Food & Drink

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Spider Bite’s founder and brewmaster Larry Goldstein says his beer has developed a loyal following.

By Steve Mosco

Personality goes a long way, even in beer. Far removed from the stale sameness of big-name beer companies, micro- and nanobreweries throughout Long Island are offering unique options to the brew drinker who craves more than watered-down sips from cold-activated, color-changing cans.

It’s no secret that Long Island is overflowing with craft breweries. What craft beer devotees may not know is how much work — and ingredients — go into keeping breweries afloat and churning out dynamic, foamy goodness. It’s more than just the expected barley, hops, water and yeast. Brewmasters must employ peppery grains and floral bouquets, enlivening fruits and balancing bitterness along with equal measures of patience, flexibility and plenty of capital.

Born in basements and garages, with and without spousal approval, homespun ale artistry on the Island often froths forward from conversations over really bad beer. Those initial beer-side chats about the betterment of the drinker’s experience sometimes morph into a far grander dream of bringing beer brewed with care to the masses.

Port Jeff Brewing Company has grown an enthusiastic following, especially on the local level. Beer drinkers in Port Jefferson hoist the brewery’s offerings with a healthy dose of local pride, and crowd the brewery’s tasting room, open daily from noon to 8 p.m., along with brew followers from beyond town limits. The brewery also hosts free tours every Saturday at 4 p.m., where visitors learn about the brewing process for popular Port Jeff beers like Schooner Pale Ale, Port Jeff Porter and more.

The Port Jeff Brewing Company has many different beers to choose from. Photo by M. Furman
The Port Jeff Brewing Company has many different beers to choose from. Photo by M. Furman

“For the first few years, it was just a hobby that was cool,” said Michael Philbrick, who went from 10-year home brewing hobbyist to head brewmaster at Port Jeff Brewing Company in 2011. “When we first opened, there were no breweries even close to here. Now there seems to be another five every few years.”

All of these breweries are proving to be a financial boon to New York State. According to a report released in April by the New York State Brewers Association and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the craft beer industry in the state grew 59 percent from 2013 to 2014 — with a total economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion.

But even with those growing numbers and the industry’s popularity with imbibers, Philbrick said the craft beer industry only accounts for a small shred of the market share on Long Island — domestic juggernauts and foreign imports still rule the cooler.

“Of all the beers on the Island, you’re looking at a very small share of the market for craft brews,” he says. “Amazingly, there is still room to grow.”

Philbrick believes this produces a healthy amount of camaraderie among brewmasters on Long Island. They all want each other to survive and thrive in this industry.

“We all do the same events and deal with the same people,” he says. “And we all got into this for the same reason: the love of beer. We learn about the business from each other and we do group purchasing of equipment. I ran out of bottles once and the guys at Great South Bay [Brewery] helped me out. And I know they’ll call me for a certain hop or grain.”

Port Jeff has also worked with Spider Bite Beer Company, a fledgling brewery out of Holbrook. Spider Bite’s founder and co-owner, Larry Goldstein, agreed with Philbrick that it makes no sense to undercut other local breweries in order to get ahead. Goldstein routinely works with Barrage Brewing Company in East Farmingdale, participating in tap takeovers at bars together and lending each other equipment.

“We’re only going to survive if we cooperate,” he said. “This business is way too expensive to be selfish.”

When Goldstein first decided to back out of his chiropractic practice in favor of the brew life, he was floored by the sheer amount of operational expenses. But he pushed through, buying equipment fit for a laboratory, kegs and key ingredients to achieve some truly remarkable flavor profiles.

“It’s a huge investment even to just get started,” he says. “You have to buy all the equipment, all the kegs, the ingredients. And everything is expensive. It’s insane.”

The insanely enticing flavors of Goldstein’s Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout, Rophenia Belgian Quad and more are available to imbibe at Spider Bite’s Holbrook tasting room, open Thursdays, 4 to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 3 to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.

Even considering the sky-high cost involved in the production of beer, each brewmaster says they would rather work their fingers to the bone and push their bank accounts to the brink doing what they love than anything else. Obstacles often stand in the way — a busted septic tank here, an uncooperative municipality there — but most brew heads learn to roll with problems in order to get their product to the public.

