Support a local farmer and cut a local, sustainably grown Christmas tree this year. Tree growing is one of the few ways farmers making a living in an area highly regulated against industry in order to keep New York City water pure for drinking. Continue reading
Food, booze and small favors like soaps and scented candles make great gifts without costing a fortune. Plus, they can be easily mailed to friends and family members across the country. The Catskills is filled to the brim with local producers, making it ever easier to shop locally for the holidays. The Catskills also have some of the best local artists selling everything from small works to large pieces in studios across the region. Watch this space for features on local artists selling their wares during the holiday season. We’re also compiling a list of places you can cut your own Christmas tree. It’s never been more important to shop locally. For every dollar you spend locally, the community will benefit to the value of five to seven dollars. Industry in the Catskills is strictly regulated because we have to protect New York City’s drinking water. Spending money on the Catskills’ small producers keeps our regional economy afloat. Shop Upstate for the holidays. Continue reading
I grew up by a London railway line and spent my formative years being shaped by watching people go places. I would wave at the trains chugging past and wish that I could jump aboard. In retrospect, I now see that those poor people were going to and from work and would have loved to have traded places with me, sitting in a backyard reading books. It’s no surprise that I now love trains, traveling and, gasp, I’ll admit here that I even love airports.
We have an aging rail network here in the Catskills that groups have tried to save and its future is uncertain. Lengths of the track were damaged by Hurricane Irene and there are proposals in the works to turn the rails into walking trails. Personally, I think we should maintain the network and get funding to turn it into a set of museums, but I’m obviously biased even though I clearly love hiking. The Rip Van Winkle Flyer, run by the DURR, whose home is in Arkville, has opened for the season judging by its website. On the weekends, the Rip Van Winkle Flyer takes tourists through the mountain from Arkville to Roxbury and back.
Now, the DURR is teaming up with local food producers and The MARK Project in Arkville to run the Tasting Train next Thursday, August 10th from 5pm to 7.30pm. Tickets are priced from $25 to $40. They call it the “Local-Motive”, on which you can try all manner of delicious local fare from producers, cheese makers, artisan bakers, craft beverage distillers, breweries and more. It couldn’t really get any better than sitting on a train and stuffing your face for a good cause. The train departs at 5pm and returns to Arkville by 7.30pm.
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.
If you like a proper British slap-up meal, this Saturday and Sunday May 21st and May 22nd, Arkville Bread Breakfast, home of the best fish and chips in the Catskills will be serving it up. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, full English breakfast will be served. Plus on Saturday, a full British lunch too. ABB is open until 2pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday.
Full English Fry-Up
Bangers & Mash
Sides include Bubble & Squeak, Heinz Beans, Black & White Pudding
43285 State Rte 28 (on the other side of the tracks at the crossroad of Rte 38)
Arkville, NY 12406
61F by the afternoon and bright with wispy cloud cover.
44F at 9am, misty, humid and soaked with overnight rain. More rain in the afternoon.
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.
Bread Alone’s Reuben with gruyere cheese, Russian dressing, coleslaw and pastrami on organic sourdough rye is much less greasy than it looks and remarkably juicy. The coleslaw is quite mild in this sandwich, complementing the flavor of the pastrami, which is not overly salty. The last spectacular sandwich I recommended from Bread Alone disappeared off the Winter 2015 menu just as my review in the Catskills Food Guide went to press and was replaced with something similar. Plus, the Boiceville location where I got the Avocado & Arugula on April 4th has had the arugula removed for the spring menu. All these additions and subtractions keeps us food reviewers on our toes. Grab the Reuben while you can, as menus change frequently.
The three pesticide-free beehives that were installed last May on Chasing Honey Farms natural apiary in Fleischmanns have survived the winter. Moreover, the bees have been collecting pollen for the last two weeks. When it was 80F in the middle of March, all three hives were active.
Proprietor Chase Kruppo had to start his beehives from scratch again a year ago because the bees he had installed the previous year had died over the winter. Once the new bees were installed in their hives on May 2nd last year, they were left to their own devices with wax foundations in the hives.
