ESLC Hit It Out of the Ballpark on Giving Tuesday

 On Tuesday, November 27th, otherwise known as Giving Tuesday – the international day of giving that follows Cyber Monday – Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) received a total of $22,177 on its website and through Facebook from donors supporting the organization’s conservation-based programs and initiatives.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the support and love the community showed us on this year’s Giving Tuesday,” said ESLC’s Director of Communications David Ferraris. “We started participating with this ‘holiday’ in 2016 and have had a lot of success with it, but hit a new level of support this year, especially in terms of involvement from new donors.”

ESLC was fortunate enough to have also had the support of seven local businesses that shared the group’s messaging leading up to and throughout the day via social media. Those businesses are Lyon Distilling Co., Eat Sprout, Solar Energy Services, Ebbtide Wellness Studio, Pop’s Old Place, Washington Street Pub, and Hair O’ The Dog Wine & Spirits.

Since 1990, ESLC has permanently protected more than 60,000 acres of land on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The organization also provides planning consultation for land use and community design projects, environmental education, and climate adaptation planning for county governments.

Mid-Shore Food: Nighttime Surveillance on Sprout HQ’s Open House

It was hard for our Spy to enter the new Sprout HQ on North Aurora a few nights ago. As might have been expected, grateful customers and public officials crowded into the organically pre-prepared and locally sourced meals new business location to the point where our agent couldn’t immediately enter its new hub. Relying on the art of outdoor surveillance techniques after years of specialized training, our Spy captured the festive scene through several windows.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Sprout. please go here

Spy Wine Notes: Piazza Trifecta

Our story begins in the Swiss Alps, specifically on Alp Trosen, where 35 cows, a heard of goats and pigs and a cheesemaker spend several weeks in an aging hut built into the side of the mountain.

(Great way to start a Spy story, don’t you think?)

This first report involves an unbroken tradition from the Swiss Alps known as transhumance involves cheesemaker Jakob Knaus moving from his home in the Toggenburg valley up to the 6,000-foot level of Alp Trosen. This is all part of a cheesemaking practice that can be traced back over 2,000 years.

With his cows eating only wild grasses, herbs and flowers, the milk produced makes a cheese full of flavor. All this is done by Jakob Knaus and an assistant using a copper kettle over a wood fire where their alpkase cheese is made by hand.

As Piazza’s Emily Chandler describes it, “…this is beyond organic and the resulting flavor of the cheese is a pure expression of the alp and its microclimate. It is a beautiful cheese from a beautiful place.”

And, yes, it is now available at the Piazza Italian Market because they have again participated in an annual event where stores around the country adopt an alp! Fortunately for us, Piazza’s Alp is Trosen.

As part of the introduction to their adopted alp, the cheese from Alp Trosen was “part one” of this past weekend’s wine dinner at Piazza.

The second part of this very successful event was the wine.

With cheese from the Alps, Emily selected a perfect wine from the Italian Alps. Where better to go than to Lombardia where the Perego family have been tending vines set on sheer granite terraces in the mountainous Valtellina since 1860. The vines are so far north into the alps they are practically in Switzerland.

The family works only with Nebbiolo, or Chiavennasca as it is called locally, growing the grapes up to nearly 2,300 feet above sea level on sheer, south-facing, sunlit vines that dig straight into rock. The resulting fruit is intensely mineral.

Their Rocce Rosso wine is named for red rocks, because the winemaker feels that the flavor of iron and earth are most prominent in this wine. And, this vintage won the Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award from Gambero Rosso, the Wine Spectator of Italy.

Finally, for the third important element of our story, the cheese and wine became vital elements in a series of food courses prepared by chef Rosario del Nero. He prepared extraordinary offerings traditional to the Italian Alps featuring alpage cheeses. Starting with a cured beef dish, the second course was Pizzoccheri, a specialty of the valley known as Valtellina from where Chef Rosario comes. Chef Rosario’s main course was a roast pork loin with porcini sauce.

Once again, the Piazza Italian Market delivered an extraordinary evening, this one rich in traditions of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
Now, everyone can be touched by the history and incredible craft achieved over generations producing the exceptional cheese and wine that have traveled here to Easton

For more information: Adopt an Alp  and ARPEPE Wines

Mid-Shore Food: Piazza’s Adopt-an-Alp Program 2018

Piazza Italian Market is pleased to announce it will again participate in the Adopt-an-Alp program. This five-year-old program was created to generate awareness and appreciation for the endangered practice of transhumance and to highlight “real” Swiss cheeses. Piazza was one of three winners of this competition in 2016 which resulted in a free trip to visit alpine dairies for one member of the Piazza team. Owner Emily Chandler selected Brandy McKinney to represent the store.

