By Tracy Weiss (@northforkd)
Last weekend, I attempted to show my persnickety midwestern parents the glory that is the North Fork of Long Island. But given their track record, I was a little nervous.
They find fault in every place they visit:
- New York City is busy, overpriced and filthy with too many people. (Exactly why other people love it!)
- Chicago is too windy. (Hence the nickname?)
- Florida, the whole state, is humid and everyone drives too slowly. (I’m with them on this one.)
As far as I am concerned, the North Fork is perfection. My first visit left me with impressions of Napa, the charm of the Cape, shoreline beauty rivaling Maine’s coast with some of that Outer Banks friendliness. But better. I had to live there. Wonderful adventures to be had that close to Manhattan seemed too good to be true.
But in my parents' critical eyes, how would the North Fork measure up? I offer a breakdown of their experience:
Funny enough, Dad was incredibly impressed with the box stores in Riverhead. He expected our out-of-the-way home to be outfitted with discarded wine barrels (I wish), over-sized gourds for chairs with any other goods imported from New York City’s Bed Bath and Beyond. He was pleasantly surprised by the proximity of the chains. Mom went crazy at the idea of a Pottery Barn Outlet at Tanger. Her seat belt kept her restrained.
Preston’s in Greenport was a big hit with my father. A long-time fan of all things nautical, he poured over maps and considered adding to his Sperry Top-Sider collection. For a man without a boat, we wandered for quite some time as he explained the inner workings of a tide clocks.
Mom and I made for Material Objects in Jamesport. We strolled around the beautiful old barn and navigated through visitors to Sherwood House Vineyards. She loved the charmingly distressed wood pieces and upholstery, while I longed to make several lamps and glass items mine. I’m hoping she’ll return for a pair of candlesticks for my housewarming gift.
Mom, are you reading this?
Dining with my parents is not always easy. They are not adventurous eaters and shun anything out of their comfort zone. There are many rules one must follow:
- No meal can last longer than one hour.
- Chicken in some form must be available.
- There shall be no “weird” food.
- Must not be overpriced.
Therefore, our dinner at Luce & Hawkins never happened because mom feared it would break at least one of the rules. Too bad for them, but more bao dumplings for me.
Luckily, they are big fans of breakfast. Cutchogue Diner was the perfect place for them. Any meal served in a silver air stream straight out of the 1950s is four-star. Our friendly waitress put a coffee IV directly into my mother's veins while Dad ran around the restaurant reading up on the history of the place. They got their eggs exactly how they want them — fast.
They were equally at home at Love Lane Kitchen. The breakfast sandwich was dismissed as a “delicious, but an East Coast invention”, however the pancakes — blueberry and original — were voted “the best ever.” Sadly, the special boards were updated with pumpkin pancakes as we finished. My pleas for another round were denied.
Dinner was at the Elbow Room — our new family tradition. My mother loved the marinated steaks and portions large enough for breakfast leftovers. Dad made friends with the staff, especially after there were no judgments on his dinner order — chicken fingers.
North Fork Table and Inn’s Lunch Truck started a near-riot as we fought over Claudia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. You’d think we’d be more docile after a round of their delicious and filling sandwiches.
We took advantage of the seafood to go service at Braun’s. After a terrible incident (Mom’s mesquite swordfish experiment,) our family needs no longer fear the fish after sampling their grilled swordfish. One Woman Vineyards' 2010 Gruner Veltiner followed by McCall Wine's 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir (which paired surprisingly well with candy corn) complemented the meal.
More importantly, we purchased my father a Braun’s t-shirt. He’ll be teaching friends how to correctly pronounce Cutchogue for years to come.
Orient Point Lighthouse and the surrounding beach made a huge impact. My mother, an avid rock hoarder, found more treasures than she could physically carry. Dad and I watched the ferries come in and out of the sound with autumn wind on our faces.
Open container laws mean I should not confirm or deny that we shared a bottle of Shinn Estate Vineyard’s 2008 Wild Boar Doe. But if we did, all enjoyed the wine and the tongue-in-cheek name. A perfect North Fork moment.
All in all, they loved the open sky and farmland of the North Fork. The fresh air and locavore nature appealed to them, enough that I’ve convinced them to come back for next year’s Thanksgiving.
Mom and Dad said it all when they exclaimed, “It’s like you’d never know it was 90 miles from New York City." And for my parents, that’s the biggest compliment in the world.
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