18F at 10am with a dusting of crunchy overnight snow and a very brief, early morning theatrical sky that looked like a rippling New England stormy sea when I went to the local farmer for a gallon of milk, and cleared up by the time I got home.
If you thought farm work ceased over the winter, think again. Before Christmas, Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms in Bovina Center was figuring out the water system for the pigs: they have a boar, two sows and a couple of piglets to “winterize”. At the beginning of December, the pond had frozen and when they ran the hose, it froze. They put a heater in one of their big cow troughs, so they can pull water out of it. December and January are months during which the Burnetts work out ideas for the forthcoming season. Farmers swap notes and share ideas at community dinners. “You definitely need a bit of rest time, but if you have animals you have to take care of them. The fence goes, water freezes, you carry buckets of grain and you’re slipping. It’s hard.”
Lisbeth Firmin is a studio artist and the bitter Catskills winters present a chance to hole up and focus after a summer spent mostly teaching in upstate New York and New England. Although most of her subjects are in transit, either walking deeply in thought or musing by the window of a moving train, they are rendered indoors. “It’s cozy in the studio and there’s less demand on your time in the winter” she says, not to mention her steep driveway that becomes dangerous when it ices over, prohibiting visitors.
Being in the studio full-time is “like being in a monastery. It’s very ascetic: depriving yourself like a hermit, wearing same clothes every day and painting every day,” she says. “I think it was Milton Avery who said, in his work as an artist, if you just approach it like a job, even only just two or three hours a day every day, you’ll be surprised what you can get done”.
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.
My last radio show of the year on WIOX focused on favorite winter recipes from colleagues, neighbors and friends working in the food industry. Jeanette Bronée is a nutritionist and health coach, based part-time in the Central Catskills, who has appeared on my show a number of times in the past few years inspiring listeners to take charge of their health. She’s author of Eat To Feel Full. A small book with a big message, it’s “a beginner’s guide to self-nourishment, offering a combination of food knowledge, insights into the habits that block our efforts to transform, and practical techniques for developing a mindful, healthy relationship with food”. She picked a recipe that’s sweet and spicy, more like a dessert than a side dish with roasted whole carrots and sweet prunes. We used unsulphured apricots instead of prunes because you can really substitute any fruit that you wish and added a half cup of wine to the recipe. We served it with a small side of braised, local venison. As Jeanette said on a previous radio show, she eats meat “like a condiment” and, excepting the occasional post-hike burger, we’ve been taking her advice ever since. This roasted vegetable dish is luscious: sweet and filling, perfect with seasonal game.
Roasted Carrots & Prunes
39F by noon with mostly clear skies.
From the Imperial War Museum in London: in addition to being asked to “keep calm and carry on”, citizens of England were encouraged to start their own small farms and allotments during World War II to supplement their strictly rationed diet. In fact, we only have carrot cake because of war-time rationing. As sugar was almost non-existent in England for years, finely grated carrots were used instead. Of course, upstaters can use maple syrup or honey. Most upstate dwellers have at least a kitchen garden and, if you want to control the quality of your food, growing it yourself is the best way of doing it. It’s hard work, though, and tough lessons are learned. It takes trial and error to find places where food grows well on your property, and in a short growing season this kind of challenge can take years to overcome, but the rewards are infinite.
Amy Masters and Ted Sheridan share an elegant and softly lit studio in Arvkille, which they had built as an addition onto their Catskills home three years ago. This winter will be the third winter they’ve worked in it. Warmly inviting, the studio is decorated in muted tones, covered in art and filled with books and trinkets collected over the years. Winter is a time for thought and meditation, especially when there’s a foot or two of snow accumulated outside and your studio is the warmest part of the house, like Masters’ is.
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.
A frigid 27F by mid-afternoon with squally snow showers and thick snow on the peaks.
Still only 26F by 2pm, blustery with a glittering sky.
All over the Catskills you can find ancient shells, clam-like fossils and other marine life partially buried in the sandstone because, during the Devonian period, the Catskills were at the bottom of the sea, somewhere around the Bahamas. The Devonian Period was 400 million years ago and since then the Americas have moved farther north to the position they are in today. On hikes to places like Slide, Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain, the rocks look like they had pebbles thrown at them while they were molten. According to Catskill Mountaineer, Panther Mountain sits on top of a meteorite hit that happened 375 million years ago. In the middle of the picture above, taken on Slide Mountain, you will see what looks like the remnants of a curling shell.
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.
37F at 1pm with a glassy sky and an overnight layer of snow.
39F by noon with mostly clear skies.
34F by noon, with a gunmetal grey sky and a fresh layer of snow.