Chase is opposed to doing any artificial feeding of established colonies, but to start them last year, he said they definitely need a little boost. They arrived before the blossom, so they got one serving of sugar water for a week or two, in a one gallon bucket via the drip method. Chase noticed that the bees had stopped using the sugar water a week or two after going in the hive so he removed it. The carniolan bees had already surprised him with their industriousness, because they had formed a patty of wax comb inside the box in which they were transported.
Hand picking worms off the organic apple trees in a young orchard. Last year was a banner year for apples in the Catskills.
The Phoenicia Diner revamped its roast beef sandwich this year. They toasted the bread, added melted brie to the juicy grass-fed beef making this classic sandwich much more delicious. Moreover, it’s a reasonable size for a sandwich, not a gigantic doorstop that’s a whole day’s worth of calories and enough meat to clog your colon for weeks.
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.
We’ve taken one of the last batches of our 2015 organic blueberry and golden raspberry crops out of the freezer, have thawed them out, and now soaking them in Union Grove Distillery’s local Vly Creek Vodka to make a fruity, alcoholic mixer. See you in six weeks.
Lizzie Douglas is the proprietor of Stick in the Mud, a recently-opened cafe and store selling local goods and produce, in the ground floor storefront of the Bussy Building in Margaretville.
JNU: What brought you to the Catskills?
LD: The connection I have with the Catskills was that my daughter originally had a second home here.
Where did you raise your daughter?
My daughter lives in Brooklyn.
Did you live in NYC for a long time?
No, I have never lived in NYC. Before I came here I was living in Colorado, in the Four Corners area. Before that, I was travelling all over as a tour director and before that I was living in London.
What took you to Colorado?
As a tour director I would take my groups on authentic stagecoach rides and we would do Hollywood, Vegas, Grand Canyon Wild West Style. We would do dinner and dancing afterwards. I met a stagecoach driver.
We published a piece about local sugar that you’ll find here in September 2014. Below is a more comprehensive list of the Catskills maple syrup producers. Tree tapping began much earlier this year, with tapping beginning in the southern Catskills as far back as Christmas. New York State’s Maple Weekend takes place on March 19th and 20th, and again on April 2nd and 3rd, 2016. There’s no reason not to get local sugar. At last count, for every dollar spent locally, the community benefits to the value of five to seven times that dollar, and all that money stays in the community. If you spend $20 on a bottle of maple sugar, it is the equivalent of putting $140 back into your community.
Maple syrup also has many health benefits:
The New York Times recently published a “guide to Delaware County’s thriving craft culture” and although a few of our friends and neighbours were included, a significant portion of our wares was omitted. Here in Delaware County and in the wider area of the Catskills, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a local producer of the highest quality. We have a vast array of everything artisanal, handmade and locally produced. The Catskill Mountains are home to a huge community of entrepreneurs, craftspeople and artists but the aforementioned article only included ten local purveyors. This post is the first part of a guide to all things made in the Catskills.
It’s no secret that your humble correspondent is a big fan of both vodka and shopping locally. After much anticipation, Union Grove Distillery in Arkville, New York is up and running, producing vodka made from apple cider and wheat. Apples for the vodka were bought in Schoharie Valley at Terrace Mountain Orchards in Middleburgh. Vodka is, by definition in the United States, a spirit (made from a grain, fruit or any source) that has been distilled to 190 proof until it’s been thoroughly purified of all the remnants of the fermentation process. Distilled water is then added back in to dilute the liquid to a lower alcohol volume.
Local grass-fed beef is now available at the Hubbell Family Farm on 46124 Route 30 near Halcottsville, New York. Call in at their machine rental business, Catskill Rentals, where you can also pick up eggs and maple syrup. Grass-fed offerings are porterhouse, sirloin, short ribs, bones, burgers, brisket, and more, that was butchered two weeks ago and available frozen. You can also put your name down for heritage pork coming up in a few weeks. Talk to Andrew, John or Cheryl. Eat locally raised meat and support your community.
