Every once in a while you come across a drink that reminds you how things should taste—that in this world of artificial flavors and overly-sweet things that dull our taste buds, there are still liquids that dazzle our tongue, that challenge our senses. A good beverage can do so much more than quench thirst or get us tipsy. They guide us through movements like a complex song or a symphony. Well, we met a Mozart of cider named Daniel, who runs Orchard Girls Cidery in Kingfield, Maine.
Daniel Gassett, the owner and operator of the ciders knows his stuff. He started in wine, but became interested in ciders. Each of his creations are named after important women in his life or women of mythos. Now naming creations after a Norse Goddess or your mother could be a tall order. But each cider measures up to these towering women (list posted at the end of this write-up).
These are sharp, dry ciders that are made from apples Daniel procures from across the street at the farm stand. He proudly showed us his operation and gifted us a bag of apples at the end. His listings tell of the variety of apple and what dishes to pair with it. Once I sipped the Chantico cider—a truly inspired combination of pineapple, mango and jalapeño—I knew that’s what I would be taking to pair with our black bean and sweet potato burritos (recipe forthcoming, folks).
For me the spicy cider is a technical and artistic marvel. Often the spicy vegetable taste of a habanero, jalapeño, or ghost pepper has to be counterbalanced by something sweet. And too often, the cider maker goes overboard. You end up with something syrupy and artificial tasting. Or, worse yet, the cider maker takes the spice to an inhumane level and it mars the palette, rendering everything afterward, including each sip of cider, inconsequential. Well, I gotta say, Daniel nails the highwire act of spicy cider with aplomb. And as an encore, he serves up a lemon-ginger cider called Iðunn, that has a very different kick to it and would work well in the dead of winter with a hearty stir fry or piping hot Thai dish. It would work equally well in the heat of summer with a strawberry chicken salad or sushi.
I could rave all day about these ciders, but its a tour you’ll need to taste to believe. I’ll be forever glad that I turned the bus around and decided to stop here for a flight of cider. And, if I’m ever within the tristate/province area, you can bet, I will be making a detour here. If only Daniel were part of Harvest Hosts…