Sunday, October 19, 2014

a bit of ingenuiTEA, part one. *

My penchant for hot caffeinated beverages being no secret, I'm always scouting out serious purveyors of tea on (and off) the Island. In fact, during our honeymoon in Quebec a few years back, we happened upon a wonderful tea shop in Montreal called David's Tea. How cyclic (and felicitous!) that this Canada-based shop would later come to open branches in the U.S, with one of their most recent locations being at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to meet with Erika and the team at the Roosevelt Field David's Tea, to deepen my appreciation and knowledge of tea and experience the unique offerings there.

First up were the samplers, which rotate on a daily basis.  The Cinnamon Rooibos Chai was a beautifully balanced: rich in autumnal spices, and at the same time approachable and calming. The presence of cinnamon provided a pleasant zing that made additional sweetening unnecessary. Afterwards, I tried the Earl's Garden. While I do not gravitate towards perfumed black teas, the Earl's Garden had a strikingly voluminous nose. Lovers of bergamot, this one is for you!

Next, Erika introduced me to the Kenyan Tinderet, a delightful black tea which I was not familiar with. The finely chopped leaves (which resembled coffee grinds) experience an early-onset oxidation process that contributes to the robust nature of this tea. Smooth, round and buttery, with a mild astringency on the finish, it called for a splash of milk.

My tasting concluded with a Forever Nuts Tea Latte. I asked Erika to pick a solid, introductory blend she might recommend to someone who was new to tea and not sure where to start. Though I've been drinking tea my whole life, the intense flavorfulness of that latte still haunts me days later. An herbal tea comprised of almonds, apples, cinnamon and beetroot (for coloring), Forever Nuts would make a great stand-alone tea. In the context of the latte base, however, it became truly exceptional. Suffice to say, I will be finding excuses to make the trek out to David's for this latte as much as possible.

Thanks again to Erika and everyone at David's Tea for their graciousness and generosity!

(While this post was primarily focused on the tastings, I was so floored with the innovative in-house designs of the tea accessories that there will be a second post dedicated to those. Form, function and a bit of whimsy can really enhance one's tea-drinking experience!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

coastal village star: professional paws

Professional Paws 
Post Office Box 37
Nesconset, NY 11767
(Cell) 516-225-3501

If we have late nights at work or decided to slip away for a few days, there has to be someone to tuck in our feathered friends, change their water and food, and lock up Fort Knox.

It was serendipitous that Jay found Kimberly, a professional dog trainer and pet sitter who offers her services through her Professional Paws company.

Kimberly is a responsive communicator. She is thorough in providing her services, enthusiastic with animals, and charges a very reasonable fee. We highly recommend Kimberly of Professional Paws for your pet-care needs! You can read more about her and Professional Paws by visiting the website.

goodbye, summer. hello, autumn!

Hello there, Long Island! It's been a while.

I hope everyone is settling into the equilibrium of the new season. New traffic patterns (ugh to that one); new foci (mostly great). I am awestruck and tremendously proud of what Jay Cardinal has been up to lately in his rewarding and meaningful career; between joyfully picking up the slack at Pond House, my own work schedule, and helping my parents, however, that hasn't left much time for blogging. Still, I try to find moments here and there to pause, relax, and reflect.

Give yourself the gift of culture with a little trip to Stony Brook University.
After finishing work on Thursday, I took advantage of the free reception and grand re-opening of the art gallery at the Charles B. Wang Center. My first impression of the campus: park-like and well-organized. It was easy securing a spot in the garage right across from the Center in the middle of rush hour.

The Charles B. Wang Center

Inside I was greeted by a whimsical culinary interpretation of Mao's Golden Mangoes by SBU's own chef, Paolo Fontana. (Yes, they have a chef). Marinated beef skewers in mango salsa, crostini with mango chutney and numerous other delights awaited as guests, students and professors mingled with the artists. The gallery's director spoke briefly, after which everyone began perusing the first collection of the new academic year. The gallery, by the way, is free and open to the public. Note: Parent discretion is advised when visiting the current collection. Several contemporary works, which are a profound testament to social activism, address topics which may not be appropriate for children. Visit the Center's website for more information.

Interior pond and courtyard

The Wang Center offers numerous courses, special events and theatrical productions in addition to its art gallery. If music is more your thing, Stony Brook's music department is well-respected. If nailing down or affording a ticket to see the Emerson Quartet is a luxury, undoubtedly you find the myriad of regular graduate student solo recitals to be both affordable and stirring.

Enjoy some beauty and peace of mind at Avalon Park and Preserve.
I had forgotten about the beautiful gated walk which snakes around the pond across from Stony Brook's Historic Grist Mill. For my fellow nature-lovers who have found their encounters with the ticks and Poison Ivy that is endemic to this area highly overrated, walking along the planked path with numerous stopping points and beautiful vistas is a worry-free treat. It's also well taken care of, making it great for seniors or others who prefer a gentle walk. 

