Monthly Archives: April 2016

Catskills Sandwich: Fried Crab Cake

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Phoenicia Diner‘s fried crab cake sandwich with bacon served with salad on a soft roll. The crab cakes are soft and fishy, as opposed to thick and doughy, and melt in the mouth making the sandwich deliciously light.

Catskills Sandwich: Bread Alone’s Pastrami Reuben

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Bread Alone’s Reuben with gruyere cheese, Russian dressing, coleslaw and pastrami on organic sourdough rye is much less greasy than it looks and remarkably juicy. The coleslaw is quite mild in this sandwich, complementing the flavor of the pastrami, which is not overly salty. The last spectacular sandwich I recommended from Bread Alone disappeared off the Winter 2015 menu just as my review in the Catskills Food Guide went to press and was replaced with something similar. Plus, the Boiceville location where I got the Avocado & Arugula on April 4th has had the arugula removed for the spring menu. All these additions and subtractions keeps us food reviewers on our toes. Grab the Reuben while you can, as menus change frequently.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

The Catskill 35: Doubletop

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

At 3860 feet high, Doubletop is the 9th highest peak in the Catskills and it’s a Catskills Camel, a double-humped peak and those humps are capped with dense thickets of fragrant evergreens. Once again, there’s a magical, mossy wonderland at the summit, and some ice and snow, but it’s doubly hard work getting up there.

According to the bylaws of the Catskill 3500 Club “there must be at least a 250 drop between the peak and any other peak on the list, or the peak must be at least half a mile from any other peak on the list”. So Doubletop’s two peaks are therefore combined.

It’s also a bushwhack with no trail, but it’s accessible from a number of directions. Experienced hikers approach Doubletop from nearby Graham Mountain, the Hardenburgh trail, Big Indian or Fir. The hike is mostly on private land, so you must obtain permission to hike this peak and you can find the details for that at the Catskills 3500 Club here.

There’s not much in the way of online information about the hike to Doubletop, so one must rely on a map and compass, or a guide. In a mostly southerly direction from the Seager Trail, it is straight up literally being almost horizontal in the beginning. Leaving the Seager Trail is always a miserable affair because it has everything you want in a trail: waterfalls, flat areas for picnics and a refreshing swimming hole. Leaving it to hike south towards Doubletop is even more painful because of its immediate upward trajectory: a thigh-buster from the beginning and troublesome because of its lack of trail.

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The Seager Trail, Arkville

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Seager trail starts at the parking area at the end of Dry Brook Road, just past the covered bridge, in Arkville and it’s two miles of probably the most picturesque valley that I’ve ever hiked in the Catskills. New to both hiking and the countryside in general, I was introduced to the Seager Trail back in 2007. It was my maiden hike, if you like, and one of the most beautiful introductions I’ve ever experienced.

It’s an easy hike alongside a very wide brook with large stones of various shades of grey, with the faintest hints of pink and purple. A short distance from the parking area, the trail opens up into a wide open expanse that is a carpet of smooth rocks at a confluence of two waterways. Yesterday it was covered in a multitude of yellow coltsfoot and a magical sight to behold when emerging from the dark trail into the sunlight. A large downed tree has completely changed this part of the trail, having created a reasonably sized swimming hole that’s very attractive to furry, black Labradors. Further along, there’s a waterfall that fills a deep watering hole that’s about five to six feet deep, and bone-numbingly cold even in the summer, into which you can flop after a hot day’s worth of hiking.

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Catskills Conversations: Brian Tolle

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

What brought you to the Catskills?

We (Brian and his partner, Brian Clyne) had an apartment in the city and I had the studio for 20-odd years in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. We both grew up on Long Island, so we grew up close to the water but for whatever reason, we both had an affinity for the mountains. One summer – I think it was about the year 2000 – we had enough friends up here that we could spend two or three weeks up here as vagabonds, throughout the Catskills. We went to different regions, but this region in Delaware County was very appealing to us. There was something about the topography, the landscape and the history of all this that suited us very well.

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Daily Catskills Lightbox: Country Dog

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Alfie, the black lab/shepherd mix, was found in the Kingston ASPCA and is not only gorgeous, but the most charismatic, noble, extraverted, well-mannered and strong dog I have ever known. He was picked up as a stray puppy in Louisiana and I can imagine him now, having decided to break for freedom as early as possible, quickly making his escape and never looking back. He was driven north with a car full of other dogs to the Catskills by animal rescuers. He’s the best model a photographer ever had and is extraordinarily protective, but is slightly bossy and master of a very effective side-eye. When we left him in the shelter to wait for our references to be checked, I could hear him barking at us from the front door. Showing hardly any signs of shelter anxiety common in other rescued dogs, he bounced back like the trouper he is and has doubled in size in the two years we have had him. We rescued a 38lb puppy and now we have a 80lb bruiser. He’s now a card-carrying country dog.

