It’s a timeless adage resurrected: “You are what you eat.” I’ll add “and drink.”
If your lucky enough to live in Central New York you already know that the foods you eat help to make you healthy as a horse – as evidenced by these Percheron drafts.
This hardworking pair at the Fenimore Farmers Museum in Cooperstown were happy to pull a hay wagon loaded with passengers for hours. In between shifts, they were treated to spent organic apple pomace and mash grains; staple feeds that no 19th century family in their right mind would ever let go to waste.
“After the cream is collected to make our butter the skim milk goes to feed the pigs,” smiled a young gal in period costume impersonating a 1840s farmhouse wife.
“If cheese happens to go moldy, we don’t throw it away. We just clean it with a little white vinegar and reseal. Like I said, there is no wasting in this time period.”
“Dick” and “Doc,” as the horses were named, weren’t the only reason for the appeal of the historic attraction. Hop-growing, once considered a king crop during the nineteenth century, is back and bigger than ever. Fun fact: the Leatherstocking Golf Course that overlooks Otsego Lake was once a hop plantation.
Farmer Bob, holding tight to the reigns, informed me that the craft beer resurgence has put to use old hop kilns like the Pope Hop House.
“We share our hop excess with a local micro-brewery/gastro-pub three miles south on Route 28 called Council Rock Brewery.
The taps were flowing at Council Rock when we arrived. It’s one of many in Otsego County that tout a commitment to buying seasonally sourced ingredients. Bearded bartender Kyle Llewelleyn was quick to top off my glass with a hoppy pint of Sleeping Lion Red Ale.
The beer was made with whole-leaf Cascades (a signature hop) that grows tall on the trellises at the museum. My copper-colored craft was a delicious complement to a plate of fish tacos.
It didn’t take me long to appreciate the synergy between sustainable farms throughout Central New York and the table establishment. After all, what consumer isn’t interested in the origins of what’s served on a dinner plate?
As for other conscious cravings, there were no shortage of places using locally sourced ingredients to create unique menus. One night, I wisely made reservations at Mel’s at 22 (22 Chestnut St., Cooperstown) on what I thought was going to be a slow Tuesday evening. In a matter of minutes every table was full. Our hostess seated us at a four top in a bay window perfect for people watching.
I ordered a savory appetizer of fresh mozzarella parked on a bed of roasted eggplant drizzled with pesto sauce. Wow and wow!
The specialty cheese, no doubt, originated from a nearby dairy farm, maybe Mountain View or Painted Goat? I was so caught up in the flavors of the dish I forgot to ask.
To learn more about the locavore options in Central New York visit the links below. For the record, these websites allowed me to customize a “picking paradise” to pumpkin patches, corn mazes and apple orchards all over Schoharie and Otsego counties. Two more stops, Sunnycrest Orchards and Fly Creek Cider Mill were so great that they both deserve their own blog entry!