69F by mid-afternoon, bright and sunny.
58F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy with hovering mist and sporadic rain.
75F by mid-afternoon with rippled, early morning clouds evaporating in the brilliant sunshine.
The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.
It’s spruce tip season: fresh, new tree growth at the tips of the branches of evergreen conifer trees present as vibrant, brilliant green nuggets about the size of a nut, varying between the sizes of a peanut and a pecan. They are instantly recognizable as a completely different color than the rest of the needles on the branch, from a distance looking like a Christmas tree has come down with forest chicken pox. For the past few weeks, they have been encased in a papery brown or fleshy red covering (that ejects clouds of a dense, yellow pollen when shaken), which they are now shedding to reveal the green tips. Continue reading
75F by mid-afternoon, sunny with wispy cloud. Clouds of yellow and green pollen coursing through the air and gathering on cars, barns and houses as if spring can’t stop sneezing. The may flies endure.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part 2: Historic Proclamation of 1913
Mr. Julius Fleischmann and Mr. Max Fleischmann,
heirs to Senator Fleischmann, have offered
their good wishes and
the six and a half acre parcel
known as the Fleischmann Mountain Athletic Grounds
to the people of the Village of Griffin Corners,
to be used by the people in perpetuity,
insofar as no admission can be charged
for any event within the park and
that the park be called Fleischmann Park, and
a sum of fifty thousand dollars be on deposit
in the village bank for the endowment of the park.
Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Fleischmann sincerely acknowledge
the intention of the village to change its name to Fleischmanns. Continue reading
52F by mid-afternoon, overcast, windy. Occasional patches of blue floating in the gloomy sky like empty spaces in a jigsaw puzzle.
54F by mid-afternoon, overcast, steady rain with periods of sunshine. More gloom, mist and steaming, soggy landscape.
48F by noon. Continuous rain, wet, muddy, gloomy and overcast.
The Zephyr’s Chili on the dinner menu stands out for its lightness, uncharacteristic for a chili bowl, achieved by the addition of sweet, juicy chunks of tomato amongst the beans. You won’t go home with a brick in your stomach, but you’ll have enough fuel for a long walk in the country air, the wet, wet, gloomy country air. I took a couple of bites of the cheesy biscuits, wrapped the rest up in a napkin and ate them later. Where’s spring? Yesterday was warmer at 62F and cloudy with some late afternoon sun. Today: more rain. My seasonal affective disorder is only just held at bay by remembering how low the Catskills reservoirs were last year and how much they need replenishing. Spring has been more of a gastronomical tour around the mountains, ducking into restaurants, sitting at the bar and trying some of the Catskills’ best fare. Try also, Traveler’s White Tea with Hibiscus, (which also goes well as a vodka mixer).
The experiment with essential oils used as a tick repellent continues and our success rate appears to be 100% so far. The dog and I have been foraging in the forest three times this week for 1-3 hours at a time and we’ve returned with no ticks. So, pictured above, you can see a air-travel-size bottle full of water into which we’ve put 10 drops of each essential oil: lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree. Shake for a few seconds before applying to your shoes, trousers, cuffs, belt and all over the hat. Sadly, this does not keep away the may flies that continue to dive-bomb our eyeballs. I’m also not doing audacious things like lying down in the brush to take a picture. That’s just begging for a tick in the ears, hair and everywhere, in my humble opinion.
For the dog, this is a miracle and all we’ve done is spray the top half of his collar with the liquid, not the bottom half because we don’t want him to be engulfed in the fumes, allowing the collar dry in the sun for a few minutes before we put it back on him. He’s an adorable, obedient lab who only cares about running and hugging, so he only objects to whatever stops him from doing these two things. He can handle smells. Your dog may not. For the record, we haven’t put Frontline on our dog since April 10th.
So, because of this experiment’s success, I have not been able to catch a tick and test more essential oils on it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
62F by mid-afternoon, scattered clouds, but warm in the sun with a cool breeze.
It may not be on the menu for much longer because it’s a winter warmer, but even though the apple blossom is being attended by huge bumble bees and brilliant greens are creeping up the mountains , it’s still colder than a well digger’s belt buckle up on the peaks. Let Phoenicia Diner’s luscious, juicy meatloaf, drenched in tasty mushroom gravy, stick to your ribs one more time. The sun may be out, but there’s still some thawing to do. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the spring frosts.
54F by mid-afternoon, chilly but warm in the sunshine once the clouds cleared late afternoon.