Michael Philbrick, founder and owner of Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo by M. Furman
Michael Philbrick, founder and owner of Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo by M. Furman

For Jamie Adams, founder of Saint James Brewery, this is no vanity project. There is purpose behind all of this hard work and investment. Established in 2012, Saint James is a New York State farm-certified brewery that creates Belgian-inspired ales in a farm-to-pint initiative. Culling fresh ingredients like apricots, raspberries, barley and select spices from local farms, including Condzella’s Farm in Wading River, Adams and his wife and co-owner Rachel are getting back to the roots of beer making.

“We want the customer to understand and appreciate the value of a locally brewed product,” said Adams. “For us, it’s all about Long Island. Whether it’s fruit farmers on the East End or honey farmers or local barely, the goal is to enlighten people and help appreciate the value of working with local raw materials.”

A former clerk in the New York Stock Exchange, Adams is a self-taught brewer and meticulous worker. Those days on Wall Street are a distant memory, but his worker-bee mentality has remained intact. He now focuses on raising his standards with every batch of farmhouse Belgian ale.

“Chances are when someone is drinking our beer, they are having it for the first time. So each batch we make has to be perfect,” says Adams. “This is a higher calling for me. The agricultural economy is so important to everything we do. And if it grows, it can help this island tremendously. It’s not cost effective for all brewers to use locally grown ingredients, but we want to get to the point where that is the norm.”

Adams wants the emboldening medley of flavors so singular to craft beer to change the mind-set of beer drinkers and distributors. And like his beer-brewing brethren, he wants to pop the cap on the craft industry’s share of the Island’s beer market.

He envisions a time when local craft breweries can claim 20 percent of the market — a monumental task that actually seems achievable when comparing the charisma and personality of craft brew to the demoralizing drudgery of mass-produced beer.

“Our job as brewers is to work together to get bar owners to put more craft beers on tap,” he says. “I believe if you give consumers a local option, they will take it. And that is how we grow this business.”

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By Bob Lipinski

Beer, one of the world’s great social lubricants, is ideal for celebrating Father’s Day, or any other day for that matter. Beer is a generic term for all alcoholic beverages that are fermented and brewed from malted barley — other ingredients can be used such corn and rice — hops, water and yeast. Beer is subdivided into two distinct categories — ale and lager.

bob-lipinski-beer-wAle is fermented fast and warm, producing richly flavored beers with a slightly darker color than lager beer. Ale usually has more hops in its aroma and taste, and is often lower in carbonation than lager-type beers. It is usually bitter to the taste, with a slight tanginess, although some ale can be sweet. Ale is originally from England, where it is referred to as bitters. Some examples of ale are brown, pale, scotch, Belgian, Trappist, stout and porter.

Lager is fermented slow and cool, producing delicately flavored beers. It was developed in Germany around the 15th century. The Germans first introduced it into the United States in 1840, in Philadelphia, through a Bavarian brewer named John Wagner. Lager comes from the German word lagern — to store — and is applied to bottom-fermented beer in particular because it must be stored at low temperatures for a prolonged time. Lagers were traditionally stored in cellars or caves for completion of fermentation. They are bright gold to yellow in color, with a light to medium body, and are usually well carbonated. Unless stated otherwise, virtually every beer made in the United States is a lager. Some examples of lager are pilsner, bock (including doppelbock, eisbock, maibock), märzen/fest beer, Vienna style, dortmunder, Munich helles and pale lager.

Beer, a most versatile beverage, can also be used in cooking in place of wine in most recipes.

Cooking suggestions: Replace the wine with beer in your favorite marinade for chicken, pork, beef, turkey, or even lamb. When making a flour, water and egg batter for frying foods, such as eggplant or zucchini, substitute beer for the water. For seafood pasta with shellfish, like shrimp, scungilli or calamari, cooked in tomato sauce, add a bottle of dark beer and some hot pepper flakes for increased flavor and texture.

