In praise of Christmas’ diversity, may I direct your attention to a very modest monastery in Lagrangeville just 5 miles south of Millbrook, NY. The Annual Christmas Craft Show there draws repeat customers from as far away as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Vermont. They travel in pursuit of the specialty vinegars, tapenades, and a host of other organically grown and artisanally produced comestibles made under the loving direction of Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette.
In 1977, joined by three Benedictine monks, Brother Victor-Antoine established Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery on 23 acres of stony farmland. Over the years they developed herb and vegetable gardens and a barn for a few animals. They then created and produced a small number of organic herbal vinegars that have become extremely popular with a number of Manhattan’s top chefs, as well as locavores throughout the Berkshires.
Brother Victor-Antoine bases his vinegars on a recipe from a 12th century monastery cookbook. A fellow Frenchman brought the mother, or la mere du vinaigre, to America as a gift for Brother Victor-Antoine. This same fermentation kick-starter remains the basis of some of his truly heavenly vinegars year after year. Wines from nearby Hudson Valley farms are flavored with herbs and fruit grown in the monastery gardens and allowed to ferment in a cool, dark room for over six months a year.
Students from neighboring Vassar College earn credits in subjects ranging from environmental studies to a course named, “Contemplation of the American Landscape,” by assisting Brother Victor-Antoine in his daily garden, farm, and production chores.
The Christmas Crafts Festival this year features vinegars from red and white wine, a sherry vinegar, a cider vinegar made from organic apples, another cider vinegar flavored with honey from local bees, and vinegars infused with the flavors of apricots and raspberries. Brother Victor-Antoine has also developed a variety of tapenades and pesto’s made with herbs from his garden.
Stores offering only the finest of epicurean delights (lRubiners and Bizalion in Great Barrington, MA) have some of these delectable vinegars for sale; but a visit to the Christmas Crafts Festival will allow you to discover not only the delicious creations and cookbooks authored by Brother Victor-Antoine, but something else, not quite describable, that keeps folks coming back year after year.
The dates for this year’s Christmas Crafts Festival are December 1, 2, 9 and 10. Its hours are from 10AM-5PM. For more information and directions to the Monastery please visit the website.