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(Credit: Michelina da Fonte)

The North Fork Foodie Tour is a dependable September treat, offering a fascinating look into farms and food-related businesses. This past weekend, our team explored the 17th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour and learned about flowers, spirits, alpacas and more.

North Fork Flower Farm

This tour led by North Fork Flower Farm co-owner Drianne Benner took us on a meandering walk through lush fields on their 24 acres of farmland in Southold. On our way, we were met by stunning flowers (many uncommon), herbs, and grasses. We were surprised to see silver dollar eucalyptus — a plant typically grown in tropical climatic areas. Drianne told us they have successfully grown it most years except for last year when there was a widespread eucalyptus seed shortage. After the gardens tour, the group headed into the hoop house where co-owner Charles was focusing on florals and grasses to be dried and arranged. Drianne mentioned that they hope to convert one of the barns into a space to host workshops in the future.

Matchbook Distilling Co.

Small batch, big operation. It was clear as distiller Scott D’Antonio took us on a comprehensive tour of this Greenport operation that despite the small, bespoke runs of spirits this group is known for, production is no easy feat. With tanks, barrels, hoses and more, the distillery is constantly in various states of whipping up magic. After the tour, we were treated to a tasting of Daytrip Blueberry Amaro, made with New Jersey blueberries, a housemade syrup made with Cornflakes (yes, the cereal!) and Madagascar vanilla beans to give it a blueberry pie taste.

Red Barn Farm

Did you know that alpacas, native to South America, are ancient animals that have been regally respected for their fibers for thousands of years? Donna Yakaboski of Red Barn Farm has been raising these majestic animals since 2005. She talked tour attendees through the process of the alpaca fibers from shearing to knit. But, this herd has had an impact that goes beyond their coats by offering their presence in Zoom sessions as a way to spread joy during Covid. Now, the farm, which also is home to two rescue mini ponies, as well as a flock of hens and a rooster, hosts many small-scale festivals throughout the year including local vendors, artisans, wellness professionals, and more. 

North Fork Roasting Co.

North Fork Roasting Co. in Southold is known for its “seed-to-cup” approach to coffee. We were given a good look at the coffee roastery as well as some of the “green beans” that are used. In roasting, green beans are actually the raw seeds of coffee cherries that have been processed to be roasted. We also got a sample of the luscious end product, a piping hot, aromatic black coffee.

Disset Chocolate

A chocolate sampling and creative outlet in one tour stop? Sign us up! At Disset Chocolate foodies were invited to taste five different offerings, and to be honest, they were all so delectable that it was hard to choose a favorite. It was interesting to learn that the sea salt in the dark chocolate bark is locally sourced in Orient, and owner Ursula VXII didn’t lie when she said that her chocolate-covered rice crispy treats tasted nothing like ones you’d find in a store. But the most surprising takeaway from our time there was in regards to her “discard cookies.” She told us that the exact ingredients in these sweet treats change every week based on other creations that didn’t quite work exactly how she planned are then tossed into the cookie batter. She also mentioned, with a serious yet playful laugh, that the way to know if she’s had a bad week is to see how many cookies there are at the shop — the more cookies, the more challenging the week. In addition, to the tasty treats, tour attendees were also invited to sign their name on a chocolate canvas which would be raffled off by taking a photo of the art, posting it to Instagram and tagging #dissetchocolate. If you missed out on this experience, head to their site to see when the next chocolate painting workshop will be hosted.

Charnews Farm Talk: Peconic Bay scallops by Harrison Tobi

(Photo Credit: Lee Meyer)

No Foodie Tour would be complete without an interesting discussion. This year, we sat down at Charnews Farm in Southold for an interesting lecture on Peconic Bay scallops, led by Harrison Tobi, an aquaculture specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Tobi discussed CCE’s ongoing efforts to replenish the scallops in Peconic Bay and offered up some interesting facts, including a possible reason for the scallop die-off — a parasite that was identified in 2019 known to kill the young scallops. The discovery of the parasite, which doesn’t pose a threat to humans or affect the edibility of the scallop should it survive, could help CCE find a way to help bring scallops back to Peconic Bay.