This past weekend we had some visitors in town. They had come up from New York City at our invitation, so we could share with them some of the great things happening culinary wise here in Central New York.
We met up with them at Aqua Vita Farms in Sherrill for a tour of the aquaculture and hydroponic greens growing operation. It was a fascinating tour and a great lesson in entrepreneurship. One of the owners, Mark Doherty, gave us a lesson in growing greens hydroponically and showed off his system to us. The system integrates the raising of fish, in this case tilapia, with the raising of a wide variety of lettuces and other plants. The fish do their thing in the water creating a nutrient rich environment that is then used to water the plants. The plants love the nutrients and use them up out of the water, returning clean water to the fish. It’s a great system and provides a wonderful opportunity to source fresh greens year round. The have some locations listed on their website where you can purchase greens commercially or you can enjoy them at one of many restaurants also listed on their website.
From Sherrill, we headed south to Earlville and the Poolville Country Store. It was a chance to show our new friends a gem of a restaurant. We pulled in five minutes before the final brunch seating, but that was no issue for Chefs Roger Foster and Charles Wilburn. We selected the polenta fries from the appetizers, the fresh greens salad and two entrees, the Poolville Burger and the curried root vegetable stew. As per our usual experience with the Poolville Country Store, everything was very delicious. The polenta fries were crispy and accented well with honey and homemade ketchup. The burger was huge, and juicy. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the curried root vegetable stew was cleaned right out of the bowl. For dessert, we left it in the hands of Roger to choose for the table. They brought out the best pumpkin mousse I have ever tried along with the signature Poolville Country Store dessert, which was very delicious as well. A plate of chocolate truffles finished off the meal making for a sweet ending.
After leaving Poolville it was off to Good Nature Brewing, in Hamilton. There we met up with Matt and Carrie, who gave us a wonderful tasting of all of their signature beers and a personalized tour of the brewing facility. We learned how their new system works and heard a little bit about how they have been steadily growing their business over the past year and their plans for both future beers and future growth.
It is very exciting to see two young Central New Yorkers making a go of it in business here. The beers were good as always, and especially tasty was their reformulated IPA. The new IPA uses a “hop back” system to instill more hoppiness into it, and to help preserve the nose longer. We will have a full review of the IPA soon.
From Good Nature, we headed over to the Harvest Moon Cidery, in Cazenovia. Arriving around 4, we hit the tail end of one of Critz’s Fall Festival weekends too. There were a lot of people milling around, buying fresh cider, cider donuts, cheese, and of course tasting and buying hard cider.
Owner Matt Critz gave us an overview of his cider press, and pressed apples for us, showing off how fresh cider is made. We then moved into the barrel room, where he explained the process of turning that fresh cider into the hard cider that has become wildly popular. Their ciders have won medals at the New York State Fair wine competition and the Indianapolis International Wine Competition. They are also picking up steam on where their cider is being sold. They are in several restaurants around Central New York now, and they were on tap a three bars in New York City this past weekend.
After we were through tasting and touring,we headed off to the Brewster Inn for dinner. One stop that we did not get to make was up at Owera Vineyards. Timing, weather and daylight all conspired against us to keep us from strolling along side the vineyards and hearing more about the impending opening of the full facility. We rectified that by letting Owera’s wines do the talking at dinner. We ordered a bottle of their Cabernet Franc and a bottle of the Dry Riesling to split amongst the four of us. Both bottles went over well with our friends and they were very impressed with the young winery’s quality.
For dinner, we continued a trend that we started at lunch and ordered a large variety and shared it amongst each other. We started by splitting the soup du jour which was a butternut squash bisque. We ordered mussels as an appetizer which were very good. We split four salads, the lobster avocado salad(my new favorite), the Maytag salad, the Asiago cheese salad and a beet salad. All were very tasty and offered different flavors and a nice variety of choices. For entrees, we selected the duck breast, the Brewster’s Signature Veal Atlantis and the Beef Ragout Pappardelle. The duck was so tender and moist it stole the show from the other two entrees. Not that the others were lacking in the least, they were all very good, but the duck was superb in all ways.
Dessert of freshly made apple pie and bananas foster rounded out a fine, fine meal and capped off a long day of showing off some of the best culinary tourism this area has to offer. Our new friends were quite impressed with one theme that kept shining through. So many of our entrepreneurs are self made. They taught themselves, they mortgaged the house to find capital, they put their heart and soul into the process. They all showed that their work is really a labor of love. That came across again and again on Sunday and it is not a lesson that was lost on our visitors.