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!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 10. thera farms ❤️

If you find yourself cruising along Motor Parkway in Ronkonkoma, you might not realize that the residences lined so neatly next to one another possess extremely deep lots, and that one of these homes in particular boasts an extensive organic hydroponic lettuce facility, as well as zucchini and tomato gardens (and a busy little chicken coop). It's Thera Farms, run by the Bolkas family. We discovered them by accident at the Nesconset Farmer's Market (where they distinguished themselves with salad greens which were enormous, fresh and immaculate). Since then, we've been popping by the farm periodically to pick up those beautiful lettuces. Check them out, Long Island!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 9. parrish the thought.

I hope that you all are enjoying this beautiful weekend, Long Island! While we certainly could use some rain, the pleasant temperature and regular sunshine are a treat after this past winter. (Yes, I'm still going there. Suffice to say freezing cold weather and Nor-Easters will NOT make #iloveyoutoMontaukandback post. That being said...)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, having devoted two blog posts (1, 2) to it in the past. If you haven't been since they moved to the new facility, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go! (When my best friend comes to visit Long Island in a few weeks, you can bet it will be a part of the grand tour. :-)

Any tourist-y suggestions of where else I should take her? (In addition to the beach, I am thinking the Duck, some wineries that I have in mind for her preferred flavor profile, and at least one pictureqsue town on both the North and the South shores, so she can get a taste of each).

Friday, August 8, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback x coastal freebies: Day 8, theodore roosevelt.

In honor of the 26th President of the United States, New Yorker and Long Islander Theodore Roosevelt, I came up with this free printable.

If you haven't visited the Roosevelt home, Sagamore Hill, I highly recommend it! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 7. all that glitters is gold ...or garden.

The Mansions of the Gold Coast (and a few scattered throughout various other parts of Long Island) are a testament to an extraordinary wealth that created a legacy the likes of which has captured the imagination of American culture ever since, catapulting those times and places into a rich collection of novels and movies. 
Sadly, that's where preservation ends for many of these storied mansions--- in the mind and heart of our American culture. The fact that only a fraction of these palatial structures remain on the Island is in and of itself a cautionary tale: for as mighty and all-consuming as wealth can appear, it too has its expiry, its limitations.
For the properties that remain (and have been deeded to the State and other private foundations) we Long Islanders are in a uniquely privy to glimpses into that former world.

In addition to the architectual marvels (that at times dance between the careful balance of tasteful to ostentatious to obscene) there is one aspect of these mansions that is very near and dear to my heart: the properties themselves, the golden arboretums and gardens of these homes.

Here are some past Coastal Village Girl posts on some of the amazing gardens you can stroll through at your leisure. (Hint--- get an Empire Passport, and parking is FREE!)
Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River (South Shore)
Here is a North Shore garden of note that is not attached to a Gold Coast Mansion, but is very unusual indeed! (Note: As private property, there is a fee associated with attending).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 6. aw, shucks! you sure can shell it out, long island.

The abundance and freshness of the oysters and clams I've experienced since moving to Long Island has made me pinch myself numerous times. Raw bar specials are normative at many restaurants. One of my favorite local oysters, the Naked Cowboy (yes, that really is the name) is wonderfully succulent and briny. I discovered today they are farmed by the Blue Island Oyster Company in West Sayville, who ships them (as well as other local oysters I was unfamiliar with) to various metro-area restaurants. Pretty cool! I think I may create a personal oyster checklist.

With bounty also comes affordability (and how frequently does that happen on Long Island?) When we hosted the Cardinal family clambake in June, I was shocked how inexpensive the Littleneck Clams in the grocery store were (and they were indeed local).

No complaints here, Long Island! What are your favorite raw bars on the Island? Do you have a favorite  oyster?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 5. north shore beaches.

Okay I know I am going to get some dissenters with this one, but today I am honoring North Shore beaches, especially the semi-private town beaches that many of us Long Islanders are direct beneficiaries of.

I love those beautiful, pebbly shores any time of year and the dramatic cliff formations that make their home here. I love waving hello to Connecticut. I love the dynamic tidal conditions of the Nissequogue and Stony Brook Harbor, which vary throughout the day. 

Most of all, I love how quiet and peaceful North Shore beaches are (as do the shore birds I sight who, aside from seagulls, aren't too keen on excessive human interraction). Whether it's suntanning, picnicking, walking, meditating, shell-collecting or surf-casting, North Shore beaches are a little bit of heaven.
Here is a collection of my North Shore beach posts, complete with photos:
Wildwood State Park: #iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 1.
Long Beach: long island love.
Short Beach: short and sweet.
You can also "pin" the beauty of the North Shore by clicking here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 4. a convenience store in the truest sense.

