48F, overcast and gloomy. Chilly in historical reading rooms.
57F by mid-afternoon, humid and gloomy. Still life with scents.
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.
50F at 9am, fog receding into the mountains leaving a dewy landscape. 61F by mid-afternoon with torrential early evening rain. Wet.
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.
68F by mid-afternoon, with hazy sunshine and breezy. Tiny rhubarb emerges.
79F by mid-afternoon with a cool breeze and cotton wool clouds that turned grey and burst early evening.
62F and sunny with wispy clouds. The forest springs to life under the hemlocks.
The new bowl on the block: the sensational ramen with braised pork at Peekamoose. Ramen can be too salty but not this one. House made noodles with a soft boiled egg, kale and some very tender braised pork, all in a mouthwateringly delicate chicken broth. Move over, charcuterie board, you are no longer the go-to. Wait, I didn’t mean that.
60F by mid-afternoon, clear skies and sunny with a slight chill in the air.
I’m proud to have had the opportunity to contribute text and images to this year’s Catskills Food Guide published by the Watershed Post that hit the stands today. I’ve tried many of the region’s burgers and sandwiches for the WP. I’ve interviewed and photographed local producers and store-owners too, but the best assignment I’ve ever had was interviewing Ray Turner, an eclectic old-timer who traps eel on the Delaware River in a gigantic weir that he built with his own hands. The weir is truly to be seen to be believed – constructed with available stone and wood – and the man himself is a true Catskills character. He has a pet emu. We had some seriously eccentric exchanges. He only likes Black Labradors:
Him: “The only good dog is a lab, all the others are goats as far as I’m concerned.”
Me: “I LOVE goats!”
I hadn’t been at his establishment an hour before he had me in a pair of thick rubber waders in a canoe out on the river.
Me: “None of this equipment likes water”.
Him: “No standing in the canoe”.
Pick up a copy of the Catskills Food Guide at any establishment in the Catskills. The guide includes a large pull-out, color map of the region detailing the places where you can eat, drink and shop locally.
55F by mid-afternoon, chilly and overcast. Hazelnut catkins swaying in the breeze.
80F scorcher, hazy, humid. Wading in cool streams, under waterfalls, shaded by pine trees.
Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map – a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers”. And: “We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history. There are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44″.
A story with a happy conclusion – an urban farmer saves his “gangsta garden”.
An article on how to combat ticks around your property.
The New Farmer’s Almanac Volume III from The Greenhorns, “360 pages of original agrarian content, essays, cartoons, imagery and historical snippets—harnesses the wisdom of over 120 contributors from our community of new farmers and ranchers”.
Will our senator, farm-friendly Kirsten Gillibrand run for President?
The US military “marches forward on clean energy”. New York State sees an 800% growth in solar power according to CNBC. On solar power and renewable energy for new jobs; a new solar experiment in Brooklyn; Panasonic makes a new solar panel for Tesla.
I have thought that a good test of civilization, perhaps one of the best, is country life.” John Burroughs
Seedling potatoes stored in a paper bag in the basement started shooting straw-like tubers over the winter. Apparently, this is a vegetational hazard; you’re supposed to check your spuds mid-winter. If they sprout you can add soil to the bag and plant them in spring. We’ll see if these spuds survive.
68F by mid-afternoon with wisps of cloud in an azure sky. Laundry swaying in the breeze like huge flags.
A 45F high with a bitter wind and scattered woolly clouds under brilliant blue sky. The remnants of last night’s snow lurking in the shadows. Weather gone completely bonkers.
Writer John Burroughs is a local legend. After a long and accomplished life, Burroughs moved back to the small cabin called Woodchuck Lodge on his ancestral home and is buried there. On Saturday, we commemorate his birthday with a Community Day Lecture at the Catskills Center.
John Jay Wadlin, a retired local attorney, will speak on the relationship between Burroughs and Alton B. Parker, the 1904 US Presidential Candidate (who lost to Teddy Roosevelt). Parker and his contemporary, John Burroughs, lived not far from each other in the Town of Esopus, NY. John explores the times and lives of these two important Americans.
Saturday, April 8th 2017 1pm at the Erpf Center, 43355 Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406. (Directions in link.)
Sponsored by John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge, 1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474.
36F at noon: thick mist, rushing rivers, overflowing tributaries, sloppy mud, snow until mid-afternoon. Spring on hold.
William Duke, owner of Willow Drey Farm is hosting a life drawing event on Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm in their beautiful barn overlooking the rolling mountains of Andes. The barn is an event space, the site of many a summer wedding and, for an artist, a gorgeous setting in which to work on figure drawing for three hours with a nude model. We’re lucky to find people willing to take their clothes off! Life drawing is a deeply meditative exercise and focussing intently for three hours really brings one’s sketching skills up to speed. If you’re interested in sitting for the group, or joining the group, please contact William Duke here.
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.
Torrential overnight rains continued into morning and throughout the day with a high of 50F. Mist hanging over a drenched, humid landscape: large puddles, rushing rivers, streams, gullies. New green shoots point upwards like the beaks of little hungry chicks.