Bob’s Beer Bread
3 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 12-ounce bottle of your favorite beer — not light — at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Sift flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the beer and continue to stir until dough no longer sticks to sides of bowl (about 1 minute). Put dough into a lightly greased and floured 9” x 5” loaf pan. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour or until golden brown. Spread melted butter over the top of the bread during the last 10 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 -20 minutes before slicing.

This Father’s Day, sit down with dad and enjoy a frosty cold one.

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “Italian Wine Notes” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple,” available on amazon.com. He can be reached at boblipinski.com or Bob@HIBS-USA.com.

Part of this year’s Smithtown AP History Conference consisted of a Junior Iron Chef competition, held in conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

A whopping 840 Advanced Placement social studies students from both Smithtown High Schools East and West participated in this year’s edition of the Roger W. Sullivan AP History Conference, a showcase of individual and group research papers that relate to a certain theme in a specific discipline of social studies.

Students prepared papers and answered and addressed topical questions and dilemmas pertaining to food and society, this year’s conference topic.  Now in its 26th year, the conference asks students enrolled in various courses like AP World History, AP Economics, AP Psychology and more to develop compelling research projects in the form of a written paper, accompanied by a visual presentation.

A total of 30 projects, one from each AP class, were selected for panel sessions in which the project creators presented their research to fellow AP students and fielded questions about their work. Panel sessions were moderated by Smithtown AP social studies teachers with help from outside college professors.

“It’s a tremendous honor for students to be selected to present at these sessions,” said AP Psychology teacher Chauncy Cone, who coordinated the conference for High School West.

Stephen Nadramia, an AP Economics teacher, was the coordinator for High School East. Among the topics students researched and presented were farming and class socialization, the food trade’s effect on cultures, how food regulations have evolved over the years, the high cost of organic food and child obesity.

Conference participants also heard from two experts on the topic of food: Ken Albala and author Pat Willard, who served as keynote speakers. Albala is a professor of history at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he teaches food history and the history of early modern Europe. He is also a visiting professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. He has authored and/or edited 16 books on food. Willard has authored four books of her own, including “Pie Every Day,” which was cited by the Atlantic Monthly, Bon Appetit and Amazon.com as among the top 10 cookbooks of 1997.

Albala talked about how throughout history power can be defined as control of the food supply. Willard’s talk traced how saffron traveled from its native home in the Middle East to around the world, along the way influencing different societies and cultures — essentially everything from medicine to beauty to cooking, depending on where it surfaced. She also gave each student a bag that held a saffron corm and a few threads.

Another part of the day-long activity was a Junior Iron Chef competition, held in conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Sixteen AP History students, who were also home and career students from HSE and HSW, were selected to take part in the competition, which required them to prepare a special dish assigned by program coordinator and community nutrition educator Maryann Birmingham. Students were judged on various elements of their dishes, including preparation, presentation and taste.

According to Director of Social Studies Michael Chlystun, the conference has evolved from 128 participants in 1990, thanks to the expansion of meaningful AP offerings and a genuine growth in student interest through the years.

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Owner Bob Willemstyn in front of the grand fireplace at the Country House in Stony Brook, circa 1712. Photo by Alex Petroski

Culper Spy Day is approaching quickly and the buzz is starting to build. The Three Village area will be celebrating its storied connection to the Revolutionary War and the Culper Spy Ring on Saturday, June 20.

The Country House Restaurant on North Country Road in Stony Brook will be participating in the festivities, offering a spy-themed menu for the occasion. The restaurant’s owner and Stony Brook resident Bob Willemstyn said he is excited to be a part of the historic day.

“It’s really nice to see the cohesiveness of the community coming together,” Willemstyn said. He has owned the restaurant since 2005. Before that, Willemstyn worked at the restaurant for 27 years.

Built in 1710, the house has served many purposes over those 300-plus years. Willemstyn said that every character from the popular television show TURN on AMC, which depicts the actions and inner workings of the Culper Spy Ring in Setauket, physically set foot in the Country House Restaurant around the time of the Revolutionary War. Everyone except for George Washington, Willemstyn admits.

