It is more of a winter like morning in the vineyards of Glenora and along the shores of Seneca on this the first Sunday of the third decade of the 21st century. The sky is cloudy and the temperature is 29 degrees but as a result of the wind which is coming from the northwest at 13 miles per hour, the temperature feels like it is 18 degrees.
Lake temperature: Keuka is now at 44 degrees which is up from 40 degrees that was recorded on December 20th. Obviously the warm weather and rain of this past week has had an impact - messing up the ice fishing and ice boating!
In the vineyards: Pruning continues with the vineyards team starting their days in the vineyards as soon as they can see the vines-which is usually about a half hour before sunrise. While the weather (warmer) has made pruning conditions much more pleasant we always have concerns when there are extended warm periods in late December and early January. We have had temperatures that reach 50 degrees this past week which is not conducive to maintaining or developing vine cold hardiness. As we have mentioned before we always recall what has become known as the "Christmas Eve Massacre of 1980", The temperatures prior to Christmas Eve 1980 had been relatively warm (like this past week) and had reached the mid-50's on Christmas Eve Day, The temperatures then plunged to a minus 10-15 depending on vineyard location on Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning. The result was extreme fruiting bud and truck damage on many of the vinifera varieties which in turn significantly reduced the 1981 harvest-39 years ago!
Interesting: a not in my backyard thing-wine tariffs. We are hearing lots of concerns being expressed on the current wine tariffs and possible new or increased tariffs, by the wine industry urging people to speak up against them. The irony is that where were these folks during the past number of years when the dairy industry (farmers like grape growers) were and are severely impacted by tariffs, the same question could be asked regarding support for the corn, soybean, pork and beef producers that have been impacted by these tariffs.
This coming week our sales and marketing teams will be meeting to review and finalize our participation in many of the programs offered by the various wine and tourism organizations. While the budgets have been developed and approved for these programs/organizations we will be reviewing the programs that have been proposed by the organizations. At the time we develop our budgets many of the organizations had not yet fully developed their programs for the year (sort of like just send us the money and we will give you the details later). So now that those programs are in place, or nearly so, we can review them and then decide on our participation level. To a degree the old ROI (potential return on investment thing). It is very easy to get trapped in the "we have always done that" or we need to be good industry partners and support these organizations. That thinking may have worked in the early days of our industry-not so sure it is the case today.
We will be taking part in the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's Global Eats and Treats Event being held on January 17-19. We will be traveling the Globe to Jamaica and will be serving Sweet Plantain Tacos with Black Bean Hummus and a Spicy Sweet Potato Purée. For more information on the event and the many other opportunities presented by members of the Seneca Lake Wine trail visit www.senecalakewine.com Take the time to "click about" the website as there is lots of information, including what each participating winery will be serving, and the recipe, during the event. The Seneca Lake Wine Trail website is one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive wine trail website in the United States - check it out. By doing so you will have no excuse to not know "what is happening" along the wine trail - and who is doing it!
It will be great to have a full 5 day business work week (consistent days ) starting tomorrow, While we enjoy the holidays having them midweek has made for two Fridays (Tuesday and Friday) and two Mondays (Thursday and Monday) for each of the past two weeks. Next year, because of "Leap Year", both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on a Friday-hence a three day weekend-start planning!
Did you know: That this is the third time that January 5th has fallen on a Sunday in this century-2003, 2014, 2020!!
Thought for the week: Business
"More business is lost every year through neglect than through any other cause."
The sky over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca is partly cloudy on this the last Sunday morning of the decade. The temperature is 31 degrees with a feel-like reading of 25 degrees - a result of the wind which is coming from the south southeast at 5 miles per hour. Lake temperature: Keuka; is holding at 4o degrees, at least at the 20 foot level which is where the water temperature is taken.
In the vineyards: The vineyard team enjoyed the Christmas holiday week, consequently there was not a lot of sounds of pruning shears clicking. We will start a full scale pruning attach soon after the first of the year.
In the cellar-bottling room: It was a very quiet week there as well as the bottling line was shut down for the week. However it will be up and running this coming week as the production team finishes a couple of small projects on Monday and Tuesday.
