52F by mid-afternoon, overcast, windy. Occasional patches of blue floating in the gloomy sky like empty spaces in a jigsaw puzzle.
The Zephyr’s Chili on the dinner menu stands out for its lightness, uncharacteristic for a chili bowl, achieved by the addition of sweet, juicy chunks of tomato amongst the beans. You won’t go home with a brick in your stomach, but you’ll have enough fuel for a long walk in the country air, the wet, wet, gloomy country air. I took a couple of bites of the cheesy biscuits, wrapped the rest up in a napkin and ate them later. Where’s spring? Yesterday was warmer at 62F and cloudy with some late afternoon sun. Today: more rain. My seasonal affective disorder is only just held at bay by remembering how low the Catskills reservoirs were last year and how much they need replenishing. Spring has been more of a gastronomical tour around the mountains, ducking into restaurants, sitting at the bar and trying some of the Catskills’ best fare. Try also, Traveler’s White Tea with Hibiscus, (which also goes well as a vodka mixer).
62F by mid-afternoon, scattered clouds, but warm in the sun with a cool breeze.
36F at 8.30am with a layer of overnight snow melting in the sun, chilly and overcast with the snow flakes swirling in the wind. 44F by mid-afternoon.
46F by mid-afternoon, humid and overcast with continual misty rain. A good day to forage, harvest, cook and preserve.
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, dreary and continual rain with occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.
51F by mid-afternoon, chilly, windy and overcast with a sunny afternoon.
Two years ago, I saw Proof at the STS Playhouse in Phoenicia and it was riveting and engaging. At the time, I called it “remarkable: deeply engrossing, funny with excellent performances from the cast. Proof explores the world of madness and mathematics”. It was a great production, starring Jennifer Paul, Farrell Reynolds, Stephen Powell and Kimberly Kay.
This year the Playhouse is putting on a production of Prelude to a Kiss, by Craig Lucas, directed by Michael Koegel, owner of Mama’s Boy Burgers. You may remember the movie with Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. Opening night is this weekend, May 5th, running until May 21st. Make a perfect night of it and get early dinner and drinks at nearby Peekamoose Restaurant– the play starts at 8pm.
STS Playhouse, 10 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY. Tickets $20 or $18 for seniors and students. Call 845-688-2279, or click here for more information.
58F at 9am, raining, overcast and humid. Last night’s rain gushing down the mountains. Breezy afternoon.
77F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine. Asparagus sundial.
UD: What brought you to the Catskills?
RA: My husband Mark and I would travel north from our Pennsylvania home just on a whim. This was before we had our daughter Isabella. We always ended up coming home from Lake Placid, the Adirondacks or wherever we ended up, through the Catskills. After we had our little girl and we weren’t traveling around the world anymore, we decided to get a vacation home here. Then once my daughter was of age to go to kindergarten, we made a decision to move here, so that she could start kindergarten here and not have to move mid-term.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an egg as delicious as this: bright orange yolks, rich, sweet and creamy, almost like a dessert when soft-boiled on toast and in yesterday’s salad! Leigh Melander, a colleague at WIOX and founder of Spillian bought a bucket of eggs into the radio station to share. Leigh says her hens, who are completely free range, are very happy and I believe her. They were presented with some art a few days ago and all flocked around to inspect it.
Part of the lure to the country or Upstate New York, apart from the fresh air, is the local food. It’s worth battling five months of winter for glorious food like this. When wholesome food of this calibre becomes an expensive luxury in the city, it’s time to move upstate where your neighbors bring you eggs, cheese, bread, jam or any number of spring items that they have produced on their homestead. Just the fragrant aroma of a homegrown tomato feels like a miracle.Local, country board meetings are never without something homemade to pass around like goat’s cheese or bread. This second rainy and gloomy day of the week has been lit up like a summer’s day by simple eggs on toast using local bread.
Winter is tough up here, but the spring rewards are like Sunday Best, not taken for granted and savored all the more.
