Author Archives: JNUrbanski

Pakatakan Farmer’s Market

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The Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is up and running and this year. East Branch Farms are offering a variety of locally grown mushrooms and Madalyn Warren’s delicious kimchee: good probiotics for the gut. This week’s kimchee is rhubarb with ramps, wild dandelion and buchu with ramps. There’s also Honeybee Herbs and Kelley will be on my radio show on Monday on WIOX. Find these and a vast range of local goods, including local publisher, Purple Mountain Press at the Pakatakan Market on 46676 Route 30 in Halcotsville, New York. Saturdays. Hours: 9am to 2pm.

Find out exactly what’s going on from the market’s newsletter.

Please support your local community.

“Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start”. Anthony Bourdain. Continue reading

Catskills Sandwich: Bull & Garland’s Scotch Egg

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Behold, the Bull & Garland Scotch Egg. As a native Brit, I have to say, the egg couldn’t be any more authentic than if we were in England, at a pub, enjoying the rain and warm beer. I don’t know how they get the egg to be runny, but it’s a joy to see the hearty, local, orange yolks running over the warm sausage meat. The grainy mustard isn’t even necessary because the dish is delicious all by itself.

Goldenrod Restaurant

Goldenrod, a seasonal pop-up restaurant focusing on locally sourced food, is opening on June 9th in in Delhi, New York

Goldenrod is the brainchild of Carver Farrell, a native of Bovina, NY, and the former owner of The Pines, a Gowanus, Brooklyn-based restaurant in which he sourced most of his ingredients in the Catskills. Goldenrod will continue in the tradition of The Pines, sourcing the main components of each dish exclusively in Delaware County, and offering local beers, a small wine list, and cocktails built around wild and foraged ingredients.

Upstate Dispatch went downstate and reviewed The Pines almost three years ago. Find that review here. Some of the dishes on that menu at the time were pork shoulder, beef burger sliders, crostini with cranberry ricotta, polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, kale salad, pheasant soup and a plate of roasted, assorted spuds. They were on their way into winter at that time and Goldenrod’s menu will likely be more summer-themed. Nevertheless, everything at The Pines was delicious, so tasty that nobody bothered to photograph any of it and there were five of us. Sometimes, you just have to put the phone down and enjoy.

Farrell will be joined by a team of three seasoned chefs that have worked at some of the finest eateries in the world, including Gramercy Tavern, Daniel, Del Posto, Prune, Le Bernadine, and Union Square Café. The menu will change nightly based on the freshest ingredients available on any given day.

Goldenrod will open on June 9th. Dinner is available Thursdays through Sundays through Fall 2018 with a bar menu available as well.

Goldenrod
53 Main Street, Delhi, NY
Thursdays through Sunday 4:00pm to 10:30pm
Kitchen opens at 5:30

For reservations, contact 607.746.8875 or 607goldenrod@gmail.com

Bee All You Can Bee

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Upstate Dispatch is now the proud owner of a nucleus (“nuc”) of bees developed for us by a Hudson Valley beekeeper and after picking them up, and driving them home, through the Catskills for over an hour, they were pretty agitated. Not for them the excitement of driving over the top of Kaaterskill Peak, past Kaaterskill Falls in enigmatic fog. We installed them in their new home, gave them sugar solution and fresh water, but they remained pissed off for several hours, buzzing around the hive frantically and attempting to sting us. When bees are pissed off, they fly angrily, darting around like little black bullets, all in perfect unison.

When you pick up your bees, you should do so at twilight, after they have come back to their nuc or hive to rest. Drive them under cover of dusk and install them in the hive after dark. We did none of this because the timing was all wrong. The nuc was suddenly ready, without ample warning and we weren’t able to plan very well, but this is the essence of farming. You do the best you can and Mother Nature does whatever she wants.  Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 06/03/18

An overcast morning at 60F with a chilly breeze and hazy horizon, rising to a 65F high with brief interludes of afternoon sun and intermittent light rain showers.