The administrative wing of Glenora was quiet at the end of this past week as well with only Tracey D. and Megan (the accounting team) holding "the fort" on Thursday and Friday. They even turned off, or did not turn on, the lights (only in their office). We know we have a good accounting team when they are concerned about saving electric!
Spooky! The editor always makes it a habit to visit all the wineries on Christmas Day just to make sure everything is okay. It is really a unique experience, only because it is so quiet. No cars in the parking lots, no one in the restaurants, retail shops, cellars or offices. The only sign of life was Sadie, the cat at Knapp, along with the chickens and peacock at Knapp.
We did attend what appears to have been the last organization meeting for the year this past Monday - a meeting of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's Long Range Planning Committee. That meeting's agenda focused primarily on the involvement (financial support) it will be providing to other tourism promoting organizations, way to increase membership on the trail, and the ongoing discussion of events. It was also agreed that since it had been two years since the trail's strategic plan (or in the trail's case - a white paper) that we should revisit the plan at the January meeting.
If you know of any organization looking to raise funds and have fun while doing so have them contact Emily at the Inn/restaurant firstname.lastname@example.org as we are still seeking a couple of chefs (organizations) to fill our Thursday Pasta night spots. From a fund raising perspective it is much more fun that licking envelopes and stamps to solicit donations. An added bonus for the chefs is that they have an unlimited supply of wine during their tenure at the Pasta Station.
The wine chiller (the new cellar equipment). Thankfully it has been relatively cool outside since the fact that the three to five day project has now extended into a 10 plus day project. Fortunately the delay has not had any negative consequences.
It is a bit intriguing to start a week (this coming week) in one year and then ending it in another year, as well as starting the week in one decade and ending it in another decade. For many, you will be able to note a week in which you were paid for work performed in two years and also two decades -it will be another 10 years before one can experience the latter.
Would you like a free trip to Switzerland-airfare, lodging, tours, etc.? All you have to do is win the Second Annual East Pruning Competition sponsored by Felco (a manufacturer of pruning shears, and other pruning/vineyard equipment). The contest will be held on January 31st at the Anthony Road Wine Company-Dresden, NY USA. Probably as rewarding as winning the trip would be, the bragging rights of being named The Best Grapevine Trimmer/Pruner on the Eastern part of the United States. You will need a passport to go on the trip so if you do not have one -apply now!
If you have not made any New Year's resolutions or set goals for the New Year and decade you still have time. No resolutions-no goals result in no accomplishments'!
Thought for the week: Normal
"The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well."
The sky is clear over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca on this the first day of winter 2019-2020, which at this point on Sunday morning is only a few hours old (winter started at 11:52 PM yesterday). The temperature is 27 degrees however due to the wind which coming from the south southwest at 7 miles per hour the "feel like" reading is 19 degrees
For those of us fortunate enough to live in the Finger Lakes American Viticulture Appellation the weather conditions for the upcoming Christmas week look favorable for holiday travels. It might be a bit tough for Santa's sleigh as the warmer temperatures will most likely be the demise of the snow and "Frosty"!
In the vineyards: The weather conditions earlier this past week did allow the vineyard teams to finish up most of their hilling-up projects. For the next 2-3 months most of the sounds coming from the vineyards will be those of the pruning shears "clicking".
In the wine cellar-production department: Another week of bottling, with a most of that involving custom work projects. The work on the chiller installation continues on. What was portrayed as a relatively simple project "appears" to have developed some complexity-hopefully it will be completed this year.
Can do-we will make it happen attitude: On Wednesday morning a customer who was visiting the Glenora retail shop commented on nice a particular gift basket that was on display looked. She then asked "Is there any way I could get 25 of those specially created by Friday?" Without a moment's hesitation Retail Shop Manager Rachel, Assistant Retail Shop Manager Tammy and their team said "yes", and on Friday afternoon the baskets which had been specially created for this customer were being carried out the door. An example of the Glenora philosophy of "We do not say no, unless it is illegal or immoral". We will have to clearly define those terms in our employee handbook!!
