Gustavson Column: Pleased to be back on the North Fork

A farmer plows a field near Sparkling Pointe Vineyard. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)
A farmer plows a field near Sparkling Pointe Vineyard. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. And so it was as the former Joan Giger Walker and I returned to the North Fork this week after an absence of several months: Fondness abides by the bucketful for this home of ours of nearly 40 years.

How shall I count the ways? Breakfast with our grandchildren at the incomparable Cutchogue Diner? Or, just around the corner in Cutchogue, two relaxed rounds of par-3 golf at the reconstituted (under new ownership!) Cedars course? Only on Long Island’s North Fork, literally.

Then, of course, there were the fundamentals: reunions with family and friends, without whom there would be no “home” here. The comfort levels and sense of belonging were instantaneous, as if we’d been absent a day or two, not a month or two.

And beyond the basics there were the small delights that make this a singularly unique place. Like the drive down New Suffolk Avenue between New Suffolk and Mattituck (and back). Is there a lovelier stretch of road hereabouts? (Yes, perhaps, and we had occasion to traverse two of them this past weekend: Narrow River Road in Orient and Soundview Avenue [the so-called “Humpty Dumpty Road”] between Southold and Peconic.)

Two other highly positive experiences over the weekend related to two disparate North Fork institutions: Eastern Long Island Hospital and Sparkling Pointe vineyard in Southold. A complicated confluence of circumstances quickly became uncomplicated due to the user-friendly, small-town attitude at ELIH, a resource we are so very fortunate to have in our community; and, due to the generosity of good friends, we had an opportunity to taste Sparkling Pointe’s delicious 2009 Blanc de Blancs méthod champenoise. It’s quite pricey at $42 a bottle, but so mmm, mmm, good.

Not even the one remotely sour note of the weekend — an encounter with a herd of 11 fat, happy and apparently voracious deer in a neighbor’s yard — could undo the good feelings generated by our return to the North Fork. And even that downer was shortly thereafter trumped by a sunset stroll along a secluded stretch of beach between the south end of Narrow River Road and Peter’s Neck, Orient.

Orient Harbor at sunset. Now that’s what I call a homecoming.

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