3.05.2008

A winter trip to the North Fork and Shinn Estate

Daniel and I have stayed at many B&Bs. The main draw? Breakfast! Unfortunately, our obsession with a homemade morning meal has come with a price over the years. There was that one B&B in Saratoga Springs where the owner announced that breakfast was ready by pounding on our door at 8am. Things got worse when Daniel asked for some salt during the meal and she chose to reprimand me by saying: "You know, you really need to get him off that stuff."

On our honeymoon in Hawaii , we stayed at a B&B on The Big Island where the owner grilled guests throughout breakfast about their nighttime habits by saying things such as: "So, you stayed up late last night! I noticed your light was still on at 3am!" Luckily, Daniel and I had a room that wasn't attached to the main house, so we were in the clear.

Despite all the strange scenarios we've encountered at B&Bs over the years, it's the promise of a lavish breakfast -- homemade breads, popovers, quiches, pancakes, waffles and freshly squeezed juice -- that have kept us coming back. But after a really disappointing visit to a legendary Lake George B&B this past fall where breakfast included Pillsbury dough slathered with cream cheese and our pricey room was the size of a large closet, we vowed to give up bed and breakfasts once and for all. Sure the food was usually pretty good, but we were always the oldest guests by at least 10 years and socializing with strangers first thing in the morning can be kind of weird.

But when planning a pre-baby winter getaway, I thought of the North Fork, and specifically, Shinn Estate. A 4-bedroom inn opened last year by two former Manhattan restaurateurs, Shinn only serves food that's local and organic. It sounded like our kind of place. Our friends Jeanne and Turck visited in September and gave the place rave reviews, so I figured it was worth the risk. All our B&B experiences hadn't been bizarre. We had loved this place, and this one too. And just as I had hoped, we really loved Shinn too.

The inn's four bedrooms are located in a house that dates back to the 1800s, but recent renovations have turned it into a modern, yet rustic retreat. The original hardwood floors are all beautiful, the walls on the first floor and leading up to the bedrooms are covered with this cool grass material, and the warm, cozy living room has shelves stocked with books, games and spice bottles filled with sand, a few comfy nooks, and best of all, a wood-burning stove.

Shinn is also the only North Fork inn that's located directly on a vineyard. Which explains why at 3pm each day, the owners Barbara and David leave out a bottle of their red table wine and a selection of local cheeses for guests to enjoy.

All guests are also entitled to a free sampling of five wines from Shinn Vineyard in the charming tasting room located a few steps from the main house.

Most of the rooms at Shinn are decorated with subdued, earthy tones, except for the Treehouse where we chose to stay. The walls were an intense shade of turquoise and black decorative accents made it feel sleek and sexy.

A tray with delicious homemade cookies (molasses chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin) were waiting for us when we arrived, and the bathroom was stocked with sweet-smelling organic bath products. It was thoughtful touches such as these that won me over right away.

Even the other guests were great. We met Rebecca and Andrew within minutes of our arrival and ended up spending a few hours talking with them and their friends Eric and Christine in the living room. They had come to Shinn together, leaving their kids -- they had six between the four of them -- at home. Seeing how much fun they were able to have even though they're now responsible for so many little lives, was an inspiration to both me and Daniel. Over the course of the weekend, we talked and laughed together about everything from marriage to becoming parents to city vs. suburban life to traveling to food and wine. Coincidentally, we even had reservations at the exact same restaurants Friday and Saturday night. We made sure to swap stories about the meals over breakfast in the inn's lovely dining room each morning.

And as expected, breakfast at Shinn was a real treat. To start, we were all served a delicious fresh smoothie the minute we walked in the room.

Once we were all seated the first morning, there were freshly baked orange and cranberry scones, followed by a duck egg from a local farm nestled on top of mushroom risotto with a side of smoky homemade bacon. The entire meal was clearly prepared with such care and it was nice to know that all the ingredients had come from the North Fork. It made me want to spend a week at Shinn just so I could have such a special breakfast every morning.

On Sunday, I woke up early to try the inn's homemade granola before sitting down with all the other guests for griddled banana bread and a hearty potato, zucchini and goat cheese frittata.

Other food-related highlights during the weekend included dinner at The North Fork Table and Inn, a restaurant opened by Claudia Fleming, the former pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern. The pretty salad below was one of my favorite parts of the meal.

Made with biodynamic greens, it had ever-so-thinly sliced fennel, granny smith apples and hot pink radishes and was tossed with a tangy mustard vinaigrette.

But the best part of all was definitely dessert. It was a tough choice, but with some help from our server, we finally decided on two: the coconut tapioca pudding and cinnamon sugar donuts.

