Tag Archives: Catskill Mountains

Taste Buds Gone Wild

© J.N. Urbanski

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

Nettle Soup

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.

Donate

© J.N. Urbanski 6/16/15 12.39

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.

Happy Spring!

J.N. Urbanski

Peekamoose’s Ramen Bowl

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

Spring Links

© J.N. Urbanski

Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map – a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers”. And:We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history. There are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44″.

A story with a happy conclusion – an urban farmer saves his “gangsta garden”.

An article on how to combat ticks around your property.

The New Farmer’s Almanac Volume III from The Greenhorns, “360 pages of original agrarian content, essays, cartoons, imagery and historical snippets—harnesses the wisdom of over 120 contributors from our community of new farmers and ranchers”.

Will our senator, farm-friendly Kirsten Gillibrand run for President?

The US military “marches forward on clean energy”. New York State sees an 800% growth in solar power according to CNBC. On solar power and renewable energy for new jobs; a new solar experiment in Brooklyn; Panasonic makes a new solar panel for Tesla.

I have thought that a good test of civilization, perhaps one of the best, is country life.” John Burroughs

Life Drawing at Willow Drey Farm, Andes

© Sandy Finkenberg courtesy of William Duke

William Duke, owner of Willow Drey Farm is hosting a life drawing event on Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm in their beautiful barn overlooking the rolling mountains of Andes. The barn is an event space, the site of many a summer wedding and, for an artist, a gorgeous setting in which to work on figure drawing for three hours with a nude model. We’re lucky to find people willing to take their clothes off! Life drawing is a deeply meditative exercise and focussing intently for three hours really brings one’s sketching skills up to speed. If you’re interested in sitting for the group, or joining the group, please contact William Duke here.

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Daily Catskills: 04/04/17

Torrential overnight rains continued into morning and throughout the day with a high of 50F. Mist hanging over a drenched, humid landscape: large puddles, rushing rivers, streams, gullies. New green shoots point upwards like the beaks of little hungry chicks.

© J.N. Urbanski 5pm

Fly Fishing: Roger Menard’s Tale of the Esopus

© J.N. Urbanski

This week I interviewed Roger and Lisa Menard on the subject of fly fishing and Roger read the remarks that he gave to the Angler’s Club of NY in New York City in November 2009 on fishing the River Esopus. Here’s the full transcript:

The Esopus The Way It Was by Roger Menard

It has been nearly fifty years since Keith Fulsher and I were invited to the Angler’s Club to show a film I had taken of Keith tying streamer flies. On that evening I had the pleasure of meeting Guy Jenkins, a correspondent and friend of Theodore Gordon, the father of the dry fly in America. Since I had previously met both Roy Steenrod and Herman Christian, for me this completed meeting Gordon’s circle of friends.

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Weekend Links: 03/23/17

© J.N. Urbanski

Saturday March 25th, Trout Tales: All Things Fly Fishing at Spillian in Fleischmanns.

Saturday March 25th, The Tanning Industry and How It’s Changed at the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper.

Saturday March 25th, Designing with Native Plants at the Phoenicia Library.

Saturday March 25th, Childrens’ Art Workshop at MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street in Hobart, NY. Students aged 6-12 will learn about using color in art and then create their own cray-pas on canvas painting. All necessary materials and instruction will be provided and creativity will be encouraged. The cost for this workshop is $5 and sign up is available through the workshop page on the MURAL website or by calling the gallery at (607) 538-3002.

If you’re a landowner and wish to lease your land to farmers, here’s a workshop running on April 1st in Delaware County and April 8th in Otsego County, that might be useful from CADE, the Center for Agricultural Development & Enterpreneurship.

Buses converted into mobile grocery stores for low income neighborhoods: a great idea for the Catskills.

Thirteen things I learnt as a market farmer, from Women Who Farm.

Old books converted into art and sculpture.

