By Margot Russell
There’s more than one way to experience Chautauqua County’s culinary delights. Whether you’re searching for the sweetest ears of corn, a pint of locally-crafted brew, or an award-winning wine, it’s all here for the visitor, within easy reach at gracious old farms, innovative restaurants and an array of farmer’s markets and produce stands that dot the countryside.
Meet the makers of this simple goodness and explore the places that make it all happen. In Chautauqua County, farm-to-table isn’t just a good idea, it’s a way of life.
Pick Your Own Produce
What could be better than traipsing through a blueberry patch with a bucket full of goodness or a basket of Empire apples fresh from the tree? Chautauqua County has more than a dozen farms that host eager visitors in search of ingredients for a freshly-baked pie or fall canning pursuits.
In early summer, bright red, organic strawberries abound at Abers Acres in Kennedy, New York. U-Pick is also available for red and black raspberries, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, peas, and green, yellow, and fava beans. All of their crops are grown without the use of pesticides and are certified organic. (884 Route 394, Kennedy NY, 14747. Phone: 716-267-2431)
The Blueberry Patch is a local favorite offering a variety of blueberries at this multi-acre blueberry farm. Make sure you say hello to the resident pig who will happily demonstrate his fondness for mud. (2918 Carpenter Pringle Road, Ashville, NY 14710. Phone: 716-782-4942)
It’s not surprising that New York is the second largest apple-producing state in the country with an annual bounty of more than 29 million bushels of apples. Check out Meadows Farm which boasts a whopping twelve varieties of apples including McIntosh, Cortland and Empire, and you can pick your own from mid-September to November. The 2015 crop is shaping up nicely, according to growers, thanks to an abundance of rain this summer. (10459 Prospect Road, Forestville, NY 14062. Phone: 716-965-2674)
Grapes and Wine
The Chautauqua County region is known as “America’s Grape Country,” home to the oldest and largest Concord grape-growing region in the world. Check out the new Grape Discovery Center located on Route 20 just west of the Village of Westfield to learn more about the history of our grape-growing region and stop in at a few of the local wineries to sample some of our delicious wines. (8305 West Main Rd, Westfield, NY 14787. Phone: 716-326-2003)
Founded in 1961, Johnson Estate Winery is the oldest estate winery in New York. It’s housed in a nearly century-old apple packing facility surrounded by rolling vineyards along the shore of Lake Erie. It’s one of more than two dozen wineries that make up the regional Wine Trail, which means you can make a day of wandering and discovering some new favorite wines. (8419 West Main Road, Westfield, New York 14787. Phone: 800-374-6569)
Chautauqua County has more farms than any other county in New York State and also boasts some of the richest soil. What emerges from this blessed land is a variety of locally-made products that exemplify the simple goodness of our region: artisanal cheeses, sweet maple syrup, grass-fed steaks, and some of the best corn you’ll ever taste—just to name a few.
Our diverse ethnic population also helps to weave a rich regional tapestry. The Swedes made their way to the area beginning in 1850, and we are the lucky recipients of their cultural heritage. Be sure to stop at our local bakeries and markets to sample Swedish Korv or freshly made spritz cookies.
Peterson Farm market has been carrying a line of Swedish products since it opened in 1957 and has kept generations of Nordic folks happy. Their new Scandinavian gift shop includes locally handcrafted items made in the traditional style as well as gifts imported directly from Sweden. Stop in and buy a box of thin, crisp Swedish ginger cookies or bring home some farm-made Korv—a traditional Swedish sausage. (3260 Fluvanna Ave, Jamestown, NY 14701. Phone: 716-483-2202)
Ecklof Bakery is an institution in Jamestown and a trip to their shop on Foote Avenue for their famous pink-striped cookie and other Swedish-inspired treats makes for a sweet afternoon. (832 Foote Ave. Jamestown, New York. Phone: 716-488-1516)
Reverie Creamery, a newly opened innovator, is turning out artisan cheeses made with locally-sourced ingredients. Some of their offerings include a rich goat cheese flavored with local syrup, honey, garlic or herbs. Another standout is their washed-rind cheese—washed with a cream sherry from nearby Johnson Estate Winery. (3943 Route 394, Mayville, NY 14757. Phone: 716-789-5757)
Perhaps one of the most interesting businesses supporting the sustainable food market is CHQ Local—a business that connects local farms and food with local businesses and residents. They have a retail market in Mayville that sells free range eggs, honey, an assortment of grass-fed meats and produce and other regional offerings. (8 Barton Street, Mayville, NY 14757. Phone: 646-623-3964)
Beer lovers will be enthralled with our Southern Tier Brewing Company —known throughout the United States for its excellent craft beer. Take in a brewery tour, enjoy some local music and interesting snacks and relax in a beautiful rural setting. (2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, NY 14750. Phone: 716-763-5479)
5 & 20 Spirits & Brewing is part of the Mazza wine brand and they’re serving locally-made wine, spirits and beer at their winery and distillery in Westfield. Stop in for a Pale Ale or to sample some excellent aged whiskey. (8398 West Main Road (Route 20), Westfield, New York 14787. Phone: 716-793-9463)
Farm Stands and Restaurants
There’s nothing better than pulling over at a farm stand, awash in local flowers, its baskets overflowing with ripe peaches and a towering barrel of just-picked corn. It’s a rite of summer in Chautauqua County to find the colorful bounty of the area on our dinner plates and a good farm stand is the perfect place to start a summer meal.
A host of farmer’s markets dot the landscape in the growing season, including the Downtown Jamestown Farmer’s Market on Thursdays from June to August, along with the Lakewood market on Tuesday and the Sherman and Westfield markets on Saturday. Local producers bring their bounty of fruits and vegetables and other vendors sell local products like syrup and homemade soaps.
The Cross Roads Farm & Craft Market is a one-stop shop and foodstuffs isn’t their only offering. You’ll find local crafts, furniture and unique collectibles housed in 22,000 square feet of space in Westfield.
When it comes to dining out, it’s fair to say that the region is attracting new restaurants—and chefs—who are lured to this land of plenty. The mammoth Victorian Athenaeum is a 130-year-old hotel and is as graceful and charming as century-old hotels come. It’s located in Chautauqua Institution— an art and education center known for its lectures, concerts, scholars and turn of the century charm. In addition to seasonal restaurant service, the Athenaeum hosts gatherings, like their farm-to-table dining event twice a year, which might include a venture to area farms to forage for food, and an all-local cooking class. To learn more about this fall’s farm-to-table event, visit their website at www.atheneum-hotel.com.
Nearly two dozen restaurants in the local area support the local food movement and many of their ingredients are harvested shortly before they’re prepared and served. Forte—an innovative dining establishment in Jamestown, offers locally sourced food, as does Brazill’s on Main in Westfield, Andriaccio’s in Mayville, and Scallion Bistro in Lakewood.
Farm-to-table in the Chautauqua region doesn’t serve a niche market; it’s always been a way of life here, which makes it easy to taste your way through the county.
Whatever it is you’re after—fresh root vegetables, Amish breads, Swedish cookies or chicken wings—you’ll find it here along our old country roads, local farms and in our small rural towns and villages. There’s plenty here to whet your appetite…and always room at the table.
Margot Russell is a journalist and freelance writer. Her column “Lakewood Lens” appears in the Jamestown Post-Journal on Saturday. She is a script writer for the History Channel and an International Tour Director. She recently moved back to Chautauqua County (the corn played a role) and loves the rolling hills, locally-sourced food and people of the area. She lives in Lakewood.