I spotted a black-crowned night heron munching on muck but couldn't get close enough to take a proper shot.

For those who want to little more adventure, a dirt path continues past the planks. 

Avalon also offers yoga and mindfulness classes and retreats at various times throughout the week. You can find out more online by visiting .

Revel in a solid weekend brunch at Toast in Port Jefferson...
Perhaps it's because it's so far up on the North Shore (or perhaps it's because we came five minutes after they open on Saturday morning) but we were surprised to get a seat at Toast, which arguably offers one of the best brunch on Long Island. Jay Cardinal, ever the iced coffee snob, was very impressed with his signature morning drink, and of all things, gluten-free, coconut-milk soaked French toast. The sausage was a delectable distant cousin to foie gras. One nice feature at Toast is how they offer short stacks of any type of pancake. I went with a short stack of the sweet potato pancakes with honey butter, which had a wonderful toasted, not overtly sweet quality. My sage grapefruit Bellini was good--- again, not to sugary, but rather dreamily herbaceous.

Toast Coffeehouse & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

...or an exceptional pizza at Grana in Jamesport.
This weekend's East End excursion included a take-out pie from Grana. We were astounded by the fig, carmelized onion, aged mozzarella and gorgonzola cream pizza. (Add the Duroc Pork Sausage--- you won't regret it!) Grana has a handle on the char of their crust: it is both well-integrated and a driving force. They're a bit pricey, but less than $30 for dinner out East is not bad in my book.

Grana Wood-Fired Pizza Napolitano on Urbanspoon

De-stress wherever your Long Island journeys take you.
Whether you are riding the LIRR into the city for work, taking a moment to reflect at home or a local park, or looking for a meaningful way to kill time waiting at a doctor's office, Stop Breathe & Think is a great free meditation app for iDevices. (There's nothing particularly Long Island-y about this app. I just like it because 1) it's free, 2) you can track your progress, and 3) it can travel with you anywhere).

Whether you have five minutes or five hours, I hope this gave you some ideas and inspiration for present-tense appreciation a midst a busy back-to-school routine and the ephemeral season of Autumn that is nearly upon us!

What are your simple pleasures these days, Long Islanders? Any suggestions?

Friday, August 29, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback: Collected Days 17-21

Day 17: Montauk

There are a few places that I know of with such generous sky and sweeping beauty as Montauk. Sometimes described as the "un-Hamptons" of the South Fork, there is a raw, uncomplicated feeling to the area (even with the booming summertime tourist industry).

My first blog post on Montauk can be found here. Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of revisiting the area with a dear friend from out of state, and we took a lengthy walk along the beach (which we had to ourselves... :-)

Day 18: The Big Duck

Cultural stalwart and bit of entrpenuerial creativity on the part of 1930's duck farmers, The Big Duck now resides in Flanders off Route 24. A part of the Suffolk County Parks, the Duck has become quintessential location for a Long Island summertime selfie. They even have a gift shop, so you can proudly display your love of this beloved oddity wherever you go.
Check out the bilco doors.

Day 19: Long Island is "For the Birds"

One of the things I dearly love about living here is the great convergence of songbird and shorebird populations. On any given day, I can look out my kitchen window and see cardinals, bluejays, numerous varieties of sparrows and finches, catbirds, cowbirds, mourning doves, warblers, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches and tufted titmice in the yard. A further glance over the pond or a short trip to the beach or river affords the viewing pleasure of egrets, herons, cormorants, kingfishers, osprey, terns and plover. We are by no means professional birders. Here's the thing, though: once you start noticing birds, it's actually really hard to stop. You can't. Noticing these little slips of natural beauty about five years ago became something of the catalyst for us. Since then, we have spent much of our free time dedicated to acknowledging the beauty of our local natural wonders, through road trips and hikes.

Cormorants and seagulls enjoying the sun at Montauk State Park.

I'm almost positive these were the punks who splashed sand on my yoga mat in Nissequogue.

There's a fantastic list of Long Island birds by this website that can help you in the identfication process.
If you're up for a bit of wintery and educational family fun that can make a difference for orinthology research, sign up for the Backyard Bird Count run in part by the Cornell Orinthology Lab.

Day 20: The Wine Stand of Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Braving the informal Montauk Highway offering of Wolffer Estates on a warm weekend is not for the faint of heart. (Valet parking is just the start of it.) Weekdays, on the other hand, are a perfect opportunity to take advantage of their vineyard-side, bucolic tasting environment. Don't skip the 2013 White Table Wine: the beautifully sweet nose deceives an otherwise dry, zesty romp with a meyer lemon.

