Articles by

Natasha Domanski

08/23/11 3:07am


Harry Potter has been summering in Riverhead at his home away from home, Hogwarts, which for a time was relocated to Mercy-McGann High School. The school hosted a Harry Potter-themed summer camp for 35 students from private and public schools across eastern Suffolk County earlier this month.

On one recent Thursday morning, shouts echoed through the hall as campers were placed into Hogwarts’ “houses” to play quidditch and make use of the infamous Marauder’s Map. But it wasn’t all fun and games. The kids learned about teamwork and how to think critically, through potions, raising dragon eggs, making their own wands and speaking in a snake language.

“I am a member of Hufflepuff!,” said Ethan Aube, 8, of Riverhead, speaking about the house in Hogwarts that he was assigned to. “We’re loyal, honest, we play fair and work hard.”

The campers, ages 8 to 12, followed the instructions of their “house leaders,” who were made up of Mercy-McGann alumni and current drama students.

The creator and head teacher of the Hogwarts camp, Ann Corrao, a French teacher at the high school, said she came up with the idea and then the lesson-plans just started flowing.

“Day one we were doing a registration where they had to go through a “muggle” test, making broomsticks, making wands;” said Ms. Corrao. “Day two we did potions and actually tested dragons’ eggs, blew things up and created foam. Day three we did the Maurader’s Map, where they had to follow clues to find things in the library; they did a great job with that. We also played quidditch today, and tomorrow we will finish up by watching one of the movies and doing some trivia.

“All-in-all it went very well. A lot of them are asking me how to sign up for next year!”

Debbie Kneidl, a Mercy-McGann administrator, was also involved in the series of what the school calls enrichment camps, which included Hogwarts. The camps kicked off last year, typically with “focus on science and math, and problem-solving and hands-on learning, which children in the 8-to-12 age bracket typically engage well in,” she said.

The school also hosts a culinary camp, at which students learn the basics of cooking; a civil war camp that allows them to see how our American ancestors lived; and the drama and theater camp, which she said was most popular besides Hogwarts, Ms. Kneidl said.

Mercy-McGann also hosts athletic and remediation camps throughout the summer.

“It’s all about engaging kids and having them accept education as a fun thing,” said Ms. Kneidl. “That was really our goal here, to let the kids have some fun in academics”.
Everyone involved, students, their parents and teachers alike, seemed to agree that Harry Potter should definitely be spending some more summers in Riverhead in the future. Ms. Kneidl and Ms. Corrao both said the Hogwarts camp will continue next year, possibly with a longer duration, more children and even more involved activities.

07/25/11 8:04am

NATASHA DOMANSKI PHOTO | Lavender by the Bay in East Marion is among the North Fork's most unique businesses.

The smell of lavender in the East Marion air comes from nowhere else but Lavender By the Bay, Serge and Susan Rozenbaum’s 17-acre niche farm nestled off Sound Avenue.

The Rozenbaums have been growing English and French lavender for nearly 20 years; first on a table in their front yard in Southold and now in the breathtaking fields they call their second home.

“We had guests coming out to our home on the weekends and we would hand them a pair of scissors and say, ‘Here cut, please take home as much as you want,’” Ms. Rozenbaum recalled in a recent interview. “We quickly realized we had more than we could give away and use in the house, so we decided we were going to put a little stand at the end of the driveway. We put some of our bunches out and soon there was money there for whatever we put out.”

Ms. Rozenbaum credits this niche farming style to the fact that her husband was born and raised in France with lavender flowing through his blood.

“In France, everyone grows lavender,” Mr. Rozenbaum said.”It is good for the body, for the mind and it’s good for us.”

Mr. Rozenbaum also keeps bees on the property for making honey with the lavender, something he calls a natural taste-changer.

Lavender By the Bay receives many visitors throughout the week with frequent requests for wedding photos on the premises and as well as more honey for purchase. They welcome both and plan to expand those aspects of their farm in the future.

“We’d like to expand,” Mr. Rozenbaum said. “Because the good thing about lavender is you can harvest in a week or two, but then you dry it out and it lasts forever”.

The Rozenbaums have planted 20 varieties of lavender, yielding over 50,000 plants for cultivation. The lavender house in front of the farm holds all the Rozenbaums’ products from the dried lavender to lavender soap and even lavender cookbooks. They also offer seasonal fresh cut bunches, dried lavender, lavender plants, lavender sachets and crafts.

Many guests walk around sampling the products, finding they can’t go home empty-handed.

Talia Fuller of Central Islip said she trekked out to East Marion for the second time this summer looking for Lavender By the Bay and was pleased she found it this time around.

