Visit a Sustainable Seafood Pop Up, Read up on The NoMad, and Taste Obscure Liqueurs This Week

FEED Supper, Minton’s, 206 West 118 Street, Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Join the fight against worldwide hunger this week. Chef JJ Johnson has created a one-night only, four-course menu showcasing dishes like pan roasted scallops and roasted goat. Tickets are $75 and can be secured here.

Eating More Seafood: Sustainable Seafood with Chef Andrew Gruel of Slapfish, Loosie Rouge, 91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 6 to 10:30 p.m.

Chef Andrew Gruel of L.A.’s Slapfish is bringing sustainable seafood to Brooklyn for an evening of education through consumption. The five course prix fixe menu plans to showcase dishes including local Montauk tuna, Cape Cod littleneck clams, and a Maine sourced lobster burger. Additional sea creatures scheduled to appear on plates include a tilefish filled taco and longfin squid. Drinks are available but are not included. Guests can reserve their $70 seating of choice here.

The NoMad Cookbook Panel Discussion, 92 Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

If you’re craving chicken pot pie or tasty cocktails, the team behind The Nomad will share a selection of recipes from their new cookbook this Wednesday. Chef Daniel Humm, bar director Leo Robitschek, and managing partner Will Guidara will all be available to sign copies of the book following the discussion. Tickets start at $32 and can be secured here.

NYC AgTech Week Locavore Taco Dinner, The Farm on Kent, 320 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Learn about the city’s emerging urban farm scene during this five day affair, which is highlighted by a farm fresh dinner featuring aquaponic smoked tilapia tacos and kale. Additional week long activities include demonstrations, lectures, and tours designed for those with an interest in farming initiatives. A full schedule of activities as well as tickets to all scheduled events are available here.

Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados and Eau de Vie, Eau My!, SquareWine & Spirits, 24-20 Jackson Avenue, Queens, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

All brandies are not created equal — nor do they need to be consumed after dinner as some might think. Join sommelier Maegan Kovatch for a discussion on rare brandies; guests will taste French spirits like armagnac and eau de vie, both straight and in cocktail form. Score a $25 ticket here.


Probe NYC’s Leafy Bounty with Ava Chin’s Eating Wildly

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York’s best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we’ll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back Tuesdays for a new book.

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal
By Ava Chin, 245 pages, Simon & Schuster, $25

Locavores live and die by the notion that food should come from where you live; cutting the distance between farm and plate means fresher, firmer, less abused meals — travel is tough on all living things, including the plants and meats we eat. Here in New York, we’re often forced to define “local” as locales within a day’s drive; “nearby,” in New York, is sometimes as far as 300 miles away.

But for the urban forager, food comes from all over the city; it grows from cracks in the sidewalk; on the fringes of unkempt, outer-borough ballfields; in shaded park groves; and anywhere else plants climb toward the sun. For people like New York Times Urban Forager columnist Ava Chin, the city offers a bounty of wild-growing, edible plants, many of them frowned upon as (the horror!) weeds.

Chin eats weeds on the regular, and she lives to tell about it in her new book, Eating Wildly, which just dropped today.

Chin grew up in Flushing, Queens, the single daughter of a single mother in a Chinese immigrant family: “Growing up, my association with nature was really the weeds I saw in our back courtyard, in the playground,” she says. As a child, she spent many nights and weekends with her grandparents; her grandfather was a cook in Chinese restaurants around the city, and in his kitchen, she developed a wide and varied palate; as she tells it (in the book and in person), young Chin would eat just about anything grandpa gave her.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Chin found herself on the trail with “Wildman” Steve Brill, who guides regular foraging and nature walks in Prospect Park, and who showed her the ins and outs of collecting edible wild plants in the city. After that first walk, Chin set out with other urban foragers and later, on her own, finding plants and mushrooms that found their way into dinner: ramps and morels in spring; flowers and berries in summer; nuts, mushrooms, and more greens come fall. Suddenly, the city provided food in abundance.

In the book, Chin’s story is as much about her personal journey as it is about the food, a pot-boiling mix of narrative and instruction. Sharply revealing, and, at times, uncomfortably honest, the book throws wide a window into a fascinating New York — nee, American — story, that’s thrillingly voyeuristic to read and unbearably human.

