Tag Archives: Food

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.

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.

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.

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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Bebert’s Chicken Tagine

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

We asked Bebert for one of his favorite recipes and he submitted a chicken tagine, which we tried for the first time by turning it vegan a few weeks ago and you can find our recipe here. Here’s the recipe for the original chicken dish, using Bebert’s own preserved lemons and spices.

Chicken, Preserved Lemons with Olives & Almonds

1 Chicken 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-8 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon pepper
(Or substitute 2 tablespoons of Bebert’s organic spice blend for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rounds
1-2 slices of preserved lemon including pulp and juice
(lemons are preserved in salt… not necessary to add more salt)
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup dried raisins
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ 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 2 hours.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Marcey Brownstein’s Shepherd’s Pie

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Marcey Brownstein is the proprietor of Marcey Brownstein Catering serving the Hudson Valley, Catskills, NYC, the Tri-State area and beyond since 2001. She moved to the Catskills full-time in 2012, settling in Woodland Valley, one of the the most picturesque and historical valleys in the Catskills. Her favorite winter recipe is Shepherd’s Pie, a rib-sticking favorite.

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Edible Hudson Valley’s Winter Issue

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

My piece in Edible Hudson Valley’s Winter Issue on Wayside Cider was published this week. I wrote a long profile of owners Irene Hussey and Alex Wilson, a short version of which appears in the Whisk section in the front of the magazine.  What I had not submitted for publication, was the results of the photoshoot I did with Alex Wilson of Wayside Cider, that took place in Andes. I followed him around with the camera, over hills and dales, while he foraged for apples. Edited out of the published piece was a brief paragraph or two on the humble Catskills apple.

New York State has been an apple state since before the first settlers decreed that each household should have its own orchard back in the sixteenth century. A wave of planting crept up and down the Eastern seaboard shortly after the settlers arrival, but Native Americans were cultivating apples long before then. Andes is, in fact, adjacent to the homesteads that were once historic Shavertown, one of the first settlements in the area and home to an ancient apple orchard that was planted hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. Sadly, both ancient orchard and town are now submerged under hundreds of feet of water that is the Pepacton Reservoir.

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Catskills Sandwich: Cauliflower & Egg

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

The Bull & Garland

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

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Classic Moroccan Tagine with Local Vegetables

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Catskills Treats: Bebert’s Coconut Macaroons

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

Catskills Pie: Bull & Garland’s Pot Pie

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

Beans on Toast in the Catskills

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

What happens when a loyal proponent of beans on toast, the iconic British snack, gets a case of the Mondays. You may also find beans on toast occasionally at Jack’s Place in Arkville. Beans on toast is a great way to accompany a whole day’s worth of reading and transcription. You can find a full examination of beans on toast on this website here. If you happen to wander upstate a bit further, you will find an enormous English section at Wegmans that includes Heinz Baked Beans. You can also find all manner of English food at Jolly’s English Grub on Route 212 near Saugerties.

Friday Links: Eat Real Food, Save Seeds

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

A very important film about seeds and a short clip from the Lexicon of Sustainability about how we eat hardly anything that our ancestors ate even 100 years ago and why this is the case. “The diversity in our seed stocks is as endangered as a panda or a polar bear”. And: “When we invaded Iraq, we destroyed that seed bank and we destroyed the ancient seeds that had been collected for the benefit of mankind”.

From the New York Times, could ancient remedies be the answer to the looming antibiotic crisis?

A guide to state and local primaries. Zephyr Teachout is running for congress and promises to help farmers and small businesses.

“Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil and the fact that it rains.” Anonymous quoted by John Jeavons. “In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. This means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches”.

Mushroom Gravy With Foraged Bolete Mushrooms

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Bolete Mushroom Gravy

2 cups of chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon of ground celery
2 tablespoons of local butter
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 cups of boiling water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sage
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour

This recipe calls for chopped mushrooms, but if you like your mushroom gravy lump-free, then you will either need to use minced mushrooms instead of chopped, whizz them in the blender or you will have to purée the gravy with a hand blender once it’s cooked.