Chasing Honey Farms: Spring Update

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The three pesticide-free beehives that were installed last May on Chasing Honey Farms natural apiary in Fleischmanns have survived the winter. Moreover, the bees have been collecting pollen for the last two weeks. When it was 80F in the middle of March, all three hives were active.

Proprietor Chase Kruppo had to start his beehives from scratch again a year ago because the bees he had installed the previous year had died over the winter. Once the new bees were installed in their hives on May 2nd last year, they were left to their own devices with wax foundations in the hives.

Chase is opposed to doing any artificial feeding of established colonies, but to start them last year, he said they definitely need a little boost. They arrived before the blossom, so they got one serving of sugar water for a week or two, in a one gallon bucket via the drip method. Chase noticed that the bees had stopped using the sugar water a week or two after going in the hive so he removed it. The carniolan bees had already surprised him with their industriousness, because they had formed a patty of wax comb inside the box in which they were transported.

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Daily Catskills Lightbox: 05/25/15

Hand picking worms off the organic apple trees in a young orchard. Last year was a banner year for apples in the Catskills.

© J.N. Urbanski 5/25/15 1.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 5/25/15 1.30pm

Daily Catskills Lightbox: 04/09/15

This year’s April is a mixture of rain and snow, much like last year’s, which included an ice storm on the evening of 4/8/15 that coated trees, walls and cars in a layer of ice. Over that morning it began to melt and, as the ice was shaken through the trees in the breeze, it issued a loud tinkling sound like nature’s freezing wind chime.

© J.N. Urbanski 4/9/15 8.48am

© J.N. Urbanski 4/9/15 8.48am

© J.N. Urbanski 4/9/15 8.30am

© J.N. Urbanski 4/9/15 8.30am

 

 

Catskills Sandwich: Roast Beef

© J.N. Urbanski 3/10/16

© J.N. Urbanski 3/10/16

The Phoenicia Diner revamped its roast beef sandwich this year. They toasted the bread, added melted brie to the juicy grass-fed beef making this classic sandwich much more delicious. Moreover, it’s a reasonable size for a sandwich, not a gigantic doorstop that’s a whole day’s worth of calories and enough meat to clog your colon for weeks.

Daily Catskills Lightbox: 4/04/15 & 04/05/15

A year ago on the farm. We’re surprised to see snow this time of year, but last week’s warmer weather, which saw laundry drying quickly in the sun, was more unusual than yesterday’s snowstorm.

© J.N. Urbanski 4/4/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/4/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/5/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/5/15

 

 

Catskills Sandwich: Avocado & Arugula

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Bread Alone’s cucumber, apple, celeraic, sprouts, arugula pesto comes on organic ciabatta bread, but is much better on wheat. Crunchy, chewy and refreshing all at the same time, if that’s possible: a delicious Catskills sandwich.

Catskills Cocktails: Local Blueberry Infused Vodka

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

We’ve taken one of the last batches of our 2015 organic blueberry and golden raspberry crops out of the freezer, have thawed them out, and now soaking them in Union Grove Distillery’s local Vly Creek Vodka to make a fruity, alcoholic mixer. See you in six weeks.

Daily Catskills’ Lightbox: 04/01/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/1/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/1/15

Daily Catskills is taking a break for a month while we edit and print for the exhibition. It’s been a long, arduous project but it’s time to go back and review literally thousands and thousands of pictures taken over 18 months. We’ve slid down icy mountain passes and crashed into trees; wandered into a sudden low lightning storms; suffered hail, fog, snow and sub-zero temperatures atop mountain peaks. We’ve also got enigmatic pictures of writing desks and afternoon tea to balance it out and many, many pictures of the absolute best Catskills sandwiches. On many days, I personally took over a hundred pictures, but the editing process has been richly rewarding. Today’s lightbox pictures were taken in the Catskills on April 1st, the first day of fly fishing season.

Daily Catskills will start up again on May 1st. We still have eleven bushwhacks to go to complete our Catskills 35, which I started last August, so the photographs from the trail will still keeping coming. The Catskills 3500 Club membership requires that members have hiked all the Catskills’ 35 peaks over 3500ft. We have three regular peaks (with trails) and eleven bushwhacks to complete on our list. Plus, we will resume Catskills Conversations next week with a local artist.

Thanks for reading!

J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski 4/1/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/1/15