March 30, 2015 Four Fat Fowl Artisan Creamery-Stephentown, NY
Sometimes people-simply put- just “get it right” and Four Fat Fowl certainly does. Their St. Stephen Triple Cream is worth seeking out. A slightly dusty and nutty rind gives way to a silky palate of not overbearing creamy, buttery flavors. This initial richness is balanced by grassy tartness and a lingering salty punch on the finish. Enough said. This cheese speaks for itself.
March 26, 2015 – Tartine-New York, NY
Ladies and gentlemen, if you will please direct your attention to the center of the midway. Here in front of your very eyes you’ll experience a creature seen by few. After years of searching, we found him hidden deep in a remote Moldovian cave…Prince Dragomir, decedent of Vlad Dracula…cut off from contact with the outside world and existing solely by biting the heads off live chickens and drinking their blood. Have no fear, as he has no taste for human blood- Yes, I surmise that I would have made PT Barnum proud.
This early master of the sideshow was known to instill awe and fear with the presentation of these “geeks”. Yes, boys and girls that is today’s history lesson. A geek was originally a circus sideshow performer who engaged in excessive or extreme acts like biting the heads from live chickens. How this morphed into today’s geek, nerd or dork is not clear but a good guess is it involved the common thread of being excessive or out of the main stream….just my theory. Where am I going with all this? Patience my dear readers, we will soon be there…….
Despite being a somewhat chilly, drizzly night I looked forward to the evening’s dinner with anticipation. I was meeting Evan McCormack, Wine Manger of New York City’s PJ Wine. It was a chance for us to sit down and let our inner wine geeks fully emerge. Old wine, unusual wine, there would certainly be ample opportunity for palate exciting vinous beverages. Yes, there was food too. Tartine offers a good range of well-prepared French Bistro dishes without the expense of a liquor license. A Manhattan BYO, certainly not an everyday find.
Broiled Escargot- garlic, parsley and anise butter. Grilled Saucisson -garlic sausage, warm new potatoes, shallots, chive dressing. Louis Rodriguez, Vina de Martin, Os Pasas. This crisp vino blanco was a perfect compliment. Light to medium body, clean lemon-lime nose, strong but not overpowering citrus on the palate ,think lime zest-thank you Evan- with some chalky/licorice overtones and honey finish. A native grape blend of Treixadura, Albariño, Torrontés and Lado from Galicia’s Ribeiro DO in Northwestern Spain.
Thyme Roasted Salmon -English & sugar snap peas, Brussel sprouts fingerling potatoes truffle mushroom dressing. Unionville Vineyards, 2012 Pinot Noir, Clone 5. This single vineyard New Jersey Pinot Noir is a Burgundy-style classic. A slick palate loaded with fresh strawberry, herbs, dark fruits and nice earthiness in the background. A great marriage to the salmon. While New Jersey is known for its produce it certainly isn’t a household name in wine making despite having roots going back to the mid-1760s. A majority of the state’s 48 wineries may not have yet achieved this quality of production but it’s an industry and craft rapidly on the rise.
Beef Mignonette-au poivres & French fries. Mario Perelli Minetti, 1981 100% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. From a time before California’s current “modern” wine age. Clean with a true mid-heavy body. Soft tannins and fruits but not at all over extracted or jammy. A most enjoyable wine with or without food. There is balance and elegance in this wine and not even a hint of the overpowering style of so many of today’s California Cabs.
Yes, there was some room for desert. Don’t miss Tartine’s outstanding Crème Brulee.
After outlasting all of the other customers and most of the staff, we brought this three hour “gathering” to a close. Good food, great wine and opportunity to get excited when talking about wine aged in cement tanks, the year’s pending arrival of Ameztoi’s Rubentis Txakolina and glory of the King of Pork, Spain’s Jamon Iberico.
……..ok poindexter, gimme’ your lunch money.
January 2, 2015 – Sugar House Creamery-Upper Jay, NY – Asgaard Farm & Dairy-AuSable Forks, NY
If you’ve read my previous post, “Let Them Eat Trees”, you’ll recall that while I’m big on the Lake Placid area, I pull no punches as to the brutality of its weather. With such an inhospitable climate you’ll be surprised to know that the neighboring AuSable valley is seeing the signs of a budding farm movement. Ok, I’m being a bit overly optimistic-maybe the cold cut down the voltage of my neurons- but there are two that my girlfriend and I had the pleasure to visit.
