We are in the middle of cider week in NYC, a city-wide coordination of events to promote local cider. ICI hosted a Cider & Farm Feast with a few cider-makers & we are now pouring ciders at ICI, but it took me 18 years to discover all of what was happening at my doorstep…
As a good French person, I grew up drinking Hard Cider; we would buy it to drink at home on special occasion or would order it when going to have crepes in a “Creperie Bretonne”. It would be served in small bowl and I used to love drinking these “bolées”.
Moving to NYC, I forgot all about cider, or at least the way I had experienced it in France. I quickly associated it with the sweet juice served hot at the greenmarkets in the Fall around the city. I did not investigate to see if any cidery in the Hudson Valley had anything different to propose and my idea of local cider was de facto incredibly limited. This all changed on a sunny Tuesday afternoon last September when I had a (well-needed) cider epiphany.
A few weeks before, I had received an invitation from Sabine; a long-time ICI regular and a local-food activist, to come to a cider-tasting in preparation for cider-week.
ICI was at the peak of its season, busy and swirling, the to-do list was getting longer by the minute…
To go to Manhattan to drink cider sounded just like the wrong thing to do. It was certainly not on any high priority list.
But Hey! When you run a restaurant, things get messy sometimes and going according to the plan is rarely what happens so I hopped on my bike and under a gorgeous blue sky zoomed to the tasting.
My expectations were really low: As a restaurateur, I attend wine tastings regularly, but try to keep those outings to a bare minimum. I know the wines I like & the wine importers I can trust, so I prefer to have one on one tastings with a rep rather than being in a room with 1,000 pretentious “wine connoisseurs”. It quickly becomes a game of showing off knowledge about wine to each other ( the way my 2 boys can memorize an incredible amount of statistics regarding American football players & teams- that could be replaced later by regions and cuvées…).
But that day, walking into the room where 30 or so cideries were lined up, I knew immediately that I was up for something really different: Imagine a room with 30 passionate growers, artisans, local farmers, distillers, apple grower & crushers who are just that. Who are not a trend but just authentic, local artisans.
And to my surprise, oh so delicious…. Where have I been all these years? As a fervent advocate of local food, I felt totally ashamed of not knowing anything about what was happening on the cider front at my doorstep.
The 1st cider-maker I meet was Louisa from Farnum Hill. She takes no offense of my candid surprise to find such quality and honesty in her cider and explain to her what my vision of cider was until 2 minutes earlier. Her answer is simple and enlightening: “Prohibition killed us. At some point, wine , beer, cider, those were the staples in any good household. When prohibition struck, cider makers had to find an outlet and this is when the sweet stuff appeared. We are digging ourselves oh so slowly from this misconception”.
My next stop is at Eden Ice Cidery. Eleonor, greets me with warmth and an incredible glass of Ice Cider. I am baffled.
Ice Cider, Pear Cider, still cider, sweet, dry, hop, I am jumping from one table to the next and growing more excited and within 2 hours, I have no doubt that I want to pour Local Ciders at ICI and am planing already a cider & farm feast with Louisa & Eleanor.
As I walked out, I hear a young man asking one of the cider makers, as he is swirling his glass and smelling his drink loudly, “what is the percentage of Wickson apple in that blend?”.
Oh my! Let’s hope the wine snobism will not spoil the cider world too fast….