I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Cutchogue home of Arnold and Karen Blair a few weeks back. You may not recognize their names, but perhaps you’d recognized their garden. Their slice of heaven spans more than three acres above the Peconic — a stretch that encompasses manicured fauna, preserved wetlands and beaches — a true testament to the glory of the North Fork landscape.
The couple has been curating the acreage themselves since they purchased the property 30 years ago. Their precision handiwork has been featured in many publications — including this one — because their green-thumbed human plantings are seamlessly intwined with the natural surrounding.
You can learn more about them and the garden in our August issue.
As Arnold and I walked the grounds, he asked if I know much about the North Fork and if I ever get to enjoy it beyond work? His eyes lit up when I said I was from Southold.
“Did you hear that? She’s from here and has a job here.” he said to Karen.
What stuck with me was the latter part of his question: Do I get to enjoy the North Fork?
As a lifestyle journalist, I certainly get an opportunity to promote cool events going on around town an awful lot — as for experiencing them, it’s been tough since we bought a house a little off-the-fork.
Fortuitous timing would make me take Arnold’s conversation starter more to heart. My folks still own a home in Southold and happened to be going on a road trip. I was tasked with watering the plants, but decided to stay the weekend with my fiancé Jason.
It was a change to take off my reporter hat and just be citizen Cyndi.
We started the weekend with First Fridays on Love Lane. We said hello to many of the vendors I interviewed for northforker. It was beyond networking. It was a chance to genuinely be immersed in the community and, hopefully, be viewed as someone more than a reporter digging up a scoop.
The change was palpable as people started coming up to Jason. He’s a Mattituck native through-and-through. He started working at Riverhead Building Supply in Greenport the day after his junior prom and never left the company. His friends’ parents, old acquaintances and people who just knew him from around the yard were quick to strike up a conversation.
The feeling continued the next day at the Dog Dock Dive at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. when I ran into another Southold High grad making a fine living in this town — I won’t name names, but our office is quite fond of her Beetle Juice blend.
We headed into Greenport that afternoon to visit blacksmith Alexa Suess, who just finished up forging Jason’s wedding band. We sipped on a cocktail courtesy of another young North Forker at most the local of local bars and grabbed a bite at Lucharitos — also owned by a local boy who made good.
As traffic continues to mount, many locals would prefer to stay in. My mom, for one, will only go to the IGA on a Tuesday — at 8:37 a.m. — that is apparently primetime as it’s the least busy. The scientific ruling is out on that one, but I can say beyond a doubt that you won’t catch her out on a Saturday until after Thanksgiving.
My hope is that locals do get out to enjoy what other year-rounders labor for, be it a coffee, a libation, a taco … or a news report.
• There is good a reason why the Mattituck Lions Strawberry Festival is held in June. The berry is generally ripe for the picking about now. Speaking of the Strawberry Festival, word is the number-two-ranked competitive eating champ Carmen Cincotti is going to be there Saturday to compete in the Mattituck Lions Club World Strawberry Shortcake Eating Championship. The current record is 15.25 pounds of shortcake consumed in eight minutes. Good luck, bud. Oh, and if you are one of those people who isn’t up for braving the traffic, avoid this stretch of Route 48 for the next 96 hours.
• Maybe dad’s more of a history guy? He’d enjoy heading to Greenport to sail aboard the Tall Ship Amistad. It’s easy to find a reason to stay. Lifestyle website Pure Wow penned “Your Guide to a Perfect Day in Greenport,” which points to stops at Beall & Bell, Greenport Harbor Brewing and Fifth Street Beach — my guess is the locals won’t be thrilled about the article outing their hidden beach spot. It’s a nice place to take in the view nonetheless.
• Claudio’s Clam Bar is also hosting a Father’s Day Bloody Mary Contest Sunday. Local restaurants like First & South, Lucharitos, American Beech and more are battling it out for bragging rights. People’s Choice judging begins at 2:30 p.m.
• In other news, Jim Waters closed Waters Crest Winery. He was the owner and winemaker of the label for nearly 20 years. We had something a few months back about the closing of the tasting room and Mark Harrington covered the details in Newsday. I’ll add that Erik Bilka has taken over for Waters as winemaker at Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport. Bilka is so the winemaker at sister wineries Pindar and Duck Walk.
• If you’re looking for a podcast pick, our content director Grant Parpan recommends this week’s episode of “House of Carbs” on the Ringer podcast network. Newsday’s Pervaiz Shallwani was the guest this week, promoting “Feed Me TV” and giving restaurant picks for the U.S. Open. Snowflake Ice Cream in Riverhead, Wolffer Estate Vineyards in Sagaponack and Cowfish in Hampton Bays made the cut. There was also a shoutout from host Joe House to Goldberg’s Famous Bagels. Our foodie friends, or taste buds as House would say, should definitely give it a listen.
Cyndi Murray is a reporter for Times Review Media Group, covering all things fun and engaging about our area for northforker.com and northforker magazine. Send her your feedback and story ideas at [email protected].