Since I became a trustee of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burroughs’ last home and site of his final resting place in Roxbury, NY, I’ve become fascinated with his bookshelves. He left behind a vast collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines and (pictured above) a sturdy collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Atlantic Monthly is still published to this day and is a progressive periodical devoted to covering “news and analysis on politics, business, culture, technology, national, international and life”, but what was it like back then? Last month, at one of Woodchuck Lodge’s Wild Saturday events, I had just about enough time to flick through most of an Atlantic Monthly magazine from April 1923 and took photographs of what I considered the most interesting bits (below). I cannot help but wonder what John Burroughs himself thought when he read about Mrs A trying desperately to avoid “social suicide”. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: May 2017
Catskills Cocktails: Gin & Spruce
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.
The Final Part of Fleischmanns, by Bill Birns
Parts 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
- Griffin Corners at Armstrong Park
Bit hard for me to make a hero
of him, Matthew Griffin, though
lots of folks do. It’s hard not to
admire his sheer American-ness.
That photo-of-the-founder look
on his weathered face as he sat
posing for that end-of-long-life
first-time photograph in
front of his office (or shop)
with the hand-lettered L-A-W-Y-E-R
over his head behind his chair. Maybe
he believed that founder stuff himself.
Armstrong Park must stay out of the public view,
a gentleman’s name need only appear
in print when he is married and when
Daily Catskills: 05/23/17
69F by mid-afternoon, bright and sunny.
Daily Catskills: 05/22/17
58F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy with hovering mist and sporadic rain.
Daily Catskills: 05/20/17
75F by mid-afternoon with rippled, early morning clouds evaporating in the brilliant sunshine.
Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe
The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.
Spruce Tip Syrup
It’s spruce tip season: fresh, new tree growth at the tips of the branches of evergreen conifer trees present as vibrant, brilliant green nuggets about the size of a nut, varying between the sizes of a peanut and a pecan. They are instantly recognizable as a completely different color than the rest of the needles on the branch, from a distance looking like a Christmas tree has come down with forest chicken pox. For the past few weeks, they have been encased in a papery brown or fleshy red covering (that ejects clouds of a dense, yellow pollen when shaken), which they are now shedding to reveal the green tips. Continue reading
Daily Catskills: 05/19/17
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.
Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts, By Bill Birns
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
Daily Catskills: 05/15/17
52F by mid-afternoon, overcast, windy. Occasional patches of blue floating in the gloomy sky like empty spaces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Daily Catskills: 05/14/17
54F by mid-afternoon, overcast, steady rain with periods of sunshine. More gloom, mist and steaming, soggy landscape.
Daily Catskills: 05/13/17
48F by noon. Continuous rain, wet, muddy, gloomy and overcast.
Zephyr’s Chili Bowl
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).
Ticks: Essential Oil Experiment Update
The experiment with essential oils used as a tick repellent continues and our success rate appears to be 100% so far. The dog and I have been foraging in the forest three times this week for 1-3 hours at a time and we’ve returned with no ticks. So, pictured above, you can see a air-travel-size bottle full of water into which we’ve put 10 drops of each essential oil: lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus
and tea tree. Shake for a few seconds before applying to your shoes, trousers, cuffs, belt and all over the hat. Sadly, this does not keep away the may flies that continue to dive-bomb our eyeballs. I’m also not doing audacious things like lying down in the brush to take a picture. That’s just begging for a tick in the ears, hair and everywhere, in my humble opinion.
For the dog, this is a miracle and all we’ve done is spray the top half of his collar with the liquid, not the bottom half because we don’t want him to be engulfed in the fumes, allowing the collar dry in the sun for a few minutes before we put it back on him. He’s an adorable, obedient lab who only cares about running and hugging, so he only objects to whatever stops him from doing these two things. He can handle smells. Your dog may not. For the record, we haven’t put Frontline on our dog since April 10th.
So, because of this experiment’s success, I have not been able to catch a tick and test more essential oils on it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Update: some of you have stated that tree tree oil can harm animals, so I’ve removed this from the recipe.
Daily Catskills: 05/11/17
62F by mid-afternoon, scattered clouds, but warm in the sun with a cool breeze.
Phoenicia Diner’s Meatloaf
It may not be on the menu for much longer because it’s a winter warmer, but even though the apple blossom is being attended by huge bumble bees and brilliant greens are creeping up the mountains , it’s still colder than a well digger’s belt buckle up on the peaks. Let Phoenicia Diner’s luscious, juicy meatloaf, drenched in tasty mushroom gravy, stick to your ribs one more time. The sun may be out, but there’s still some thawing to do. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the spring frosts.
Daily Catskills: 05/10/17
54F by mid-afternoon, chilly but warm in the sunshine once the clouds cleared late afternoon.
Local Catskills Foraging Guides
Foraging is not only an excellent way to supplement your diet, but it reduces your carbon footprint. I hear a lot of people complaining about climate change and foraging is a way to be some part of the solution. Eating whatever’s in your garden is the best way to put your money where your mouth is. Why have that salad sent from California when you have wood sorrel, dandelion greens, ramps, thistle roots, winter cress, burdock, plantain and wild lettuce on your property? Don’t spray your weeds; eat them. Some hardcore carnivores would be surprised to find that these foraged greens have any nutrition at all, but if you spend dark winters watching the deer battle on through a driving blizzard at zero degrees, knowing that they only eat vegetation, you have all the proof you need. Foraging is fun and hiking is the best exercise, gentle enough for everyone. Sorrel is has the taste of spinach with a lemony zing. Spruce tips, which are out now, are a little unusual with a taste reminiscent of citrus.
Daily Catskills: 05/09/17
48F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy.
Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts By Bill Birns
This is Part One of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part One: On the Porch at Fleischmanns
Daily Catskills: 05/08/17
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.
Daily Catskills: 05/07/17
46F by mid-afternoon, humid and overcast with continual misty rain. A good day to forage, harvest, cook and preserve.
Daily Catskills: 05/06/17
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, dreary and continual rain with occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.
Daily Catskills: 05/05/17
50F by mid-afternoon, gusty winds, overcast, heavy rain leaving mist over the mountains.
The Peekamoose Charcuterie Board
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.
Catskills Cocktails: Scotch & Forsythia
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.
Daily Catskills: 05/03/17
51F by mid-afternoon, chilly, windy and overcast with a sunny afternoon.
Prelude to a Kiss at STS Playhouse
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.
Daily Catskills: 05/02/17
58F at 9am, raining, overcast and humid. Last night’s rain gushing down the mountains. Breezy afternoon.
Daily Catskills: 05/01/17
68F by mid-afternoon, humid, breezy, mostly overcast with lunchtime sun. Update: torrential overnight rain and turbulent storms across the region.