Chris Bradley has been Phoenicia Diner‘s executive chef since May of this year. He picked his favorite winter dish, which is currently being considered for the new menu that comes out next week and it’s delicious. The duck was tender and juicy, the vegetables perfectly roasted and not salty. A gorgeous winter recipe that’s rib sticking, but won’t sit heavily in your stomach. Plus, it’s no longer a mystery as to how their grits are so utterly mouthwatering. Here’s the recipe for it.
Cider Braised Duck, Butternut Squash & Brussels Spouts
47F by noon with continuous rain, grey and gloomy.
50F by mid-afternoon, raining and overcast.
Saturday December 3rd 2pm
Function or Form: Utilitarian Art Exhibit, Erpf Gallery, Arkville, NY
The exhibit, Function or Form: Utilitarian Art, will be on display in the Erpf Gallery December 3rd, 2016 through January 21st, 2017. It features beautiful functional items by 17 local artists. An Artist’s Reception will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, from 2pm-4pm, at the Erpf Center in Arkville.
45F by noon, warmer with hazy sunshine and snow melting.
As winter draws closer and dusk settles at 4.30pm, the tendency is to batten down the hatches, fire up the wood stove and curl up on the sofa with a book. This is also the perfect way to get cabin fever and it’s easy to go days or even weeks without socializing. The Brits handle their cabin fever by frequent attendance down the pub. A gloomy British winter – one that extends all the way from summer’s end to the following summer – would be unbearable without a local pub. Hobart now has one, The Bull & Garland and I think we’ve mentioned here how truly authentic and cozy it is. Hobart is called the Catskills’ “book village” and it’s modeled after another British tradition: Hay on Wye’s annual book festival.
Co-incidentally, Creative Corner Books in Hobart, a stone’s throw from the pub, is hosting a jewelry-making class on December 8th from 7pm to 8.30pm. It really couldn’t get any better: a few pints, a Scotch egg, books, more books and then some hilarious wrangling with a pair of tweezers and some tiny beads – or the other way around. Run by Heather Rolland, the class will teach the basics of earring making. The cost is $15 per pair of earrings inclusive of instruction and materials.
Creative Corner Books, 607 Main Street, Hobart, NY (607) 386-2525
The Bull & Garland, 760 Main St, Hobart, NY 13788 (607) 538-3006
45F by noon, overcast with receding snow.
35 by 2pm, overcast and snowing.
35F by noon with hazy cloud and bright sunshine.
30F by noon, overcast and windy.
27F by noon, light breeze and glassy, grey sky, snow for most of the afternoon.
30F by mid-afternoon, with thick, deep overnight snow. Overcast and blustery.
Support local producers and shop locally for your holiday gifts this year. Shopping locally benefits the local community in countless ways. Every dollar spent in your local community benefits that community by 5-7 dollars. Here’s a list of crafts, food and bodycare products from Christmas stocking stuffers and gifts for colleagues and friends, to more expensive gifts that go under the family tree. Below find our best picks for scrumptious local food, beautiful gifts and local crafts.
SPECIALITY FOOD & DRINK
Everyone loves food. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns has a wealth of beautifully packaged herbs, sweets, condiments and spices that make fabulous gifts for the home cook. Special items are the Spices Des Fes blend for making tagine, preserved lemons, fruit compotes and Casablanca chutney. Perfect stocking stuffers or make great gifts for friends and colleagues.
Grab a bottle or two of Wayside Cider when you’re next in Andes and, maybe stop awhile for a quick refreshing apertif on your way to a dinner party.
Enjoy their tap room and pick up a bottle of locally distilled vodka at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville.
If you’re in Margaretville and feel like something sweet or need a sweet gift, The Cheese Barrel stocks mouth-watering cookies like Bahlsen, Italian chocolate, nougat, jarred condiments, tea, coffee and jams that make great stocking stuffers or dinner party gifts. At Homegoods of Margaretville you’ll find everything the modern cook could want from cute salt and pepper shakers to Le Creusette pans and everything in between. They also stock tea, lotions, cookbooks and spices.
Tay Tea has a shop in Delhi selling all things tea: a large selection of house-blended tea, teapots, arts and crafts. Their tea is beautiful and stylishly packaged. If you’re looking to give up coffee, their Coffee Lover’s Tea is a wholesome, flavorful alternative with light caffeine content.
For authentic local maple syrup go here to read local guide published earlier in the year.
The Catskills have the finest lotions, potions and unguents on offer made by hand by local artisans. Click here for our guide published earlier this year.
