Taste NY Highlights New York's Local Food Scene

New York City is, without question, a mecca of food and drink, but it's the entire state of New York that's attracting the spotlight during this month's New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) for its incredible bounty of edible offerings. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has been relentlessly promoting his state's most popular vendors with his Taste NY initiative, showcasing why New York is one of the nation's premier states in so many agricultural categories. From dairy farms, wineries, distilleries, and breweries to orchards, bakeries, and artisanal cheese and jam producers, the Empire State has them all, and there's an abundance of quality choices for discerning food lovers.

On Oct. 19, as part of the NYCWFF, Governor Cuomo is hosting the Taste NY Brunch at Pier 61, bringing together some of the state's best chefs and purveyors to give guests an idea of what "fresh" and "local" translate to in these parts. To kick things off, this past week featured two major events that highlighted the entire spectrum of New York's wares.

Starting at Eventi, a Kimpton Hotel, Taste NY brought in some of New York's finest culinary companies to dish out samples to the media on the hotel's perfectly placed fifth-floor veranda. The booze was flowing, with Heartland Brewery pouring out its Smiling Pumpkin Ale and Greenhook Ginsmiths splashing out sips of their flawless, flavorful spirits. (Seriously, Greenhook Ginsmiths makes me proud to be a New Yorker, with its flagship American Dry having notes of elderflower, chamomile, and Ceylon cinnamon on top of Tuscan juniper, leaving you wondering if you were, in fact, sipping an altogether new libation. And, Greenhook's Beach Plum Gin Liqueur — the first of its kind — is a gorgeous homage to a local, seasonal fruit, and every mixologist will want a bottle in her arsenal after trying it — you heard it here, first.)  With views of the Freedom Tower down Sixth Avenue and the Empire State Building towering over us just blocks away, it was an excellent way to celebrate the beginning of the autumn harvest.

The Eventi also featured veterans of the Union Square Farmers' Market, including jammin' jam-makers and masters of mustard Beth's Farm Kitchen, and Nordic Breads, purveyors of organic Finnish Ruis Bread, who gave guests a glimpse into what makes New York State so gastronomically outstanding. Beth Linskey, owner of Beth's Farm Kitchen, brought her garlic-rosemary mustard, strawberry-rhubarb jam, cranberry-horseradish chutney, and "mighty hot pepper jelly," all of which make exemplary additions to any condiment collection. The Finnish Ruis bread is rye-based and comes in thin rounds, and was complemented well by cheeses from Cabot and the heady, 9.7 percent-alcohol Three Philosophers beer from Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, N.Y.

Later in the week, Brooklyn Brewery was kind enough to open its doors to welcome a horde of other state-based brewers and hundreds of guests to experience the plethora of New York's pourable possibilities. Attendees were greeted with a 5-ounce glass to sample suds from across the state, and the producers didn't disappoint. Great South Bay Brewery of Bayshore wowed palates with its blood orange pale ale, The Bronx Brewery showed off its rye pale ale and unique barrel-aged brews, and Saranac Brewery brought along Adirondack lager to get everyone in the Oktoberfest spirit. Bites for the gala were provided by the superb team from Kickshaw Cookery, including a selection of New York's best cheeses, an heirloom tomato and plum salad, pickled Concord grapes, and mini pastrami Reubens, and even local celebrity chefs (like Marc Murphy of Landmarc, Ditch Plains, and Food Network's Chopped) were on hand for the festivities.

Taste NY is continuously hosting events in New York in an effort to bring awareness to the local food scene, with the next big occasion — the NYCWFF Taste NY Brunch with governor Cuomo — taking place Oct. 19.