The 2013 edition of the Winterfest Jazz on the Vine series kicks off February 8. Tickets to the concert events are $20.
Check out the complete schedule below:
The 2013 edition of the Winterfest Jazz on the Vine series kicks off February 8. Tickets to the concert events are $20.
Check out the complete schedule below:
The Long Island Wine Council celebrated its 40th anniversary Thursday night at Raphael Vineyards in Peconic. The North Fork wine industry began when Louisa and Alex Hargrave took a chance to try something never before done here. In the winter issue of the Long Island Wine Press, published by Times/Review, the Hargraves reflected on how it all began.
Louisa and Alex Hargrave stood under a sunny sky one unseasonably warm winter afternoon with two grape experts who had come from afar to take a gander at Long Island’s very first vineyard.
The young couple, neither of whom had any viticulture experience, were soliciting advice on growing stronger, more fruitful grapevines. The expert, who grew grapes in California, told them to keep the vines with the thickest wood and cut off the side shoots.
The Hargraves exchanged puzzled glances. Just minutes earlier, a grape expert from Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station in upstate New York had given the exact opposite advice: Keep the thinnest wood and do not cut off the side shoots.
“We decided not to take anyone’s advice,” Louisa Hargrave recalled in a recent interview. “We had to inform ourselves. We couldn’t rely on anyone else.”
Exactly 40 years ago, the Hargraves left Harvard University, where they met, and headed for Long Island’s East End, a rural landscape covered with potato farms, cornfields and churches. There was not a single grapevine in the region, now characterized by a bustling wine industry.
The Hargraves had driven across the country to Napa Valley to visit vineyards and explore owning one but were disappointed at the time by the quality of the West Coast’s highly oxidized wines. They knew they wanted to grow vinifera grapes, which grow well in Europe, and were told by Cornell University researcher and agricultural scientist John Wickham that the climate and soils on Long Island were similar to those of France and other regions where vinifera grapes prosper.
And so, they set their sights on grape-growing on Long Island.
“We weren’t satisfied with anything else,” Hargrave said of their decision. “We were young and we thought we had nothing to lose.”
Alex Hargrave had majored in Asian studies and his wife earned degrees in teaching and government. If college taught them anything, though, it was that experts didn’t have all the answers. They couldn’t farm — neither had grown so much as a cherry tomato in a backyard garden — but they knew how do research and banked on their learning skills.
“We took a huge risk,” Hargrave said. “It’s the arrogance of youth — you think you can’t fail. You do what you want to do and just go for it.”
Sixty-six acres and many challenges later, the Hargraves had created a small winemaking operation, population two. The early days were fraught with challenges: diseased plants, destructive birds, natural disasters and nosy, anti-alcohol neighbors.
“There were people who would call reporters every time they saw a bug on a grape leaf and then there’d be some big story,” Hargrave recalled. On the whole, the couple were well-received by fellow farmers on the North Fork, but the “small but vocal faction” caused them their fair share of headaches.
Not having anyone to look to for advice or examples, the Hargraves made fresh decisions — and tragic mistakes.
Eric Fry, 20-year winemaker at Lenz Winery, which was founded a few years after Hargrave Vineyard, said other early vineyard managers and winemakers looked to the Hargraves to glean insight on what to do — and what not to do.
The biggest lesson the fledgling Long Island wine world learned from the Hargraves was where not to plant, Fry said. The Hargraves had planted vines in low spots, which turned out to be a vine’s arch-enemy. Lower ground is typically wet and cold — destructive conditions for a grapevine.
“They didn’t exactly know what they were doing and they made a lot of mistakes,” Fry said. “They were experimenters. Someone had to do that for us to find out.”
Their first wine, Hargrave admits, was a disaster. They stored a sorry Sauvignon Blanc in whiskey barrels instead of customary oak barrels.
“We didn’t know how important oak was,” she said.
The whiskey barrels stripped the wine of its color and added a heavy char flavor.
Though the early days were peppered with flops and faux pas, the Hargraves had fallen in love with the art of grape-growing and winemaking.
“I wanted to do work that was physical and meaningful and for my children to experience work effort,” Hargrave said. “I wanted our work to have results — something we could eat and drink.”
The couple’s two children did learn the hard work of farming a vineyard. Their son, Xander, remembers the endless work and spirited energy of each fall’s harvest — and his parents’ faithful devotion to their love of wine.