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Wild leeks & Scrambled Eggs

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If there’s anything quite as satisfying as foraging for your lunch, apart from growing your own food, I’d like to know what that is. Wild leeks, otherwise known as ramps, are having a good season here in the Catskills and many residents have them in abundance on their property this year. Don’t pick too many to ensure that your ramps continue to return every year. If you pick your whole crop they may not grow back. They require literally no maintenance, but you can enjoy them year after year if you take no more than a third of the crop. They smell like onions, have bright green leaves, red stems and you can eat the whole plant.  A large ramp about 18 inches in length like the ones pictured below is enough for a two-egg scramble. This recipe calls for the ramps to be mixed in with the eggs.

Wild Leek & Scrambled Eggs Serves 4

10 small eggs
4 large wild leeks
1 large tablespoon of finely grated parmesan
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
Half a cup of milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Take the leeks, cut the leaves off and put the leaves to one side. Chop the stems finely. Heat a skillet with the oil in it and sautee the stems until soft.

Separately beat the eggs and milk in a bowl until thoroughly mixed and then, add the chopped leaves and parmesan and beat for a few more minutes until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the butter to the sauteed stems,  allow it to melt and mix in with the soft stems. Add the egg mixture to the stems and cook lightly until scrambled.

Bon Apetit!

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Catskills Sandwich: Avocado & Arugula

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Bread Alone’s cucumber, apple, celeraic, sprouts, arugula pesto comes on organic ciabatta bread, but is much better on wheat. Crunchy, chewy and refreshing all at the same time, if that’s possible: a delicious Catskills sandwich.

Catskills Conversations: Raji Nevin

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?
RN: Lived in Woodstock for about four and a half years now.

Where did you move from?
I just moved across the river from Rhinebeck.

Did you grow up in Rhinebeck?
No, I grew up in Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the USA, but I have moved quite a bit. I’ve probably lived in about 28 states.

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The Year of the Apple: Catskills 2015

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

2015 must be The Year of the Apple in the Catskills such is their abundance this year. a neighbour guesses that we have heritage apples on our property. Yesterday, I borrowed a dehydrator in exchange for ten pounds of apples. It’s clear that I’ll be making apple products like apple sauce, fruit leather, dried apples and apple crisp, for days and days to come. The image above is my breakfast for the foreseeable future: plain yoghurt layered with homemade apple sauce.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

Goats Milk, Grated Beet & Carrot Salad

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you’ve grown more carrots and beetroot that you can handle, you can make a crunchy slaw with crumbly goat’s milk feta. Serves four.

3 medium-sized beetroot (with leaves)
4-5 medium-sized carrots
1.5 ounces of balsamic vinegar
3 ounces of goat’s milk feta

Grate the carrots and beetroot. Chop up the beetroot greens. Cut the feta cheese into cubes. Mix the grated vegetables, and cheese together in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar for a quick, easy, utterly delicious, juicy and crunchy salad.

Catskills Conversations: Jeanette Bronée

© Torkil Stavdal

© Torkil Stavdal

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

JB: About four years.

From where did you move?

New York City, but I’d been coming up here many years prior to that. I used to be a motorcyclist. [Laughs]

Really?

I used to come up here motorcycling and skiing. That was my other life, right?

So what brought you to New York City in the first instance?

That was back 26 years ago; I met someone who was American and wanted to go back home and I wanted to leave Denmark. I was in the mood to explore at the time, so we moved here. Continue reading

Catskills Sandwich: The Burger at Commune Saloon

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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.

Local Delicacies: Beaverkill Trout Hatchery

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Go swimming in Big Pond. Make a detour on the way home and get the most juicy, tender and delicate smoked trout this side of, actually anywhere. Mark Twain wrote extensively about America’s trout with reverence calling it “the masterpiece of the universe”.

According to Andrew Beahrs, who wrote Twain’s Feast, throughout Twain’s life the simple phrase “trout dinner” was synonymous with simple enjoyment, with the pleasure at once luxurious and comforting. Whether he was in Germany or stage coaching across the Nevada Flats, when Twain wrote something to the effect of “we had trout dinner”, you can be sure that whatever had happened before, he ended the day contented. Apparently, Twain loved his trout, straight out of the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, fried with bacon.

