02/03/13 11:00am

Sarah Benjamin is the new director of Community Action of Southold Town.

After two and a half years of service, Linda Ortiz is stepping down as director of Community Action of Southold Town, which provides a number of services for the town’s neediest residents.

In her place, the anti-poverty organization has appointed Sarah Benjamin of Greenport, who had worked for Eastern Suffolk BOCES for more than a decade.

“Ms. Ortiz is heading in a different direction, but we are lucky to have Sarah Benjamin as our new director,” said CAST president Denis Noncarrow. “She knows a ton of people from different organizations, so she’ll be improving our cross-group communication to coordinate with other agencies and ensure we aren’t duplicating services.”

Ms. Benjamin, who stepped into the director’s position this month, said she is looking forward to collaborating with other agencies and to continuing existing services, such as keeping the CAST food pantry stocked.

She said she’s also interested in raising money to provide new services, such as early literacy programs for children.

Ms. Benjamin said her background in education, which includes teaching at private preschools in Southold, led to her desire to offer educational programming for parents as part of CAST’s mission.

“My feeling is that the two goals we have at CAST are to help families in need become self-sufficient, while on the other hand providing a safety net for those families,” Ms. Benjamin said. “Education is helpful for self-sufficiency. One long-term goal I have is to raise money to provide programming for parents who have young children. 90 percent of a child’s brain develops within the first three years of their life and most people don’t know that. It’s incredibly important for parents to work, play and communicate with their children during their early years and to help them get ready to go to school.”

Ms. Benjamin said making the most of a child’s formative years increases a child’s chance of succeeding in school and completing their high school education, and that science and research have shown this is important for a child’s success and independence.

“76 percent of people in prison don’t have a high school degree,” she said. “It really matters.”

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02/02/13 10:00am
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO  |  Papo Vazquez, left, with Willie Williams on saxophone at Raphael Vineyards during last year's Winterfest.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Papo Vazquez, left, with Willie Williams on saxophone at Raphael Vineyards during last year’s Winterfest.

It’s that time of year again when visitors from across the Northeast flock to Long Island Wine Country for Winterfest Jazz on the Vine.

The six-weekend jazz-and-wine celebration kicked off Jan. 25 with a media event and party at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, with shows booked at select winery tasting rooms Feb. 9 and 10. The festival runs through the weekend of March 16 and 17.

Now in its sixth year, Winterfest has helped the local wine region evolve from a seasonal tourist attraction to a year-round getaway, boosting business at local hotels, restaurants and B&Bs, area businesspeople say.

RELATED: Complete series schedule for Jazz on Vine 2013

In addition to attracting visitors to tasting rooms during traditionally slow months, Winterfest has proved a factor in the North Fork’s recognition as a top wine destination, said Rob Salvatico of the Hotel Indigo. “It used to be that roughly after Thanksgiving you could shut your doors until mid- to late April or May,” Mr. Salvatico said. “Now the weekends are rocking from Valentine’s straight through Saint Patrick’s Day. There’s a lull during Passover and Easter, but then it starts to pick right back up again.”

Mr. Salvatico said from a revenue perspective the numbers Winterfest brings to the region are enough to transform a winter Saturday to a summer Saturday, and last year’s event brought nearly 10,000 visitors to the North Fork over the six weeks.

“Jazz on the Vine is the theme of Long Island Winterfest,” he said, “I don’t think they intended for it to always be jazz, but it was so popular that it’s become a fixture. If you’re a jazz enthusiast, this is going to become a destination for your yearly jazz jaunts.”

He said the popularity of Winterfest hit a new high in 2012 for it’s fifth year anniversary, when Hotel Indigo held a kickoff showcase event for the first time in their ballroom, and supper-style events throughout the six weeks.

“On Saturday nights the musicians would come back to the Hotel Indigo and have jazz jam sessions in our bistro and it was so popular we had to turn people away,” he said. “Every weekend was just wild.”