“They were stubbornly committed to wines they enjoyed drinking — wines that had an old world connection and quality,” said Xander Hargrave, who is now assistant winemaker at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue.
He believes the local wine industry’s prosperity is rooted in a like-minded community with the same goals. “The health and success of the wine industry is linked to the health and success of the community,” he said. “Forty years of the wine industry is just the beginning.”
The Hargraves ended up selling their beloved vineyard just after harvest in 1999, leaving behind two decades of winemaking and a burgeoning wine region now dotted with dozens of vineyards.
True pioneers, the couple set the stage for scores of winemakers who would produce world-class, award-winning wines.
To this day, Louisa Hargrave wants not much more than an alluring glass of wine to relax with. Her idea of a great wine, she said, is one with subtlety, “an interesting and intricate aroma that doesn’t hit you over the head.” She likes dynamic wines with energy, fruitiness and earthiness.
“Making wines that are very dynamic and have energy from the first taste to the last,” she said. “That’s where I think we succeeded and that’s where winemakers on Long Island today succeed.”
Nancy and Keith Kouris had never given much thought to which wine might go best with their artisanal breads and spreads. But that was the task the Blue Duck Bakery owners were faced with for Saturday’s ‘Winter Foodie Series’ event hosted by Sherwood House Vineyards.
With notes on the wines from Sherwood co-owner Brian Sckipp, Ms. Kouris researched the spreads as her husband made the breads.
“We tried to match the notes on the wines with the spreads and breads,” Ms. Kouris said.
The result was five pairings: classic Parisian with tarragon/lemon butter spread and 2011 unoaked chardonnay; Italian Pugliese Sesamo with smoked brie and 2010 chardonnay; raisin walnut Levain with olive tapenade and 2007 Oregon Road merlot; pain Levain with roasted red peppers and 2007 cabernet franc; and the last one was German sunflower rye with dark mushroom cream sauce and 2007 Sherwood Manor blend.
“This is always my favorite,” Mr. Sckipp’s told the tasters of the final wine.
Mr. Kouris said that the final pairing was one of the easiest.
“I thought out of the box on this one,” he said. “It was rich and creamy with the earthy mushroom spread. The sunflowers adds the nuttiness to it.”
Mr. Sckipp said the duo did “an excellent job of pairing the nuances of the wine with the nuances of the bread.”
“We are truly fortunate to find wonderful local purveyors on both forks,” he said.
Sherwood House Vineyards, which has vines planted on 28 acres in Mattituck since 1996, is in its second season of their ‘Winter Foodie Series’ organized by tasting room manager Ami Davey. The tasting room is in Material Objects in Jamesport and the wine and food pairings take place once a month from November through February in a cozy barn on the back of the property. So far this season they had tastings with Catapano goat cheese of Southold and a charcuterie platter from Lombardi Market of Holtsville.
Next month the tasting will be spaghetti and meatballs prepared by Jamesport’s Grana Wood Fired Pizza’s chef David Plath.
The North Fork is a beautiful peninsula of land surrounded by Peconic Bay, Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The wetlands, varying salinity, tides and temperatures have created a seascape unique in the world. And the well-drained sandy soil and long growing season have favored agriculture for centuries. As the crush of population moves east, many of our long-developed resources have dwindled, but their traditions hang on. I have enjoyed being a professional chef on the North Fork for the past 40 years, year in, year out and year round. The foods that keep appearing over and over again are ducks, oysters, scallops, clams, finfish and myriad plant foods — including the wine.
As time moves on into the 21st century we sometimes forget that duck farming was a major industry, with production peaking at six million ducks in 1968 from over 30 producers. Greenport was once the oyster capital of the East Coast, with production peaking at about 25 million pounds of oyster meats in the 1930s. Commercial fishing has changed as aquaculture replaces the dwindling supply of wild fish. And the large crops of wholesale potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage have been gradually replaced by specialty farms that seek to compete in a changed marketplace.
But our cuisine, or the art of cookery using the foods and traditions of our area, has evolved into a distinct art form based on these wonderful ingredients. This Christmas dinner is a celebration of some of these special foods. The recipes are intended to serve eight people.
Peconic Bay Scallop Seviche
Combine in a bowl the juice of 3 limes and 1 teaspoon lime zest. Toss 1 pound of fresh bay scallops in this mixture and add 1/2 cup diced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic film and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
At service time, remove the flesh from 2 avocados and cut into half-inch cubes. Lightly toss these in a bowl with the juice of 1 lime. Remove the leaves from 1 bunch of fresh watercress. Cut 1 cup of cherry tomatoes in half.
