Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Taste Test of New York Pride

It seems like we brag a lot about how enamored we are with the food in New York.  Sure, the cannoli and pizza are great, but does it really compare to fabulous fried chicken or a big ol' bowl of grits?  Probably depends on who you ask...and where they're from.  While we are tickled pink about finding new tasty treats, we know that nothing will ever replace the favorites that we grew up on....but we sure can taste test things, right?

When we heard about the Pride of New York Harvest Fest, we figured there was no better way to sample the best of the best!  Our tickets were generously provide by the Pride of New York Harvest Fest and Heather got to do her first blog giveaway on I Heart NY Y'all on Albany.com!  Readers entered to win two tickets (a $50 value!) by commenting on the blog or by following @iheartnyyall on twitter.  Heather was just so excited that apparently people other than her family were reading!

The Egg
The festival was held at the Convention Center at the Empire State Plaza and marked our first "real" trip to downtown Albany.  We'd driven through several times before, but hadn't had a chance to really explore the area until now.  Downtown Albany is pretty unique.  Not many towns have a huge concrete egg in the middle of the road.  Underneath all that is a mess of garage parking, office buildings and shops.  It's also where we encountered our first homeless person since living here.

Double fisting it...
The Pride of New York Harvest Fest was held underneath the Egg and showcased 90 vendors from across the state and featured locally grown produce, wines and beer.  When we arrived they checked our i.d., then handed us wine glasses and a map.  It was heaven!  Apparently, everyone else knew about heaven too because it was more than a little crowded.  Waiting our turn wasn't such a bad thing...it spaced sipping wine samples out a bit.  In all of our excitement, we sort of forgot to eat lunch and after testing several wines, we were a little smiley!

Our mental image of New York is urban sprawl, complete with skyscrapers and tons of metal and concrete, but it turns out that farm land occupies about one-fourth of the total land of the state.  Honestly, we were super surprised at how many things were produced in New York!  Did you know that New York is the second leading producer of Concord Grapes in the nation?  Turns out, the state is choked full of vineyards!  We actually saw some on our exodus from Mississippi around the Niagara area.  Heather also got a little confused when she saw Lake Erie and swore for a moment she had taken some sort of wrong turn and was at the ocean.  Hey, it was a loooong drive!

It's wine time!
New York's wine were just fantastic!  We tried wines that tasted like cinnamon, chocolate, peaches, raspberry, strawberry (and no it wasn't Boone's Farm either) and even one made from frozen grapes...it was amazing!  Vineyards from the Niagara region to the Finger Lakes to even Hudson Valley were there and we weren't disappointed.  Our little wine glasses kept getting refills after refills.  Most exhibitors had water bottles to wash your glass out with, but somehow Heather's ended up super sticky!

Fall in a cup
The festival also showcased a couple breweries in the state.  We tried several varieties of Pumpkin Ale  from exhibitors we recognized seeing at the grocery store.  We couldn't really remember that saying from college but knew there was something to "Beer before liquor never been sicker.  Beer before wine, always fine."  Or something like that?  Mixing all the wine and the beer samples probably wasn't such a great idea on empty stomachs, but what could we do...we had to try it.

mmm...samples!
We also had to try all of the cheeses, sauces, dips, cookies, herbs, fruits, veggies, pulled pork, sausages and olive oil that we came across during our little trip too.  We tried organic cookies, gourmet sauces, homemade jams & jellies, salsas and spices, some excellent eggnog and even gobbled down some garlic!

It might have been the wine samples, but when an exhibitor explained that sorghum was big in Kentucky and Tennessee and had made its way to New York and we just had to try it, we got a good laugh.  Obviously, he had not been to Lambert's Cafe (in Sikeston or Ozark, MO or down in Foley, AL) and had a throwed roll with sorghum molasses on it.  We're not sure he understood the irony when Heather said "Oh, y'all are finally catching up!"  Wait until these Yankees meet Paula Deen.

All things NY
The Pride of New York Harvest Fest was a great education for us in all things grown in the Empire State.  We were extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and enjoyed trying everything!  Most states have to deal with their image and how folks perceive that representation.  Most people think of North Carolina as 'Tobacco Row' and know Arkansas as the leading rice producing state.  We learned first hand that New York is way more than just a big apple!




Image credits:  Will Sherman, prideofnyharvestfest.com

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