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Carolyn Sackstein

By Carolyn Sackstein

The universe works in mysterious ways. It embraced the Country House, located at the corner of Route 25A and Main Street in Stony Brook, on May 4, 2019, race day for the 145th “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky.

Owner Bob Willemstyn was preparing to open the restaurant when a friend informed him that one of the horses, running in the Kentucky Derby, was named Country House. Never a gambler, Willemstyn went down to the off-track betting to place a $100 bet to win on the horse bearing the name of the restaurant he had worked in since 1978 and owned since 2005. 

Willemstyn was told, “The horse is a long shot with odds 65-1 against it.” Many tried to get him to reduce his wager or not bet the horse at all. “I really don’t care, I didn’t want to be cheap,” Willemstyn said. “I have lost a hundred dollars on other things before. So that was the year that it was a very rainy racetrack, it was mucky. The horses were coming around and something happened that has only happened once in 149 years of the race — the first-place horse got disqualified.”

The winner and 9-2 favorite, Maximum Security, was found to have violated rules against interference when he strayed into the paths of War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Country House. After race officials viewed the video tape, Country House, who never raced again, was declared the winner. Willemstyn’s bet and faith in Country House was vindicated.

The providential windfall from his bet came just in time to allow for renovations to the restaurant building when the COVID-19 shutdown occurred. Willemstyn was able to address structural issues in one of the smaller dining areas used for private parties. It also happens to be the room in which the spirit of former colonial resident Annette Williamson manifests itself. 

The ceiling was removed along with the floor of the room above, and the beams were exposed. This process revealed the upper room and resulted in a more spacious feel to the dining room. The ceiling above was painted to suggest a blue sky. Other tweaks and repairs were done to the building and grounds, while keeping the traditional colonial look so beloved and expected by his patrons.

During the renovations a variety of artifacts and structures from the 18th and 19th centuries were found. Willemstyn is considering ways in which to display some of them. As in years past, he continues to refresh the interior decor throughout the year as seasons and holidays change. Attention to the smallest detail is paramount to Willemstyn’s hospitality.

Just as the building and grounds were refreshed, the menu was also revamped to appeal to family dining and bar patrons. Some 90% or more of all offerings are homemade, and farms from the East End bring their fresh seasonal produce to the Country House. Seasonal foods and bar offerings reflect holidays and special occasions. As an example, mint juleps were featured on the first Saturday in May, Kentucky Derby Day.

The Country House Restaurant is open Wednesdays though Sundays, from noon
to closing. Due to confusion about Country House on the web, Willemstyn requests that people
use the following websites: countryhouserestaurant.com or countryhouserestaurant.net.

By Carolyn Sackstein

Tipping for home delivery of food has been debated in the media lately, with a viral video of a delivery driver taking an order back because she felt an $8 tip was inadequate for transporting the food from Commack to Smithtown. 

The internet is full of videos instructing drivers on techniques for working with DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub apps to maximize pay and improve service. It is also filled with complaints of drivers being stiffed by non-tipping customers and undertipping. Drivers also decry the practice of “tip-baiting,” in which a good tip is promised with pre-tipping and then is adjusted down after delivery.

On Friday, March 10, TBR News Media asked people on the street in downtown Port Jefferson to discuss their tipping practices. The following are their responses.



Elizabeth Garland, Port Jefferson

Garland rarely gets food delivery, but said she tips “20% like I would in a restaurant, maybe a little more. If it was a bad weather day, maybe a bit more.”






Gloria Neumair, Patchogue

“For food delivery, I don’t tip as much as I would in a restaurant, but I still tip.” When asked what she bases her tips on, she responded, “I guess the distance they had to come, the total of the order, but I don’t generally do a percent.”






Alexa Noriega, Patchogue

“I think the amount should be based on factors like the weather, how much they are getting for you and whether they provided any extra customer service during the shopping process. I do think they should be tipped on top of their pay.”