On Monday, tomorrow, we will be attending what we believe will be the last wine related, tourism related, or civic organizations related meeting of 2019 - a meeting of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's Long Range Planning Committee. With almost all of the organizations of which most have a monthly meeting, there is a plethora of committees associated with the organizations which means that unless one is careful, meetings become a bit like quicksand -once you get in you cannot get out. It would be interesting to count how many wine and tourism organizations have been created during the past 40 years-a 2020 project!
A new addition to the Finger Lakes Wine Festival? We came across this article recently. It appears, at least according the article that festival visitors will be able see some historic race cars/evens as well during the wine festival.. It is great to see more things being added to the festival that has grown significantly since its inception in the early 1990's. More information Here.
Things will be quiet in the cellar this coming week as the cellar team will be collecting on their vacation time. It has been a busy year for the production team and as a consequence they have not taken a lot of the vacation time due them. And they are very smart-by combining vacation time, with holiday time, and weekend days they will be enjoying 10 straight days of personal time!! If they really need to rest up there is another holiday the following week. Well deserved!! We do hope that we do not forget what they look like during this extended absence.
On schedule-the new winter menus are in effect-breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kitchen and restaurant teams conducted their information tastings on Thursday - the teams taste the menu items in order to be able offer explanations to our customers when they are asked about the menu items-they did not do a wine pairing at the same time, although they do taste the new wines at the time they are released.
Congratulations go out to the Windmill Team-Terri and Erin!! Sales at "The Mill" were up 33% over last year, and 20% over the goal. 622.66 cases. Also thanks to WindMill Larry for his part in making sure we were set up for action each week.
Since it is close to the last week of the year it is time to consider New Year's resolutions/ideas: New wines, new labels, new markets, new programs-what is working, what is not working-it will be a new decade in a few short says-the third decade of 21st Century - do you know when it (the 21st century) began?
Thought for the week: A Smile
"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."
The sky is cloudy over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca on this this second morning of Dosage Your Own Weekend at Glenora. The temperature is 34 degrees, with a feel-like report of 24 degrees which the result of the wind which is coming from the west at 14 miles per hour. Lake temperature; Keuka - 42 degrees, one degree cooler than it was on December 31, 2018 - Global cooling?
In the vineyards: The vineyard teams started the week walking through 8-10 inches of snow, which by mid-week had melted creating some mud. However in certain locations it was dry enough to finish some of our hilling jump project. Of course pruning goes on. We will bring in our documented worker team soon after the first of the year to assist us with the pruning.
One of the biggest events that occurred this past week happened on Tuesday afternoon when James, the Wedding and Events Manager at Glenora, was presented with the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance's "Excellence in Customer Service Award for 2019. This is a significant honor for James as he was selected from the many customer service representatives in the 14 counties in Finger Lakes Region, and there are 100's. Under James' leadership the Inn at Glenora has been awarded or inducted into The Knot's (a premier wedding planning publication) Best Weddings Hall of Fame for 7 consecutive years. The Knots's award is based on the comments and reviews received from brides that have had their weddings at Glenora during the preceding year. The Knot award is not only a tribute to James but also to the entire Glenora Team for their hospitality and customer service. Congratulations to James and all!!
Some interesting numbers from Anne, Glenora and Knapp's regional sales associate: During the period from November 15 through November 27th, Anne and her In Wine Shop Tasting team conducted 20 unique tastings. Those tastings resulted in 967 people trying our wines of which 47% purchased wine - 460 bottles (38.33 cases). It certainly cannot be said that we do not support our accounts or assist our distributor. Thanks go out to Anne and her team!
More reports: Retail Sales Manager, Rachel, reported that she and her team hosted a total of 5469 visitors during the two weekends of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's Deck the Halls event. She also has told us that she and her team conducted their first ever Cyber Monday event which resulted in 78 orders leaving on Tuesday - another happy day for the FedEx folks as well! The retail shop team is now into their 12 Days of Christmas event - a visit to the retail shop will be very rewarding.
Not to be outdone Missy, Inn Manager, conducted a Cyber Monday event as well which resulted in 211 room nights being sold. Another benefit of the room night sales is meals in Veraisons and visits to the retail shop.