Catskills Sandwich: Mean Green Burger of Windham

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Half a pound of Angus beef served with either fries or salad; it’s the jalapeno mayonnaise sauce that gives this juicy burger a hearty kick to the palate with melted smoked gouda cheese, sliced dill pickles and lettuce. The bun is also up to the challenge, remaining steadfast despite the onslaught of sauce, which will run over and douse the perfectly cooked fries: crispy outer shell and fluffy potato within and possibly the best fries in the Catskills (along with the steak fries at Boiceville Inn). The Mean Green from Catskill Mountain Country Store and Restaurant is wholly delicious.

Food & Health Links

© J.N. Urbanski

Biodynamic farming is on the rise wherein farmers integrate their crops and animals. “I’m trying to feed my neighbors – and if everyone did that, we would be able to replicate this,” says one California Farmer.

The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff, as recommended by writer Laura Silverman.

A brief article about Lyme from NPR. A local event focussing on Lyme at Table on Ten in Bloomville. Another good article about Lyme research from NPR here. Note that these experts say that most people are bitten while gardening because ticks lurk in their hedgerows.

Sound advice from the National Audubon Society on keeping ticks at bay.

Pure Catskills brochure is an excellent guide to farm stands, markets, farms, restaurants, stores, producers and much more in the Catskills: an invaluable resource.

It’s maple season: find our list of maple syrup sellers and producers here in the Catskills and some of the beautifully designed packaging makes these products excellent gifts. Maple syrup is vegan and packed full of vital nutrients.

Daily Catskills: 03/10/17

Gusty winds bringing isolated snow showers all night and into the morning, coating the landscape once again with fresh powder after a warm week. 25F by mid-afternoon with high winds and dappled grey sky. Dangerous wind chill warning for this evening.

© J.N. Urbanski 12.45pm

Shop Locally

© J.N. Urbanski

March is Women’s History Month and March 8th has been declared A Day Without A Woman during which women are called to abstain from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping and wear red in solidarity with all underpaid, disadvantaged ladies everywhere. Basically, women are called to strike and stop shopping. The one exception is that we are called to shop only from small, minority-owned or female-owned businesses and that’s significant for us in the Catskills because there are more female entrepreneurs here than I can count. In fact, this entire region is teeming with female entrepreneurs. There are nutritionists, filmmakers, farmers, producers, artists galore, writers, photographers, stylists, hoteliers, store keepers and bar owners, all doing there thing up here in the fresh air of the mountains where living is the hardest, as opposed to nearby fertile valleys like the Hudson. The growing season is shorter here in the upper elevations, the soil is rockier and we are at the mercy of the harshest elements. Female farmers, I’m pretty sure, along with thousands of their compadres, can’t afford to down tools on Wednesday, because we don’t pay enough for our food. They must strive on, and we must help them by becoming their customers.

For those in NYC: please consider putting this list of female-owned businesses in the Catskills region on your radar and support them every day, not just out of protest.

Lizzie Douglas’s cafe, Stick in the Mud in Margaretville; the Cheese Barrel for all sorts of exotic sweets and chocolate; Tay Tea in Delhi; Vegan “cheeze” from Cheezehound in Fleischmanns; Homegoods of Margaretville; Northern Catskills Essentials for gifts, lotions soaps and cosmetics; Mural on Main Art Gallery; Amy’s Takeaway near Phoenicia; Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments; The Blue Barn, vintage goods and antiques in Shandaken; Earthgirl Pottery & Flowers in Callicoon; Maison Bergogne in Narrowsburg; Table on Ten in Bloomville; Betty Acres FarmTree Juice CSA from Lazy Crazy Acres; Roxbury General in Roxbury.

Update: Goods available to purchase online or by phone on Wednesday: Tay Tea, Cheezehound, Tree Juice Maple Syrup, Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments, Northern Catskills Essentials.

Catskills Sandwich: Bread Alone’s Banh Mi

© J.N. Urbanski

Bread Alone’s Banh Mi sandwich on their signature health bread, although it usually comes on a baguette: pulled pork with kimchee that’s the perfect balance between salty and spicy: juicy and delicious. The health bread is coated with seeds, thick and chewy without being dry like other thick whole wheat breads.

Literary Catskills

© J.N. Urbanski

“York state’s richest men wagered their principles
while her poorest hacked life from a hillside farm.”

