Wednesday, July 24, 2013

in perfect harmony.

Like many Long Island adventures, our expedition to Harmony Vineyards began with a harmless, unassuming Googling session. Situated in Head of the Harbor (Town of Smithtown), Harmony may make the distinction of being LI's most westerly vineyard, as well as the only one that boasts waterfront property. The retired inventor who owns the winery had the tasting room ---a house from the 1690's--- transported to its current location along the Nissequoque. It's gradually being restored to suit its new purpose. The proceeds of the wine that Harmony sells go to charities such as Island Harvest.

Aesthetics and charitable aims dutifully noted, we also really enjoyed their wines, particularly the Chardonnays. The '07 Chard had a wonderfully peppery quality (that ended up being well-suited to an amazing slow-grilled Chilean Sea Bass the DH made later that evening :) while the '10 Chard was ballsy, with apple and citrus. Regarding the Reds, the '06 Blend had a definite sour cherry thing going on, and Jay Cardinal particularly enjoyed the hint of vanilla to the nose. The '08 Blend was earthy yet accessible even to someone who might not gravitate toward red wine.

The folks at Harmony were very cool about customers enjoying the grounds, so we respectfully took in the beauties of the Nissequoque and the vineyard.

For a new winery, there is a lot of promise here. All in all, a delightful visit. So--- what pleasant new finds have you come across on the Island?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

blame the heat wave.

How are you holding up with this crazy heat, Long Island?

After finishing an involved and rewarding work project in mid-July (with a nice long break now ahead of me) my dearest Jay Cardinal treated us to a few days in the Finger Lakes. We thought we'd escape the heat (fail) but the countryside beauty, intense hiking, dry Rieslings ---and most importantly, the company--- more than made up for it. :) Suffice to say when we returned late last Wednesday evening to Pond House it was 96 degrees inside. Literally.

(Now I'm catching up on belated blog entries, slowly but surely.) There is a fantastic little winery that I can't wait to share with you, an unassuming little place where you can get a remarkable massage, and a pet sitter par excellence... All right here in Town of Smithtown!

Stay cool, Long Island--- keep hydrated and work that SPF!

    Lake Seneca loveliness

    Austere beauty (and hiking) at Watkin's Glen

    Adorable mascot at a Finger Lakes Winery--- I'm a sucker for Labs (and wonderfully dry Rieslings).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"joe sent me" and more.

Jay Cardinal and I have dubbed this summer "Summer of the Mini-Vacation and the Staycation". In part it was a financial consideration of how we could get the most fun for our buck. On the other hand they were also many places locally that we wanted to visit (people pay good money to vacation in LI, after all!). We also simply like spending time here at Pond House, watching chicken antics, observing the invariable diversity of songbirds and shorebirds in our area and taking advantage of all the pond amenities.

After scouring the Internet I stumbled upon the website of the Long Island Heritage Trail, which was full of resources. We settled on the "Joe Sent Me" North Shore driving itinerary themed around the 1920s era and Prohibition. Before that we made a quick non-stalker-ish drive past the "Miracle on 34th St." house as well as visit to Roslyn Cemetery, where my favorite author Frances Hodgson Burnett is interred.

Many of the stops along the "joe sent me" itinerary are the surviving Gold Coast mansions of 1910's and 1920's. Having been already to Sagamore Hill, we settled upon Coe Hall and Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. For a very modest $3.50, you can explore this mansion, aTudor revival rife with every display of opulence imaginable (whether that was in good taste or not--- but hey, those were the days!) It was a fascinating visit.

Afterwords we strolled about the Arboretum which was positively transportive.

Formidable greenhouses.

Unaffected summer beauty could be found all around in hydrangeas which flourished throughout the property.

The gardens were absolutely lovely.

We concluded with a walk through this peculiar coniferous tree cultivated to grow like a trellised tunnel. Made for an interesting valediction!

