Riverhead Cider House:  Cider House Rules          August 24, 2017

http://www.riverheadcider.com/

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This giant apple marks the entrance to the Riverhead Cider House.

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Shortly after we entered the cavernous tasting room at the newly opened Riverhead Cider House, we decided that we were not the target audience.  Then we tasted their wares, and were sure.  That being said, if you are a twenty-or-thirty-something heading East with a group of friends who like sweet-ish mildly alcoholic drinks or local beers, you might find the Cider House to be just what you’re looking for.  As you enter, you’ll see a smaller room off to the side that can be rented for parties and a small alcove where a gift shop is located.  Then you enter the large room lined on one side by a long bar and on the other by tables made from repurposed doors (knobs and all!) and tractor seats, plus more comfortable seating areas near the fireplaces.  Twin “dueling grand pianos” are in the center of the room, and guitars hang on the walls with notes encouraging their use.  Towards the far end is another alcove occupied by a café selling pizzas, salads, sandwiches, huge pretzels, and more.  Out the back is a patio with more seating and what has become a necessity for many tasting rooms, bean bag toss games.

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I would guess that on the weekends the bar is more crowded.

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One view of the room.

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Another view, with the “dueling pianos.”

A huge sign over the bar lists the eight different hard cider flavors and the four local beers currently on tap.  As we were familiar with the beers, we decided to get two tastings of four ciders each:  what they call the Cider Master Flight, and then the other four, for $10 each foursome of two-ounce pours.  The server was quite friendly, but gave us no guidance as to the order of the tastings, which are served on a square tray, so we took them to our table and drank them in whatever order we pleased.  To accompany the tastings, we stopped into the café and bought one of their huge pretzels (and then another one, since the six of us—including two children—demolished the first in short order), which came with three dipping sauces, for $9.75.

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Our guests, who are fond of dry European hard ciders, and the two of us agreed that these were not serious ciders, but would be fine for those who like sweet fruity drinks.  We all went to the Woodside Cidery last year, and liked their ciders much better.  The children enjoyed playing on the patio (supervised by an adult, of course) and looking at some of the quirky décor, so this is one of the places you can come with children—but not with a picnic, as they forbid outside food.

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The Cider House Rules

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The patio, with the obligatory bean bag toss game.

You can also buy growlers of cider or beer to take home, at $8 for the bottle and $18 to have it filled.

The choices from the Cider Master Flight are marked with an *.

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One of our flights, composed of the ciders that are not on the Master Flight.

  1. Apple Annie

Sweet.  Tastes like apple juice.  Maybe you could have this in a mixed drink with a spicy tequila.

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You can buy the ciders by the bottle in the gift shop.

  1. *Prickly Pear Rosé

A bit on the dry side, though I don’t think it tastes much like a rosé or like a prickly pear.

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Seating on the patio.

  1. Black Cherry

If you like black cherry soda, get this one.  It even has a bit of fizz.  One of our guests, an excellent mixologist, thinks you could make a decent highball of this if you mixed it with bourbon and orange or angostura bitters.

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You can see into the room where they brew the ciders.

  1. Razz

Continuing the soda theme, this one smells and tastes like raspberry soda, though it is not cloyingly sweet.

  1. Grapefruit

We agree that this smells remarkably like Lemon Pledge.  I don’t recall what Fresca tastes like, but one of our party opines that that is what this resembles.

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The Master Flight.

  1. *Greg’s Strawberry Patch

Yuk.  Tastes like “strawberry-flavored medicine,” we hear.  Another mildly alcoholic soda-ish drink.

  1. *Founder’s Reserve

Sweet apple juice, very apple-y.

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Our partially demolished pretzel. I liked both the cheese and one of the mustard sauces.

  1. *Benjamin’s Best

We like this the best—or dislike it the least!  It is more like a wine than the others, fairly dry, and tastes more like a European hard cider than the rest.

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The café menu

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Reasons to visit:  you like sweet fruity alcoholic drinks; you are with a group and want to get pizza or huge pretzels and beer or cider; you want a place with a slightly funky vibe and a party atmosphere; the Benjamin’s Best. 

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The fireplace area looks like it would be quite cozy in the winter.

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Not sure what the statue represents, but we did heed the sign next to it.

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Woodside Orchards: Bring the Kids August 3, 2016

http://www.woodsideorchards.com/

The sign says caramel apples, but you'll have to wait until harvest time to try them.

The sign says caramel apples, but you’ll have to wait until harvest time to try them.

The last time we tried the hard cider at Woodside Orchards’ Aquebogue location, it was October, and the tasting room also featured bins of apples and sweet cider drinks, plus cider doughnuts.  This time, we were too early for the apple harvest, so all that was on offer were the hard ciders and the cider doughnuts.  However, the five-year-old and the two-year-old we had in tow were pleased with the doughnuts, and worked off their sugar high out in the back yard of the tasting room, playing bean bag toss with a few other children who were also happily running around.

Bean bag toss is available--just ask at the bar for the beanbags.  Towards the back you can see the entrance to one of the orchards.

