By Gwendolen Groocock
Are you into fresh and local? When you travel, do you seek out high-quality, handmade treats and farm-grown goodies that capture the essence of the region? There are so many amazing places in Greenport Village to shop, dine or just enjoy the sea breeze and watch the fishing boats pass by, and, of course, we’re surrounded by gorgeous sandy beaches, farm stands piled high with fresh vegetables, and all the music and fun at the world-class wineries. But there’s more! This incredible synergy of land and sea has given rise to a new breed of passionate, enthusiastic artisans who grow, catch or create unique food products of the highest quality, right here on the East End. But many such items are in very limited production, from farms and kitchens tucked away in the countryside. Unless you know where to look, they can be hard to find.
Here’s an insider’s guide that will start you on your search:
It might seem counterintuitive to start online, but check out Farm 2 Kitchen Long Island (farm2kitchenlongisland.com). This market delivery service is just over a year old, but it’s grown fast. Kassata and Scott Bollman, a young couple who live on the North Fork, have sourced a wide variety of East End and regional foods and products, and among them are treasures like micro-greens from Koppert Cress, which is closed to the public but supplies the best restaurants on the Eastern Seaboard. There’s also Cristoforo Biscotti from a small North Fork bakery, cheese from Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton, and fresh organic juices from The Giving Room in Southold.
“We feel like we’ve created a real community with Farm 2 Kitchen,” said Kassata Bollman. “Our customers know that when they email, they’re talking to me. I am personally in touch with the local farmers and producers all the time. It’s amazing how it’s all come together.”
There’s more from this talented pair. If you saved a day at the beach in a jar, you might end up with something like North Fork Sea Salt. Scott Bollman hand-harvests salt by collecting seawater and evaporating it over a fire, and then finishing the drying process in the open air and sunshine. He describes the result as “delicate, shiny flakes of Nature.” Natural additives like herbs and lavender create variations on the theme. Find the salts at Bruce’s Café in Greenport or at northforkseasaltco.com.
If you’re looking for a day-out destination that also offers quality edibles, you’ll find the best all-organic farm-grown veggies and more at Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market on Sound Ave. in Northville. Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht and her husband Chris Walbrecht are seriously committed to their healthy family lifestyle, and they have created a down-to-earth, kid-friendly place that’s full of fun and educational attractions, including a large playground and pedal-car track. If you want your little guys to pet a chicken, meet a sheep, and just run around in the fresh air and sunshine, this is the place to go. There’s even a made-to-order café at the back of the market area, and plenty of picnic tables outside. Garden of Eve also has a popular annual garlic festival, where they host an array of visiting producers of garlic fare, along with live music and more. It’s a must on the foodie calendar! gardenofevefarm.com
Driving around the North Fork these days, it’s hard to miss the fact that livestock is returning to the land. Sheep, poultry, goats, hogs and even cattle are being raised for meat, dairy and fiber. One unique new stop on the foodie trail is 8 Hands Farm on Cox’s Lane in Cutchogue. This Icelandic sheep farm is a source for the finest pastured lamb, sheep milk foods and beauty products, and even adorable hand-felted toys made of wool from the resident sheep. In the barn market, owners Tom Geppel and Carol Festa also carry a well-curated selection of local fare, products and crafts. Bonus: the North Fork Table food truck is there serving breakfast every Saturday morning! Find 8 Hands Farm on Facebook.
Another couple working the land is Chris and Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds. They both left successful careers in New York City to become chicken farmers, and now raise pasture-fed broilers and laying hens on a green swathe of farmland in Mattituck. The chickens live in specially designed moving coops, giving the birds access to fresh grass and bugs all the time. Their manure enriches the soil, which improves the grass, and when the coops come back to their starting point, there’s a lush new stand of grass just waiting for them. It’s an incredible system, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Browder’s chickens and eggs are of the very highest quality. Fans include acclaimed restaurateur/chef Tom Colicchio, who serves Browder’s at his Bridgehampton restaurant, Topping Rose. The Browder’s farm stand is open in season; go to browdersbirds.com.
Chevre, or goat’s cheese, is something best enjoyed when it’s just made - creamy and sweet, with just a hint of tang. Catapano Dairy Farm on Rt. 48 in Peconic consistently wins top national awards for its fresh chevre and other styles of cheese, like the delicate, blue-veined Peconic Mist. Farmer Karen Catapano also makes a line of goat’s milk skin and beauty products, such as the Luxury Bar soap with silk amino acids and shea butter. catapanodairyfarm.com
Some farmers aren’t looking for a whole lot of attention, but are so passionate about what they do and grow to such high standards that they get noticed anyway. Stephanie Gaylor at Invincible Summer Farms grows a truly astonishing diversity of rare, unique and endangered herbs and veggies, with a big focus on tomatoes. The farm offers over 350 varieties of tomato seeds, seedlings and produce, including Orange Chatham beefsteak and Gapan Native cherry. All that aside, Invincible Summer’s primary mission is to preserve biodiversity by maintaining a seed bank of over 6,000 varieties and collaborating with grower and breeders around the world. Find the farm stand on Horton’s Lane in Southold, or go to invinciblesummerfarm.com.
Garden Fusion just off Rt. 25 in East Marion is another great source for more than 250 kinds of local-grown, unique and organic herbs and vegetables, including over a dozen types of basil, like Purple Ruffles, and dozens of salad greens including chicory and escarole. They also have a useful line of deer-resistant lavenders and other annual and perennial garden plants. thegardenfusion.com
Oysterponds Farm is another little enterprise worth searching for. Blink and you’ll miss the farm stand as you drive on Rt. 25 towards Orient Point. Tom and Jill Stevenson grow incredibly juicy, plump berries on their 10-acre farm. The raspberries and blackberries are huge! This is one of only a few places where you will find such variety, but it can be hit or miss, because the competition is fierce. Basically, the public gets whatever is left after local chefs from the better restaurants, like Claudia Fleming of The North Fork Table & Inn, snap up their share every mornings before the dew is dry. Oysterponds Farm also makes its own line of jams in red, black and golden raspberry, strawberry and blackberry. oysterpondsfarm.com.
The Peconic Bay, LI Sound and the Atlantic Ocean around the East End are prime fishing grounds, and are known for striped bass, bluefish, blackfish, porgies, eel, flounder, blowfish and fluke. There’s also a wealth of shellfish including wild-caught hard and soft-shell clams, sea scallops, the smaller and sweeter Peconic Bay scallop, oysters grown in the clean flow of the tidal waters at a great number of local oyster farms, and even that fleeting summer delicacy, the blue-claw crab. Lobsters, alas, are no longer to be found in numbers large enough to market. Many fish markets rely heavily on product from out of the area, but Southold Fish Market really stands out for its incredibly strong connection to the local waters. Super-fresh catch arrives every day off the fishing boats that ply the local waters – this is the place to find the real deal. Owner Charlie Manwaring personally knows everyone out there working the waters, and gets first dibs on the best stuff. He also does a line of fresh-made prepared food perfect for a picnic lunch. On Rt. 25 near Port of Egypt.
There are many more incredible local edibles, but making your own discoveries is part of the fun. Just get out there and be adventurous, and you’ll be a true local foodie in no time!