By Brian Jewell
Call it an epicurean paradise — from its southern islands to its western shores and northern tip, New York offers an abundance food and spirit adventures to satisfy even the hungriest travel groups.
Everyone knows that New York City is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, and groups that have big appetites, and big budgets, can dine in a different culinary hot spot each night that they spend in town. But Manhattan is just the beginning of the state’s bounty. Much of the freshest food and many of the most interesting beverages served in the Big Apple come from the rich agricultural areas upstate.
Take your group on a tour of New York, and you’ll find great food and spirits opportunities waiting in various parts of the state. The Hudson Valley is home to some of the state’s best farms, as well as the legendary Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. The Thousand Islands area in the north has a 78-mile scenic wine trail, and the greater Niagara region in the west is a wine haven as well.
In Cooperstown, a beverage trail showcases the variety of distinctive drinks brewed in central New York. And you can wrap up in Cayuga County, where a new tour trail highlights sweet treats made in the area.
Pies, Farms and the CIA
Located between the metro area and the Catskill Mountains, the Hudson Valley has a trio of great culinary experiences available for groups. The Orange County Apple Pie Trail takes visitors to more than a dozen orchards for apple-picking. Along the way, groups learn about the 25 varieties of New York apples baked into apple pies and get to taste homemade pastries.
Several organizations in the area have teamed up to create Farm Fresh Tours and Farm Fresh Cruises. These land- or water-based experiences take visitors around the Hudson Valley to sample produce, fruit, cheese and wine grown on farms throughout the area.
The Culinary Institute of America, otherwise known as the CIA, is in Hyde Park, and visiting groups can spend time with the chef instructors at the school to learn how to prepare special international dishes or focus on areas such as baking, chocolate, healthy cooking, seafood or outdoor grilling.
Waterfront Wine Trail
The Native Americans who first lived in the area now known as the Thousand Islands referred to it as the “garden of the Great Spirit.” Today, that heritage of beauty and agriculture can be found in the region’s farms and wineries.
In 2007, local vintners established the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail. This trail follows a 78-mile route through some of the state’s most scenic landscapes and showcases seven family-owned wineries and numerous other farms and vineyards. The trail begins near Westcott Beach and includes the Yellow Barn Winery, the Coyote Moon Winery, the Thousand Islands Winery, the Otter Creek Winery and Tug Hill Vineyards.
Groups that visit the wineries can learn about and taste the unique varietals produced by the cold-hardy grapes that grow in that northern region. The trail can also include stops at museums, galleries, specialty shops and artisan centers.