Bean bag toss is available–just ask at the bar for the beanbags. Towards the back you can see the entrance to one of the orchards.

Meanwhile, the adults took turns going back into the tasting room to bring out samples of the four different ciders on offer, at $6 for all four, served in a plastic cup.  Each couple decided to share one tasting, which worked out fine.  Hard cider has a similar alcohol content to some beers, at 6.8% alcohol, and like beer from a brewery is also available to take out in growlers, $18 for 64 ounces.  Unlike beer, hard cider is a fairly delicate drink, more like a sparkling wine than anything else I can think of.

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  1. Traditional Hard Cider

The tasting starts off with this rather straightforward cider, a bit bubbly, with a clear taste and smell of apples.  It is fairly dry, and would pair well with a pork roast, we decide.

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  1. Sweet Traditional

Yes, it is sweet, more like a dessert wine in its sugar level than like a non-dry sparkling wine.  However, our daughter finds it refreshing, and could see drinking it on a warm evening instead of a beer, or at the beach with prosciutto and melon.  We also decide that, because it goes down so easily, more like a soda than an alcoholic drink, it could be dangerous.  I think it tastes very like a Macintosh apple.

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  1. Apple-Raspberry

What a pretty color, we all agree.  If you need a pink drink, this could be it.  The raspberry smell dominates over the apple, and though the taste is on the sweet side it is, interestingly, not as sweet as the previous variety.  If you happened to have some on hand, it would go well with spicy barbeque, or you could use it as a liquid when making fruit soup.

The Ginger-Apple was very light.

The Ginger-Apple was very light.

  1. Ginger-Apple

Here the aroma is a fairly even blend of apple and ginger, but the ginger is barely discernable in the taste.  Our son-in-law, an expert amateur mixologist, wonders if one could use it to make a Dark and Stormy instead of ginger beer, but then we all agree it is not gingery enough.  Like the others, this is a light, refreshing quaff.

They have a small selection of t-shirts for sale.

They have a small selection of t-shirts for sale.

Reasons to visit:  you are ready for something different; you really love apples; the Traditional; you have children with you so don’t care to be involved in a more serious tasting experience, plus there is a back yard where they can run around while you sit at the picnic tables and do your tasting; in season, the chance to pick up (or pick!) some apples and cider doughnuts (though I think Harbes’ doughnuts are better).

The entrance to the pleasingly rustic tasting room.

The entrance to the pleasingly rustic tasting room.

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Woodside Orchard October 12, 2013

http://woodsideorchards.com/

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Harvest time!  Crisp fall air, crisp falling leaves, crisp fresh apples…and even better, crisp hard apple cider!  On a whim, we stopped in at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road tasting room, remembering some delicious hot mulled (non-hard) cider we had there on a chilly day last winter.  What we found was quite a crowd, sitting around some outside picnic benches and milling around the small tasting room, happily sampling the ciders on offer, and also buying candy apples, apple pie, apple butter, cider donuts, honey, cider, and, of course, bags of apples.  Oh, and growlers of hard cider.  There’s apple wine, too, but there didn’t seem to be any tastes on offer.

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A blackboard on the wall informs us that it is $6.00 for a pint glass, in which one can get samples of the four (which turned out to be five!) ciders on offer.  A growler costs $16.00 and only $13 if you are coming in with an empty for a refill.  We decided to share one tasting, which was a good idea, since they fill the glass about 1/3rd of the way full, and cider is about 6.5% alcohol (more than most beers, less than wine, according to the server).  The crowd kept the servers quite busy, especially when they had to fill a growler from the beer- style taps, but everyone seemed cheerful and patient.

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1.        Traditional Hard Cider

Ooh, fizzy!  This is a pleasant drink, with a taste like a somewhat sweet fruity wine but a dry finish.  Back in the day, this is what everyone drank three meals a day, as water was not to be trusted, and is the drink that made John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) rich.

2.        Sour Cherry Hard Cider

This is the surprise add-on, as it is not on the menu.  The color is a light pinkish red and it feels a bit tingly on the tongue.  I taste cherry on the side of my mouth, but not a lot of flavor.  Neither here nor there, we decide.

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3.       Traditional Sweet Hard Cider

Lovely apple smell and a taste like regular cider—but with a kick—make this our favorite so far.

4.       Apple Raspberry Hard Cider

“It’s like liquid Briermere,” theorizes my husband.  “Whoa, that’s sweet,” is my reaction.  Again, there’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue.  We smell apples and raspberries (surprise).  Too sweet for me, but I guess you could have this instead of dessert, or mix it in a cocktail.

5.       Cinnamon Apple Hard Cider

A good whiff of this will make you think of apple pie and Thanksgiving, and it tastes like an apple pie, too, with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.  We could see serving this well chilled as a refreshing summer drink—or with Thanksgiving dinner!

They have another place on Manor Lane, where you can also do u-pick in the orchard once all the trees behind this place have been picked out.

Reasons to visit:  you’re tired of wine (Is that possible?) and want something different; you’re curious about hard cider and want to try before you buy; you want to buy apples or apple treats and might as well taste some hard ciders while you’re at it; the apples are yummy, too.

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