Three writers were given a day to tour the North Fork in three very different ways:
1 a trip from NYC
2 a guys’ day out
3 a family outing
Here’s part two of our series:
There we were, three men on the Peconic waterfront, all alone with a big plate of moo-oink balls in front of us.
Nothing says male cuisine like meatballs wrapped in bacon, courtesy of Cody’s BBQ on East Main Street in Riverhead.
The spirit of maleness on the North Fork is exactly what myself and my two friends were trying to experience on our journey across the north and south roads. I viewed my assignment with only one question in mind: Given eight hours of freedom from work and women, what do guys do for fun on the North Fork?
Really want to know? We eat moo-oink balls. And we drink vodka. And we eat lobster. And we drink heavy beers. And we eat pork. And we drink wine. And we get so full we can hardly breathe. And we go to sleep, having enjoyed every moment of our day.
Riding shotgun on the trip was my buddy James. We’ve been very close friends since high school, and only the hanging cross earring he sported in our earlier years of schooling prevented us from being friends sooner. When my first wife and I split, I spent that first night on his couch as he listened to all my troubles. He’s the kind of friend who’s always there for you, and who you only hope to be as good a friend back to.
OK, this is getting less male than I intended.
Also in the car was my friend and co-worker Joe, who serves as one of the sports editors at Times/Review Newsgroup.
For the first couple years we worked together, Joe and I were great work friends, but our out-of-work activity was limited to the occasional sporting event.
Little did I know, Joe would later move in with me for awhile. James did, too.
The three of us have been like three peas in a deformed pod ever since. For our first stop on the male revue of the North Fork — that might not be the best choice of words — I chose The Lobster Roll Northside on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.
I’ve found that if you’re going to have a few drinks throughout the day, you need to establish a proper base in the belly. Knowing that a vodka distillery and a brewery were on our agenda for the day, I figured we better get some food in our systems right from the start.
The key, though, is to make sure you’re not eating too much, too early. A lobster roll is perfect. It’s light, but still filling. The lobster roll is also a relatively manly sandwich.
I’m sure we could have filled up on egg whites with tomatoes on toasted wheat, but we needed to maintain the mantegrity of our assignment.
The Lobster Roll was also the perfect choice for us since it kept with a theme we were striving for, which was to avoid places we’d already been. Somehow none of us had ever eaten there.
I grew up about 15 minutes from the Baiting Hollow restaurant and I had never tried it. But for good reason, or so I thought.
I try not to try things that I think look good, but fear will disappoint.
By calling his restaurant THE Lobster Roll, I always thought Fred Terry was taking tremendous risk in that the name of his restaurant might sound too overconfident.
I imagined myself going there to eat and saying, “That was a good lobster roll. I don’t know if it was THE lobster roll, but it was OK.”
It’s sort of like starting a vineyard and calling it THE Wine, or a deli named THE Sandwich.
But Mr. Terry has good reason for calling his restaurants The Lobster Roll, after all, he claims to have invented the idea of putting lobster salad on a hot dog bun.
“Can you imagine the day he invented it?” James joked. “I can see him sitting there in his kitchen saying, ‘What am I gonna do with all this lobster?”
The conversation turned into a discussion on how just about any meat can be made into a salad by simply adding mayo, but for some reason lobster salad just tastes better.
In an interview with the Wine Press last December, Mr. Terry discussed the quiet magic of the lobster roll, “It’s a very flavorful, simple finger food that people seem to enjoy. It’s certainly not rocket science to make a lobster roll. It’s fresh and nutritious and tastes really, really good.”
And yes, it is fair for him to have named his restaurant The Lobster Roll. It tasted that good.
We wanted to make sure we did more than go to vineyards on our man trip, but that’s not to suggest there’s something unmanly about wine.
Personally, I prefer wine to beer or hard liquor.
I’m more likely to have a bottle from a local vineyard on my wine rack than I am to have a can of beer in my fridge.
But if you’re trying to create a man’s tour of the North Fork, there are a pair of non-wine tasting places you have to try.
One of them is Long Island Spirits, which opened as the first craft distillery on the North Fork in 2006, and is the maker of LiV Vodka and the new Pine Barrens whiskey.
The sampling room and distillery, located just west of The Lobster Roll and also in Baiting Hollow, are housed inside a beautifully restored barn originally built about a century ago.
