Won’t You Join Us This Winter?

First off, it’s great to finally get a minute to sit down and write. The past several months have been pleasantly busy. The fall was marked with some of the best foot traffic I have ever seen on the wine trail as well as some of the most fun and interesting guests stopping by to visit. We went through more food and wine than anyone could have anticipated, which got the whole team at Red Newt wondering what we would do for food in the winter months.

I would like to thank our Winery and Bistro staff for a job well done this year, and the last weekend of regular business hours proved to be the icing on the cake!

We had our last “Acoustic Newt” night of the season on Thursday, December 1st. The folks from the Maplewood Jazz Team played all night long. The month of November (and in 2011, an extra week into December) is a little bit different from the summer months in that the “Acoustic Newt” night is held on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays. This means our featured Bistro bargain, “Winelovers’ Night” offering half priced bottles of wine, fell on the same night. It is a promotion that allows our guests access to all kinds of great Finger Lakes wines from our Wine Spectator Award of Excellence Wine List. “Winelovers’ Night” gives diners the chance to taste a bottle of wine for under retail price — a deal few restaurants offer!

On Friday, December 2, over 70 guests and community members came together to celebrate the life of Debra Whiting at the Debra Whiting Foundation’s Inaugural Kick-off Dinner, themed “Five Times Swine.”  The dinner, a seven course food and wine adventure, was conceptualized in honor of one of Deb’s favorite regionally available meats — pork.  The fundraising dinner featured regional cuisine from Sam Buyskes of Simply Red Events & Culinary Center working alongside the team of great chefs from Red Newt. The event raised over $5,000 for the Foundation with 100% of the proceeds going straight toward future programming efforts. This was the first of many epic food and wine group dinners to come. I did not get to sit for the dinner, but Chef Sam kept the staff, comprised of local volunteers, well fed in the back. My favorite dish was the seared scallop with pork belly and pickled shiitake mushroom. See for yourself in the middle picture below! The dinner also featured some unbelievable then-unreleased 2010 wines from Red Newt. To cap off this fabulous event, there was live music from local bluegrass group Eva and the Dog Boys.

The Saturday that followed, and all weekend long for that matter, we saw great traffic in the Winery for Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s “Deck the Halls” event. With the purchase of a ticket, guests received complimentary tastings of food and wine at all participating Seneca Lake wineries. This year we decided to offer the crowd of roughly 2,000 guests a taste of the Bistro with our signature recipe for salmon cakes served with a dill caper aioli. My favorite pairing with the salmon cakes was our 2010 “Circle” Riesling. Its acidity and hint of lemon really highlighted the salmon and balanced the creaminess of the aioli. Its higher residual sugar left me with a sweet taste in my mouth (rather than what I call a lingering fish face.)

Sunday was the last “official” day of the Bistro, serving full lunch and dinner menus, for the season. To celebrate another successful year, Red Newt held its annual “Holiday Lunch Buffet.” For under $15 dinners enjoyed all-you-can-eat access to an unlimited supply of the region’s best meats, breads, vegetables, and desserts. My favorite buffet item was the sausage meatballs served in an apple cider cream sauce – often served on our later seasonal Bistro menus. If you missed it, have no fear it will likely be our featured dish for “Deck the Halls” in 2012! If you are interested in participating in next year’s “Deck the Halls,” I advise you to buy your tickets early. This year tickets sold out roughly three months prior to the event!

I can not stress enough to all of you just how cool it is to work for a place that does food and wine in so many different styles and interpretations. In just one weekend our kitchen created individual bite sized dishes, hor’s deurves, sandwiches, multi-course dinner plates, restaurant small and large plates, and large batch buffet items all featuring housemade breads, local meats, produce, cheeses and ice cream! Friday’s Debra Whiting Foundation Kick-Off Dinner featured a Red Newt experimental ice cream partnered with Cayuga Lake Creamery called Deb-o-licious: a tribute ice cream featuring some of Deb Whiting’s favorite ingredients like toffee, cardamom and yes, BACON!

Noticing our own versatility to craft food in so many styles, it became clear that we needed to keep trying new things. We needed to satisfy our desire to inspire guests with innovative food and continue to seek new ways to improve upon our goal of delivering an unmatched experience of food and wine. The aftermath of everyone’s good ideas has led us to up our game once again.

Last winter was the first year that Red Newt opted to keep the burners on all winter long for guests to come in and enjoy a comforting lunch done a la carte in the Winery’s tasting room. In taking a chance on this concept in 2011, we were overwhelmed with how strong a turnout it generated. So, we knew we wanted to continue food service during the “slower” months and, considering the improved winter traffic from last year, we thought maybe we can move this out of the tasting room and back into the Bistro where the food and wine experience was meant to take place.

The end result was the birth of the Red Newt Wine Salon and a serious makeover to the Winternet Café. Both food service concepts are being served out of the Red Newt Bistro; concepts very different in scope but both were created with very similar intentions. The number one goal is what I have been calling “Occupy Red Newt.” (I know, real original.) But, that is what we are trying to accomplish. We wanted to open our doors to anyone looking for the Finger Lakes food and wine experience that used to be unavailable in our region’s slower winter months. We do not have the same volume of diners that we typically see during harvest. So, our guests are encouraged to come in and spend as much time at they would like hanging out at the Newt enjoying the warmth, free wi-fi, espresso, food, wine, and good company that we all get to enjoy throughout the winter.

The Wine Salon is not a new idea, it is actually quite medieval. The concept dates back to the 16th century (according to the internet.) In fact, the world’s most well respected source for information, Wikipedia, defines salon as “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.” Which sounds remarkably similar to what we are striving for here this winter in Red Newt’s very own Wine Salon!

The Salon is a rare opportunity to experiment alongside the chefs and winemakers to find the perfect pairing. We are talking about small bites and small sips (or big sips.) All wine flights (any 3 Red Newt wines for $9) are completely customizable based on our currently available product line. For small bites, and these dishes take offense to being called small, we are offering five different themed dishes: charcuterie, cheese, pizza, housemade pasta, and smoked fish. Order one bite for $9 or three bites for $12. Our hope is that our guests can get a taste of everything! For $21 you get three wines (9 oz. or roughly two full glasses) and three diverse plates (roughly 12 oz. of food.) What an exciting reason to get out of the house and keep warm all winter long!

The Winternet Café is a great opportunity to come in and order a great soup/salad/sandwich/comfort combination and enjoy a glass of local wine or beer. After your meal we encourage you to stay a little longer. However, if you are in a hurry we are doing food to-go so you can get on your way. If you decide to join us we have a brand new espresso program and one of the best public wi-fi networks on Seneca Lake. Come and have a project management meeting here with your co-workers or relax with your best friends. Personally, I like to use lunch to plan vacations and round out all of my bright (or hairbrained) ideas. We at Red Newt find that our most productive meetings involve lunch and wine, so why shouldn’t yours? If you wanted to come in and read a book and have a cup of coffee you can do that too. The Winternet Café is the chance for you to enjoy a great meal in a relaxed environment and help keep us company.  Won’t you join us this winter?

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