And of course, there are recipes, too. On the next page, Chin chats about ethical picking, elusive mushrooms, and seeing New York City through new eyes.

Ava Chin amid the ramps.
Ava Chin amid the ramps.

How did foraging change the way you see the city?
Foraging actually totally changed my vision. It changed the way this lifelong New Yorker sees the city. Once I started foraging, I would walk through my old blocks in Flushing and throughout Brooklyn, old neighborhoods I used to live in, and I started to see the blocks in a totally different way. Weeds are very tenacious, and we tend to think of New York as a concrete jungle, but nature finds a foothold. You will find edible weeds in abandoned lots, in parking lots, college campuses, in parks, in tree pits. There’s actually an abundance of food all around us. That said, I don’t eat from every place that I find an edible weed; I’m actually very discerning, but I do practice what I call “street foraging,” or “guerilla foraging,” which is just walking down my block, and noting what’s available and what’s growing, so that if I go to an area that’s more pristine, I’ll know, OK, this is out, and I can keep an eye out for it.

What advice would you offer to beginning foragers about where and where not to pick around the city?
There are a couple rules of thumb. Number one, for anyone who wants to learn to forage, or start foraging, you need to do it with an experienced guide first; you need somebody who’s going to show you. These days, there are more and more people leading foraging tours around the city, so that’s key. Someone needs to show you what’s edible, what’s not, and what the potential poisonous lookalikes are. After that, get a great guidebook or a bunch of great guidebooks to help you. And after that, start doing walks on your own. I always say, if you can identify a dandelion, you’re on your way.

Other rules of thumb for people who want to forage in the city: It’s best to go to areas that are away from traffic and any kind of car pollution and the streets. College campuses are great, lots of people forage in the parks, places that are highly elevated are nice. There are some nice elevated parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. And areas that don’t have a lot of people walking their dogs — I teach at college of Staten Island, and we don’t have a lot of dogs on campus at all, so I do a lot of foraging here.

And then, two more things: If someone is going to be gathering from a particular spot over an extended period of time, they should consider getting the soil tested, just as you would if you were going to put a vegetable garden in your back yard. It’s actually really inexpensive; Brooklyn College has a department who will test your soil for you. And also, to forage sustainably, good practice is just to take a certain amount from the plant that you’re foraging from, so maybe take 20 percent of the plant…You don’t want to kill the plant, you want it to continue to grow.

Is there a risk of over-foraging, or a risk to the forest with people traipsing around off-trail, looking for certain plants?
Yeah, foraging sustainably is really important. For instance, if there’s like a mother plant, and other little plants around that mother plant, foragers will try to leave the bigger plant alone and just pick from the smaller plants, because the mother plant is the plant that’s going to keep reproducing. So the idea is really to take a small part of the plant, not the entire plant, and leave the part of the plant that is going to be renewable. So take some of the newer leaves and leave the rest. Sometimes I think people think foragers are going to, like come in and take everything, dig everything up, so there’s nothing left for anyone else to enjoy, but I’ve found that most foragers who go out consistently are actually stewards of the land. That’s where your food comes from, so you want to make sure it comes back, year after year, so the plants need an opportunity to flower, go to seed, reproduce.

What wild plants do you look forward to this time of year, in May and early June?
We’re still in the height of morel and ramp season right now. Morel season is usually over for the year by this point, but since we had such an extended winter, everything’s been a little thrown off. But there are still ramps out there, too. I have a morel mushroom linguine. But morels are very elusive mushrooms, and you’re not going to be able to find them everywhere…And most foragers won’t tell you where their secret morel patches are. So…But you can still get them at the farmer’s market, and you can also find ramps there, too.

Ramps are also something that there’s been a little buzz around because they’re on the plates of high-end restaurants, and there’s also been talk about whether they’re being foraged sustainably. I have found ramp patches in friends’ back yards outside the city, like in Connecticut, and Rockland County. So I’ve seen them in places where they’re flourishing. But that’s also because I’m not a commercial harvester, and there aren’t commercial harvesters around. I have no idea what commercial harvesters are actually doing, but from what I’ve seen in our area, the ramps are doing just fine!