19F at 9.30am, overcast and lightly snowing.
It’s hot toddy season for whiskey drinkers, but if you use the freshest, most healthful ingredients, eat the honey separately. Raw, natural honey from a pesticide-free apiary is precious amber nectar and you shouldn’t ruin it in hot water. I felt sniffles and a sore throat coming last week, so I got hold of some of New York’s finest raw honeycomb and its propolis. I took a large teaspoon and savored it well, making sure it touched every part of my throat before swallowing. I sweetened my hot toddy with maple syrup and I’m glad to say this combination worked.
Classic Hot Toddy for Two
2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces of single malt scotch
8 ounces of warm water
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
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.
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.
How long have you lived in the Catskills?
I think we’ve had our house for about six and a half to seven years, right after we got married. Basically, we needed an escape from Manhattan. We started looking around Woodstock and realized that if you went a little bit further you could get a lot more for your money.
What were you doing back in the city?
I was producing and editing film, both documentary and commercial stuff. It’s just that being stuck in an edit room all day, the high pressure, deadlines, late nights: you need an escape from that. My wife’s an attorney so she worked long hours. We got married in a beautiful place in Vermont and we wanted to recreate that beautiful place up here. I grew up in a rural area in England and I’m never happier than when I’m in the countryside. I had to work in New York City, but I didn’t really love it. I was a big fan of London and I quickly learned that I didn’t enjoy New York as much. There wasn’t so much of a social scene with work. In London, your boss would always take you out for a drink on Friday night and you would get to know the people you worked with, but in New York City everyone went home after work. There wasn’t the same camaraderie that I had enjoyed in London and not as much space. It’s slightly more intense and slightly more money-centric. People just live to make money [in NYC] and I think, well what’s the use of money if you can’t enjoy it? Up here, you don’t need very much money but you have everything. Trout fishing, hiking, riding: friends of mine down the road have horses and I go and exercise them. I absolutely adore it.
I had a pretty serious traffic accident and I couldn’t really edit for about a year and a half because my hand was completely out of action. That gave me pause for thought in terms of what I really want to do, my love for this area and the potential in this area.
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.
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.
A new favourite tea to add to the list of delicious tea available here in the Catskills: Coffee Lover’s Tea from Tay Tea in Andes. It took me a long time to realize that I was not suited to coffee after adopting it as a breakfast beverage when I first moved to New York City in my twenties. Back in England, I had been raised in a tea family and the familiar refrain: “put the kettle on” still rings in my ears because English people drink tea continually all day. The kettle is always on and whoever gets up first, from couch or desk, must boil the next batch of water. The nice thing about tea is that it doesn’t make you suffer like coffee does. I’ve never ever said the words: I’ve drunk too much tea. It just doesn’t happen, whereas I’ve had fraught conversations and business meetings wherein I’m pretty sure the most anxious people in the room have drunk far too much coffee. I may have the odd cup of coffee when I need a jolt of energy, but for the most part, I’ve returned to my first love, tea. Preparing a pot of tea is a peacefully meditative ritual, and sharing a pot of tea is like breaking bread. At Tay Tea this past weekend, I interviewed owner Nini Ordoubadi, tried a range of tea and some stellar tea-infused biscuits, but came away feeling invigorated and refreshed. And I now know much more about tea.
I went hiking and found myself. So every chance I get I like to climb a mountain with my laptop and do some work. I’m also a painter, photographer, writer, editor and often hike with a ridiculous amount of gear: easels, cameras, sketch pads, laptops, iPads, etc. I’m always stupidly overburdened. In fact, I go almost everywhere with my laptop. I’ve also mentioned that I’m aiming to complete the Catskills 35 in the next year and I’m totally unprepared.
For example, I was previously using this for day hikes:
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.