More numbers: The Maintenance team reported that they moved 8 inches of snow during the recent snow storm - everyone has numbers!
Executive Chef Patrick, who is new to Team Glenora team, tells us that he and his team will be introducing their new Winter Lunch, Dinner and desert menus on December 19th - two days prior to the winter solstice!! He also notes that we have 3 openings for guest chefs for our Pasta Night Series. One does not have to be a stellar chef, just have a lot of friends who want to watch you "try" to cook pasta. Also we contribute/donate/give $2.00 (10.55% of the revenue, not of the proceeds which would be much less) for each meal served, to the Chef's favorite Charity.
Words: It is the time of year when we hear "Have a Merry Christmas, if I don't see you before"-what happens if they do see you before? One has to wonder who started that saying and when!
This weekend, yesterday and today is our annual Dosage Your Own event. Lots of folks "creating" their own sparkling wine. Thanks go out to Steve, Rachel, Tracey and Kerry for their parts in making the event a success.
Last of the year: This afternoon we will be hosting a wedding and reception, it may be our last one of the year-but there are still 16 days left-who knows!!
Thought for the week: History
"One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present."
The sky over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca is partly cloudy on the the last day of Wine Trail events for the 2019 season. The temperature is 25 degrees, however the feel-like reading is 14 degrees due to the wind which is coming from the south at 12 miles per hour. Lake temperature: Keuka - 43 degrees. It is interesting to note that it was December 30th last year before the lake temperature reached this point-another indication of the cold weather we have experienced this fall as compared to last year!
In the vineyards: The snowfall earlier this past week did place a halt on our final hilling up operations, however the forecast for the upcoming week may allow the vineyard team to finish that project. In the meantime there are acres and acres and acres of vines to be pruned! And it seems that most of the deer have been harvested.
In the wine cellars: This is the time of year when the winemaking and production teams are racking (wine, not pool balls) and filtering. The wine making teams tells us that they have plans to have our 2019 Rose' ready for bottling by the end of January. This is a wine style that the entire wine world seems to be in a race to see who can get it on the shelf first. It has come to the point that if one (a winery) does not have the wine ready for release by the end of the first quarter of the year they may as well "forget it". Another interesting factor with the wine is its color. Rose' used to be the color of a rose petal -it now needs to be the color or a salmon (a fish) -does anyone care about the taste?
More cellar-production area news: Plans are being formulated to install our new chiller system which is used to control the temperature of the jacketed wine tanks and the wines inside of them-the current unit is 30 plus years of age, as well as being underrated for the current production needs. The unit is used to control fermentation temperatures during harvest and then later in the year to assist in cold-stabilizing the wine (reducing the tartaric acid in the wine). So since fermentation is completed and we have a bit of time (a couple of weeks) before cold stabilization needs to start (remember the Rose') now is the time to make the change. However the contractor is claiming that one of our trees will need to be either removed or severely pruned which is not setting well with the editor-we will be meeting to discuss this on Tuesday!
Last evening Chef John and his team wrapped up the Wine Dinner series at the Knapp Vineyard Restaurant for the 2019 wine dinner series season. The theme, appropriately, was titled "All wrapped up" a play on wrapping presents for the holiday season and as well each course was "wrapped" with either puff pastry, filo, bacon, en papillote. Unfortunately, for the editor previous obligations prevented attending. However, if history is an indicator Chef John and his team did an excellent job.
Wine trail events: While many, if not all, of the wineries have events scheduled for the balance of the year (check the wine trail websites) the last of the major wine trail events will be finished at 5 PM today. Over 1300 visitors will have traveled the Cayuga Wine Trail and close to 3400 visitors will have circumnavigated Seneca Lake. These events are great fundraisers for the wine trails (used for marketing and promotions) and a great way to introduce people to the trails and their member wineries. As an aside everyone was thankful the events took place this weekend and not last weekend-the weather!
While the Glenora Gazette editor was "humbugging" them, our Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday promotions were a great success - so much in fact that the UPS and FedEx drivers werethinking of bringing bigger trucks.