49F by noon and cloudy with periods of sunshine warming a nascent landscape.
Here’s a highly nutritious breakfast that looks like a chocolate pudding made with raw oats, avocado and nuts that makes a good replacement for oatmeal or porridge, if you need that sort of thing for kids or other family members who dislike it.
Vegan Raw Chocolate Oat Pudding
1 cup of oats soaked overnight in water or almond milk
Half a cup of water (additional to what the oats are soaking in)
1 medium avocado (peeled)
2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder or 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaped tablespoon of cashew cream (for recipe see previous post)
1 heaped tablespoon of almond cream (see below)
Chopped dried apricots or sugared fruit to garnish
40F at 9am, ice dripping off trees, melting snow, distant snowcaps.
Sometimes it’s your gut that needs a spring cleaning. I recently learned that juicing is not that good for you, that doctors feel it’s preferable that you eat all the fibre too, otherwise you’re just drinking a load of sugar-water. Allegedly, when you eat the whole fruit, the gut is lined with insoluble fibre that allows the rest of the fruit to pass through and reach your lower intestine where it’s munched on by beneficial bacteria. There have been many dodgy dietary practices in the past, but I don’t think eating more whole fruit, whole vegetables and nuts is one of those bad ideas that we’ll examine in the future and say, “what were we thinking”? Furthermore, cooking food destroys many of that food’s nutrients, so nutritionists recommend overnight soaking of nuts and grains instead. In this spirit, a small fortune has been spent at a local vegetarian supermarket to fill the fridge with homemade vegan and raw sauces, milks, puddings and butters to go in pancakes, cereals, egg dishes, soups, stews, casseroles and more. But first, the most important: pudding. I’ve been working a raw, vegan chocolate oat pudding for kids, but it’s not ready yet. Watch this space.
Take a cup of cashews, put them in a mason jar and cover with water until the water is about a quarter-inch above the cashews. Soak overnight and in the morning pour the whole jar into the blender and purée the mixture for two minutes. The mixture should thicken after you’ve finished blending.
Vegan Chocolate Mousse (serves two)
Two medium avocados
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons cashew cream
Half a cup of soaked cashews
2 tablespoons of cacao or cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Sugar ginger (for garnish)
A lot of experimentation went into this one to get it right. You don’t want the pudding to end up too thick or you won’t be able to blend it, but you don’t want to add too much water, otherwise it’ll get runny. To soak the cashews, cover half a cup of cashews in a mason jar with water overnight to soften. Don’t drain or discard the water. Finely chop the avocado and put with the other the ingredients (except the ginger and the cup of water) in a food processor – I used a Nutri-bullet – and blend for a few minutes until smooth. If the mixture is too thick you can add some of the water, but it’s better to add the water incrementally to avoid it coming out too runny. If you do end up add to much water, add a tablespoon or two of cashew cream or some more avocado. Refrigerate until cool and serve with sugared ginger garnish.
34F by mid-afternoon with hale settling like snow on the dust-colored landscape. After a week of thawing, in which a few feet of snow disappeared, the buds are now back in their icy prison. Gusty winds.
This week I interviewed Roger and Lisa Menard on the subject of fly fishing and Roger read the remarks that he gave to the Angler’s Club of NY in New York City in November 2009 on fishing the River Esopus. Here’s the full transcript:
The Esopus The Way It Was by Roger Menard
It has been nearly fifty years since Keith Fulsher and I were invited to the Angler’s Club to show a film I had taken of Keith tying streamer flies. On that evening I had the pleasure of meeting Guy Jenkins, a correspondent and friend of Theodore Gordon, the father of the dry fly in America. Since I had previously met both Roy Steenrod and Herman Christian, for me this completed meeting Gordon’s circle of friends.
35F by mid-afternoon after a bitterly frigid morning. Land and sky equally dazzling.
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.
37F by 2pm and brilliantly sunny.
Biodynamic farming is on the rise wherein farmers integrate their crops and animals. “I’m trying to feed my neighbors – and if everyone did that, we would be able to replicate this,” says one California Farmer.
The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff, as recommended by writer Laura Silverman.
A brief article about Lyme from NPR. A local event focussing on Lyme at Table on Ten in Bloomville. Another good article about Lyme research from NPR here. Note that these experts say that most people are bitten while gardening because ticks lurk in their hedgerows.
Sound advice from the National Audubon Society on keeping ticks at bay.
Pure Catskills brochure is an excellent guide to farm stands, markets, farms, restaurants, stores, producers and much more in the Catskills: an invaluable resource.
It’s maple season: find our list of maple syrup sellers and producers here in the Catskills and some of the beautifully designed packaging makes these products excellent gifts. Maple syrup is vegan and packed full of vital nutrients.
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.
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.
A wide stretch of electric blue, after a week of low light and vibrant snow storms. Clouds sailing quickly along like they have warmer places to be. So many fresh tracks in the snow made it look like a Million Animal March. Perhaps there was an unofficial wildlife conference last night? 24F by mid-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.
29F at 10am, snow flurries, turbulent sky, with flashes of blue.
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.