Regular readers already know about my love of tea and my obsession with Earl in Paris from Organic Traveler’s Tea, which makes a delicious cold brew that I take on the road. Yes, I travel with the Traveler’s, which is an organic tea that’s blended and sold locally. Now that the weather’s good for hiking, I’ve found tea that’s perfect to take up a mountain: Trekker’s Reprieve. You can cold brew it or take bags up a mountain and make sun tea with it while you eat your lunch. It’s gunpowder green with orange peel, spearmint, cinnamon and blue vervain. Blue vervain is a native plant from the mint family that grows all over the American prairies, meadows and plains and allegedly revered as a herb of great healing powers by the ancient Greeks. According to the USDA, it’s used internally to treat depression, fevers, coughs, cramps, jaundice, and headaches. So it’s healing for the hiker, tasty and refreshing. The citrus element serves to repel insects although nothing will stop the flies from dive-bombing your eyeballs.
Tim and Jess Luby own the Storehouse in Phoenicia. Last year, they were married on Giant Ledge, having hiked two miles in wedding attire and hiking boots.
JN: What brought you to the Catskills?
TL: The mountains. When Jess and I started dating, we both enjoyed hiking, so we planned a trip up there.
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.
“…the mountains feel like they’re hugging you and holding you in”.
Tim Trojian, one of the proprietors of the Foxfire Mountain House in Mount Tremper has, for the past year, been living in the establishment while he oversees its renovation.
What made you move to the Catskills?
I was looking for a place with my wife Eliza, where we could start a business that would allow us to be together. She has been working in television all her life and we were trying to find a good location. I have been a chef and an hotelier all my life. The Catskills are perfectly situated being two hours from NYC, where Eliza could work while we were getting this project up and going. We could have the amenities of the city, but still live in the country, which we love.
Where are you from?
20F at 8am with barest of snowfall. Did we blink and miss Summer? Update: light snowfall continued throughout the morning and was much heavier by the afternoon. Really, more snow? Yes, really. 30F by 1pm.
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.
The maples have been tapped and the sap is boiling, old-school style, at the Hubbell Sugar Shack and will be boiling for the next month. This sugar shack runs on a wood-burning furnace and the product, Liquid Gold is sold at Catskill Rentals and Sandford Auto Parts.
10F at 830am, a grey, overcast, gloomy day: perfect weather for breakfast at the diner. 28F and still overcast, but much brighter by 3pm.
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.
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.
To open the new year, I wanted to post a piece I’ve been itching to publish for some time. Last year, Britain’s Guardian newspaper asked the question: What is a Hipster? This question remains inadequately answered just about everywhere I read it. So here’s my tuppence for the record.
The hipster, borne of necessity, like most American inventions, was quietly humming along by its introverted self until it was “discovered” like the next top model, propelled to stardom and repackaged. No longer the studious, dedicated urban outlier it once was, it has been devoured by contemporary culture: replicated, refined and turned into another brand like Pandora or Urban Outfitters. I’m keenly familiar with its recent history.
New York City has been a cultural icon for most of its life, but it’s a city that is almost unrecognizable from that which I visited for the first time almost 20 years ago. By 1998, I had moved permanently from an empty, crumbling mid-nineties Shoreditch in London to New York City’s Williamsburg and found something similar to what I had left.
Honey: a form of address, miracle food, medicinal unguent and mysterious immortal time traveler, having been found in Egyptian tombs intact, it has survived thousands of years. If only those crusty, aged urns of the amber nectar could speak, they could convey untold stories. What honey’s secret to eternal freshness? Lack of moisture, according to the Smithsonian Magazine and a combination of the following factors that produce a rare quality.
First, the aforementioned low moisture content can be survived by only very few bacteria who technically suffocate in the honey. “They just die,” writes Natasha Gelling, quoting Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at University of California. Honey is a sugar and it’s hygroscopic, meaning that it contains very little water in its natural state, but “can readily suck in moisture” if left in an open container.
Second, honey is very acidic with a pH value between 3 and 4.5. “The acid kills whatever wants to grow there,” states Harris. Next:
“Bees are magical,” Harris jokes. But there is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris’ estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bee’s stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF). When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. “Then,” Harris explains, “hydrogen peroxide is the next thing that goes into work against all these other bad things that could possibly grow.”
