48 (or so) hours on Long Island

IMG_8984Last weekend some friends and I headed down to Long Island wine country for a little mini-break. None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard good things. And even though we normally plan a bit better, this is such a busy time for all of us that we didn’t put too much thought into the trip. We booked a house but pretty much left the rest of the weekend open to hap and circumstance. I don’t know if it was because of or despite that, but we had an amazing weekend. It is an absolutely beautiful spot to spend time in, and the quality of the wine is very, very good.  And, if you’re not that into wine (um, what??) there are other things to do too–eating, shopping, antiquing, boating, swimming, bike riding, or just lounging– you name it, you can do it on the north fork of Long Island!

I’m going to tell you our story through pictures because I have like 400 of them on my phone.  I may have been a bit snap-happy. But really, you’ll see why now:

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It’s a quick ferry ride from New London and if you go in April you won’t have touble finding a seat.
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Kontokosta Winery was on the way from the ferry to our rental so we didn’t see any reason not to stop.
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I love a beautiful barn, and if there’s wine to drink inside- well then, all the better!
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Girls are headed in…
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After you!
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The tasting room had us like…
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Time to shop!
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We met a friend who insisted we pose like this.  It works.
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Cabernet Franc is a good way to start off a wine tour- and this one was fantastic. Nice view too…
Fog rolling off the water gave us this view of the barn. Didn’t want to leave, but:
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Next stop: our rental. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cottage.
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This place had everything we needed and more- plus was kinda like stepping into a West Elm catalog.
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Entry- kick those shoes off and stay awhile!
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I like it when there’s a nice bathroom. Bathrooms are important.
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My bedroom.
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Waking up here was a pleasure (well except for the massive hangover).
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First order of business, relaxing on the patio!
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Friday night we hit the town in our blazers. Didn’t mean to dress alike, but it is what it is: blazer brigade
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Cocktails at American Beech.  We felt like we were in Miami and Tina got attacked by a big palm frond.
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Might have overdone in Friday night, but couldn’t miss a beat. First stop Saturday was Croteaux, the rosé winery.  This place was seriously a little slice of heaven.
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The wine here was as lovely to drink as it was to look at.
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All day.
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Cheers to sunny days and the best of friends.
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So good. I love rosé when the sun is shining and there’s a Citroen Hvan in the background.
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We wanted to sit here but the stools were too tall.
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More ambiance at Croteaux. Would have been nice to stay all day BUT…
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More wine to try! This is Lenz.
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The tasting barn at Lenz.
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Lenz has a great old vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Really tasty! Also, their merlot is very good. I don’t usually drink merlot, but this one was pretty inspired.
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Lenz vineyard
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Lieb was next. I loved this place. It had a great low-key vibe: great staff, live music and more really good wine. Merlot again. Maybe I am a merlot drinker after all.
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Listening and tasting at Lieb
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It was too nice a day to stay inside so moved to the patio to soak up the sun and enjoy the view. Nice way to wind down the tour.
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This is Chris, our driver from North Fork Designated Driver. Best decision we made. He was super nice and we didn’t have to worry about being safe on the roads.
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We were probably really annoying.
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Saturday night we had dinner at American Beech (which was top notch) and checked out the local bar scene at Brix&Rye and Lucharitos. No pics of that (probably a good thing).  Happy to report we didn’t spend any time inside here.
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This is American Beech in the daylight. Great spot!
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I loved how the town was cute, with lots to do but not overdone or pretentious.
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Thanks for the memories Greenport! We’ll be back for sure.

Beer Culture on the South Coast

buzzards-bay-brewery1A little while ago I reminded you all how important cranberries are to the region I live in here in Massachusetts (and to the world at large of course!) Don’t worry, I’m not going to dedicate another entire post to cranberries, amazing as they are. This time I’m going to talk about something else we have going on here that’s also pretty special. It’s called beer. Not just any beer, mind you. I’m going to tell you about the exceptional beer that’s brewed right here in my own back yard (well, practically). So, hold on to your drink coasters people, this is going to be good.

It feels weird to say that one of my favorite spots to visit in southeastern Massachusetts is Buzzards Bay Brewing, in Westport. Especially considering that this region probably has some of the most beautiful, unspoiled landscape in all of New England. That’s saying something when our rivals are the lush green mountains of Vermont, the craggy coastline of Maine, the crystal lakes of New Hampshire and the – umm… pizza?  of Connecticut.  Sorry- I spaced a bit there on what CT has to offer. I know it’s lovely but mostly I just drive through it to get to New York, and usually the only place I linger is at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria in New Haven- which is a landmark in it’s own right, and the pizza is the best in the country (for real, it even says so in magazines and stuff). But anyway, here you’ll find acres of unmarred fields, miles of rocky and white sand beaches, an abundance of the aforementioned cranberry bogs, sun-dappled forests, bubbling creeks and streams, quaint hamlets and quiet harbors. It’s postcard pretty.buzzards-bay-brewing

And that’s kind of the thing with the Brewery too. You don’t just go there for the beer.  You go there because it’s a pretty sweet place to be.  It used to be a farm and the huge converted barn would be cool enough, but the grounds are really what sets it apart. Not the only thing, of course- the beer is pretty darn great too, but I’ll get to that. I want to talk about the setting first. The ambiance, if you will.

