Lake Placid, a scenic, mountainous getaway in upstate New York, has earned a world-renowned reputation as an athletic haven. Not surprisingly, the landscape of the Adirondack region is part of what attracts and defines both visitors and residents, whether it's the triathlete plugging up the unforgiving hills in preparation for the Ironman, or the farmer perfecting the alchemy of grass-turned-goat cheese.
Thanks to the efforts of Jen Holderied of Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and resident chef of Generations Restaurant Dave Hunt, families now have the opportunity to tour the surrounding farms, meet local residents, and discover how the carefully stewarded environment delivers the best ingredients to their plates.
Welcome Reception at Snowslip Farms
At my visit, the tour began with a welcome reception at Snowslip Farms, where we were introduced to the sights and flavors of Essex County through an extraordinary spread of hors d'oeuvres and an equestrian demonstration.
“I don’t understand diets these days. I think you just need to eat good food and you will be happy and healthy.”
Words of wisdom from Chef Dave Hunt. His passion for good food and gusto for the local offerings is infectious as he urges all of us fill our plates.
“You really have to taste the beef. It's called Atlas Hoofed It, from pastured cows at Atlas Farms.” Here, the beef is more than your ordinary piece of protein. It's grass-fed beef from Atlas Farm, and the name of the farmer is almost as significant as the food itself; it's an indication of provenance and terroir. Once you recognize the grower, you will understand the quality and care put into the creation of the food.
After our “meat and greet” all the visitors gathered outside to enjoy the fun led by a prancing American Saddlebred. Snowslip had previously grown vegetables and ran a small farmers market onsite, but the flooding of the nearby Ausable River during hurricane Irene left the land covered in silt, hindering their growing efforts this season.
Now the farm has resourcefully steered its efforts towards their equine residents, offering boarding services, trail rides, and riding lessons with their stables and facilities operating year round.
Happy Animals Produce Delicious Cheese at Asgaard Farm
The tour resumed the next morning at Generations Restaurant. We piled in the caravan and made our way down the winding mountainside pass of Route 86, dodging triathlon bikers along the way.
The first farm we toured on Saturday was Asgaard Farm & Dairy, a sustainably run, bio-dynamic goat farm just outside of Au Sable Forks, owned and operated by Dave and Rhonda Brunner. Dave started the morning by guiding us through the cheese making facility, a deceivingly sterile introduction.
As we made our way down the goat paths an excited herd of kids pummeled excitedly into us showering us with goat kisses and wagging their tails like puppy dogs. With 1500 acres of organic fields and forests to roam it’s no wonder they’re so even-tempered. (My mind wandered back to my 400 square-foot Brooklyn studio and the view of my neighbor’s trash heap from my kitchen window. These goats have it better than I do.)
Animal welfare seems to be the magic ingredient here when it comes to producing their finger-licking products — herbed chevre, aged buche, goat's milk salted caramels. I was starting to understand what Chef Hunt was getting at earlier; an Asgaard goat cheese is something very special.
While the stars of the farm are the goats and their coveted, musky cheese, there are actually several kinds of animals here, all working together and existing happily in their pastured paradise. Every participant of the farm works in symbiosis; the pigs level the ground, the chickens eat the bugs and fertilize the land, the cows mow the grass while removing the parasites that infect the goats, and the free-roaming goats browse and graze to their hearts' content.
A simple system that yields extraordinary results.
The Garden of Eatin' at Fledging Crow
After we all reluctantly bid adieu to our new goat friends, we piled back in the caravan to make our way to the next stop on the tour Fledging Crow Vegetables. Modest in size, but grand in spirit, this up and coming and innovative, certified natural grower has maximized a meager five acres of land, providing fresh, seasonal produce to over 100 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members.
With a personality as electric as his beaming rainbow chard, co-owner Ian Ater tells us all about his experiences of trial and error in his quest to coax these pristine vegetables from the land. Ian and his partner Lucas Christenson (both in their late 20s) started Fledging Crow from little more than a plot of leased land and a lot of optimism. The quality of the vegetables speak for themselves, and one glimpse of the rows of the jewel-like dinosaur kale is sure to tempt even the pickiest of little eaters.
After an entire morning spent talking about goat cheese and heirloom tomatoes, lunch came just in time; a farm-fresh meal of grilled panini and a heaping plate of decadently soft chocolate chip cookies made with local flour prepared by Chef Hunt and enjoyed under the shade of Ian's front patio.
The Farm to Fork at Generations Restaurant
After a break in the afternoon to relax in the perfect summer Adirondack weather, the tour came to a tasty finish at the Generations Restaurant where Chef Hunt prepared a four-course tasting meal of generous proportions, featuring all of the ingredients participants got to know so intimately over the weekend.
Family Farm Tour In September 2012
The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort will be hosting another tour on September 7-9, 2012 and many more in the future. Details and booking information can be made through the The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort site.
Here is my review of the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort accommodations.
For more ideas on planning your Adirondack vacation, check out our guide to Adirondack Mountains Attractions.
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