I had lunch with Bill Birns, literally and literally: last week in person and today with a selection of his written works. A Catskill Catalog, borrowed from my local library, is an anthology of literary history, giving details of the stories behind local roads and place names, many of which are named after families and individuals who have lived in the area over the last two or three hundred years, or still do. For example, I didn’t know that the man after whom a nearby road was named, Basil Todd, was a short-form memoirist.

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Weekend Links: 02/23/17

© J.N. Urbanski 1.50pm

Weekend camping resets the body clock, says the BBC.

Saturday February 25th: A group reading of Macbeth with beer at Reynolds & Reynolds in Woodstock.

Cosmik Ice Cream, maker of freeze-dried ice cream that will never melt, visits Woodchuck Lodge. In these temperatures, nothing is melting up here, but for us trustees of Woodchuck Lodge, this is lovely publicity.

Governor Cuomo pledges $8 million in state funds for Belleayre Ski Resort.

Woodstock Farm Festival looking for vendors.

The Catskills’ own Lisbeth Firmin’s talk “Painting and Prints” on March 17th at William & Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education in North Carolina.

Catskill Center is accepting applications for the Platte Clove Artist in Residence Program.

Catskills Pie: Zephyr’s Chicken Pot Pie

© J.N. Urbanski

The Zephyr in Pine Hill is a meat-and-potatoes restaurant in the metaphorical sense that it offers all the fundamental, everyday dishes without the stodge: very generous portions of hearty staples that aren’t overwhelmed by heavy sauces or congealing in butter. (They do offer some vegetarian and vegan options). Zephyr’s dinners are your regular squares with extra care: refreshing versions of your favorite meals. The “deconstructed” chicken pot pie consists of a lot of braised chicken in a gorgeous pan sauce tumbling over a hill of creamy mashed spuds, all topped with a wedge of puff pastry. The advantage here is that you can pick up the crust and dip it in the gravy. If you’re not used to eating such huge portions, this dish passes the overnight test and came out of the fridge the next morning ready to put in a sandwich, the chicken and mash having retained their softness without being fatty.

For a leftover chicken sandwich, cut the chicken chunks lengthways into small slices; butter two pieces of toast and lay the chicken on both slices of toast. Put the mashed potatoes into a small milk pan with a small knob of butter and mash with a fork until warm. Pile the mashed potato on top of the chicken and close the sandwich. Use the leftover gravy to dip the sandwich in. Delicious.

The Zephyr, 302 Main Street, Pine Hill, NY 12465.

Recipe: Golden Milk

© J.N. Urbanski

All the things I love and consume regularly like caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and sugar all take a toll on the body; this is especially so if you’re obsessed with tea and have to drink it around the clock. I love a hot toddy or mulled port in the evening by the fire, but If you’re looking for a fragrant winter beverage that is healthful and tasty, try Golden Milk, which I discovered last week at an event at Spillian, where Liza Belle was simmering a pot of the milk on the stove while teaching a group how to make fire cider. This milk will provide a comforting winter warmer with some seriously beneficial ingredients, sweetened with maple syrup, which you can find at presently bustling sap houses all over the region.

Golden Milk
Serves Two

2 cups of coconut milk, oat or almond milk
1 tablespoon of grated turmeric root
2 tablespoons of grated, fresh ginger root
I tablespoon of powdered turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Mix together all the ingredients in a pan and gently bring to the boil while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Simmer gently on a low boil for about twenty minutes while stirring.

By all accounts, turmeric appears to be one of those miracle foods like Manuka honey or raw cranberry. I know a family member devoted to The People’s Pharmacy who swears by turmeric for burns. In fact, years ago she looked up a remedy for burns online and was instructed to put a popular brand of mustard on a severe burn and cover the area with a bandage. Hours later all traces of the burn were gone and it wasn’t until years later she discovered it was the turmeric used to color the mustard that worked the magic. I have a friend who is drinking turmeric beverages every morning and reports that her memory seems to be improving. A quick search of WebMD reveals that the spice is “believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties” and “several studies suggest that it might ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, like pain and inflammation”. An ancient Indian recipe calls for turmeric and honey in warm milk for cold symptoms and that’s worked for me in the past.

