Category Archives: Shopping Locally

Catskills Cafes: Delaware County

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Many thanks to the owners of the Catskills cafes here in Delco that stayed open, even with limited hours or takeout service, during the rough times of this past year or so, when we needed them the most. Just to call them merely coffee shops would not have done these essential venues justice. Cafe life is a scene, with the kind of meeting places we know we can’t live without now, and it has taken nerves of steel for their owners just to have kept the lights on.

Cafes like Village East in Fleischmanns have fostered local community and been comfort in hard times. Places like the Stamford Coffee Shop have provided entertainment like game nights in addition to a solid, well-made latte.

Here are five of the best Catskills cafes noteworthy for coffee that packs a punch, dedicated service, excellent food or commitment to the community of our towns and villages of Delaware County.

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Book Stores of the Catskills

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I’ve been in the Catskills for 18 months, leaving once or twice on occasion, but only for a few hours. For a frequent, avid traveller this is something of a record. I’m used to getting on planes and escaping whenever I feel like it, but as a writer, I also know we can travel through books. Wherever I have travelled, I have always bought a couple of books from the local used bookstore, and I always leave a book in my hotel room or rental.

Last week, I joked with a friend that one day books might be obsolete because they provide only words, not video: your imagination must provide the rest. I hope this isn’t true. I know at least one person who credits his imagination to a love of books in his early life. It’s my goal to read all the books and one day have a book barn and reading room, but until then I would recommend a book tour of the Catskills.

Although there are book sellers, there are very few book stores within the boundary of Catskill Park, in the midst of the mountains where Upstate Dispatch is based (the so-called “blue line”), our side of the Hudson River. Technically, there may be only two: The Golden Notebook in Woodstock (open all week). Woodstock is the quintessential Catskills town through which every local should take an early evening stroll at least once a year for the sheer romance alone. If you’re in love with a book nerd, spend all afternoon in the Golden Notebook, then treat yourself to dinner (the fabulous Cucina is open all week) or ice-cream at Sweet Dreams, which is open all week.

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Upstate Apple Picking

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Wightman Fruit Farms say that they’re closed on their Instagram account, but we found them open for picking yesterday from their small selection of heirloom apples and grapes. If they close this week, you can still pick apples from their cooler and put cash in the box. Wightman’s have an historic, 150-year-old tree called The King of Tomkins (pictured above) that is still full of fruit. The apples are larger than usual, crisp and juicy. They made a beautiful apple crisp.

Wightman’s charge $15 for a peck of apples, $25 for the honey crisp. If you’re still looking for outdoor dating ideas, you’re not going to get anything more romantic than disappearing amidst the rows of low-rising fruit trees, especially as the temperatures are still hovering around 60F until Saturday – the forecast calls for 70F on Thursday. Call ahead first to see if farms are open. Some farms in the Hudson Valley still operate if you pre-book an appointment, or their farm stands are open.

JL Orchards in New Paltz still had apples to pick this past weekend. Check their website for their apple picking update. Wright’s Farm in Gardiner were open last weekend and they are dog-friendly. Wright’s farm market is open year-round. Stone Ridge Orchard in Stone Ridge has a farmstead and a farm bar with pizza, cider, NYS beers and wine tastings. They have U-Pick apples now. Call them for availability.

Northern Catskills Essentials

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You can now order one of the Catskills’ best beauty products by phone or email from Northern Catskills Essentials and it’s worth it for the $4 delivery charge anywhere in New York State. This $7 soap is made by hand in Stamford, Upstate New York – just north of the Catskills State Park and it’s a gorgeous product. Reasonably priced in stylish packaging, the soap makes a superb gift in addition to the company’s creams and lotions. It’s beautifully light with a smooth creamy lather that doesn’t dry out the skin, which is a miracle as far as soap is concerned. The scents made with natural essential oils are robust, but not overwhelming. Finally, the packaging is sustainable paper and with each bar, you’ll be throwing out one less plastic bottle of shower gel. Treat yourself and you’ll never use another soap again.