This coming week many members of Team Glenora will be gathering to shop and then wrap gifts for our adopted family - a family that might be struggling during the holiday season. We are provided with the number of people in the family and their ages so we make sure everyone receives a gift along with providing many stapes that can be used to create holiday meals, and used at other times during the year. This is all done incognito!
It is gelling close to the end of the year and time to start considering New Year's resolutions. You might not only consider resolutions for the upcoming year--2020, but for the upcoming decade 2020-2029 as well!
Thought for the week: Research
"Research is what is done when individuals/groups don't know what they are doing."
It is a dark, cloudy morning over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca on this the first Sunday of the last month of the year and the last month of the decade. With a few flakes of snow in the air the temperature is 27 degrees with a feel like temperature (started to say "reading"-but how do you record "feel like") of 20 degrees, which is a result of the effect of the wind which is coming from the southeast at 6 miles per hour. Lake temperature: Keuka: 46 degrees.
In the vineyards: For part of the vineyard team it was "in the Woods" as they were taking some vacation time to chase deer. We are going to get one of those genetic kits to test Bob as we are quite sure he is related to Daniel Boone or some other previous hunters as he seems to have an uncanny ability to locate dee much to their chagrin-at least for a short period of time.. Those team members not in the woods spent some more time hilling up-that project will end this coming week. After that it will be pruning, although we are giving lots of consideration to removing some of the older vineyards --- some being close to 50 years of age.
On the Press Decks: At CLR Tim and Wally now have all of the pressing equipment in storage-wrapped up for another year. The Glenora team has their equipment in storage as well and will soon have the equipment that is too large to be moved-shrink wrapped, maybe we can get a wrap with color this year.
This coming weekend marks the end of the Seneca Lake and Cayuga Wine Trails special events for the decade. At last report the Cayuga Trail is expecting 1200+ event participants and the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is expecting close to 3400 participants. The Seneca Lake Wine trail did an extensive; in depth survey of past wine trail event participants earlier this year. One of the interesting things, and there were many, is that a significant number of trail event participants are "first timers". Another part of the survey was to determine where people came from and what the demographics of the area where they came from. All of that information helps the trail to market and promote visitation to the wine trail members. Wine trail events, on Seneca, have grown significantly since one of the first trail events in 1991, Fruhling Wein Fest, when Anthony Road, Castel Grisch, Lakewood, Fulkerson, Prejean and Glenora got together to create and present the event. Tickets were $5.00 and participants received a "engraved wine glass", wine and food pairings, AND a Pine tree seedling (we have wonder how many of those are still alive). The event was very successful and by 1994 there were 16 Seneca Lake wineries participating-ticket prices had risen to $8.00, and there was a survey given to each of the participants asking them questions about the event -ironically many of the same questions are still being posed to event participants today-it just costs more to conduct surveys today.
The Veraisons team presented a spectacular Thanksgiving buffet this past Thursday. It is quite amazing to see the preparation that goes into presenting and serving the buffet-three seating's. Our hats are off to everyone who made the event possible == your time and efforts are very much appreciated as are those of the retail shop team who opened the retail shop in order that our Thanksgiving dinner guests had an opportunity to visit the retail shop as well.
This coming week Joel and his team will be decorating the Inn and Verasions for the Christmas holiday season. It really is very impressive, a huge Christmas tree on the veranda, very large pine wreaths hung over the entry ways to the inn complete with night lighting, Christmas trees in the dinning room, and the editor's favorite the two wreaths hung in the windows in the cupola over the Inn.
Wine bottle deposits - there is legislation on the horizon that would require a deposit on wine bottles (and apparently other spirit bottles). As with many proposals of this type it seem that very little thought has gone into this proposal, with one of the biggest unanswered questions is "who is responsible for the redemption (collection and refunding of the deposits). Hopefully we will be able to make enough money on Small Business Saturdays in the future to cover the costs of yet another government mandate.
Thought for the week: Vision-Ideas
"True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision."
