We took the opportunity last night to attend the paired cider dinner at Empire Brewing Company in Armory Square. The dinner was part of a tap takeover by the Harvest Moon Cidery and the kickoff to the Cider Week slate of events around Central New York and the Finger Lakes.
Empire was featuring four of the Harvest Moon ciders on tap last night. They included Four Screw, Red Barn Raspberry, Blueberry Moon and the Hops Heritage varieties. THey also offered a special menu featuring four courses, each paired with a different hard cider.
The first course was a harvest salad. It featured local greens and apples with maple candied walnuts. The apples were so fresh and crisp and the greens were the same. The sharp cheddar used was a wonderful contrast to the sweet apples. The real winner on the plate though was the raspberry cider vinaigrette that dressed the salad. It was lighter than a traditional raspberry vinaigrette and of course made the pairing with the Red Barn Raspberry Cider perfect.
The second course, was a farmstead chili. It featured ground elk, beef and lamb along with red and black beans. The chili had the perfect amount of heat and was a well thought out bowl featuring the various kinds of meat. It was paired with the Hop Heritage Cider, which was a well thought out choice by the chefs. The earthiness of the cider, really played off the chili well and made for a nice contrast to the heat of the chili.
The main course for the evening was a pork confit with roasted winter vegetables and pumpkin from Critz Farm. The pork was fork tender and it melted in your mouth. The vegetables were cooked perfect, not too soft, but not raw either. The pork was paired with the Four Screw hard cider and all at the table agreed that the food really brought out the maple in the Four Screw. That was very interesting, as normally the maple flavor in Four Screw is not very noticeable. Again a great choice by the chef in pairing the dishes.
For dessert we were treated to a blueberry cobbler, topped off with vanilla ice cream. This was a real treat as the cobbler was dense and not too sweet. It paired exceptionally well with the off dry Blueberry Moon hard cider to make a satisfying end to the meal.
Driving home I said to my wife that I really enjoy the opportunity to sit down to paired dinners. It doesn’t matter if it is wine, beer or hard cider, the chance to see the work a chef does and the thought put into the food and drink is always a treat. The cost for the dinner and the ciders was only $25. A steal by any stretch. I can’t wait to do it all over again soon.