Would you be willing to share any of your favorite, beautiful foraging haunts?
There are parts of Prospect Park that I really love, that really hold my heart. There was an amazing parsnip patch right by the skating rink that got dug up when they made it bigger… That always makes me so sad! There was also this great willow tree on in Central Park on the West Side that bore really great reishi mushrooms, which are a medicinal mushroom, they’re an immunity boost. But that got torn up when the tornado happened! I went back and was like, “Where’s that willow tree?!” You know, you reach a point in your life where you’re like, “I must be getting older,” because I can see places where these things used to grow, and now they’re gone, for a variety of different reasons. There are also amazing places on Staten Island. Staten Island has this whole greenbelt going down the middle of it, which is this series of linked parks, and not a lot of people go there. There are these really wonderfully green parts of the city.

What is your favorite season for foraging in New York?
I would say the spring and the fall. Right now, the violet flowers and leaves are out; violets are so great because you can candy them and put them on top of cupcakes; you can just throw them, and their leaves into salads…There are invasive weeds, like garlic mustard, that you can grind into a pesto; the mulberry trees are about to start fruiting in June, and they’re prodigious fruiters. So I love spring for that, and for the ramps and morel mushrooms. But the fall is just great mushrooming season. Hen of the woods, or maitake mushrooms, honey mushrooms are around then, and then all the edibles that came up in the spring come up again in the fall with newer shoots, so those are really great too. But the the fall is great for mushroom season.

Wild Morel Linguini
Yield: 4 servings

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon butter
2 small shallots, diced
8 ounces sliced morels
1 tablespoon cream sherry
1 tablespoon heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound cooked linguini
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Sauté the garlic in the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots; cook until garlic is slightly browned around the edges and shallots turn translucent.

2. Add the sliced chopped morels and cook until they are a deep chocolaty color.

3. Drizzle in the cream sherry–my grandfather always favored Harvey’s Bristol Cream, and I follow in the tradition. Allow everything to simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat, and finish the sauce off with a touch of heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add the linguini to the sauce; toss with tongs until the morel sauce has been evenly worked through the pasta. Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil.


Need Stocking Stuffers? Try These Local Condiments

Fork in the Road is publishing a series of local gift guides this year — one from each regular contributor. This one comes from locavore Deena Shanker.

With only eight shopping days left until Christmas, people are starting to scramble. Just on the cusp of desperation, this is the week when gift givers start to ask themselves, “Socks aren’t so bad, right? I mean, everybody needs them.” Yes, socks are bad. Even if everybody does need them. Especially in New York, where options are endless, there is no reason to resort to hosiery for gifts just yet. If you’ve got a food-lover on your list, consider going a more creative route — there are other life necessities you can wrap or stuff into a stocking. Our advice: Start with condiments. Local condiments — the type ideal for schmearing all over your organic grass-fed burger.

Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, $7/jar or $21/four-pack
Start with the basics. Everyone needs good ketchup, and while Heinz may appear to have cornered the ketchup market, some interlopers are slowly but surely edging in. Case in point: Sir Kensington’s, made with all-natural ingredients like tomatoes, organic sugar, and jalapeños. Founders Mark Ramadan and Scott Norton have been toying with ketchup recipes since college, and they now they offer five products — classic ketchup, spiced ketchup, classic mayonnaise, sriracha mayonnaise, and chipotle mayonnaise — and sell their wares to hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores all over the city. Not sure which to try? Norton recommends his favorite, the classic. “I’m really a purist,” he says.

Tin Mustard, $8
Placate your resident mustard-lovers with a jar of Brooklyn-made Tin Mustard. Made with only mustard seeds, mustard powder, vinegar, salt, and water, this deliciously spicy mustard does well on a sandwich, but it’s even better slathered on a pretzel. Look for it in your favorite local shop.

Empire Mayonnaise, $5-$9/jar, $21/assortment
Give a special someone a taste of a luxurious spread: One taste of Empire Mayonnaise’s heavenly white truffle mayo, and they’ll never be able to go back to Hellmann’s. If that’s not your gift recipient’s thing, though, check out the rest of the line — the Brooklyn artisans offer a range of flavors, from the super spicy red chili to the smooth and subtle black garlic. All are made with local pasture-raised eggs, non-GMO oils, and seasonal flavors, and many are made for short runs only, giving your gift the added distinction of being a limited edition.

