A New Year's Miscellany | General Food & Drink | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

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A New Year's Miscellany

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If there’s one thing the New Year reminds us, it’s that time does not stand still—if anything, it seems to accelerate. The 21st century is already 10 percent over, and “change” is the modifier of choice when talking about politics, the climate, technology, or the economy. Even when one focuses on our little piece of the world, it’s still hard to keep up. With that in mind, we’re checking in on some of the local producers we’ve profiled in 2009 to learn about new developments. There is a lot to report, and the Hudson Valley independent food scene is rapidly assembling itself into something deserving of our pride and increased support.

Gerard Viverito, professor at the Culinary Institute of America and cofounder of the sustainable seafood advocacy group PassionFish (profiled in February), has started a business. The Hudson Valley Fishmonger sells only sustainably caught seafood sourced directly from the people who caught it. Viverito refers to it as a CSA, for “Community Supported Aquatics” and explains that it offers customers a chance to buy properly harvested fish as fresh as it can be. Most of what he offers is delivered within 24 hours of landing. Due to the nature of the supply chain, fish markets generally carry seafood that is at least a few days older than that, and the difference in quality is astonishing. Currently, Viverito is taking orders via phone or e-mail and making weekly deliveries in Woodstock and Red Hook, but in the spring he plans to have tables at both the Woodstock and Rhinebeck farmers’ markets.

Don Lewis at Wild Hive Farm (April) is in the process of moving to his new grinding facility down the road from his café and store in Clinton Corners. His new 30-inch mill has arrived—a big step up from the 20-inch he’s been using—and he expects to be grinding with it beginning this month. A dehuller and other machines are scheduled for installation in the spring, and Lewis looks forward to doubling his production once all the equipment is up and running. In anticipation of the increased supply, Lewis has been working on a new model for structuring demand along CSA lines. Customers can buy shares, different denominations of which will entitle the buyer to a certain amount of grain and flour over the course of the year. There’s no minimum buy-in, and the plan includes gift cards, so it allows for more flexibility than a traditional CSA. Lewis urges people to participate. “Food security begins with the farmers,” he says. “If customers pre-order, I can tell them to plant more acres of grain.”

The Amazing Real Live Food Company (July) has encountered some setbacks, but Rory Chase and Peter Destler are on the verge of having their new facility fully operational. Problems with the boiler that heats the milk tank (the unit originally installed was not powerful enough to heat the full tank, so it had to be swapped out for a bigger one) helped contribute to the delay, but it also heightened their desire to hit the ground running. They’ll be using milk from Chase’s family farm to make much more of their current line, and also to branch out; they have plans to make cheddar, as well as fresh mozzarella (and its divine cousin, burrata, which is mozzarella encasing a near-liquid mixture of cheese and cream). In keeping with their name, they’ll also be offering kombucha (fermented tea) and dramatically increasing their production of probiotic ice cream—which Destler guesses is likely the only such ice cream available.

On the permaculture front, both Lee Reich and Ethan Roland (August) are offering a variety of courses to those seeking a deeper understanding of gardening and home food production. Starting in April, Reich will begin holding workshops on fruit and vegetable gardening, pruning, and landscaping with edible plants at his home in New Paltz. Reich also holds an annual plant sale in May, offering a selection of fruit varieties chosen for their yield, flavor, and ease of cultivation. Roland has a full schedule of classes and events beginning this month, with both introductions to and immersion courses in edible forest gardening and a permaculture design certificate course. Details can be found on their websites; see the end of this piece for a complete list of resources.