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Lilac Syrup

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Lilac blooms don’t last long, at high elevations at least. A reminder of the fleeting nature of the seasons, the blossoms begin to brown and drop off barely week after the all buds on each stem have opened. It makes sense to snip a few to put in a vase or soak a couple of cups in syrup. Lilac syrup makes a subtle floral soda and pairs well with gin.

Lilac Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of lilac blossoms, flowers only, not stems

You can make more syrup, but the ratio must be the same: 1:1 of water and sugar. Slowly boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved and let it simmer gently for on low for a minute until it’s syrupy. The thicker you want your syrup to be, the longer you should simmer it. Wait until the mixture has cooled a little: you don’t want to burn the flowers, but you want the mixture to be hot enough. Rinse the flowers in cold water and add them to the syrup. Stir the flowers gently into the liquid until they are soaked in syrup. Cover and steep overnight.

In the morning, strain the syrup a couple of times and bottle. Unless you preserve the syrup by canning or other means, it will last for a few months in the fridge.

Mix on ounce of syrup with six ounces of club soda and pour over ice.

Catskills Cocktail: Vodka Soda with Rhubarb Syrup

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Simple syrup season is here – the time where we have lilacs, forsythia and other blossoms to soak in sugar water to make floral or fruit sodas and cocktails.

My rhubarb/vodka cocktail is called a Catskills cocktail is because we have burgeoning rhubarb with very little effort on our mountaintop here in the Catskills. Alan White of Two Stones Farm told us years ago to grow what thrives in abundance on your property and swap with your neighbors. So we’ve been growing rhubarb as thick as broomsticks for years. Animals avoid the leaves because they’re poisonous and because the rhubarb itself is bitter, but the fruit provides useful nutrients and fibre. The tartness of the rhubarb pairs well with the vodka. I also like to add a sprig or two of rosemary when cooking the syrup as I think the flavors pair well. Just the soda alone – the rhubarb juice and the sparkling water together – is delicious and refreshing. You can also use the rhubarb syrup as you would a liqueur in Prosecco or Champagne. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/22/18

Continual rain until mid-afternoon, as summer falters. Overcast and dripping wet with a high of 59F.

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Daily Catskills: 05/21/18

A high of 80F and hot with the landscape lush with an extraordinary abundance of blossoms and wild flowers. Summer’s here.

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Trail Blazing

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In the midst of cabin fever the winter before last I was out in the freezing, driving rain with the dog and decided to make a trail out of an old logging road on our property. We’d been using this trail through the forest, the dog and I, for some time and, unexpectedly – because it was about -10F at the time – the urge to start a trail came over me. To this day, I’ve no idea what prompted this move, but back then I just didn’t want to go back inside. I traipsed around in the forest for a couple of hours collecting large stones with which to line the trail until I was soaking wet and my woolen gloves had numbed my hands. Over the past year, we’ve added to it by lining the trail with a branches that look like they might one day thicken like a hedgerow. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/10/18

A high of 70F with huge, scene-stealing clouds and intermittent rain showers. Humid with early evening fog descending into the valleys and rising off the Esopus. Shoots a-shooting. Buds a-budding and the maple leaves unravel first. The forest comes alive and the soft earth ejects a few ancient objects.

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Cultivating Lion’s Mane Mushroom

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I first encountered lion’s mane mushroom last August on a hiking trail. It was growing on a dead log and I took half of it home and sautéed it with scrambled eggs. It was delicious, meaty and delicately fragrant with the texture of lobster. The mushroom is a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients and is said to improve neurological function and alleviate anxiety.

After searching high and low for the rest of the summer, I never saw it again. So,  I bought a grow kit from Catskills Fungi (pictured below) in December. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/06/18

57F and raining all day. Seeds sprouting. Ramps thriving, but the memory of a long, hard winter is not yet cold. Harvesting wood to season for next year.