This year’s event shows no signs of slowing down, according to the president of the Long Island Wine Council trade group, Ron Goerler.

“We have the most acts ever this year,” Mr. Goerler said. “We chose 72 acts to perform at 30 wineries over six weeks. We had 250 people apply to play during Jazz on the Vine this year, so that shows just how much it’s growing.”

Mr. Goerler said the region used to get money from Suffolk County and New York State to fund the festival, but wineries had to charge cover fees for events after grants began drying up.

But that didn’t stop people from visiting, he said.

“Last year we had a record 7,500 people come out for the event and with the region being named [by Wine Enthusiast magazine] one of the top four wine regions in the world to visit in 2013, I’m looking forward to seeing how many people come out this year,” Mr. Goerler said.

The event brought people from as far south as Philadelphia and as far north as upper Westchester and Connecticut, along with folks from New York City and New Jersey, according to Mr. Salvatico, who said Winterfest has “without question” been part of Hotel Indigo’s success through 2012.

“Winterfest actually gave birth to our having live music on Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “We do that throughout the year now. Anyone can play Muzak all day, but having live music a couple times a week adds an air of elegance and style to the facility. It’s an amenity for our guests and a draw for people locally to come have dinner with us.”

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01/31/13 6:00pm

MardiGras

The Mardi Gras party planned for Feb. 9 to help promote business in Greenport village during its slower season was cancelled, according to event organizer Rena Wilhelm, who also owns the White Weathered Barn on Front Street.

“I just couldn’t sell the tickets,” Ms. Wilhelm said. “There were people online saying they were going, but nobody was buying the tickets and I couldn’t risk it. I needed to sell at least a 100 and there were only 13.”

Proceeds from the event would have benefitted the North Fork Education Initiative, which creates educational programs and opportunities that focus on the arts, environment and community, according to the event’s blog.

“It was a great idea, I just needed help and a little more collaboration, but it wasn’t happening,” Ms. Wilhelm said. “I’m disappointed more people didn’t get involved, but I’m also relieved because I was taking it on all myself. This was the point to get excited about something, but I only had three of the same merchants get involved that tend to volunteer for everything and I couldn’t get anyone to post it to their Facebook or share it. It’s sad because the village has a real potential for greatness.”

She said she’d already lost a couple hundred dollars preparing for the event before decorations even came into play.

“I would have love to have it next year,” she said. “I think if I had more people helping and the costs involved weren’t as high as they were it would become a really successful event.”

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01/30/13 8:00am

Moustache

The Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which plans to open soon next to West Main Street’s Digger O’Dell’s pub, may not be the new kid on the block for very long.

Moustache Brewing Company, the brainchild of Central Islip couple Matt and Lauri Spitz, went from a pipe — or rather, barrel — dream to a dream all but realized after a successful kick-starter campaign brought in more than $30,000 in startup capital this past spring, the owners said.

“We’re excited and of course a bit nervous because this is all brand-new territory for us” said Matt Spitz, whose moustache matches the company’s handle-barred logo. “We plan to start small with a one-barrel brew system and build things up over the next few years, as far as the volume of our production goes.”

This is the couple’s first business venture. Mr. Spitz is a musician who plays bass guitar in a reggae band. Ms. Spitz is a health information manager for a medical practice.

Moustache Brewing has leased a commercial building on Hallett Street in Polish Town, which they plan to use mostly for production. Mr. Spitz isn’t expecting a lot of walk-in traffic.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO  |  Co-owner Mike Spitz stands in front of the future site of Moustache Brewery in Riverhead's Polish Town on Tuesday afternoon.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Co-owner Matt Spitz stands in front of the future site of Moustache Brewery in Riverhead’s Polish Town on Tuesday afternoon.

“There won’t be a bar or a fancy tasting room,” he said. “We’ll just have some taps on the wall where people can get samples or growlers and go.”

Lauri Spitz said signing the lease on Saturday brought an exhausting search to an end.