After concluding our visit to Coe Hall and Planting Fields Arboretum, we meandered along 25a through Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington Viilage, reading the Heritage Trail's tales of Prohibition intrigue along the way. DH and I also stopped at Finnegan's, a lively Huntington pub with a rich history of as a former speakeasy. Being so close to The Crushed Olive and Crumbs Bakery, we concluded our adventure in a not-so-historical vein and partook of some of the delights there. (Well, I did anyway. :-)

By the way I wholeheartedly encourage Long Islanders to consider purchasing an Empire Passport for their vehicle. For $65, it grants you access to all New York State Parks as well as other some other recreation and historic areas. (While it's true that some of our beaches are still in the process of recovery since Sandy, there are many things to take advantage of like Planting Fields, as well as parks and beaches in the various tourist regions of New York. Do you have an Empire Passport? What are your favorite NYS parks to take advantage of, Long Island?

Friday, July 5, 2013

smithtown love: sweetbriar nature center + callahan beach.

Strategizing our fleeting moments of sunshine last weekend, Jay Cardinal and I made up our minds to at last take advantage of two Smithtown beauties--- Sweetbriar Nature Center, a very special wildlife rehabilitation organization and Callahan Beach, one of our town beaches.

Sweetbriar is a must see for a number of reasons--- on an educational level, it informs the community about being ecologically minded and empowers them about how to properly help distressed wildlife. 

Then, a purely aesthetic level, there's the Butterfly Room (which at two dollars a head is one of the cheapest and most whimsical dates around.)

Callahan Beach, located off 25a in Fort Salonga, had a singular quality amongst Smithtown beaches. For one, it's situated at an elevation and provides an interesting view of the Sound. Like the other Smithtown beaches, it was pretty quiet and remote--- which is ths coastal village girl's idea of a beachy retreat. ;)

bejeweled in melville.

Jewel on Urbanspoon

Wanting to get the long Fourth of July weekend started off right, Jay Cardinal and I met a dear friend on Wednesday night for dinner at Jewel Restaurant. A Tom Schaudel offering situated in a contemporary office building in the Huntington Quandrangle, Jewel was a true gem. With spacious seating, an airy modern decor, and beautiful window walls which did not betray proximity to 495 and 110, we felt instantly at ease, never cramped nor overwhelmed by acoustics during the dinner rush. Our meals matched the precedent set by Jewel's atmosphere--- clean, well-thought out, unfussy yet memorable. My husband and our friend had the crabcake with winter squash, apples and cider glace as an appetizer, and they simply loved it. Upon recommendation from our server, our friend had the catfish dinner (which she was also impressed with). Trusting her recommendations further, our friend had the "pistachio" dessert and was equally impressed. DH went with the Millionaires' Pizza sans egg, which he liked very much but declared a hair too salty. For dessert he had the "banana" and said it was amazing, except for the actual banana slices. For an appetizer I had some beautifully briny oysters, and for dinner I had a soft shell crab special over a beautiful strawberry salad--- What a perfect taste of summer! The Whip Gew├╝rztraminer played nicely both of with my selections. For dessert I went with the "berry"--- the cake featured lovely lavender overtones. (All of the desserts featured multiple elements, some of which were more appealing than others.) As witness above, our server advised well about the menu, but she could've been a little anticipatory with the drinks. Overall Jewel glistened, and we hope to re-create that experience again soon.

Crab cake with winter squash, apples and cider glaze

Shellfish love


eatMOSAIC on Urbanspoon

Fueled by the desire for a proper tasting menu and appreciative of the quiet of northerly St. James during dinner hours, Jay Cardinal and I made a trip to Mosaic to see what their seasonal and rotating fare was all about. Each course in the five-course tasting menu was delightful (a summer soup, a play upon Thanksgiving turkey course, deconstructed cookies--- the works!) and also quite affordable. The bread was exceptional, especially the raisin fennel semolina. The resstaurant itself was intimate (in the way that the now sadly closed Soigne of Hewlett was intimate) and the crowd, discreet. Wine list was fair and could've featured a few better bottles for those who wanted something to meet the gravitas and sense of adventure of the chef's culinary creations. Waitstaff was very knowledgeable and friendly, but they could've been more anticipatory terms of their service (particularly refilling water). A bang for the tasting menu buck, and a definite repeat.