Place watercress in the bottoms of 8 martini glasses. Add the avocado next and place the scallops and tomatoes on top, pouring the sauce over all. Garnish with a little chopped cilantro.
Purchase 1 pint of fresh shucked oysters. Spray a sauté pan with no-stick and cook 1/4 pound of pancetta at medium heat. Remove to a paper towel, chop coarsely and set aside.
Add to the saucepan 1 tablespoon butter, 2 chopped leeks (white part), 2 minced scallions and 1 cup chopped celery. Season with 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook covered at low heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon flour and stir it into the mixture, continuing to cook another 2 minutes. Stir in 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
Add the pint of oysters with their juices and gradually bring back to a simmer. Add the reserved pancetta and check for seasoning. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup crushed pilot crackers. Garnish with pilot crackers and serve.
Purchase a fresh 6-pound Long Island duck from a local retailer. Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity and remove the surrounding fat. Trim the wing tips, the tail and the flap of skin near the neck. Save these for another use and rinse the duck under cold water.
Prepare a brine by combining 2 cups orange juice with 2 cups water. Add 1/2 cup coarse salt, 12 bruised peppercorns, 1 bunch fresh thyme, 1 bunch fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger. Heat this mixture just enough to dissolve the salt. Add a cup of ice cubes to cool.
Place the duck in a glass or plastic container and pour the brine over it. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
Make a glaze by adding to a small saucepan 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the duck from the brine and dry with paper towels. Place it on a V-rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. With a sharp pointed knife, cut a diamond pattern of shallow cuts in the skin. Place in the cavity of the duck 1 quartered orange, 1 bunch of thyme and 1 bunch of rosemary. Tie the legs and wings close to the body with butcher’s twine.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and pour it over the duck, letting the water end up in the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil and place in a 400-degree oven. Cook for 45 minutes and remove the duck from the oven.
Pour off the water and fat and replace the duck in the roasting pan on its rack. Brush the duck all over with the glaze and put it back in the oven, turning down the heat to 375. Let it cook, brushing it with glaze every half-hour, for 1 1/2 hours. If it begins to get too dark, place a loose piece of foil over the breast area. When finished, the duck should be a dark mahogany color and the legs should move easily when squeezed.
Remove duck from the oven and let it rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Cut off the string and remove the herbs and orange from the cavity. Carve the duck at the table or cut it into eighths and partially debone.
Purchase 6 navel oranges and squeeze the juice from 4 of them. Remove the zest from 1 orange and set aside. Peel remaining 2 oranges and cut the sections from the membranes.
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Cook until it begins to caramelize and turns golden. Add the reserved orange juice, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1/4 cup minced shallots and 1 cup chicken stock. Simmer until reduced by one-third and swirl in 2 tablespoons cold butter. Add back the orange sections and the zest along with 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as triple sec or Grand Marnier.
Begin by making a plain pound cake. Cream 1/2 pound butter with 2 cups sugar for 5 minutes, using a paddle and a mixer at medium speed. Beat in 5 large eggs, one at a time.
Place 3 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl and combine with a whisk.
Combine 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl.
Turn the mixer on to slow speed and alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Spray 2 loaf pans with no-stick and divide the batter between them. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly and turn out cakes on a rack to cool. Wrap and refrigerate.
To make the trifle, make a syrup by bringing to a boil 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (Chambord, framboise). Remove syrup from heat and let cool.
In a bowl, place 1 cup raspberry jam, 2 tablespoons Chambord and 4 cups fresh raspberries. Combine them gently and set aside.
In a mixer, whip 2 cups heavy cream to stiff peaks and fold in 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar.
Slice the chilled pound cake into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Cut the slices in half to make squares. Fill the bottom of a trifle dish with pound cake (some pieces of cake will have to be trimmed) and brush with syrup. Spread the raspberry mixture over this and then a layer of whipped cream. Repeat with two more layers. Garnish the top with 1 cup fresh raspberries and chill for 2 hours.
(The pound cake recipe was adapted from Ina Garten and the trifle was adapted from Martha Stewart.)
John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]
Local winemakers and restaurateurs are poised to come together this weekend to celebrate Greenport Village and the seafood so bountiful in North Fork waters.
