LOWVILLE — The signs are everywhere. There are scenic trails and wine trails and now, after three years in the making, there is the Cuisine Trail loop through Lewis County, pointing the way to locally grown and produced artisanal food products with scenic vistas and wine as well.
Trail signs lead food-finders through the towns of Lowville, Croghan and Copenhagen to 11 local businesses including stores, farm shops, a restaurant and a vineyard.
The route is described as 48 miles with producers “located within seven miles” of it, but when starting and finishing the route in Lowville, stopping at each featured business, the trail tops 65 miles. A GPS isn’t required, but helpful, as the individual businesses do not have the Cuisine Trail signs and are often beyond the turn-off signs that follow the basic trail loop.
Brittany Davis, marketing specialist for the county’s economic development department and the Industrial Development Agency, said the cost for participating in the trail was $250 for the businesses and, along with co-sponsors the county Chamber of Commerce and Cornell Cooperative Extension, the trail was made to help attract tourists to the area and drive traffic to local businesses.
According to local foodie Lee Hinkleman, who has had a popular Facebook blog “Eating in Upstate New York and Beyond” since 2015, there is plenty of “delicious” food to be found in each place.
Mr. Hinkleman recently followed the Cuisine Trail himself, tasting some of the products available along the way.
At Autumn Ridge Goat Farm, Turin, proprietor Windy Klossner prepared some hors d’oeuvres featuring the goat milk chevre she produces and her special-recipe horseradish sauce.
“It has similarities to cream cheese but the flavor is more intense and vibrant,” Mr. Hinkleman said after tasting the Autumn Ridge chevre, noting a special appreciation for the horseradish sauce.
Mrs. Klossner said she hopes that the new Cuisine Trail will help her and the six other makers of hand-crafted products she features in her self-serve farm stand increase their sales and visibility. In addition to her edible goat milk products, she also makes goat milk soaps and creams.
The least hidden of the trail’s farms, Hidden Pastures Goat Dairy on Route 12 in Glenfield, offers a sweet take on chevre by mixing in cinnamon, but the flagship product for the dairy is its goat milk gelato. Blake Place, the driving force for the family-owned farm and stand, also sells the gelato at some north country restaurants but noted, “I need more restaurants to jump on the goat wagon.”
She said she keeps her prices low at less than $1 an ounce at both the retail and wholesale levels, and tries to come up with innovative flavors.
Mr. Hinkleman described the gelato, which was served in both its out-of-the container form and via a root beer float, as, “Light, airy and refreshing, not thick like an ice cream. It’s much more flavorful than basic ice cream, too.”
Flavors include caramel vanilla, maple made with locally produced maple syrup, chocolate, mint and lemon.
Tucked away amid forest and pasture land, Jeff and Jan VanArsdale’s “retirement plan,” Cedar Hedge Goat Farm, includes the hard work of raising goats and perfecting the art of making goat milk feta cheese. Mrs. VanArsdale uses some of her cheese to make feta bread with rosemary, Greek olives or a Mediterranean variety with Caraway seeds.
She works her chevre, which she keeps unflavored, into mini-cheesecakes.
The sharp feta variety especially caught Mr. Hinkleman’s attention. He said it only differentiated from a cows’ milk feta in that the goat variety had an additional brightness to the flavor.
Mrs. VanArsdale said she sells most of her products to health food stores around the state, but she hopes the Cuisine Trail will help pique more local interest as well and get people to visit her farm stand off the beaten path.
There are two classic butcheries on the Cuisine Trail, each offering the fresh cuts of quality meat expected in a meat market, but each with specialities that are iconic to their customers and beyond. Both are also multi-generational family-owned and -operated businesses that continue to thrive.
Miller’s Meat Market, Glenfield, is known for its variety of sausages and its secret recipe for dry jerk spice, which contains brown sugar that caramelizes and melds the spice-mix, which owner Dan Miller refuses to divulge, so that it clings to the food. Many meat cuts can be purchased pre-jerked and grill-ready.
For Mr. Hinkleman, a long-time customer of Miller’s, the jerked pork chop is his favorite.
“The taste just explodes in your mouth. There’s so many interesting ingredients,” he said.
The Croghan Meat Market, under management by the fourth-generation offspring of store originator Fred Hunziker, has made its mark beyond the north country with its unique red Croghan bologna rings.
