To minds colored by the dyes of Western Civilization and its teachifying Judeo-Christian myths, the crunchy, tart apple evokes both a state of innocence and its loss. For a time, the fruit and the bible’s most famous couple were said to have coexisted in Eden, until the seductive exhortations of the Serpent proved too persuasive.
Now, as a bartender, I can attest to the fact that people need no prompting from strangers – sibilant and armless or otherwise – to indulge their desires. As it happens, my place of employment does a good trade in hard apple cider. If eating an apple once incited a divine ire hot enough to prompt expulsion from paradise, then cracking open a can of, say, New York’s Graft Cider – whose 12 ounces must represent the picking and processing of at least a quarter bushel or so (don’t quote me) – should by extension prompt the End Times.
Which means that Cider Feast (to be held in Williamsburg on Saturday, Nov. 9), which will see the participation of cideries from New York State to Asturias, Spain, representing an untold number of whole apple orchards, may just cause the Divinity to say, “You know what? I’m done meddling in the lives my creations! Somebody make me a fucking drink.”
Discussions of Cider Feast, which offers attendees food and musical entertainment, must begin with founder Jimmy Carbone, a fixture on New York’s dining scene since 1994 and the main force behind Food Karma (more on that further down).
There is also, to make matters more complicated, a separate annual event known as Cider Week.
While Cider Feast isn’t administratively affiliated with Cider Week (November 8 – 17), the latter’s origins can nevertheless be traced to Carbone’s now shuttered East Village restaurant Jimmy’s No. 43. There, in 2011, a cabal of New York State cider producers and distributors met to discuss the creation of what would become a multi-day event. At the same time, Carbone began throwing parties at his restaurant centered around cider, events which expanded and morphed into Cider Feast in 2014.
Here are the key differences between Cider Feast and Cider Week: the latter is spread over several days and takes place in multiple locations around New York City. Furthermore, it is state-sponsored, focused primarily around the production of cider in New York State alone. Cider Feast, meanwhile, looks beyond the Empire States borders to New Jersey, Vermont, Main, New Hampshire, England, France and especially Spain.
It is to Europe, after all, that many craft cider producers look for inspiration. Dryness, not sweetness, rules the roost in this context. Spanish ciders, in particular, are famous for being bone dry and often sour, using wild yeast for fermentation and eschewing the additives used to halt fermentation in order to preserve a high level of sugar.
While things are changing, especially in the big cities, most American consumers expect syrupy sweetness from their ciders. The big cider producers, according to Carbone, use concentrate imported from China for their by-and-large depthless, treacly products. That ethos couldn’t be more far-removed from the one espoused by Carbone and his organization Food Karma, which started shortly after Cider Week and Cider Feast were created in 2011.
Created to promote all things artisanal, locally-sourced and organic, Food Karma is the human-focused ideological and organizational engine that keeps Cider Feast on its feet. Thus, the ciders curated for the event have been selected as much with an eye towards human narrative as for their presumed quality. A notable example is Barrika Basque. The result of a collaboration between a generations-old Basque cider-making family and American David Cascione, the cidery make a blend that Cascione then bottles under a separate stateside label.
The event’s comestibles, too, have been selected with regionality and authenticity in mind. In keeping with the Spanish theme, pork is well represented: there’s Rodrigo Duarte’s Caseiro e Bom, a New Jersey producer that imports Portuguese pigs similar to the famous Iberico breed; Dakota Hams from Kentucky; and pork belly, rye grains and apple courtesy of Muld Farmhouse. Spain’s Conservas Agromar, meanwhile, provide tinned seafood on toast, and Vermont’s Consider Bardwell has your all important cheese fix covered. Lastly, Moonrise Bakery and Petee’s Pies, from Brooklyn and Manhattan respectively, complete the gustatory picture with a selection of sweets.
But cider, of course, occupies the catbird seat. Holding pride of place is also the notion of preserving or rediscovering lost traditions and keeping multi-generational family orchards in business. These are themes threaded throughout Cider Feast’s bespoke fabric, ones that stand in opposition to mass production and faceless commercialism.
This back-to-basics aura surrounding Cider Feast adds to the temptation on the part of both writer and cider producer to succumb to the low-hanging fruit (ahem) of Genesis references when it comes to apple cider. Better, then, to not resist: this Saturday, November 9, from 1pm to 4, strap on your freshest fig leaf and reenact Adam and Eve’s delectable fall from grace.
Cider Feast is held at 110 Kent St., Williamsburg. Tickets, $55 (includes food and drink), can be bought at Eventbrite. Live music to be provided by the Dusty Wright Band. 21 and over, no refunds.
Cover image courtesy of Food Karma Projects.
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