Historically, many cheeses in Switzerland and other Alpine countries were produced via transhumance. As the summer sun warms the slopes, green grass sprouts, and the cows follow. Herdsmen were just behind the hungry cows, living and making cheese in small huts. While the idea of spending a solitary summer high up on a Swiss mountain with only animals for company might sound idyllic, life away from the comforts of home is not easy. Some of the huts that provide shelter have neither running water nor electricity. Remarkably, production of Alpage (cheese made from alpine-grazed cow’s milk) has increased over the last 5 years, arguably due to the Adopt-an-Alp program.

Piazza has selected to adopt Alp Trosen this year. Brandy McKinney of Piazza Italian Market visited Alp Trosen in 2017 and was struck by the humbleness of the operation and the quality of its cheese. Jakob Knaus Sr. stays on the alp for 9 weeks, most of the time alone. During this time, he lives in a one room chalet directly above the stables. There are few modern amenities at this 500-year-old hut, only a government-required filtered water system and solar panels. Jakob is required by the Alpkäse consortium to use a wood fire and a copper kettle to warm the milk for cheesemaking. These little details result in a sum that is more than its parts. Importer Caroline Hostetter describes Alp Trosen’s cheese as very flavorful and having “a lot of the earth” in it, even when young, and the rest of us can’t wait to try it!

To celebrate the arrival of the cheeses, there will be an Alp Dinner on Saturday, November 17th at Piazza. Featured chef Rosario del Nero will be using the Swiss alpkäse to cook dishes from his native alpine valley in Italy, the Valtellina. Tickets will become available in October.

Additionally, we will be celebrating the transhumance practice by unique events created by Jenn Martella, Special Events Coordinator. She will once again involve the community by reading at the children’s hour at the Talbot County branch libraries, a cowbell art contest for artists of all ages and Swiss jeopardy at the kick off dinner. Prizes will be awarded to the winners.

Adopt-an-Alp was created by Caroline Hostetter at Quality Cheese and it is officially supported by Schweizerischer Alpwirtschaftlicher Verband (SAV), (translates to Swiss Society of Alp Economy) a Swiss government agency for protecting and marketing Alp products including the platform http://alpkase.ch. All cheeses sold through the Adopt-an-Alp program are exclusively imported by Mifroma USA and distributed by Atalanta Corp.

For more information about the art contest or to make a reservation for the Alp Dinner please call Jennifer Martella at 410-253-1100.

Mid-Shore Wine: Crow Farm is Building Memories and Serving Wine

There is something special about spending time on a farm, particularly for someone raised in a busy metropolitan city. My childhood memories include how quiet and dark it was, away from all the traffic, noises and lights that were part of my everyday life. There were animals who typically didn’t make appearances on urban sidewalks–cows, pigs, horses, and chickens; and even those that did, such as dogs and cats, roamed unleashed and unrestricted. There was a sense of leisure yet busyness, calm yet purposefulness.

Harvest time (photo credit Lotte Bowie Loblolly Productions)

I no longer live in a city, recently moving to a small town, and when given the opportunity to visit and write about Crow Winery, a vineyard and 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, MD, I jumped at the chance.

Seeing the silos as we drove down the long road leading to the farm brought back all the beautiful memories. But there was also much more that this grown-up could appreciate as I stepped out of the car– the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vines that reminded me of Autumn, harvests and well, yes, a fine crisp wine.

Owner Judy Crow, fresh from attending the birth of a calf, met us. After introductions to a new addition to the 100+ herd of Angus cattle, she took us to her home, an 1847 farmhouse which also accommodates a 3-bedroom B&B that they call a ‘farmstay’ experience. “We opened up the B&B,” she said, “so people could come and spend the night with us, learn about farming sustainability, have a farm fresh breakfast served family style, and if they want to be a part of delivering calves or going out to move cattle on the pastures, they can do that. The farm is an opportunity for the public to integrate themselves into the farm business.”

But Crow is so much more than a farm; it’s also an award-winning winery. And for a good reason. Take the 12 and a half acres of beautiful vines, imported years ago from the New York Finger Lakes region, now pregnant with grapes and ready for picking and managed by Judy’s son, Brandon Hoy, along with Vineyard and Winery assistant C.T. Wright. Or the state-of-the-art 5,000-case production winery where a bottling and labeling machine stood idle, but ready for the 200 cases a day it produces, where polished and gleaming fermentation tanks, sorting tables and wine-stained oak barrels are carefully monitored by winemaker Michael Zollo and consultant John Levenberg. Or the Tasting Room, formerly a milking barn, where you’ll probably run into Joe Rieley, the sales manager who will expertly guide your selection and your palate to sample a flight of wines, maybe even accompanied by the local cheeses.

