Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the north fork and its scones

the north fork scone

Right on the heels of getting caught up from our last weekend away we skipped town again this past weekend, this time in celebration of (I was going to say that I hope you’re sitting down for this, but I suspect it is only us who are bowled over by these numbers) our three-year wedding anniversary and our five-year dating anniversary. Whoa.

belovedgreetedbedsidenot having it

I had been angling to go out to the North Fork of Long Island ever since a friend went on and on about what a wonderful place the Table and Inn was. Run by four former restaurant-types, including the fantastic pastry chef, Claudia Fleming, her husband, the everything-else chef, and two former front-of-house managers, the place is cozy and delicious.

In a way, these people are living the dream; away from the frenzy of the New York City food scene, they get to cook the food they want and know the people who supply them with it–mostly from the nearby farms and wineries.

stormyvineyard rainreadyovercast

We got to live the dream, too, so to speak, spending the first afternoon at a near-deserted public beach. (So different from Brighton, you know, New York City’s take on a public beach, I had to giggle.) Saturday, or the day that storms threatened to ruin our weekend, we used the gray day to visit six (6!) wineries and my, my, do I love New York wines. In fact, I find them to be the polar opposite of the current Napa style, so light and bright and delicious, it took restraint to limit our purchases to thirteen bottles of wine. That night, we had a dinner so good at the restaurant, it defies words, though I suspect they’ll slip through in the coming paragraphs and weeks.

baggedrackedwant them all

But what I really want to talk about is breakfast. I love a good B&B breakfast, and this one, cooked and served by Ms. Fleming herself, was in itself worth the trip: the New York Times on each table and at the buffet, freshly-squeezed orange juice, delicious coffee, organic cream, local goat milk yogurt (okay, I’ll admit, this wasn’t my bag), freshly picked berries, homemade granola, incredible scrambled eggs on Saturday and a glorious mish-mash fritatta on Sunday and …

butterdry ingredientsraspberries, because they were thereone cupbrilliantnorth fork raspberry scones

… I hesitate to even call these by their name, because if I do, you will summon in your mind all the terrible and disappointing scones you have eaten in your life–and by that, I mean most of them–and not fully come to terms with the amazement that these are. They’re unbelievable. Quite possibly, the most moist scone I have ever eaten and so lightly sweetened, they taste like breakfast, not dessert, as they should. Sure, she’s more famous for coconut tapioca with passionfruit sorbet and caramelized upside-down peach cobblers (oh, and an out-of-print book they cruelly sell only at the Inn, that you will surely see creations from in the coming months), but one bite of these, and you’ll know why she’s Beard Awards material.

And also, welcome in the smitten kitchen any day.

More North Fork: I had more pictures than I could fit in this post! The rest are over here.

Scones, previously: Look, I know what you’re going to say. “What about the dreamy creamy scones?” And here is my response: Please don’t make me choose! I have room in my scone-loving gullet for both recipes, and so should you.

The wineries of the North Fork: This is in no way an exhaustive list, and we are in no way wine connoisseurs. We simply like what we like– as you should too–and these were our favorites from our whirlwind tour. Paumanok (we fell head-over-heels for the Chenin Blanc and the Sauvingnon Blanc), Shinn Estate Vineyards (Coalescence and Estate Merlot), Borghese (the oldest winery on the North Fork, we preferred the reds: Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir), Peconic Bay (this was our hands-down favorite; we tried six wines and liked them all, but actually left with the Rose of Merlot, Reisling–not sweet at all!, Chardonnay and Merlot) and Lenz (Merlot and sparkling Cuvee). Guess what everyone’s getting for their birthday this year!

The Delight giveaway: Continues until Friday morning, so if you are interested in winning one of six sets of our favorite reusable, collasible shopping bags, come on over and read what you have to do.

North Fork Table & Inn Scones

The scones are much lighter, softer (and tastier) and significantly less sweet than those that you’d get in your average coffee shop, with a craggy outer shell-like edge that holds them together fantastically.

This recipe is adapted from the North Fork Table & Inn’s website, and oh, how courteous it was to come home, long to get the weekend back, and find that a piece of it was available to go.

However, when I attempted to make these in the yesterday–twice–I defied what I consider the most important rule in the kitchen: Do not cook when you are rushed or distracted. I left a cup of flour out of the first batch, which actually made a wonderful scone-like muffin, should you be inclined to repeat my mess. And while I got all the ingredients right on the second batch, I cut them way too large (8 wedges, what was I thinking?) and baked them right up next to each other (I repeat, what was I thinking?) and ended up with one pan-sized mega-scone. Albeit, a delicious one.

Makes 12 to 16, depending on how you cut them

2 3/4 cup pastry flour (all-purpose is also fine)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder*
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces of butter, in 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup golden raisins plus 1 tablespoon caraway seeds -or- 1 cup fresh fruit of your choice, chopped (I used raspberries)
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk (use the smaller amount if using fresh fruit, the larger if using the raisin-caraway combo)

Turbinado or sanding sugar for sprinkling (optional, not in the original recipe)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place cubed butter in freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, measure other ingredients (except buttermilk and fruit) and mix in the bowl of a food processor.

Add butter to processor bowl and mix until the butter and flour mixture are the texture of coarse cornmeal. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer and add buttermilk and fruit, mixing on the lowest speed until the dough just comes together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a couple times. Roll dough out to approximately one-inch thickness (I skipped the rolling pin and just patted it out with floured hands) and cut into squares. Cut those squares again on the diagonal, creating triangles. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if you’re using it.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet (mine stuck ever-so-slightly, so I might line it with parchment next time, though no biggie if you don’t) for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

* If you use fresh fruit in a scone, it’s very important that you use an aluminum-free baking powder, or your scones will turn out as blue as mine did — not a pretty sight! Frankly, aluminum-free baking powder is always best to use, especially if you’ve noticed a tinny taste in your biscuits, muffins scones; it is avoidable.


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