For Miss Ciao’s 29th birthday (again), we visited The Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast on Depot Lane in Cutchogue, open for about a year. Since it was my 29th birthday (heh heh…again) we wanted to check it out before booking, but I had a good feeling about it. After all, there were baby chicks, a horse, dog and a kitty on the property. Right off the bat the animal lover in me was hooked. It also helped that the website did a good job in conveying the beauty of the property and rooms. In Suite 1, there’s a real fireplace complete with log – not one of those lame stoves you plug into a wall advertised as authentic (a gripe from a bad B & B experience a year before).
Shortly after we settled in, co-owners Joyce and Robert Barry sat and chatted with us in the cozy living room and we learned all about the property’s fascinating history and transformation. I listened intently, flipped through before-and-after photos and munched on chocolate chip cookies Joyce had just baked. With her background in interior design and construction, she was able to take what was a broken-down house built in 1865 and realize a spectacular version of the home that stands there today. Together, the husband and wife team flipped it from the ground up, totally refurbishing it and reinventing themselves as B & B owners.
Their hard work is evident. The Farmhouse is a warm and comfortable home filled with special touches and antiques. Each pristine and lovely room spares no detail. It’s pleasing to know that anything that could be salvaged from its previous incarnation was used in the new construction, including the bricks from the former fireplace that now serve as a spectacular radiant-heated kitchen floor. The plank wood floors are also original.
You know how in some B & B’s you don’t feel quite so at ease? Not here. This duo couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming, full of friendly smiles, good humor (Bob often refers to himself as “George the handyman”) and useful tips to make our stay as pleasant as possible. At their recommendation, we checked out Braun Seafood for a casual counter lunch, a quick convenient walk from The Farmhouse.
The spacious grounds are lovely, offering a pasture and chicken coop coming this summer. Movies are shown on the barn wall in warmer months and a popcorn machine is rolled out. Breakfast was scrumptious. Everything was made from scratch, using local ingredients wherever possible. We were served homemade muffins (a thoughtful candle was put in mine), a poached pear with honey, walnuts, Greek yogurt and a touch of cinnamon, and finally, a spinach and potato strata with chicken sausage and slices of fresh tomato. Coffee and tea are always available, and if you’re feeling snackish there are plenty of treats on hand. I loved this place and am sure to return…perhaps on my 29th birthday (again) next year!
On Saturday, May 7th, I had the privilege to be a part of a panel of esteemed judges at a Master Chef Challenge that took place at Water’s Crest Vineyard in Cutchogue. The cook-off was between two Top Chefs on Long Island, Tom Schaudel and Tom Fazio. The goal for each? To best match a dish to the vineyard’s new release – a 2010 rosé, a bright, clean, quaffable wine that kicked some serious grape skin.
Master Chef Andrea Glick and Palmer Vineyard’s Winemaker Miguel Martin and I judged the Challenge with over 50 attendees who got to sample each Chef’s dish along with us. Tom Schaudel, Executive Chef/Owner of Coolfish in Syosset, A Mano in Mattituck and more, presented the hungry crowd with several small plates: a sweet, spicy seared tuna ablaze with red and yellow peppers atop black forbidden rice dressed with grilled pineapple salsa, then pork done two ways: one slice was hand-cured and smoky, the other a flavorful, lean loin. Tom S. also served a fantastic grilled olive oil lemon cake with pickled strawberries for dessert.
Talented Tom Fazio, chef/owner of The Kitchen by Waterside Caterers in Northport, made an outstanding wine braised Long Island duck leg prepared with cinnamon, garlic, thyme, shallots, butter and drizzled with cold peach soup and blackberry sauce. A zesty, creamy, goat cheese, lemon citronette and basil water asparagus side dish almost knocked out my decorative hairpin. This invigorating accompaniment paired beautifully with the lively rosé.
Our main objective was to choose the Chef that best paired their main dish with the rosé. If we had to judge just on sheer deliciousness this would have been a far more difficult task. Ultimately, Tom S. prevailed with his choices of light, yet sweet and spicy pork and tuna. His rationale? To emulate a summer picnic. Tom F. chose a heavier dish to illustrate that rosé can stand up to anything. It was an overall bold maneuver that worked, just a tad less than the pork and fish according to us Judges.
Of course, I had a lot of fun announcing the winner as just “Tom.” I eventually followed it up with “Schaudel.” But in reality, they were both winners in not just the food, but also on feigning rivalry and surpassing hilarity. Both Chefs poured tons of creative energy and hard work for this event.
In between, vineyard owner Jim Waters talked a bit about his winemaking process, as did fellow winemaker/judge Miguel Martin. The audience got to ask lots of questions and give their own comments on how the food paired with the 2010 rosé. Afterward, guests were treated to a wonderful three course dinner at A Mano, each paired with Water’s Crest wines. What a fantastic afternoon. Do not miss the next cook-off event!
Photos are courtesy of Roxanne Browning from Exotic Chocolate Tasting in Northport, NY.
One of my favorite things to do is visit the North Fork of Long Island. I fell in love with the region about 12 years ago when pumpkin picking during harvest season. Fall was in the air, along with the smell of roasted corn, Briermere’s pies and festive music coming from Palmer Vineyards. The strum of banjos beckoned our group inside.
I remember sitting on the deck that day with glass of wine in hand, listening to sweet harmonies while I gazed out on the perfectly placed rows of plump red and white grapes. While the sun warmed my face I thought, “Does it get any better than this?” Actually, it did. The only thing that was missing was baguettes and cheese. So, on my next visit to the NOFO, I loaded up on goodies from the Village Cheese Shop in Cutchogue on Love Lane prior to vineyard hopping. I explored the area more and more each time I went out, and there was always more to see.
Some years after I took a job writing for the Long Island Wine Gazette, and I discovered more vineyards, met important winemakers and covered some monumental vineyard events. I began to learn all about the wine making process. And I tasted a lot of wine because that’s the only way to learn each grape’s distinct characteristics. It takes lots of practice, but I’m willing to devote even more time on the NOFO and continue to taste, taste, taste. Ah, the sacrifices we make for love…