The sampling room and shop is open seven days a week and the back deck of the building offers a great view of the open space behind the barn.
A vodka tasting features three pours from one of five flavors for $8, and you get to keep the shot glass. It’s actually less expensive than most vineyard tastings. LiV distillers make the brand’s original potato vodka, plus fruit flavored Long Island Spirits Sorbetta liqueurs, which includes lemon, lime, strawberry and orange.
One of the pourers said a lot of the men who visit the sampling room get a little shy when selecting the fruit flavors for their tasting, but then they end up buying those bottles.
I was actually more excited to try the fruit flavors, knowing how I feel about vodka, something I’d hardly ever drink straight.
We each opted to try the orange and strawberry liqueur to complete our tasting, after first sampling the potato vodka.
Like the guys the pourer told us about, I have to admit, I liked the strawberry liqueur best, mostly because it had zero burn and made for a great summertime drink.
The whiskey, which samples at $15 a tasting, starts out as Blue Point Brewery’s Old Howling Bastard, an American barleywine,
“We wanted to do something different with ours,” Long Island Spirits founder Richard Stabile told the Wine Press last month. “Most American whiskeys are bourbon-style, made from corn, and there’s a lot of ryes out there. We wanted to do a scotch-style whiskey, single malt, but rather than develop our own peated malt, we thought it would be unique if we used a commercially finished beer. Nobody else does this, that we know of.”
While vodka and, especially, whiskey are likely thought of as something guys might be more apt to head to the North Fork to try, the staffers at Long Island Spirits said they get a good mix of men and women at the distillery. But for large groups with various sampling interests, the distillery’s close proximity to Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard could make the two locations good spots to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
One of the great time-honored venues for male companionship is the automobile.
Few things in life are better than a nice road trip with the guys, even if it’s just a day trip along the North Fork.
There’s something so simple and enjoyable about taking a car trip with friends. The laughs, the small talk, everything just seems fun when you’re with your boys. That’s one reason why every set of male friends is convinced a sitcom about their ordinary lives could entertain the masses.
Of course, when going for a full day of tastings, you have to make certain sacrifices. Someone has to drink less or not drink at all.
You have to find times to take breaks from drinking to make sure you stay safe and don’t get too liquored up.
Some people view the tasting experience on the North Fork as an opportunity to get drunk, a scary thought for those of us who live and work here.
It’s really about the tasting experience. It’s about finding flavors you like and learning about the process of making quality adult beverages.
For this reason, I try to spread out my sampling when I tour the North Fork. I don’t like to hop from just one tasting room to the next and get too buzzed to enjoy the experience.
With that in mind, we decided to head east to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company for our next tasting, breaking up our day a bit with a nice scenic drive along the North Road.
The only real pressure when going on a car trip with your friends is that you have to get the music right to set the tone for the day.
But I’ve figured out a decent workaround when you really don’t know what to play. Just put your iPod on shuffle and blame the ghost of Steve Jobs for making lame choices — which I thought about doing when James slammed me for the heavy dose of Paul Simon on my iPhone as we made our way out east.
Like Long Island Spirits, a tasting at Greenport costs $8 and you get to keep the pint glass. There are seven small pours in the beer tasting, adding up to about two full pints.
The key is to take your time and savor each beer, which is easy to do as you sip the tasty varieties and check out the art on the walls of the tasting room.
They even have chairs made out of old beer kegs with seat cushions.
On the tasting menu the day we took our tour was the harbor ale, black duck porter, havre rouge, summer ale, chinook red, canard noir and hoppy stout.
My favorite, and this also might have had to do with the season and the overall mood of the day, was the summer ale, which is brewed with orange blossom honey. I also liked the black duck porter, a black ale with strong notes of cocoa and espresso.
Microbreweries are great additions to downtowns, which is why we’re lucky to have both Greenport beer being brewed right in the heart of the village and Long Ireland beers in Riverhead’s Polish Town.
Initially we hoped to hit up both spots, but Long Ireland is closed on Sundays.
What makes the connection between a downtown environment and a brewery so special is that there’s so many little shops you can stop into along the way to and from the tasting room. In the Village of Greenport, you also have the waterfront and so many great restaurants, you can make an entire weekend of it.
But we had to cut short our stay in the village before a stop at a local winery, after all this publication is named the Long Island Wine Press.
