Apple cider and Mexican food make quite the pair

Neno's Gourmet Mexican Street Food and Star Cider team up in Canandaigua

Mike Murphy
mmurphy@messengerpostmedia.com
Cortni Stahl, an owner of Star Cider, shows off the bounty of a partnership with Neno's Gourmet Mexican Street Food, which has started serving food at the Canandaigua cidery.

CANANDAIGUA — Before you is a plate brimming with a tasty trio of tacos covered with fresh cheese, pickled red onion and organic radishes. On the side is an enole, a Mexican street corn loaded with cheese and chipotle mayo.

This comes after you’ve polished off a giant plate of carnitas nachos, the kind where the maker has defied the universal laws of physics — toppings, and there are lots of them, on every chip.

Next step, margarita, right? Good guess and almost there, but not quite.

Rochester-based Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food recently began serving tacos, burritos and other favorites at Star Cider, the year-old cidery near the Finger Lakes Community College campus and Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center.

Star Cider, while now serving Neno’s food, has zero plans of giving up on its locally made cider anytime soon.

So you have the Ciderita, frozen or on the rocks and made with Star Cider’s Five Point Cider, which is a blend of five varieties of apples. And it’s been quite popular, said Cortni Stahl, who with her husband, Adam, and brother-in-law Nathan Stahl, owns the cidery.

“It’s just super refreshing frozen on these hot days, but it pairs awesome with Mexican food,” Stahl said.

And this is a pairing that makes perfect sense in more ways than one.

People talk all the time about tequila-based margaritas and tacos, and beer and tacos go great together, according to Fidelio Rita, owner of Neno’s. But cider and tacos?

“It’s the best idea in the area,” Rita said. “And it’s local too.”

Neno’s, which got its start as a food cart and food truck and grew to the point where Rita opened a sit-down restaurant on Monroe Avenue in Rochester two years ago, catered Stahl’s sister’s wedding.

Everyone loved it, Stahl said, and her brother-in-law approached Rita about doing something together.

Rita and his sister, who is a partner in the business, mulled it over a while and the answer came in the form of a question — why not?

“It was a great idea,” Rita said.

As with most anything today, the coronavirus pandemic temporarily delayed the collaboration from coming to fruition until two weeks ago. And Rita also has had to overcome issues of his own arising from the pandemic and a devastating fire in May.

But with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new pandemic-influenced rule forcing bars and restaurants to serve food with alcoholic beverages, the timing was just right.

Star Cider has ample indoor and outdoor space for socially distanced seating and dining and the experience is more intimate, Stahl said.

“Guests are able to be more educated on the ciders and the pairings,” Stahl said. “It’s a different feel and experience, but it definitely worked out for the best. Overall, I think it’s a better guest experience.”

Besides forcing a revision of the Star business model — the cidery previously offered snack foods such as salty bread and soft pretzels as companions to its ciders — the pandemic also allowed for more time to come up with new flavors, which Stahl, who is a technician in the wine lab at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, loves.

“That’s my favorite. I love to use different, new local ingredients and try new flavors,” Stahl said. “Especially when we were to-go only, people wanted a new flavor every week or so. That was kind of fun.”

Star now offers new summery cider products — a blue whale seltzer, a seltzer based on its rosé cider and a frozen version of the latter, the Frosé.

“The community has been amazing and customers have been awesome. People are excited about cider,” Stahl said. “It’s exciting to be able to share it face to face.”

Like the Mexican food and apple-based drinks, this business pairing also is working.

“They have amazing food and they’re very talented,” Stahl said. “It goes really well together.”

AlfrescoFLX Summit nears

Here’s a reminder about Monday’s online AlfrescoFLX Summit, which gets underway at 9 a.m.

The Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event, which will be presented by 29 Design Studio. Speakers and networking are planned throughout the day.

The program is designed for seasoned professionals, farm-to-table startups, fans of good food and businesses looking for options for staff training and development.

Speakers and panelists will cover farm-to-table success stories, innovative agriculinary options, and access to funding for farm-to-table businesses.

Speakers are from MarginEdge, Butter Meat Co., The Martin Group, Upstate Capital Association of New York, Farm Credit East, Grow-NY, Sip and Savor, “Life in the Finger Lakes” magazine, Lyons National Bank, 29 Design Studio and others.

During AlfrescoFLX, Chef Samantha Buyskes and others will offer advice and guidance on how to prepare and personalize the contents of the box to suit your palate.

AlfrescoFLX is $75 per person. Receive updates via Facebook and Instagram and register at www.AlfrescoFLX.com.

Call 585-394-4400 with any questions.

Behold the Ciderita, Star Cider's take on the margarita.