August 12, 2013

On the Road: The North Fork of Long Island

I’ve been in and around New York since the 15th of July. It feels good to be home, except that I miss Ginger terribly. I even had a dream that Christopher surprised me and flew her in from England to visit all her favorite New York places with us. Wishful dreaming. Anyway, I was in the city for two weeks taking care of business, and then we spent a heavenly ten days in Southold, on the North Fork of Long Island. We have a beach house there and we are always debating selling it, because we don’t get to use it enough to justify the expenses involved. When we left for England, some friends asked if they could rent it year round, except for the 10 days they go to Maine, when we could have the house back. Pretty good deal, right? So we happily agreed and now get to be there for a good long dose right at the height of the summer, no doubt the house’s peak season.

I have always loved my time spent in Southold. The North Fork of Long Island is beautiful and real and unpretentious. It is family oriented. It is so very American. It is also surrounded by water. Being a Florida girl myself, I feel most at home in the water. And not just bobbing around in the water, but actually under the water, completely submerged. I like to grab hold of a big breath, dive down deep and just swim as far as I can until the need to exhale pulls me back up. I can do this a dozen times before getting enough of it. But unlike a Florida girl, I also really thrive in cold water, and the Long Island Sound is never too warm. Even in August, the temperature steals your breath for a few seconds as you first enter until you move around enough to get used to it.

We also have our routines in Southold that have now become tradition. Our morning run up and down the 125 lighthouse steps (our record was 14 laps this time), followed by a swim in the sound, then in the pool, then a rinse in the outdoor shower. We like a late afternoon trip to Greenport where we visit Beall and Bell, our favorite antiques shop, followed by an iced coffee or an ice cream at D’Latte, and then a ride on the carousel for the kids. And well, me too. The prospect of catching the gold ring keeps us all feeling competitive. On particularly beautiful days we might take our inner tubes down to Goldsmith’s inlet to ride down the “lazy river,” have a picnic, and buy an ice cream from the Good Humor truck. And on rainy days, we visit the Tanger Outlets and the Target store in Riverhead to stock up on clothes and school supplies, that are much less expensive here than they are in England. But probably my favorite part is gathering our friends and their children around the outdoor table for long lunches and dinners. We love our Long Island friends, and our children have known their children nearly since birth. I love a full family friendship, and there is no better time or place to hang out as such than in the summer, by the beach.

This is our beach house. It was built in 1949 by the Sardi family (yes, like the restaurant). It’s pretty rare to have a mid century, flat roof house in this area of Long Island and when we first saw it, our broker told us it was a tear down. To the contrary, we couldn’t believe our luck in finding it.
Because the house is mid-century modern, my husband completely replanted the whole garden to reflect the style of the house. We have lots of bamboo, succulents, grasses, but I insisted we keep this purple hydrangea that lives next to the pool. I love the unusual color.


I have all sorts of childhood hangovers when it comes to summer food. They are all pretty disgusting and not things I would feed my own children in normal circumstances apart from our week in Southold. Marshmallow fluff and peanut butter sandwiches, Crystal Light iced tea, Cape Cod potato chips and Duncan Hines brownies (bowl licking is mandatory, as you can see above) all bring back happy summer memories.
Our most prized beach finds from this trip. I think the shell of the baby horse shoe crab might be our best one of all time.


I like to keep everyone out of the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner, so they usually end up at the ping pong table. You can see Christopher’s competitive nature is relentless, even when playing against a 5 year old.


This is where the moms and girls hang out. The boys are way too active in the garden, on the trampoline and in the pool to sit down even for 5 minutes, but the ladies can read magazines and gab away the afternoon for hours here (especially when a bottle of rosé is involved).


I love how you can only see the sun in its reflection on the water.
A two-suit day is always a good one.


The view from the top of the lighthouse steps is the reward for the hard work in getting there.
Coco and Christopher heading back down after lap 14.
Boy action in the pool. We inherited this pool from the previous owner – it was built in the early 80’s, and we are very grateful for it because today you would never be allowed to build a pool so close to the beach. It’s a liner pool, as opposed to a gunite one, and we’ve never gotten around to rebuilding it despite our intentions. We did recently replace the liner though and the grey one we searched and searched for – and finally found! –  made the water such a beautifully subtle grey/blue color, as opposed to the bright, tacky turquoise the former (and more standard) blue liner created. Just wanted to pass along my discovery, in case you have a liner pool.


Greenport is a wonderful town. It’s not at all fancy or uber tasteful, like the Hamptons, but its very authentic. Starbucks opened there and closed down within two years because everyone refused to give up the local coffee shops. It has great history, fantastic restaurants, a few good shops and lots of fun for every age.


I love to sit on the deck at Scrimhaw’s and watch boats sail around Shelter Island while having dinner.


The new taqueria in Greenport – good Margherita’s.


Summer fruit at Briermere Farm.
When we went to Long Island more regularly, we used to rush out from the city to make it to Briermere before closing so we could stock up on fruits, vegetables, and most importantly,  pies for the weekend on the way out. If you get there at a popular time, you may have to wait on line for a pie, but it’s worth it. I promise you its the only place you’ll wait on line on the whole North Fork.
This is the prize possession of the whole summer – a peach/blueberry cream pie from Briermere. We spend the winter dreaming about these things.


Sometimes before starting dinner prep, I sneak down to the sound on my own for one last swim. I often get lucky at this time of day and have the whole beach to myself.
There is no kitchen I love cooking in more than in Southold. It’s pretty much a beach shack kitchen (although we finally replaced the 1970’s GE stove this year with a new Viking one), but the view of the sunsets makes cooking pleasurable no matter how many people you have to feed.


The unspoiled view on the way into Orient, a nearby town.


Orient is no doubt the prettiest town on the North Fork, and it’s also the most remote. We have lots of friends in Orient, and on this night some friends invited us to join them for dinner in the town hall, where the former chef of Prune in New York, was cooking dinner on the occasional Saturday during the summer in advance of opening his own restaurant in the city this fall.


Our town hall dinner served by pop-up restaurant Houseman’s. It was fantastic.
With my girlfriend Amy at dinner in Orient. We have lots in common – we are avid North Forkers, we work in fashion, we are devoted moms of two children, and we both have husbands named Chris. We can chat for hours and hours on end, and often do.


Visiting Goldsmith’s Inlet is a win/win for the me and for the kids. They run around independently making new friends and eating ice cream, and I chill out. Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from being at home. Our house is like a commune, and I love having lots of people over, but occasionally its great to not be looking after anyone but myself.


Coco, enjoying the chance to wear something other than a school uniform and riding clothes.



The sunset on our last night in Southold was the most insane of all, and it reminded the kids of the Lion King poster.



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ellen wexler
6 years 7 months ago

We also have a mid century house with pool in Southold- but built it recently ourselves. Add to the fave list: dancing in the dark barefoot at Monday night concerts at Mitchell park, gelato that Frank makes, coffee and biscotti on sunday mornings at Aldo's.
SHHH… um's the word

7 years 5 months ago

I miss your posts

7 years 6 months ago

cannot believe I just discovered your beautiful blog–have been a huge fan since 2009. These photographs are heavenly!
Question: do you have any plans to add tags to sort topics by post…? would love to see it organized that way…

Mioara Roncea
7 years 6 months ago

It all looks so lovely. And those hydrangeas… I cannot get enough of these flowers. I hope my terrace could host a few next spring.
Thank you, Amanda.



7 years 6 months ago

I wouldn't sell it either.