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Daily Catskills: 05/03/18

A high of 85F, overcast, humid with morning sun and then frequent, refreshing afternoon rain showers being the only thing that stop the flies from dive-bombing our eyeballs. Hazy like mother nature accidentally dropped a bag of flour somewhere on the horizon.

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Birding in the Catskills

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If you’d have told me ten years ago that I would become a bird watcher, I would have told you to shut up and pass the whisky, but the truth is that birding is yet another remarkable stress reliever of the natural world, a brief distraction from daily worries in which you can focus on something completely different even for a few minutes.

The ability to forget your troubles, even for an hour, will save you more than a few grey hairs and there’s nothing more pressing right now than conservation of nature and the environment. Bird watching is another useful way to get involved. Anywhere there is park land, you’l find birds.

A modern approach to birding would be, of course, an app on the phone. Cornell University offers such an app, called Merlin, for free and, if you turn on location services for this app and submit the date and identification of every bird you spot on your property, whatever species you find gets recorded in their database. The app offers color pictures of birds, recordings of their calls, drums and tweets. This helps the university monitor bird species and, in return, you get forget to where you are, or what day it is, for a few minutes while you’re walking the dog while you stare at a species of woodpecker for half an hour wondering if it’s a downy or a hairy. You will play the song 20 times. Then you can play it’s drum 20 times and, then, ask the dog, who is now wondering what’s up there, several times, because it’s cloudy: “is that a red streak on its head”? The dog will choose not to divulge any information on the subject whatsoever, but will simply stare at you wondering where breakfast is. The second time, you’ll remember to bring the binoculars. After having used the app for a few days, it’s clear that no one bird song is the same as another even in the same bird. There are variations in every species possibly depending on the season, temperature, how high the bird is or how old, but it’s exhilarating to accidentally call over a chipping sparrow, who’s sporting some unusually beautiful plumage ordinarily only seen in spring when he’s interested in making some new chicks.

You can find information for beginner birders here. You can learn about “birding by ear”, which makes more sense than birding by sight, and all sorts of useful information on the subject at the Audubon website.

Bird watching is encouraged at the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville.

There’s a “falcon whisperer” that goes to the top of bridges to monitor the bird population. Presumably, he’s in control of any vertigo. He will speak at the Catskill Center in June.

Some birding events coming up in the Catskills:

The Warbler Weekend, run by the Catskill Center in Mount Tremper on May 25th and 27th.

Taking Flight: A Birding Conference at the Ashokan Center on June 10th to 12th.

Daily Catskills: 05/01/18

77F by the afternoon, with mostly clear skies. Birds chirping. Blooms and leaves continue to bud like they weren’t covered in snow yesterday. Most of the snow melted by dusk, even on the ski slopes.

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Daily Catskills: 04/30/18

36F at 8am, snowing heavily, with the mountains shrouded in the thick fog of our profound resignation. We live in the mountains and, consequently, get all the weather. We catch all precipitation however cold it may be. The budding maple leaves that have been reddening the bare, umber brush like a light rash are covered once again in white powder for most of the day. Locals say that the weather was always like this and that back in the day, there was nothing planted before Memorial Day. Plus, of course, water is life. Keep it flowing.

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Daily Catskills: 04/29/18

A high of 45F and overcast, with icy rain, a flurry of snow, the occasional flash of late afternoon rain and mist settling in the mountains. The leaves of the Trout Lily spring up over the forest floor like spring’s green army.

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Daily Catskills: 04/28/18

A sunny morning filled with hope and enthusiasm, with a high of 65F by afternoon, followed by late afternoon showers and more gloom with brief flashes of sunshine. A vivid, beautiful sunset chased by mist sinking enigmatically into the valleys at dusk.