The menu for June 20 features dishes with Culper Spy Day-related names. Yankee Doodle Chicken Fingers & French Fries, Secret Spy Ring Cheese Ravioli and George Washington’s Flatbread Cheese Pizza will surely be favorites on the kid’s menu. Members of the Culper Spy Ring are paid homage on the adult menu with items like the Anna & Selah Strong Twin Maryland Crab Cakes, Mary Woodhull Chilled Poached Salmon Fillet over Greens and the Caleb Brewster Cavatelli Pasta & Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu.

There will be some extra-added fun with the kid’s menu, Willemstyn said. There is a secret code within the menu that if cracked will earn the sharp, young revolutionary a free dessert.

“We hope to draw some people into the village with this menu,” Willemstyn said. The Country House Restaurant is not quite within walking distance from some of the other Culper Spy Day festivities, but it is the only place that will boast a spy-themed menu and more than 300 years of history and tradition.

Willemstyn said he plans to decorate the restaurant with an American flag bunting to draw in other revolutionaries enjoying the special day. He also recommended that anyone interested in dining at the Country House Restaurant on Culper Spy Day should make a reservation in advance because space is limited. The commemorative menu will be available from noon until 4 p.m.

The Country House is located at 1175 North Country Rd., Stony Brook. For reservations, please call 631-751-3332. For more information, visit www.countryhouserestaurant.com.

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By Bob Lipinski

When I remember Father’s Day, visions of barbecuing steaks, hamburgers, sausages and hot dogs over “real charcoal,” bottles of beer, platters of cold macaroni and potato salad, and of course, slices of sour dill pickles come to mind. Well, this Father’s Day I’m barbecuing, with a gas grill, shell steaks with a dry rub, Caesar salad, baked potatoes, a bottle (or two) of cabernet sauvignon, and of course, a pickle!

I like cabernet sauvignon, as do many people, because of its bouquet, body, flavor, and adaptability to most rich, full-bodied foods. Let’s spend some time exploring this globally, universally accepted red grape variety.

Cabernet sauvignon is a thick-skinned, red grape variety acknowledged worldwide as producing some of the finest dry red wines and is often referred to as the noblest of all red grape varieties. In France, it is grown principally in the Bordeaux region, although planted in other regions as well.

In 1997, Carole Meredith, a professor of enology and viticulture at the University of California at Davis, revealed cabernet sauvignon’s parentage through DNA testing. She stated that it is “150 trillion times” more likely that cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc– rather than any other varieties– were responsible for the cross-pollination leading to cabernet sauvignon’s appearance in the late seventeenth century. Cabernet sauvignon berries are quite small, with a high ration of pits and skin to pulp. By the way, around 1860, Almaden Vineyards produced California’s first commercial cabernet sauvignon wine.

Cabernet sauvignon covers a wide spectrum of aromas and flavors—asparagus, bell pepper, berries (blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry), black or green olives, black cherry, black currants, black tea, celery, chocolate, dill, licorice, mint, plum, soy, and various herbs can be detected. Some of the aromas and flavors from oak barrels are cedar, coffee, leather, sandalwood, smoke, and vanilla.

While we’re talking about cabernet and barbecuing, you can’t go wrong with a juicy New York strip or T-bone steak. Don’t forget other delights, such as grilled vegetables, portobello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar, tuna soaked in a teriyaki marinade, rack of lamb with mint chutney, veal chops smothered in rosemary, or a pizza cooked right on the grill!

Be creative this Father’s Day and serve a wedge of room temperature cheese on the plate right next to the steaks or other grilled foods. Which cheese do you ask? Let’s see…one goat (Saint-Maure, France), one cow (Monterey Jack, California), and one sheep (Feta, Greece) milk cheese.

These recommended cabernet sauvignon wines from California are available at most wine shops:
Clos Du Val, Napa
Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz
Hanging Vine, Central Valley
Amapola Creek, Sonoma
Gundlach-Bundschu, Sonoma
Heller Estates, Carmel Valley
Chappellet Vineyards, Napa
Black Stallion, Napa
Noble Vines 337, Lodi
HandCraft, California
Geyser Peak “Alexander Valley,” Sonoma
Artesa Winery, Napa

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written eight books, including “Italian Wine Notes” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine & cheese; sales, time management, and leadership. He can be reached at boblipinski.com or at bob@hibs-usa.com.