The Farmer’s Market

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We’re in maker country here in the Catskills and the food is delicious. Around here, if you’d like (truly) free-range eggs with bright orange, sweet and creamy yolks, you don’t have to go far to find a neighbor with chickens. If you want award-winning cheese, milk, or hearty homemade bread, there are small-batch bakers and cheese-mongers within a short drive. It’s not unusual to find squash on your porch during harvest season, because up here it’s so abundant that you can’t give it away and this year’s wild apples could have fed everyone in NYC.

For visitors, there are farmers’ markets like the Pakatakan that has extended this year’s season to November 30th. Sign up for the newsletter here.

For a full list of Catskills farmers go to Pure Catskills.

In New York City, there’s the Union Square Market, Fort Greene and Grand Army Plaza markets where you could find East Branch Farms and Kimchee Harvest this past Saturday. Also at Union Square was Lucky Dog, Locust Grove and Roxbury Mountain Maple, among many others.

Since about 2014, you can now use food stamps at farmers’ markets. Go to Grow NYC for more details on the SNAP program. 

Eat real food. Eat Local. Support your local farmer.

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Catskills Love & Local Links

It’s been a bit quiet over here on our ridge at Upstate Dispatch, but there’s far from nothing going on.

We’re working on upcoming radio shows on two subjects: shopping locally and tips and regulations for winter hiking, here in the Catskills. These are two very important subjects that get to the heart of two important matters: our slice of natural world, these mountains and our economy.

I’ve been advocating for shopping locally for products and services since I arrived in the States 20 years ago. It just makes so much sense. Now, from the MARK Project we have a PR campaign called Catskills Love. Give our businesses some love here in the Catskills. We live in the so-called “Watershed”, which means we have to keep our water table clean, so industry and agriculture is strictly regulated. We rely mostly on tourism to survive. New Yorkers, come hike, ski and shop with us! We protect your water, you need to have our back. Plus, we have some of the most well-made, beautiful products. Find our fabulous Christmas list here.

On these mountains, winter hiking is dangerous. Trails are covered in ice as thick as ice-skating rinks. During extremely cold temperatures, it’s like hiking up frozen waterfalls at the summits. We’ve seen a spate of rescues recently that proves it’s imperative to be prepared. Much of the Catskills is wilderness. On February 18th, hear from the President of the Catskill 3500 Club on tips, rules and regulations on WIOX Radio.

More links:

Millennials are taking up hunting, from The New York Times.

The Greenhorns have published their new farmer’s almanac.

Carve your own cutting board on March 16th 2019, and African-American Games & Crafts on February 17th, at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, New York.

Learn about Golden Eagles in the Catskills in a beautiful setting: the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville on April 20th, 2019.

Women are making their way in the trades from Hudson Valley One.

Holiday Gift Guide: Catskills Stocking Stuffers

Here’s a list of our top ten handiest Catskills small gifts and stocking stuffers suitable for all friends, family and colleagues. Get your friends interested in the outdoors with maps, gift certificates, guides and ski-lift passes. Give the foodies in your life some of our scrumptious locally-made produce. The Catskills is also home to some of the best soap-makers and cosmetic artisans. 

New York New Jersey Trail Conference Maps
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New York New Jersey Trail Maps are an invaluable resource for both novice and experienced hikers of the Catskills. Click here to order the 2018 edition. These maps show hiking trails in detail, local monuments, lean-tos, views and topography – basically everything you need to plan a hike. You can also buy the maps at the Catskills Interpretive Center on Route 28 in Mount Tremper. $16.95 for a full set of Catskills maps.

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Catskills Christmas: Robson’s Tree Farm, Bovina Center, NY

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If you’re having a Catskills Christmas this year, there are a few places in the Catskills where you can source a freshly-grown fir for your house and one of those places is family-owned Robson’s Tree Farm in Bovina Center, NY. They maintain a couple of acres of thick, gorgeous trees – that won’t quickly lose their needles – that have been specially grown for Christmas: a sustainable option for the eco-conscious.