The story of how it started goes back years ago when it wasn’t always about vines, wines, or tasting rooms. Then it was about Roy Crow who had a three-generation family dairy farm which grew wheat, corn, and soybeans and had 10 Angus cattle. Ten years ago, after meeting and marrying Judy, they began to consider other options. Why not wine, they asked? They knew that Maryland’s climate did not produce the types of wines that customers were used to (such as the sweeter Cabs and Merlots), so why not create something new and local for these consumers to enjoy using only grapes they would grow or those grown within a 50-mile radius of the farm?

“Early on we decided to stick with dry premium style wines,” Judy explains. “The B&B was driving business to the farm, and our first customers were from metropolitan areas, such as New York, Philly, and New Jersey–wine savvy people, who wanted nice quality local wines. So, we stayed with that model, even though it’s harder in Maryland, as Maryland wines tend to be sweeter and our wines are drier, our price points are higher, and we either grow our grapes or have local growing partners. It’s a different style of wine that means that people have to come here and experience them or go to finer establishments that stock our wines.”

She was right. Soon, reviewers began to talk about their wines and Crow began to win awards Two years after building their winery, the Crow Vidal Blanc received a gold medal at the International Wine Competition. That same year, Crow took the Best in Class and Double Gold for their Barbera Rosé in both the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup and Governor’s Cup. The accolades have never stopped. A corner of the Tasting Room is dedicated to showing off just some of the medals Crow wines have won. This past summer, Crow was voted this year’s “Best of the Bay 2018 for Maryland Wineries,” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers.

Even with all of this notoriety, Judy worked on a new business model. Crow Wineries was in a great location–an hour from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and minutes from historic Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The problem was they were near other wineries, in other counties, and each was competing for the visitors, tourists, and residents. There had to be something they could do, which with Judy’s encouragement, they did. Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De Vineyard and Winery decided to form a collaborating relationship.

“Our idea was to bring people to the area and for our businesses to integrate and work together. So, we created a marketing strategy that encompassed our various counties. This made it good for all of us,” Judy said. “One winery may not bring people out; with two you have a better chance. When you add other wineries and interesting places for people to visit, it becomes a destination for people to come and experience these small waterfront towns.” Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City saw the value in the concept and bought a 15-passenger limo that would take their guest to the various wineries.

This past year, the Rivers to Canal Wine Trail, as they are now known, added centralized events that would benefit all. Crow Fest 2018, in early September, brought hundreds of visitors and featured live music, vendors, food, tours, grape stomping, games, and hayrides. The Rivers to Canal winemakers led tastings and discussions. It was a win-win for all. Events, such as this, and others planned throughout the remainder of the year, guarantee that there is something happening weekends that would interest everyone. The group is growing even larger with Casa Carmen Wines, Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Bayhead’s Brewing Company joining them.

This joint effort appears to have paid off. At a recent Wineries Association meeting, where other wineries were discussing disappointing profits, Crow’s sale numbers were up. Crow Wine Cellars recently opened at Queenstown Outlets selling wines, beef, and local products, all with the ultimate goal of luring people to come to the area. Their wine club has grown to over 250 couples–only 15% of which are local Kent county residence. This means that the area’s tourism industry is growing as well. 

To Judy, it all comes down to involving the community, whether that community is other wineries or people who want to experience and create memories about being on a farm. She remembers years ago when they first started and about 12 people expressed interest in learning about harvesting wines and working on a farm. This year that number is around 40-50 people. “It’s important to us that the public comes out and harvests grapes and works in the winery or at the farm so they can see first-hand what it means to have a vineyard and winery in their community. These are all things that people value. This is why we are here.”

For more information about Crow Winery, go to http://crowvineyardandwinery.com/.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Alfredo Ferretti’s Real Deal Osteria

Perhaps one of the most indelible characters in that very specialized genre of food films must be Primo, played so brilliantly by actor Tony Shalhoub in Big Night a few years ago. Primo, the older of two brothers who start an Italian restaurant in New York City in the 1950s, is the film’s hero, dedicated with heart and soul to l’autentica cucina Italiana in a world then of canned spaghetti and meatballs. It is a profile of passion and a love of food that reaches an almost spiritual level as it is combined with feeding a family and a community.

It is essential to bring that reference up since it was almost instantaneous that Primo came to mind when this author met Alfredo Ferretti, owner and chef of Osteria Alfredo for the first time. Without a word, he rushed me into his kitchen to demonstrate how a simple pasta dish could be transformed into a nurturing, soul-delivering summer meal from the gods.