Last night, Rob Handel, chef at Heather Ridge Farm, impressed a large crowd packed into the Catskill Center with his knowledge on wild edibles and foraging. After conducting a talk on how to incorporate wild vegetables into our diet by producing tinctures, ferments and syrups, he brought out some delicious, earthy, wholesome food to taste that made the taste buds come alive.
Endive stuffed with porcini mushroom pate topped with ramp pesto accompanied by carrot, burdock root and garlic grass salad (pictured above).
A pickled milk weed pod
Forsythia Syrup with Soda
Some of the ingredients in last night’s tasting were foraged recently: forsythia is available now and ramps are coming up. The nettle soup was fresh and exquisite. Some ingredients were preserved; the pickled milk weed pod tasted like a larger, yet much more subtle, caperberry. The crowd was so large for this event, not only because Rob is so knowledgable, answering everyone’s follow-up – and non-follow up/general experience – questions with ease, but because wild edibles are becoming very popular. Gradually, people are turning away from traditional foods and taking a keen interest in the wildly diverse tastes of foraged herbs, funghi and vegetables that they can find on their property like garlic mustard, burdock, nettle leaf, sumac, dandelion, sheep sorrel, milk weed, porcini and more. This kind of rare, unusual – and FREE! – food excites the taste buds. Plus, it’s fun to forage. Rob recommended a few books, one of which was The Joy of Foraging by Gary Lincoff.
On my jaunts around the neighborhood, I regularly bump into people who love Upstate Dispatch. Last week, a reader told me: “I love the site! I just wish there was more of it”. Me too!
Upstate Dispatch takes hundreds of hours per month to research and write. All of the food and drink you see reviewed here has been paid for, with one exception, and where tickets are sold to local cooking, foraging, writing and art classes, they have been purchased. In the past, when we’ve had contributors, we have paid them. As I a writer, I believe artists and writers should not have to work for free. We are also an advertisement-free site, so we rely on donations.
If you love reading Upstate Dispatch, please consider donating. Future donations will fund a small summer arts and literary studio in the local village for Upstate Dispatch. We want to expand our coverage over the summer, move into the community, and revive the Catskills Conversations series, shedding more light on our local luminaries and their stories.
Lastly, I want to thank our past donors who have expressed their appreciation of Upstate Dispatch in a meaningful way. I’m sincerely and immensely grateful for the love!
Please find our donation page here.
80F scorcher, hazy, humid. Wading in cool streams, under waterfalls, shaded by pine trees.
68F by mid-afternoon with wisps of cloud in an azure sky. Laundry swaying in the breeze like huge flags.
36F at noon: thick mist, rushing rivers, overflowing tributaries, sloppy mud, snow until mid-afternoon. Spring on hold.
38F by 2pm and overcast with persistent heavy rain throughout the day.
60F by mid-afternoon with clear skies and flowing streams reflecting the blazing sun. Spring springs.
45F at 8.30am and 51F by mid-afternoon, humid, with large piles of snow trickling into rivers, ditches and gullies.
We’re proud to announce that a framed Daily Catskills print will be offered in a Silent Auction and Art Exhibition at The Emerson in Brooklyn this Saturday organized by Melissa Irwin. It’s a privilege to be able to use this medium to raise money for charity. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Planned Parenthood, a 100-year-old institution that provides reproductive health services and cancer screening for millions of people every year. It was “founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams”.
44F at 1pm with faint wisps of cloud and brilliant sunshine reflected off the snow.
46F by mid-afternoon, brilliant sunshine, two feet of soft snow acts as a giant pillow for lounging in the sun.
Half a pound of Angus beef served with either fries or salad; it’s the jalapeno mayonnaise sauce that gives this juicy burger a hearty kick to the palate with melted smoked gouda cheese, sliced dill pickles and lettuce. The bun is also up to the challenge, remaining steadfast despite the onslaught of sauce, which will run over and douse the perfectly cooked fries: crispy outer shell and fluffy potato within and possibly the best fries in the Catskills (along with the steak fries at Boiceville Inn). The Mean Green from Catskill Mountain Country Store and Restaurant is wholly delicious.
18F by 1pm, sunny with more skin-peeling, freeze-dried hands, thundering winds.