Very friendly, helpful and engaging staff give you a saw and send you into lines of trees to pick your own fir in the thick snow. Only pick the trees with the red price tag on. All the other trees without tags have not finished growing. The tree below was $35 but prices range from $25 to $75 for trees of different sizes. Most trees are 6′ to 8′ and are $30 to $55. Freshly-made wreathes were also available for $23. There is a fire to warm you up after you’ve finished sawing and hauling. Continue reading

Farm Stores: Bovina/Andes

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Three pitstops to farm stores on the Table to Farm Tours today: Catskills Regional Harvest, a food business incubator, farm store and event space run by Nicole Day Gray, Burnett Farm stand in Bovina and Burn Ayr Farm, which is actually past Bovina and closer to Delhi, with a small inn on site that’s set on the babbling Little Delaware River. Continue reading

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

Buy Local Art

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Artist Lisbeth Firmin will be busy during the holiday season finishing large and small works for sale. Currently in her studio in Margaretville working on two new oils and starting a third, she welcomes studio visits, and takes commissions. “I love painting people’s pets, too” she says. “I just did a commission for a friend in NC, a portrait of him and his dog in his beloved Mustang”.

Her signature style is rich, stout brush strokes that create a lush dreamscape, a ruminative environment where subjects are often caught deep in thought, or on their way somewhere – and often both! –  with the ambient lighting, like sparkling daylight or a sunset, beautifully captured.

For small works, Lisbeth does small gouaches (9″ x 12″) for $300 and has the tractor prints available this Christmas, at $50 each. She’s also in Small Works Show in Roxbury through the Holidays, with three small gouache studies @ $150 each (6″ x 6″) and have a nice gouache of a house in Franklin in the MURAL Holiday show in Hobart ($195). Here’s a list of all the latest exhibitions in which Lisbeth is showing.

For the art lovers in your life, consider buying local art for the holidays.

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Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned a January 2018 class entitled Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in Hobart NY. The class was actually a summer class that took place this past summer 2017. Apologies!

Catskills Conservation: Where to Buy a Specially Grown, Local Christmas Tree

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Support a local farmer and cut a local, sustainably grown Christmas tree this year. Tree growing is one of the few ways farmers making a living in an area highly regulated against industry in order to keep New York City water pure for drinking. Continue reading

Catskills’ Local Holiday Gift Guide

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Food, booze and small favors like soaps and scented candles make great gifts without costing a fortune. Plus, they can be easily mailed to friends and family members across the country. The Catskills is filled to the brim with local producers, making it ever easier to shop locally for the holidays. The Catskills also have some of the best local artists selling everything from small works to large pieces in studios across the region. Watch this space for features on local artists selling their wares during the holiday season. We’re also compiling a list of places you can cut your own Christmas tree. It’s never been more important to shop locally. For every dollar you spend locally, the community will benefit to the value of five to seven dollars. Industry in the Catskills is strictly regulated because we have to protect New York City’s drinking water. Spending money on the Catskills’ small producers keeps our regional economy afloat. Shop Upstate for the holidays. Continue reading

Catskills Weekend: 48 Hours in Arkville

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If you’re a urbanite, you might have found yourself many times under the bright, hot lights of a NYC clothing store listening to the excruciatingly loud, banging electronic music and found yourself getting more and more agitated while trying to shop. I was happy to leave that part of city life behind and gave up shopping in stores long before I left the city.