Foraging is not only an excellent way to supplement your diet, but it reduces your carbon footprint. I hear a lot of people complaining about climate change and foraging is a way to be some part of the solution. Eating whatever’s in your garden is the best way to put your money where your mouth is. Why have that salad sent from California when you have wood sorrel, dandelion greens, ramps, thistle roots, winter cress, burdock, plantain and wild lettuce on your property? Don’t spray your weeds; eat them. Some hardcore carnivores would be surprised to find that these foraged greens have any nutrition at all, but if you spend dark winters watching the deer battle on through a driving blizzard at zero degrees, knowing that they only eat vegetation, you have all the proof you need. Foraging is fun and hiking is the best exercise, gentle enough for everyone. Sorrel is has the taste of spinach with a lemony zing. Spruce tips, which are out now, are a little unusual with a taste reminiscent of citrus.
48F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy.
This is Part One of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part One: On the Porch at Fleischmanns
36F at 8.30am with a layer of overnight snow melting in the sun, chilly and overcast with the snow flakes swirling in the wind. 44F by mid-afternoon.
46F by mid-afternoon, humid and overcast with continual misty rain. A good day to forage, harvest, cook and preserve.
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, dreary and continual rain with occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.
50F by mid-afternoon, gusty winds, overcast, heavy rain leaving mist over the mountains.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that the charcuterie board at Peekamoose was my go-to dish at the restaurant and somebody asked why that was. Well, it could be the tangy mustard, or the juicy, sweet onion topping, or the chicken liver pate on warm, soft chunks of toast that are gently soaked in house-made, herb butter. It’s the pastrami, though, that seals the deal. It’s like New York City pastrami is all grown up now and moved to the country. Thickly sliced into slabs, it’s mouthwatering grass-fed beef that’s tender, pulls easily, yet retains its juiciness and special because it’s not too fatty or greasy.
This weekend, try the charcuterie board, before you see Prelude to a Kiss playing at the STS Playhouse and take out some dessert on the way home.
Did someone yell Cocktail? I have all this forsythia syrup and didn’t preserve it, so I need to use it all up before it goes bad. What better way to put syrup to good use than a twist on a couple of classic whiskey cocktails: a John Collins and a New York Cocktail. The simple syrup is replaced in both cocktails by forsythia syrup, the earthy tones of which are compatible with a good Scotch and the lemon. Find my forsythia syrup recipe here.
This first is similar to a John Collins, but made with Scotch and missing the fruity garnishes. The second is a New York Cocktail without the grenadine.
51F by mid-afternoon, chilly, windy and overcast with a sunny afternoon.
Two years ago, I saw Proof at the STS Playhouse in Phoenicia and it was riveting and engaging. At the time, I called it “remarkable: deeply engrossing, funny with excellent performances from the cast. Proof explores the world of madness and mathematics”. It was a great production, starring Jennifer Paul, Farrell Reynolds, Stephen Powell and Kimberly Kay.
This year the Playhouse is putting on a production of Prelude to a Kiss, by Craig Lucas, directed by Michael Koegel, owner of Mama’s Boy Burgers. You may remember the movie with Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. Opening night is this weekend, May 5th, running until May 21st. Make a perfect night of it and get early dinner and drinks at nearby Peekamoose Restaurant– the play starts at 8pm.
STS Playhouse, 10 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY. Tickets $20 or $18 for seniors and students. Call 845-688-2279, or click here for more information.
58F at 9am, raining, overcast and humid. Last night’s rain gushing down the mountains. Breezy afternoon.
68F by mid-afternoon, humid, breezy, mostly overcast with lunchtime sun. Update: torrential overnight rain and turbulent storms across the region.
Another gigantic pile of deliciousness from The Zephyr in Pine Hill: their zucchini fritters. Two medium-plate-sized fritter rounds cut into halves is the entrée version (and half as much food for the starter dish). The image above, taken on the fly, does not do the fritters justice. They were not too doughy; just the right combination of firm and moist; sprinkled with cheese; drizzled with three sauces: a creamy garlic sauce, thick balsamic vinegar and some sort of herb oil. The whole thing was to die for, washed down with Traveler’s white tea with hibiscus. A memorable dish on the luscious list.
50F by mid-afternoon, chilly, and overcast with morning rain continuing from the previous day. New green shoots brighten the dull brush. A flash of sun just before dusk.