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Catskills Sandwich: Goatie White’s

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Fleischmanns’ Goatie White’s pork sandwich, on a light roll, made more moist and delicious by the addition of a generous helping of fried onions stuffed between the thinly-sliced pork and a thin layer of cheese. Not too heavy or greasy, it’s excellent pre-hike sustenance. A sandwich to love.

The Annex in Andes

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

My persistent, resolute village envy has been exacerbated by the opening of The Annex in Andes, a boutique indoor market selling freshly cut flowers, cider, honey and herbs grown from seed, all locally produced. The building is on the corner of Main Street, that is Route 28, where it does a sharp right on its way to Delhi. Its interior looks like a rustic, aged restaurant made lovelier by the presence of herbs and flowers in the front and thirst-quenching Wayside cider in the back. Phoenicia Honey Co makes a welcome appearance.

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Catskills Conversations: Louann Aleksander

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Louann Aleksander sells herbs, which she grows from seed, wholesale and in The Annex in Andes.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

It’s going to be eight years on August 1st.

So what made you decide to move here?

We had friends who had moved to Andes and before that my husband would come up maybe once a year and he absolutely loved it. We wanted to get out of the rat race of Long Island. It was getting where you work to go back to work. We weren’t enjoying life at all.

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Pizza Night at Table on Ten

© J.N. Urbanski 6/19/15 8pm

© J.N. Urbanski 6/19/15 8pm

Two pals couldn’t have picked a more idyllic evening to attend Table on Ten’s pizza night: an early evening drive through the balmy, bucolic mountains of Roxbury so astonishingly beautiful in the waning light that we had to stop a couple of times to get out of the car and drink in the atmosphere. (“What’s that? Sheep. Let’s stop. Hey Ewe!”) Hay, barns, lush undulating ridges, rail trails, stone walls and bridges over roaring creeks: a gasp of admiration at every turn. A quick jaunt past the restaurant into the hamlet of Bloomville, New York, revealed a picturesque rural scene of tractors, antiques and a white-sided two hundred year old church atop a meadow.

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Date Night: Peekamoose

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 6pm

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 6pm

After we closed on our mountain homestead (“sign here, here and here, here, here and here and sign here, here and here… initial here, here and here…”) we wondered aloud where we should go to celebrate and without a moment’s hesitation, our realtor swung away from her conversation with our lawyer to respond: Peekamoose. That was eight years ago and there really wasn’t anything like it then and there really isn’t anything like it now. When we first went to Peekamoose I wanted to just hand the keys back to the bank and move in. The country farmhouse atmosphere is so cozy and relaxing and the food is phenomenal, end of story. The chef’s freshly made doughnuts feel like they could fly away if you don’t hold them down with a generous dollop of whipped cream. I could go on, and I will.

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Farm Report 06/13/15

The old asparagus plant that was planted three years ago is now over six feet tall as is the rhubarb. Only a few spears were cut in its second year and this year we harvested over twenty spears. The point of letting the asparagus go wild in its third year is to allow the long stalks and buds to transfer nutrients to the roots which will improve yield for forthcoming years.

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 2pm

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 2pm

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Farm to Belly: Wild Strawberries

© J.N. Urbanski 3.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 3.30pm

In season now, are wild strawberries. That’s a teaspoon, so they’re tiny, but delicious. Look for the serrated-edged leaves and if the grass is low, just run your hands over it and you’ll reveal the berries lying against the ground. Notice that the tiny ones have just as many seeds. Don’t worry if you tread a patch into the ground. You should leave some behind to proliferate in the same place next year.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Girls’ Night: Drinks at Phoenicia Diner

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If the most excellent Phoenicia Diner gets any hotter it will start sizzling such is the expanse of its popularity, having been featured everywhere recently in publications like Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Elle and my country’s Daily Mail and Telegraph. I told Mike Cioffi, the Diner’s owner, that he could put ten diners up and down Route 28 and they would still be full to bursting every weekend. I’m sad to say that I’m severely behind in my New Year’s Resolution of eating my way through the outstanding menu and am usually banging my head against the desk on Mondays when I look at my watch and realize it has closed until Thursday.

