A Taste of New York

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What do you get when you put hundreds of food, beverage, and hospitality professionals in one room? A lot of talk about eating and drinking. Last week, NYS Restaurant Association and NYC Hospitality Group hosted “A Taste of New York” at Time Warner Center’s Landmarc restaurant. The theme of the evening was local, and the importance of patronizing what New York State has to offer.

Marc Murphy, Executive Chef and Owner of Landmarc, led a panel of stellar New York food and wine producers. Panelists included Carmen Quagliata, Executive Chef at Union Square Café, Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars, Steve Hindy, President of Brooklyn Brewery, and Matthew Ranieri, Vice President of Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. The panel was moderated by NYS Restaurant Association’s NYC chapter Executive Director James Versocki and NYC Hospitality Group’s Anthony Milano of Crown Design & Consulting.

The panelists were welcomed by Joshua Vlasto, Governor Cuomo’s Chief of Staff. Vlasto assured the crowd: “when it comes to the food and beverage industry, Governor Cuomo is here to help and here to listen.” Cuomo, who launched the Taste NY Campaign to support and increase demand for locally sourced products, even hosted a Regional Beer, Wine & Spirits Summit. Murphy, who attended what he referred to as the Governor’s “booze to table” summit, made changes to his own menus to support the movement.

“Who has a government that tells them to make more booze!?” Hindy remarked, and went on to explain that before prohibition, New York State was the largest producer of hops. Over a hundred years ago, Brooklyn was a major distillery region. Now breweries, distilleries, and even wineries are making their way back into the norm, with an emphasis on local ingredients. Brooklyn Brewery recently teamed up with GrowNYC Greenmarkets to create Brooklyn Greenmarket Wheat – a beer produced with locally sourced grains.

Union Square Café has been hosting meetings with greenmarket farmers for nearly 30 years. Quagliata said Union Square Hospitality Group supports the greenmarket not only because it makes environmental sense, but because “the quality is better.”

Ranieri agreed that the level of quality of NYS products can’t be beat, and encouraged restaurateurs to consider that New York has something to offer compared to Italian and French counterparts. He urged attendees to support their local economies, and form relationships with the people they’re supporting, by featuring local cheese on their menus.

Bedell highlighted a disconnect: restaurants will boast about locally sourced foods, then have an entirely international wine list. He explained that the local food movement is actually the same as the local wine movement. “We’re growing our grapes in the same soil greenmarket farmers are growing their arugula in!” He noted the advantages of souring North Fork wines, just 80 miles east of NYC. Restaurant staff are able to visit the vineyard and learn about the product and where it comes from. It’s also a sustainable choice, as the short drive imposes a lower carbon footprint than shipping across oceans and countries.

All the talk about local food and beverages was met with a spread of local cheeses, selection of oysters from Blue Island Oyster Farm, White Aphro and Amber Ale from Empire Brewing Company, and a Kuka take home treat from Andean Brewing Company.

We certainly got a taste of what New York State has to offer, coupled with expert advice to make local products available in the NYC hospitality industry. By putting New York State producers in touch with restaurant owners and chefs, we hope to see more upstate producers in the NYC market. As Murphy aptly noted, “If we do it here, the influence will spread.”

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