A 62F high, nippy in the shade, but pleasant in the sun. This year’s Fall not half as exciting as the local trout from the Beaverkill on the menu at Peekamoose.
Rob Handel, the talented, dynamic and accomplished full-time chef at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow, grew up on a Catskills resort in Upstate New York and became interested in food at an early age through his grandmother, who ran the kitchen. “She really shared her love of food and cooking with me at an early age and I learnt a lot from her as a child. She sparked the interest in foraging in me. Whether the resort was there or not, I think her love of food would have been what turned me onto cooking in the first place,” he says.
After a short time away at college, Rob returned to work in the family resort, but quickly looked to further his career early: “I had been working with my family at the resort and I wanted to leave and strike out on my own and do something that involves more creativity and more latitude, using more local and foraged ingredients. You know, the resort was a classic Catskills family-style resort, so I was making roast beef for 150 people every night and that’s what those people wanted and it was a system that worked for them. But I wanted to be able to do more”. Continue reading
It’s blackberry season and they are sweeter and juicier this year. Berries in general grow well in the Catskills’ rocky soil and high elevation. A few years ago, a local farmer gave sage advice: grow whatever grows the best on your property and grow a lot of it. Blackberries are in abundance this year in the forests too and in fields we are seeing more huckleberries, a blueberry type fruit. We are also having a good apple season, although the apples on the heritage apple trees are not yet ripe.
Come to a party at Ella’s Mercantile in Halcottsville on Saturday August 12th beginning at 4pm.
Booze your way to good health with Laura Silverman’s recipe for a thyme cocktail for Well and Good Magazine: “if you feel the inkling of a late-summer cold coming on, it’s the perfect reason to get out your cocktail shaker”. If you need a reason, that is.
I’ve said it before, Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is full of scrumptious food and beverages like sausage pie, vodka, kimchee, restorative herbs and fresh royal jelly in addition to your farmer’s market staples like meat, vegetables, dairy, baked goods, mushrooms, and more booze. Nearby, just up the road, you will find Outsider’s Cafe for breakfast too.
Peace, love and food trucks in Bethel.
A blueberry pie eating contest in Woodstock next Wednesday.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a highly nutritious breakfast that looks like a chocolate pudding made with raw oats, avocado and nuts that makes a good replacement for oatmeal or porridge, if you need that sort of thing for kids or other family members who dislike it.
Vegan Raw Chocolate Oat Pudding
1 cup of oats soaked overnight in water or almond milk
Half a cup of water (additional to what the oats are soaking in)
1 medium avocado (peeled)
2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder or 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaped tablespoon of cashew cream (for recipe see previous post)
1 heaped tablespoon of almond cream (see below)
Chopped dried apricots or sugared fruit to garnish
Sometimes it’s your gut that needs a spring cleaning. I recently learned that juicing is not that good for you, that doctors feel it’s preferable that you eat all the fibre too, otherwise you’re just drinking a load of sugar-water. Allegedly, when you eat the whole fruit, the gut is lined with insoluble fibre that allows the rest of the fruit to pass through and reach your lower intestine where it’s munched on by beneficial bacteria. There have been many dodgy dietary practices in the past, but I don’t think eating more whole fruit, whole vegetables and nuts is one of those bad ideas that we’ll examine in the future and say, “what were we thinking”? Furthermore, cooking food destroys many of that food’s nutrients, so nutritionists recommend overnight soaking of nuts and grains instead. In this spirit, a small fortune has been spent at a local vegetarian supermarket to fill the fridge with homemade vegan and raw sauces, milks, puddings and butters to go in pancakes, cereals, egg dishes, soups, stews, casseroles and more. But first, the most important: pudding. I’ve been working a raw, vegan chocolate oat pudding for kids, but it’s not ready yet. Watch this space.
Take a cup of cashews, put them in a mason jar and cover with water until the water is about a quarter-inch above the cashews. Soak overnight and in the morning pour the whole jar into the blender and purée the mixture for two minutes. The mixture should thicken after you’ve finished blending.
Vegan Chocolate Mousse (serves two)
Two medium avocados
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons cashew cream
Half a cup of soaked cashews
2 tablespoons of cacao or cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Sugar ginger (for garnish)
A lot of experimentation went into this one to get it right. You don’t want the pudding to end up too thick or you won’t be able to blend it, but you don’t want to add too much water, otherwise it’ll get runny. To soak the cashews, cover half a cup of cashews in a mason jar with water overnight to soften. Don’t drain or discard the water. Finely chop the avocado and put with the other the ingredients (except the ginger and the cup of water) in a food processor – I used a Nutri-bullet – and blend for a few minutes until smooth. If the mixture is too thick you can add some of the water, but it’s better to add the water incrementally to avoid it coming out too runny. If you do end up add to much water, add a tablespoon or two of cashew cream or some more avocado. Refrigerate until cool and serve with sugared ginger garnish.
