With days this cold and dark, a little trickle of sweetness goes a long way to cure a mean case of cabin fever. But reserving syrup for breakfast is selling the elixir short. These places around town are seeing the forest through the trees (and they’re not just maple) by treating us to syrup in everything from beginnings to endings.
Belly up to the bar at Glass Haus Kitchen for inventive snacks like “animal crackers”—southern fried chicken skin and crispy pigs’ ears lacquered with a smoky glaze of Virginia hickory syrup, housemade red wine vinegar, and bourbon.
The piggies don’t need a blanket at Brookville Restaurant, where smoked Surry sausages snuggle up to mustard and Virginia maple syrup for a combination that hits every taste bud, and then some.
Local maple syrup goes gourmet at Fleurie Restaurant in a parfait of Polyface Farm chicken liver and foie gras where the hint of sweetness—along with the acidity and crunch of a grape, almond, and celery salad —tempers the dish’s utter (albeit welcome) unctuousness.
At the C&O, an appetizer of poached Maine lobster gets bathed in a vanilla Chardonnay butter before it’s perched atop chive blinis and anointed with Virginia maple syrup.
The authentically Italian-sized portions at tavola are a blessing when you realize you have room for the chestnut cheesecake, with its crushed amaretti crust and drizzle of mugolio —an Italian syrup made from pine cone buds.
When you can’t decide between another beer or dessert, Horse & Hound Gastropub solves the dilemma by pairing a vanilla porter ice cream-topped warm maple bread pudding with Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter.
Barking up a different tree
While the maple syrup industry’s busy harvesting xylem sap from sugar, red, or black maples, Joyce and Travis Miller are foraging for hickory bark in Berryville, Virginia.
About a year and a half ago, the couple discovered that roasting hickory bark, extracting its flavor, and adding it to a turbinado sugar-based reduction would create a syrup that lends itself to both sweet and savory preparations.
Once only at farmers’ markets, now Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup is sold to our area restaurants through the Local Food Hub as well as to retailers like Relay Foods, C’ville Market, Rebecca’s Natural Food, Yoder’s Sugar and Spice, and Greenwood Gourmet.
The original makes a woodsy glaze for salmon, the vanilla bean gracefully gilds a torchon of foie gras, and the brandy-infused vanilla adds a solid swirl of indulgence to your morning bowl of oats.
For the neat-nicks who’d rather not deal with sticky bottle tops and fingers, get your maple fix in flake form at The Spice Diva. An ounce costs $5, but just a sprinkle delivers the same 100 percent pure maple punch as a hearty pour of the sticky stuff.
Why is pure maple syrup so much more expensive than Mrs. Butterworth’s? The maple season is only four to six weeks long and it takes 40 gallons of boiled down sap (from at least four different trees) to make one gallon of the real McCoy. Its grade, A or B, depends on density and translucency. The lightest of the bunch even get to add “fancy” to their title.
Maple trees aren’t tapped until they are at least four years old and 10″ in diameter.
Freezing by night and thawing by day are the ideal conditions for sap flow.
A tablespoon of maple syrup has about the same number of calories as a tablespoon of white cane sugar (50 calories), but also contains potassium, iron, phosphorus, and B-vitamins.
You can freeze an opened container of maple syrup for long-term storage.
Quebec produces about 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup. Vermont? About 5.5 percent.