One of our first spring crops: a stand of asparagus. There’s nothing like cutting off a fresh stalk and eating it raw, still warm from the sun. Surprisingly juicy, the first bite of raw asparagus is also a satisfying crunch.
Back when we bought our house in 2007, there no ticks and for years we walked around barefoot on our property in our forest; rolled around on the lawn; foraged; did the gardening unimpeded by these infamous insects. In retrospect, I think it might have been the elevation that saved us because we are on a ridge at about 2400 ft in Delaware County. We are quite exposed to the elements and have superb soil drainage. Even in the most torrential rain there are only a couple of small patches of our six-acre property that get waterlogged. Ticks desiccate very quickly in hot, dry conditions. I found an article in Forbes that said scientists say ticks are killed after six minutes in the dryer on hot. When we got our dog, Alfie in 2014 I found my first (and only) tick when I was throwing the ball for him, a year and six months after we rescued him. I felt it bite my wrist and flicked it off as it tried to embed. Then I went immediately to the emergency room where they told me to go home. A few days later, I drove to Kingston where a doctor prescribed me an antibiotic and gave me a free refill for the future.
77F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine. Asparagus sundial.
75F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine after a gloomy start to the day, following a few sombre, rainy days. Spring springs once more.
UD: What brought you to the Catskills?
RA: My husband Mark and I would travel north from our Pennsylvania home just on a whim. This was before we had our daughter Isabella. We always ended up coming home from Lake Placid, the Adirondacks or wherever we ended up, through the Catskills. After we had our little girl and we weren’t traveling around the world anymore, we decided to get a vacation home here. Then once my daughter was of age to go to kindergarten, we made a decision to move here, so that she could start kindergarten here and not have to move mid-term.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an egg as delicious as this: bright orange yolks, rich, sweet and creamy, almost like a dessert when soft-boiled on toast and in yesterday’s salad! Leigh Melander, a colleague at WIOX and founder of Spillian bought a bucket of eggs into the radio station to share. Leigh says her hens, who are completely free range, are very happy and I believe her. They were presented with some art a few days ago and all flocked around to inspect it.
Part of the lure to the country or Upstate New York, apart from the fresh air, is the local food. It’s worth battling five months of winter for glorious food like this. When wholesome food of this calibre becomes an expensive luxury in the city, it’s time to move upstate where your neighbors bring you eggs, cheese, bread, jam or any number of spring items that they have produced on their homestead. Just the fragrant aroma of a homegrown tomato feels like a miracle.Local, country board meetings are never without something homemade to pass around like goat’s cheese or bread. This second rainy and gloomy day of the week has been lit up like a summer’s day by simple eggs on toast using local bread.
Winter is tough up here, but the spring rewards are like Sunday Best, not taken for granted and savored all the more.
Forsythia, which is in bloom at the moment, is a shrub that produces gorgeous bright yellow flowers in the spring before its leaves start to shoot. After attending Rob Handel’s Wild Edibles class last week, I discovered that I had a huge forsythia bush on my property and that now is the time to make forsythia syrup with the flowers on this shrub.
71F by noon, warm with hazy sunshine.
68F by mid-afternoon: clear skies, hot and sunny.
This week, I interviewed Steve Burnett, the Bovina Farmer, on my radio show and tonight at 6pm, I’ll be a guest on his show The Tickler with his co-host Julian Richards, a fellow Brit.
The show is described thusly: “It’s like a culinary bungee. No sooner have we reached the apex of the bounce than we’re back at the chopping board with bloody fingers. Sunday 23rd, The Tickler welcomes writer, thinker and chronicler of all things Catskills – Jenny Urbanski – for a spot of dinner and a litre of wine (Delco Speedball). We’ll point at each other and laugh; and traffic in truth, the only currency.”
Prepare for utter absurdity, devout irreverence, and some senseless hilarity while we explore the meaning of life. Tune in.
TONIGHT 6pm, streaming live on www.wioxradio.org.
What an honor to be on the Board of Trustees at Woodchuck Lodge and what a privilege to be able to peruse his 100-year-old collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines, a magazine that is still in existence today. For the writer, this is a rare treat; though the copies are tattered and fading, they still adequately convey the times. Burroughs was published by The Atlantic his nature essays appeared regularly in his life and career. It’s a co-incidence that on Earth Day, April 22nd, I had access to his entire collection of magazines when on The Atlantic website there are details of today’s climate march for science in New York City.