Catskills Northern Essentials
Northern Essentials products are fabulous. Yes, a single bar of soap can change your day! Perfect for small gifts and wedding favors, they are beautifully packaged, make a creamy lather and contain comforting essential oils like rose and invigorating lemongrass. There’s a wide range of soaps to choose from, using speciality ingredients like goat’s milk, sea buckthorn, pine tar and activated charcoal.
Lady Bug Soap, 42 Creamery Road, Greenville, NY
Lee Lewis started making her own lotions, soaps and potions to cope with eczema. She has over 80 products available including bug and tick repellents. Her hand soap is gentle on dry hands and lightly aromatic, a perfect foil for winter dryness. Store hours are Thursday & Friday 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 11am- 3pm. You can also shop online at Lady Bug Soap.
LOCAL STOCKISTS & GENERAL STORES
Here are our three favorite general stores to support this holiday season, stocking all your essentials.
The Roxbury General Store, 53538 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474
The General Store has some seriously classy, high-quality local gifts for everyone your life, whether it’s a colleague, friend or family member. You also have the added bonus of perhaps catching a wine tasting on the opposite corner at Roxbury Wines & Spirits.
The Blue Barn, 7053 Route 28, Shandaken, NY 12480
The Blue Barn has always been reasonably priced and a great go-to for antiques and more modern items from local furniture dealers and craftspeople. A no-brainer if you’re passing through or for locals: an Upstate Dispatch favorite. Read our write-up of the Blue Barn here. Check their facebook page for their winter hours which are usually weekends only.
Lucky Dog Farm Store, 35796 State Highway 10 (Main Street), Hamden, NY 13782
This delightful general store is a one-stop shop for all manner of high-quality food, condiments, clothing, kitchenware, lotions, soaps, candles and wool products. They stock Jos Vulto’s delicious cheese, local honey and many, many other speciality local products. They also deliver and offer case orders at a 20% discount. Go here to see their extensive product list. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Catskill Mountain Artisan’s Guild, Main Street, Margaretville, NY
The Artisan’s Guild offers an extensive range of high-quality arts and crafts like painted silk, leather goods and jewelry and has the benefit of being open all week long.
MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street, Hobart, NY 13788
The Gallery Gift Shop at MURAL began several years ago as a way to support their endeavours to promote art in the region. Proceeds from the gift shop keep the fine art gallery open to the public free of charge, keep the costs of their invaluable workshops and events low, and provide an additional revenue stream for local artisans. You can also find Solveig Comer’s Most Precious Pottery here.
Bovina Brown Bats, Bovina Center, NY
Bovina Brown Bats is run by owner John Virga, a graphic artist and carpenter who makes custom bat boxes in addition to other things. The best time to put up a bat box is in the Spring.
Arkville Bread Breakfast, 43285 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406
This legendary sandwich shop, beloved by all, run by Jack, is having a local, holiday market on Black Friday featuring a selection from the Upstate Dispatch Daily Catskills Collection, Steve Burnett’s metalworks (pictured above), Catskill Clothing Company and other local craftspeople. Steve Burnett makes striking metalwork sculptures (pictured above), watercolors and drawings. His last show was at Rachel’s Framing and Fine Art in Delhi.
2nd Annual Holiday Pop-Up Market, 778 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.
Last year’s market was a “phenomenal success”, so this year’s holiday market will be expanding into two days, November 25th and 26th, 10am – 5pm. Local crafts, clothing and jewelry including Halia Grace jewelry and more.
Support local artists by shopping in the Catskills for holiday gifts. As the quote goes, “vote with your wallet for the kind of change you want to see in the world”. Consumer power is real. If you stop buying products produced overseas, fewer will be imported. The latest economic conversion metric for shopping locally is: every dollar spent locally benefits that community to the value of 5-7 dollars. Support your local artists.
50F by noon after a moody morning with swirling cloud, clearing up by mid-afternoon
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.
43F by 8.30am with mid-morning rain. Thickly overcast and misty.
Now that the sun sets at 4.30pm and night falls before dinner, the journey to Saturday night eats becomes more romantic. Almost an hour spent on winding, country roads, through picturesque towns like Roxbury and Gilboa – site of one of the Catskills’ famous dams – to Preston Hollow is like winter film noir. Bright squares of light from homesteads and farmhouses flash by in the waning dusk and you catch fleeting glimpses of the toughest work days being put away. Farmers enjoying their own dinner at tables are spotted briefly through front windows. A farmer’s work is never done though and those farmers who have full-time jobs have to tend to animals through the night or help family members milk cows.
37F at 8.30am and chilly.
48F by mid-afternoon, thickly overcast, misty and raining.
62F by 2pm, with wispy cloud and warm in the sun.
36F at 8.30am with clear skies and warm in the sun. 55F by mid-afternoon.