It’s called the Shellabration and participants can treat their taste buds to tapas-sized culinary masterpieces from 11 of Greenport’s leading chefs, several of whom will serve more than one dish. They’ll also offer wine pairings from local vineyards to accompany their dishes. All proceeds will go to charity.
This inaugural Shellabration will benefit both Greenport’s roller rink restoration project and SPAT (Southold Project in Aquaculture Training), a donation-reliant arm of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program.
Participants must purchase a $10 wristband, available at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, where they can enjoy a free beer and raw bar tasting and get a map of participating village restaurants. Food and wine will be served from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 9.
“This is a great sort of morale booster because the restaurants had to reach out and partner with a vineyard,” said Deborah Pittorino of Cuvée Wine Bar on Front Street. “It’s helping strengthen relationships between our businesses to work in a collaborative manner to get people out there to explore the village in the wintertime.”
Ms. Pittorino said another plus is the benefit will help support “two very worthy causes.”
“SPAT is really an amazing program,” she said. “For many years our shellfish were disappearing and Cornell developed this program to teach people how to cultivate their own oysters. It’s a grass roots movement teaching people how to care for all nature, land and aquatic.”
Cuvée will serve two dishes, perhaps three, that will be paired with wines from Raphael Vineyards in Peconic.
“We’re going to be serving cups of New England clam chowder with local clams paired with Raphael’s Chardeaux, a chardonnay blend, and our signature dish, oysters cuvée, flash-fried oysters on a bed of spinach with truffled beurre blanc, which will be paired with Raphael’s sauvignon blanc,” said Ms. Pittorino.
Getting creative with his dish, chef Scott Bollman at Bruce’s Cheese Emporium said his shop is literally pairing with Osprey’s Dominion. His dish, a Peconic Bay scallop salad to be served with the winery’s unwooded 2010 chardonnay, which is fermented in steel barrels, will resemble an osprey’s nest.
“The marriage of local ingredients is what makes this such a great event,” Mr. Bollman said. “Hopefully it will bring a good amount of people out to Greenport.”
Winemaker Kareem Massoud at Paumanok Vineyards said matching local seafood dishes with local wines is a “natural fit” for an aquaculture festival.
“Light crisp wines with good acidity is the perfect description for what you want to have with shellfish,” Mr. Massoud said. “I think everyone wants to see the Peconic Bay scallop return to its glory days, so we’re happy to help support that effort and if it also helps support the local economy in a slow time, it’s a win-win situation.”
Chef and co-owner Noah Schwartz of Noah’s, also on Front Street, said restaurateurs all support the restoration of the roller rink in the American Legion building on lower Third Street.
“We’re all for the skating rink getting back in action,” Mr. Schwartz said.
At presstime, other restaurants taking part in Shellabration were Biere, Butta Cakes, First and South, Frisky Oyster, Front Street Station, North Fork Oyster Company. Scrimshaw and Vines & Branches. Other wines will be provided by Castello di Borghese, Lieb, Macari, One Woman, Peconic Bay, Shinn and Sparkling Pointe.
American Legion post commander Craig Richter said the group is excited to put the incoming donations from the Shellabration to use at the rink.
“We’ve just about completed the exterior of the building and over the winter we’re going to put in all-new Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms, a kitchen and a new floor,” Mr. Richter said. “It’s going to take us a while, but we’re getting closer all the time.”
Kim Tetrault, the aquaculture specialist who heads up the SPAT program, said the program is always thankful for donations and the event is important to reaching one of the group’s goals.
“Our organization promotes the roles that both environmental groups and aquaculture play in the bays and our local community and we want people to come on board with what’s special about the North and South forks,” Mr. Tetrault said. “The Shellabration is exactly that; it’s celebrating everyone coming together to celebrate the fare that is offered here. All of these groups coming together to celebrate, raise awareness and keep our heritage and way of life going. That’s almost more important than the donation.”
For more information, visit shellabration.li.
As I stood on the dock in Greenport watching the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle come into port for the recent Maritime Festival, I was suddenly full of memories of a time 45 years ago when I was a cook in the U.S. Coast Guard.
My very first assignment out of boot camp was the 311-foot Coast Guard cutter Mackinac. It was based out of New York Harbor and patrolled the Atlantic from Greenland to Cuba. On my first patrol, in September 1966, we were headed to Guantanamo Bay for training with the Navy when we received an SOS from a ship that had lost power in a raging storm off the Florida Keys.
