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On Tuesday night, Ditmas Park’s The Farm on Adderley (1108 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, 718-287-3101) hosted Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling for a cocktail-paired dinner featuring the upstate distillery’s refined hooch as part of the restaurant’s monthly event series, which has featured foraging trips to Prospect Park and meals inspired by New York’s culinary history. Parched Brooklynites, industry cohorts, and vacationing food lovers descended on the narrow restaurant’s back dining room where shakers moved for movers and shakers.
Throughout the meal from Farm chef Tom Kearney, McKenzie gave brief anecdotes about the distillery’s genesis and how he and master distiller Thomas McKenzie (no relation) met fortuitously at a craft distiller’s `conference: “Back then, there weren’t many of us, and in a room of around 90 people there’s this guy wearing overalls, holding a jug.” The two hit it off and have released an impressive array of products, from rich, peppery rye and bourbon to liqueurs and eau de vies, all using local ingredients. On the shores of Seneca Lake, the McKenzie men also a run a handsome, high-ceilinged tasting room attached to the distillery where guests can sample and purchase bottles.
Festivities began with a small glass of carbonated concord grape liqueur served with sweet, crusty whiskey bread from the restaurant’s forthcoming Brooklyn bakery Nine Chains before moving on to the hard stuff. Kearney admitted that there’s an inherent challenge in pairing cocktails for tasting menus, since alcohol consumption diminishes a palate’s sensitivity. The restaurant tackled this endeavor masterfully, with each plate packing more aggressive spicing as the night wore on.
Kearney and co. paired carrots with a Manhattan and a shot of corn whiskey with a playful streak of crispy buckwheat-accented chocolate ganache, though the best match-ups of the night may have been the first and last savory plates. A riff on a champagne cocktail swapped the bubbly for sudsy, seasonally-appropriate pumpkin beer mixed with black tea, lime juice, and McKenzie pure pot still Irish-style whiskey. The fizzy tipple had a dryness that worked particularly well with the thin slips of lardo draped over cubes of apple and green peppers. And perhaps it’s our gluttony speaking, but more tasting menus would do well to utilize less expensive cuts of meat to such pleasing effect, as the kitchen did with a veritable slab of just-pink pork shoulder, which shielded chewy freekeh and a huddle of roasted delicata squash. The accompanying cocktail featured rye, cinnamon, lime juice, and the distillery’s maplejack liqueur — a witch’s brew of New York State apples and maple syrup. The drink, like the pork, was a sturdy affair built on the back of that McKenzie rye; the cinnamon and lime recalling the grand Caribbean syrup falernum.
As diners trickled out onto a chilly Cortelyou Road, there was mention of an upcoming annual gingerbread house contest. “Can adults come, too?” asked a young brunette. Stephen, our host, nodded a reluctant yes before adding that it’s “mostly for families.”
Just call me the Frank Lloyd Wright of fudge (which is what I use to hold my houses together — my gingerbread game is tight!).