A&B American Style Pepper Sauce, $12
If you know someone who’s stocking up to survive the Sriracha shortage, turn them onto a possible alternative with a bottle of A&B American Style Pepper Sauce. Concocted by childhood friends who “just wanted to eat good food and have a good time,” this small batch creation combines a bright flavor, metered spice, and earthy sweetness. Add it to Ramen noodles, a burrito, or a breakfast omelet. And if your recipient is a real hot sauce fanatic, consider going with A&B’s special gift set, which includes the original flavor and the special Brooklyn Grange edition pepper sauce.


Pickles & More: 2014 Good Food Awards Finalist Include Several New York Businesses

We New Yorkers pride ourselves on pickles, but if you’re only trying the cucumber kind then you’re missing half the party. Luckily, the city has a lot more to offer than just your standard half sour or dill. Feeling adventurous? The recently announced Good Food Awards finalists are the perfect place to start some exploring. The Good Food Awards is an annual awards ceremony recognizing American producers making “tasty, authentic and responsibly produced” foods in ten categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserves, spirits, and oil. And this year, with 1,450 entries — representing each of the 50 states — the Awards were bigger than ever, reflecting the vitality of our changing preferences for food made by real people with real ingredients, instead of by big companies in big factories far, far away.

“The 200 Good Food Awards Finalists [selected by 225 judges at the September 15 Blind Tasting event in San Francisco] are leading a cultural shift away from business as usual,” says Sarah Weiner, co-founder and executive director of Seedling Projects, which organizes the awards. “They bring the dedication and integrity of true craftsmen to all they do. Their ever stronger presence around the country proves that it can be done — there is a different way to feed our communities.”

And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this year’s list includes a number of New York food makers — including three in the pickles category.

Locavore pickle eaters probably already know Good Food Awards favorite Rick’s Picks, whose smokra is a 2014 finalist. According to Weiner, the pickle maker “has helped paved the way in New York City for thoughtful, responsible, deliciousness” and has been a “tremendous support and role model for others starting out in pickling.” Rick’s Picks is joined by two other New York picklers making the finalists this year, Crock & Jar with their Ramp Kraut and Josephine’s Feast with its cheese pumpkin chutney are doing their part to maintain the state’s pickle empire rep.

(If pumpkins and ramps don’t sound like a wild enough ride on the pickle train for you, take a voyage beyond our borders. Texas’ Confituras makes pickled blueberries and California’s Wine Forest does pickled sea beans. The sea beans, Weiner says, are “foraged from the coast in California by Connie Green, who is something of a legend out here.”)

But as any New York foodie will tell you, we do so much more here than just pickles. Other New York City companies landing as finalists include Long Island City’s Charlito’s Cocina, whose cerveza seca dry cured beer salami “was noted across the board as having very fruity, complex flavors at the front with a nice, simple, salt finish,” and Sour Puss Pickle’s shiro plum shrub preserves, which was commended for its “complex balance of sweet and acid.”

From outside the five boroughs, Old Chatham Shepherding Company in Old Chatham, New York, entered its ewe’s blue sheep’s milk cheese. The consensus among the judges was that “it was incredibly blue, with an open texture and extremely peppery, spicy finish.” And Weiner called the Woodstock-based Crosstown Sweets, which had two preserves finalists, “a new company I’ve got my eye on.”

Put those finalists on a cheese board with some fresh, crusty bread, serve it all alongside a Brooklyn Brewery Greenmarket Wheat or Delaware Phoenix Distillery rye or bourbon (both also finalists), and you’ll have the fixings for a lovely little Saturday night.

So what’s the big deal about winning one of these awards? “Good Food Award Winners report growing their businesses 15 percent to 400 percent, increasing purchasing from local and responsible orchards, farms, and ranches accordingly,” Weiner says.

For the full list of 2014 Good Food Awards finalists, including all those hailing from the Great State of New York, check out the website. Winners will be announced January 16.