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Farm to Belly: Asparagus & Sheep Sorrel

© J.N. Urbanski 5/21/15 1pm

© J.N. Urbanski 5/21/15 1pm

Straight out of the ground and into the belly: a powerful organic, raw, vegan lunch and you don’t even need a plate much less a table. The tomatoes may have been endangered by last night’s frost, but the sheep sorrel which grows in the asparagus bed is a hardy little plant. Sheep sorrel is an edible weed that has the texture of spinach with the tasty tang of lemon, which makes it perfect for soups. It wilts quickly once picked, so it’s best just to eat it raw with some juicy asparagus. Sheep sorrel has an arrowhead leaf and grows in a rosette formation.

© J.N. Urbanski 5/21/15 1pm

© J.N. Urbanski 5/21/15 1pm

Asparagus Update

On May 1st, we planted a long bed of twenty new asparagus and in less than ten days we already had a six-inch tall shoot from one of the mounds (bottom middle of the picture). All the other roots planted have shoots of about an inch. The image of the “tall poppy” below was taken yesterday morning.

© J.N. Urbanski 5/11/15

© J.N. Urbanski 5/11/15

 

Catskills Conversations: Peter DiSclafani

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Peter DiSclafani is proprietor and chef of the Catskill Rose Lodging and Dining in Mount Tremper, New York with his wife Rose Marie Dorn.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

Rose and I moved here in 1987 after we got married. I was born and raised in Saugerties. I was out in Colorado in the seventies after high school just to check things out and that’s where I met Rose. She’s from Colorado.

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Catskills Conversations: Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower

Image courtesy of Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower

Image courtesy of Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower

Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower is a registered nurse, herbal educator and wild foods forager who conducts“weed walks” in which she teaches us how to forage for wild edibles.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?
Since 1980.

From NYC?
Manhattan and Brooklyn. I was born in Manhattan and spent part of my young life in Brooklyn. When I experienced the country when I was eleven, I knew that was where I was going when I got old enough.

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Asparagus

Asparagus is going in at Upstate Dispatch HQ. A perennial, it takes a few years to get started with a low initial yield, but it’s a low maintenance crop that’s ideal for the novice gardener. Not only is it delicious, highly nutritious and otherwise quite expensive, it freezes well so you can eat it year-round. Let the asparagus grow to long ferns in the first year and the whole plant can last 20 years. Today, two beds (6-12 inches deep and 6 inches wide) were dug and a 2-3 inch layer of wet compost and peat mixed together was added. 10 asparagus roots went in each bed, 18 inches to 2 feet apart from each other. Soak the asparagus roots for a half hour before you plant. Spread the roots out like a flattened spider, lay crown-up, and cover with a 2-3 inch layer of dirt. Don’t fill in the trench with dirt until the shoots make it through their individual dirt pile. Keep adding dirt as the shoots grow over the forthcoming weeks. The weeds you see growing in the middle of the trenches are last year’s over-wintered parsnips. They were pulled.

© J.N. Urbanski 05/01/15 11.30cm

© J.N. Urbanski 05/01/15 11.30am

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Catskills Conversations: Lorraine Lewandrowski

Lorraine Lewandrowski does not live in the Catskills, but our radio interview and half of our phone conversations, which are always fascinating, take place in the Catskills, so I’m printing them here. Lorraine is an agricultural lawyer and dairy farmer with 60 cows in the Mohawk Valley, New York. She is a very active spokesperson for the farming community, speaking at agricultural conferences and writing articles for trade publications. She tries to do things like link deep rural farmers with urban food groups. Lorraine is a descendant of Polish immigrants who arrived in the valley about 100 years ago and one of a long line of farming advocates. Her grandfather was one of the founders of a co-op, of which her father was the president for many years. She’s on Twitter with 15,000 avid followers.

I’ve never met a dairy farmer and lawyer before.

There are a few of us around. Actually, I know some attorneys and dairy farmers in England and we keep in touch on Twitter to compare notes on contracts and things that are going on. In fact, I keep in touch with farmers in Wales, New Zealand, Australia, all over the place and to the best of my ability in France. I’m not that great with French. We try to share information that way. The global corporations have far more extensive communications networks than we do, but this is a way of us getting at least some idea of what’s happening.

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A Tasting in Arkville at Jack’s Bread Breakfast

Dinner at the breakfast & lunch joint! Arkville Bread Breakfast, home of the Catskills’ legendary fish and chips will host a tasting, starting at 5.30pm on Saturday April 25th. Address: 43285 Route 28, just after the Crossroads at Route 38 in Arkville, New York.