Back in the day, Peekamoose Restaurant made this incredibly delicious cucumber gazpacho, which is no longer on the menu, that reminded me of England, where we love our cucumber in all its forms because it’s so refreshing. English cucumbers are different to the cucumbers that you find here in the US. They are lighter, softer, less dense and go well in smoothies. Years ago, Marybeth, the owner, once reeled off a list of ingredients for their gazpacho and the next day I tried to remember what they were. (I’d had a couple of drinks). After some experimentation, I believe I have mastered it. To continue the theme of giving the gut a spring clean, here’s another raw, vegan recipe that’s cooling, simple, easy and nutritious.
Three medium sized English cucumbers
Half cup of raw almonds
Half cup of water
10 grapes or half an apple
Three teaspoons of olive oil
Half teaspoon of salt
Half teaspoon of pepper
48F, overcast and gloomy. Chilly in historical reading rooms.
57F by mid-afternoon, humid and gloomy. Still life with scents.
Last night, Rob Handel, chef at Heather Ridge Farm, impressed a large crowd packed into the Catskill Center with his knowledge on wild edibles and foraging. After conducting a talk on how to incorporate wild vegetables into our diet by producing tinctures, ferments and syrups, he brought out some delicious, earthy, wholesome food to taste that made the taste buds come alive.
Endive stuffed with porcini mushroom pate topped with ramp pesto accompanied by carrot, burdock root and garlic grass salad (pictured above).
A pickled milk weed pod
Forsythia Syrup with Soda
Some of the ingredients in last night’s tasting were foraged recently: forsythia is available now and ramps are coming up. The nettle soup was fresh and exquisite. Some ingredients were preserved; the pickled milk weed pod tasted like a larger, yet much more subtle, caperberry. The crowd was so large for this event, not only because Rob is so knowledgable, answering everyone’s follow-up – and non-follow up/general experience – questions with ease, but because wild edibles are becoming very popular. Gradually, people are turning away from traditional foods and taking a keen interest in the wildly diverse tastes of foraged herbs, funghi and vegetables that they can find on their property like garlic mustard, burdock, nettle leaf, sumac, dandelion, sheep sorrel, milk weed, porcini and more. This kind of rare, unusual – and FREE! – food excites the taste buds. Plus, it’s fun to forage. Rob recommended a few books, one of which was The Joy of Foraging by Gary Lincoff.
50F at 9am, fog receding into the mountains leaving a dewy landscape. 61F by mid-afternoon with torrential early evening rain. Wet.
55F by mid-afternoon, overcast, humid, and raining. Spring takes a break.
On my jaunts around the neighborhood, I regularly bump into people who love Upstate Dispatch. Last week, a reader told me: “I love the site! I just wish there was more of it”. Me too!
Upstate Dispatch takes hundreds of hours per month to research and write. All of the food and drink you see reviewed here has been paid for, with one exception, and where tickets are sold to local cooking, foraging, writing and art classes, they have been purchased. In the past, when we’ve had contributors, we have paid them. As I a writer, I believe artists and writers should not have to work for free. We are also an advertisement-free site, so we rely on donations.
If you love reading Upstate Dispatch, please consider donating. Future donations will fund a small summer arts and literary studio in the local village for Upstate Dispatch. We want to expand our coverage over the summer, move into the community, and revive the Catskills Conversations series, shedding more light on our local luminaries and their stories.
Lastly, I want to thank our past donors who have expressed their appreciation of Upstate Dispatch in a meaningful way. I’m sincerely and immensely grateful for the love!
Please find our donation page here.
55F by mid-afternoon, mostly clear and sunny with distant clouds on the horizon.
68F by mid-afternoon, with hazy sunshine and breezy. Tiny rhubarb emerges.
79F by mid-afternoon with a cool breeze and cotton wool clouds that turned grey and burst early evening.
62F and sunny with wispy clouds. The forest springs to life under the hemlocks.
The new bowl on the block: the sensational ramen with braised pork at Peekamoose. Ramen can be too salty but not this one. House made noodles with a soft boiled egg, kale and some very tender braised pork, all in a mouthwateringly delicate chicken broth. Move over, charcuterie board, you are no longer the go-to. Wait, I didn’t mean that.
60F by mid-afternoon, clear skies and sunny with a slight chill in the air.
It’s Catskills Restaurant Week this week and today, April 14th, is the final day. Last night’s dinner by Ate-O-Ate Food Truck catered at Union Grove Distillery was a choice of two delicious full course meals for $35 plus tax and tip. Drinks were separate.