It’s no secret that increasing numbers of people here in the northeast are turning to farming in order to have more control of their food supply and their economy. The average age of the American farmer was quoted as being 54 years old, but that’s bound to lower significantly as young people return to the profession in droves. Not only is the Catskills being enriched by new farmers, but also by entrepreneurs, innovators, producers and artists, all contributing to the local economy in meaningful ways. New Yorkers are moving up from the city to have more space, breathe fresh air, eat better food and re-connect with nature. Laura Silverman and Juliette Hermant moved from New York City to the Catskills, in 2009 and 2012 respectively to do just that. The two met when Silverman “was poking around” in Hermant’s store in Narrowsburg. “I bought a large, 1920s brick building and breathed new life into it,” says Hermant, a painter and photographer. “I filled it with antiques and vintage pieces, 90% of which are local to the Catskills. I set about trying to engage with the community to work on revitalizing the area.”
Before long, a friendship blossomed. Says Silverman, “her hospitality felt very genuine and her personal style is quite inspiring. We share an appreciation for slow living. Although at the moment, what with opening a new business, the pace has quickened!”
The new business is Fish & Bicycle a new cafe and grocery opening at the end of the summer in Narrowsburg, named by a playful, feminist twist of the hipster paradigm with the ubiquitous ampersand: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, which Silverman attributes to Irina Dunn, the Australian writer and activist. Although Silverman says, “’needs’ is the operative word, but there’s no doubt we want to have men around!”
Says Hermant: “my clients always wanted to spend more time in my shop, to soak up that ambience. At first I considered opening a small grocery, but I thought we could take it a step further with a café that would support our local agriculture and create a gathering place. Then I met Laura and her delicious alchemy inspired the bar.”
They both have been doing their homework having done feasibility studies, written a business plan and started a noteworthy Indiegogo campaign that finishes on June 1st to fund the restaurant’s construction project.
Other research has included Silverman doing double shifts behind the scenes in New York City restaurants, but she already has extensive knowledge of food, farming and foraging. “I’m very passionate about the power of food and how it affects our own wellbeing and that of the planet. And I love to cook for people, to nourish and delight them.”
Already something of a local luminary through her food blog Glutton for Life, her meticulously well-written essays in Hudson Valley Edible, a local newspaper column and radio show, she is now preparing the live version for us. Silverman will be Executive Chef of the new venture, developing the menu of both drinks and food, but they “are looking for someone who shares their passion and vision to be in the kitchen”. Interested chefs, servers and bartenders should get in touch with the pair, as they will be hiring.
The menu will start small with “an emphasis on fresh, herbaceous cocktails and the kind of bold, flavor-packed bites you crave to go with them”. Everything they serve will be based on what’s in season and available in the area. Ingredients will largely be sourced from farms and purveyors of the region, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs; local trout; grass-fed meats and dairy; grains; honey and maple syrup; and beer, wine, cider and spirits.
“We love eating foods that are grown, raised and foraged locally, because the Catskills is so rich in wonderful ingredients. We’ll be putting our own spin on them, with cocktails and small plates influenced by the places we’ve traveled – from France to Mexico to India – and by a desire to feel satisfied and sustained in a healthy way.”