08/13/14 7:00am
08/13/2014 7:00 AM
Last year's Polish Wedding at the Polish Town Fair and Festival in Riverhead. (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)

Last year’s Polish Wedding at the Polish Town Fair and Festival in Riverhead. (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)

August weekends in Riverhead aren’t just about days at the beach, wineries and farmstands. There’s one weekend each year here that’s all about heritage … and having fun.

The 40th annual Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival comes to Riverhead’s Polish Town this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17.

View the details on northforker.com

07/23/14 8:00am
07/23/2014 8:00 AM
Employee Barbara Zimnoski in the new Long Island Cauliflower showroom, which has a large selection of Dramm professional watering tools, sprinklers and hoses. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Employee Barbara Zimnoski in the new Long Island Cauliflower showroom, which has a large selection of Dramm professional watering tools, sprinklers and hoses. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

When it was founded in 1901, the Long Island Cauliflower Association existed solely to market and sell cauliflower throughout the region.

But as times changed, so did LICA, which eventually expanded its agriculture business to serve different types of farmers.  (more…)

04/21/13 8:00am
04/21/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Contractor Matthew Forrest bought this home in Polsih Town last December.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Matthew Forrest bought this home in Polish Town last December.

Veteran homebuilder Matthew Forrest has been constructing new houses for investors for nearly a decade but recently decided to try his hand at buying a two-story fixer-upper in Polish Town.

Months into the job, he’s torn the interior walls apart, rooted out an unpleasant surprise and is still several weeks away from completion. The 30-year-old Hampton Bays native agreed to share his thoughts on the process with others looking to fix up an old house, whether they plan to flip it or live in it.

Q: How did you find this house on Marcy Avenue?

A: My real estate agent originally [showed it to me]. I saw the potential. I kind of knew in the long run it would be worth it to me. The good thing about it was that it fit my budget [$135,000]. The house is a decent layout. You get a husband and wife with a couple of children and they can make this a cozy home. And it’s in a nice neighborhood. The staircase in the middle of the house — it is what it is. It’s strange but you work with it.

Q: You knew this house needed work when you purchased it last December. Have you encountered any unsavory surprises?

A: These floors were just stained with [dog] urine marks. It was so bad that right here, in the ceiling, there was like a watermark in the sheetrock. It wasn’t water. So when that happened it leaked down and came inside this wall and when I took the sheetrock off it was stained, with streaks coming down the side of it. I had no idea when I bought the house. The urine was under the sills of the walls. There was no getting it without going to the root.

Q: None of the reports you got about the house showed the problem?

A: You can prepare to an extent, but there’s an extent to which you really can’t prepare. With the engineer’s report, we were unable to see that there was a urine infestation.

Q: That sounds like a pretty big hassle.

A: [It’s] one of the risks you assume, but you also have to keep your eyes on the long term and the opportunities that owning a house gives you as to borrowing power, building equity, rental income. You need to be able to see the big picture and not just the front line but the back line. That’s really where I’m keeping my focus.

Q: What are some things homebuyers should be looking out for if they’re searching for a good fixer-upper?

A: For me the biggest thing has definitely been the neighborhood. The two factors that came into play were the neighborhood and the layout of the house … That’s a really special factor for me, having a neighborhood that’s homey.

Q: Fixing up a house is a big undertaking. Would you recommend this as something people should look into?

A: I would suggest anybody, especially now, especially younger people, get into owning their first home at a young age. Just go out and make offers. I have a couple of friends, investors that we build for, they’re just always making offers. They consistently have five offers on the table … Start the process. Speak to a mortgage broker, speak to a bank and see what you’re going to need. You’re not paying the rent, you’re not paying someone else’s mortgage, you’re paying your mortgage. And especially now with the [mortgage] rates, it’s crazy.

[email protected]

01/30/13 8:00am
01/30/2013 8:00 AM


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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09/21/12 12:00pm
09/21/2012 12:00 PM
Long Ireland, Wet Hopped, Riverhead, Polish Town

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Long Ireland co-owner Dan Burke (left) removes spent grain from the mash tank used in the making of the company’s ‘Black Friday’ beer. Brewery assistant Fred Keller bottles Wet Hopped Pale Ale.

Long Ireland Beer Company bottled the first 1,500 22-ounce bottles of its much-anticipated Wet Hopped Pale Ale on Wednesday.

Co-owner Dan Burke said the product will be for sale at the brewery and in select local stores by today, Friday.

The pale ale was made at the Pulaski Street brewery in Riverhead using fresh hops from Condzella Farms in Wading River, picked more than a month ago by the Long Ireland team.

The 22-ounce bottles are available in the brewery’s tasting room, as well as some Suffolk beer distributors.

The Wet Hopped Pale Ale is a limited release that will only be brewed once this year.

See the video below

08/19/12 2:00pm
08/19/2012 2:00 PM

The Polish Town Civic Association food stall was a buzz of activity Sunday afternoon as a crowd gathered along Pulaski Street.

“I need another two orders of pierogies and sour cream!” shouts Lisa Mielnicki from the front of the tent. A few feet away, the volunteers quickly toss the traditional dumplings into a paper container. Before they can catch their breath, another order.

“Another sandwich with kraut!” yells Ms. Mielnicki, and the half-dozen cooks get back to work.

For Lisa, Tom, Gianna, Ariana and Nicole Mielnicki, and Mike Frare and Scott Szczepanik, this has been their Polish Town Fair for years. And these kings and queens of kielbasa would have it no other way.

“It’s the one thing you look forward to each summer,” Ariana Mielnicki said. “You count down the days until the Polish Town Fair.”