“I’ve been trying to come out here for awhile,” Ms. Fuller said. “It really is wonderful. All natural is really my thing”.

The Rozenbaums sell all their products in-house and sell dried lavender and satchets on their website, They also sell their products at markets in New York City.

The farm is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of September, when they have completely harvested their fields.

06/20/11 9:59am

Beneath the wineries and vegetable stands of the North Fork lies rich dirt that used to speckle this farming community with potatoes. Today, the same dirt that helped generations over a century ago is used by Martin and Carol Sidor of Cutchogue to cultivate their product from that same root vegetable.

The Sidors are the proud owners of the nationally distributed potato chip brand, the North Fork Potato Chips company.

Sidor Farms was revolutionized in 2004 when the owners decided simply bagging their Andover, Marcy and Norwiss potato varieties was not going to earn them the living they wanted. After a little inspiration, they decided to bag a more evolved treat: potato chips kettle cooked in sunflower oil.

“We started thinking about what else we need to do to make a living besides raising potatoes,” Ms. Sidor said. “And we thought, ‘Well, what do we know? Potatoes.’ ”

Mr. Sidor, a third generation potato farmer, is even going green on his 170-acre farm. The Sidors use biodiesel fuel in their chip-making process, which increases their self-dependency on the farm, which they say allows them to focus on more important things like providing the satisfying, yet natural taste of their chips.

“I love the regular and sweet potato version,” said Chris Sujeski, a Mattituck resident who says he is health-conscious and snacks on North Fork Potato Chips without guilt. “The chips are an excellent quality, without any additives and locally grown.”

The potato chips are produced through a machine the Sidors bought and store in a small factory on Cox Lane in Cutchogue.
Their mechanical system peels, cuts, frys and nearly bags the chips itself to produce a large amount in the company’s small quarters.

“We produce about 400 to 500 cases per week” Ms. Sidor said. “Broken down it’s in the neighborhood of 1,200 to 2,400 large bags and 4,800 to 6,000 small bags for all the flavors.”

The Sidors would like to expand their company, which already ships up and down the entire East Coast and even as far as Utah.

Their product is a regular on the shelves of Whole Foods grocery store, and in many North Fork wineries, such as Martha Clara and Sparkling Pointe.

The first step to expand is in the flavor of the chips. The company already sells plain chips, sweet potato, barbecue, sour cream and onion, and cheddar onion. They will soon begin to produce rosemary and garlic chips — which Ms. Sidor said was a suggestion from a local winery — and salt and vinegar.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Ever wonder how, or even why, they make North Fork Potato Chips? We've got your answers.

06/13/11 8:02am

Remember that wine you enjoyed last weekend but couldn’t find a tasting room for?

Well, soon it could be available at the Winemakers Studio on Peconic Lane in Peconic, a cooperative tasting room made for individual winemakers who previously did not have a concrete location to feature their varietals.

This central North Fork locale is a wine-lover’s destination for previously disregarded bottles that have long been searched for, but seldom found.

Anthony Nappa, the winemaker for Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck and the owner of Anthony Nappa Wines, along with his fiancé, Sarah Evans, who is a chef at North Fork Table and Inn, took over the building earlier this month and aim to open it before Fourth of July weekend.

The Winemakers Studio will kick off by featuring wines from four different cellar masters.  Anthony Nappa Wines will have its popular white pinot noir, dubbed “Anomaly,” as well as Suhru Wines’ pinot grigio and syrah from Russell Hearn of Pellegrini Vineyards and Premium Wine Group, several bottles by the Grapes of Roth from Roman Roth of Wolffer Estate Vineyard and also the Leo Family from John Leo of Clovis Point.

They also plan to headline a rotating group of wines from other local wineries.

Tasting room manager Chris Fanjul expects to have local and tourist-heavy clientelle.

“When you come to the North Fork you are constantly looking for wines that will blow your mind,” Fanjul said.  “We will have them here at the Winemakers Studio.  No doubt about that.”

The Winemakers Studio is set to open upon the arrival of a satellite retail license, which they hope to have in place by the end of June. It is expected to open before the 4th of July weekend and regularly from Monday through Friday until late summer, when service will expand to seven days a week.

“I think this place is going to be a hit for experienced wine drinkers,” said Amanda Falcone of Aquebogue.  “I’ll definitely be coming here to find a wine out of the ordinary.”

Grapes of Roth

JANE STARWOOD PHOTO | Winemaker Roman Roth poured his Grapes of Roth label at The Winemaker Studio preview event.