From the kitchen, we moved to the dinner table to talk about food, wine, and the essential ingredient, the right amount of time needed to really and truly enjoy Alfredo’s version of l’autentica cucina in Easton.

Alfredo’s Favorite Summer Pasta

The first video of our interview is approximately four minutes in length and Alfredo’s easy pasta dish takes about three minutes. For more information about Osteria Alfredo please go here

Mid-Shore Food: Hair of the Dog is Starting to Sniff

The Spy was on reconnaissance the other evening as we were checking out rumors of a new Vietnamese restaurant near Lowe’s. The good news is that our report can confirm that a Pho-themed venue is indeed happening. The bad news for the Spy that particular evening was that it wasn’t open yet.

But as we were swinging out of the shopping center, a quick look informed us that Hair of the Dog had made good of their promise to bust through a wall and open up the next door retail space to create a tasting room with an appropriate bar menu.

The Dog did well. It’s a remarkably open, pleasant space with very little doubt about its purpose. The tasting menu for both wine and craft beer seems endless, but just in case there is a credit card-run wine station where eight wines can be pumped out from a high tech encasement at various prices and sizes.

The food was good enough, which is a good thing. While the menu is creative to a point, none of the food offerings are designed to take center stage. It’s all about what one drinks.

 

 

Quick Takes: Yes, Virginia, there is a Indian Restaurant on the Mid-Shore

The Spy has investigated many restaurant rumors that float through the Mid-Shore throughout the year, but when we received news that there was a possibility of an Indian restaurant in Cambridge, there was an instinctive reaction to label it “fake news.” Nonetheless, duty called, and we took a field trip last weekend to confirm or deny this existence of a venue for curry and are pleased to report that those reports have turned out to be entirely accurate.

Here are some of our findings:

1). The Indian restaurant goes by the name of Bombay Tadka and is located at 1721 Race Street in Cambridge.

2). The food is excellent and remarkably fresh.

3) Some staples of Indian cuisine are missing from the menu. Regrettably, Naan bread is not to be found along the favorite Tandoori chicken. It was also a disappointment that Tadka has yet to get their wine and beer license, which we hope will be resolved soon.

4) The service was attentive even during a busy night.

5). Like any new restaurant, there were a few hiccups and odd twists to our meal.  It is also safe to say that while the curry dishes were outstanding, they seemed remarkably different in taste and with presentation from your traditional curry house.

6) We conclude that Bombay Tadka is the “real deal” and a welcome addition to the Mid-Shore.

For more information about Bombay Tadka please go here

 

Spy Wine: High and Dry at Piazza

On the south coast of Sicily in Italy sits Mount Etna and that was exactly the place “to be” when heavy rains hit Talbot County this past weekend. Thanks to a well-timed wine tasting event at Easton’s Piazza Italian Market, a full house of wine tasters put their cares for the weather aside and enjoyed four different wines from Tenuta DelleTerre Nere, where grapes are grown and wine is made on the slopes of Etna.

The remarkable wine is made from grapes grown on vines that are forty to one hundred years old in very rocky soil and volcanic material. As, Piazza’s Emily Chandler shared with the group that gathered, these difficult soils drive the roots of the vines deeper and make for a unique taste.

Emily had visited the winery in 2015 and stayed in touch with the winemaker ever since. This yielded a very special allocation for Piazza, much of which was enjoyed during the wine tasting.

Our tasting included….

Etna Rosso

Premier Cru Santo Spirito

Premier Cru Guardiola

Grand Cru Calderara Solttano

(click on the names above to learn more from Terre Nere)

The evening provided all who attended a chance to enjoy fine wines along with veal meatballs, bread with olive oil, porcini cheese and salami.

It was the perfect way to stay dry during a very rainy afternoon.

 

The Spy’s Monthly Sprout: Talli Oxnam

Over the last several months, the Spy has been doing short interviews with residents that have been using the Trappe-based Eat Sprout prepared meal company. In a joint effort with Eat Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll, we wanted to hear first hand why both individuals and families decided to order using this new food option.

We continue this month with Talli Oxnam who is a Vice President with Wye Financial & Trust, a division of United Shore Bank.

Being a working mom, Talli faced a familiar challenge for many professional women who have to provide a healthy meal for families after a long day at the office. So when Ryan gave an overview of his business plan with her at Rise Up about almost two years ago, she signed up on the spot.

The Spy spoke to Talli, and Rich last month to talk about Sprout and the impact it has had on their physical fitness and general quality of life.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Full disclosure, Sprout donates food to the Spy from time to time. For more information about Sprout please go here