The top chefs and winemakers at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks are going to be serving a variety of treats from Long Island’s North and South Forks come July 16. There will be flavors and dishes and culinary creations you haven’t experienced before. And among the rarest will be the beverage poured by Paul Holm. You may not even be sure exactly what it is.
The fermented result of honey, water, yeast and time has been called honey wine, the Nectar of the Gods, the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world. But Holm, founder and owner of the Long Island Meadery in Holbrook, says that in many circles a more accurate label for mead might be “the oldest alcoholic beverage no one has ever heard of.” [expand]
Don’t feel bad if you’re a member of that circle, if the word conjures images of Renaissance fairs and stein-wielding Vikings but not much more. It’s common, despite a history that seems to defy such a thing. Some accounts trace mead back nearly 10,000 years, to Northern China. Aristotle wrote about it in Ancient Greece. It shows up in Beowulf. In the Middle Ages, a newly married couple would be given a month’s supply of mead and sent on a “honeymoon” to, well, do what people do when bathed in newlywed bliss and enough alcohol to last a lunar cycle.
“But today the masses don’t know a lot about mead,” says Holm. “A lot of people think it’s a beer, something heavy, or like a dessert wine—people will say, ‘Oh, I don’t like sweet wine, so I won’t like mead. But they’ve probably haven’t tried it. Mead can range from dry to sweet. It can be traditional honey or flavored with fruit, spices, whatever you want to try”
Holm has been trying many different meads “and trying to spread the work” since starting with a home-brewing passion in the early 1990s, which became a passion-driven business when LIM—the only commercial meadery on Long Island—opened its doors in 2004. Holm now produces about 500 gallons of mead each year, welcomes both aficionados and curious newbies to his tasting room, and continues to push the fermentation envelope and experiment with different flavors.
A chocolate mead is in the works at LIM, but at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Holm will be bringing four varieties perfect for the summer—traditional, peach, blueberry and raspberry. Given the range of food at the event, Holm won’t be surprised if people ask for pairing suggestions, but he believes that, as with grape wines, pairings are limited only by the palate of the imbiber.
“I’ll usually have it by itself, but it can go with anything from cheese to a salad to steak to dessert. There are no rules,” Holm offers. “I’m just looking forward to people tasting it, being surprised, and enjoying it. And then telling their friends.” [/expand]