If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve been making natural sodas with forsythia and spruce tips. I’ve discovered that spruce tip syrup goes particularly well with whiskey, too, like the forsythia, which made a tasty Catskills Collins. I’m also working on rhubarb juice that makes a first-rate bitter addition to cocktails for people who find bitters too intense or overpowering for their taste. Here are a couple more refreshing cocktails for the summer.
69F by mid-afternoon, bright and sunny.
58F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy with hovering mist and sporadic rain.
75F by mid-afternoon with rippled, early morning clouds evaporating in the brilliant sunshine.
75F by mid-afternoon, sunny with wispy cloud. Clouds of yellow and green pollen coursing through the air and gathering on cars, barns and houses as if spring can’t stop sneezing. The may flies endure.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part 2: Historic Proclamation of 1913
Mr. Julius Fleischmann and Mr. Max Fleischmann,
heirs to Senator Fleischmann, have offered
their good wishes and
the six and a half acre parcel
known as the Fleischmann Mountain Athletic Grounds
to the people of the Village of Griffin Corners,
to be used by the people in perpetuity,
insofar as no admission can be charged
for any event within the park and
that the park be called Fleischmann Park, and
a sum of fifty thousand dollars be on deposit
in the village bank for the endowment of the park.
Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Fleischmann sincerely acknowledge
the intention of the village to change its name to Fleischmanns. Continue reading
52F by mid-afternoon, overcast, windy. Occasional patches of blue floating in the gloomy sky like empty spaces in a jigsaw puzzle.
48F by noon. Continuous rain, wet, muddy, gloomy and overcast.
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.
48F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy.
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.
50F by mid-afternoon, gusty winds, overcast, heavy rain leaving mist over the mountains.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that the charcuterie board at Peekamoose was my go-to dish at the restaurant and somebody asked why that was. Well, it could be the tangy mustard, or the juicy, sweet onion topping, or the chicken liver pate on warm, soft chunks of toast that are gently soaked in house-made, herb butter. It’s the pastrami, though, that seals the deal. It’s like New York City pastrami is all grown up now and moved to the country. Thickly sliced into slabs, it’s mouthwatering grass-fed beef that’s tender, pulls easily, yet retains its juiciness and special because it’s not too fatty or greasy.
This weekend, try the charcuterie board, before you see Prelude to a Kiss playing at the STS Playhouse and take out some dessert on the way home.
Did someone yell Cocktail? I have all this forsythia syrup and didn’t preserve it, so I need to use it all up before it goes bad. What better way to put syrup to good use than a twist on a couple of classic whiskey cocktails: a John Collins and a New York Cocktail. The simple syrup is replaced in both cocktails by forsythia syrup, the earthy tones of which are compatible with a good Scotch and the lemon. Find my forsythia syrup recipe here.
This first is similar to a John Collins, but made with Scotch and missing the fruity garnishes. The second is a New York Cocktail without the grenadine.
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.
68F by mid-afternoon, humid, breezy, mostly overcast with lunchtime sun. Update: torrential overnight rain and turbulent storms across the region.
Another gigantic pile of deliciousness from The Zephyr in Pine Hill: their zucchini fritters. Two medium-plate-sized fritter rounds cut into halves is the entrée version (and half as much food for the starter dish). The image above, taken on the fly, does not do the fritters justice. They were not too doughy; just the right combination of firm and moist; sprinkled with cheese; drizzled with three sauces: a creamy garlic sauce, thick balsamic vinegar and some sort of herb oil. The whole thing was to die for, washed down with Traveler’s white tea with hibiscus. A memorable dish on the luscious list.
One of our first spring crops: a stand of asparagus. There’s nothing like cutting off a fresh stalk and eating it raw, still warm from the sun. Surprisingly juicy, the first bite of raw asparagus is also a satisfying crunch.
77F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine. Asparagus sundial.
75F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine after a gloomy start to the day, following a few sombre, rainy days. Spring springs once more.
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.
71F by noon, warm with hazy sunshine.
68F by mid-afternoon: clear skies, hot and sunny.
This week, I interviewed Steve Burnett, the Bovina Farmer, on my radio show and tonight at 6pm, I’ll be a guest on his show The Tickler with his co-host Julian Richards, a fellow Brit.
The show is described thusly: “It’s like a culinary bungee. No sooner have we reached the apex of the bounce than we’re back at the chopping board with bloody fingers. Sunday 23rd, The Tickler welcomes writer, thinker and chronicler of all things Catskills – Jenny Urbanski – for a spot of dinner and a litre of wine (Delco Speedball). We’ll point at each other and laugh; and traffic in truth, the only currency.”
Prepare for utter absurdity, devout irreverence, and some senseless hilarity while we explore the meaning of life. Tune in.
TONIGHT 6pm, streaming live on www.wioxradio.org.
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.