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.
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 Farm; Tree 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.
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.
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.
The warm honey-glazed beets at Peekamoose remind me of standing on the farm eating a beetroot, warm from the scorching August sun, straight out of the ground. In winter, when there’s a foot or two of snow on the doorstep, and you’ve braved piercing winds and roads covered in dry chalky snow on date night, beetroot warm from the oven, covered in honey and goat’s cheese creme is a mouthwatering treat. Rich, earthy and wholesome, these beets are almost like a dessert as the creme melts into the warm honey sauce, making a juice so luscious you’ll want to slurp it directly off the plate. Scrumptious.
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.
My last radio show of the year on WIOX focused on favorite winter recipes from colleagues, neighbors and friends working in the food industry. Jeanette Bronée is a nutritionist and health coach, based part-time in the Central Catskills, who has appeared on my show a number of times in the past few years inspiring listeners to take charge of their health. She’s author of Eat To Feel Full. A small book with a big message, it’s “a beginner’s guide to self-nourishment, offering a combination of food knowledge, insights into the habits that block our efforts to transform, and practical techniques for developing a mindful, healthy relationship with food”. She picked a recipe that’s sweet and spicy, more like a dessert than a side dish with roasted whole carrots and sweet prunes. We used unsulphured apricots instead of prunes because you can really substitute any fruit that you wish and added a half cup of wine to the recipe. We served it with a small side of braised, local venison. As Jeanette said on a previous radio show, she eats meat “like a condiment” and, excepting the occasional post-hike burger, we’ve been taking her advice ever since. This roasted vegetable dish is luscious: sweet and filling, perfect with seasonal game.
Roasted Carrots & Prunes
Bread Alone’s warm cauliflower egg sandwich was on the specials’ menu on Monday in two thick slices of their delicious health bread. This time it has some sort of orange sauce plus cheese. The cheesy cauliflower goes well with the soft, slightly chewy wholewheat bread and the warm scrambled egg just melts in the mouth. Scrumptious.
To an immigrant, the value of a taste of home can’t be overstated. When that taste of home is of such a high standard there’s all manner of excitement. Bull & Garland, a British-style pub with grub in Hobart, began operation as an inn this past summer and now they offer food available to eat at their cozy bar or in their dining room. Theirs is a fledgling operation with a limited but superb and authentic menu and a fine selection of beer, wine and spirits.
This recipe is a seasonal twist of the classic Moroccan tagine. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns sells organic custom blends of traditional herbs, spices and condiments used in Moroccan cuisine and they perfectly complement this season’s local vegetables. The recipe below is amended from Bebert’s favorite that we’ll publish later in the season This one uses his organic spice blend Spices De Fes and Preserved Lemons which make for a deliciously tangy, sweetly spicy sauce. Don’t use zucchini or a watery squash for this recipe because it will release too much water. Also, if you like your spicy food on the weaker side, only use one tablespoon of the Spices De Fes. This is an earthy, hearty stew for winter that freezes well. Absolutely delicious.
Bebert’s Tagine with Local Vegetables
1 medium butternut squash (about 3-4lb), cubed
1 small sweet potato (about ½lb), diced or grated
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-8 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon pepper
(Or substitute 1-2 tablespoons of Bebert’s organic spice blend Spices De Fes for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rounds
1 slice of Bebert’s Preserved Lemons including pulp and juice (lemons are preserved in salt… not necessary to add more salt)
½ cup dried apricots (or raisins)
½ cup sliced almonds
1 cup white wine
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
Put all ingredients together in a tagine, Dutch oven or casserole. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Cook on 350F oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. The sweet potato cooks much more slowly than the butternut squash, so it should be diced into very small pieces, chopped or grated. If you like your tagine sweet, add a cup of diced carrot.
Use Trader Joe’s shredded coconut for these treats. Mix together with egg whites and condensed milk and you have yourself a coconut macaroon. Warm, straight out of the oven, they are crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Perfect afternoon treat at Bebert’s on Main Street in Fleischmanns. Also sampled today was Bebert’s delicious rice pudding with orange peel and spices. A beautiful sunny day for hanging out in our Moroccan cafe in the Catskills.
