Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finger Lakes Cider Week and Birthday Locavore Pairing Dinner

My dear friend and cider accomplice Elizabeth  (http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/author/elizabeth/) had a birthday earlier this month. And unlike most folks, this means she wanted to bring down a heap of work and organization on herself to celebrate. This means she planned and cooked a five course feast at the home of a wonderful mutual friend.

As part of my gift, I paired the menu with local Finger Lakes Ciders and provided some of the ciders for these pairings. She was kind enough to allow me to write up the pairings and combine that post with my anticipation for this year's Finger Lakes Cider Week!

Local Charcuterie Platter: Bellwether Vintage Heritage

El sourced smoked turkey, ham, rillettes, and duck confit from The Piggery. For the non-meat eaters we had local hummus by Ithaca Hummus. I enjoyed the Crosswinds Goblin cheese, Northwind Tripletree Tomme and a home-smoked cheddar. El also pickled her own cucumbers and beets.

Vintage Heritage is a very special cider cider that isn't readily available most of the time; its a cellar -aged edition of their Heritage cider. That description reads, “Dry; 6.9% alcohol; blend of European cider apples including Brown Snout, Dabinette, Chisel Jersey; this is the still version of Legacy; complex acid and tannin; an Old World cider to bring balance to your modern, hectic life.” This aged version really lets the playfully rustic side of cider shine. Its leathery, woody, tart and tannic. Delightfully different and something well worth trying if you ever get the chance.

Bellwether will be pouring samples of their ciders at the Ithaca Farmer's Market both weekends of Cider Week (and all other Farmer's Market Weekends) down at Steamboat Landing in Ithaca. 

Caprese Salad: Redbyrd Orchard Cider Celeste Sur Lie

This simple salad was constructed of local heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and drizzled with F. Olivers Picual Olive Oil. 

Redbyrd Orchard Ciders says this about this cider, "Celeste Sur Lie ’14 An elegant cider for celebration, made in the traditional style and disgorged after aging on bottle lees for over a year, giving you a beautiful helix of endless soft bubbles in your glass and a creamy buttery mouthfeel. 0.0% residual sugar, 11% alcohol/volume." This cider fits my one of my preferred flavor profiles perfectly. This is so crisp, clean, and devastatingly dry. It rings like a golden bell on my tongue every time I take a sip.

Fresh Pasta with Red Sauce: Kite and String Barrel Rye

This hand-rolled pasta was served with fresh tomato sauce with garlic and basil, homemade ricotta and a garden salad with F. Oliver's Balsamic Viniarette Dressing. This course alone would have made a wonderful birthday dinner. Elizabeth really knows how to make homey comfort food like pasta shine.

Kite and String describe this cider as, “Off Dry. Champagne style. Stirred on the lees for 1 month. Aged 1 year in Rye Whiskey barrels. Buttercream with a backbone. Oak and smoke and shalestone.” and I chose it for that combination of smoke and backbone. Typically folks, pair tomato dishes with red wines, but I think cider has a fun option of doubling down on umami notes and adding both structural notes and lively acidity. This pairing supports my argument well.
Finger Lakes Cider House Grand Cider Buffet on Thursday September 28th:

This event will be at Coltivare this Thursday evening, featuring cider oriented food and Kite and String Cidery's full lineup. This will be many folks first chance to try some of these awesome new releases.

Roast Chicken with Tomato-Cilantro Hollandaise: South Hill Cider Patina

El's chicken came from Autumn's Harvest. He roasted them and served them with green beans, roast potatoes, and smothered the dish in tomato-cilantro hollandaise sauce. This felt just as complete with sauced potatoes and beans, almost as thought the sauce is the actual star of this course.

South Hill Cider has this to say, “Patina is partially barrel aged so that bright fruit notes ring clear over a well-rounded barrel influence. Sparkling, medium bodied, fruit forward with hints of vanilla. Dry. Bittersweet apples. 8.2% ABV.” I knew we would need to continue to have strong bubbles and some barrel presence in order for the cider not to disappear entirely against such flavorful food. Thankfully, the Patina was up to the task and then some. This cider has tannic balance and smooth elegance to spare.

