North Fork, the Road Less Traveled
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Excerpt from The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost
For years I would mindlessly drive to the Hamptons through incredible amounts of traffic and turn South at Manorville (Exit 70) heading towards the South Fork, never even considering the North Fork. Admittedly the weekends are short and I had places to go and people to see, but the Hamptons (for me) never included the North Fork. However, in recent years, I have made up for lost time and explored it far and wide. It all started with a Monday at the end of August about ten years ago with my wife for her birthday. Since then, it has become an annual trip for us which we can't wait for every year.
The reason for this post is that I am still surprised/amazed by how many people I know have never been to the North Fork! Today the Find heads to the North Fork for the perfect day(s) --- while none of these FINDS are particularly obscure, they are all worth the rave reviews AND I am simply imploring you to step away from the Palm, Nick and Toni's and Wolffer Fridays and take the road less traveled!
If you are coming from the South Fork, this classic spot is a short ride from the North Ferry (from Shelter Island). They do meat and cheese particularly well, but everything that comes out of the kitchen is unusually tasty. Start the day/adventure with a world class Bloody Mary adorned with large pieces of sweet bacon; do not use this as a reason to skip their unbelievable Brown Sugar Bacon side, which doubles as a dessert. Then choose from breakfast classics including Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Avocado Toast, or even an egg sandwich; all are done with locally sourced ingredients (farms everywhere!) and done extremely well. This is the perfect base to begin your day.
If you are coming from the West or meandering on the North Fork Wine Trail, you may consider breakfast/lunch at this classic. It was taken over by new ownership over four years ago and has been brought back to true form of delivering light, locally sourced fare. In fact, they are the recipient of the Snail of Approval for adopting the standards of the slow food movement, including spreading the word about the health, economic, and environmental advantages of eating locally and seasonally. The lunch menu includes a variety of excellent salads, paninis, lobster rolls and more summertime comfort foods..
Undeniably the best restaurant in the Hamptons (3-time James Beard nominee), North Fork Table & Wine has been serving amazing food for over a decade. Last Fall, one of the founders and executive chef Jerry Hayden succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease, but the quality and attention to detail from the restaurant continues. The menu is designed around the foods and flavors from Long Island, all locally sourced and seasonal. Last time I was there, I had the Green Chickpea Hummus, Truffled Macaroni and Cheese, Tuna Tartare, and Grass-Fed Beef --- all notable and delicious! Mr. Hayden is survived by his wife Claudia Fleming who continues to be the pastry chef and is responsible for some amazing creations. Of course the wine menu is very local and it will give you an opportunity to put your newly found knowledge on the wine trail. If you don't have time for a full blown meal, at least hit the North Fork Food Truck between 11:30 and 3:30 in the parking lot. Best part, with your bill you are given cookies to go (perfect to bring home to your South Fork friends).
Briermere Farms - Dessert (House Gift)
4414 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901
Briermere advances the concept of farm to table in so far as they have a farm and they sell things ready for your table. The produce is as good as it gets. Furthermore, when you begin to make pies with that produce, the result is off the charts! Since they no longer have a wholesale business, you can only get these pies at the farm. Basically there are fruit pies and cream pies (typically with fruit). The fruit pies are exploding with fresh fruit and the crust is nearly perfect. The cream pies are where it's at (at least for me) the perfect whipped cream bursting with fresh fruit on top --- I am partial to the strawberry & blueberry cream. There's no words to explain it, just go and pig the F out (excuse my French)!
North Fork Wine Trail - Everything in between
The reason there is amazing foods in the North Fork is that there are amazing farms. The reason there are amazing farms is that there is incredible soil and temperature conditions. Then it stands to reason that this area is perfect for grape growing & wine making! Why travel all the way to Napa Valley or Tuscany or elsewhere when there are incredible wines & plenty of tasting rooms right here! This would be sufficient reason to head to the North Fork for the day/afternoon. You may want to get a driver, but you also have the ability to do the tastings responsibly and sip & spit. Below I have recommended three of my favorites, but feel free to dig a little deeper! The rules and guidelines are pretty simple, leave your dog, the kids, or whoever else at home and come as a couple or (very) small group (some wineries restrict groups). Enjoy!
This is a relatively new winery (opened in 2013 by two brothers) with rustic modern architecture and stunning views of the Long Island Sound. Head to the tasting room where you can taste some fabulous wines including their Rose and Sauvignon Blanc. You will feel like you have been transported to the West Coast, and it is only a short ride from the ferry in Greenport.
This Winery is also is part owned by the same award winning folks at Bedell (they are friends for full disclosure). They have created what I will call the Brooklyn vibe with a very casual and cool seating and picnic area for the tastings. More importantly, they have the Twilight Series with live music from 5-9PM on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with a $5 cover. And, if that wasn't enough, they have (maestro please) FOOD TRUCKS!
This is one of the nicest, most quaint spots on the trail. If you close/squint your eyes (or drink a lot), you feel like you have been transported to the French countryside as you pass through the retail shop into the garden. Here, they only make Rose (only vineyard in the US), the perfect (only) wine for the Summer! A little Provence + a little artsy bohemian edge = tres chic!