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Monday’s Radio Show: Joyce St George, running for NY State Senate

2018 is allegedly “Year of the Woman” and many women I know have been spurred to run for office. Go ladies, and thanks for your dedication. Joyce St. George will be the guest on my radio show on Monday April 30th at 9am. (You’ll find the show streaming online by clicking here and scrolling down to the grey bar above the address and clicking on it.) We’ll be talking about as much as we can: about being a woman in politics, her career in law enforcement, and her run for state senate.

Aside from being a fellow colleague on the radio with her show “Conflict Revolution”, a show that brings different people and perspectives together to discuss differences and find common ground, Joyce is a powerhouse with an intimidating resume. She began her career in the 1970s, when she became the first female investigator to serve in the New York State Attorney General’s Special Prosecutor’s Office on Anti-Corruption. Following the dramatic testimony of Frank Serpico, Joyce and her colleagues rooted out corruption within the criminal justice system in NYC, investigating police officers, judges and district attorneys. That was only the beginning of her career and I’m wondering why nobody’s made a movie about Joyce herself.

Joyce is approachable, affable and engaging with a big heart. With her husband Frank Canavan, she works with the Margaretville Food Pantry that serves 500 local families. Joyce was hired by FEMA to provide crisis services in Delaware County following the floods from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and served on the Flood Mitigation Council for the area.

Tune in to WIOX on Monday April 30th at 9am.

All candidates running for office are welcome on the show. Please email your request to: wiox@wiox.wskg.org.

Update: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Joyce was running for State Assembly.

Daily Catskills: 04/27/18

44F at 10am and gloomy with mist rising off the Catskills and a light drizzle. There’s a burn ban in effect until May 15th, so the sky is keeping us well-watered and the sun decided help by completely disappearing. Wild leeks love the weather.

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Catskills Comfort Food

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Spring so far has been like a Bronte novel. First, we had snow right up until April 20th, and now we have continual rain on our face and gloom like we’re in England getting our hair salted and ruffled by sea winds. Any minute now, we might expect Heathcliff to run over the fields yelling for Cathy, but wet is good. We like to keep our many “kills” flowing, but it’s still chilly out there and expected to worsen: on Monday we will welcome more snow. To put it mildly, we’re not breaking out the salads. Locally, menus are changing with the season, but there are still good, hearty options in some places. The best Catskills comfort food has to be the Zephyr for its rib-sticking chicken pot pie, pictured above (and its decent prices, especially its good value prix fixe). So much of restaurant food is salty and loaded with butter, but the Zephyr’s isn’t. It uses tarragon in its pot pie and corn to add sweetness. It’s unfailingly delicious every time: a steadfast fixture on the Catskills food scene.

The Zephyr also does a good cream of broccoli soup loaded with smoked cheese and the most perfect chunky zucchini fritters (pictured below) with three kinds of sauce. One could live on these alone. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 04/24/18

60F on the peaks at 9am, wisps of cloud floating in a wash of blue, and breezy, with varied birdsong. A high of 67F and hot in the sun. 100F in the greenhouse.

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Daily Catskills: 04/21/18

Sun! 48F by noon with a high of 55F and brilliant sunshine fading to a hazy horizon. One lonely cloud takes a wrong turn. Spring waits in the wings, cooling its heels, like the introverted understudy, while the farmer prepares for the best.

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Daily Catskills: 04/20/18

More overnight snow squalls deposit a few inches of snow. Winter is the party guest that won’t go home, but won’t help with the dishes. He makes himself a cup of coffee and bangs on about how cool he is. True, he was handsome once, and was so photogenic. But someone please put him a taxi. Pay his fare if you have to. 35F by noon with a brisk chill in the air and overcast with cloud rippling like my brain on cabin fever. A high of 37F.

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Daily Catskills: 04/19/18

An inch or two of overnight snow and 35F by morning. Overcast with glowing, gunmetal clouds composed entirely of the sheer grey exasperation of waiting for spring. Snow, made exclusively from the frosty tears of our disappointment, resumes at lunchtime, but melts like our hopeful summer dreams into the soggy turf, dull and colorless like our mood, by the afternoon. Snow joke.

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