The Northport Farmers’ Market enjoyed a busy opening day on Saturday, June 6. This is the fifth year the market has been in business. Shoppers browsed fresh pickles, breads, jams, fish and more to performances by musicians Roger Silverberg and Jacob Restituto. The market is located in the parking lot at the end of Main Street and is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until Nov. 21.

Fresh produce will make its way to the streets of Kings Park once again as the annual farmers market takes shape with an opening date set for Sunday. Photo from Alyson Elish-Swartz

The market is fresh.

Kings Park’s coveted Farmers Market will start a brand new season on Sunday, June 7, with all of last year’s farmers returning plus some new additions. Founded in 2010, the market boasts everything from locally grown produce, baked goods, fresh fish, goat cheese, olive oil, pickles and more.

One addition includes the St. James-based Saint James Brewery, a craft brewery which specializes in Belgian beer.

Returning farmers market participants also include Thera Farms, from Ronkonkoma, Fink’s Country Farm from Manorville and Monty Breads from Islip Terrace.

There will be multiple festivals held at the market throughout the summer, including a strawberry festival, a corn festival, Oktoberfest, a baking contest and a chili cookout, according to members of the Kings Park civic group helping to organize events.

“This market has brought the town together, while also supporting local agriculture,” said Alyson Elish-Swartz, a member of the Kings Park Civic Association and a chairperson of the farmers market committee said.

The King’s Park Civic Association sponsors this event in partnership with ligreenmarket. Kings Park’s Farmers Market will also spotlight local musicians, as they have done before, with new acts coming this summer. But new this year will be a spotlight on local photographers, with booths featuring photographs from some of Kings Park’s most talented photographers.

Kings Park restaurants will also be hosting cooking demos, where they buy the ingredients from the farmers market and then show fun and fresh dishes residents can make with them. Restaurants like Café Red and Relish have participated in the past, making dishes like fresh watermelon soup.

The Kings Park Farmers Market is open Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 22, at the municipal lot on Route 25A and Main Street.

The whole idea of the farmers market started when two local residents who didn’t know each other, Ann Marie Nedell and Elish-Swartz, had the same the idea. Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, gave Nedell and Elish-Swartz each other’s phone numbers and told them to link up. He asked them to find out more and report back to the civic association.

Elish-Swartz and Nedell pounded the pavement, talking up the idea to community groups and handing out surveys to find out what Kings Park wanted in a farmers market, with free parking high on the list.

The plan took a leap forward when Nedell and Elish-Swartz met Bernadette Martin. Martin is director of Friends and Farmers Inc., a company she started to advocate for small family farms and to bring fresh, local food to Long Islanders. The market first opened in the summer of 2010 and Martin manages it, every Sunday, from June through November.

Susan Risoli contributed reporting.

Take a bite out of these waterside restaurants

The view at Louie’s in Port Washington. Photo from restaurant staff

Spring ushers in warmer weather and a thirst for the outdoors. And what better way to quench that thirst than by dining outside? Here are a few waterside restaurants to simultaneously satisfy your cravings for beautiful vistas and delicious food.

The Whales Tale
81 Fort Salonga Road, Northport
Only minutes from Northport Village is a small, locally-run restaurant that was created as a local hangout for families and friends. The Whales Tale is meant to be a place where you can grab a bite of quality seafood with a waterfront view without actually paying for a waterfront view. The restaurant brews its own beer, which is a popular item on the menu, as are a local rum punch and the Northport Rocket — a combination of a piña colada and a rum float. The tacos are the most popular item on the menu, especially during the now famous Taco Tuesday, which is a huge hit among locals.

The view at Danfords in Port Jefferson. Photo from restaurant staff
The view at Danfords in Port Jefferson. Photo from restaurant staff

Maple Tree BBQ
820 West Main Street, Riverhead
Maple Tree BBQ offers a taste of the south and is located across the street from the Peconic River. The restaurant serves authentic barbecue food in a fun and casual atmosphere. You can buy food by the pound or by the platter to go, and many customers do this routinely. Not only are there picnic tables set up in front of the Peconic River, but Maple Tree BBQ is also right near Tanger Outlets — making it a great place to grab a bite after shopping, or drop your husband off while you shop. They make their own sweet tea here —a popular item — as well as their pastrami and Cuban sandwich.

