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Bed Check: Modern comfort at Long Island's Shinn Estate Farmhouse

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 21, 2010

The first thing that caught my eye in the living room of the Shinn Estate Farmhouse was the cast-iron wood-burning stove against the wall. It was particularly cold and windy in Long Island's wine country, and I'd spent much of the day walking around outdoors. Imagine my delight at the sight of a roaring fire.

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I was just in time for happy hour at the bed-and-breakfast, part of Shinn Estate Vineyards in the North Fork of Long Island. The owners, Barbara Shinn and her husband, David Page, had opened a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and set out a platter of cheese and crackers and a bowl of olives. It's something they do for their guests every afternoon, and I couldn't wait to dig in.

But before I could start, Shinn showed me to my room, one of four in the house. I'd chosen the Porchside, on the first floor, because it was the most secluded and private. As it turned out, though, privacy wouldn't be a problem: I was the only guest at the inn that December evening.

Still, after looking at the other rooms, I thought I'd picked the best one. It was spacious, with a queen-size four-poster bed, a flat-screen TV, a plush lounging chair and in-room climate control. The private bathroom had a walk-in shower with unusually large bottles of organic shampoo and conditioner from Vermont Soapworks. Very green.

That, however, was not the predominant color in the rest of the farmhouse, where I found the interior decor striking for an 1880s building. Shinn and Page had completely renovated the house, painting it in earth colors and furnishing it with modern pieces of the sort you don't normally find in a bed-and-breakfast. I'd expected a patchwork quilt on my bed rather than a beige comforter.

After settling in, I returned to the living room to sample the snacks and browse the bookshelves while sipping my wine. They were filled with cookbooks, not surprising considering that Shinn and Page had once owned a restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Back in my room after dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, I nibbled on a couple of the homemade cookies that Shinn and Page had left on a plate on my bed and scrutinized the small beige card they'd left on my pillow. On it was typed a poem titled "Good Night." The opening line: "The lark is silent in his nest,/The breeze is sighing in its flight,/Sleep, Love, and peaceful be thy rest."

Unfortunately, the wind was howling so loudly that night that my rest wasn't all that peaceful. But my bed was comfortable, and I managed to fall asleep, the soft linens and comforter keeping me warm.

The next morning, I discovered that at this bed-and-breakfast, you don't get one breakfast. You get two. From 8 to 9:30 a.m. the hosts serve coffee, tea, smoothies and a light breakfast. A full hot breakfast comes out after that.

I sat alone at a table that could seat eight. The menu card on my plate informed me that I'd be having mushroom risotto, a sunny-side-up duck egg and a maple-cured slab of bacon that Page had smoked himself. Much of the food served at Shinn Estate is organic and local. The mushrooms in the risotto, for instance, came from nearby Crescent Farms.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd had such a delicious breakfast. Nor could I remember the last time I'd had such a big one. But I was once again going to be braving the cold all day, so a hearty breakfast was definitely in order.



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