I confess. From the NY Times to People magazine, my year end guilty pleasure is an extended Best Of Binge. Movies, books, new restaurants…I devour them all, with food related lists near the top. So, since I’m such an expert in the art of annual peak experiences, indulge me in my own Foggy Ridge Cider’s “Best of 2013”.
Some people, I’m told, eat to live but I don’t know any members of this breed. In our house we live to eat, and this Best Of list is quite food centric. I’ll begin with the plate before moving to the glass:
We all know that magicians in the kitchen depend on wizards from the farm. But I’m most inspired by chefs who truly understand and honor all that comes from the soil. Travis Milton is one such wizard, and this Southwest Virginia boy worked some pretty great magic at Comfort restaurant in Richmond during CiderWeekVA.
You gotta love a guy who cradles a Candy Roaster squash like it’s his Love Child. And alongside the braised pork and vinegar pie, Derek Salerno trotted out his Virginia Seelback, a wicked blend of applejack, house made Grapefruit Cointreau & Cherry Spice Bitters, topped with First Fruit Cider from Foggy Ridge. These guys slayed me with their Best Of fall cider dinner.
Further west you’ll find Aaron Deal working his own brand of magic at Roanoke’s River & Rail Restaurant.
Aaron’s November cider celebration culminated in a creamy barely meaty slightly sweet over the top Foie Gras Pot de Creme dessert, topped with brandy soaked apples and served with Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold, the sweet coming from the glass rather than the plate. “Knocked me over” was a sentiment shared by by all who attended this inventive Best Of meal.
Down in the NC lowlands, you’ll find Chef Jay Pierce satisfying folks at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro, NC. Jay’s sold out October cider dinner was his usual authentic and intelligent take on local ingredients and artisan cider. You can’t go wrong with Pork Banh Mi, Fried Pork Skins, a platter of local cheese and the best Tarte Tatin around, to name a few of Chef Jay’s Best Of dishes.
Speaking of cider celebrations, CiderWeekNY promotes artisan cider from the Hudson River Valley (plus a few invited guests). I had the chance to hobnob with my buddies from Slyboro Cider, Farnum Hill Cider, Eden Ice Cider and my new friends from Aaron Burr Cider. New England has a rich cider tradition and, even better, many orchardists who champion real cider apples. Be sure to take a look at the Best Of cheese and cider combos from our joint Murray’s Cheese Bar dinner.
Now on to Best Of in the glass—I must start with all beer from Durham’s Full Steam Brewery, especially their brew crafted with apple pommace from Foggy Ridge. We are excited to team up with Wicked Weed in Asheville, if only to have more chances to drink their intelligently crafted beverages. Chatham Vineyards shifted my perspective on Chardonnay, and their Church Creek Steel Chardonnay has been on our table for months. Cider from Richmond’s Blue Bee Cider deserves to be on our Best Of list, especially their dry Charred Ordinary. Steve Woods at Farnum Hill Cider grows the best cider apples in America and his Dooryard Cider always excites and pleases. And my creative cidermaking friend, Eleanor Leger, at Eden Ice Cider continues to blend magic in her cider aperitifs, Orleans Herbal and Orleans Bitter. Drink up and expand your beverage horizons.
So build a fire. Curl up with your guilty pleasure, and think back over 2013 and craft your very own Best Of list…oh, and raise a glass of cider while you’re at it!