Add snails to the list of North Fork fare you can find on the menus of local restaurants.
Taylor and Katelyn Knapp, co-owners of Peconic Escargot in Cutchogue, began delivering their fresh, farm-raised escargot to a handful of East End and New York City restaurants just two weeks ago, Mr. Knapp said. He said his snail ranch is the only operation of its kind on the East Coast.
That means most of the escargot available in regional restaurants is sourced from a can.
“It’s very different from canned escargot,” Mr. Knapp said of his offerings. “We are hoping we can change some minds. It’s definitely going to be a superior product.”
When the snails are ready to be harvested, they are driven from the operation’s Cutchogue greenhouse to the Stony Brook Business Incubator in Calverton, where they are processed and vacuum-sealed. They are sold shelled and with the shell intact, both wholesale and retail.
These local snails have an earthy and herbaceous flavor, Mr. Knapp said, which he attributed to a diet of foraged items like clover, garlic mustard and dandelion (they also eat a lot of dirt). And the texture is akin to that of cooked oyster.
“This is just a shining, beautiful product,” said Salamander’s owner Claudia Helinski. “It’s wonderful to cook with and the customers love it.”
She previously offered an escargot dish called snails on toast ($12) and served with prosciutto, shallots, heirloom tomato and veal demi-glace, using canned snails.
“Now it’s local snails,” she said.
Chef Greg Ling is also offering several escargot dishes at Industry Standard, including Parisian gnocchi made with lemon juice, garlic, corn, shallots, parsley and sea beans from a local forager ($15).
“This stuff is fantastic,” he said. “And it moves. It sells here.”
Peconic Escargot leases its land from the Peconic Land Trust through the nonprofit’s “Farms for the Future” initiative, which aims to protect the future of farming on the East End.
The first generation of snails was imported and raised at Peconic Escargot’s greenhouse for breeding. The second generation is now being sold retail and wholesale.
The snails take about six to eight months to raise and Mr. Knapp estimates the farm currently has about 10,000 snails with the capacity to house 15. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to become the country’s only USDA-certified snail farm has taken about four years.
The process was lengthened by the fact that there was no blueprint for local snail farm regulations.
“It was a completion of the first phase and we’re happy to have all that red tape behind us, “ Mr. Knapp said. “Now we’ve entered a whole new side of having to sell [the product].”