So, with honey being thick enough to put on wounds and containing just enough hydrogen peroxide, it’s the perfect healing unguent. Store your honey in a sealed, airless jar and it will never spoil.
Manuka honey, which is made in New Zealand from the nectar of Leptospermum scoparium, is the basis of Medihoney, which the FDA approved in 2007 for use in treating wounds and skin ulcers.
You may not be surprised about colony collapse disorder if you’re familiar with the large-scale, commercial beekeeping industry. Rather like industrial agriculture in its approach, facilities keep millions of bees in expansive fields that look, ironically, like military graveyards. Commercial “migrant” beekeeping outfits also rent bees out to large-scale agriculture, transporting hundreds of hives on enormous trucks with the bees in them and that’s before you add in pesticides and GM crops. It must be confusing and highly stressful to be a commercial bee.
There’s more urgency than ever to support locally-produced, small-batch honey. The Phoenica Honey Company, based in Phoenicia, New York, buys raw honey wholesale from apiaries in Ulster County and infuses it with natural additives like cinnamon, lavender, star anise, ETC. Proprietor Elissa Jane Mastel buys organic additives where she can and never heats the honey to above 112F and has plans for a thyme and pecan infused honey. The resultant infusions are light, delicate and perfect with tea. Phoenicia Diner and Mama’s Boy Coffee in Phoenicia and Bumble & Hive in Rhinebeck serve Phoenicia Honey Company’s honey.
At Griffins Corners in Fleischmanns, Chase Kruppo is developing Chasing Honey Farm, a new honey haven, on a family plot of five acres. It’s a new long-term sustainable agricultural venture wherein members can “buy-in” on a beehive and either, receive the honey from their bees, the proceeds from the sale of their honey at market, or a combination of both. Chase’s mission is “to create jobs, craft superior honey, and aid a declining bee population”. Watch a video presentation of Chasing Honey Farm here.
“Honeybees pollinate one third of grocery produce and it is vital to the Upstate region to secure the food it produces by supporting its pollinators,” says Chase. “46% of bee hives reporting in New York State were lost last winter due mainly to starvation and excess moisture. Part of the 2015 expansion project of Chasing Honey Farm is the creation of an apple orchard, vineyard, and plantings of white currants, lavender, and mints. Creating summer-blooming food sources for honeybees help the hives build up honey reserves for winter.”
No honey can be certified organic because bees can roam up to five miles away from the hive in every direction, but if we all planted bee-friendly, pesticide-free vegetation, it would help keep local bees healthy.
Go to Blue Barn Antiques, in Shandaken/Phoenicia for some excellent bargains on high-quality antiques like this Rockwell-painted plate (above) for $15. There is still a pile left with different Rockwell paintings. Other utterly gorgeous vintage and antique dresses are still there alongside modern artisanal products like Pillowtique’s pillows and handmade crafts.
No words can possibly describe the Wild Hive Skillet Polenta with Eggs and sauteed greens. The menu offered “sunny side up”, but the server offered them whichever way I fancied, so I took them scrambled and they were cooked to perfection: lightly buttery and moist. Was there cheese in the Polenta? Who knows? There was something magical in there, whatever it was, that made me feel like going straight to the Blue Barn and spending $36 on an antique red silk dress from Shanghai. Last time I did that it was the biscuits and gravy from Diner in Williamsburg, and two dresses from Pima Boutique in the Girdle Factory on Bedford Avenue… circa 2001. Remarkable dining experiences that make me go shopping are as rare as rent-stabilized apartments.
The artistic and entrepreneurial spirit is thriving indomitably in the Catskills where you’ll increasingly find more accomplished artists, tastemakers and downright fascinating people bringing their urban pursuits to the country. Furthermore, most businesses worth spotlighting here in the Catskills seem to be owned by women. Faye Storms has owned Blue Barn Antiques on Route 28 in Shandaken since 1979, having moved to the Catskills from NYC. “My husband brought me up here to recover from a sports injury and I fell in love with the place,” she says. “Then he put a bid on the store after we got married”. Storms learned the antiques trade after she bought the property, went to auctions, studied books, talked to people and set up the store. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband got into reproduction furniture which made them hugely popular. “There was nothing like it in the area at the time. We had cars lining up down the street.” The property has an interesting history having been a farm, a store and a luncheonette with a dancehall stage at the back that is still intact.