Sugar House Creamery focuses on artisanal cheese and other dairy products. Pull up to the small honor system farm store-kind of restores your faith in mankind for a minute, doesn’t it-where you’ll find a couple of refrigerators. Having read many positive reviews, I was excited to try the cheese even without having the opportunity to sample it first. I choose two. Dutch Knuckle described on the label as “a semi-hard raw milk mountain cheese”. Nutty and creamy with a slightly earthy rind. Great for eating straight and equally as enjoyable melted on your favorite bread. Pound Cake, “a bloomy-rind cheese”. This was decadent, complex, rich and wonderful. A bit runny at room temperature with a faintly spongy texture inside. The palate mixed a touch of brie with some vague overtones of blue. A well balanced bitterness and mushroom came through in the rind. I was also lucky enough to get the last half-gallon of pure unadulterated full-fat raw milk. Rich, clean, grassy and fresh. Return the bottle on your next visit and get credit against the purchase. This place takes sustainability seriously.
After having a local acquaintance suggest a visit to Asgaard Farm & Dairy, the expectations were high. While they officially closed at 2:00 PM that day, they told us to come over since someone would be there….over the river and through the woods-you know how it goes. After traveling on some back country roads and up a very long driveway we arrived at a building that seemed to be a combination tasting room and office. We were greeted by proprietor David Brunner and about thirty minutes later his wife Rhonda Butler. As usual I was in food paradise. This time without the evil eye from the GF about how much time I was taking which was in no small part due to the sample of their excellent homemade Sea Salt Goat Milk Caramel. We quickly proceeded to buy two of the last three boxes-sorry all, you snooze ya’ loose. Yes, goat is the only animal they use for cheese production. After sampling we settled on a few. Barkeater Buche, “A soft-ripened cheese made with pasteurized goat milk, the Barkeater Buche is our Adirondack response to the Loire Valley’s Sainte-Maure de Touraine.” Tart like any good goat cheese, it was at the same time bright, fresh and creamy with a bit of forest floor/mushroom on the vegetable ash coated rind. As this cheese sat in the fridge it developed new depths of rich butter-like flavor and texture. I also recommend adding it to scrambled eggs during the last couple of minutes of cooking for a real boost to the mundane. Gladsheim which is a goat’s milk Gouda aged over sixty days. Very much like an old world Dutch Gouda but with the characteristic sharpness of goat’s milk. A satisfyingly deep firm bite as well. Fresh Chevre flavored with Adirondack Maple Syrup. To be fully transparent this has never been my type of cheese. No, I don’t dislike it but have always found it to be somewhat uninteresting and bland with a texture that reminds me of whipped cream cheese from a bad diner. Just the thought of it brings back joyfully horrible memories of alcohol fueled late night Jersey dinner gluttony- well it tasted good in those heady moments of teenage and early twenties vintage but the almighty Thomas Crapper would exact a most draconian revenge-sorry, thought I’d share the “love”. Why then, you might ask, did I decide to try it especially since they had none available to taste first? The maple syrup of course since everything is better with maple syrup! Not to mention that fresh chevre always takes on new dimensions when slightly melted over a wide array of foods. This was no exception.
From my kitchen: roasted Asgaard Farm Gloucestershire Old Spots pork chop with Hungry Uncle’s own Blueberry Bacon Jam, steamed green beans with Asgaard Fresh Chevre flavored with maple syrup
In addition to the chops Asgaard offers heirloom eggs, ham, a wide array of sausage-the breakfast variety with sage is excellent- as well as goat meat. If you’ve never tried goat meat you should. It is after all the world’s most consumed animal protein.
Why do I seek out places like Sugar House and Asgaard? It’s not just because what they raise and produce tastes better. It’s also an appreciation for people willing to brave harsh climates, long hours and economic uncertainty to embrace traditional methods of farming and food production. It’s better for the earth, for us as human beings and worthy of our support.