The storm was Hurricane Inez, one of the most destructive storms on record, causing over 1,000 deaths in the Caribbean. To rescue the ship we headed into giant 30-foot swells and withstood 80 mph winds. The screws of our ship were coming out of the water as the bow was buried in the waves.
In the galley, it was too dangerous to cook hot food, so the crew ate cold cuts and bread. This voyage ended safely and we were able to reach the disabled ship and restore its power. But our ship rarely sailed in calm water, as our mission was to man weather stations and be nearby to help ships and airplanes in distress.
Cooking in this environment required holding on with one hand and cooking with the other. Knives and utensils were always placed on a wet towel to prevent sliding. The galley of the Mackinac was located on the main deck, extending the entire width of the ship, with doors on either side to enhance ventilation. It was equipped with a six-burner stove, a large flat-top griddle, a stack oven, two steam jacketed (trunnion) kettles and a deep fryer with a 12-inch rim around it to prevent splashing. All our equipment was electric, as is common on most ships.
Surprisingly, much of our cooking was done from scratch. We made cakes and bread and used fresh produce as long as it lasted into the five-week patrols. In rough seas we would have to make some recipe adjustments, such as reducing the liquid called for in chocolate cake to keep it from rolling out of the pan in the oven. At breakfast we often had to turn the griddle up to 450 degrees so that when we cooked eggs over easy the whites would set immediately, allowing the yolk to roll back and forth while it cooked.
But we cooked some very good food, mostly following the recipe cards developed for the Navy and Marines in 1963. The crew ate meals on the mess deck located below the galley, where tables with benches were bolted to the floor and the food was sent down in a dumbwaiter. Our walk-in freezer and dry stores were located in the hold three decks below and required treacherous trips up and down the ladders.
After a year aboard ship I went to the Coast Guard Commissary School for 16 weeks and was then assigned to the Short Beach lifeboat station near Jones Beach. The station had 21 men and three rescue boats. It was very different from the ship in that I was able to write my own menus and purchase ingredients from local sources.
On weekends during the boating season we had many Coast Guard auxiliary officers on hand to help with law enforcement and rescue operations. These people would often have clambakes on the beach and it introduced me to Long Island’s wonderful bounty of seafood.
After a year at this station I was transferred to Governor’s Island, where I became a food service instructor at the Commissary School. This school consisted of intense four-week segments including classroom theory, meat handling, baking and production, which had us serving meals to the other schools on the island. I was able to teach all four segments and discovered later in my career as a chef that these lessons in the fundamentals of cooking were a great asset. At the time it was just another duty station, although a beautiful one, as my wife and I actually lived on Governor’s Island during the last year of my enlistment.
Here are some updated, small-quantity versions of Coast Guard and Navy classics.
Creamed Beef (‘S.O.S.’)
Spray a large sauté pan with no-stick and place it on medium high heat. Add 1 pound of ground chuck and break it up with a spoon as it cooks. While it is still pink, add 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. As the onions cook, add 1/4 cup flour and stir it into the meat to form a roux. Slowly add 2 cups milk, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
This dish can be served over toast or buttermilk biscuits.
Stuffed Peppers (‘S.I.S.’)
Begin by making a stewed tomato sauce. Trim the ends off of 6 plum tomatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch dice. Place them in a saucepan along with 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper. Season with 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes and add 1 small can of tomato sauce.
Cut the tops off of 6 bell peppers. For appearance, use 2 green, 2 red and 2 yellow peppers. Cut out the insides and cut the bottoms so that they stand up. Combine in a large bowl 1 pound of ground meatloaf meat (beef, pork, veal) and 2 chopped chorizo sausages. Add to this 1 cup chopped onion, 2 tablespoons catsup, 1 tablespoon chopped oregano, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Blanch 1 cup brown rice in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and add to the meat mixture. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and place them in a deep casserole. Pour the sauce over them, cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Old-Fashioned Navy Bean Soup
Purchase 1 pound of dried navy beans and rinse them under cold water. Place them in a soup pot and cover with 2 quarts water. Bring them to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let rest for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, dice 4 ounces of salt pork and cook at medium heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. When it has turned brown and released its fat, add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped ribs of celery and 2 chopped carrots. Continue cooking and add 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.
Drain the navy beans, saving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Add the beans to the soup pot along with 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add 1 bay leaf, 1 can (15 ounces) of chopped tomatoes and a smoked ham hock. Season with 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook uncovered at simmering temperature until beans are tender, adding the reserved liquid as the broth evaporates. Total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat and add it to the soup. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and a little salt to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.
