A Loca-venture

4 Sep

A post by Lea with inspiration from her locavore-buddy Rachel. (Rachel’s extra notes in italics)

Yesterday I went on an adventure-a locavore adventure, with my friend, co-worker and all around locavore buddy, Rachel.  We were in need of a girls day and being the local foods devotees that we both are, we embarked on a journey in search of local grains, wine and ice-cream-the comfort food trifecta of any locavore.

We left Rochester at 11 am promptly armed with market bags and baskets, a bread knife, beach towels/blanket, and a cooler and headed east.  Our first stop was the Canandaigua Farmers’ Market.   We spent time with familiar vendors, Clearview Farms, Fisher Hill Farms and Nordic Farms, sampled semi-locavore treats from Franjo Farms and the Mustard Seed and then spent time with newly certified and member farm Italy Hill Produce and Hunt Country Wines.  Rachel has spent time with the Hunts, but this was my first time meeting them both.  One of my (Rachel) favorite things about going to the markets in the Rochester area is that I am obviously a “regular.”  Not to brag, but I think the farmers like me.  I love that I do my work in the office or out on field days and then get to see the same farmers who have used my NOFA-NY projects for their professional development then putting their knowledge into action.  Maybe I’m overselling myself, but it’s cool to have them greet me with a smile and then take me “to the back” for the second-quality produce they know I will take home and cook with.  They’ve seen me eat and eat and eat at the potlucks…and I wouldn’t do that if these farmers weren’t super-talented and growing amazingly irresistible food.  Not only did they let us  sample their delicious tomatoes (and take some home) but they invited us to visit the farm and winery later that afternoon.  Done and done.  Farm and wine tour was immediately put on the agenda-more on the Hunts’ later.Our next stop was to F. Olivers a gourmet oil and vinegar shop in the village of Canandaigua. We were in search of Stony Brook Squash Seed Oil.  It’s marketed under a fancy private label-but Rachel and I were aware that this oil has a more interesting and less glamorous history.    It’s produced from the seeds- normally a  “waste’  product of Martin Farms (in Brockport, NY).  The Martins grow several varieties of beautiful organic squash that is sold pre-cut in stores across the northeast.  In looking for a more sustainable solution to their waste they learned that a delicious oil could be produced from the seeds.  They approached Greg Woodworth, a food entrepreneur to try their oil.  Now under the lable of Stony Brook Whole Hearted Foods, Greg is making up to 20 cases a week of the oil.  But that isn’t the half of it, the waste product from the seed is crushed into a “seed cake” which feeds the pigs at the nearby Piggery-which produces delicious charcuterie for the NY area.  The concept is so amazingly locavore it makes my head spin (in glorious ways of imagining creamy butternut squash soup drizzed with squash seed oil and accompanied by crispy prosciutto the was grown from eating-from the same squash).  More on the full history of the squash seed oil here.  On a side note-I’m looking forward and ahead to October when I can justify stocking up on some of F. Olivers amazing balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  They have a new store on Park Ave in Rochester too, which is dangerously in walking distance of my apartment. Yikes!

Our third stop (and the primary purpose of the trip) was to visit the Pennsylvania Yankee Mercantile, an amazing 100 mile and organic store in the village of Penn Yan that is set up like an old country store.  PYM, is a generous sponsor to the Locavore Challenge (2 years in a row) and Elizabeth and Dan Hoover, owners, are great friends of the locavore movement.  The store, which is just over a year old, carries local items that you can’t find anywhere else.  The concept of traveling to get local stuff may seem odd at first, but it’s not that far from where we are, and it is absolutely worth the trip–the quality of items is incredible at PYM.  Plus, I love a good trip through farmland in early September.  This part of NY looks a lot like my extended family’s stomping grounds of Lancaster County, PA.  Right down to Mennonites and Amish on the roads, country stores and farm stands.  It makes no real announcement of itself as a destination drive, but for a locavore and farm-to-table obsessionista like me, it’s the best kind of day trip.  No water parks or carnival rides for me!

