Close your eyes and imagine the quintessential fall day, sunny, cool, and with a bit of a crispness in the air. Now, open them. That was what it was like yesterday in New York, which made it perfect for the Hard Cider Revival sponsored by the New Amsterdam Market and Glynwood. This event featured tastings of ciders from local and regional producers, small plates prepared by Brooklyn’s Marlow & Sons, and lots of other apple products as well as bushels of colorful apples brought to the market to celebrate the bounty and versatility of this fruit.
These activities were the kick-off event for a week-long celebration of cider and the foods that go well with it. Cider has long roots in our history but fell out of favor, as many things did, during Prohibition. The types of apples that went into making this beverage started to disappear from orchards. Commercial pressures and our tastebuds also contributed to the decline in the range of varieties of fruit that were grown. Recently, there has been a resurgence in discovering our food and drink heritage in this country, of which apples and the cider that is made from them, are a part. Glynwood is also involved in helping to expand this effort through their “Apple Project.”
Tickets in hand to try out some of the cider and food pairings available, I was a bit lost at first as to how to proceed, as everything sounded delicious. Fortunately, I had chosen the spot where Andrew Tarlow of Marlow & Sons was pouring, so he was my trusty guide to matching drinks and eats. I started off with Eve’s Cidery‘s Northern Spy paired up with a dish of grilled porcini and chanterelle mushrooms on top of a mild pimento cheese. This combination was amazing on all levels. The cider was dry, light, and effervescent, like a prosecco. It finished cleanly on the palate and was the ideal match for the rich, meaty, buttery mushrooms and creamy base. This duo would make a perfect cocktail party offering, with the cider as a welcome aperitif.
When I spoke to Marlow & Sons Executive Chef Sean Rembold about these shrimp, he said that he was trying to replicate some of the incredible meals that he’d had in Spain. In fact, many of the plates that they made today were inspired by the trip that he took to that country. As the first dish to be completely sold out at today’s tasting, I think he probably got it just right, as this was one of the most popular nibbles I saw folks eating. Juicy, succulent shrimp grilled to perfection with a drizzle of olive oil and a dab of Romesco sauce on the side, I could have eaten quite a few more plates of these. The Heritage cider from Bellwether was dry with more apple notes than the one I tried above. I also thought I picked up a hint of caramel as well. It made a good pairing with the shrimp, but it wasn’t my favorite match of the day.
It was really exciting to see a cider from my home state of Virginia in the mix with the others at the festival. Like New York, the Old Dominion has a long tradition of cultivating apples and of making cider. It is also re-discovering its heritage in this regard, so I was very interested to sample the results. The Sweet Stayman from Foggy Ridge Cider with a slightly sweet, longer finish to it was a ideal pairing to balance the fattiness and saltiness of both the cured ham and the cheese. A nibble of cheese and ham with a sip of cider made all the flavors come together in round, full harmony. This cider was definitely a good match for these snacks.
The lovely red-golden color of West County Cider‘s Redfield just drew me in to try it, with an aroma of cranberries and apples coming to mind when I smelled it. To me, the flavor captured all the crunch and tastes of biting into an unpeeled apple, when there’s a bit of juice, pulp, and skin all rolled into one. It was a great match for the egg and potatoes of the tortilla. The quince butter, with its notes of cinnamon and other fall spices, was also a terrific pairing, even just on its own, for the cider.
I had watched these being put together behind the scenes and had heard from several folks that they’d enjoyed this dish, so I was definitely intrigued to taste it as well as to find out what cider could even pair with something so complex. Slyboro‘s Hidden Star more than made a match for it, and this was probably my second favorite combination after the first one that I tried today. Semi-dry, sparkling, and with crisp-appleness, it balanced well with the rich, creamy egg base and brininess of the olive and anchovy.
In addition to the main food and drink event, several of the beverage producers had tables where visitors could sample additional varieties of ciders and ask questions about methods for turning the solid fruit into liquid. I stopped by the Slyboro table to try something I’ve never had before, the Ice Harvest Cider, which I was told is more of a dessert wine. Taking the same concept for ice wine but creating instead an ice cider. It was very apple-y on the nose and the tongue, and I could see where it would go well with a cheese plate to end a meal.
I discovered Doc’s Draft Cider last year at another market event. This is what I think of as a great, food-friendly cider. When I first tasted it, I immediately thought about a roast chicken with buttery, crispy skin, the kind that makes a whole house smell warm and welcoming. I also stopped by the table for Breezy Hill Orchard, another participant in the cider and food event. They had jugs of Scrumpy at their table, which I’d never tried before. This lightly-fermented (about 2/3 the way) beverage was full of sour apple tang to it with a slight fizz.
Eve’s Cidery does tastings each week at the Union Square Greenmarket, which is where I first tried their ciders. Today they had brought a few of them for folks to sample, including their Essence. It has a deep apple taste with notes of caramel and a clean finish, which I was told is a result of it being fermented in stainless steel. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed their cider with the mushroom dish, and their representative said he wasn’t surprised at all. Their Northern Spy is created to have that tart crispiness that made it go so well with the richness of the porcini and chanterelles.