In addition to marveling about population density, one of the first things I remarked to Mr. Cardinal about when I began visiting Long Island was:
"What are those cute little red barns?"

Now not only do I know better, but I too have experienced the ease of one of Long Island's most unique yet practical offerings. Formerly known to many as Dairy Barn, most of them are now "The Barn". You can find them dotted throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. The beauty of it is, you simply pull up under the carport, and someone comes to wait on you. Drive through convenience shopping! And here I thought it couldn't get any easier... or cuter...

To find the location nearest you, you can visit them online at:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 3. pizza in a new-york minute. *

(...well, almost. 180 seconds, to be more specific).

Blaze Pizza, known for their flash-fired, customizable personal pizzas has begun openings locations on Long Island. We had an opportunity to try the pies at their first restaurant, located of W. Montauk Highway in West Babylon.

If you choose to eat in, you'll be greeted by Blaze's efficient, friendly, assembly-line team, who will sauce, top and drizzle your pie as you like it (in a fashion very similar to the Mexican chain Chipotle or sandwich chain Subway). If you prefer, you can select one of Blaze's own signature combinations.

I went with the White Top Pizza, which had a white cream sauce base and was topped with roasted mozzarella, garlic, arugula, applewood bacon and oregano. Jay Cardinal came up with his own concoction, which he had no regrets about: no sauce base, gorgonzola, parmesan, zucchini, mushrooms, artichoke and red onion, with olive oil drizzle on the finish. The pizzas were really delicious---  especially the dough, which was absolutely addictive and had a nice, light char to it. My only suggestion was that they have salt, pepper and garlic powder topping condiments on hand afterward. (I personally don't think our pizzas needed anything, but this is New York, and folks here like to have those options readily available).

A word about the setting, as I think it's valuable information to anyone who comes to Blaze. The restaurant is casual dining, in the vein of a cafeteria. This makes Blaze a perfect location to kick back, especially for families with kids. That being said, if you perfect a more quiet dining environment as we do, you will pribably find the acoustics of the space too much. In this case I highly recommend going the take-out route and using Blaze's online ordering system, because these pies are not something you want to miss!

Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 2. craft brewery ❤️

Jay Cardinal and I made the long-awaited trip to Great South Bay Brewery in Bayshore, which had been on the to-do list for a while, thanks to their amazing Blood Orange Pale Ale. It was a short trip from the Sagtikos/Southern Parkway junction.

Amongst the highlights of our respective flights were the Wild and Crazy Rye (adventuresome with limited risk), the Snozberry Stout (which tasted like drinking a cigar box in the pleasantest sense of the idea, followed by a summery berry flavour that sneaks up on you) and the Maurader Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale (which was absolutely fantastic and true to its caramel tasting notes).

GSB brewmaster Rick was on the scene to serve people and share details about the beer-making process. He talked with us quite a bit and obviously takes pride in his products. As a customer, that means a lot. DH and I left the experience with a greater appreciation of GSB's offerings as well as its vision. Amidst a burgeoning craft brew economy, Great South Bay Brewery is a real keeper!

Friday, August 1, 2014

#iloveyoutoMontaukandback, day 1. state park ❤️

Yesterday Jay Cardinal and I went to the loveliest place: Wildwood State Park, not far off Sound Avenue in Wading River. I had never been, and he couldn't wait to show me. Fortunately we got still more mileage out of our Empire Passport (cough, cough--- get one friends, it's a $65 investment that more than pays for itself!)

A pretty walk down to the water (and a good, gentle workout back up the hill to your car).

It's so wonderful, watching the water open up before your very eyes and getting that first breath of salt air.

A beautiful deck to take in the sights and smells from. A gift shop, concession stand and bathrooms are close at hand in a very new looking, well-maintained building.

Unlike Sunken Meadow or Jones Beach, Wildwood was pretty quiet for a beachy state park.The few guests who were taking advantage of the water for swimming or surf casting (or simply hanging out for a sun tan) certainly had the place to themselves. I suspect the peacefulness is in part because the beach is pretty pebbly and a bit remote in terms of location.

Though the beach was very clean, there were a lot of mussels that drifted ashore. The only other inhabitants, the seagulls, were in their glory. (Can you blame them?)

Wildwood is just another reason #iloveyoutoMontaukandback, Long Island!


Long Island is a wonderful place to be year round, but there's something about summertime in particular that captures our hearts ...not only our hearts, but the hearts of the thousands upon thousands of people who come and visit here.

It's in that spirit that I am challenging myself for the first twenty-one days of August to blog every day on something I love about Long Island. I'll hashtag each day's post with #iloveyoutoMontaukandback (a play upon the old expression, "I love you to the moon and back").

Please feel free to join in! You can share what you love about Long Island with a tweet, blog post, instagram photo, etc.