A friendly, familiar face to many in New Paltz after 15 years as manager/wine buyer at In Good Taste (not to mention as head chef at Main Course in its early years), Ken Maguire has nothing but good things to say about his former bosses, Deb and Rick Rauch. But, says Maguire, “I wanted to build some equity.” So when an opportunity finally came along to buy out Fox and Hound Wine and Spirits in the New Paltz Plaza from retiring owners Tom Edwards and Nick Ciallelo, Maguire made his move. And on May 11, 2017, Fox & Hound became his new playground for doing what he likes to do best: talk with people about wine and food.
Reorganizing and redecorating the wine shop is a task that has had Maguire working 12-to-16-hour days, seven days a week, he says. But his energy level and enthusiasm remain undimmed, and he still greets and chats with everyone who walks into the store. The 1985 Culinary Institute of America grad is clearly in his element here: a spacious, well-appointed wine and spirits emporium equipped with a full restaurant-grade kitchen. On the Friday when the New Paltz Times paid a visit, a tasting of four organic and sustainable vintages distributed by David Bowler Wine was in progress, accompanied by free samples of Maguire’s own cooking: roast pork loin with homemade chili paste, drunken beans with bourbon and bacon and a cheddar grits soufflé. Everything is delicious.
According to alcoholic beverage licensing law, Maguire isn’t allowed to charge for food on the premises. But he can serve food for free; and he has huge plans in place to make optimal use of the wine shop’s beautiful kitchen facility. Not only will he be serving some of his own culinary creations to pair with wines and spirits, but he’ll also be bringing in other renowned local chefs to do cooking demonstrations. “I have such an affinity for restaurant people,” he says. “With my food background, this is a natural.”
Besides being a professionally trained hands-on foodie, Maguire has also put in time working for local farmers, including the Ferrantes and Taliaferros. “Some people call me Farmer Ken,” he notes. “I just love salt-of-the-Earth-type people, I guess.” Farm-to-table is a concept that he knows from the soil on up. He loves to forage wild foods as well, and knows where to look for gourmet mushrooms like morels and chanterelles.
So why not just go back into the restaurant business instead? “I just want to get the food-and-wine connection out there,” Maguire says. Wine-tastings will become food-pairings at Fox & Hound under his auspices: For instance, he’s currently negotiating with Gadaleto’s Fish Market to organize an oyster-sampling event, in which three different regional varieties of the succulent shellfish will be matched with complementary sparkling wines. Another project in the works is a workshop in which he will use the store kitchen’s sprawling granite countertops to demonstrate how to make mozzarella cheese by hand.
So what kind of wine goes with homemade mozzarella? Maguire, who says that his goal is for Americans to drink wine every day, the way Europeans do, recommends Montepulciano with pizza. He’s a proponent of rosés as well, which are versatile enough to pair well with almost anything.
While very knowledgeable about the bewildering selection of different varieties and vintages, Maguire is no wine snob. He’s very happy to recommend a bottle for under $10 that will make you and your guests happy, no matter what’s on the menu. And in fact, Fox & Hound now has a whole rack devoted just to $8 wines and another just to $6. Some of them are even organically grown.
Prices across the board in the store are coming down, he says, because he’s buying his stock in larger quantities than the previous owners. The pricetag for Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, for instance, has been “lowered by $8 a bottle,” according to Maguire.
He’s also reorganizing the space to make it more user-friendly. The refrigerator will be moved up nearer the front doors, to accommodate people who just want to dash in for a bottle of chilled white wine en route to somebody’s house for dinner, for example. And the cheaper brands that come in magnums for parties will also be shifted up front, while costlier vintages will be spotlighted in a new tasting room in the rear. Maguire theorizes that people with high-ticket tastes in wine won’t mind taking the time to browse their way to the back of the store.
The selection of hard liquor is being expanded, and Maguire is using the Fox & Hound Facebook page to encourage customers to experiment with trendy new libations: to substitute mezcal for tequila or rum in a cocktail, for example. Also being broadened are the offerings of local and regional wines, hard ciders and spirits. And wines are being reorganized by style or type instead of country of origin.
There are aesthetic changes to the space going on as well. Price stickers on bottles are being phased out in favor of tasteful bin signs. The plastic flowers and shrubbery in the front window will soon be replaced by displays of antiques from local shops. And Maguire hopes to work out an agreement with the nearby Mark Gruber Gallery to display artworks on consignment on the wine shop’s walls.
If you already know Ken Maguire, you’ve probably already dropped by Fox & Hounds to wish him luck in his new endeavor. If you don’t know him yet, go check the place out. Friday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. are regular tasting nights. To find out more, call (845) 255-7475 or visit www.facebook.com/foxandhoundwineandspirits. Fox & Hound is located at 20 New Paltz Plaza.