Ok, so to get there you have to drive down some pretty dang picturesque roads that take you past fields and farms and beautiful old colonial homes. Then you pull into the property and drive up this long dirt road through a huge open field. You can see the barn in the distance. And, as you get closer you can see the people mingling outside, you can hear the music playing, you can smell the tasty offerings of the Fancheezical food truck that’s always there and you get a little giddy before you even park.

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On Saturday afternoons in the summer it is hands down my favorite place to be. We bring our kids and a picnic blanket and settle in for a few good hours of relaxed fun. We wait our turn for corn hole or tether ball and we save room for a rediculously insane gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from the food truck. And of course we come thirsty! The vibe there is really awesome- totally laid back, with no attitude at all. It’s just lots of people enjoying beer and good company.

img_3144And that brings me to the beer! I was supposed to be talking about beer wasn’t I? Oh yeah!! Well, Buzzards Bay Brewing has a few that I just love. Their three staples are the Golden Flounder, the Moby D and the Buzzards Bay IPA. All delicious in their own right. And throughout the year they serve up specialty brews like my all time favorite- the Sow and Pigs. It holds a special place in my heart because some of the proceeds go directly to the Buzzards Bay Coalition an environmental non profit based in New Bedford that is doing amazing things to help protect our beautiful bay and watershed. Plus, it’s tasty stuff- a perfect light and crisp summer beer. So, if you drink Sow and Pigs, you’re helping yourself but you’re also helping save the Bay! How cool is that?

winter-in-the-brewersAnd whenever you happen to stop in (and you can all year because in colder months the party moves inside!) there will probably be some fun new brews to try. Maybe The Space Left Intentionally Blank will call to you- it’s a pale ale with an intriguing name which makes it way more interesting and fun to drink, or you could sample Lizzie’s Famous 81 Whacks India Red Ale. It’s hoppy and malty- a real killer!  But, perhaps you’ll keep it simple and just go with the Octoberfest because fancy names just aren’t your thing.  Really, you can’t go wrong.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of beer (which- um… what??!!) there is something for you. It’s called Farmers Fizz and ya’ll this stuff is yummy. It’s kind of like Prosecco- so yeah, yum. You non-beer drinkers (whoever you are) will like it.  I know it.

So, we have this pretty awesome brewery in Westport. And, in a few short months there are two – TWO!- breweries opening in New Bedford. Oh happy day! That’s honestly kind of life changing. And, it shows you that the beer culture on the South Coast is alive and well… thriving even. This is great news for all of us who live down here because we are starved for culture of any kind!  And beer culture, yep- I’ll take it!

Cranberries Are Cool

img_4907  Hey, you know what we did today?  We went to the Makepeace Farms Cranberry Harvest Festival.  And you know what else?  It was pretty darn cool.  I don’t know why I was surprised by how many people were there or by how much there was to see and do, because on the South Coast of Massachusetts cranberries are a really big deal.  Like really, really big. Like huge.

I drive by tons of cranberry bogs on my way to work.  Mostly they just look like scrubby fields full of dried up weeds and sandy dirt, but once a year they come alive in glorious bursts of reds and pinks.  When the fields are flooded and the berries rise to the surface and they start to get corralled for harvesting- well, the colors are so vibrant, so striking, so breathtakingly beautiful that you might perhaps be so impressed by the sight that you are tempted to pull over and take a few compelling photos (hey, Instagram opp!) After all, it’s not something you see every day. But, 1) you feel silly doing that and 2) you are running late because you had another hectic, whirlwind morning of trying to get four people out the door at different times and 3) you’re for once lucky enough NOT to be driving behind an 18 wheeler or a Fed Ex truck on the narrow, winding back road that makes up 80% of your commute, so you don’t.  And it’s kind of a shame because it’s sooooo pretty and it will all be gone by the time you drive home.

img_4879Did you know that the cranberry is the state berry of Massachusetts? No you didn’t!!!  Well it’s true. Not only that but cranberry is also the official state color AND cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts. If you tell me you knew all of that I might have to call you a liar.  I mean, who knows that kind of stuff?  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a state beverage. But I do now because I went to the cranberry festival!  I hope they ask this question the next time I go to Trivia Night at our local pub. Then I’ll finally be able to answer a question correctly.  Trivia is not my strong suit, but now I know something trivial! Hoorah!

