Greenport is a riot of pink when the cherry trees bloom! From late April to mid-March, the trees lining the Village streets inspire springtime walks, just like in Washington D.C. and Japan. Greenport has long been known for its trees; the Arbor Day Foundation recently awarded it the “Tree City USA” award for 2018, the 15th time it’s earned this honor.
The annual, self-guided “Petal and Pub” tour is a great way to enjoy the all-too-brief yet gorgeous display. A map, created by the AgroTourism Council with the help of the Village of Greenport Tree Committee, shows where to find nearly 300 trees in the cherry family like Kwanzan, Okame, Yoshino, Snow Goose and Sargent, as well as pear and crabapple trees. Local restaurants and specialty shops celebrate with food and drink that include the edible pink petals, like a cherry-blossom cocktail at American Beech and tea at the Special Tea House. Little Creek Oysters, Blue Duck Bakery, Kate’s Cheese Company and more add blossoms to confections and cakes. The concept comes from Japan, where Sakura (cherry blossom) foods are popular during Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing season. The petals are also traditionally salted or pickled to concentrate the flavor.
The idea for the celebration came to Greenporter Hotel owner Deborah Pittorino three years ago, as she talked to guests about cherry-blossom festivals around the world. At the same time, she was forming the AgroTourism Council, a not-for-profit enterprise to promote year-round, off-season and mid-week sustainable travel in the North Fork agricultural region. It augments the efforts of the North Fork Promotional Council and the Greenport Business Improvement District, yet has a slightly different mission, she explained.
“People come out here to connect to nature,” Pittorino said. “We know what they’re looking for, because they ask at the front desk. They’re interested in their food sources, and they come out here specifically because we’re an agricultural region. They’re very environmentally aware, and concerned about sustainability.” Kayaking, fishing charters, clamming oyster hatcheries, berry and apple picking, vineyard walks and taking classes at farms and restaurants are among the interactive experiences people are looking for, she said.
Becoming home base for eco- and agri-tourism is a natural progression for The Greenporter, which Pittorino bought in 1999 and renovated using green principles. Innovations have been ongoing, and the 55-room boutique hotel has earned Trip Advisor’s highest Platinum rating in their GreenLeaders Program. A third story of 20 more rooms and a new lobby is being designed by architects Glynis Berry and Hideaki Ariizumi of Studio A/B.
For years, her husband and business partner Bill Pittorino also ran an acclaimed European-style wine bar and bistro on site, called Cuveé. Sadly, a year ago, his three-year battle with pancreatic cancer came to an end. “All of my energy went to him,” she said. “But we got to spend that time together, so I’m grateful.”
Pittorino said that since then, she has found herself thinking about her legacy, and wanting to give back to the community by actively boosting agri-tourism, while also moving her hotel business in that direction. She has also for decades owned a management consulting and executive search firm called in New York City called the Succession Group, and naturally, has many business contacts. After the Discovery Channel chose The Greenporter for a corporate retreat, word of mouth in the tech start-up and media industries led to similar bookings. Now, companies rely on her to put together multiday packages of transportation, conference amenities, local dining, team outings to farms, vineyards and fun water activities.
“They’re not looking for a South Fork type of experience,” she said. “Of course, the South Fork is wonderful, but that’s not who we are. We have our own identity, and people really respond to it.”
Maps for the Pub and Petal tour are available at the AgroTourism Council information booth at the Greenporter Hotel and other locations around the Village, and at agrotourismcouncil.org.