Rachel’s Waterside Grill
281 Woodcleft Avenue, Freeport
Situated on Freeport’s famous Nautical Mile,  Rachel’s Waterside Grill offers casual, family-friendly dining paired with delicious, always-fresh seafood and a terrific view. The menu at Rachel’s Waterside Grill is innovative and different, offering a new American cuisine that includes a large selection of fresh fish that can be prepared in a variety of styles, including Korean grilled, blackened, roasted and more, paired with many different types of toppings. The tuna is one of the most popular items on the menu, along with the mussels. There are quite a few favorite cocktails, including the Dark and Stormy, a Bali Punch — a passion fruit punch drink mixed with rum — and an Almond Soy Martini.

Wave Seafood Kitchen
25 E Broadway, Port Jefferson
Wave Seafood Kitchen, located inside Danfords Hotel and Marina, overlooks the Long Island Sound and is located on Port Jefferson’s harbor, one of Long Island’s busiest harbors. This family-friendly restaurant serves fresh seafood, with some of its most popular items including shrimp crab rolls, sea scallops and salmon burgers. You can enjoy dinner inside the restaurant, or on the outdoor deck, sipping cocktails like blackberry sangria, a passion fruit mojito or a large selection of Long Island wines. There’s also a selection of refreshing, non-alcoholic beverages, including raspberry iced tea and a frozen mint chocolate chip drink.

Louie’s Oyster Bar and Grill
395 Main Street, Port Washington
This restaurant, located on Manhasset Bay, offers one of the most beautiful views of the sunset on Long Island. Louie’s also offers boaters the ability to dock and dine for free. Louie’s is more than 100 years old and has undergone quite a few changes throughout its history. With a large selection of always-fresh seafood, items like their oysters tend to be the most popular on the menu. They get fresh oysters every day, and are constantly changing the type of oysters they serve. Their Maine and Connecticut lobster rolls are also popular — Maine rolls are served cold and Connecticut served hot. Louie’s also has a very successful mixologist on staff who designs seasonal cocktail menus, including favorite drinks like a winter sangria, and during the summer, a blood orange margarita.

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By Heidi Sutton & Ernestine Franco

After a winter punctuated with one snow or ice storm after another, it’s hard to believe that spring has finally arrived. Avid gardeners hibernating in their homes for what seemed like months have been keeping their spirits high by perusing the gardening catalogs for the latest plants and products, all the while patiently waiting for the ground to thaw.

In perfect timing, All-America Selections recently announced its list of new varieties of flowers and vegetables for 2015.  Names like Emerald Fire, Butterscotch, Jolt Pink, Dolce Fresca and Tidal Wave Red Velour are enough to get any gardener excited about trying something new.

Since 1932, this nonprofit organization has annually tested new varieties of flowers and vegetables in various locations throughout the United States and Canada. Judges look for improved qualities such as disease tolerance, early bloom or harvest dates, taste, unique colors and flavors, higher yield, length of flowering or harvest, and overall performance.

Here’s what the judges had to say about some of the award winners:

The Northeast can now plant entire gardens using these AAS winning varieties, all of which have been proven to have superior performance.

For a complete list of the new plants chosen by the AAS, as well as other information about the organization, visit their website at www.all-americaselections.org.

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Inferno Roadside Grill serves up a juicy cheeseburger in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer

By Lisa Steuer

A few years ago, most people would have defined a “food truck” as a vehicle parked on the side of the road that primarily sells hot dogs and is mostly appealing for the convenience it offers.

But today, many food truck operators around the country — and now, Long Island — are specialists in their profession. They are experienced chefs who have worked in kitchens for years, have food management experience, or who grew up learning about and appreciating mom’s authentic cooking. They are restaurant owners, wedding and party caterers and seasoned cooks and bakers who all have at least one thing in common — a passion and love for food and cooking.