Yep, we sure do love cranberries here in Massachusetts.  Yum, yum.  Actually, can I be totally honest?  I actually don’t really like cranberries. While we were waiting in line for the wagon ride to take us out on a tour the woman in front of me offered me a raw cranberry.  She had a huge cupful.  I don’t really know how she got them, because there were signs posted everywhere warning people not to go in the bogs or take the berries so I knew she couldn’t have done that, because everyone follows the rules right?  Anyway, as she asked me she was popping them in her mouth like m&ms.  Have you ever tasted a raw cranberry?  Ugh, they are the most sour, most off putting, face puckering berry imaginable. And it’s sad because they look so tasty. But it’s a trick. They are only palatable if you boil them down to jelly and add like 16 cups of sugar. I can’t imagine anything worse than eating them raw. And I always pass on the sauce at Thanksgiving (unless my mom makes it- hers is ahMAZing because it has nuts and other stuff like apples and random things so it doesn’t taste like cranberries at all).  And also, by the way, they aren’t great for making garlands for Christmas trees.  I tried that one year because I saw it on Pinterest and let me tell you, it’s really hard to get a needle and thread through those suckers. But anyway, lots of people love them, and they are a very important fruit. Obviously.

So, it’s kind of cool that we live in the cranberry capital of the world.  If it weren’t for our little corner here, Thanksgiving across the country just wouldn’t be the same. And we wouldn’t have craisins.  Oh- also something interesting I learned today- craisins have only been around for about 10 years but they are now the number #1 cranberry product sold worldwide. Craisins are made from the skins of the berries that are used to make juice. The skins used to just be thrown away, but then some genius thought- hey these dried up skins look like raisins, so let’s keep them and call them.. hmmm.. what will we call them?  Ah! I know- craisins! Because it’s a cranberry raisin! And that’s how the craisin was born.  In case you were wondering.

Perhaps you will find yourself here in southeastern Massachusetts one day in early October. If so, please do check out the festival. Or just drive by a bog or two.  I promise that you will never look at a cranberry (or a craisin) the same way.

Crock Pot Days

The only (and I do mean ONLY) good thing about the frigid Boston temps we’re currently experiencing (yep, it’s 1 degree outside right now- 1 little itty bitty degree) is that it gives me a good excuse to make nothing but soup and crock pot dinners.  The other night I made this Moroccan Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup  that even my son liked.  He normally will only eat soup if you “take out all the water.”  My daughter likes to point out that the “water” is what makes it soup, but he doesn’t care. He likes his soup dry.  But anyway… this one was a hit because the cous cous soaks up most of the broth and makes it more like a stew.  Easy and tasty to all… my kind of meal.
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Today I’m making pulled pork because we’re having some friends over for dinner and I didn’t feel like making a real meal for them.  The thought of throwing a hunk of meat into the crock pot at 7:00 am and forgetting it until they arrive tonight is very appealing. I am a lazy hostess.   Plus, my husband and kids LOVE pulled pork, so I’ll get some brownie points for making a favorite.

The only drawback to this plan was that I had to go to the butcher and order my meat. I’ve learned from experience that using butt meat is really the best cut for pulled pork.   It’s all marbled with fat, which normally would preclude me from buying it- I do TRY to be healthy…but it’s soooo freaking gooooood.  But I do have a problem ordering it.  I can’t say “can I please have two pounds of pork butt” with a straight face.  It sounds gross and it makes me laugh.  I think the butcher gets it because he smirked at me before he went to cut it and I swear he said “enjoy” with a just a hint of irony when he handed it to me.

I made the mistake of telling my kids about this encounter.  Will I never learn that you cannot say the words butt, poop, pee or anything remotely related to the toilet without having to hear about it for the next few hours? All through dinner last night my youngest kept chanting “pork butt, pork butt, pork butt.”  I’m sure the patons at the restaurant we were at thought it was a charming backdrop to their own dinner conversations.  And my daughter was horrified that we will be serving butt for dinner. She’s embarrassed by everything these days. Oh well…hopefully they’ll forget about it before everyone comes over tonight.  It’s bad enough I invited them over and then decided to put as little effort as possible into feeding them. No need to tell our friends that they’re eating butt.

Cookie Daze

I recently read this NY Times article . It warns that eating raw cookie dough is super crazy dangerous and advises you to avoid the temptation to lick fingers, bowl or spatula AT ALL POSSIBLE COSTS. It is a sickness that threatens to wipe out an entire population of bakers- both professional and amateur- AND their offspring too.  80 people were made sick by eating it last year!!! 80! This is an alarming number, people!  That means that salmonella poisoning by cookie dough happens to approximately one in every million persons who indulge in the irressitable sticky, gooey, buttery, raw- eggy awesomeness. Well, we live on the edge here at Chez B. We’re risk takers! We’re crazy!! E coli be damned!! We love raw cookie dough!