The sky is cloudy this morning over the vineyards of Glenora and the shores of Seneca. From the temperature readings it would seem winter has arrived but we still have another month of Fall according to the calendar. The current temperature Is 35 degrees however it "feels like" 27 degrees due to the wind which is coming from the south southwest at 10 miles per hour. Lake temperature: Keuka - 53 degrees.
In the vineyard: The 2019 harvest at Glenora, Knapp, and CLR is finished with the CLR team "wrapping it up" on Monday when the Mason Road Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Petite Verdot at CLR were harvested. We certainly appreciate the efforts of the vineyard teams in bringing in all of the grapes. The season starts out with short sleeved shirts and ends up with sweatshirts, heavy jackets, and Carharts! There is always a lot of moving parts to the harvest season, and depending on the vineyard, the winery and the weather the picking schedule needs to be flexible. For people who need a structured work day/week the harvest season would be very stressful. Thanks go out to Chaz, Jeffery, Bob, Brent, and Corey - the harvest team!
With harvest ending this past Monday, the Vineyard teams quickly "changed gears" as they power washed and greased the harvester, making notes of all of the items that will need attention before harvest next year. They rounded up all of the bins that seem to grow legs during harvest, power washing them as well and making repairs as needed. There is one winery where we deliver grapes that seem to play "bin bumper cars" when they unload and empty the bins - they also fail to risnse the bins which is and has been a winery courtesy since the beginning. The teams also started "hilling up" in several of the vineyards. Hilling up consists of pushing soil up and over the graft at the base of the vine to protect it over the winter.
On the press decks: While the harvest (picking) finished on Monday the press deck teams stemmed, crushed and then placed the Cabernet in red fermenters on Monday. They also started to press our "iced Wine" grapes on Monday, however that was cut short by a "stripped gear" on the Wilmes Press's motor. So a quick trip was made to Knapp where we have an identical press. Thanks to the efforts of Tracey, Chaz and Brent, the motor on that press was removed - quite a project has it had been in place for over 40 years with several coats of paint on the nuts and bolts that held it in place. However with some prayers (or were they cuss words?) the motor came off and the "Iced Wine Grapes" were pressed and the juice is now in the tank. A side note - pressing "Iced wine Grapes (frozen) gives us a yield of 45-60 gallons per ton as compared to 170-175 gallons per ton from the same fruit that was not frozen.
Yesterday marked the 43rd anniversary of a Nouveau Wine Celebration at Glenora. The event was first started at the end of harvest in 1977 to celebrate our first year of harvest/winemaking. It was a rather small event at which we invited all who had helped us establish Glenora during the year of 1977. We had started the year with a site on which an old barn had stood, and by years end we had 4500 cases of wine in the tanks-10 months. The event was original called Foch Nouveau as Foch grapes were the grapes used. It has now become "Nouveau" because we no longer make a Foch wine although the vineyard is still alive and well. One tradition did end this year and that was Henry the Hogg was not roasted on a spit or smoked - he was cooked in an oven. That decision was made when the weather forecast came out earlier in the week. Starting the smoker at 6 AM and standing by it when the temperature is 25 degrees for 6 hours is no longer considered fun - even when fortified with a glass of two of brandy. Thanks go out to Joel and the Maintenance team for keeping us warm, the kitchen and restaurant team for the great food, and to the administrative team for all of the organization.
Bob, who assists us with marketing and sales, returned from the American Wine Society meeting in Florida carrying a plethora of medals won by our wines, including one for the best white Vinefera wine in the commercial wine competition (wineries from across the US) - our 2019 Select Harvest Riesling! While all of our wines are the efforts of our entire cellar/production team, Winemaker Rachel took the lead on this one -Congratulations Rachel!!
While 2020 is 7.5 weeks away, plans are being made or finalized for some of the early years events which include Pasta Night, Fish Fry Fridays, Steak and Potato, the Bridal show and the early year Wine Trail events. There are several "twists" in store for these events. We also will have a new program - a monthly signature wine. More to come as we do not want other readers of the Gazette to plagiarize it.
Thought for the week: Thought-Ideas
"True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision."