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Catskills Conversations: Todd Pascarella

© Jeanine Pascarella

© Jeanine Pascarella Brian Mulder and Todd Pascarella (right)

Former Mayor of Fleischmanns Todd Pascarella is embarking upon a new effort to keep us all in good spirits. Union Grove Distillery in Arkville is due to open this year, producing vodka to start and eventually offering aged rye whiskey and aged rye bourbon.

When did you move to the Catskills?

I moved to the Catskills in Spring 2001. I was drawn here partly because of my experience of going to college down in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I grew up in Long Island and it was quite a contrast from the life in Long Island to the way things were down there: the natural beauty and the niceness of the people down there. I decided to try and move up here by myself as a yearlong experiment and I moved to MT Tremper. And I started meeting a lot of people who I was fascinated by, so I decided to buy a fixer-upper house in Highmount. I lived in that for a couple of years and that’s when I met Jeanine.

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Foxfire Mountain House: Opening June

© J.N. Urbanski The main house

© J.N. Urbanski The main house

Up the hill behind the train tracks of the DURR opposite The Emerson, a new inn is being fitted out with ten rooms, restaurant, bar and lounge named The Foxfire Mountain House. Most of the furnishings are second-hand items found in the Catskills, with the decorative Moroccan tiling found in a warehouse in Brooklyn. There are still chairs to be sanded, beds to be built and raspberry banquets to be fitted, but proprietor Tim Trojan hopes to be open by June. An adjacent cottage has been ready for a while and has been rented for weekends on AirBNB. Tim owns the inn with his wife Eliza Clark a television producer and Eliza’s daughter Arden Wray, a photographer. He’s been directing the renovation for the past year, but the style has come from his wife Eliza who produced renovation television shows.

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Transplant Tales: Laura Silverman

© Mark Hanauer Courtesy of Laura Silverman

© Mark Hanauer Courtesy of Laura Silverman

Laura Silverman was a guest on my radio show on WIOX almost exactly two years ago and is a fellow writer of Edible Hudson Valley. Laura has a popular local food blog called Glutton For Life and is Editor of Delaware Valley 8 a new bi-annual newspaper based in the Catskills to be published on Memorial Day and Labor Day this year.

There’s been a rash of articles in the media about the Catskills turning hipster. What do you think about that?

I think that cities in general are becoming much more challenging places to live especially for creative people. I think more people are moving out of the cities and more people are dreaming about moving out of cities.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

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Sunday Punk and More Tea

To continue the British punk theme for the remainder of the weekend and into Monday. The DIY ethos of the punk movement merged with my British obsession with tea, (made from Organic Traveler’s Tea) ready for The Economy of Punk on WIOX FM Radio tomorrow morning at 9am. Making my own cold tea while choosing content for the show.

© J.N. Urbanski 2pm Organic Travelers Tea

© J.N. Urbanski 2pm Organic Travelers Tea

Soup Sundays at Spillian

As I mentioned last week, there was Jazz at Spillian last night, during an event that I dub Soup at the Spills, which was actually a combination of their regular Soup Sundays and their Voices of the Catskills series. In honour of St Patrick’s Day, the Spill’s Culinary Curator Melissa Zeligman made Colcannon, which was delicious. The weather had taken a squally detour down a cold, muddy road by the afternoon yesterday – it had already started snowing again in the morning – so the Irish stew was the perfect wintery feast. By this morning, the sun had come out again in force as if yesterday’s aberrant hail/snow/rain/mud mix had never happened.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Hubbell Cider Press

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Hubbell Cider Press dates back to the 1880s. The mountain railroad allowed farmers of the Catskills access to heavy machinery left over from the civil war. Chopped apples come down the chute, top left and land in the barrel, bottom left. The mush is then pressed flat between racks on the press in the background. Juice is collected in trays beneath the press running down the centre.

