01/22/12 9:00am

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Dennis McDermott, owner of The Riverhead Project in downtown Riverhead. Mr. McDermott recently started The Chef Project, a series of dinners on Monday nights featuring local chefs.

The Riverhead Project is rolling out a new series of dinners featuring local chefs.

The name? The Chef Project.

The concept evolved from The Wine Project, weekly dinners where guests gather at a long community table to break bread and share wine.

After the wine dinners grew in popularity, owner Dennis McDermott decided to launch The Chef Project to give diners alternative menu options.

Read the full story on our Wine Press blog

01/21/12 10:30am

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Helmut Gangl, an award-winnine ice and sweet wine maker from Austria, operates the wine press at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.

Helmut Gangl leaves his vineyard, situated on the border of Austria and Hungary, every winter and heads for Long Island. An award-winning ice wine and sweet wine maker, Mr. Helmut has teamed up with Joe Macari, owner of Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, to make a variety of dessert wines.

One wine, 2008 Block E White Table Wine, was served at the Governor’s Dinner at the White House last February.

Those looking to make ice wine on Long Island this winter will run into some trouble, as temperatures have yet to take much of a dip. In order to be labeled an ice wine, the juice must be made from grapes that were frozen on the vines, and that has seldom happened this winter.

If grapes are frozen in freezers, as Macari wine is, the resulting bottles must be labeled sweet wines. Mr. Gangl has made Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Merlot sweet wine for Macari, and will make Malbec and Riesling for the first time this year.

We sat down with Mr. Gangl to ask about the process of making sweet wine on the North Fork.

A: The grapes freeze in the freezer. The water in the cells of the grapes freeze and all the aromatics, all the sugars, all the acids are frozen. When you press the frozen berries, then you get the extract sugar, rich in aromatics. Then, when it gets cold, the grapes go outside — we press outside so it must be cold. It has to be between 28 and 32 degrees. The pressing brings out the extract from the grape berries and the frozen water in the cells stays in the berries because you cannot press out the frozen things. After the pressing, the fermentation goes on. We have a long fermentation – not only 2 or 3 weeks like the dry wines. The long fermentation takes 1-3 months. After the fermentation, it’s come to maturing time which is much longer than dry wine. The maturing time is 2 or 3 years in the barrel or stainless steel tank, wherever you want to do it. Then you stabilize the wine and bottle it. You do not sell them because you need maturing in the bottle for 8 months to a year. There is no rule; you have to taste it.

Q: Why is ice wine and sweet wine typically more expensive than other wine?

A: There are a lot of costs. You do not get very much juice – you get 70 percent less juice than from dry grapes. Also, the fermentation takes much longer.

Q: How does a mild winter affect ice winemaking?

A: If the winters are too warm and I press outside, the berries defrost too fast. The aromatics and acids are not the best combination.

Q: What’s a typical profile of a sweet wine?

A: The taste of a sweet wine from the variety Viognier is like apricots. Pure apricots. Very, very intense. A little bit of honey in the after taste. Then you find exotic things inside — mango, pineapple — but not intense pineapple, a touch of pineapple. You have fresh acidity because on Long Isalnd you have a lot of good acidity in the grapes during harvest and maturing time. In your mouth, you feel an elegancy in the after taste.

Q: What is one sweet wine and food pairing you’d suggest?

A: Vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seed oil and Chardonnay sweet wine. The pumpkin seed oil is nutty. Eat that with the ice cream and a little sip of Chardonnay sweet wine. Perfect.

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01/21/12 7:00am
impact on real estate market, housing crisis 2008

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A home for sale on Newton Avenue in downtown Riverhead.

The saying among local realtors goes something like this: Prior to the housing crisis in 2008, “anyone with a pulse could get a mortgage,” says Erica McKenzie of Andrew Stype Realty in Mattituck.

But the federal government and banks have tightened mortgage regulations in an effort to avoid another financial meltdown, leaving some prospective homeowners without enough cash to make the transaction.

Since 2008, banks have largely cut back on “no income verification” loans, which do not require buyers to prove their incomes and were wildly popular in the early 2000s. Many buyers were unable to repay these loans, contributing to the housing crisis.

Before 2008, said longtime Southold mortgage consultant Richard Winters, “we never hesitated to do that kind of application. Now, they’re almost impossible to get.”

The dwindling availability of such loans has primarily hurt the self-employed and those who don’t report their total income to the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Winters said.

“There are lenders out there who will do anything — but you’ll pay dearly for it,” he said.

Ms. McKenzie said home seekers who can’t secure a no income verification loan could instead go to private investors — but those investors require more money down and impose higher interest rates.

Another option?

“Borrow from your parents,” she said.

Ms. McKenzie said appraisers, people who give opinions on the value of a property, have also become much stricter in recent years.