On the heels of last month’s piece on local distillers, comes more exciting news. Stephen Osborn of Stoutridge Vineyard in Marlboro is gearing up to begin a large-scale distillery alongside his winemaking operations. His solar-powered facility will produce a wide range of spirits made and flavored with entirely local ingredients: vodkas flavored with fruit from specific trees on various nearby farms, gin made with local botanicals, grappas and eaux de vie from grapes and other fruit. Bourbon and rye will follow, after some time aging in oak barrels, and he expects to be fully operational by September. Osborn says that having a distillery in the winery makes a lot of sense in this climate: “We can’t afford to have down vintages; we have to utilize the harvest every year. A bad wine year is excellent for brandies.” He plans to offer customers their own 7.5-gallon barrel of whiskey, made to order—three and a half cases of bespoke booze, with the barrel it was aged in. These CSA-style pre-orders will help Osborn secure contracts with farmers that benefit both parties.

Whitecliff Vineyards (June) in Gardiner, using the stills at Tuthilltown Spirits, is making brandy from their Frontenac grapes, aged for a year in three-year-old Chardonnay barrels at the winery. The first 10 cases are now a year old and available for purchase. There’s also a grappa made from a variety of their red grapes in the traditional way: the pomace (skins left after pressing) is rehydrated and distilled. Whitecliff winemaker Michael Migliore also makes a traditional Port by adding neutral spirits to wine before fermentation is complete, leaving residual sugar and a final alcohol level of about 20 percent. He’s done some experiments with aging the port in Tuthilltown’s Bourbon barrels, and a collaboration may be in the offing. Also in the drinking department, Cereghino Smith (March) have released their first wine made from New York grapes. The 2008 Cabernet Franc comes from Martini Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, and is blended with 10 percent Petite Sirah made from California fruit. The elegant, strawberry-scented structure for which Cab Franc is renowned, buttressed by the jammy opulence of the Petite Sirah makes for a wine that promises to go famously with winter stews and braises—especially after decanting for a few hours. The wine is now available on their website, as well as from local merchants.

Something not previously covered but worthy of mention is the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Ken Greene and Doug Miller are beginning their third season of carefully sourcing and selling seeds from their farm in Accord. Their focus is on finding New York-specific heirloom varieties that grow well in home gardens, and their goal is to carry 100 percent New York grown seeds in about five years. “Over time, seeds grown here will adapt and perform even better,” says Greene. He goes on to underscore that rescuing heirloom species with a history in the state is an essential response to increasingly monocultural industrial agriculture, but that ultimately it’s all about the taste. “Someone might not share or care about my politics, but if a tomato is delicious, we can all agree on that,” Greene says. The Seed Library offers memberships—again, on the CSA model—that allow for discounts on purchases. The new 2010 catalog is up on their website this month.

And last, for dessert, Lucky Chocolates has moved to a new site on Partition Street in the village of Saugerties. Owner Rae Stang wanted to be in a pedestrian area with lots of foot traffic, and she’ll be living over the store for good measure. Lucky 2.0 will offer classes for adults and kids, and maybe expand to include other products beyond their organic, fair-trade chocolates. The grand opening of the new store will be on January 30.
It’s no coincidence that the term “CSA” appears as often as it does in this piece. Producers are settling on it as a model because it pushes money up the supply chain, offering some financial stability to the growers who risk the most. Our power as consumers cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to building the second story of our local food movement. By making the choice to source more and more of our food locally—which, because of the ever-higher quality, is an easy one—and then putting our dollars behind that decision, we’re contributing tangibly to our gustatory pleasure and food security all at once, and helping our talented producers to turn the Hudson Valley into one of the world’s great food regions.

RESOURCES
Amazing Real Live Food Company www.amazingreallive.com
Cereghino Smith Winery www.cereghinosmith.com
Hudson Valley Fishmonger www.hudsonvalleyfishmonger.com
Hudson Valley Seed Library www.seedlibrary.org
Lucky Chocolates www.luckychocolates.com
Lee Reich www.leereich.com
Ethan Roland www.appleseedpermaculture.com
Soutridge Vineyard www.stoutridge.com
Tuthilltown Spirits www.tuthilltown.com
Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery www.whitecliffwine.com
Wild Hive Farm www.wildhivefarm.com

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