John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected].
A harvest party will be held at Lieb Cellars’ new tasting room at 13050 Oregon Road in Cutchogue tonight, Saturday, between 5 and 8 p.m. Organizers say it’s a chance to showcase the winery’s new digs.
It took a month longer than owner Mark Lieb originally hoped to open the new tasting room, which opened for business Oct. 1.
An official grand opening kick-off will take place there between 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19.
Live music will also be held at the location every Saturday between 2 and 6 p.m.
Lieb Cellars’ original Mattituck tasting room will remain open in the Premium Wine Group facility, which Mr. Lieb also partially owns.
“I’m very happy,” Mr. Lieb said of the new tasting room last month. “This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. We built this building years ago. It’s a beautiful spot.”
Click here to read our previous story about the new tasting room.
Dr. Norm McCullough and his wife, Linda, stop in at The Cutchogue Diner on Main Road most weekdays at 2 p.m. They stop by so often, in fact, that waitress Debbie Stelzer said she gets “discombobulated” if the couple isn’t there to drink their respective tea and coffee while they read the paper, do a crossword puzzle and chat.
“We’re among the fairly regulars,” Dr. McCullough said. “I was more of a regular before I retired from being a general surgeon at ELIH. I would come by to grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast on my way to the hospital.”
An old-fashioned chrome diner with a maroon color scheme, The Cutchogue Diner first opened as Glover’s restaurant in 1941. This year, John Touhey of Brooklyn reached his 25th anniversary owning the iconic North Fork eatery.
What sets the diner apart from other local eateries, aside from its shiny exterior, Ms. McCullough says, is the “good home cooking.”
Dr. and Ms. McCullough have been eating at the diner for so long they say they’ve outlived many of the longtime regulars. Others have moved away to Florida and other warmer locales.
Mary MacLeod, 25, of Laurel is part of a new generation of regulars. One day last week, she sat across from the McCulloughs, reading a book, eating a plate of fries and sipping a Coca-Cola.
“I come here all the time to sit and read,” Ms. MacLeod said. “I always have, since I’ve been able to drive.”
Perhaps most regular of all at The Cutchogue Diner is the staff.
Managing the restaurant is 37-year-old Fernando Rodriguez, who began his career there as a dishwasher.
“When I first started working here, I didn’t know a lot of English, but [Mr. Touhey] suggested I learn, so I ended up finishing the four-year ESL program at Suffolk Community College in three years,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who immigrated from Guatelama. “I then became a cook and when the position for manager opened up three years ago, he offered it to me and told me it would be a challenge. I took it because I like challenges. I’m a leader, not a follower. I like to keep myself busy and I try to run this place the best way possible.”
He works closely alongside Mary Ferenc, 55, originally from Poland. The two have had each other’s backs in the kitchen for almost two decades. Ms. Ferenc moved to the U.S. in 1990 and began working at the diner a year later. Mr. Touhey sponsored her citizenship, she said.
Ms. Ferenc said she’s not even the longest tenured employee at the diner, having started after Ms. Stelzer.
“Most of us [from the ’90s], still work here,” Ms. Ferenc said. “A lot of our customers are the same and many times I know what a customer is going to have as soon as they open the door.”
Ms. Ferenc said she takes her devotion to customer satisfaction seriously and considers it a reason customers keep coming back.
“Sometimes people come in and ask for the usual because they know that I should know how they like it,” she said. “For example, many people get scrambled eggs, but they’ll see me and say, ‘You know how I like it,’ because some like them soft and others like them well-done. If someone asks what we have for veggies and it’s peas and carrots, but they don’t like peas, I’ll pick out the peas and give them carrots. I separate them because I like the customers and that’s why the customers like me.”
Mr. Rodriguez said the consistency of meals, thanks to Ms. Ferenc’s exacting attention to detail, is one of the things that make the diner a special place.
“We’re also very flexible and tailor our meals based on what our customers want,” he said. “If someone orders pancakes, but just wants one pancake instead of a stack, we can do that. We’re here to serve people and please them as much as we can.”
It’s the kind of place that brings Westhampton residents Robert Dell and Walter Lapple to the North Fork just about every Friday for lunch.
“We used to go to different places on Fridays,” Mr. Dell said. “But this is our normal Friday luncheon spot now.”