Chicken and Tarragon Pot Pie on the menu at Bull & Garland in Hobart, New York. Deliciously light for a pot pie and buttery with an ethereal crust. You won’t ordinarily get two crusts. We took our pot pie to go, after a filling tour of the exceptional starters, and scored a free crust and some extra mashed potato. This is a pie to love.
Found at the Pakatan Farmers’ Market which runs through November: Holiday Farm Biscuit Co’s sausage pie. This delicious pie comes in two varieties, egg/sausage and chorizo/manchega. Light and crumbly crust with subtly flavorful filling, it’s not so heavy that you’ll feel stuffed afterwards. Served warm, it’s makes the perfect winter breakfast. Get some.
This is your brain on nature from National Geographic.
“Rewilding” the English landscape from the BBC.
The Leave It On The Lawn Campaign for soil health from the DEC.
The UK’s first food waste supermarket.
The dark side of “agritainment” by Civil Eats. “Farmers in Sonoma County—real farmers with dirt under their fingernails and aching backs—make an average of $12.21 an hour, or just under $34,000 a year. The average household income in the U.S. for small farmers (the 82 percent of U.S. farming operations that have annual sales of $100,000 or less) is $81,000. Around 85 to 95 percent of that income number comes from off-farm day jobs”.
Bread Alone’s open-faced smoked salmon sandwich is a luscious, perfect combination of dill sauce, raw red onions and smoked salmon. Delicious.
If you’re hiding out in the mountains, with no desire to go any further than the hammock, but have a hankering for something sweet and icy…
My pal Esther De Jong from Green Label Home bought me some extremely cute iced lollipop moulds for my birthday and now I’m experimenting with yoghurt and cream. Sadly, vodka won’t freeze but tea will and we all know how I feel about tea. Organic Traveler’s Tea blends the best organic tea for hikers called Trekker’s Reprieve with gunpowder green tea, orange peel, cinnamon and blue vervain. It’s refreshing hot and spectacular cold: a gorgeous, healthful, cold hiking drink and now, an iced lolly. Here’s the recipe:
This year’s Reuben is a tasty, juicy and modestly-sized; this last phrase is meant in the best possible way. So much of what we order today is either a belly-deadening doorstop or enough for two people to share, which limits your options. But even if you only eat half this sandwich, it survives a night in the fridge, like so many don’t. The Phoenicia Diner was written up in the New York Times this month and if it gets any more popular, we’ll start needing a reservation.
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.
Pork shoulder, beef burger sliders, crostini with cranberry ricotta, polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, kale salad, pheasant soup and a plate of roasted, assorted spuds, all washed down with local cider from Wayside in East Delhi. That was last night’s delicious menu at The Pines’ backyard Catskills Comes To Brooklyn blowout that was packed to the rafters with hungry New Yorkers feasting on local produce and roasting s’mores over the fire. We even got to taste Wayside’s limited edition crab apple cider, which was worth the trip in itself, but not sure if it beats our current favorite, Wayside’s Skinny Dip, which is made with local quince. Owner of the Pines, Carver Farrell hails from upstate and a big supporter of local food. When you’re next in the city, visit The Pines. There are no photographs of the food, because it sadly did not stay on the plate long enough. Plus Wayside’s cider slips down so very easily and smoothly, just like we did after three glasses. You will just have to go and find out for yourself.
You’ll find one of the Catskills’ finest burgers in Bearsville’s Commune Saloon. A scrumptious masterpiece that is a luscious combination of fried onions, cheese and burger, it’s juicy succulence expertly contained within a light bun. Indeed, its name is the Juicy Lucy.
Introduced to the Saloon by Jeff of Catskill Mountain Wild a few weeks ago after the full moon hike, I’ve been back there twice already. This is the burger I dream about on hump day and the Saloon is a slice of heaven where I spent a summer hour after dusk last night around the fire pit. Nestled in the cozy, leafy enclave of Bearsville restaurants, the campfire flickered while service staff prepared for the theatre to empty. Last night, King Crimson was thumping lightly in the background as relaxed diners chatted quietly.
There’s also the sauce. It doesn’t taste like mayonnaise or ketchup, just simply indescribably delicious. I can imagine this burger is the answer to all hangovers. Most important of all though: it’s a reasonable size if you care about how much food you eat. Most of the tastiest Catskills’ burgers are large enough to share or take half home. It also comes to the table with a giant knife stuck right in the top of it and it’s an obvious metaphor. This burger will break your heart and keep you coming back for more.