They also are well-known for their all organic home-made ice-cream-which is why we came with an appetite!  I like to consider myself pretty skilled in the ice-cream making department-but their ice-cream is DELICIOUS.  Made from local organic milk, eggs and organic sugar and dark chocolate (not local-but we can dream!) they churn it out front of the store with some sort of crazy motorized belt system (this is where the non-techy girl I am kick in).  We don’t know how it works-but we thought it was damn cool!  Elizabeth also hand makes organic waffle cones to go with the ice-cream.  Their giant-sized small ice-cream cone only set us back $4 and filled me up for hours.  You all know I’m trying to go processed-sugar free for this month, but this is the same sugar they get in 250-pound bags from Lakeview Organic Grain, which also feeds cows.  If cows can eat it, I sure can make an exception for some ice cream (ok…who really needs justification for local, organic, from-raw-milk ice cream).  And I’m not double-fisting ice cream in the below picture, I’m holding Lea’s cone thankyouverymuch.

After we settled our ice-cream cravings, we went about shopping.  The store carries a great selection of organic meat and cheeses, eggs, some local produce-but its strength is really in its pantry goods.  They have a good selection of standard local items like honey, maple syrup, organic farmer ground flour, organic sugar and coffee.  Specialty items include a full selection of Flour City Pasta’s including the 100% emmer (fully local emmer flour grown by NOFA member Thor Oeschner), whole grain wheat, spelt, oats, and corn which they will hand mill for you to your liking, and my biggest surprise-local salt!  Seneca Salt Company produces a local flake salt produced from salt veins that occur under the surface of Seneca Lake.  Well needless to say, Rachel and I loaded up.  I had to get the salt, I also picked up a gallon of local organic vinegar (another item I thought I would never find), a chunk of smoked gouda cheese from Engelbert Farms (Lisa Engelbert works at NOFA as well and their cheese is delicious), some of the emmer pasta, a pound of whole spelt, a pound of freshly ground polenta and a pound of freshly rolled oats.  We left with an overflowing bag and happy to have taken the time to visit Elizabeth, Dan and their 6 week old son Dane.  They a great story of how the store started here.  Make sure you take a trip to visit them if you are in the Finger Lakes area-you will not be disappointed.  Since yesterday, I’ve used the oatmeal (they roll whole oats into flakes–I recommend soaking the oats for about an hour in about a 3:1 water:oats ratio, then cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20.  it may not be like oatmeal you’re used to, but believe me when I tell you it is sweet and thick and pudding-esque), polenta, and salt.  The salt is really amazing, I’m using more than I would normally because it has a nice flavor, and did you know that salt is good for rehydrating?  Try sprinkling a little (any salt, but SSC is very nice) on watermelon for a better-than-gatorade post-workout treat.

After our lengthy visit to the PY Mercantile, we decided we should head out and meet John Hunt for our promised farm and winery tour.   John’s family owns Hunt Country Winery-a Keuka Wine Trail winery in Branchport.  John grew up at the winery and is the wine-maker.  Caroline grew up on an organic vegetable farm in Oregon, both Cornell graduates,they  own and operate Italy Hill Produce a Certified Organic vegetable farm adjacent to the winery together.  John happily gave Rachel and I full tour of the farm, showed us their plans for expansion and then personally gave us an extended wine tasting.  (Happy wine tasters, Rachel and Lea below)

I happily purchased a bottle of white (Pearl) and a bottle of red (Alchemy), and would have bought more if the car wasn’t already filling up quickly.  (John is in the picture below to the right).  John is a great tour guide and is a better wine pourer than he lets on.  I especially enjoyed a little Cornell reminiscing, and yeah, John knows his stuff.  Visit Italy Hill Produce at the Canandaigua Market and Hunt Country Wines are available across the state and at the winery in Branchport.

After a long, but beautiful drive home through the Finger Lakes (with just one stop for cantaloupe) we made it home and unloaded our bounty.  Just one stop for canteloupe…but NB: we were tempted several times to stop again for other produce.  I’m notorious for never feeling like I can get enough of the amazing NY fruits, veggies (and grains and beans and now…SALT).  We were certainly successful in acquiring our sought out goods, but more importantly what we found along the way was the real spirit of the local food movement-sharing the joy and “art” that local farmers and food purveyors create from their hearts for us all to enjoy.  And woven in between the delicious food, stories, and the adventure itself was sharing the experience with my locavore buddy Rachel.  I can’t wait for more local food journeys this month and beyond. Thanks for a great day Rachel!  Thank YOU Lea…I had a blast.  And I think this proves that locavorism isn’t just about putting amazing fresh food in your mouth, it’s about creating and participating in a healthy community that by way of being a healthy community is also economically beneficial.  Everyone helps everyone.

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