A centuries-old Spanish tradition is New York’s hot new dining trend.
At the newly opened Brooklyn Cider House, there’s no sommelier pouring your drink pairings tableside. Instead, you’ll be spending a good portion of your night poised under the spouts of 80-year-old chestnut barrels, ready to catch your drinks in a delicate pint glass.
“It’s a really kind of lively dining experience,” says Lindsey Storm, a refugee of the finance world who now goes by the title Cider Goddess as she leads the catches.
“People are catching from different barrels and hanging out, they’re cheersing and talking, you’re crossing paths with people from other tables. It’s social, fun and festive all rolled into one.”
Catching is the traditional way people enjoy cider in the Basque region, where Brooklyn Cider House‘s cidermaker Peter Yi fell in love with apples after a career in wine. He now owns Twin Star Orchards in upstate New York and has created four Basque-inspired ciders (so far!)
But it’s not just the cider he fell in love with. “What Peter wanted to do was replicate his whole experience, which was the food, the interaction of catching the cider and the social aspect of hanging out in the taproom,” says Storm.
To bring the Basque country to Brooklyn, Yi chose a former warehouse where music and voices bounce off the soaring ceilings with a dining room half made up of communal tables, for a feeling that’s more like a German beer hall than a conventional restaurant.
It also let him keep the towering barrels of cider, each completely distinct with names like Punk and Baby, next to the dining room.
Cider catching is offered as an optional drink pairing ($15) with the restaurant’s five-course prix fixe dinner service, priced at $37 for a traditional Basque Country meal featuring cider-braised chorizo and a cowboy-style ribeye steak, or a vegetarian version for $32.
Each cider is designed to pair with the food, acting as a palate-cleanser and “getting you ready to eat more,” explains Storm.
They’re also raw and uncarbonated, so there are practical reasons behind the catching: “The whole act of the catch is to aerate the cider,” same as swirling a glass of red wine. “In addition to aerating it, you’re also making momentary carbonation. Anything you pour from a height is going to bubble for a second, and that’s why you only catch a little bit at a time — it’s about you drinking the cider when the cider is awakened and alive.”
The entire dinner experience lasts about two and a half hours, with about 15 minutes between each course spent catching cider and learning about Basque ciders. It’s a commitment, Storm acknowledges, but “being in among those barrels, you’re touching history but you’re also doing it. That lends itself to a deeper, personal connection. People hug us when they leave.”
Brooklyn Cider House is open Tues-Sun at 1100 Flushing Ave., Bushwick.