Powdered herbs and spices will keep for a while, but if you want to keep the actual roots of ginger and turmeric but don’t use them that often, you can store them in the freezer and grate them directly into the recipe while you’re preparing a dish. The grated root will thaw immediately once in a warm soup, sauce or drink but won’t be overcooked.

A Village Idiom: The Local Library

© J.N. Urbanski

A decent portion of my formative years was spent in the local library where, due to being English born in the seventies, my innocence was cruelly shattered by George Orwell. I don’t think Orwell or Golding is on the syllabus for eleven year olds these days, but for a sensitive soul like myself, the novels 1984 and Animal Farm ruined my taste for literature thereafter, but just being in a library now feels like home. My mother was an avid reader and our weekly trips to the library I will never forget, but sadly I don’t remember reading anything after being assaulted by Lord of the Flies, except for a feeble attempt at some Jane Austen and a lot of Oscar Wilde. Thanks to George, I switched to non-fiction.

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Daily Catskills: 02/03/17

A wide stretch of electric blue, after a week of low light and vibrant snow storms. Clouds sailing quickly along like they have warmer places to be. So many fresh tracks in the snow made it look like a Million Animal March. Perhaps there was an unofficial wildlife conference last night? 24F by mid-afternoon.

© J.N. Urbanski 9.40am

Fire Cider Making at Spillian

© J.N. Urbansk

Yesterday was Imbolc, a Gaelic holiday, celebrated by Christians as St Brigid’s Day, marking the first day of Spring. If the snow is low enough, snowdrops traditionally have always appeared at this time. Also yesterday  was the third annual World Fire Cider Day and Spillian held a class run by Liza Belle in the ancient tradition of making fire cider. Fire cider is an ancient folk remedy and winter tonic in which curative roots, herbs and spices are steeped in apple cider vinegar. The basic ingredients of fire cider are garlic, horseradish root, jalapeños, habaneros, ginger and onion all finely chopped and covered in apple cider vinegar. To this mix you can add extras like cinnamon, juniper berries, rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper, blood orange and rose hips, burdock root and turmeric. Last night, we chopped and chatted and went home with a can of fire cider to steep for six weeks.

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The Catskill 35: Rusk Mountain, a first attempt

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s good to know when to give up and turn around and yesterday was one of those days. Rusk Mountain, a bushwhack that seemed easy on paper, was an almost vertical ascent the way we went, covered in a layer of thick snow, making it difficult to maintain traction even in snow shoes. After an hour of climbing, slipping, sliding and clinging to tree branches, the final straw was the formiddable rock ledge (pictured above) that greeted me about 20 minutes from the top. There were tracks up the side of this ledge from hikers that were ahead of us, but the snow was crumbly and there were no tree roots or rocks for support. Plus, I was cold, fatigued and we had started too late, so we were in a bit of a rush. Last time I ignored the conditions, I slid 30 feet down a mountain and slammed into a tree. I learned my lesson back then.

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Weekend Links: Another January Closes

© J.N. Urbanski

Leave it to the inestimable Park Rangers to impress us with their louche cool and a rogue Twitter account – and those fantastic outfits. Get all the other hilarious rogue Twitter accounts here at CNN from NASA and other regional Park Service employees.

Tonight, a Scottish Weekend begins at the historical Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.

Catskill Park Coalition Information Session at the Catskill Center tomorrow, Saturday January 28th.

Next Friday, February 3rd, The Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center.

For writers, a Museum of Linguistics is arriving in Washinton DC called “Planet Word”.

Upstate Dispatch Retro Links

© J.N. Urbanski

A local cocktail, Vly Creek Vodka Lemonade with local maple syrup and vodka.

My description of the most breathtakingly beautiful climb on the Catskills 35, Balsam Mountain. My first peak on my mission to hike the Catskills 35, Panther Mountain. By the way, don’t steal signs! Hikers rely on them.

My thoughts on being introduced to camping.

A spring day out to plan: a swim in Big Pond, then a visit to buy some local trout.