Wine, beer, cider, liquor: I love to taste them all. But there are other types of tastings on offer on the North Fork. Unlike wineries and breweries, there’s no charge for these tastings, but you are expected to buy something in the process. Don’t be greedy! Try a few, and then choose a product to purchase.
Here are four places where you can try before you buy, two in Mattituck and two in Greenport.
The Magic Fountain
Ice cream! The Magic Fountain is a landmark in Mattituck, on the corner of Factory Lane and Main Road. Check the big sign for the latest special flavors…and they are special. For example, in March they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness-flavored ice cream, which was surprisingly good. The harvest of local fruits brings flavors including them, plus there are always plenty of other varieties. How to choose? Ask for a sample of a couple that intrigue you before you decide on a cup or a cone, or a pint to take home. Yum.
The Village Cheese Shop
Love Lane in Mattituck is a foodie paradise, as I’ve noted before, featuring a couple of restaurants, the Sweet Shoppe, Lombardi’s Italian market, and, my favorite, the Village Cheese Shop. I’ve never bought an imperfect cheese from them. The array of cheeses in the glass fronted case can be a bit intimidating, but the people behind the counter are always very helpful. You can tell them what you like and they will find cheeses for you. Not sure if you’ll like something? They are very ready to offer a sliver or a smear for a taste. Just recently, I asked for a creamy blue, moderately strong, and was immediately offered a taste of a gorgonzola that was exactly that. You can pick up a loaf of bread from Tom Cat bakery or some crackers to go with your cheese, as well as charcuterie and other accoutrements. They also offer lunch, including fondue, with wine.
Vines and Branches
If you’re not used to tasting olive oil and vinegar, this can seem a bit odd at first. By now, we’re old hands, having followed the store to three different locations in the village of Greenport. At the moment, it is on Front Street, near the corner of Main. When you walk in you will see an array of large metal urns, fronted by small bottles of each variety, all clearly labeled, with tiny paper cups for sampling. Pour a very small amount from the glass bottle into the cup and take a sip. The olive oils range from pure oils from various countries to oils infused with flavors from truffle to lemon and more. Similarly, there are vinegars from dark to white balsamic to wine, flavored with everything from pomegranates to maple syrup to herbs or spices. We no longer buy salad dressing, but simply add our current choice of oil and vinegar to our salads, plus some salt and pepper. Save and clean the bottles (I find they need several trips through the dishwasher.) and they will refill them, saving you $2 per bottle.
We ventured into this store for the first time recently, and were glad we did. The u-shaped counter is lined with sample bottles of hot sauces, ranging in heat from mild to get-out-the-fire-hose. The proprietor was very helpful, as we pondered over the panoply, offering us tastes on a little spoon. He noted that none of his offerings are widely distributed, and if they become so he stops offering them, so you will definitely find unique sauces here. For example, he makes one sauce that is only available in his store, and also the sauces for Lucharita, the excellent Mexican restaurant next door. We’ll be back!