I stopped by the table for Bellwether Cider to try out some of their other beverages. I was told that their most popular cider is the Liberty Spy, which is on the sweeter end of the ones that they do. It had a nice finish and good apple taste without being cloying at all. I also enjoyed the Cherry Street, full of apple taste at the front followed by mild tart cherry flavor coming in behind that, which was a bit different and very nice on the palate.
Another one of the ciders that I didn’t get a chance to taste was the one from Farnum Hill. Earlier this year, however, at a cider-food pairing dinner hosted by Rachael of Brooklyn Bouillon, whom I ran into yesterday in the market, I had sampled several of the ones they make, which was a wonderful way to get to know not just the cider producer, but also the apples themselves. These bushels of fruit from their orchards really demonstrate that we rarely get to see for sale the wide variety that exists.
Along with all the great ciders and the dishes prepared by Marlow & Sons, other vendors in the market brought apple products with them to sell yesterday, too, in the spirit of this event. In some ways, it really made the day feel like a celebration of the harvest. My eye spied First Field (known for their Jersey Ketchup) and their Apple Butter, perfect to slather on toast, waffles or bagels. I’ve been in love with good, homemade apple butter since I had it at a farm in Virginia during their fall apple picking season.
As delicious as their Sea-Salt Caramels are, Liddabit Sweet‘s Apple Cider Caramels will make you appreciate hand-crafted caramels and apple cider on a completely different level. I was told that this is the first time this season that they’ve had them out for sale and that was done especially for yesterday’s market. As they aren’t around for very long each year, now might be the time to pick some up for holiday presents or just to treat yourself. They also had some beautiful Apple Almond Muffins on their table, too.
New to the market was Peter Endriss, formerly of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery, with a gorgeous display of apple-inspired baked goods. He had tempting apple turnovers, an apple brioche that was buttery-soft with a crisp top, a hard cider-spelt-cheddar bread that was phenomenal, and other incredible-looking treats. I had to break away before I bought one of everything to take home with me.
Nearby, was another market regular, Toigo Orchards, who had a table with samples to try of the apples and pears that they grow. They bring seasonal produce for sale each week and have a great variety of fruits and vegetables to buy.
Another new vendor to me who was at the market yesterday was Summers End Orchard, who had a basket of vibrant red Empire apples on display along with several kinds of spreads that they produce. The Empires, I was told go into the Rum Raisin Apple Butter that they make. How would that taste put on top of a pound cake or ice cream (or both)? Just looking at the selection of things to try for them made me think that I need to find more room in my refrigerator to bring some of these jars home the next time I find them at the market.
My exploratory walk around the market where I found all these wonderful treats was taken in stages in order to pace myself while sampling ciders and eating the dishes paired with them. What I was really doing, which will be no surprise, was investigating possible dessert options for after I finished sampling ciders. I debated about eating something from Pies ‘n’ Thighs, who had these lovely hand-held Caramelized Apple Pies as well as larger pies, but I thought those might work better to take home and save for an afternoon snack.
Pie Corps Fried Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce and Sea Salt
To eat there, I settled on two items I’d seen earlier. Pie Corps is one of my favorite stands at New Amsterdam. The crust on the pastries is flaky and tasty and the fillings are always the right amount with the perfect flavor balance for me. I also enjoy that they make several different kinds and types of pies from hand-held to pie pops, savory to sweet. Last week, I was told that they would be making Fried Apple Pies for yesterday’s market. Fried sweet things? How could they know that is music to my ears? I hope the photo above does justice to how perfectly delicious this morsel was to eat. Lots of apple filling stuffed into a crispy-soft shell with a drizzle of buttery caramel topped with a sprinkle of sea salt just made my tastebuds cheer for joy.
The finishing touch for yesterday’s culinary exploits was another of my favorite vendors: The Bent Spoon. Yesterday they had two amazing dessert possibilities on my list. One was the Bourbon Roasted Sea Salt Caramel Apple ice cream, which I sampled when I was walking around taking photos during the earlier part of the day. It was fantastic with sweet, salt, creamy, tart all rolled into one cool bite. So, imagine my utter dismay when, at the end of my market trip, I walked up to the table and saw that it was sold out! My disappointment must have been completely visible, as they were quick to suggest that I have a cup with a scoop of their Cran-Crab Apple-Ginger flavor instead. This was a worthy second choice. Lighter on the tongue with robust sweet-tart fruit flavors and a zing of spice, this ice cream reminded me of eating cranberry-apple crumble to finish off a holiday meal. It was the perfect end to a beautiful fall day, filled with the wonderful tastes of the season.
Thank you to Robert LaValva of New Amsterdam Market for enabling me to participant in this event. Also, a big, big congratulations to Robert and his team for being awarded a Community and Cultural Enhancement Fund grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation which will allow them to continue their work to help revitalize the market community of Lower Manhattan and to preserve a vital part of the city’s merchant heritage. Please support them in their efforts by visiting the market on Sundays.