Day 21: France Hodgson Burnett

One of the stranger discoveries made during my time on Long Island was that the much beloved children's author lived (and is interred) here. If you visit the old Greenvale cemetery on Route 25, both she and her one son are buried there, and there is a statue in effigy of the other son. The other week I came across an old New York Times article that suggests the beauty of the North Shore (where Burnett lived) may have influenced The Secret Garden more than we know. The quote, imposed over a picture of roses from Planting Fields, suggests a worldview that I try my best to blog from. Long Island is our beautiful garden to cultivate, celebrate and love.

Happy summer, Long Island. I hope it's been kind to you, and here's to many beautiful things to come this autumn.

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback update.

Whew! It's been a while, LI! I hope everyone has safe and happy travels wherever your Labor Day weekend adventures take you. While I had every intention of keeping up with the blog posts, I've been fighting some illness and figured that keeping up with my personal 21-day challenge through the Twitter account was the best way to honor everything. Thanks for your patience.

This long weekend I'll be wrapping up #iloveyoutoMontaukandback, posting a restaurant re-review that's sure to provide a delightful (and cheap!) burger quick-fix and sharing some new Coastal Cheap & Chic for back-to-school.

Definitely on the mend now and looking forward to A LOT of other exciting things as the unofficial end of summer wraps up. (Who else loves the sweet spot of September, when the population normalizes but it's still warm enough outside to enjoy all the summertime delights?)

Nissequogue beauty

Monday, August 18, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback: Collected Days 12-16

Hello, Long Island! I hope you are doing all right in spite of that crazy flood we had last week. It's so sad to hear that the South Shore got clobbered again, after dealing with Sandy. Given a little basement drama and a few other complications last week, I decided to tweet my challenge responses everyday and reserve the next blog post as a collection of several days. (I'll be doing the same thing for Days 17-21).

Keeping the challenge going has been just that ---a challenge--- but it's been very rewarding, too. Writing and reflecting, I feel a deeper appreciation all the time for what I love about our special place!

Day 12: Sweetbriar Nature Center

Sweetbriar Nature Center is very special little space tucked off a quiet road in Smithtown. In addition to their extensive wild animal rehabilitation services and educational programs to area schools, the Center boasts a miraculous Butterfly House. You can read more about Sweetbriar and the Butterfly House at one of my blog posts from last summer by clicking here.

Many a time has this wonderful vessel saved us the trouble of driving through the city (most especially, the Bronx) on our journeys northward. While it's a little pricey, I hope you'll agree that for the gas, tolls, wear-and-tear on the vehicle (and yourself) it's ultimately worth it if you live further out east. It's a very pleasant 75-minute ride across the Sound. Our strategy is to tag-team it: one of us immediately gets on line, while the other finds choice seats with a view. Advance reservations are easily done, strongly recommended, and bring a lot of peace of mind.

Day 14: Long Island Growers Market

Scattered throughout Long Island and representing just about every day of the week are the Long Island Growers Markets, a collection of farmers markets that serve our various communities. The produce and products available, from kale to soap to sea robin, are all purveyed by our local farmers, artisans and fish mongers. To find a Growers Market in your neighborhood, visit their website. (They also have a nifty search feature where you can look up markets by the days of the week that they are offered.) Recently I picked up some beautiful purple peppers at Mays' Farm booth. They made a wonderful, antioxidant-rich contribution to Mr. Cardinal's recent Spinach, Feta and Vermouth Turkey Sausage dish.

Day 15: Walt Whitman. This is an #iloveyoutoMontaukandback x Coastal Freebie, featuring the immortal words of poet and Long Islander Walt Whitman. 

Day 16: Port Jefferson Village

Port Jefferson is a picturesque, hopping little town, and a place that has an "all things to all people" vibe. You'll see couples having a romantic evening out, travellers taking advantage of the Ferry, a vibrant biker subculture, foodies reveling in the fine dining, wine, cheese and cigar tastings, and families indulging at the Frigate or watching the Ferry dock.

Plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and quaint architecture.
The hold grail of sweet indulgences, the Frigate.
A pretty town park open to the public. It's located between the ferry lot and Danforth's. You can admire the boats in the harbor or watch the ferry come in as you relish your ice cream cone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, Day 11. St. James General Store

Did you know that Long Island is home to the oldest continually operating general store in the country? If you find yourself in the area and scratching for an old fashioned candy or soft drink, pop on by and step back into a different era. If Long Island history is up your alley, the St. James General Store also boasts a large selection of books on the subject. There are plenty of good holiday gifts here--- toys for kids, home decor, and of course, a wide selection of treats for the sweet tooth in your life!