“We’ve been looking for a place since June of last year,” she said. “So it’s really exciting to have found a home.”

The Spitzes, who have been married for over five years and home-brewing for eight, originally wanted to build their brewery in Nassau County, which Mr. Spitz said currently has only one brewery. He cited Riverhead Town’s enthusiasm for their proposed venture as a reason for landing on the North Fork.

“They were one of the only towns to welcome us with open arms,” said Mr. Spitz. “A lot of the towns we talked to weren’t sure what to do with a brewery, but the town of Riverhead has been great.”

Riverhead’s first brewery, the Long Ireland Beer Company, not only welcomes the new business but has also helped the first-time entrepreneurs.

“When we heard they were considering coming to Riverhead we directed them to a few possible locations,” said Greg Martin, Long Ireland co-owner. “We don’t see them as competition. We want Riverhead to become a destination for craft beer. Look at the wineries. People will come out here and hit multiple wineries during their visits.”

The addition of Moustache Brewery will bring the number of breweries in a half-mile radius to three.

“There’s us and Long Ireland, and then Digger’s and Crooked Ladder are on their way to building a brew pub,” said Mr. Spitz. “It’s going to be fantastic.”

The owners hope the new brewery will open by the end of this summer.

“That would be optimal,” he said.

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01/29/13 1:00pm
GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO  |  Joe Pagano, Jr. has seen plenty of familiar faces at the new Southold location for Pagano's Pizza.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Joe Pagano Jr. has seen plenty of familiar faces at the new Southold location for Pagano’s Pizza.

As Joe Pagano Jr. settles into his new location on Route 48 in Southold, he can’t help but notice the familiar faces streaming into the pizza shop.

“It’s good to be back,” said Mr. Pagano, the owner of Pagano’s, which was formerly Cheesy Charlie’s Pizzeria. “When people come in to say hello and find out what happened, I tell them, ‘I told you I’d make it back. It just took me longer than expected.’ People see the sign and say they thought we moved to Greenport.”

Mr. Pagano’s father, Joseph, still operates That Little Italian Place in Greenport, where he moved the business from Main Street in Southold three years ago.

The younger Pagano joined his father in Greenport, biding his time until he could secure another Southold location with help from the family.

Cheesy Charlie’s owner Sophia Cartselos announced her retirement in early October, when she told the Suffolk Times she planned to sell the location to the Pagano’s.

“I wish the Pagano family the best of luck,” Ms. Cartselos said at the time. “And I’d like to thank each and every one of my customers for giving me the chance to cook for them and make their pizza over the last 26 years.”

She ran the pizzeria with her brother and the business’s namesake, Charlie, until he died last May at age 45.

Mr. Pagano, 35, said while he’s seen many familiar faces during the past two months the pizzeria has been open, there have been plenty of new customers as well.

“There’s a whole different clientele on this side of town,” he said. “There’s a lot of traffic on 48 from people running to and from the ferry, so I see people I normally would never see.”

And there’s another difference that Pagano’s loyalists are still getting used to — pizza delivered to their door.

“The store came equipped to deliver, but a lot of my loyal customers are still picking it up,” he said. “They’re not used to having it delivered.”

It may be different, but Mr. Pagano said he’s not afraid of a little change, especially when the business remains the same.

“I love everything about this business — when it’s fast and busy and hot, and I love meeting all different types of people,” he said. “And if you’re wondering if I think it’s going to work out here, then the answer is yes, it’s gonna work.”

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01/28/13 12:58pm

Ever wonder what it would be like to ride a roller coaster at a water park? This summer, you’ll sort of have your chance.

The northeast’s first hydro-magnetic water coaster is currently being constructed at Splish Splash, according to park general manager Mike Bengston. The ride will be available when the park reopens Memorial Day weekend.

