Coolest northforker stories of 2016: A tour of the North Fork’s first snail farm

We toured Peconic Escargot in Cutchogue in May. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

We toured Peconic Escargot in Cutchogue in May. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Peconic Escargot, a snail farm we toured in May, grew out of chef Taylor Knapp’s struggle to find farm-fresh snails. He decided to launch the business after dining at Manhattan’s popular Momofuku restaurant, where escargot are on the menu.

“We asked where the snails came from and the chef said they came in a can from France,” said Knapp, who is also the creator of PawPaw pop-up dinners. “I was like, ‘If chef David Chang can’t get fresh snails, then nobody can.’ So there’s obviously a need for this.”

Along with business partner Sean Nethercott, the Cutchogue company — which rents space from the Peconic Land Trust — was established in 2014. It’s the only snail farm currently operating on the East Coast.

Snails arrived for the first time this year.

Security measures surrounding the site are remarkable. A greenhouse’s front door opens to another door, creating an airlock. The windows and floor drains are covered with netting, while the legs of each shelf — which hold tubs of snails — rest on plastic containers filled with salt water. These precautions are intended to keep the snails put.

“They’re not native to New York State, so there were a lot of containment issues,” Knapp said.

Peconic Escargot’s first batch of snails is being raised to breed. The second generation will be sold to market.

The first commercial batch won’t be ready for market until next year, although the company has already received inquiries.

“Our email box has been filled,” Knapp said. “We get an email every day, so we just keep telling people to be patient and hang on.”