South Hill Cider String Band and Tasting on Saturday, September 30th

From 3-6pm on Saturday, you can stop by Agava in Ithaca to taste not only this restaurants inventive and appetizing food, but also listen to the cidermaker behind South Hill Cider (Steve Selin) play with the South Hill Cider String Band and sample their ciders.

Apple Cobbler Cheesecake: Black Diamond Porter's Pommeau

This cheese cake builds up from a graham cracker crust through a creamy crumb and is topped with Black Diamond Orchard Apples, a brown sugar oat crumble, and a burnt caramel sauce. Yes, it's decadent. Each element is necessary for the tantalizing whole. Being able to pair a pommeau with apples from the orchard that produced it, isn't a chance I get every day.

Pommeau, for those who don't love it already, is a very special cider based distilled beverage. It starts with cider which is distilled then back-sweetened with fresh apple juice and then aged on oak for an extended period. Black Diamond's Porter's Pommeau, according to Black Diamond is, “a blend of fresh cider made from Porter’s Perfection – an old english bittersweet apple and oak-aged apple eau de vie –is our take on the classic beverage from Normandie, France. Tasting Notes: Fragrances of ripe apples and vanilla, velvety tannins and a smooth, sweet finish. Enjoy it with dessert, or by the fireside with friends. Most people prefer to serve it slightly chilled. Alcohol: 20.0% Residual Sugar: 7.6% (Sweet)” And that's excactly what we did. I served this cider chilled to my dear friends with an amazing dessert. Perfection indeed.

Cider Cocktails with Black Diamond Cider in Trumansburg, NY on Thursday October 5th

At hip foodie bowling paradise, Atlas Bowl, attendees will have the chance to try classic cocktails made with a cider twist and other original mixology creations all using the ciders and pommeau of Black Diamond Cider will bowling, eating, and listing to the tunes of cider owner Jackie Merwin who will be spinning as DJ Black Diamond. What fun! 

Whether celebrating a birthday, the season, or Finger Lakes Cider Week, enjoy with friends. I raise a glass to these good times! Happy Birthday, Elizabeth! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cider Review: Distillery Lane Ciderworks Witches Brew...Plus FLX Cider Week!

There's no denying that fall has come to Upstate New York. Our leaves are turning and mornings now swath everything in fog. Its a magical time. And for me that magic comes primarily from two things, apples and Halloween season. Yes, there's a whole season in my world dedicated (even more than usual) to all thing batty, spidery, and spooky. So, I couldn't wait to crack open a cider called Witches Brew.

This cider was a review sample shared with me by Distillery Lane Ciderworks. I have reviewed a few ciders by Distillery Lane before, but its been a little while. I don't always see them available, but I pick them up when I can.

And my favorite thus far the Tradition Dry Sparkling cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-distillery-lane-ciderworks.html

The last link includes more information on the background of this cidery. It is based out of Maryland and has been selling hard cider since 2010 and growing apple trees since 2001. You can visit them in person to taste the ciders and pick fruit.

Today's review is the Witches Brew. Part of what intrigues me about this cider is the use of Aronia Berries. I had to do a little research because not only have I not seen a cider that uses these before, I've never knowingly tasted anything that uses Aronia berries before. They are also called Choke Berries and are related (albeit not closely) to apples more than to other berries.

Official Description:

Double, double, toil and trouble, fermentation made our cauldron bubble with this tart, sparkling brew. A delightful blend of DLC's Celebration cider and aronia juice, made form aronia berries grown at the DLC orchard. Tart, with bubbles and a perfect bitter finish.”

Appearance: transparent, magenta, bubbly

This cider is bottled in clear glass for a reason! People passing a shelf are bound to notice this sumptuous magenta color. The Witches Brew pours with foamy excitement, but the mousse doesn't stick around for long.

Aromas: Deep, dusty, leafy, purple aromas

I got berry aromas from this as soon as the bottle was cracked. I can smell all manner of gardeny and fruity smells like berries and stone fruit but also stems and leaves. These smells make me even more curious to taste it.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-dry to dry

There's a lot more going on than sweetness level here, but I'll say that the cider is on the dry side without feeling bone dry. Instead its more fruity and astringent at the same time.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, astringent, stemmy, dark fruit

Though its bubbly and perceptibly boozy, the Witches Brew reminds me of tea. The tannins are grippy and astringent. The cider offers up high acid tartness but with an unusual acid profile. This is not so much juicy but more stemmy. Some flavors are downright green-brown and woody.