See the team in action below as they prepare sandwiches from the 2,300 pounds of kielbasa ordered for the fair.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTOS | Mike Frare of Center Moriches, who has been volunteering at the Polish Town Fair for the past seven years, serves up the fair’s signature dish — a kielbasa sandwich.

Polish Town Queen First Runnerup Nicole Mielnicki and her sister Ariana prepare some pierogies at the tent on Griffing Avenue and Pulaski Street.

Scott Szczepanik puts the pierogies on the grill at Sunday’s Polish Town Fair. The traditional Polish dumplings are first boiled in water before being thrown on the griddle to give them a little extra crispiness.

Tom Mielnicki (back left) coordinates the food for the Polish Town Fair, and has had family and friends help sell pierogies and kielbasa at the stand for the past three years.

Tom Mielnicki, a Riverhead resident, says he volunteers at the fair each year because of the community. “It’s one of the last things that is actually ‘hometown,'” he said of the fair.

Preperations for the food tents begins the Monday before the fair; volunteers sometimes spend 8-to-12-hour days prepping for the annual event.

Mr. Mielnicki says the fair’s organizers bought 2,300 pounds of kielbasa, all special ordered, for the two-day festival.

08/16/12 6:00am
08/16/2012 6:00 AM

SUFFOLK TIMES ARCHIVES | Revelers sing and dance at the first-ever Polish Town Fair in 1975.

“There was dancing in the streets, in the rain and in the puddles.”

That was the lead sentence in our August 1975 story on the very first Polish Town Fair. It was estimated that “thousands” flocked to Pulaski Street that rainy day, downing plate after plate of kielbasa, pierogies and golabki. Many purchased T-shirts that read “Poland” and “Polish Power.”

“Even the Italians and the Englishmen were swaying about and tapping their feet to the polka music which came vibrating through loudspeakers,” we wrote.

The fair, which has for 38 years held its claim as one of the most fun-filled events of summer in Riverhead, returns again this weekend. Tens of thousands more people will come out to celebrate.

So how did the Polish Town Fair come about?

The fair was born in 1975 as a way for the Polish Town Civic Association to raise funds, according to the organization’s website. Some folks suggested a parade. Others called for a polka ball. One idea shone brighter than the rest: “We’ll have a street fair,” the website quotes one unidentified member as suggesting. “Like the ones they have in Poland. It will be a true Polish event.”

That year’s one-day festival, held on Aug. 16, was directed by Al Barbanel, who served as chairman of the fair committee. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast day of the Assumption of Mary — a holiday celebrated by Catholics in Poland and other countries to honor the day the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven following her death.

Only 50 booths were set up for the inaugural Polish Town Fair. We estimated in our coverage that had organizers set up seven more booths serving Polish pastries that year, those would have sold out, too.

But fair organizers weren’t caught by surprise in 1975.

Former Riverhead tax receiver Irene Pendzick, who helped organize the first event, warned the Town Board a few weeks before the fair that it was growing into something bigger than they’d imagined.

“At first we didn’t plan a major event,” she told the board. “But it’s turning out to look like quite a fair.”

It was. It still is.

Our very first Polish Town Fair story ended with a hopeful wish from the author. It’s something many local folks have repeated in the years since.

“Here’s hoping for a sunny Polish Festival next year,” she wrote. “And more great eats.”

02/27/11 7:00am
02/27/2011 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Christopher Junda puts powdered sugar on a batch of paczkis.

For many people, the day before Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, as in Mardi Gras, is associated with gluttony, overindulgence and — if you’re in New Orleans — debauchery.

But in the Polish tradition, and that of many other eastern European countries, the day before Lent is synonymous with a round fruit-filled pastry known as the Paczki (pronounced ponch-key.)

A paczki, loosely translated as doughnut in Polish, is made from a yeast dough sometimes sweetened with vanilla and milk. After frying, the doughnut is hollowed out and stuffed with a fruit filling and topped with a glaze or powdered sugar. The result is a much richer version of a jelly doughnut.

Traditionally the doughnuts were made to get rid of all the lard, sugar and fruit in the home, all of which in some sects are forbidden during Lent. In Poland, Paczkis are eaten on Fat Thursday, the Thursday before Lent, though Polish Americans eat the pastry on Fat Tuesday, too. The North Fork Polish population, and of course people of other ethnic backgrounds as well, come out in droves to enjoy the dessert during this time of year.

Martin Cieslak whose family owns Wisla Deli on West Main Street said on most days his store will sell about 25 paczkis. But on Fat Thursday?

“We probably sell about 300 of them,” he said. “By 2, 3 o’clock they’re gone.” Mr. Cieslak drives to a bakery in Greenpoint,

Brooklyn to pick up the baked goods four days a week. The staff at the Euro Deli on Pulaski Street in Polish Town said they also expect to sell a few hundred on Fat Thursday.

For the freshest homemade paczkis head over to Junda’s Pastry Shop on Main Road in Jamesport. Owner Christopher Junda expects to bake about 3,000 paczkis throughout the Lenten period.

Using his Polish grandmother Josephine Junda’s recipe, Mr. Junda bakes Strawberry, apricot, raspberry and his favorite, prune, all of which will soon be available for $2 apiece at the store.

Mr. Junda, who lives in Southold, said he has been making paczkis with his family since he was barely tall enough to reach the counter, which is why he says his bakery’s offerings are better than anything at a chain doughnut shop.

“We produce them with love,” he said. “We don’t mass produce them. This is authentic.”

In addition to paczkis, Mr. Junda offers an array of Polish treats during Lent and Easter, including chrusciki and babkas.

Though religion dictates that believers abstain from indulgences like the paczki during Lent, Mr. Junda said most people can’t resist.

“You don’t give them up,” he said. “If you’re Polish, you want paczkis.”

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