John Mantzopoulos and paired with wine from Paumanok Vineyards.
Crossing to Main Street, the Slow Food Crawl made its way to Riverhead’s newest upscale restaurant, The Riverhead Project. Owned by Dennis McDermott, former owner of The Frisky Oyster and Frisky Oyster Bar in Greenport, “tRP” has remade an old bank building into a sleek and sophisticated food destination. The Crawl menu: Crescent Farms duck confit, Mattituck Inlet Littleneck clams with a roasted grape reduction and Satur Farms fennel, all accompanied by a semi-dry riesling from Paumanok.
The final stop — for dessert, of course — was the Art Deco lobby of the Suffolk Theatre, which is undergoing renovation by owners Bob and Diana Castaldi. Guests munched on cookies baked by students from Suffolk Community College’s culinary arts program and sipped Long Ireland porter floats made with ice cream from Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe.
Slow Food East End supports such local efforts as building school and community gardens. Proceeds from a silent auction of donated prizes will go toward those efforts. To find out more about SFEE or to join, visit slowfoodeastend.org.