Secondarily, I taste some buttery and toasty notes. And there's some fruit going on with sour cherry and apple elements. This cider has a nice medium bubbly texture. The finish is leathery and tannic. Overall, the Witches Brew remaings fascinatingly different.

I served this cider with a Quorn Turky Roast, along with mushroom gravy, amish yeast rolls, and oven-roasted beets and baby red skinned potatoes. I wasn't ever a big fan of gravy until I discovered my husband's vegetarian gravy, and now I'm totally hooked. This cider pairs with that salty, rich, umami sauce perfectly. The dryness and woody grippy tannins don't disappear even with an early fall feast.

And just to start whetting your appetite, Finger Lakes Cider Week is coming: September 28th through October 9th! Expect more coverage in the coming weeks, but for now please check out the website to see the full schedule of events.

I do want to highlight a few that sound especially exciting to me.

Finger Lakes Cider House Grand Cider Buffet on Thursday September 28th:

This special ticketed event is being hosted at Coltivare and will feature 5 courses of cider oriented dishes and seven ciders by Kite and String Cidery. The pairing combinations will be myriad.

Cornell Orchards Apple Spectacular Sunday October 1st

I went on this tour and tasting combination last year, and I loved it. Vistors get to taste fresh pressed juice and create their own juice blends as well as tasting New York State ciders and touring Cornell University's research orchards, learning about the exceptional projects that the Peck Lab is doing on behalf of cider lovers everywhere.

Apple Identification and Documentation Day on Wednesday, October 4th

Meet orchardists and folklorists alike at the Trumansburg Farmer's Market to have a chance to finally find out what apples your mystery tree is producing. This is part of the Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project. They are collecting the history of orchards and other fruit growing in the Finger Lakes.


Fall Garden Mixer: Celebrate NYS Cider on Wednesday, October 4th

At the New York State Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, they are honoring New York's cider scene along with nibbles created by the culinary team. The theme is fall, and what better way to celebrate than with cider!

Eve's Cidery Perry Dinner on Friday October 6th.

This intimate dinner will focus on a vertical perry tasting through the perries made by Eve's Cidery, a Tom Oliver Perry, and other pear surprises amidst local food, music, all at their cider barn in Van Etten. I've never even heard of a perry dinner before, so this made it on to my list immediately!

Cider and Cheese Day at the Grand Opening of Brews and Brats Saturday October 7th.

Folks from the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance will be sharing samples of their cheeses paired with ciders from the NY Cider Association at the grand opening of this new spot in Trumansburg, New York. Featured Cideries include The Cider Lab, Lake Drum Brewing and Black Diamond Ciders. And this event is free!

Stay Tuned for more highlights in my next review!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cider Review: Harpoon Brewery's Pumpkin Cider

Pumpkin has become a divisive topic. I can only blame its popularity for the pumpkin backlash. Anything beloved enough to be a craze is going to make some haters. And for cider purists, the idea of a pumpkin cider is blasphemy. But I refuse to participate. I like pumpkin and I love cider, so I try new pumpkin ciders every year. Some formulas work beautifully. Others don't.

Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on Harpoon Pumpkin Cider. This is my first review of a cider by Boston-based Harpoon Brewery. They've made cider since 2007 and beer since opening 1986. They are primarily a brewery, but I can see five different ciders on the website, though I've only seen two available for sale in my travels. (Full disclosure, I did receive this review sample from Harpoon.)

Read about their ciders and beers at the website: https://www.harpoonbrewery.com

Or, take a peek at this compilation of cat pictures that feature Harpoon Beers (and one of this cider!)

Official Description:
  • Appearance: Straw/light golden
  • Aroma: Freshly pressed Northeastern Apples, traditional pumpkin pie spices and a hint of pumpkin.
  • Mouth feel: Light, crisp, tart, cleansing. Sprightly.
  • Taste: Apple forward with all the traditional Autumn flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg, and a touch of sweetness for balance.
  • Finish: Dry, light, refreshing.
Reading elsewhere on the website, I learned that some selective mixing of their Winter Warmer beer and their signature cider inspired making this spiced cider. It has a very low alcohol content with an ABV of 4.8%. That's really not typical.

Appearance: barely hazy, saffron, a few clinging bubbles

There's no mistaking this cider for beer as its poured! It doesn't form a head and instead just shows off a few clinging bubbles in a gentle barely hazy sea of saffron liquid.

Aromas: beer yeast, apples, spice

The smells of this cider aren't super potent, but what's there is yeasty, spicy, clean, and appley. All of these relatively low intensity aromas are pleasing and subtle. Reading about their ciders, My perception of a beer yeast is borne out. They use a proprietary ale yeast in all of the ciders.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a straightforward semi-dry, but if folks are not used to to flavors brought by a less fruit beer yeast, this might taste a bit less sweet (even if not exactly drier).

Flavors and drinking experience: Nutmeg, balance, yeast character

The spice blend makes up a significant part of the cider's flavor; it favors nutmeg, but includes enough cinnamon, ginger, and clove to really bring out that mulled cider, pumpkin pie, autumn feeling that any pumpkin item promises. Here's what I love about it though. This cider is really pleasantly balanced. That doesn't sound like a giant high point, but trust me it is. The beer yeast is the absolute perfect way to counter the sharpness of baking spices. We get all the notes, apple, spice, bread, and pumpkin.

This is an exceptional cider both for the format and for style. Its light bodied with medium acid and no tannins. This cider is the classic autumnal flavor experience that so many things promise.

I enjoyed mine with fresh homemade salsa, black bean and corn salad, tortilla chips and the two-part finale of Twin Peaks The Return. The show may not have offered answers(to do so would have betrayed the show entirely), but the cider and snacks certainly did. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cider Review: Champlain Orchards Cidery Heirloom Vermont Hard Cider

Apple Harvest. These two words mean more work and more joy than almost any others cider folk. This year's crop is arriving week by week, apple by apple. I'm thinking back to my trip to Vermont/New Hampshire/New York last year. Seeing those gorgeous trees heavy with fruit inspired and tantalized. Luckily, I have some bottles of cider from that trip to help me relish the memories.

Today's review is my first of a cider by Champlain Orchards out of Shoreham, Vermont. This cidery is truly a fruit farm that happens to make really great cider, among other things, on stunning land. All of the stages, growing, milling, pressing, fermenting and bottling happen right there. They grow many fruits and more than 100 varieties of apples. It is quite the place to see.

I visited Champlain Orchards on the 2nd day of my Vermont trip last year, you can read about it here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

But, if you aren't in the neighborhood, go to the website to learn about the orchard and the ciders and to see more: http://www.champlainorchardscidery.com/ (including beautiful videos of apples).

When visiting, I picked up a few bottles to take home. The Heirloom will by first full review of anything by Champlain Orchards.

Here's how Champlain Orchards Cidery describes it:
Heirloom Vermont hard cider is pressed, fermented, and crafted from old and new world Cider varieties. Semi-dry with balanced flavors from sweet, sharp & bittersweet cider apples. Enjoy as you would any sparkling wine, on its own or with lighter fare. Alcohol by vol: 5.8%, Residual sugar: 0.5%
Hat tip to Champlain for both describing the perception of sweetness and giving the cider's residual sugar in their information about it.

Appearance: Brilliant, straw, fine bubbles 

There's no question that the Heirloom is brilliant. I'll call the color straw, but it could also be described as an appealing custard yellow.

Aromas: tart, fruity esters, bready

The Heirloom smells bready and tart. I get more ester aromas than unfermented fruit notes. This is all whetting my appetite mightily!

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

The sweetness of this cider is minimal; its even on the dry side of semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, medium tannins, grassy, high acid

This cider delights me with how stony and grassy it is. The body is light and vivacious with just the right level of sparkle. The Heirloom is strikingly satisfying—unassuming but delicious.

The Heirloom wows me because its so very balanced. The acidity is bright and high without ever being sharp or pointed. This is fruity sort of acid, balanced with medium tannins. I can taste green grape flavors in addition to the grassy notes.

The esters from the smell remain as pleasant and clean flavors. There's no mistaking this fermented cider for juice or a punch. I adore these good yeast characteristics and malic acid. Everything plays together so nicely.

I had mine with a goat cheese and beet salad, but this flexible cider could be served with a variety of foods and activities. Its a cider made for relaxing and enjoying.