Hamptons Epicure: North Fork Fun – Down Low on the NoFo

North Fork vineyard
Photo: littleny/iStock/Thinkstock

Last month I took a very special tour of the North Fork (“NoFo”) of Long Island. As a South Forker, my husband and I often choose to spend time “on the Northside.” You know, Wine Country, restaurants, farms, antiquing the stuff that husbands and wives do together to avoid housework.

This particular “foodie tour” was officially sanctioned. It was the 10th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour, presented by the North Fork Reform Synogogue. It wasn’t our first time on this tour. The volunteers are friendly and the behind-the-scenes peeks into local food production are priceless. I ask a lot of questions but don’t identify myself as a food writer, so no one gets nervous. On past tours we enjoyed ourselves at Macari Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards, Koppert Cress, Catapano Dairy Farm, Krupski Farms, Sang Lee Farms, Satur Farms and Charnews Farm.

There were 20 sites on this year’s self-guided tour. Never attempt to go to 20 places in one day. We recommend three to four, so that you can relax and soak in the scenes. Proceedings began at the crack of 10 a.m., but we didn’t.

First we sidled on over to the Greenport Harbor Brewing facility in Peconic. Co-founder Rich Vandenburgh led us on a very informative tour of the brewery itself. We ordered lunch from the promisingly named North Fork Test Kitchen food truck that was parked alongside the outdoor seating area and sampled beer while we waited. Our brat, burger and bean salad were underwhelming, but the beer is worth the trip. Happily, we made it out before the local cover band performing that afternoon made use of their many speakers.

Best Foodie Moment at Greenport Harbor Brewing: a small woman standing just in front of us on the tour through the brewery stuffed her face with the milled grain used for brewing beer and chewed like her life depended on it. I guess she was out to have the “full” experience.

On to MarGene Farms in Mattituck. I’d long wanted to see this farm since I knew they had successfully grown peanuts, ginger and turmeric. I grew a pot of turmeric myself this year, but not well. What is the secret? Hoop houses. They have two big ones full of crops that they sell at farmers markets and to area chefs. Turmeric needs the extra heat.

Best Foodie Moment at MarGene Farms: buying organic potatoes and carrots from their roadside farmstand. They were a delicious part of our evening meal.

Our last exploratory stop of the day was Browder’s Birds, which is just a stone’s throw from MarGene Farms. We were too late to take their farm tour, but I’d overlooked their note to wear protective footwear anyway. I stood in their cute little shop in my flip-flops and bought fresh chicken drumsticks and a frozen chicken to roast later. (I would like to state for the record that I later used the bones to make a delicious stock, just as farmer Chris Browder insisted I must.)

Best Foodie Moment at Browder’s Bird’s: seeing the new baby farmer who’d just “sprouted.”

I considered stopping at MarGene Farms again on our way southward because co-owner Maryann Krupski told tour participants that when her hens stop laying she sends them to a retirement home. I thought to share that the Browder’s Birds model might offer a more cost effective alternative. But we headed right back to the ferry to get over to Wölffer Estate Vineyard to pick up our latest wine club package. Surely there’d be something nice to go with a chicken dinner. There was: Grapes of Roth Dry Riesling. Aah, the blending of our two glorious forks!

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