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The Cream of the Crop: A Guide 

click to enlarge HILLARY HARVEY
  • Hillary Harvey

Communities teem each autumn with celebrations of the harvest. Whether you enjoy beer, wine, cheese, or baked goods, our region is well known for its abundance of agricultural producers and culinary artisans. Make like the black bear (who can feed up to 20 hours per day preparing for winter) and take advantage of the smorgasbord sure to be provided by one of this year’s many food and drink festivals. (See festival websites for ticket prices.)


The Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest

More than 200 wineries are slated for the sixth annual Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest. Begin a weekend of indulgence with Friday’s Grand Reserve Tasting and Gallery Gala—sample vintages from Seneca Shores Wine Cellars of Penn Yan and Thousand Islands Winery of Alexandria Bay, two of 12 currently scheduled wineries. For a small fee ($1 to $3 per taste) savor the specialty dishes of seven restaurants, such as Terrapin of Rhinebeck, known for its extensive use of local produce. Art from the River Winds Gallery, among others, will be displayed in the gallery wing at the grand tasting and throughout the weekend. Besides all-day tastings on Saturday and Sunday, visitors can attend a seminar by author and “wine diva” Christine Ansbacher, who gives tips on food and wine pairing, as well as cooking demonstrations by “Iron Chef” winner Peter X. Kelly of Xaviar’s restaurant. The Hi Flyers will perform their eclectic musical stylings, which range from Cajun to swing to rhythm and blues, and the Meg Johnson Band will offer up bluegrass and country folk.

September 7, 6 to 9pm, grand tasting. September 8, 12 to 6pm and September 9, 12 to 5pm, Wine Fest. Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck.
www.hudsonvalleywinefest.com.


Family Farm Festival

This festival is all about food—and the methods, farmers, and chefs behind it. A range of local, organic, and biodynamic foods will be served, and festival-goers can anticipate sampling grass-fed meats, spinach pies, artisan breads, farmstead cheeses, and vegetarian selections. The day is centered around the celebrity chef competition, where local chefs pair up with farms and square off against each other for visitor votes. This year’s teams are Jessica Winchell of Global Palate Restaurant and Cabbage Hill Farm; Adam Kaye of Blue Hill Restaurant and Northwind Farm; and the Culinary Institute of America’s Student Challengers and Elysian Fields Farm. Kids will enjoy the draft horse hay rides, animal arena, storytelling, and blacksmithing demonstrations, while parents can shop for honey, maple syrup, woolens, and handmade soaps amid the solar-powered live music of Big Sky Ensemble, Laurie Siegel, and more.

September 9, 11am to 5pm. Epworth Center, High Falls. www.familyfarmfestival.com.

International Wine Showcase and Auction

This event opens with a patrons dinner at Caterina De Medici Restaurant, a Tuscan-style villa designed by Florentine architect Roberto Magris for the Culinary Institute of America. This gourmet dinner pairs five Italian courses with complementary wines: The second course, for example, couples a dish of anelli di crespelle gratinati con ricotta e spinaci (crepe rings au gratin with ricotta cheese and spinach) with Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio, an elegant wine with complex notes of wild rose, apricot, and anise. The dinner is punctuated by a crostata di frutta stagionale (a crisp tart shell topped with seasonal fruit) and Ceretto Moscato d’Asti, an aromatic and effervescent wine. Saturday’s events include wine and food tasting by a multitude of fine vineyards and restaurants—expect to swirl, smell, and sip Charton et Trebuchet, Charles Krug, and Bisol Jeio; and savor the culinary creations of Cosimo’s Trattoria, Sukothai, the Culinary Institute of America, and La Stazione. Scotch, wine, and food demonstrations are planned, including a cooking demo by Ric Orlando, proprietor of New World Home Cooking. A live auction follows the tastings; bid on an African safari package, a VIP tour and tasting at California’s Bouchaine Vineyards, a collection of Biale wines, and more.

