RED HEN GASTROLAB & KEEPSAKE CIDERY
Once upon a time in Puerto Rico, a young Nettie Colón made the best childhood memories exploring and running wild on her grandmother’s abundant farm.
Nettie’s grandmother grew passion fruit, yucca, Caribbean tubers, breadfruit, and more. She raised chickens and gathered eggs. There was no need to go to the grocery store; the farm fed the family. It was both Nettie’s playground and classroom, where her grandmother taught her to cook from her heart. Nettie reflects, “Food went straight from our playground to the table. That connection influences every dish I cook today.” There was also a curious little red hen – her grandmother’s favorite – who wandered the farm. Inspired by that hen who seemingly popped up everywhere, Nettie created Red Hen Gastrolab, which offers outdoor pop-up events featuring comfort foods from the Caribbean corridor. She explains, “Red Hen is me. Wherever I am, I bring soulful comfort food from the land I’m on and incite love and nurturing.”
During summer months, Nettie is a frequent guest chef at Keepsake Cidery in Dundas for Friday night cookouts. Nate Watters, co-owner of Keepsake with his wife Tracy, gushes, “When Nettie is on the farm, I feel this powerful, caretaking energy, this true hospitality wanting to fill the belly and the heart.” Regarding Keepsake ciders, Nettie remarks, “I love the clean, honest flavors of their ciders. They have integrity. It’s like the champagne of champagnes.”
The origin story of Keepsake Cidery is straightforward. Nate simply loves apples, trees, farming, and being in nature. Tracy wanted to live in the country and have horses and was happy to support Nate’s cider dream. Thus began Keepsake Cidery – an orchard and farm cidery. Spontaneously fermented, Keepsake ciders are dry and bubbly, not too sweet, and always reflective of the season and farm. Nate says, “When cider is made properly with the right intention, the right fruit, and the right process, it’s the best beverage in the world.” He concludes, “Our cider is really about relationships among people, the land, and a larger system.”