Burgers by 25A
Patrick Trovato, a graduate of Port Jefferson high school and a current resident of Miller Place, has operated the Inferno Roadside Grill food truck since 2011. Located in Mount Sinai in the Agway parking lot, the Inferno Roadside Grill has built a following solely through word of mouth, said Trovato. Menu items include burgers, grilled chicken wraps, wings and more, and Trovato said he buys all the ingredients every morning, including the beef, which is ground fresh.

“I’ve only been able to do two things in my life — sales and cook,” said Trovato, who previously owned a New York City restaurant with his father and also worked in insurance.

You can spot Patrick Trovato’s truck, Inferno Roadside Grill in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer
You can spot Patrick Trovato’s truck, Inferno Roadside Grill in Mount Sinai this season. Photo by Lisa Steuer

Eventually, Trovato decided to leave the insurance industry and go back to his passion of cooking. He purchased an old camper for $500, and it took about four-and-a-half months to transform it into the food truck that exists today. Trovato did all his research, remodeled it, installed a commercial kitchen, made sure he met the proper codes and opened with help from his business partners — his girlfriend, and his friend Kevin, who owns Smithtown House of Vacuums.

“People can’t afford to risk or lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a restaurant. So the food truck is a small capital investment, comparatively,” said Trovato. “With a food truck, you can just be great at one thing. … A food truck just lets you be a specialist.”

The Inferno Roadside Grill is open year round, Monday through Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., weather permitting. This snowy winter, however, made it rough — from Thanksgiving through March, Trovato was not able to be open for a full week.

Looking forward, Trovato plans to open the Inferno Roadside Grill restaurant in Sound Beach by summer. The restaurant, which will be located at 245 Echo Avenue, will have the same menu currently available on the truck, expanded to include specialty “regional” burgers — burgers that are popular in different parts of the country — and possibly a Southern-fried chicken menu. When the restaurant opens, the truck will remain in operation, but the menu will most likely be pared down to strictly burgers and fries, while the other menu items will still be found at the restaurant.

“I have a special sauce on my burger,” said Trovato.  “When you take the fresh ground beef that’s been seared, seasoned, and you add the fresh crisp lettuce, tomato, onion, then you add the sauce, it’s a really unique flavor profile.”

Puerto Rico on Long Island
Roy and Kathleen Pelaez opened their Island Empanada restaurant in May 2011. There are now two locations, in Medford and Ronkonkoma, and two years ago the Island Empanada food truck opened.

Previously, the truck operated during the week, from May through October, off William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, but at press time, the location for this year was not yet determined. The Pelaezes also bring the truck to different events all over Suffolk and Nassau, including fairs, festivals, private parties and even weddings.

“We’re very unique,” said Roy Pelaez. ”And the food is Puerto Rican style, and there’s not a lot of Puerto Rican restaurants on Long Island.”

His mother and father were both born and raised in Puerto Rico. His wife, Kathleen Pelaez, works as a social worker in addition to working in the restaurants, and his daughters — one of whom is getting her master’s degree and the other her bachelor’s — also help out when they can.  “My mom taught me [to cook] and I was able to then teach the other cooks at both restaurants,” said Roy Pelaez, who also worked in and managed restaurants for more than 20 years before opening his own. “It’s the same food that I made in my kitchen, and I was able to just expand the menus to feed a larger amount of people, so it’s really home-cooked food.”

The Pelaezes opened the food truck to make attending festivals and other events much easier for them.

‘Long Island is behind … the rest of the country. Food trucks seem to be sweeping the nation right now. You can really get some good food — inexpensive, hand-held, quick and easy. And now, Suffolk and Nassau are starting to see it, and restaurant owners and entrepreneurs are trying to jump on it.’ — Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada

Since opening two years ago, the truck has done well, said Roy Pelaez, and even though the truck does make things easier, it is still a lot of work, he pointed out. “People just think they’re going to get a food truck and make a million dollars. It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “But the expenses are different.  … I don’t have the big utility bills.”

The Island Empanada restaurants include 26 varieties of empanadas, and the truck includes the 12 most popular varieties, as well as rice, beans, sweet plantains, potato balls, and flan for dessert.