September 14, 7pm. Patrons dinner, Caterina De Medici Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park. September 15, 12:30 to 4pm tasting, 4:30pm auction. Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park.
www.greystoneprograms.org/WineShowcase.htm.

Taste of New Paltz

For its past 16 years, the annual Taste of New Paltz outdoor food festival has been offering up the culinary diversity of the village in one stop. Featuring the talents of over 30 restaurants, breweries, wineries, and farm markets, the event is sure to please the most varied of palates. Go Japanese with a roll from Zagat-rated Neko Sushi, enjoy a vegetarian delicacy from Karma Road, or try the locally and seasonally inspired cuisine of Bywater Bistro. Whitecliff Winery, whose name and label is a tribute to the white Silurian quartz cliffs overlooking New Paltz, will be serving wine among a variety of other vineyards, including Baldwin, Adair, and Rivendell. Kids activities include face painting, inflatable rides, balloons, and a special interactive program called “Fun with Energy,” which explores light, sound, solar power, electricity, and kinetic energy. Visitors can browse among the paintings, photography, ceramics, and handcrafted jewelry of local artisans while regional bands like The Trapps, Lemonade Grenade, and The Sugar Bees play live. A country store will offer a variety of goodies and a wellness and recreation section will provide info and demonstrations throughout the day.

September 16, 11am to 5pm. Ulster County Fairgrounds, New Paltz. www.tasteofnewpaltz.com.


Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

Tour the world of garlic right in Saugerties: German white, Italian purple stripe, Korean red, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovakian, Spanish roja—all these and more await you at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. Last year’s festival stomped records with 125 garlic vendors offering bulbs, braids, wreaths, and seed stock. The marketplace is known for its gigantic assortment of garlic-infused products, ranging from the foreseeable—pickles, pesto, rubs—to more bizarre finds like garlic biscotti, ice cream, and even cotton candy. Named as one of the top 10 regional festivals by USA Today in 2002, the garlic fest is just as famous for its quality entertainment and chef demonstrations as it is for purveying pungent bulbs. Check the festival website for a list of musicians, cooking demos, crafters, and kids activities.

September 29, 10am to 6pm and September 30, 10am to 5pm. Cantine Field, Saugerties. www.hvgf.org.


Warwick Applefest

Last year, 40,000 people attended the Warwick
Applefest, and perused the wares of more than 275 crafters and artisans. Stained glass, handcrafted jewelry, pottery, woodcarvings, and other crafts will be displayed in numerous locations throughout Warwick. Visitors can indulge in Greek and Creole foods or stick with dependable cider donuts, cookies, and cakes.

October 7, 10am to 5pm. Vendors are located throughout Warwick. www.warwickapplefest.com.


The New York Sheep and Wool Festival

If working with wool is your favorite pastime, “ewe” shouldn’t miss the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Attracting vendors from as far away as Canada and Texas, the festival has an immense list of merchants, exhibitions, and competitions scheduled for October’s third weekend. On October 20, a number of demonstrations are planned, including rug braiding, sock knitting, and felting; and animal shows like an angora goat show, a llama and alpaca farm display, and assorted canine presentations. The “Make it Yourself with Wool” competition begins at 10am, and ends with entrants sashaying down the runway for a fashion show of their own all-wool creations. Scheduled for October 21 are white- and colored-wool sheep shows, a cashmere goat show, and entertainment by Steve Charney and Harry, a magic, music, and ventriloquism act. Other non-wool activities will appease those less appreciative of animal fibers; a “punkin’ chuckin’” contest, a gem and mineral show, miniature golf, a petting zoo, and a corn husk doll-making seminar will also be offered. Let’s not forget about food—representatives of the American Cheese Society will make an appearance and there will be wine tasting, specialty foods, and cooking demonstrations.

October 20, 9am to 6pm, and October 21, 10am to 5pm. Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck.
www.sheepandwool.com.

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