Written by Sous Chef Sarah Hassler of Veraisons Restaurant
Veraisons is not a vegan restaurant, but we have become a vegan-friendly (very friendly!) restaurant. When people learn of my passion for creating delicious meals free of animal product, they assume I must be vegan myself. My answer typically surprises people; while I am allergic to gluten and dairy, I am not, in fact, vegan.
A classically trained chef, I was taught the techniques of the French – none of which were animal-friendly by the way. There were no classes on vegan cooking; there were barely dishes to be served to the few who would attend. I was vegetarian upon entering the CIA – two months of eating polenta and mushrooms and I conceded.
As my school days have long since passed, I have discovered that I enjoy a challenge and a direction when creating dishes. The world of food is far too vast to create and streamline a meal without some frame to work within. Anything can play the role of the framework, preferences, theme, restrictions – veganism is just one more box to work within. That is why I chose to study food and become a chef – the knowledge is far beyond what one man could hold, and the chance to transform ingredients to suit is ceaseless. Chefs are truly students for life.
Orlando and I have a lot in common when it comes to the kitchen. We lead with our hearts, cook with our stomachs, and source food with our brains. When a guest walks into our dining room, we want them to have an amazing meal and a pleasurable experience. This goes for every guest, regardless of dietary restriction.
The dinner table is the place where humans come together. We all need to eat – it’s that basic. Regardless of color, creed, gender, or even (GASP!) political allegiances, seated at a table we are all equally human, fulfilling that common need. Why should it be any different for people with dietary restrictions?
Some of my chef-friends argue that the folks with “legitimate” reasons for having restrictions are “ok”, but those who choose to eat a certain way and expect restaurants to work around them are asking too much. To this I would reply – When did it become the right of the chef to take the choice away from the diner?
Perhaps this is a sign that we’ve taken our profession a few too many steps away from the blue-collar days. When we stop being grateful for the people walking through our doors and paying us to do something they could do themselves – and then post later on Pinterest! – we might want to check ourselves. The food isn’t about us – it’s about them.
The line that vegan food is somehow more “chemical” or made “in a lab” is also antiquated. Our world is filled with factory-farms and our shelves stocked with highly-processed foods, no longer recognizable from their original state, so this seems a bit high-brow to say. The reality is that all food is chemical…and it all equates to chemical energy. See? That student-for-life line wasn’t a lie!
My passion for creating vegan dishes comes from the same heart that creates dishes for omnivores. I remain endlessly grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passion as a career, to feed people delicious food, and to be consistently challenged to become a better cook…for humans.
As we gear up for Buen Provecho (simple Spanish translation: “Bon Appetit”), our first wine pairing dinner of the Spring season this Saturday, we’re shining a light on Chef Orlando’s menu inspirations, as well as what led him to become a chef, which means going back to his roots to where his love of cooking began…in his grandmother’s kitchen.
Throughout his childhood, Orlando could usually be found in her kitchen during family gatherings. He would watch large family meals come to life, take in the delicious aromas and join in the familial kitchen banter that many of us know and love.
A Connecticut native with Dominican heritage, Orlando is constantly inspired by his upbringing and culture, both of which play an integral role in his cooking, and of course, bring back many fun memories…like fighting with his aunt over who gets the pig tail.
Read on for more…
What sparked your interest in cooking?
My interest in the kitchen started as a young child. I was told that I would go into the kitchen cabinets and take out pots and pans to play with. All the family would get together on the weekends and make a massive family meal and everyone would help out. I would always hang out in the kitchen and watch my grandmother and my aunts prepare food. I was always impressed by the fact that they would dice onions and peppers in the palm of their hands (not a safe method by the way) never cutting themselves. I loved the smell of the peppers, onions, and garlic on the stove cooking that would linger in the air as they cooked, even still to this day. There wasn’t much I didn’t eat; I remember having arguments with one of my aunts about who was going to eat the pig tail. At the end, we would always end up sharing when there would be a pig roast.
I started to cook at home at the age of 8, not sure if I was just being scammed into making sandwiches, grilled cheese, and omelets, but my sisters always said I made the best food. They still swear that it was the truth to this day. Honestly, I think they just still want me to cook for them.