Atsby Vermouth: Way More Than Just Martini Filler

As a middle child, I tend to be particularly sensitive to the overlooked, the ignored, and the forgotten. With this in mind, I will cook with fennel when I’d prefer zucchini, shop at Marshall’s when T.J. Maxx is around the corner, and most recently, jump at the opportunity to try out a new vermouth. Vermouth is often thought of as just an ingredient in a martini or Manhattan — but Adam Ford Atsby Vermouth has set out to show that vermouth is, like us middle children, so much more interesting when considered alone.

Vermouth falls somewhere in between a spirit and a wine, and it’s not exactly either. Made from fortified wine and flavored with botanicals like flowers, roots, bark, and herbs, the result is a drink that, when made correctly, is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Ford discovered vermouth while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc, one of Europe’s most popular long distance walks, traversing Switzerland, Italy, and France. The experience was so eye-opening, it inspired a company. “This event happened to coincide with a time in my life where I had drank more wine than I care to admit, and frankly, I was getting bored with it,” Ford tells us. “I really enjoy cocktails, obviously, but more times than not, I wanted a drink that was packed with enigmatic flavors but wasn’t so boozy. Having that glass of vermouth in Courmayeur [Italy] made me realize there was something more interesting to drink than anything I had ever had.”

But perhaps even more surprising than the taste of the good stuff, Ford discovered that nobody in the U.S. was making “a delicious, sippable vermouth.” And so, being the high achiever that he is (in addition to being a vermouth maker and entrepreneur, Ford is also a litigator and father), Ford decided to make his own. “The result is my two signature expressions, a dryer, floral vermouth called Amberthorn and slightly-sweeter bourbon-hued one, called Armadillo Cake.” (One sip of the Armadillo Cake straight and you’ll wonder why anyone would mix it with something else.)

Atsby Vermouth was not born in a vacuum. New York has been doing its part to put itself on the craft spirits map with distilleries opening all over the state, and vermouth has its own special history here in the city. “In the 1950s, the largest vermouth production facility in America used to be right in midtown New York,” Ford says. But while Atsby’s offices are in Manhattan’s Hudson Square, production happens in Mattituck on the picturesque North Fork of Long Island. However, Ford adds, “it has always been a company goal to one day purchase that same midtown spot and once again have our country’s largest facility there.”

It wasn’t enough for Ford, though, to make a high quality, delicious, old fashioned aperitif with aspirations of revitalizing an entire industry. Ford also respects terroir, sourcing 95 percent of his ingredients (mostly grapes) from within New York State. “We’re right in the middle of New York’s top viticultural area, and we source our grapes from a local grower out there,” Ford says. “It’s as beautiful as Napa out on the North Fork and a great place to produce vermouth.”

Spoken like a true middle child (oh yes — Ford is one too), he refuses to take all the credit for himself. “Team Atsby is made up of an entire team of great people,” he explains. “Jill Filipovic, who writes for the Guardian and Al Jazeera, and runs a political blog, and Jim Rich, a talented actor, are just two of the people who have helped make Atsby what it is today.”

Want to try Atsby? Check out their website to find bars and retailers selling it or find them at the Village Voice’s Holiday Spirits Tasting Event this Thursday night in Long Island City.


Brooklyn Bean Offers Locally Sourced Heirloom Beans

When you tell people you’re a vegetarian, you will invariably be met by one — or several — of the same few responses. Some people will tell you that they admire you but never could do it themselves. Others will wax nostalgic about their own vegetarian phases. And many, many people will ask you, in their most concerned voice, “But where do you get your protein?” To those people, once our eyes have finished rolling and are once again comfortably at rest, we inevitably respond, “Beans.”

But for bean-loving New Yorkers, it’s been nearly impossible to find a locally sourced option, so we’re forced to go with the canned version at the supermarket. Now, though, we have Brooklyn Bean, which sells fresh, local, dried beans and serves up heat-and-go bean chili and soup. Vegetarian (and bean-loving) locavores rejoice.

For founders William De Filippis and Erica Pratico, beans were the key to incorporating more sustainable, plant-based foods into their diet. “We gravitated towards an ingredient we felt we should be eating more of and that was affordable, versatile, and safe to work with,” they say. It didn’t hurt that they also saw an opening in the increasingly crowded artisanal food market: “Also, no one was working exclusively with beans, so we saw an opportunity to capture that market and boost bean awareness by showcasing the many varieties and uses.”