A graduate of FIT in New York City, Storms is also an accomplished artist – something that antique store owners seem to have in common in the area – a town council member and a real estate broker. She has firsthand knowledge that game changers and influencers, artists willing “to take a gamble or leap of faith” are pouring into the area and buying up property with the intent to start enterprises and encourage growth in the area.
Blue Barn’s prices are also reasonable, making it the place for an exciting bargain. A red, antique, ankle-length dress made in Shanghai, pictured below was $36. The store is also frequented by stylists for motion pictures, dinner theatres and fashion shoots.
There are two buildings on the Blue Barn property: a one-storey building (pictured top) and a two-storey building next to it, which Storms is slowly turning into a dealer center with all different dealers of various wares in addition to antiques like clothing, arts and crafts. You’ll find Theadora Anema’s Pillowthique, which featured early on Upstate Dispatch.
From 12pm to 5pm this coming Saturday December 6th, there will be an open house at the Blue Barn.
Blue Barn Antiques, 7053 State Route 28, Shandaken, (3 miles west of Phoenicia), New York. Open winter hours: Saturday and Sundays, 11-5pm.
Catskills’ artist Alix Travis has released a coloring book based on her own drawings for ages 7 and upwards. The book, priced at $15.50, will be available at the Commons Gallery, Margaretville, when it opens for the new show December 2nd to 31st, “Abstracts by Christopher Engel; Sculpture by Anthony Margiotta; Figures by Alix Hallman Travis”, the reception being December 6 from 3pm to 5pm.
Every dollar that you spend locally is 5 to 7 times the value of that expenditure to your community. When you shop at a big box store you’re diverting your capital directly out of your community to places like Asia, where most American products are made and wherever the owners of the big box store live. Furthermore, big box stores notoriously pay low wages to their workers, so by regularly shopping in those stores you’re contributing to the large-scale expansion of a low-wage job sector, such is the power of your wallet. Moreover, it’s no secret that government is bought and paid for by large corporations through lobbying and campaign fund contributions, the Supreme Court now having ruled that those contributions may be unlimited. Even if every American decided to vote in the next election, this fact would remain unchanged. This means we are remarkably more powerful when we are spending our money than when we are voting. All the power is in our purse and how we spend our hard-earned money, quite an extraordinary fact. Think about what would happen if we all stopped shopping for a few days, or stopped buying brand-new products, or only purchased food from our local farmer.
One way to buy local and recycle is to choose vintage stores for your Christmas shopping, thereby saving your economy and your environment in one fell swoop. One such place here in the Catskills is Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia owned by Laura Levine, an artist who has shown work at the MOMA and has work in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery. Laura has a superbly discerning eye and has filled her “odditorium” with magnificent, beautifully unique gifts like a snakeskin purse, a shearling coat, Liberty of London ties, gorgeously dainty Czech glass goblets and a bucket of polaroid cameras.
“I have always collected weird things my entire life,” she says. “I’m from the city. I grew up in the city, but my parents had a little cabin upstate when I was a kid and we used to go to yard sales and in the city I always used to go to flea markets.” Her antique store used to be in a little multi-dealer store in Phoenicia Plaza, near where the Phoenicia Diner is now. She had a 10 x 10 booth and stocked it with antiques until the placed closed down. “I had 30 days to move my things out and I was either going to sell it all or take the next step and open my own shop. I wasn’t going to do that, but I found a little space on the boardwalk in Phoenicia for $200 a month, so I took it. I opened over the summer for 20 days a year and the store grew from there.” That was over 13 years ago and five years ago the shop moved to its current, much larger and more prominent location on Main Street.