“Long Island is behind a little bit the rest of the country. Food trucks seem to be sweeping the nation right now,” he said. “You can really get some good food — inexpensive, hand-held, quick and easy. And now, Suffolk and Nassau are starting to see it, and restaurant owners and entrepreneurs are trying to jump on it.”

The Mobile Bakery
Jess Kennaugh, owner of Blondie’s Bake Shop in Centerport, found her love for baking at a young age. “It was what I did for fun after school,” she said.

Then in high school, her first job was at A Rise Above Bake Shop in Huntington, her hometown. Kennaugh eventually went away to school, got a master’s degree in education and planned to become a teacher.  “I just always kept going back to the bakery. I couldn’t shake it.”

Blondie’s Bake Shop and the truck, which is used solely for events like fairs, weddings, caterings, etc., both opened in December of 2011. “I knew that food trucks were becoming more popular in the city and in places like Austin and D.C. and San Diego.  So I figured that it was only a matter of time before that happened on Long Island and I wanted to be a part of it.”

The truck has a full commercial kitchen, and in addition to the regular baked goods found in the bakery, there are waffles made to order on the truck — with berries and whipped cream, or chicken and waffles, for instance — as well as grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and even a “macaroni and cheese grilled cheese.”

“It’s restaurant quality food in a laid-back atmosphere,” said Kennaugh, about the appeal of food trucks. “It makes fancier food more approachable.”

At the shop, the most popular item is a lemon berry scone, said Kennaugh, but on the truck a favored item is the s’mores pie — which is a little individual pie with a graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding and toasted marshmallow.

“I think the people can get a sense of our enthusiasm for our product,” said Kennaugh. “I have a really young, excited, creative staff, and that energy is contagious. And I think our product is quality; it’s really thoughtfully made and I think that shows. “

Compared to the bakery, the items on the truck are “a little more indulgent.”

A dinner plate prepared by Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada. Photo by Steve Mahoney
A dinner plate prepared by Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada. Photo by Steve Mahoney

“At the bakery, we sell granola and yogurt and egg sandwiches, so there are ways to get around splurging on what you’re going to eat,” said Kennaugh. “The stuff on the truck is much more indulgent — cheeses and bacon, and we really kind of go crazy with ourselves over there.”

This will be Blondie’s third season. And while Kennaugh was still working on the truck’s schedule at the time of this interview, she said she’s hoping she’ll have the truck out three or four days a week through the last week in October.

“We’re pretty excited because we’re being sought out for private events and more obscure events,” she said.

The Mobile Chef
Steven Mahoney of Amityville has operated his mobile catering business, Iron Mobile Chef, for two years.

“I’ve been in the food industry my whole life, since I was a little kid making pizza,” said Mahoney.  He owned a pork and gourmet food store for about 10 years, and also worked as a private chef on the East End of Long Island for about four years before getting into the food truck business.

“The food truck is a new, fun thing — it’s really great,” said Mahoney. “I did a lot of off-the-premise catering before I had the truck, and now it’s just like an extension — a kitchen I bring everywhere.”

Mahoney attends private parties and events as well as festivals all over Long Island, so the truck never stays in the same place. For bigger parties, Mahoney will bring a staff that includes family members to help out — brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and more. “It’s like a mom and pop store on wheels,” he said.

The unique aspect of Mahoney’s truck is that the menu varies wherever he goes, depending on what’s wanted or appropriate at the particular event. “I can go from hot dogs and hamburgers to lobster tails and filet mignon,” Mahoney said. Items like Philly cheesesteaks and sausage and peppers are usually made for fairs, for instance. At the time of this interview, Mahoney had just finished doing a breakfast party.

“These awesome chefs that are dying to open their own place and they have a passion for cooking and it’s just a little too expensive to get their own restaurant — it’s like their dream come true, but a little bit cheaper,” said Mahoney, about the rise in popularity of food trucks. “It’s a lot more work than a restaurant, but if you have the passion for it, that’s what makes it worth it … I love it and I enjoy what I do. I can work 16-, 17-hour days … and I really love it.”

For those interested in renting Iron Mobile Chef for an event, Mahoney can be reached at (516) 351-5176.