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by michael cinque and michael braverman
photography by eric striffler | November 21, 2011 | Food & Drink
Another perfect autumn afternoon on the North Fork
Aldo’s coffee, perfect with the house-made biscotti
The pizza oven at Grana was imported from Tuscany
Lounge and enjoy a casual afternoon at Jamesport Vineyards
|Your cup will runneth over|
|Try the Sauvignon Blanc at Shinn Estate Vineyards|
|Love Lane Kitchen keeps it simple and delicious|
In recent years, the winemaking trade has spawned a whole food and lifestyle culture along the beautiful and mostly unspoiled roads and villages of eastern Long Island’s North Fork. Like Napa a generation ago, the few top-notch, celebrated restaurants along the North Fork Wine Trail are definitely worth visiting, but those familiar with the area prefer the charming small spots that emphasize locally sourced ingredients and where the owners are hands-on—in the kitchen and at the counter.
Jamesport, a few miles east of Riverhead, where Long Island separates into the twin forks, is where the gourmet journey begins. Head directly to Grana (1556 Main Road, 779-2844), a storefront delight in the tiny village, for its wine list of local varietals and its delectable pizza: medium-size, crisp thin-crust with enticingly inventive toppings such as braised Berkshire pork belly with Fontina, aged mozzarella, and a red-onion confit. David Plath tends the wood-burning oven, while his wife, Nancy, takes care of the front of the house. Jamesport Vineyards (1216 Main Road, 722-5256), operated by three generations of the Goerler family, is one of the oldest wineries on the fork. The scallop shell on its East End Series labels reflects the winery’s involvement with a local initiative to encourage the raising of shellfish—appropriate, given that the 2009 East End Cinq Blanc, a bright, balanced blend of white grapes, pairs well with them. In the mood for a red? The 2007 Jubilant Reserve, a Cabernet Franc–based blend, is beguiling and full-bodied.
Moving east to the picturesque village of Mattituck, seek out Love Lane, a little street off Main Road with a colossal gourmet cluster. You can easily spend a day—or a week—at Love Lane Kitchen (240 Love Lane, 298-8989), a simple, pretty place with a knockout menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The succulent burgers are made with McCall’s organic grass-fed beef from cattle raised a few miles away; the greens were grown at Satur Farms, also nearby; and the pasta is house-made. Next door and under the same ownership is Love Lane Market (170 Love Lane, 298-2200), an extraordinary gourmet market with the very best of everything. Its rotisserie local duck or the various pizzas from the wood-burning oven are perfect for a picnic. To finish filling that basket, head across the street to The Village Cheese Shop (105 Love Lane, 298-8556), which offers one of the best selections of artisanal cheeses you might hope to find. Neighboring Love Lane Sweet Shoppe (125 Love Lane, 298-2276) completes the meal with desserts of chocolates and candy.
Nearby Macari Vineyards (150 Bergen Ave., 298-0100) is known for its natural approach to viticulture and winemaking, and it shines through in wines like the Sette NV—a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend evocative of plums with enticing aromas of green olives and spices—and the rich, refreshing 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. Another noteworthy Sauvignon Blanc can be found down the road at Shinn Estate Vineyards (2000 Oregon Road, 804-0367), where the 2010 First Fruit Sauvignon Blanc tastes of ripe pear, minerals, and herbs (the 2008 Estate Merlot, with its gentle tannins and red plum flavors, is also stellar).
Neat little rows: The vineyard at Bedell Cellars
Long Island winemaking began in Cutchogue, the next town in this gradual march across the fork. Bedell Cellars (36225 Main Road, 734-7537), among the oldest wineries in the area, is known almost as much for its labels, designed by prominent American artists, as for the quality of its wines. The Taste label is pure enchantment in a bottle; try the 2008 Taste White, a brisk and lively blend, or the 2009 Taste Red, delectable and juicy. For the most intoxicating Pinot Noir on this coast, head to McCall Wines (22600 Main Road, 734-5764) for a glass (or a bottle) of the 2007 Pinot Noir. Light with a silky texture, this is a solid American version of a small estate Bourgogne Rouge. Also in the French style, but more akin to a Saint-Émilion, is the vineyard’s 2007 Ben’s Blend.
To pair with these top-notch wines, there is incredible fresh fish and shellfish at Braun Seafood Company (30840 Main Road, 734-7770). Both a wholesaler and a retailer, it also has a kitchen with a small takeout shop and a few tables, where you can order from a menu or select something on ice in the retail store and ask them to cook it. Standouts include a mouthwatering pan-seared tuna with sesame and soy-ginger glaze and beer-battered codfish; the Manhattan clam chowder is also a must.
Another noteworthy North Fork seafood mainstay is A Lure Chowder House & Oysteria (62300 Main Road, 876-5300) in Southold. Long Island chef Tom Schaudel prepares chili-dusted yellowfin tuna, pan-seared diver scallops, and grilled king salmon. A self-proclaimed “lobster purist,” Schaudel will not prepare lobster any way other than steamed with lemon and butter. Southold also offers visitors some superb methode champenoise (sparkling wine). Sparkling Pointe (39750 Country Road 48, 765-0200) produces nothing but bubbly; its Topaz Imperial, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is shimmering and spirited, with notes of sour red cherry. For another bon vivant treat, enjoy a flute of the 2007 Brut.
Greenport, once a prosperous whaling and ship building village, has come out of its long slumber with a revived downtown with a distinct food focus. Aldo’s (103–105 Front St., 477-6300), with its own coffee roaster and a terrific biscotti recipe, has been everyone’s favorite café for years. (It even weathered the now-shuttered Starbucks location across the street.) Another stalwart is the Greenport Tea Company (119A Main St., 477-8744), a quaint-looking shop with the loveliest selection of teas and small plates. After strolling around Greenport, you might take a break at Salamander’s (414 First St., Greenport, 477-3711), a pocket-size takeout and specialty grocer with a few tables on the front deck. Interesting soups and classic fried chicken are among the reasons regulars keep returning here. Back on Front Street, chef Noah Schwartz took a plain storefront and converted it into Noah’s (136 Front St., 477-6720), a sleek, stylish restaurant and bar that is one of the great success stories of the North Fork—and for good reason. Dinner begins with a filet mignon slider with truffle béarnaise sauce, or a terrific raw bar selection, and continues on to a warm lobster roll or local seafood bouillabaisse. The wine list is well balanced between North Fork and international wines, and the sophisticated cocktail list is a winner. After a day (or three) of sipping and sating, the ultimate way to end your North Fork getaway is to visit the beautifully restored Front Street carousel in Greenport—and, of course, reach for the gold ring.