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The Convivial Table gets down and dirty
ADVENTURES IN FOOD & WINE PAIRING; DISCOVERING NEW HUDSON VALLEY CULT CLASSICS

By Wendy Crispell, CSW, WSET


When it comes to artisan food and beverage production the Hudson Valley is a hot bed of activity. Whether the craftsmen and women are transplants looking to return to their roots, or victims of the downturn, turned small business owners, one thing is for sure—the variety and quality of products being produced by these upstarts is mind-boggling. While the region has long been known for boutique wine production, a new wave of distilleries, mead, cider, and beer producers are popping up all over the Valley. On the food front, everything from bean to bar chocolatiers to saucier’s recreating ancient family recipes are appearing in record numbers. Many of these uniquely Hudson Valley products can turn an average pairing into an extraordinary experience; adding an unexpected flavor to your favorite routine can bring new interest and shake things up a bit! The following are just a few of my recent favorites, served up with suggested cheeses made by local dairies. Try one of these selected pairings, or experiment with other combinations to find your own Hudson Valley cult classic pairing.

Fruition Chocolate | Shokan

DARK MILK CHOCOLATE WITH FLEUR DE SEL

Hudson Valley ApplejackBryan Graham heads up the operation of this small batch bean to bar chocolate workshop located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. With meticulous attention to detail, he slowly roasts and stone grinds carefully selected cocoa beans to accentuate their inherent flavor. Graham has quickly gained fame in the world of chocolate; recently he was named one of the top ten chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine.

I was first introduced to Graham’s delicious chocolates at a wine, cheese and chocolate event I hosted in Manhattan. Paired with a sparkling Chardonnay and an ash-aged goat cheese, this bar, straddling the flavors of milk and dark chocolate, was divine. The addition of the crunchy sea salt studding this delicious chocolate tied the pairing together – purely divine! Try it with your favorite local sparkling and a creamy goat cheese.

Baron’s International Kitchen | West Hurley

PORTUGUESE REPOLHO RELISH

I first tasted Baron’s International Kitchen’s amazing relish at the New York City Hot Sauce Expo, an event that featured all levels of heat for lovers of fiery foods. Terry Baron, a native of the Hudson Valley, crafts a flavorful line of sauces, marinades and condiments inspired by secret family recipes. Her Portuguese Repolho Relish is the perfect accompaniment to sharp, full-flavored cheeses including New York sharp cheddars, aged Gouda, and funky washed rind offerings. With just the right balance between sweet and spicy this relish, made from a blend of Western European and Moroccan flavors, is addictive.


Helderberg Meadworks | Duanesburg

HERITAGE MEAD

Peter Voelker is producing a line of mead wines with atypical aging and production methods. Use of oak casks, lack of filtering, and higher alcohol levels all contribute to a premium beverage that more closely resembles an off-dry sherry or tawny-style port. This slightly unctuous delight is perfect with a spicy blue cheese; consider a raw milk style from Tonjes Dairy in Callicoon, NY.

LunaGrown Jams | Cuddebackville

RICA BARREJA

Hudson Valley ApplejackRica Barreja, meaning “wealthy blend,” is LunaGrown’s signature blend of fresh Valley-grown fruit and vanilla bean cooked to perfection using natural sugars, with no artificial additives or preservatives. LunaGrown jams have an Old-World style that tastes like they’re made by a doting granny toiling in her kitchen. Rica Barreja is no exception, full of sweet and savory notes, it’s a perfect slather on crusty bread topped with a bloomy rind cheese. Think Kunik from Nettle Meadows Farm or Margie from Sprout Creek Farm, some of my favorite cheeses made in the Valley.

Catskill Distillery | Bethel

OMMEGANG SINGLE MALT

Last winter I stumbled upon Catskill Distillery on a blustery, snowy drive through Sullivan County. Owners Monte Sachs and Stacy Cohen quickly warmed me with tastes of their craft distillates as well as their enthusiastic spirit. Tasting through their selection of vodka, gin and whiskeys, they shared a sneak preview of their new project in partnership with Ommegang, the Belgian-style craft brewer located in Cooperstown. A specialty, single malt whiskey made with mash from Hennepin (Ommegang’s farmhouse saison ale), is being aged to perfection in Catskill’s cask room, “flavored with grains of paradise, ginger, coriander and orange peel.” This is something I can’t wait to try. Whiskeys of this style paired with hard, aged cheeses are heaven, especially when accented with an earthy, spicy jam like LunaGrown’s Rica Barreja or a savory relish like Baron Kitchen’s Portuguese Repolho!

Wendy Crispell, WSET Advanced Certificate, CSW is a wine and cheese specialist based in both the Hudson Valley and NYC. Join her for one of her weekly wine and cheese classes aboard the motor yacht Manhattan or plan your own private event in your office, home or event space. www.wendycrispellwine.com

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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