The store has just invested in two pick-up truck loads from an estate sale that she is still picking her way though, but her favorite thing of the moment is a steel shoe mold from a shoe factory, in a men’s size eight. “The thrill of the hunt is really the fun part,” says Laura who still lives in New York City and has an employee run the store for most of the time. “When I am at the store, I love meeting my customers. I’ve made some really great friends. I feel like it attracts kindred spirits and I always end up having something in common with the customers, like our paths crossed in the music business or the art world or something.”
For this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, the store is displaying a table of gift suggestions which range in price from 25 cents (for vintage greeting cards) to about $200, but the average price at the table is $20-$30. Gift certificates are also available: perfect for Christmas and especially if you’d like your in-laws to visit more! Entice them back to claim their gift.
If you’re wondering why Davy Crockett is outside, he’s a loaner from the neighboring Sportsman’s Cantina, moved there after Hurricane Irene, that Laura was thrilled to receive. It’s Davy’s birthday on August 17th and last year they had a Davy Crockett day during which customers dressed up as Crockett and local businesses donated prizes.
Go and have a dig around yourself in Mystery Spot Antiques, 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, New York: (845) 688-7868. Open weekends only for the winter, Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Find them on Facebook and Instagram. THIS WEEKEND ONLY: for Small Business Saturday on November 29th, get 20% off everything, except Mystery Spot Antiques’ tote bags and t-shirts.
Could there be anything more emblematic of the revolution in our consumption habits than seeing a branch of Bank of America transformed into a farmer’s market? Route 28, the essential thoroughfare that winds through the Catskills from Kingston’s Exit 19 on Route 87 (the main arterial route travelling north through New York State from New York City) to Delhi, now has a handful of winter farmer’s markets to visit after the fair-weather markets close on or just after Thanksgiving. Year-round farmer’s markets are rare, but if we frequent them, they will spring up to meet our demand.
Here’s a modest list from Upstate Dispatch that runs east to west starting with the Kingston and Rhinebeck markets and ending in Andes.
Should you know of any more, please reply to this post and I will add them.
Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, Rhinebeck Town Hall at 80 East Market St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Alternate Sundays: Dec 7 & 21, Jan 4 & 18, Feb 1 & 15, March 1, 15 & 29, April 12 & 26
Greenheart Farm Market: the former Bank of America on 2808 Route 28 in Shokan, between the Door Jamb and the intersection of Route 28 and Shokan Road, is open 24 hours. Go here to see it as its former self on Google Maps. Call Al, on (845) 657-2195.
Migliorelli Farm, 5150 Route 28, Mt. Tremper, NY. Contact: MaryAnn Migliorelli Rosolen. Phone: (845) 688-2112.
Andes Indoor Farmer’s Market, 143 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731. Contact: Cheryl Terrace. Phone: (607) 832-4660. All year round Amy delivers frozen soups to farmers and homeowners. Amy is based at the Andes Indoor Farmers Market every Saturday.
On Route 28 in Delhi, you can pick up locally-grown produce from Maple Shade Farm.
Girl and Bee sells chocolate truffles, chocolate bark and infused honey but it’s the chocolate bark that stands out for both its rough-hewn texture and exquisite organic embellishments which include goji berries, lavender, cacao nibs, bee pollen, peppermint and chamomile. Devastatingly delicious, the bark is a tactile experience, coming in palm-sized slabs and thin enough to permit a satisfying snap that releases a burst of color and aroma. It’s tasty and pretty: perfect for a holiday gifts. The bark comes in 4-ounce boxes for $8 and a 12-ounce tin for $20. If you’re in it for the truffles, they are each lovingly prepared by hand: thick, firm and intensely flavored by the likes of vanilla, rose and lavender. “Every truffle has had my hand on it,” says proprietor Melissa Zeligman who sells the 4-truffle sampler box for $14 and an 8-truffle sampler tin for $25. Gold leaf adorns the vanilla truffle like a little crown and combines a dark chocolate shell with pulverized Madagascar vanilla beans in the center.