Jeff Vincent of Catskill Mountain Wild is running a Bushwhacking 101 class next week, Saturday November 12th, on Rusk Mountain. Apparently, it’s No-Trail-November and now that the trees are almost bare, trail-less hiking is much easier.
In this class you will learn how to bushwhack safely and properly; go over basic map and compass reading; learn how to navigate the land. This is described as a hands-on class and culminates in hiking to the summit of Rusk, which is one of the hikes required to complete the Catskills 35.
The group will be meeting at 9am on Spruceton Road in West Kill, NY, one of the most picturesque valleys in the Catskills. The Spruceton Inn will be giving the group 50% discount on drinks at their bar after the hike. Hike to the top of a mountain and then sip half-price drinks as the sun goes down in the beautiful Catskills: a guaranteed good time.
Jeff Vincent is a guide licensed by the NYS DEC, certified in First Aid & CPR, a 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and Catskill 3500 Club member.
50F by mid-afternoon, humid with a light breeze and overcast.
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.
When farmers retire and sell, “typically it’s a large corporation that purchases that land”. American Farmers are rapidly retiring. Who will succeed them? From Modern Farmer. “The lack of replacements for aging farmers is a real concern. The average age of U.S. farmers is 58.3 years, and over the next 25 years, more than one-fourth of all farmers are expected to retire, which would require an additional 700,000 to replace them.”
The UK’s Guardian asks: “can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone?”
A brief history of farmed chickens, also from The Guardian.
“Scientists have turned the humble spinach plant into a bomb detector”. “Bionic” plants that can detect explosions from the BBC.
What the oldest woman in the world eats every day from Huffington Post.
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.
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, humid with rain for most of the day.
55F by noon, overcast, gusty and humid. 60F by mid-afternoon.
Found at the Pakatan Farmers’ Market which runs through November: Holiday Farm Biscuit Co’s sausage pie. This delicious pie comes in two varieties, egg/sausage and chorizo/manchega. Light and crumbly crust with subtly flavorful filling, it’s not so heavy that you’ll feel stuffed afterwards. Served warm, it’s makes the perfect winter breakfast. Get some.
30F at 8am and snowing heavily. 32F and sleet mid-afternoon.
Accomplished Catskills historian, Diane Galusha, is author of Liquid Assets: A History of New York City’s Water System, which has recently been updated and expanded to include the last ten years of advancement in the delivery of the NYC water supply. It’s published by Purple Mountain Press.
What first brought you to the Catskills?
Love. What else? [Laughs] I was living in Hamilton New York, up in Madison County working at Colgate University and I met a man who lived in the Catskills. I made a move down into the Hudson Valley to be closer. Then just decided to take the leap and move to the Catskills to be with him. I had a relationship with him for eight years.
Where are you from originally?
From Broome County, a town called Windsor. I’m a small town girl and I love these small towns and these hills. I was raised about a couple of hours from here.
41F by mid-afternoon and windy with rolling cloud.
48F by noon and overcast with high winds.
If you never truly appreciate something until it has gone, then I was really very much appreciating the Saturday Summer farmer’s market until I found out it was extending until the end of November. Owing to an Autumn that was warmer than usual, local farmers have more produce to sell. I haven’t been to the market as often as I have liked this summer and am grateful to have another three or four opportunities. On Saturday, in addition to kimchee and fresh ginger, I picked up a box of assorted root vegetables. Plus, I planted the rest of the fresh ginger as it had a couple of green shoots. There’s nothing like firing up the wood stove for the first time and watching a fresh, organic root soup simmering for the evening. Fall is almost finished and the landscape is swaddled in a thick blanket of caramel oak leaves, the last trees to turn.
52F by mid-afternoon with high winds and rolling clouds.
The Pakatakan Farmers Market in Halcotsville on Route 30 is extending its Saturday market through the end of November. Today there was a limited edition of what you’ll normally find there, but if you’re looking to stock up on local vegetables, Lucky Dog and Straight Out Of The Ground were present. Madalyn Warren’s famous kimchee is delicious. She also had fresh ginger, heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes and other greens. Lucky Dog had all its usual green vegetables and herbs. Owing to the late Summer/warm Autumn combination (yesterday it was 70F), there will be more to sell for the next month. Under the large awning there was local chicken for sale, more vegetables, a bakery, soups, coffee, tea, local cheese and Catskill Funghi. Open 10am-2pm every Saturday from now through November. The final market will be on November 19th but a special holiday market will take place on November 26th. Today was dismally freezing with a biting wind, but it’s worth braving the cold to get such excellent produce. Support your local farmers.
An overcast morning, with sunshine emerging midday. 70F by mid-afternoon with rolling cloud.