The Cooperage Inn has always embraced its location in the heart of wine country. The very name embraces winemaking (a cooperage is a place where barrels and casks are made), and the restaurant’s setting is an idyllic reminder of the beauty and bounty of Long Island’s farmland. On a fall or winter afternoon, this cozy, comfortable restaurant is the perfect place to take a respite from the elements.
But this time of year, the Inn converts to something livelier. Every weekend in October, Baiting Hollow’s Cooperage Inn becomes a spirited place to enjoy the fall weather, with its all-encompassing fall festival. Beginning at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, the festival is a roiling appreciation of fall, and all the great things that come with it. That means roasted corn, served hot; a host of fall-specific beers, served on tap; live music; and festive decorations, all against the backdrop of the great outdoors.
In addition to that roasted corn, the Inn is serving up bratwurst with German sauerkraut, chicken pot pie, potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce, clam chowder, crab cake sandwiches, barbecued chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fries, hot dogs, Buffalo hot wings, pumpkin bread, jumbo smoked turkey drumsticks, cheeseburgers, and more.
In the drinks department, the Cooperage Inn celebrates its fall festival with beer, and lots of it. A selection of imported and local craft beers is available on tap, both in 16-ounce servings and 58-ounce pitchers. The restaurant also serves domestic, craft, and imported craft beers in cans, as well as 64-ounce growlers of beer to go ($36). Refills on those growlers are available for $30. Non-beer lovers can enjoy hot spiced apple cider with spiced rum, hot spiced apple cider with apple schnapps, non-alcoholic hot apple cider, and non-alcoholic cold apple cider, in addition to select wines and premium spirits.
The fun, of course, does not end with the food. The weekends-long festival will also provide plenty of entertainment for young kids. Face-painting, pumpkin-painting, pony rides, and a hay playground make this outdoor haven the perfect place to while away a sunny (or cloudy) autumn afternoon.
Enjoy a rotating roster of live bands, whose music always draws a considerable crowd. The large outdoor area includes a beer tent and lots of great seating spots, including a prime location in front of a fire pit, for those cool, crisp autumn afternoons.
If you’re still hungry after night has fallen (and after the festival has officially concluded), find your way indoors, where the autumnal atmosphere persists. Overstuffed baked clams — served with bacon, onions, celery, and garlic butter — are a cool night winner, as is the epic French onion soup, which arrives with a molten cap of mozzarella. Eggplant fries, which come with a tomato dipping sauce, are a revelation, as is the smoked salt and pepper sweet potato. That potato, stuffed with a roasted corn and tomato relish and studded with guacamole and smoked gouda, makes you wonder why you aren’t eating more of this orange tuber.
For entrees, there is much to crow about, too, including a semi-boneless duckling, stuffed with dried fruit and burnished with an apricot-orange glaze. A 24-ounce cowboy rib-eye (bone in) is sure to please the meat eater in the family. For $39, it feels like one of eastern Long Island’s best deals.
And those pot pies? They’re famous. White and dark meat chicken, carrots, celery, corn, peas, and potatoes comingle in a sherry-based sauce, all of which is lidded with a perfect puck of puff pastry. If the festival has you too full to take a crack at one, never fear. You can bring them home, too. An individual fresh-frozen pie will set you back $15, while the family-sized version goes for $48. Come for the festival, stay for the pot pie. It’s an autumn ritual you won’t soon forget.