The Edible Future of the Finger Lakes

I had the good fortune of attending the Edible Finger Lakes Magazine “Wine Issue” Release Party this past Saturday.  The event was held at the brand new and beautiful Finger Lakes Wine Center, in downtown Ithaca.  Well over two hundred guests comprised of restaurateurs, wine shop owners, winemakers, and other industry professionals arrived in full force to support the premier of the Wine Issue.  For those of you who do not know, “Edible Communities Inc. is a publishing and information services company that creates editorially rich, community-based, local-foods publications in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada.”  The publication focuses on informing readers about their local chefs, farmers, growers, and specialty food artisans.  They are a very important agent in the advocacy of the locavore movement and integral in the proliferation of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Edible Finger Lakes is a quarterly publication launched in the Finger Lakes by Editor-In-Chief, Michael Welch.  Edible Finger Lakes offers a 360° view of how your food makes it from farm to table. The photography is an aesthetic masterpiece both expository and elegant, no small feat for a micro publisher.  The articles are truly fascinating, and I personally look forward to reading it since it is one of the few publications that focuses on good news.  Very few news outlets in this day and age take the time to focus on the positive elements of their community and the world around them.  This publication brings it right to your doorstep or computer screen.

Here is a direct quote from Michael Welch’s foreward in the debut Wine Issue.  It explains the value of cohesively promoting both food & wine in the Finger Lakes, “Finger Lakes winemakers are hardworking, dedicated individuals who, despite the challenges our weather throws at them, make an excellent array of fine wines.  Moreover, the growth of our wine industry has created myriad opportunities for so many others working in the local food scene—chefs, cheese makers and chocolatiers are all partnering with wineries to create fantastic gustatory experiences for the rest of us, making the Finger Lakes a true foodie mecca.”

For a great example of the synergy between local food and wine producers look no further than Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro.  The Edible Finger Lakes Wine Issue has a great article titled, “A Perfect Marriage of Food and Wine.” Red Newt owners, David and Debra Whiting, are the company’s Winemaker and Executive Chef, respectively.  The article outlines some of the fantastic ways that the Red Newt Bistro combines the passions of both local wine producers and local food producers.   The Whitings are involved in a collaborative foodie project with the owners of Sawmill Creek Vineyard, Eric and Tina Hazlitt.  Using unripe locally sourced grapes, they have created a local version of the French culinary classic verjus, aptly dubbed Verjooz.   This has become a core ingredient in a number of the Bistro’s (from scratch) recipes for sauces, glazes and dressings.  If that wasn’t enough, one of the most exciting things I have gotten to taste this year has been a collaborative effort between Red Newt Cellars and the Muranda Cheese Company.  Muranda, a Waterloo, NY based cheese company uses Riesling provided by Red Newt Cellars for one of their Artisan Cheeses.  I will give you one guess what wine to pair that cheese.   Ok, give up?  Riesling!

The cover of this issue has the subtitle, “What to drink with what you eat (Local goes well with local).”  I think this is a very important thing for local restaurateurs to realize.  The Finger Lakes are the premier tourist destination in New York State, and when people visit an unfamiliar region they look forward to immersing themselves in the culture and bounty that created and developed that region.  I hear this argument all of the time and it rings true. Would you order a French Burgundy while visiting the Napa Valley?  Would you drink an Australian Riesling while visiting Germany?  The answer is most likely no.

With that in mind, I have no idea why New York restaurants and grocers continue to truck in certain produce from the Southwestern United States.  Especially, when Upstate New York, in particular the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station, has been at the forefront of developing fresh produce.  Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, the Cornell Agriculture Station started creating some unique and delicious varieties of apples.  All of which are now available through local farmers.  Just this year Cornell developed two new breeds of potatoes named Waneta and Lamoka.  These were named after smaller lakes right in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country.  Likewise, Cornell has been pioneering new varietals of grapes to be used in wine production.  Cayuga White, Traminette, Noiret, Corot Noir, and Chardonel are just a few of the grapes originally bred right here in the Finger Lakes.

Still, many restaurants around the Finger Lakes have dated wine lists that are out of tune with what most of their customers are actually looking to taste and are shipping in produce sourced from who knows where. Edible Finger Lakes is focused on changing that attitude and culture by highlighting some of the regions shining stars. Read through this magazine page by page and you will see that there are so many local farmers and wine producers innovating far beyond the norm of good food and good wine.

For someone new to the Finger Lakes wine scene the Edible Finger Lakes Wine Issue reads like a crash course in all that is exceptional in upstate New York. You will notice more and more local businesses providing this magazine for sale in their shops.  This is indicative of the genuine and critical value that this magazine provides.  I strongly urge you to take the time to subscribe and educate yourself on the things around you at are, well, EDIBLE.  If you are interested in receiving a quarterly copy of Edible Finger Lakes Magazine please check out this link: Subscribe to Edible Finger Lakes for as little as $10 a year

PS – I am waiting with bated breath for an Edible Local Music Issue.

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