Seeking a special way to ring in the new year while supporting small businesses? Try this North Fork trifecta: Snail Caviar from Peconic Escargot, North Fork Potato Chips, and Lieb Cellars Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc.
I consider myself a very adventurous eater. In addition to exploring rare grapes and unique wine regions, I relish in discovering spices and dishes not yet encountered. This is one of my primary goals when I travel overseas, and because I am lucky to live in NYC, I am able to continue my global culinary adventures while remaining put. So it was fascinating to think that a unique taste experience for me, snail caviar, could be provided by a Lieb Cellars neighbor.
I had first heard of Peconic Escargot a few years ago while I was still working in wine retail in NYC. During an in-store tasting featuring Lieb Cellars and Bridge Lane Wine one of our customers at the shop mentioned that a snail farm was close by to Lieb. Perhaps because I grew up next door to early rising roosters and currently live underneath a tap instructor working from home, the thought of having silent neighbors intrigues me. In trying to imagine the life of a snail rancher my brain conjures up surreal images of tiny lassos herding slow moving creatures in a wake of slithery trails. In actuality, these Petit Gris, “a heritage French species,” feast quietly on clover, dandelion greens, and spent beer grains in a secretly located greenhouse. Tours are not permitted.
Peconic Escargot was founded by a Long Island chef frustrated at the lack of a fresh supply of snails. Not only were they not available locally, they were not available anywhere in the United States. And while it is a unique calling for Taylor Knapp, our country’s culinary scene is richer because of it.
The rarity of this treat makes it that much more exciting for me. Each snail only lays 50-100 eggs a year. And the taste? Surprising! Unlike caviar from fish the core flavors stem from the earth instead of the sea – woodsy and vegetal (some say carrots and mushrooms). I also experienced the subtle scent and taste of freshly picked dandelion greens which is reasonable since that is both part of their diet and a flavor to which I am well acquainted. The size of the translucent cream-colored pearls is reminiscent of salmon roe, but they are firmer and require more pressure to release juicy explosions. I approached the snail caviar with the misconception of a slimy viscosity. This is not the case. The texture is fun, and I enjoyed rolling the eggs around my mouth like tapioca beads. The edges of my teeth released a pop of just the right amount of saline. It tastes spa-like. A healthy indulgence.
Pro Tip: Need assistance in figuring out how to open the lid? I am humbled yet again by the extent that chefs and kitchen crews have spoiled me. A quick internet search explains an effective method of gentle tapping and prying to release the buried treasure.
North Fork Potato Chips in Cutchogue are made with potatoes grown by third generation potato farmer Martin Sidor. The company is run by his wife, Carol, who insisted that these crunchy kettle chips be made using sunflower oil. Afterwards, the spent oil is recycled to run their tractors. The flavor is earthy and genuine, and Sidor is one of only three farms in the United States that both grow and fry their own potatoes. Out of the three flavors that I purchased – Original, Barbeque (I truly do get a whiff of the grill!) and Cheddar & Onion – the original worked best in this particular pairing. But, I would like another attempt to try the combination with their Rosemary & Garlic in the future.
North Fork Potato Chips Original are crunchingly comforting and addictive. Their earthiness lends to a fresh and savory see-saw of delight in combination with the delicate green dandelion notes of the Peconic Escargot Snail Caviar and the crisp citrus and poached pear flavors of Lieb Cellars Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc.
The leap from chips to wine is not that wide. While we are lucky to have some of the oldest vines on Long Island, it is actually potatoes that occupied the land before our grapevines. At 14.2 acres Lieb holds the largest contiguous plantings of the grape Pinot Blanc in the United States. Lieb Cellars Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc is made using the traditional method, sustainably certified, and is made from 100% Pinot Blanc.
While I found the sweet smokiness of the Barbeque chips to overpower to the subtle delicateness of the snail caviar, I was pleasantly surprised with the pairing of Barbeque chips and bubbles, reminding me that even though it is Brut in style, this sparkling has the flexibility to handle a dish with moderate spice and smoky qualities.
The findings of this tasty research has proven to me once again the old adage of “What grows together, goes together.” 2020 has been a very challenging year, With this in mind I raise a glass, toast all of you, and wish us a more grounded 2021 while celebrating this trio of treats connected to Lieb Cellars. Thank you for being here!
Aimée Lasseigne New
NYC Brand Ambassador
How to Get It:
Snail Caviar from Peconic Escargot:
Lieb Cellars Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc:
In NYC it may be purchased at The Winery New York:
Whiskey & Wine Off 69: