Habanero spiced wine, shortbread cookies seasoned with dried shallot, margarita-flavored cakes and grapefruit hard cider were some of the unique tastes vendors offered at this year’s Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. This is the third year for the Festival, which opened yesterday and continues today at the Lake George Festival Commons.
Launched in 2015 by Adirondack Festivals, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival was hailed as a success in its inaugural year. It has grown to become the best-attended event at the Charles R. Wood Park Festival Commons, attracting more than five thousand foodies and craft beverage connoisseurs from across the Northeast. This year’s Festival featured the products of 80 vendors, with wineries, cideries, distilleries and artisan food producers represented.
Sales were brisk at the Savor tent. Mid-way through day one, owner André Kreft surveyed his supply of flavored shortbread cookies and contemplated a night run back to his Connecticut bakery to re-stock for day two. Kreft and his colleague Steven Wilson were busy handing out samples of bite-sized cookies with atypical flavors such as hot pepper and dried onion, birch, maple and cranberry and delicate lavender. The pair chatted with patrons as they offered samples, showing an uncanny knack for pairing flavors with potential buyers.
Festival attendees found more baked goods at Auntie Liana’s. Owner/baker Liana Knudsen came up from her Lower Hudson Valley kitchen to sell fresh-baked cake balls with tempting varieties including Boston crème, lemon, salted caramel and s’more. Her Tipsy Treats — booze-soaked mini cakes — are edible versions of favorite summer cocktails such as piña colada and margarita. Her mini rum cakes, each garnished with a pecan, brought a taste of the Caribbean to the Adirondacks.
Knudsen says she became acquainted with the people at Adirondack Winery while selling at other festivals, and they encouraged her to bring her cakes to the Lake George event. “This is a nice festival,” she says looking around at the crowd, but noted it is a challenge keeping her chocolate-dipped cake balls chilled during the warm June day.
Heat was not a problem for Jean Lewis, owner of Mean Dawg’s Mustard. Heat is a primary quality of her spicy mustard. She also carries a sweet version and offers tasters both varieties as well as samples of her mustards mixed with ranch dressing for a flavorful dip. Lewis’ own recipe is produced and packaged by The Arc of Schuyler, an organization that provides supports to people with disabilities. This partnership, Lewis explains, frees her from the need to maintain her own commercial kitchen and allows her to focus on the sales end of her business.
According to Mark Grove of Apple Grove Farm, we have China to thank for his line of infused gourmet cooking and bread dipping oils. “China is the world’s biggest producer of apples,” he says. “Most people don’t know that.” Orchards, such as his in Mexico, New York, were having a hard time competing as China flooded the U.S. market with cheap apple juice.
To help U.S. producers shore up their businesses, the USDA launched the Value Added program, which encourages growers to innovate new ways to market their produce. Apple Grove Farm first added apple butter to their offerings, and now produces oils flavored with Italian herbs, garlic, red bell peppers and sundried tomatoes. They also make balsamic vinegars and specialty sauces using ingredients grown on their farm. The bread dipping oils were popular with tasters at the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival, and the special pricing seemed to be driving sales. Two 12.7-ounce bottles of oil could be had for $15.
Grove says he sells at festivals and farmers markets year-round, hitting 42 events last year. His wife Richelle is set up a few blocks away in Shepard Park for the Lake George Volunteer Fire Department’s Summerfest. This is Grove’s first year at the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival.
Pasta-lovers gathered at Grandpa Pete’s tent to sample Grandpa’s authentic Italian Sunday Sauce. Tasters were double dipping the hearty marinara, vodka, garlic and meat sauces made from a generations-old Sicilian recipe. Grandpa Pete’s representatives had a bottle of Pazdar Winery’s Dragon Wine on hand and added a few drops to the samples to kick up the heat level of Grandpa’s recipe.
Across from Grandpa Pete’s, Pazdar Winery poured samples of their “Wines with Attitude.” The Dragon line of spicy dinner wines gets its kick from habanero peppers. Pazdar also produces a line of chocolate wines and dessert wines with names such as Orange Dreamsickle and Dancing Princess (honey, cherries and spices.) Pazdar bills itself as the “World’s Most Innovative Winery.” A few samples of their products seems to back up this claim.
It wasn’t all eating and drinking. There was some learning and some playing too. Under the Culinary Arts tent, SUNY Adirondack students demonstrated cooking techniques using locally sourced ingredients. The SUNY Adirondack Foundation is a beneficiary of the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. At the Kids Tent, children kept themselves entertained with games and craft projects.
A half-dozen food trucks and specialty vendors selling handcrafted home décor items rounded out the vendor list. Throughout the Festival Commons, attendees found seating and shade under one of several “Take a Break” tents. A cooling tent that released a fine spray of dew-like mist provided relief from the heat.
Adirondack Festivals, LLC is owned by Sasha Pardy, co-owner and operator of Adirondack Winery. The Winery, established in 2008, operates a tasting room on Canada Street in Lake George.