Long Island Summer, Among The Vines

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What’s love got to do with it? Everything. If you’ve traveled the world seeking the most beautiful landscapes with the most delicious foods, the most enticing wines and the most stimulating people—as I have—but you live on the East End—as I do—you will have to conclude, finally, that everything you seek is right here.

Maybe not the ultimate superlative in every category (especially if you are looking for bananas, mescal and mountain peaks) but a dynamic mix of wine, food and culture are all here, from Montauk or Orient to Riverhead.

So that does it. I love the East End best of all, and I’m staying home for the summer.

Still, there are more decisions to make: do I stay in my yard under a shady tree, sipping a dry rosé, or venture forth to some of the Long Island’s lovely locavore events? Hmmm, let’s see what’s happening.

First of all, I will absolutely venture forth to the Southampton Cultural Center’s Wednesday night “Concerts in the Park,” beginning on July 2 at 6:30 p.m. with the Lone Sharks on Coopers Beach. These concerts, and also the Monday night concerts in Greenport’s Mitchell Park beginning July 7, are the ultimate community parties. Just show up for the music, bring a picnic and plan to dance your heart out. It’s as elaborate as you want it to be, but it all revolves around wonderful vibes at a seaside setting.

I like to meet up with friends, early enough to settle in, with more than enough food and beverage to share. Usually we have bubbles, then something pink, and then something to go with whatever food we’ve brought. We might have sushi or pizza, but more often it’s fried chicken from The Salamander General Store if we’re in Greenport, or my special seafood salad made with lobster, shrimp, celery, ginger and lime on buttered, toasted buns. With North Fork Potato Chips, of course. By August, we pack Marilee Foster’s heirloom tomatoes and Goodale Farm’s goat cheese, or Mecox Bay Dairy’s Atlantic Mist cheese. When peaches and berries are in season, I bring a container of sliced fruit macerated with lemon verbena—divine!

It’s always fun to make the rounds of the tasting rooms. And if your focus is on the wines, I highly recommend a mid-week visit so you can sample your favorites without the clangor of the crowds. From Friday to Monday, I suggest you try the local foodie’s own North Fork hangout, The Winemaker Studio in Peconic and its adjacent fooderia, Provisions & Ingredients, both owned by Anthony and Sarah Napa. This winemaker/chef duo feature their own wines, plus those from several other artisanal producers of local wines, beers and spirits. With smart, friendly service, top-quality food and beverages, and off-the-beaten-track location, the Studio/Provisions has become a sanctuary for real East Enders.

When it’s live music you seek with your wine, follow the trail to those vineyards that invite visitors to spend an afternoon sipping to some sybaritic tunes. Corey Creek Winery in Jamesport is always mellow on Sundays, and so is Lieb Cellars, offering live music alternating between their two locations, Mattituck and Cutchogue. If you want to pump it up, try Sparkling Pointe Winery in Southold, a bubbles-only winery with a Brazilian theme throughout. Its owners, who dance in Rio’s Carnaval parade every winter, are bringing Carnaval here this year on Saturday, July 26, complete with dancers in feathers and a rousing drum band.

Over in Sagaponack, Wölffer Estate Vineyards has a long-standing following among locavores at its Twilight Thursdays and Sunset Fridays and Saturdays. Stop in at the winery or farm stand for free live music, wines by the glass and yummy charcuterie.

On Saturday, July 26, Wölffer will also host my favorite mid-summer event, the James Beard Society’s Chefs and Champagne New York. Honoring chef Bobby Flay this summer, the JBF has lured Manhattan’s best chefs to this super-charged extravaganza. While our local chefs are busy in their own restaurants—though a handful do manage to sneak away for this event—the chefs from the city are in a lull and they love to come beachward to hang out with each other while showcasing their favorite foods sourced right here.

We will be well into summer, with farm stands groaning under fully ripened peaches, tomatoes and zucchini, when the Lenz Winery in Peconic will host a more intimate celebration of summer, “Dinner in the Vines,” with Greenport’s star chef Noah Schwartz on August 16. Out in the vineyard, under the stars, you can capture the full essence of an East End summer.

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