My friend and co-worker Mike White, editor of the Riverhead News-Review, was originally supposed to join us on the man tour, but had to cancel because he already had a vineyard trip planned that day with family.
He took a tour at Raphael in Peconic with his wife, her sister and their father.
They were finishing up their tour just as we were wrapping up our stay in Greenport, so we decided to meet them at Peconic Bay Winery, where Mike and his wife, Sue, are members of the wine club.
I always have a difficult time choosing which wineries I want to go to when I’m touring. I’ve set out for Southold and not gotten passed Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead, or aimed to visit Pindar and instead sat down with a bottle at Pellegrini.
It can be tough to make a plan and stick to it, which is why it’s always nice to be with friends who are members somewhere.
You get free or reduced price tastings with your memberships at most places and it provides you with a focal point of where you want to visit.
The first time I ever visited Peconic Bay was for the NoFo Music Festival in 2010. Since then I’ve been back a few times with Mike, when he goes to pick up his wine club bottle selections.
I think Peconic Bay does a great job of making sure guests are entertained. On this day, they had live music.
In my time covering this region, I’ve noticed that some folks want to focus specifically on the wine when they visit the vineyards.
The music and the car shows and all the other events don’t appeal to them. Not me. I like the idea of getting a little entertainment to go with my wine, and you can get a wide variety of musical acts at the vineyard on any given weekend day.
In the past couple of years, I’ve seen everything from jazz to jam bands at the wineries and I’ve never felt let down by these mostly free events.
Laura Hoch, who books the musical acts at Peconic Bay, said music is “completely essential” to the vineyard experience.
“Besides the wine, that’s the big draw for us,” she said.
A musician herself, Laura says she tries to book professional acts that she knows she’ll not only like but that will be appealing to the crowd that day.
On the day we visited, the Nina Et cetera duo, a local band with roots in country, folk and rock and roll, was performing.
They’re Buddy Holly one minute and June and Johnny the next (Nina’s June Carter Cash is quite good).
Joe and I tasted a red flight, which included mostly blends, while James went with Peconic Bay’s whites. We got five pours for $12 each and were treated to a really fun band.
After about an hour of relaxing, we thought about possibly getting a couple more glasses, but ultimately decided it was time to wash all this wine down with some food.
Choosing a place to eat dinner on the North Fork is like searching for a place to play blackjack on Las Vegas Boulevard.
You have so many options, from fine dining options like the North Fork Table and Inn and The Riverhead Project to the more causal but still delicious spots like Jamesport Country Kitchen or the Farm Country Kitchen (everyone loves a country kitchen out here).
But this is man day. Country kitchens won’t cut it on man day. We need slow-cooked pork products drowned in barbecue sauce on man day.
We need moo-oink. We need Cody’s BBQ.
If you’re a vegetarian and you’re reading this, feel free to put the magazine down. Cody’s is not for you. If you hate meals that fill your stomach with grease and leave you with little motivation to do anything for the next three to seven hours, Cody’s is not for you.
Cody’s is for me.
We kicked our meal off with the bacon-wrapped moo-oink meatballs and onion straws. James ordered the pulled pork platter for dinner, Joe tried the ribs and I got the beef brisket platter.
We were about halfway done with the appetizers when we realized we could probably forgo eating for the remainder of the summer and still be full.
One thing I’ve noticed about Cody’s is that if you order the platters instead of the sandwiches you get two sides and a salad for only a few bucks more. At one point we couldn’t see the table, we had so much food going.
“I feel like I can’t breathe,” James joked, as he tried to at least make a dent in his entrée.
Of course he and Joe had no problem finishing the two beers they ordered; a man has his priorities.
It was the end of a long day of consumption and we let a lot of food go to waste at Cody’s that night.
On the ride home we shared a few laughs and recapped the day.
As we reflected on all that we did we realized that if this story was to serve as a guide for men to have a perfect day on the North Fork, we need to offer the following warning:
Only the finest men should attempt to cram all of these things into one day. If you feel the need to try to copy our itinerary step-by-step, bite-by-bite, know that it’s OK to cut corners. Feel free to sip and spit your wine. Don’t be ashamed if you have to go all Sorbetta at Long Island Spirits because the potato vodka has too much burn.
And if you really have to, we won’t look down on you for skipping the moo-oink.
Check back for Part III on Friday. The entire Summer Wine Press 2012 will be available online July 16, or pick it up at a North Fork tasting room or restaurant today.