She recalled some customers last year who were applying for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a popular option among first-time home buyers. The FHA appraiser required Ms. McKenzie’s customers to make a variety of improvements to the house, including stripping and repainting exterior walls that had chipping paint and replacing locust posts with metal lally columns.

The improvements cost many thousands of dollars, Ms. McKenzie said — and almost cost her the deal.

“There were many times I thought this deal was going to fall apart,” she said.

It was the first time Ms. McKenzie had run into such stringent appraiser requirements, but she soon learned from colleagues that the stricter guidelines had become increasingly common since the housing crisis.

“Banks are putting a lot of pressure on the appraisers,” said Chad Vanderslice of Mortgage Master in Westhampton Beach. “They’re asking them to make comments on things that certainly weren’t in place before 2008.”

“Appraisers are pulling their hair out,” he added.

Another recent mortgage regulation has hurt homeowners who want to rent their existing houses and claim that income when they apply for a loan for a new house.

Danny Pasani, who works at Contour Mortgage in East Meadow and has customers on the North Fork, said shortly after 2008, banks began to require that a rental situation have existed for at least two years in order to claim that income on loan applications.

“Now, those people don’t have that additional income to use toward qualifying for the house,” he said. “It’s a lot more strict than it used to be.”

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01/20/12 7:59pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council (center), Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts (right) and Bryan DeLuca, president of East End Tourism Alliance (left).

Wine drinkers and jazz lovers have a reason to get excited: the popular Winterfest Jazz on the Vine concert series is officially underway.

About 100 guests gathered in the ballroom of Hotel Indigo East End Friday evening for Winterfest’s kickoff event.

Mike McGowan of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (LICVB) said at a press conference prior to the kickoff event that the founders and organizers of Winterfest “gave us the product we desperately needed,” when they began the first set of concerts five years ago, setting up an event that brings large crowds during an otherwise quiet time of year.

He said the concerts invite residents of western Long Island and the tri-state area to the East End, where they support the local economy by shopping in boutiques and dining in restaurants on the north and south forks, places “they know they want to come back to come spring.”

The LICVB sponsors the yearly concert series along with the Long Island Wine Council and East End Arts. This year, 71 concerts — the most performances in Winterfest history — will go on at participating wineries and at Hotel Indigo East End. Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, said the lineup is especially impressive this year, as the great majority of scheduled musicians have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Admission to each concert is $15 per person and includes a glass of wine.

The first concert is set for Feb. 11.

Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, said more wineries are participating this year than ever before.

“Wineries and other businesses are beginning to recognize that this program has transformed this region into a winter destination,” he said.

Last year, 6,000 people bought tickets to Winterfest and an estimated 10,000 people flocked to East End wineries during Winterfest season.

After the press conference, guests drank local wine and feasted on light fare while listening to a jazz jam lead by the Steve Watson Trio, a Winterfest headliner.

Eileen Sanger and her husband Freddy Profit came to the kickoff event from Miller Place and sipped full glasses of peppery Bedell Cellars Cabernet Franc during the kickoff.

Veteran Winterfest goers, Ms. Sanger and Mr. Profit are especially excited for the Tessa Souter Group, which is performing at Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards on Feb. 25.

“[Winterfest] is a great attraction for Long Islanders,” Ms. Sanger said. “The wineries are a nice place to spend a cold day.”

“[Local wineries] have a great product out here,” she added.

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01/16/12 2:59pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Frederick Brewington (center), civil rights attorney and community advocate, was the keynote speaker at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead's 27th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he attended many press conferences, Frederick Brewington, a civil rights attorney and community advocate, said to more than 600 people in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Wind-Watch Hotel in Hauppauge Monday.

The question he was most often asked, Mr. Brewington said, was “what now?”

“That question looms large for us now,” he said. “I say to this room, from pillar to corner: what now?”

Mr. Brewington, the keynote speaker at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead’s 27th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast, urged audience members to fight racism and work for justice.

“It was he that made a clear difference. He said a single person can make a change, but you have to take a stance,” Mr. Brewington said, with many in the crowd passionately saying “that’s right” in response.

“Dr. King had to be clear that he stood for peace,” Mr. Brewington said. “He stood for justice. He stood for something.”

Mr. Brewington also pointed to the disproportionate number of black men in prison compared to their white counterparts and impelled the audience to find solutions.

Samuel Quauie, a math teacher at Riverhead School District, said remembering Dr. King’s legacy is important for reducing racism and solving issues of injustice against racial minorities. The event, he said, also serves to bond the community.

“It brings people of all difference races together,” he said.

Also at the event, Riverhead High School senior Kristin Peragine was presented with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Meritorious Award for her extensive community service.

Ms. Peragine, a Girl Scout, has counseled younger students on environmental sustainability and the dangers of drugs and alcohol. An active member of her church’s youth group, she has participated in a breast cancer fundraiser, Peconic Bay Medical Center’s Polar Plunge and a 30-hour fast for World Vision, a non-profit organization that fights childhood poverty.

