The month of March is the height of maple sugar season. And just 75 miles north of Manhattan, in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, lies the nation's most buzzed-about artisan sugar house. Madava Farms, with its 800 expansive acres of sustainable maple forest, is the home of Crown Maple syrup.
A rustic dirt road leads to snow-blanketed hills dotted with majestic red and sugar maples. The air is pristine, the panoramic views stunning - an idyllic setting for day-trippers and weekenders looking for a unique culinary getaway.
When the sap begins to flow from the farm's 25,000 trees, it enters clear plastic lines, crisscrossing and merging like a maple superhighway into the farm's collection shacks, then gets pumped directly to the sugar house for production. Madava operates the country's one of a kind reverse osmosis unit, which removes 90% of water from the sap before the evaporation process, resulting in the purest syrup possible.
The farm's 100% certified organic maple syrup is lauded by top chefs for its flavor and is served up at some of NYC's 3-star Michelin restaurants: Per Se, Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare and Eleven Madison Park.
Crown Maple syrup has also graced presidential plates. It was featured in two dishes at President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Luncheon - a butternut squash puree and a Hudson Valley apple pie with artisanal cheeses and Crown Maple caramel sauce.
Visitors can take a guided tasting tour for an in-depth look at the farm's same-day organic maple syrup production, from tree to barrel. The farm boasts a brand new visitor's center, open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with stone walls, soaring ceilings and a massive wrought iron chandelier.
The shop sells a selection of books on organic farming and artisanal foods, along with Madava merchandise. And there's the syrup - loads of it - in light, medium and dark.
Madava's Farm Stand Café, open weekends, is helmed by Chef Jacob Griffin and features a seasonal farm-to-table menu and a selection of craft wines and beers.
Think hearty country fare like maple brined, maple chip-smoked chicken sandwiches. Ingredients are sourced from local producers and from the farm's organic garden.
Chef Griffin's specialty is dessert. Look out for his maple sticks - puff pastry that's been spun, baked, soaked in maple syrup and dusted with maple sugar - so popular, they're often sold out before lunch ends. Other sweet treats may include apple turnovers stuffed with maple cream cheese, almond pear tarts and a Hudson Valley apple pie based on the inaugural dish.
Visitors can sample syrup in the center's impressive tap-holed maple tasting room where a series of chef dinners are held throughout the year, prepared by culinary superstars like April Bloomfield (The Breslin, The Spotted Pig) and Brandon Collins (The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls). The next chef dinner, on April 20, will feature Madava's own Jacob Griffin.
Madava Farms is open year-round with events and activities focusing on sustainability, the outdoors and farm-to-table cuisine.
Trail maps are available for hikers and bird watchers. Future endeavors include wine and cheese tastings, farm brunches and guided nature walks. In April, visitors can sign up to forage for ramps and learn how to prepare them in the farm's kitchen.
How to get there:
Madava Farms is located in Dover Plains, New York.
Madava offers weekend shuttle service from the Dover Plains Metro-North train station, but reservations must be booked in advance online.
March at Madava Farms
New York State Maple Weekend: Sat.-Sun.
This weekend, Madava will host an open house where visitors can explore the grounds, learn about sugar making and indulge in an all-maple menu at The Farm Stand. Special weekend tasting tour/hotel packages are available.
All of Madava Farms' events, including tasting tours and chef dinners can be booked at crownmaple.com
Products made with Crown Maple Syrup
-- Mast Brothers Chocolate
-- Early Bird Granola
-- Blue Marble Ice Cream
Where to buy it
-- Foragers Market, 56 Adams St., DUMBO, foragerscitygrocer.com
-- Haven's Kitchen, 107 W. 17th St., havenskitchen.com
-- Dean & Deluca, various locations, deananddeluca.com
-- Murray's Cheese, variouslocations, murrayscheese.com
-- Gourmet Guild, 110 Broadway, Williamsburg, gourmetguildusa.com
-- Nationwide at Crate & Barrel and West Elm Market Restaurants (More at Crownmaple.com)
-- NoMad, 1170 Broadway, thenomadhotel.com
-- Saxon & Parole, 316 Bowery, saxonandparole.com
-- Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn St., Downtown Brooklyn, brooklynfare.com
-- The Breslin, 16 W. 29th St., thebreslin.com
-- Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, NY, bluehillfarm.com