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First Person Dispatch: Work

© J.N. Urbanski A Tom Otterness sculpture somewhere in Idaho

© J.N. Urbanski A Tom Otterness sculpture somewhere in Idaho

Scrolling through back issues of Brain Pickings this week, I stumbled upon the post entitled “How To Avoid Work” and read it with interest. My eye lingered on one quotation in the article: “Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work”. The artist in me agrees with this sentiment but my other half is too pragmatic not to find it irksome. Frequently paired with this idea is the notion of only “doing what you love” and the pursuit of this idyll. Because Upstate Dispatch is devoted to the city folk who are making the country their home and their business, I decided to ask the question: what is work?

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Live at the Spills: Jazz, March 15th

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

A friend in NYC asked me last year “don’t you get bored up there?” There’s this mis-conception that we’re a bit dull up here in the mountains, not edgy enough or uncultured. Not so, my friends, for right on my doorstep, literally a hop, skip and jump is the Spills and Sunday night, March 15th, there’ll be live jazz featuring Eric Rosen, Nina Sheldon and Rich Syracuse. What better way to round off the week than lounging around in the Spillian bar listening to live jazz? Spillian, a place to revel, is a unique location in that it’s a boutique hotel that’s wild at heart and a-fire with desire to make you dream, play and “imagine past what you think is possible”. The only goal of proprietors Leigh Melander and Mark Somerfield is that you revel. Last time I meandered with Melander at the Spills, I started to read aloud from a Charles Bukowski novel and instead of being politely shushed and shuffled into a corner, I was given a piano accompaniment (until a dog started howling). For the second year in a row, Spillian has been hosting Soup Sundays and Soup Salons with Voices From the Catskills co-produced by Chris Hensley, a music industry veteran. The Catskills is the place where artists and producers come to produce the entertainment they love and despite our sleepy reputation most of us are crushing it.

Next Sunday at Spillian:

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Catskill Park Awareness Day: February 10th

5798mountain.jpg

© J.N. Urbanski View From Giant Ledge

The Catskill Center, a non-profit organization formerly known as the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, has been an advocate for this area since its inception in 1969, instigated by Sherret Chase, Armand Erpf and Kingdon Gould Jr, to tackle preservation issues and “foster harmonious economic development” in the region.

In terms of conservation, this region has an advantage over neighbouring areas because it supplies New York City with its drinking water, which travels unfiltered to the city in huge underground tunnels. Should anything sully the NYC drinking water supply, a billion-dollar filtration system would have to be built, something that New York State is keen to avoid, so the waterways are protected by regulation. This regulation hampers development, a significant disadvantage to the local economy, so the proceeds from year-round tourism – 2.5 million tourists annually – are our biggest benefactor. The people of the Catskills sacrifice the growth of their economy so that New York City can drink pristine water.

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Hiking: Giant Ledge

© J.N. Urbanski The view from the nook through the trees

© J.N. Urbanski The view from the nook through the trees

It’s about this time of year that cabin fever firmly seizes us in these mountains and we do impulsive things like go hiking up a mountain when there’s only two hours of daylight left. Spring seems like it’s just around the corner and we’re so used to the bitter cold that 20F seems nice and toasty. It’s not until we’re approaching our icy ascent (in our snowboarding boots, stupidly wearing wool and cotton), passing very sensible hikers on their way down using sticks and cramp-ons that we realise what a risk we’ve taken, but there’s a happy ending to this story, and a sandwich.  Charles Dickens walked 20 miles a day in his prime, stalking around town in the afternoon after a sturdy lunch, no doubt conjuring up characters en route from his observations of 19th century Londoners. Writers love a good walk. First, the sandwich: corned beef brisket on toasted rye with a dash of mustard from Arkville Bread and Breakfast with a portion of chips (that were meant to go in the Fish and Chips, but that was yesterday’s lunch). Thinly-sliced brisket, lean, delicate and not too fatty on perfectly-toasted rye. This reasonably-sized portion, plus a cup of Twinings Irish Breakfast, got me to Giant Ledge in most unsuitable shoes and down again, occasionally sliding on my bottom because of the ice.

