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Creating a Regional Cuisine:
Tom Schaudel of CoolFish

This class was presented by the Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food, and Culture as part of a continuing series of events designed to “offer richly diverse experiences with the goal of enhancing knowledge, sensory awareness, health, and conviviality.”

The easy availability of fresh Long Island produce, duck, fish and more recently, wine have led to the emergence of a Long Island regional cuisine.

Tom Schaudel of Coolfish, Adam Suprenant of Osprey's Dominion, and Al Weiner from Lucas Group gave us their version...

Using fresh Long Island ingredients Tom prepared two dishes for us and paired them with long Island wines from Osprey's Dominion Vineyards and one wine, a pinot nior from Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen.

He explained that the easy availability and high quality of Long Island fish, produce, duck and wines have made these ingredients very attractive to local chefs and this has led to the emergence of a Long Island regional cuisine.

Dressed in a white coat and worn out jeans, with long white hair and a goatee he reminded me of a rock musician more than a chef. That impression wasn't very far off because it turns out Tom is a guitarist. Oh, and a kung fu expert as well--to handle the unruly customers at CoolFish?

Tom entertained us with his quick wit and stories about his 10 worst customers. Something he calls, "Tom's top ten." It not so much that the stories were funny, it's the way he told them.

Well, Tom may get top billing here, but Adam Suprenant and Al Weiner deserve a bit of credit as well. The three of these guys gave us a thoroughly enjoyable yet educational evening filled with food, wine, cheese and comedy.

Al Weiner is a sales rep from Lucas Group, purveyors to New York's top restaurants. It was immediately obvious that Al is passionate about cheese. He brought 4 different kinds with him and you could almost taste the cheese as he described each one. When we finally did get to taste them they were as good as expected.

Adam Suprenant is the wine maker at Osprey's Dominion and although much more low key than Al and Tom he was a pleasure to listen to. Adam is as passionate about wine as Al and Tom are about cheese and food.

I should probably mention that the snob factor at these events is very low. Our three hosts were dressed in worn out jeans, shirts and sneakers. They looked more like a cleaning crew than experts in food, wine and cheese, and that was comforting.

The first dish Tom prepared for us was a diver scallop with fresh asparagus, peas, morel mushrooms and shallots in a very light, almost a shadow of a cream sauce that Tom referred to as a "nage."

I've never heard that word before but a quick search on the web reveals that it is French for swims. In the culinary world a nage (pronounced nahj) is a wine stock flavored by or used with shellfish. What an appropriate name.

The scallops were cooked perfectly. Lightly browned on both sides, hot in the middle yet just barely cooked and not overdone. This, by the way is how all seafood should be cooked.

This dish was paired with a fume blanc and a chardonnay. Although most seemed to prefer the chardonnay with this dish, I liked it best with the fume blanc. I guess my taste buds aren't what they used to be...

The next dish that came our way was a smoked Long Island duck chili. The duck was very tender and seemed to be be cooked to perfection, but I wasn't nuts over this recipe. That didn't stop me from going back for seconds though, it's just not something I'd make at home or go out of my way to find.

The chili was paired with three red wines. A pinot nior from Lakewood Vineyards, a red meritage and a cabernet sauvignon. I kept rotating the wines searching for the one I liked best with this dish, but I couldn't find a good match.

I thought it was just my tongue failing me again, but I was relieved when my friend, Sean who I believe may be a super taster, couldn't find a match either.

What makes a good paring between wine and food? That's a good question and I'm not so sure I can answer it. Adam put it very well when he said that a bad match is one where you're eating your food, drinking your wine and you keep reaching for the water glass before going back for either.

He lost me when he started explaining the chemistry of food / wine parings. I can only assume that if the match is good you'll find yourself not drinking the water.

Finally, we got to taste the cheese. None of these cheeses were from Long Island, but they were all from the United States. Al did a nice job of making me salivate even before the cheese was in front of me.

The first cheese was a bergenost from New York State. Soft and very mild, I thought it went best with the red meritage and pretty darn good with the cabernet.

After that we had an original American cheese called Casa Bolo Mellage. This is a mixture of sheep, goat and cow's milk and is firm with really nice crunchy bits in it. A little stronger than the bergenost, I thought this went best with the cabernet.

The third cheese we had was a cave aged cardona from Wisconsin. This is 100% goat's milk and was nutty and dense. Again, I thought it went best with the cabernet.

On to desert...

The last cheese presented to us was an outstanding gorganzola style cheese called Oregonzola. Obviously this cheese is from Oregon and I give a lot of credit to whoever came up with the cute name.

The cheese was soft, smooth, robust, and smelled great. Tom served it with with Carica, an unusual fruit from Chile and an excellent sun dried cherry biscotti. The wine poured for this dish was Osprey's port.

I thought this combo was excellent. The cheese, the fruit and biscotti, are all sweet but with different textures. Combined in my mouth at the same time they were just fantastic. The sweet port was the perfect wine to wash that down.

Looking forward to the next class...

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