11F on the ridge at 9.30am and not much warmer for the rest of the day. Face-freezing, tree cracking, fresh powder swirling in roaring winds. Evening repair to cozy bar.
Gusty winds bringing isolated snow showers all night and into the morning, coating the landscape once again with fresh powder after a warm week. 25F by mid-afternoon with high winds and dappled grey sky. Dangerous wind chill warning for this evening.
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.
“York state’s richest men wagered their principles
while her poorest hacked life from a hillside farm.”
I had lunch with Bill Birns, literally and literally: last week in person and today with a selection of his written works. A Catskill Catalog, borrowed from my local library, is an anthology of literary history, giving details of the stories behind local roads and place names, many of which are named after families and individuals who have lived in the area over the last two or three hundred years, or still do. For example, I didn’t know that the man after whom a nearby road was named, Basil Todd, was a short-form memoirist.
Weekend camping resets the body clock, says the BBC.
Saturday February 25th: A group reading of Macbeth with beer at Reynolds & Reynolds in Woodstock.
Cosmik Ice Cream, maker of freeze-dried ice cream that will never melt, visits Woodchuck Lodge. In these temperatures, nothing is melting up here, but for us trustees of Woodchuck Lodge, this is lovely publicity.
Governor Cuomo pledges $8 million in state funds for Belleayre Ski Resort.
Woodstock Farm Festival looking for vendors.
The Catskills’ own Lisbeth Firmin’s talk “Painting and Prints” on March 17th at William & Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education in North Carolina.
Catskill Center is accepting applications for the Platte Clove Artist in Residence Program.
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.
A balmy 62F by mid-afternoon, hot in the bright sunshine with cobweb clouds. Snow dripping from trees like a very slow shower.
Spillian hosted a cheese tasting last Saturday for friends and neighbors who took a first look at Two Stones Farm’s new batch of cheese. I wrote an extensive account of Alan and Robin White’s Two Stones Farm in Halcottsville over a year ago in a piece entitled The Fine Art of Cultivation, which you can read here. The White’s farm is its own ecosystem and they are breeding goats that will eventually be perfect for the Catskills climate and terrain. The goats live in barn that’s heated by manure and are protected by two self-sufficient guardian dogs who have been known to fish out of the river: a fascinating place and worth a visit. From the goats’ milk, they are now making cheese.This delicious local cheese is produced naturally without synthetic hormones or antibiotics. Alan wanted to supplement the goat’s milk with cow’s milk, but was obliged to obtain the milk in multiple plastic bottles and because he didn’t want to put all that plastic back in the environment, he bought a cow. Presently, they produce soft cheese like a feta and a chevre, plus two types of tomme and a gouda-style cheese without the wax coating.
37F by 2pm with persistent snow flurries.
29F by mid-afternoon with snow all day. Whiteout.
“…what a severe yet master artist old Winter is… Ah, a severe artist! No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.”
Back to Slide Mountain, a favorite of the writer John Burroughs and on a mountain range named after him after having inspired prose and poetry. There’s a commemorative plaque set into the rock under which he often slept at the summit of Slide. It’s also a favorite of my own being unimaginably stunning in the winter covered in a fluffy white cap with a glassy sky made of silvery blue. Near the summit there’s a crop of pine trees that look like they’ve been severely struck by lightning and, just further on from there, a stand of trees that have been stripped and tossed in the air like a giant had been picking his teeth with them. There are magnificent views and a wide array of trails to take.
28F by mid-afternoon and overcast with a glassy silver-grey sky and snow flurries on the peaks.
28F by mid-afternoon and bright and sunny with rolling clouds. Toe-numbing coldness until the afternoon.
It’s good to know when to give up and turn around and yesterday was one of those days. Rusk Mountain, a bushwhack that seemed easy on paper, was an almost vertical ascent the way we went, covered in a layer of thick snow, making it difficult to maintain traction even in snow shoes. After an hour of climbing, slipping, sliding and clinging to tree branches, the final straw was the formiddable rock ledge (pictured above) that greeted me about 20 minutes from the top. There were tracks up the side of this ledge from hikers that were ahead of us, but the snow was crumbly and there were no tree roots or rocks for support. Plus, I was cold, fatigued and we had started too late, so we were in a bit of a rush. Last time I ignored the conditions, I slid 30 feet down a mountain and slammed into a tree. I learned my lesson back then.
