Now that the sun sets at 4.30pm and night falls before dinner, the journey to Saturday night eats becomes more romantic. Almost an hour spent on winding, country roads, through picturesque towns like Roxbury and Gilboa – site of one of the Catskills’ famous dams – to Preston Hollow is like winter film noir. Bright squares of light from homesteads and farmhouses flash by in the waning dusk and you catch fleeting glimpses of the toughest work days being put away. Farmers enjoying their own dinner at tables are spotted briefly through front windows. A farmer’s work is never done though and those farmers who have full-time jobs have to tend to animals through the night or help family members milk cows.
Heather Ridge Farm’s supper club is lit and furnished for a minimum number of diners – about 20 are seated snugly in the small dining room – and for maximum coziness. Soft candlelight, warm buttered scones and sheepskin covered chairs greet the customers who are seated family style and conversation is struck up congenially among guests as the wine is poured. Chef Rob Handel emerges from the spacious kitchen to explain each course and there’s the mid-dinner issue of a farm report that will make your job look easy. This year the Catskills – and probably beyond – experienced a debilitating drought which changed the landscape and required the regular carrying of water uphill to a drying lake. Some years they have experienced torrential rain and if they had only had a warning, we discover, then they would have installed gravel in the very muddy areas beforehand for ease of walking. Farming requires such intensive land management. It’s not a bucolic frolic. Although beginning next year visitors may be able to stay for the weekend on the farm and help out.
Heather Ridge Farm operates Bees Knees Cafe year-round on weekends from 11am to 3pm, offering “both farmed and foraged local ingredients. We feature our own meat and poultry products as well as seasonal foods from other local and regional farms”. There’s a farm store offering a wide variety of meat, vegetables and sheepskin products. They also offer a catering service, on their farm or at your location. Upstate Dispatch favorite is Rob Handel’s nettle soup, which is possibly the best vegetable soup ever tasted.
The Supper Club menu is prudent eating and perfectly satisfying without being heavy. The stomach goes home full but somehow light, in a good way. A late night dinner can often settle in the belly and outstay its welcome like an undigested brick, but not this fare. You’ll feel good about it, like the chef carefully planned it that way. There’ll be no bloating expansion over the waist band, or bursting out of your dress, requiring the need to lay down.
Last night’s menu was a delicious, hearty mix: beverages like homemade root beer and maple cream soda, garlic soup, charcuterie that included chicken bratwurst, kale and beet salad and a chocolate cake dessert with porcini ice-cream. The main course, which was a generous portion, was guinea fowl (which I misheard as Skinny Fowl) with maple mustard sauce and sweet potato mash. The fragrant, tender and juicy meat was a fine compliment to the sweet mash. A first class, scrumptious and authentic farm dinner in the heart of Schoharie County.
The Supper Club happens once a month and the next takes place on December 10th. Cost per person is $75 and you may bring your own wine or beer. Reservation is required.
Heather Ridge Farm
989 Broome Center Road
Preston Hollow, NY 12469