Did your grandmother use ingredients or any special methods that you use in your cooking today?
My grandmother and my family members still use a mortar and pestle, which is used to grind up spices and herbs. I also use a wooden one at my home.
Do you have a favorite dish or recipe of your grandmother’s?
I had the honor of helping out my grandmother marinate a pig a few years ago for Christmas. I say it was an honor because my mother and aunts told me later that no one was ever allowed to help marinate a pig with Grandma Carmen so I should feel privileged, which I was. Yes, the mortar and pestle was used that day, and no, I will not let you in on her secrets.
One of my favorite dishes is Mondongo. It is stewed tripe soup. Whenever family comes to visit my grandmother goes out of her way to make some and send it to me.
Can you tell us about the traditional Dominican treat Morir Soñando?
It is a traditional drink made with orange juice, milk, sugar, and vanilla. The translation of the word is died and gone to heaven.
What dish are you most excited about on the menu for this weekend?
Well, it would have to be Mondongo, of course.
Written by Sous Chef Sarah Hassler of Veraisons Restaurant
Autumn in New York might be a romantic cliché, but it is truly a chef’s dream season in the Finger Lakes. Farmers from all over the region send me emails every day with lists of available produce. Yes, farmers market via e-mail, welcome to the future everyone. Squash, beans, brassicas, apples, pears, grapes, and still the summer produce winds in with tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, and melons. It is bounty at its fullest.
At Veraisons we have always taken the time to prepare a special feast that celebrates the season. For years our annual Harvest Dinner has marked a time to honor our farmers and our winemakers, to toast the end of tourist season, and to wind down into the quiet of winter – like a late-night bowl of Mom’s soup before bed.
This year our Harvest Dinner falls on Halloween, an occasion that happens only once every seven years. Talk about adding special to already-celebratory! Orlando and I wracked our brains to come up with spooky ideas – at one point there was a chicken pot pie with a clawed foot sticking out of the crust as a potential idea, quickly vetoed, but nonetheless memorable. Finally, one of us said “Let’s just go all out and do Harry Potter.”. Neither of us spoke for a bit, wondering if it might be ridiculous, and after a moment’s silence, we pounced.
Images of bountiful feasts rolled into our heads. Having read all of the books several times over (especially the audio versions – total #jimdalefangirl), I know how strongly that imagery takes hold. A young boy coming from a cold home he doesn’t belong in finds himself at an enormous table, surrounded by friends and food…so much food! Rowling nailed the relationship between food and comfort, highlighting the intimacy of breaking bread with friends and finding joy that multiplies.
Think about your favorite food memories. I’m willing to bet that they rarely, if ever involve you eating alone, dining on something you made yourself. Most likely they revolve around family, or a longing for family (care packages from Mom while you were at college anyone?).
The equation so far:
Autumn harvest romance + deeply imbedded nostalgia + chefs = truly awesome dinner plans
So the idea was born – do a Hogwarts themed dinner, serving the food family style at communal tables. We plan to separate guests into houses and leave the platters for sharing and available seconds. We’ll serve Butter Beer and Polyjuice Potion and the dessert course will be nothing short of a child’s dream – treacle tart, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate frogs, ton-tongue toffee, and trifle. We’re leaving the rock-cakes at Hagrid’s hut for the night.
The books we read play a role in the direction of our lives. Harry Potter and his tales have long been in a thread in mine. Attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York felt very much like my own Hogwarts adventure – only with more food and less house elves. Click here for an article I wrote for their alumni magazine, Mise En Place, back in 2011 on the subject.
Whether the plan is to wind down the season and shake the hands of our farmers or to immerse yourselves in the world of magic (at least the of culinary sort), I hope to see you at our Great Harvest Feast this year!
Author Bio: Sarah Hassler is the Sous Chef of Veraisons Restaurant. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a native of the Finger Lakes region, Chef Hassler has a keen understanding of flavor and nuance and a reverence for the agricultural community, bringing local ingredients into her cooking as much as possible. She has been a member of the Glenora team, in between her time at CIA and professional experiences in the Hudson Valley and Corning, since 2009.