Blaine Campany, Mr. Hunziker’s great-granddaughter, said the store gets a considerable amount of tourist traffic because of the bologna, but joining the Cuisine Trail could attract even more.
“There is a lot of food tourism in the county that people don’t know about. Some tourists make a big detour here just to try the bologna,” Ms. Campany said.
Maple sausage and cheese curd are other big sellers for the market, she said.
They are now working on engineering a six-foot long Croghan bologna to be used in lieu of a ribbon for the official “bologna cutting” ceremony being held on Thursday to launch the trail.
The most unique stop on the Cuisine Trail is the lavender and hops farm in Copenhagen, Hopenhagen Farm, where you can find lavender wine all year round and seasonal lavender beer.
According to Mary Rumble, co-owner and operator of the Farm, the rainy spring has made her hops happy, but the lavender is a bit sluggish as a result.
She chose to start growing hops, she said, because of its many medicinal and practical uses after she researched her options, later choosing lavender because they work well together.
In addition to making various lavender soaps and toiletries, she has developed an insect repellent with essential oils that she says many of her customers swear by.
This will be the second year Mrs. Rumble and her husband Devere will be brewing their lavender beer with the help of Tobaggan Beer in Gouverneur, described as a blonde, light beer.
“I looked around and thought, ‘Well, there’s no lavender beer yet’ and we started working on it,” Mrs. Rumble said, “It takes trial and error because if there’s too much lavender, it’s like drinking perfume.”
This year’s beer will be introduced at Hopenhagen’s second annual Lavender Fest on July 6.
Mrs. and Mr. Rumble have developed their lavender wine, which Mr. Hinkleman described as “refreshing” and noted how light the lavender was, with the cooperation of Tug Hill Vineyards, another Cuisine Trail featured business.
Overall, Mr. Hinkleman said he was impressed with the Cuisine Trail products he tasted.
According to Mrs. Davis, the emergence of the various themed trails throughout the state is a result of a state push to attract tourism in the state since 2011.
She said tourism is now the state’s third-largest employer, supporting over 900,000 jobs annually. There are about 40 cuisine and wine trails throughout the state to help promote tourism, but this is the first tourist trail that is completely in Lewis County.
The local and state Departments of Transportation and county Highway Department helped assign the trail route and installed the state-approved signs, according to Mrs. Davis.
The official Cuisine Trail Croghan Bologna Cutting launch event was held at Tug Hill Vineyards on Thursday evening featured samples from many of the artisanal shops along the route.
For more information on the Lewis County Cuisine Trail, go to www.cuisinetrail.com.
To check out Lee Hinkleman’s food blog on the Cuisine Trail, go to https://www.facebook.com/eatinginupstatenewyork/.
Starting and finishing in Lowville, the Cuisine trail includes:
n Lowville Producers Dairy Co-op, Inc.
7396 Utica Blvd., Lowville
Products: Many cheese varieties, cheese curd, maple syrup, honey and more.
n Autumn Ridge Goat Farm
5030 State Route 26, Turin
Products: Goat cheeses, horseradish, goats milk soaps; Products from six local artisans.
n Hidden Pastures Dairy
5115 State Route 12
Products: Goat milk gelato, cinnamon chevre, maple products; Tours available.
n Colwell’s Farm Market
6007 State Route 12, Glenfield
Products: Plants, produce, and holiday-time Christmas trees and wreaths.
n Miller’s Meat Market
6525 Number 4 Road, Lowville
Products: Fresh cut meats, large sausage variety, special blend of dry jerk spices, homemade salads, and more.
n International Maple Museum Centre
9756 State Route 812, Croghan
Products: Maple syrup, sugar, candies, coffee, butter and more; Maple history displays.
n Croghan Meat Market
9823 State Route 812, Croghan
Products: Home of the original Croghan bologna, fresh cut meat, smoked sausage, cheese curd and more.
n Cedar Hedge Goat Farm
7153 Olmstead Road, Lowville
Products: Goat milk feta, chevre, homemade breads and jam.
n Hopenhagen Farm
10218 Washington St., Copenhagen
Products: Lavender and hop products including wine, beer, soaps; Home of the Lavender. Festival in July.
n Tug Hill Vineyards
4051 Yancey Road, Lowville
Products: Ten wine varieties; “U-pick” fruits; Wine tastings and full menu available.
n Jeb’s Restaurant
5403 Shady Avenue, Lowville
Products: Family-owned restaurant; Sources beef, beer, wine and maple products locally.