Don Cazentre has spent nearly three decades building his expertise in New York’s craft beer and alcohol beverage industries. He is the Food and Drink writer for Advance Media New York (The Post-Standard/syracuse.com). He also writes for NYUP.com about craft beer, wine, and spirits. He authored a book called Spirits and Cocktails of Upstate New York and is the coauthor of New York Breweries (2nd ed.). He recently joined a project with other writers to write a comprehensive history of beer and brewing in New York State for the SUNY Press. We hope you enjoy his responses to our Finger Lakes Foodie Frequently Asked Questions!
Edible Finger Lakes: What is the most interesting thing you always keep in your fridge?
I love making cocktails at home, but I hate those bright red jarred maraschino cherries (which I’m not sure are real cherries anyway). So I make my own cocktail cherries: I buy fresh local sours in the summer, pit them and then put them in jars with various spirits: Vodka, brandy, cherry liqueur and yes, even real Maraschino Liqueur. Perfect for Manhattans, Old Fashioneds etc.
EFL: What’s the last meal you cooked for yourself?
For myself or by myself? One of the most recent by myself was picadillo, a southwest dish of ground beef, vinegar, cinnamon, brown sugar, cumin etc. (sweet and sour) that you can jazz up with things like hot peppers, olives, raisins, almonds etc. (Although my wife made cornbread to go with it, so does that count?)
EFL: What’s the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
A roux stirrer. That’s a long-handled tool with a flat head, perfect for stirring the roux that is the basis for gumbos and other Louisiana specialties, and even non-roux things like jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. (I grew up in New Orleans, can you tell?). It’s also great for stirring chili (or picadillo) and just about anything you cook in a big pot. I prefer wooden ones.
EFL: What’s the one food or beverage you couldn’t live without?
Food: Jambalaya. Beverage: Whiskey (bourbon, rye, Scotch or Irish).
EFL: What was the first Finger Lakes wine/beer/spirit you ever tasted?
For wine, it had to be something from one of the Cayuga Lake places like Knapp or Hosmer, which we went to a lot when we moved here in the 1980s. Can’t remember the specific wine, though. Beer was probably Ithaca Pale or Nut Brown (or maybe something from Wagner Valley). Again, a long time ago. First spirit was possibly the brandy from Knapp Vineyards, and then Bee Vodka from Montezuma Winery.
EFL: If you could add one local item to the Finger Lakes food shed that doesn’t grow here, what would it be?
EFL: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Finger Lakes food shed?
How many cliches do you want? The food, the drinks, the scenery, the people. As a writer covering it for the past two decades or so, the most exciting thing is being around as it grew and matured, and to be part of telling its story.
The FLX FAQs is a semi-regular column where we nose our way into the minds and kitchens of notable individuals in the Finger Lakes. Click here for more of The FLX FAQs.