The tapioca pudding was something I normally wouldn't order, but we were told it was Claudia's signature dish and after one bite, I understood why. The tapioca pearls were floating in a puddle of sweet coconut milk and plopped in the center was a scoop of tart passion fruit sorbet, perhaps the best I've ever eaten. A coconut tuile added some texture to the whole dish.

The donuts were simple, comfort food goodness. Served piping hot, they were covered with sugar and cinnamon making them delicious by themselves and even better when dipped in a decadent bowl of cinnamon cream.

Two other meals that stood out over the weekend were in Greenport, a town about 10 minutes away from the inn. The first was a light lunch at D'Latte, a cozy coffee shop.

We spent a few hours there on Saturday afternoon, enjoying big bowls of homemade soup with baguettes and butter while listening to a jolly old man play songs on his banjo. We even met a couple from Manhattan who'd recently had a baby at NYU, the same hospital where I'll be delivering. We talked with them for awhile about delivery, doulas and all sorts of other baby-related stuff. They, like our friends at the inn, got Daniel and I even more excited about our little boy's arrival in just 6 1/2 weeks!

Before finally peeling ourselves off of D'Latte's comfy couch, we split a blueberry muffin which my friend Laura had said were a must. I'm not a big muffin fan, but D'Latte's could easily convert me. They were eggy, moist and and so so good.

Our other meal in Greenport was at The Frisky Oyster, a fun spot that is known for really good seafood. It was packed when we arrived and although our waiter rushed us through the meal, I loved everything, from a chopped Brussels sprout salad with shaved parmesan and Meyer lemon dressing, to swordfish with an apricot-mustard sauce and green chili rice, to the berry crumble served in a cute red ramekin that Daniel and I split for dessert. I was surprised to see the place so packed on a cold winter night and can only imagine how popular it must be in the summer.

Over the course of the weekend, Daniel also made sure to sample a large selection of local wines. With dozens of vineyards to visit, the North Fork feels like the Napa Valley of New York. Although I couldn't have any wine aside from a sip or two here and there, I still enjoyed learning about all the different types and listening to Daniel's reactions to each one. Note to anyone planning a visit to the North Fork: bring a pregnant lady along and you'll have a designated driver! Luckily, we bought a bunch of bottles from Shinn and I'm counting down the days till I can taste them all at home.

Before heading back to Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon, Daniel and I toured Shinn's vinyeard and learned about Barbara and David's impressive biodynamic farming practices.

Not ready to go home just yet, we lingered over our last lunch at The Village Cheese Shop, a cute little spot in Mattituck that makes a mean fondue.

As we drove back to Brooklyn (in just 1 1/2 hours!), we fantasized about living year-round in the North Fork, or somewhere similarly rural and serene. Daniel even started contemplating life as a cheesemaker since David had confirmed that the area could use a few more! Who knows? Maybe some day. What I do know is that it was a truly wonderful weekend and we made sure to savor every minute of what was probably our last getaway as a twosome for a long time.

If you're looking for a relaxing, wine and food-filled getaway, I highly recommend visiting the North Fork and Shinn Estate. Just remember to book a room way in advance. They fill up very fast and once you get there, you'll understand why.

Shinn Estate
2000 Oregon Road
Mattituck, NY
631-804-0367

The North Fork Table and Inn
57225 Main Road
Southold, NY
631-765-0177

D'Latte
218 Main Street
Greenport, NY
631-477-4060

The Frisky Oyster
27 Front Street
Greenport, NY
631-477-4265

The Village Cheese Shop
105 Love Lane
Mattituck, NY
631-298-8556




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4 comments:

Jeanne Rose said...

I am so excited that you enjoyed Shinn and the North Fork. Love your comment about moving out there, I thought the same thing the first time I went out. I even told Turck we should open a farm. Me as a farmer, such a laugh.

Michae said...

Wow, I made the cut twice in a row!

I must be doing something right

mona said...

sounds great. i wanna go. question: what'd you guys do in between eating and wine tasting? Any outdoor activities?

Lia said...

Jeanne Rose: The North Fork has a way of making everyone want to be a farmer. I say we all go out there and make cheese together.

Turck: That's what you get for being such a devoted TLP supporter.

Mona: I'll admit that there isn't a ton to do aside from eating and drinking in the North Fork during the cold winter months. But that's what I liked about it.. We took some nice mid-afternoon naps, hit some antique shops (if you drive or take the ferry to Sag Harbor, ther are some really good ones there), played Scrabble back at Shinn, went for a mini hike out to a beach. Don't worry, you'll find stuff to do.

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