De Filippis and Pratico have been selling bean-based fare since early 2011 when they opened a stand at Smorgasburg to sell rare heirloom beans by the pound. But they didn’t stop there. De Filippis is a longtime chef and instructor at the International Culinary Center, so “it was only natural to start experimenting with bean-based dishes,” he says.

De Filippis met Pratico at the ICC, and they were soon offering foods like chili, soups, and bean burgers at weekend markets all over town. Spurred on by their initial success, they eventually developed their first packaged product: a frozen black bean burger, an excellent option for vegetarians who rely on veggie burgers for quick, healthy, meatless meals — this locally produced version doesn’t rely on any soy-heavy, fake meat products.

While the veggie burgers are undeniably tasty, they may be eclipsed by one of Brooklyn Bean’s other offerings: the beans & greens soup. Sold frozen like their vegetarian chili, this soup adds kidney beans and seasonal greens like kale, escarole, and spinach, to a savory vegetarian broth. It’s the kind of soup that makes you realize you don’t miss chicken noodle at all.

Whether you’re a die-hard or amateur bean lover, it’s worth perusing Brooklyn Bean’s seemingly endless selection of local heirloom varieties. Can’t decide what to buy? Brooklyn Bean provided us with an easy bean recipe that can be made using basically any of the beans they sell — so try something new.

Hit the next page for the Sunday beans recipe.

Sunday Beans
1 lb. heirloom dried beans
Aromatics of your choice (ex. garlic, onion, celery, carrot, leek, etc.)
Sachet of whole spices (ex. clove, all spice, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorn, etc.)

Step one: Soak the beans.
(This is where most people panic and think the process is going to take days. Untrue. If you use a high-quality dried bean like ours, the soak time is minimal, only about 4-6 hours. It’s still a necessary step as it lessens the cook time and also preserves the nutrients in the beans.)
It’s as easy as this: On Sunday morning, place the beans in a large pot and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator.

Step two: Enjoy your Sunday.

Step three: Cook the beans.
– Drain beans and give them a rinse in a colander.
– Place the beans back in the pot and cover with fresh cold water. Give them about 2 inches of headspace.
– Flavor the water with aromatics and spices of your choice. The beans will take on these flavors as they cook.
– Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
– Depending on the bean, it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to cook. Start testing the beans about 15 minutes into cooking for doneness.
– Any foam that forms at the top should be skimmed off. These are the beans naturally releasing their impurities.
– Add a few pinches of salt when beans are 80 percent done (when they begin to soften).
– The beans are done when they are soft.
– Drain the water and discard the aromatics/spices.
– Drizzle oil of your choice over the beans to prevent them from drying out.
– Transfer beans to air-tight containers and store in the refrigerator.

Step four: Add beans to your meals throughout the week. BE CREATIVE!

Here are a few suggestions:

– Saute peppers, onion, mushroom and garlic. Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Add beans. Stew for about 20 minutes. Serve next to rice or cous cous.
– Puree and make bean dips.
– Bean burritos, quesadillas, tacos.
– Beans and eggs.
– Marinate with oil, vinegar and additional ground spices. Add to cold salads.
– Add to chili, soups, baked beans or braised dishes.
– Or just enjoy them on their own.

For more information about where to find Brooklyn Bean products, check out their website.


More Cider Please: CIDER Act Would Be Good News for New York Apple Farmers

Although hard apple cider tends to get the most attention during the fall months when apples are in season, the sweet, alcoholic nectar is actually available all year — a godsend for apple farmers because it can be made from otherwise unsellable apples, and it provides a reliable, year-round source of income. And if Congress passes the CIDER Act — introduced to the house by New York Congressman Chris Collins and backed by Senator Chuck Schumer — local farmers might need to raise a glass of their own product to celebrate.

The CIDER Act — shorthand for the Cider, Investment & Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act — would lower taxes for hard cider producers. The current tax scheme for hard cider works like this: If the cider is 7 percent alcohol, it gets taxed like beer in the amount of 23 cents per gallon. But if the cider reaches or goes above 7 percent, then the product is taxed at the wine level, which is five times higher. This might not seem quite so unfair if ABV in cider wasn’t more or less a matter of luck: The alcohol level depends on the amount of sugar in the apples being distilled; the more sugary the fruit, the more alcoholic the liquor — and farmers don’t really have control over how sugary their apples will be.