Jesse Guerra, St. James

“I usually do 20%. I consider it a generous tip, depending on where I go.” When asked if a fee should be built into a person’s salary, he responded, “I don’t think it should be built into a person’s salary. There are better workers than others. I don’t like when they put [the tips] into one big bucket and spread it out because the less good workers are getting a share of the better workers.”





Nick Lemza, Smithtown

“I actually work for DoorDash and Uber Eats. I always tip 20-to-25%.” He went on to discuss the criteria on which he bases his tipping. These factors include “how quickly the food gets to you, if the food is in proper care, what the ratings are on each profile and just if the food is good. I tip even if the food is bad — 18-to-20% because this is someone’s living.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
By Carolyn Sackstein

Given the nationwide proliferation of violence in schools, the Smithtown Central School District Board of Education recently voted to vet and hire a private security firm to patrol the exterior perimeter of all schools with armed guards. 

Long Island schools from Greenport to Copiague have experienced threats of violence made by students. Following the Parkland, Florida, school shootings in 2018, some districts opted to provide armed security personnel, including Hauppauge, Miller Place and Mount Sinai. With an ongoing public debate over the most effective way to protect children in schools and public spaces, TBR News Media took to the streets of Port Jefferson village Saturday, Feb. 18, asking people for their opinions on armed guards in and around schools.

— Photos by Carolyn Sackstein



Gannon Lawley, Anchorage, Alaska

“I am against armed guards in almost all places, especially schools. It doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that would be good for a school or a learning environment. It arises from an aversion to armed guards in general. It’s a hippy peace thing for me.”






Nicole Carhart & Hector Monell, West Islip

When asked about armed guards on school campuses Carhart said, “It depends. It is good for people to keep safe. You want to make sure they are not using it against others.”

Monell thought Smithtown’s decision was “a positive outcome.”






Joseph Vergopia, Manhattan

When asked to comment on Smithtown’s decision to put armed guards on campus, he responded, “That’s the stupidest idea I ever heard, because more guns on the street are just a ridiculous way to curb gun [violence].”




Jeremy Torres and Xiao Han Wu, Stony Brook

Jeremy Torres from Stony Brook village was with his wife, Xiao Han Wu, originally from Beijing, China, and young daughter. Torres said, “With today’s crazy environment, I would prefer police on the campus. As long as [private security] has proper training and qualifications and gun safety, I would trust that. You can’t just have anybody.”

Han Wu said, “Because I see a lot of news like shootings in the schools and all that and having a kid, that definitely makes me more concerned about the safety in schools. I feel comfortable, they put armed guards [on campus]. I also prefer police.”


Louis Antoniello, Terryville

“There are better ways to protect the school systems. [Examples would be] electronic locks on the schools, where you have to use a pass key to get in, electronic locks on the classroom doors and gymnasiums. If there is an issue in the school, where somebody does get in, the entire school can be locked down with kids and teachers in the classroom through the main office. They can just lock it down electronically. Nobody can get into the classrooms. Would you rather have more guns where now you’re getting into a gun fight on the street? Doesn’t matter if it is someone who has been trained to use a gun or not. If you look at the statistics and the percentages of how many times you hit with your first or second shot, those percentages are very low. Where are these bullets going? They could be going into the windows of the school. They could be going into neighbors’ houses. The best thing to do is spend your money on securing the building, and electronic locks are the way to go. You can also have security cameras all around with people watching the security videos. They can see who is coming on campus. You’re stopped at the door, they ask what you’re doing there, you’re on camera, you show your ID. You sit and wait to pick up your son or daughter. You can drop something off for them at security. That’s how you secure a building. Leaving the building open without electronic locks and just having people walking the perimeter with guns is not the way to go.”

Pixabay photo
By Carolyn Sackstein

When visitors to the Village of Port Jefferson were approached Saturday, Jan. 7, they thoughtfully and very personally responded to the question: “What was your favorite,  most significant or memorable event of 2022?” The themes of health, pets and travel ruled the day.