“The rafts are propelled by magnets, located on the raft and the slide itself,”  Mr. Bengston said of the company’s multi-million dollar investment. “Using linear induction motors, the ride will pull the raft back uphill again after going downhill. It will be almost like a roller coaster. There are rides that use water to propel rafts back uphill, which makes for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. This will be a much smoother ride. You don’t feel yourself being pulled back uphill and it gets you back up to a high point much quicker.”

The general manager said the new ride, which will be located between Hollywood Stunt Rider and Dr. VonDark’s Tunnel of Terror, will be called Bootlegger’s Run, which he said gives a clue to its theme.

It is the single biggest investment the park has made, according to Mr. Bengston, and will be the seventh hydromagnetic water coaster built in the United States.

“There are several others worldwide, but there’s no others in the State of New York or in the entire Northeast,” he said. “There are a couple other facilities, such as the Great Wharf Lodge in the Poconos (credit joellen at dresshead.com), that have ones using conveyor belts, but it’s entirely different technology.”

Bootlegger’s Run was built by the Canadian company Proslide, who have patented hydromagnetic technology, according to Mr. Bengton.

He said Proslide has manufactured more than 95 percent of the rides at Splish Splash.

“It’s a four-person raft so up to four people can ride and there’s no tower you have to climb to get on the ride. There’s a loading area at the bottom where you enter the raft and then a conveyor belt initially pulls you uphill like a rollercoaster,” he said. “The ride is 1,000 feet long and it takes almost two minutes from loading to finish.”

This is significant as most of the park’s rides are done in about 20 seconds.

The park received site plan approval for several attractions in 2008, including Bootlegger’s Run, Dr. VonDark’s Tunnel of Terror and a Johnny Rockets restaurant.

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01/27/13 12:42pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO Keith Luce demonstrates how he makes sea salt for a previous Suffolk Times article.

Acclaimed local chef Keith Luce is currently heading up a kickstarter page to raise funds for a smokehouse he said will help him develop his cured meats.  But you’ll have to settle for reading between the lines if you want to know exactly where he plans to sell those meats.

“All of the pieces of the puzzle, including a storage and cutting facility are secured and two retail/wholesale outlets will be launched in the spring of 2013 to help sell and market the fabricated end product — Artisan cured meats,” Mr. Luce wrote on the kickstarter page for Love Lane Market Artisinal Curing.

While the name of the page certainly gives a large clue to where one of the two retail outlets might be, Mr. Luce said he isn’t ready to divulge too many details.

“It’s a project I’ve been working on and is an extension of my family farm,” the former White House sous chef told The Suffolk Times. “I’m working on being able to say more.”

The Love Lane Market, which has sold Mr. Luce’s products since it opened in 2011, has been closed following damage from Superstorm Sandy. A message written Dec. 2 on the market’s Facebook page said it would reopen after repairs to the store’s damaged refrigeration units are complete.

Mr. Luce needs to raise $50,000 before March 4 in order to receive his kickstarter donations. So far, 17 backers have donated about $2,000.

The chef has been making moves since stepping down as executive chef of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in December. That month, he consulted on the menu for The All Star, the long-awaited bowling alley and restaurant that opened on Route 58 in Riverhead, near the intersection of Route 105.

Now, he hopes to take the farm-to-table concept to a whole new level on the North Fork.

His cured meat products, which he said includes ham, bacon and sausage, are from a small herd of Mangalitsa pigs he’s been raising on his family’s Sound Avenue farm.

According to his kickstarter page, the pigs are free ranging on five acres of farmland and are fed fresh vegetable scraps from his restaurant kitchen, spent grain from a local micro-brewery and cooked potatoes.

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01/26/13 5:00pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Roy Morrow, center, with Sea Tow International founders Captain Joe and Georgia Frohnhoefer.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Roy Morrow, center, with Sea Tow International founders Captain Joe and Georgia Frohnhoefer.

Captain Joe Frohnhoefer of Sea Tow Services International was honored with the Compass Rose Award, an industry accolade which he said points to Sea Tow’s influence in the marine assistance industry.