The CIDER Act would keep the beer level taxation for all ciders up to 8.5 percent, and it would align the definition of hard cider with that of the European Union to create better competition between domestic cider makers and their counterparts across the pond. On a local level, the act would be a boost for the New York hard cider market, and lower taxes on the farmer mean lower prices for the consumer — so it should be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

New York is the second largest apple producer in the country, and farmers here harvest a total of 29.5 million bushels every year from more than 41,000 acres spread across 650 farms. More and more of these apple producers are looking to distill small, artisanal batches of hard cider, but they say that the cost of complying with the Internal Revenue Code definition can keep them from pursuing the endeavor. That might explain why of the more than 650 farms, less than 30 produce hard cider, despite growing demand

“I intend to push the CIDER Act,” Senator Schumer said. “It’s not very expensive, in fact, with the volume going up, I’ll bet the federal government will make more money than they do the other way.”


Where To Get Your Farm-To-Table Turkey in NYC

T-two weeks until Turkey Day, which means it’s (probably past) time to start thinking about, well, turkey, especially if you’re hoping to nab a sustainably raised bird that’s neither mass-produced nor factory-farmed. We’ve compiled a list of local butchers and grocers selling organic, heritage, and pastured fowl. Best reserve now — these are bound to sell out soon (and we’ve warned you here of spots where that’s particularly true).

Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, 192 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-398-6666,
South Brooklynites have probably already heard of Fleisher’s, which opened its Park Slope outpost in 2011. If you want one of the shop’s heritage turkeys — a specially commissioned combination of Bourbon Red and White Holland raised at Hidden Camp Farm in Canajoharie, New York — call pronto. The market only ordered 400, and they’re already flying – forgive the cheesy pun! – out of the door. Call Mona, resident turkey goddess, at 845-338-6666 and dial 8. The birds are $7.50 per pound.

The Meat Hook, 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn, 718-349-5033,
This artisanal Williamsburg butcher shop is offering fully pastured, non-GMO fed, Broad Breasted White turkeys from Oink & Gobble Farms in Interlaken, New York. Place your order online with a $50 deposit, and be sure to pick it up as soon as it’s ready. Turkeys are $6.99 per pound.

Harlem Shambles, 2141 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, 646-476-4650,
In addition to their regular selection of beef, pork, poultry, and lamb, brothers Tim and Mark Forrester will stock special turkeys just for the holiday at this lauded Harlem butcher shop. The Broad Breasted Whites are from the Animal Welfare-approved Autumns Harvest Farms in Romulus, New York; the birds are pasture-raised, hormone-free, and rotationally grazing. Tim describes them as “really good birds, really well-raised.” Place your order fast, though — at last count, there were only 25 birds left. Turkeys are $7 per pound.

Vincent’s Meat Market, 2374 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, 718-295-9048
Vincent’s is an old school butcher and has been cutting up meats in the Bronx since after World War II. Every meat in the shop is a prime grade, and for Thanksgiving, the market will be offering organic turkeys brought in from Pennsylvania. Call to place your order, and make sure it’s no less than a week in advance. Turkeys are $3.99 to $4.49 per pound.

Whole Foods, 95 East Houston Street/10 Columbus Circle/808 Columbus Avenue
If you’re hoping to do all of your Thanksgiving grocery shopping in one place this year, then skip the butcher shops and head for Whole Foods. Shoppers can view turkey options and order online, whether they’re looking for something pasture-raised, certified organic, heritage, local, or even hand-brined, oven-ready, boneless, or cooked. Just pick the preferred store, and place your order for pick-up. Prices vary.

Kol Foods,, 888-366-3565
Kosher New Yorkers can order their free-roaming, hormone- and antibiotic-free turkeys online from Kol Foods — and rest assured that the birds are OU approved as well. Just make sure you order your bird by the 19th; it’ll be shipped frozen and need time to arrive and thaw to be ready for the big day. Turkeys are $8.65 per pound plus shipping. (Unless you’re a member of the Manhattan Buyer’s Club, in which case shipping is free.)


