Catskills-made cider, craft beers, cheeses and meats are coming to the Flushing Town Hall in Queens this Saturday at a new tasting event that aims to bring mountain foodies and city dwellers together.
“The Catskills Comes to Queens” is the brainchild of David Noeth, a Catskills-born chef who has logged time at The Four Seasons and the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and at the Catskill Mountain Lodge in Palenville, and Joseph DiStefano, a Queens-based food writer for the New York Times, Gourmet and his own website, Chopsticks and Marrow.
The two have founded a new business, New York Epicurean Events, which is based in the Delaware County hamlet of Delancey, Noeth's hometown. The Queens event is the first of many farm-to-table festivals the pair plan to produce with the goal of boosting “culinary and agricultural and culinary tourism in the Catskill-Delaware New York City watershed.”
“So many good products are coming out of the area,” said DiStefano, who has been writing about food for 20 years. "The time is right now to get the products in the hands of chefs in New York City and to expand the awareness of the Catskills. And to build a community around good food.”
The idea for the business was born on trip upstate in January 2015 to Delancey, DiStefano said, when he and Noeth decided that it was obvious that NYC needed a Catskills food event.
“There’s so much good stuff in the Catskills. Farm-to-table is really, really hot now. We want to build on that momentum,” he said. “We’re very excited and getting awesome response.”
Top chefs on board
Over 20 chefs and farmers from the city and the Catskills will head to Queens on Saturday. “Our goal is to foster interplay between city and country cooking,” DiStefano said.
Chef Hugue DuFour of M. Wells Steakhouse in Long Island City is coming, as is Andy Doubrava of Salt & Fat in Sunnyside, Queens, where he’s known as an innovator of the small plates movement.
The upstate cooking talents include Graziano Tecchio of Mint, a classic Italian restaurant in Kingston. Also representing the Catskills are Bryan Graham of Fruition Chocolate in Shokan and Jos Vulto of Vulto Creamery in Walton.
Awestruck Cider of Walton, Keegan Ales of Kingston, Larry's Custom Meats of Hartwick, Straight Out of the Ground Farm in Roxbury, Cotton Hill Creamery of Middleburgh and AgriForaging of Margaretville are all sponsoring the event.
Historic landmark locale
“Because Queens was named the number one destination on Lonely Planet in 2015,” said DiStefano, who just happens to live in Flushing.
“We picked town hall because it sits at the heart of downtown Flushing and it’s a great old building,” he said of the historic 1862 structure. “It lends itself to this sort of farm-coming-to-city vibe. It sits across from a Quaker meetinghouse from the 1600s.”
Outside will be a backyard BBQ with pit masters roasting whole animals over hardwoods and others smoking their fare.
Josh Bowen of John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City and “Big Lou” Elrose of Charred from Maspeth, both from Queens, will be serving tastings of meats smoked low and slow.
Inside, the main floor will be a cocktail reception gallery with wine, beer and cider tasting stations around the room. Upstairs in the ballroom, live bands will play bluegrass and American roots music. Food samples will be everywhere. A $95 ticket gets you in the door and covers unlimited eating within.
“Our hope is to draw people who are foodies and who are already interested in good food and organic, non-GMO [genetically modified organisms] food, and also turn others onto it,” DiStefano said. “A lot of the neighbors here already grow their own food. They always want the freshest vegetables and seafood. This is an opportunity to introduce these products to this market as well.”