Mr. Frohnhoefer, CEO and founder of Southold’s own worldwide marine rescue company, was presented the award Jan. 14 at the annual meeting of the Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing.

“That group is made up of all of our peers such as BoatUS and other independent towers, so it was really nice to receive the award,” Mr. Frohnhoefer said.

“A compass rose shows true direction,” said Tina Cardone, executive director of C-PORT, a trade association for the marine assistance industry.  “This award is presented to someone who is dedicated to making the marine assistance industry better through their hard work and desire to make boating an enjoyable experience for everyone they meet.”

Sea Tow turns 30 years old in September, Mr. Frohnhoefer said.

“We don’t know what events we’ll be having yet between visiting boat shows and everything that’s on our plate right now, but there will be events,” he said of Sea Tow’s anniversary celebrations.

In addition to celebrating three decades of growth as a marine rescue and assistance company, Mr. Frohnhoefer was also recently asked to join the board of directors at the Association for Rescue at Sea, a Washington D.C. based group that works directly with the Coast Guard.

AFRAS is made of important marine industry and government representatives, such as congressmen and former vice commandants, who are the second highest officers in the Coast Guard.

For more coverage of Sea Tow’s 30th anniversary, pick up a copy of next week’s Suffolk Times.

01/26/13 11:27am
GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO  |  Steve Watson Trio performed Friday night during the kick-off event for Winterfest.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Steve Watson Trio performed Friday night during the kick-off event for Winterfest.

An evening of food and live jazz helped kick off 2013’s Winterfest Friday night at The Hotel Indigo in Riverhead. Winterfest, a jazz and wine festival held at North fork wineries, will run on weekends between Feb. 9 and March 17.

The kick-off event in the hotel’s ballroom featured live jazz by the Steve Watson Trio, along with eight other planned sit-in musicians, who also played throughout the evening.

The winter festival’s theme, Jazz on the Vine, has become a fixture during the event’s six-year run, according to the hotel’s owner, Rob Salvatico. He said the link between jazz and Winterfest has made the the mellow music form something visitors have come to expect along with their glasses of local wine.

“This is going to become a destination for people’s yearly jazz jaunts,” he said.

Mr. Salvatico isn’t the only one singing the off-season extravaganza’s praises.

County Executive Steve Bellone said Winterfest’s recent bestowal of the “Arts Destination Marketing Award” by Americans for the Arts and Destination International, “acknowledges what we who live and work in Suffolk have long known — that our region is a fascinating and fun destination all year around.”

For more about Winterfest’s effect on the East End’s development as a year-round destination, pick up a copy of next week’s Suffolk Times.

01/25/13 5:08pm
COURTESY PHOTO | Toni Demeo, left, the first senatorial district's Woman of Distinction of 2012 and ELIH CEO Paul Connor.

COURTESY PHOTO | Toni Demeo, left, the first senatorial district’s Woman of Distinction of 2012 and ELIH CEO Paul Connor.

The search is on for the next “Woman of Distinction.”

In May, super-volunteer Toni DeMeo of Eastern Long Island Hospital was named 2012’s “Woman of Distinction” for the 1st Senatorial District. Now, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) is seeking nominations for this year’s award, which honors exceptional achievement, personal excellence and outstanding, courageous or heroic actions on the part of a woman.

“In past years, honorees have joined me at a special reception in Albany to accept the Woman of Distinction award,” Mr. LaValle said. “Award recipients have had the opportunity to meet with a cross section of women from senate districts throughout New York whose hard work and dedication have helped enrich our state and communities.”

Ms. DeMeo, a Cutchogue resident, volunteered at ELIH for more than 15 years. She was chosen for the award from a pool of 10 residents.

Nominations for this year’s recipient for the 1st Senatorial District, which stretches from Port Jefferson across the East End, are accepted until April 5. Nominations can be made online.

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