— Photos by Carolyn Sackstein

Paul and Gerri Havran, St. James

“We were on the ferry returning from Connecticut after picking up a truck,” Paul said. “Shortly after leaving Bridgeport, I had a heart attack and died for several minutes. Fortunately, there was a [physician’s assistant] sitting by us. There was an EMT and they went to work on me. They weren’t bringing me back, but the captain saw from the bridge what was going on and sent the crew down with an [automated external defibrillator]. A fireman and the PA administered the AED and brought me back.”



Corinne Minor (left) and Sara Jackson, Selden

Corinne: “We got two cats from my grandmother this past year, when she passed away. Bringing them here and getting them acclimated to our little home has been significant.”

Sara: “I would have to say my health. I went through a whirlwind of surgeries. I am happy and healthy right now. I cannot wait for 2023.”




Ashley Smith, St. James

“Definitely adopting my second dog from Last Chance Animal Rescue. She’s a Redbone Coonhound named Caroline.”







Keith, Lauren and Christine Kmiotek, Brooklyn

Keith spoke for the family. “Our island vacation in St. John, the U. S. Virgin Islands, was very nice. We are beach bums, so what’s nice about St. John is you can go to all the public beaches. It’s open to everybody. You don’t have to pay to get on the beaches. You get tired of one, you get in your car and drive to another. You go around the corner and it’s like a whole new world. The island is that beautiful to explore.”




Chuck Sullivan, Manorville

“Getting on the ferry and going to Vermont. It was the greatest bike trip I ever took. It was with a bunch of good guys.”

Pixabay photo

By Carolyn Sackstein

It is the season of ice cream.

This week, people visiting downtown Port Jefferson were asked to give their thoughts on the best and worst ice cream flavors and to share their fondest memories associated with this cold, delicious treat.

Brianna Goncalves, Shirley

She likes chocolate peanut butter cup and dislikes mint chocolate chip. When asked about a favorite memory she said, “I get ice cream so much, I really don’t know.” 


Joseph Papalia, Florida 

He had just finished a cherry ice from Ralph’s when he was approached about his favorite ice cream flavors. The former Nesconset resident said his favorite ice cream “without a doubt is Häagen-Dazs’ Dulce de Leche.” He went on to state that his least favorite was “chocolate — I don’t like strawberry either.” He said his favorite memory is “right here, Port Jefferson.”


Caroline Santonocito, Ridge

Santonocito was asked what her favorite flavor was, she said, “This one, vanilla, from this particular ice cream place [Port Jefferson Ice Cream Café].” She added, “There really is no least favorite ice cream for me.” 


Toni Ross, Middle Island 

Ross currently likes tiramisu best, but doesn’t like ice cream containing nuts. Her fondest memory associated with ice cream is of “sitting with my husband and licking my ice cream in Port Jeff waiting for the ferry.”


Chris Devault, Rocky Point

He fondly remembers having ice cream while fishing on Lake Michigan. He said he most enjoys coffee-flavored ice cream as well as cookies and cream. When asked what was his least favorite flavor, Devault responded, “One that’s not served.”


Sydny Starling (left) and Michael Carneiro (right)

Sydny Starling, Tupelo, Mississippi 

Sydny was with her Shetland sheepdog when she was approached for an interview. The visitor favors cookies and cream and dislikes mint chocolate chip. She has no particular memories associated with ice cream. 

Michael Carneiro, Mount Sinai 

His favorite flavor is chocolate chip cookie dough and his least favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip. He has memories of vacationing and being “a preteen and me, my dad and my brother were getting ice cream. And, you know, sometimes it’s messy. And all of a sudden, I look to the left and my brother goes, ‘Michael you’ve got ice cream on the back of your head.’ So, we were all cracking up, dying laughing, because I, of course, am the person who would somehow get ice cream on the back of his head.”