Leave it to the inestimable Park Rangers to impress us with their louche cool and a rogue Twitter account – and those fantastic outfits. Get all the other hilarious rogue Twitter accounts here at CNN from NASA and other regional Park Service employees.
Tonight, a Scottish Weekend begins at the historical Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.
Catskill Park Coalition Information Session at the Catskill Center tomorrow, Saturday January 28th.
Next Friday, February 3rd, The Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center.
For writers, a Museum of Linguistics is arriving in Washinton DC called “Planet Word”.
Upstate Dispatch Retro Links
A local cocktail, Vly Creek Vodka Lemonade with local maple syrup and vodka.
My description of the most breathtakingly beautiful climb on the Catskills 35, Balsam Mountain. My first peak on my mission to hike the Catskills 35, Panther Mountain. By the way, don’t steal signs! Hikers rely on them.
My thoughts on being introduced to camping.
A spring day out to plan: a swim in Big Pond, then a visit to buy some local trout.
31F at 9am, light breeze, milky sky, six inches of overnight snow.
34F by 2pm, overcast, gloomy, with mild overnight ice storm having left few inches of gravelly ice that were topped by six inches of afternoon snow on the peaks. Slushy, muddy valleys.
Early morning fog hovering in the valleys and 50F by mid-afternoon with slushy snow on the peaks, running waterfalls and brilliant sunshine.
34F at 9am, overcast, recovering from overnight ice storm. Every leaf, branch, blade, needle trapped in a glassy prison. House covered in icy granola.
A Call For Entry at the Center for Photography in Woodstock: CPW’s WOODSTOCK AIR is a residency program for US-based artists and critics/scholars/curators of color, working in photography. Deadline is Monday January 16th.
A Writer’s Evening at the Stamford Library, 117 Main Street, Stamford, NY on Monday January 16th at 7pm. Sign up to present your latest work.
Governor Cuomo announced plans to develop a hiking trail across New York State by 2020. The plan include “filling in” gaps between already existing trails in NYS. This amazing trail, once laid, will be the longest in the nation and connect Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Capital Region and New York City to Canada (connecting with the Capital Region).
If you’re interested in hiking the Catskills 35, join the Catskills 3500 Club. Sign up for scheduled hikes. Next week Saturday January 21st, there is a schedule bushwhack (no marked or maintained trail) to North Dome and Sherrill Mountains. Peaks that have no trail are easiest to navigate in winter when there is no foliage blocking your view.
Buy or sell your produce through Lucky Dog Farm Hub.
The first of two workshops on Lambing and Kidding at Heather Ridge Farm, 989 Broome Center Road, Preston Hollow, NY on Saturday January 21st at 11am.
Young at Art at the Roxbury Arts Group: an art exhibit for children. Opening reception at 11am on Saturday January 21st.
The Phoenicia Library hosts Invasive Plants and How To Deal With Them next week Saturday January 21st at 10.30am – a must if your land is being taken over by invasive species.
A Beginning Farmers and Ranchers training program in Oneonta, NY beginning next month.
Ted Sheridan is more architect that artist, having designed the cozy studio attached to the house that he and Amy Masters share. He went into architecture because of his love of drawing which he has done since he was young: technical drawing and line drawing in pencil. “Even though computers have taken over the traditional drawing and drafting, I still hand draw a lot of my projects,” he says. As far as his artwork is concerned: “architecture is so controlled and precise, I was looking for ways to work in a medium that would work against that and be unpredictable, not be in control all the time.”
17F by noon and calm with the sun straining through another frosted sky.
9F at 9am, calm and quiet with the sun straining though a sky like gauze. 15F by mid-afternoon with light, glittering snowfall.
17F by noon with a sky made of gray-blue glass and crunchy snow underfoot like chopped meringue.
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”.
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.