In the heart of the English word companionship you will find the word bread, such is the reverence given to this humble foodstuff. It’s from the old French compaignon, literally “one who breaks bread with another”. You’d never know this now of course because wheat has suffered a sharp, unfriendly rebuke of late. The staff of life has stuck in the mud, been rolled into the metaphorical fire and the problem is the now-infamous gluten.
If you’re one of those people not swearing off dairy for anything from heartburn to allergies, you might consider shopping for local New York State dairy products. If you’re an ethical consumer concerned about the effects on animals and people of large-scale dairy farming, you could help by shopping the Catskills Family Creamery trail. The Catskills Family Creamery is “a group of farmstead dairy producers exploring collaborative marketing, distribution and educational activities” including small farms like Lazy Crazy Acres, Cowbella and Dirty Girl Farm producing gelato, butter, yoghurt, kefir, cow and goats milk cheeses and fluid milk. (Lazy Crazy Acres bottles the DiBenedetto family’s Crystal Valley Farm milk.) Their motto is “Small Dairies Making a Big Difference” and you could make a difference by choosing to support small dairy operations in which farmers treat their animals with respect and protect their environment: the same environment that gives clean, unfiltered drinking water to almost nine million NYC residents. Not only does it take effort to ethically farm, it takes additional time and work to protect the NYC watershed.
Mark Bittman wrote a column about milk in the New York Times this year stating:
But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.
We could all be a market for a local, small-holding dairy operation that Mark mentions. Vote with your dollar for the kind of farming you’d like to see in the world.
Me: ‘What’s in season?”
Waitress: “This is America: Everything’s in season.” (Italics hers.)
Duly silenced by this exchange, I flipped through the gigantic menu, struggling to make up my mind as the waitress stalked away proudly. One thing that stood out was the salmon. It was really cheap and back in England at the time smoked salmon was a luxury that I used to roll up in napkins and stuff in my pockets at corporate events. It was difficult not to be impressed by the range of choices and the prices, and in retrospect, I wonder today: what exactly is a luxury in times where “Sunday Best” is a quaint anachronism?
I’ve also recently given more thought to the thorough dressing down my American friend had given to a British sandwich on her first visit to London in the mid-nineties. Taking stock of what now seems like meagre offerings in Britain’s Marks & Spencer Food Hall, my friend exclaimed loudly: “call that a sandwich?!”
Plastic has gradually displaced wood over the last forty years in all products ranging from toys to furniture, to siding for houses and everything in between. Plastic is disposable though and most of it ends its life floating in the South Pacific. In the Catskills, wood is carved and carved upon, built with, juiced, chopped, stacked and burned. We have associations and organizations that manage and conserve our forests. You’ll possess a finely crafted wood product for life and pass it down like art in your family as a treasured heirloom. Supporting local carpenters and craftsmen keeps that craft alive and keeps one more piece of plastic out of the ocean. It doesn’t take much to buy a carving board from local New York State wood like maple (pictured above from Knap Knoll) or wooden toys for children that will last many lifetimes. If you’re looking for a larger handmade heirloom for your family, visit Gary Mead’s Fruitful Furnishings in the Catskills for some of the finest craftsmanship in the Catskill Park region. And, as a side note, to protect our forests from invasive species, like Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle, please do not transport firewood.
The pharmaceutical industry is a trillion-dollar industry in which “simple lab work done during a few days in the hospital can cost more than a car” and patients are reportedly paying $37.50 for a tylenol according to recent investigative journalism like the Time piece by Steven Brill. Consumer expenditure on holistic and natural remedies pales in comparison. Moreover, the toiletries you find on typical supermarket shelves are loaded with preservatives and chemicals like phthalates, parabens and other hormone-mimics that disrupt the endocrine system. There’s much in the natural world that will clean and nourish us more safely and, in coming months, Upstate Dispatch will run a preparatory series on foraging and incorporating natural remedies into our cosmetics and diet. It’s possible to wash your hair and body with products that are entirely free of harmful chemicals purchased here in the Catskills. Today’s potions were Red Clover balm made by Moody’s Mountain Medica of Margaretville, found in The Roxbury General Store and soaps and balms by Green Spiral Herbs containing only natural and organic oils.