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Arkville Bread and Breakfast

© J.N. Urbanski The Caboose

© J.N. Urbanski The Caboose

A good hearty plate of Fish and Chips is to the Catskills what the Bald Eagle is. When you spot one, you freeze in wide-eyed disbelief and fumble clumsily for your camera trying not to divert your gaze from the (menu) for a second. As an English ex-patriot from London, I find that fish and chips is as rare in these mountains as a McVitie’s digestive biscuit and actual Cheddar from Cheddar.*

You’ll find the holy grail of British food at Arkville Bread & Breakfast on Route 28 in Arkville, New York on every other Friday. (Daily menus are posted on the Facebook page.) I remember, as a teenager, fetching the family’s Friday night fish and chips, the smell of lard, salt and vinegar and paying about five British pounds for the feast. Here you’ll pay $8.95 for a portion that comes with coleslaw, chips and tarter sauce, a snip if you realise that you’ll pay $20 in NYC.

Today’s fish was cod; perfectly cooked, thinly battered, flaky and flavourful. Although the thin, crispy batter is the ideal coating, I almost prefer a thicker batter so that I have an excuse to pick out the steaming fish and save some calories, but no, not this time. All of it was eaten with the tangy tarter sauce and, now, off for a long walk I go. Today’s chips were not chips but crisps, made from Maris Pipers, sliced into flat wedges and fried with the skins on: like a drier, less floppy, two-dimensional version of my childhood chips. Also present (pictured at bottom): Sarsons Malt Vinegar, HP Sauce, Heinz Baked Beans, Branston Pickle, Tango and Spotted Dick. Tango & Spotted Dick sounds like a British detective drama brought to you by the BBC, but no, it’s a neon-coloured fizzy drink and a pudding respectively.

Proprietor Jack Zamor says that a lot of British people attend the restaurant, made from an actual train car and situated right next to a railway line, on the days when he has an All-British menu, the next one of which is slated for February 7th, 2015. Next week, Upstate Dispatch will forget all about the homesickness and return for the corned beef brisket on rye.

© J.N. Urbanski Arkville Bread & Breakfast Fish and Chips

© J.N. Urbanski Arkville Bread & Breakfast Fish and Chips

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

*If you have some actual Cheddar, please feel free to comment in the reply section.

The Phoenicia Diner Challenge

© J.N. Urbanski Arnold Bennet Skillet

© J.N. Urbanski Arnold Bennet Skillet

Last year, Mike Cioffi, owner of The Phoenicia Diner, and I ruminated on the costs of running a restaurant on my radio show The Economy of the Kitchen. Next week, Monday 12th January at 9am, in our second and final show, The Economy of the Diner, we’ll discuss the diner as American icon. The diner also has a rich cinematic history: Pulp Fiction, Twin Peaks, Superman, Back To The Future, Heat, Thelma & Louise, Diner: the list goes on and on. Who can forget Jack Nicholson trying to get an order of wheat toast in Five Easy Pieces or the tipping scene in Reservoir Dogs? Not to mention Meg Ryan’s glorious turn in Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally and the actual movie called Diner, starring Steven Guttenberg directed by Barry Levinson.

As a foreigner, the diner is the ultimate American experience and my first diner visit was Relish in Williamsburg, sadly now slated for demolition. I’ll never forget my first order of biscuits, sausage and gravy and with whom I shared it.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski Duck & Grits Skillet with poached egg

My new challenge is eating my way through the menu at The Phoenicia Diner and I continued today through the skillet section. I tried the Duck & Grits skillet ($11), House Cured Corned Beef Hash skillet ($11) and the Arnold Bennett Skillet ($10). My first taste of American grits (not a British staple) was back in Brooklyn and had been quite vile experience, like eating cold porridge. PD’s grits are creamy with a hint of cheese; their scrambled eggs are the perfect combination of moist and firm. If Chef Mel uses salt in the dishes, you can’t really taste it and this is how it should be. Salt should be the choice of the customer. The Arnold Bennett Skillet ($10) came out on top in this round: locally smoked trout (delicately tasty), parmesan cheese, crème fraîche and scrambled eggs. PD makes its own bread too, which is thick, slightly chewy and tasty. Portions are generous and the eggs are noteworthy – some of the best I’ve eaten in the Catskills – for their vivid orange color. Most ingredients are sourced locally and when they run out, so does the item on the menu for the day. Eat here before you ski, on your way to Belleayre for the hearty nourishment that lasts all day. You can take sides and leftovers to go in compostable containers.

Tune in to The Economy of the Diner on WIOX at 9am on Monday January 12th, 2015.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski