I was raised in a rural part of New York State where agriculture has been a primary source of income for many people, for many years. Aside from having a small garden, a few berry bushes, raising small flocks of free range chickens and ducks for their eggs, and maple sugaring in the spring, my personal hands-on experience in agriculture has been minimal.
My first experience in agriculture came at an early age when a friend of mine, whose parents owned a potato farm, offered me a job picking potatoes one weekend. Eager to make money, I spent my entire day on my hands and knees, in the dirt, pulling potatoes out of acres of cultivated rows. Needless to say, it was then, that I realized my fortunes wouldn’t be made working as farm laborer. My experience picking grapes was slightly more enjoyable than potato picking, but not a lot. The downside to grape picking, spending entire days out in cold, rainy weather, and having to contend with bees on the nice weather days.
I probably didn’t know it then, but those experiences helped shape my views on the agriculture today. I’ve come to realize that without our local farms, and workers willing to put in the long hours and endure the unpleasant elements nature hands out, each our lives would be significantly different.
This past weekend I decided to pay homage to New York State agriculture. I was fortunate enough to attend the first annual Finger Lakes Cork & Fork event held in the Seneca County. The concept of the Cork & Fork, to create a farm to feast event to promote fresh, locally grown, raised, or farm made products and wine. The products then make their way into the hands of some of the area’s best know chefs. The chefs job; to prepare a epicurean adventure. And that, they did.
The friday night Partners & Pairings event featured a variety of tapas. And of course, they were paired with some of the best wines from the Finger Lakes, and the excellent jazz tunes from the Johnny Russo Trio.
Chef Deb Whiting of Red Newt Bistro offered a taste of her Apple Sausage Meatballs in a Creamy Apple Cider Sauce. The meatballs were made with pork sausage from Autumn’s Harvest Farm , and cider from Red Jacket Orchards . The meatballs were paired with a 2007 reserve Riesling from Red Newt Cellars. If these didn’t bring your taste buds alive, I’m not sure what would.
Chef Sean Congdon of Greenside Grill prepared a Tea Scented Pork Belly with Brussel sprouts, Jerusalem Artichoke & Quince. This dish was delicious, and was paired with a Riesling Ale from Three Brothers Wineries & Estates.
Chef William Cornelius offered a dish prepared just special for this event. He named it Cheriyaki Chicken. The chicken came from Perrine Farms of Lyons, NY, and the sauce, a creation by Chef Cornelius, made for Brick Village Gourmet. This dish was calling me back for seconds. It was paired with Barn Raisin’ Red from Americana Vineyards, one of my favorite local red wines.
One of the most tasteful dishes of the evening was one prepared by Chef Sean Agate of the Divine Kitchen & Bar at Hotel Clarence. As Sean reminded us, it was a very popular dish in the 70’s. Here’s to his Finger Lakes fondue, and to the 70’s! The cheese used in the fondue came from Muranda Cheese Company, and was paired with yet another great Riesling from Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars.
Don’t worry, there were plenty more excellent dishes and wines to be sampled, and they made for a room full of very happy tasters. And dessert? Lucienne’s Chocolate offered a Port Infused Finger Lakes Black Currant Biscotti with Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt. Out of this world… It was paired with Finger Lakes Ruby Port from Knapp Winery. Life’s So Sweet Chocolates offered Chocolate Chili Truffles paired with Gewürztraminer Ice Wine from Standing Stone Vineyards. Not only did I eat my truffle, I ate my hubbies too. Don’t tell anyone… And lastly, Cayuga Lake Creamery offered their Homemade Black Raspberry, and Vanilla ice cream, drizzled with Moonglorius from Eleven Lakes Winery. A perfect ending to a great evening of tastings and pairing.
The second day of the event included cooking demonstrations offered by some of the same local chefs who prepared the dishes the evening before. There was also more local food and wine to be sampled, and purchased. It was nice to be able to chat with owners of the businesses, or their representatives. I asked quite a few questions, and learned a lot.
As I wandered through the large barn that housed all of the vendors I realized there were a lot of products that I wasn’t familiar with. To name just a few, Tom’s Bootleg BBQ Sauce, Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese, Sunflower Oil by Stolor Organics, Stony Brook Squash Seed Oils, and wines made by Kings Garden Vineyard, among several others. In all, there were 65 exhibitors representing wineries, restaurants, foods & farms, specialty items and education.
This was a great event. A foodie, and wine lovers paradise. It gave recognition to those who work hard in the food and wine industry everyday, and I have to say, it left me with an even stronger appreciation for my life in the Finger Lakes. If you didn’t attend this years Cork & Fork, you will want to catch next years, it can only get better.