Alobar Celebrates Second Anniversary With Nose To Tail Party

Two years ago, Jeff Blath opened Alobar (46-42 Vernon Boulevard, 718-752-6000) in Long Island City two years ago, implementing a nose-to-tail menu that’s kept the neighborhood well-fed. That type of cooking is no longer a novel idea — butcher-chefs proliferated throughout the city some time back — but that doesn’t take away from its benefits: The method is one of the most sustainable ways to cook meat because it means using the whole animal, including often-ignored cuts like kidney, liver, and other offal.

For chef Michael Berardino, the concept comes naturally. “Primarily my background has always been with Italian cuisine where there’s a much larger focus on [nose-to-tail cooking],” he says. “It’s just more of an agricultural society, where people are connected to the farms.”

But while sustainability and taste are two reasons for New York chefs to implement nose-to-tail cooking techniques, there’s an additional, less glamorous, motive: logistics. While there is no dearth of great farms nearby in New York and Pennsylvania, complicated federal and state regulatory structures keep them from doing their own processing. That means it’s easier for a chef to buy a whole hog than order specific cuts. “They send you a whole animal,” Berardino explains. “At that point, you have to be able to use it.”

You don’t have to buy the whole hog to implement nose-to-tail cooking techniques at home, by the way. Ask your local butcher for cuts that other customers might be overlooking. Chef Berardino recommends the “secreto,” a Spanish cut from the flap on the bottom of the pig’s belly. Simply season lightly, sear, and slice.

Alobar will celebrate two years in business via an anniversary dinner on November 14, and you’ll be able to experience the restaurant’s brand of nose-to-tail cooking: Berardino will cook up every part of a locally sourced hog, using it in dishes like maple bacon popcorn, smoked pork shoulder, beer and cheese sausage, and more. And just to be sure you have a good time, the restaurant will feature a tap takeover from Oceanside neighbor Barrier Brewing Company. (That Beer and Cheese Sausage will feature a Barrier brew as well.)

So are there any particular dishes that chef Berardino is excited to serve the anniversary revelers? Look a diplomatic parent, he doesn’t choose favorites. “I wrote the menu,” he says. “I like all the dishes.” And don’t worry about the restaurant running out of food: The estimated two-hundred-and-fifty pound hog will feed everyone without a problem. “If they want to keep going, we’ll keep feeding ’em,” the chef says.

The Alobar Second Anniversary Dinner is on Thursday, November 14 and runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $80.


What’s Happening This Week: Orange Wines, Apple Pie Contest, Lopate and Locavores, and How To Open A Restaurant

If you’re not into the whole Halloween thing, we understand. After all, most people can hardly stand dressing up for work. But if you’re still looking for something to do while your friends are out playing pretend, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a look at several candy- and costume-free events happening this week.

Orange Wines with Joe Campanale, Anfora, 34 Eighth Avenue, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Joe Campanale leads drinkers through a tasting of six orange wines, unusual varietals often forsaken for red, white, and pink. Cheese pairings are included in the $45 ticket price. Pull up a chair, and get ready for the best class you never got to take in high school by securing your ticket.

Apple Pie Contest, Pie Corps, 77 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

For $5, voters will get to sample sweet and savory apple pies to determine who had the most creative baked good of the night. Beer is also included in the cost of a ticket, so reserve your spot to crown a people’s champ–or even submit a pie yourself.

Lopate and Locavores: Getting Kids Past Fast Food, The Greene Space, 44 Charlton Street, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Chef Bill Telepan and James Beard winner Leonard Lopate will tackle child nutrition and getting kids into the kitchen at this seminar, which also features a tasting of local food and beer. Tickets are $20; secure your chance to learn more about how to get the kids to ditch their fast food habits by visiting The Green Space’s Web site.

How To Open A Restaurant, The Yard, 33 Nassau Avenue, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Led by operations consultant Holly Howard–who’s the former VP of operations and finance of Egg–this weekly class covers the basics of what it takes to finance, manage, and market a restaurant to maximize profitability. Classes are broken into multiple sessions, and this week’s focuses on business planning and finance. Special guests also make appearances; this week, look for wisdom from Erica Dorn of Accion USA, which assists in providing small business loans to potential candidates. Next week’s lineup includes Carolyn Bane of Pies N’ Thighs. Sessions are $70; check out the website for tickets and a full list of classes.