Riverhead High School principal David Wicks, who nominated Ms. Peragine for the award, said she’s always given her time to her family, school district and community.

“She embodies what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to do with his life,” he said.

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01/15/12 9:36pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | T-shirt from the bowling fundraiser for Chris Timpone.

Wildwood Lanes bowling alley in Riverhead was packed Sunday evening with area residents who attended a fundraiser for 9-year-old Christopher Timpone, a fourth-grader at Aquebogue Elementary School who was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

Every single lane was packed with bowlers, some donning T-shirts that read “I play for Chris” and had “Timpone” written across the back.

The fundraiser was hosted by the Riverhead High School Council for Unity, an anti-gang student enrichment group.

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01/15/12 9:03pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | The Living Temple Ministries Choir of Center Moriches performed at the East End Voter Coalition's 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at the Riverhead Free Llibrary.

Would a 50-year-old person living in 1905 recognize America today?

Frances Brisbane, dean and professor of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, asked that question of about 60 people who gathered in the Riverhead Free Library for the East End Voter Coalition 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration.

There weren’t any black mayors or CEOs of large corporations in 1905, she said. And there certainly was no black president of the United States.

“I answer myself and say, yes they would” recognize the U.S. “because they knew that a God of their understanding would turn our fear into fate … our struggles into triumph,” she said.

Ms. Brisbane was the keynote speaker of the program, a precursor to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday recognizing the civil rights leader’s birthday, January 15. Dr. King was assassinated while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn. in 1968 when he was 39 years old. Today, he would have been 83.

Ms. Brisbane called on the audience to “reawaken” the dream, referring, of course, to Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech delivered at the national mall during a civil rights march on Washington in 1963. She asked them to continue Dr. King’s work of striving for equality and ending racism.

“We have not completed the King agenda,” she said, and added that everyone must work for equal employment and education opportunities and to eradicate hunger and homelessness.

“We must wake up, get up and work to make a difference,” she said to an outburst of applause and murmurs of “Amen.”

“Non-action will turn dreams into nightmares,” she added. “Let us vow in a Kingly spirit not to postpone today’s advocacy.”

Ms. Brisbane said citizens must improve the African-American population’s “dismal” voting record and urged gatherers to stay abreast of local news and politics.

The East End Voter Coalition was founded in 2001 to encourage minority residents to vote in local elections.

Larry Williams, co-chair of the coalition, said the event is held to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and is an effort to make local residents more aware of the importance of voting.

“We want to make sure the younger people don’t forget,” he said, referring to Dr. King’s strides in civil rights.

The Living Temple Ministries Choir from Living Temple Ministries in Center Moriches performed a number of songs, and the reverend of Living Temple Ministry, James Brian, finished the program with a rendition of “Together We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

Shirley Jackson, a Riverhead resident who attends Living Temple Ministries in Center Moriches, said she was inspired by the celebration.

“I think we need to be aware,” she said. “There’s a lot we don’t know and we need to know.”

“I’m encouraged,” she added.

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Frances Brisbane, , dean and professor of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, was the keynote speaker at the East End Voter Coalition's 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration

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01/15/12 5:00pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Performers at a party to celebrate East End Arts' 40th birthday on Sunday.

After jabbing at a cube of cheese with a toothpick at the East End Arts 40th birthday celebration on Sunday afternoon, you could have turned around to find a girl in a grey leotard, sparkly tu tu, turquoise tights and elaborate eye makeup striking different poses.

The girl was part of the Neo-Political Cowgirls, an improvisation dance theatre company, that came to the birthday celebration held at the East End Arts Gallery on East Main Street in Riverhead.

Guests dodged strings of blue and purple balloons covering the ceiling of the gallery as they nibbled on food from the Dark Horse Restaurant and enjoyed champagne and mimosas. About 80 people filled the gallery to celebrate the non-profit organization’s longevity.

“The 40th anniversary is a good reason to celebrate and energize the organization,” said East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder. “Now is a really hard time for non-profits — everyone’s struggling. You need the energy.”

Guests were all smiles as they watched the dance performances and listened to Andrew Wargo and Ranny Reeve play the piano.

The milestone birthday follows a logo and name change.  The organization was called the East End Arts Council until this past September. It also comes on the heels of a $200,000 grant from Bank of America through its Neighborhood Builders program.

The founder and original director of the arts organization, Liz Richards, joined the celebration and lauded its current leaders.

“It wasn’t what we expected,” she said of the organization’s evolution. “It’s better.”

The celebration didn’t stop with the birthday party. East End Arts in May will have a 40th birthday fundraising gala, including dinner, a live band and art auction, and it will be marking its anniversary at art shows throughout the year.

Elizabeth Greaf, who teachers drawing and color theory at East End Arts, praised the organization. “They’ve grown something from the seeds of a good idea into something that’s valuable not only to the community, but to Long Island,” she said.

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