I was reminded of this last week, when I found Just Shop Boutique, in Arkville, a discount clothing store with labels to love: Clare V, Laveer, Thakoon, rompers, suits, and much more for low prices, all in a calm, country setting.  I had planned to order some shirts online, but saw the red, tartan shirt in the Just Shop window and was lured in. I spent hours ferreting around in there with my mother-in-law, grabbing stuff and then putting it back. Then grabbing stuff and then putting it back. I was very restrained, but wanted to buy all of it. To get an idea of how excited I was, know that I bought a wool, stars-and-stripes poncho for my English sister-in-law ($28). I also bought a traditional, Turkish bath towel, that you can use for camping or a scarf (versatile), for $45. This is an item that I’ll own for life. (The red shirt didn’t fit.)

Plus, just across the road, there are both booze and sandwiches. A few seconds up the road, there’s the flea market, at which my family members religiously stop on their way home from my house to find cute stuff like a crystal serving bowls for a reasonable price. Suddenly, Arkville is a place where you can drink martinis and find a Thakoon striped shirt, overlaid with lace tank top. Score! While I was browsing a week or two ago, in came a woman shopping for a dress to wear to a local wedding because her dress was slit to the waist and kept blowing over her head. Right on, sister.

So, if you’re looking for a whistle-stop tour, a city girls’ weekend outing, or you’re a local with guests to entertain, here’s my plan for your 48 hours in Arkville. A tiny village with a great deal to see.


© J.N. Urbanski Arkville Bread & Breakfast Fish and Chips

Arkville Bread Breakfast (or “Jack’s Place”), is located in a blue and red converted train caboose. You can’t miss it and it does the best fish and chips. Although that dish appears rarely, they still stock all the English condiments and a wide selection of beverages. Jack’s does hearty, comfort sandwiches, like the brisket sandwich, which is delicious. They have plenty of vegetarian options. Laurie makes her own hummus and the veggie-hummus wrap is delicious. I also love their bean burger wrap.

Up the hill towards NYC is Oakley’s Bar & Grill, a local favorite for pizza, wings and burgers. Try the white pie, with spinach. There’s also Maine Black Bear Seafood Restaurant ((845-586-4004), a rustic fish restaurant on the Dry Brook River at the intersection of Route 28 and Dry Brook Road. The owner drives up the east coast every week for fresh fish. Well, he used to last time I checked. Call him. Continue reading

Shop Locally

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March is Women’s History Month and March 8th has been declared A Day Without A Woman during which women are called to abstain from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping and wear red in solidarity with all underpaid, disadvantaged ladies everywhere. Basically, women are called to strike and stop shopping. The one exception is that we are called to shop only from small, minority-owned or female-owned businesses and that’s significant for us in the Catskills because there are more female entrepreneurs here than I can count. In fact, this entire region is teeming with female entrepreneurs. There are nutritionists, filmmakers, farmers, producers, artists galore, writers, photographers, stylists, hoteliers, store keepers and bar owners, all doing there thing up here in the fresh air of the mountains where living is the hardest, as opposed to nearby fertile valleys like the Hudson. The growing season is shorter here in the upper elevations, the soil is rockier and we are at the mercy of the harshest elements. Female farmers, I’m pretty sure, along with thousands of their compadres, can’t afford to down tools on Wednesday, because we don’t pay enough for our food. They must strive on, and we must help them by becoming their customers.

For those in NYC: please consider putting this list of female-owned businesses in the Catskills region on your radar and support them every day, not just out of protest.

Lizzie Douglas’s cafe, Stick in the Mud in Margaretville; the Cheese Barrel for all sorts of exotic sweets and chocolate; Tay Tea in Delhi; Vegan “cheeze” from Cheezehound in Fleischmanns; Homegoods of Margaretville; Northern Catskills Essentials for gifts, lotions soaps and cosmetics; Mural on Main Art Gallery; Amy’s Takeaway near Phoenicia; Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments; The Blue Barn, vintage goods and antiques in Shandaken; Earthgirl Pottery & Flowers in Callicoon; Maison Bergogne in Narrowsburg; Table on Ten in Bloomville; Betty Acres FarmTree Juice CSA from Lazy Crazy Acres; Roxbury General in Roxbury.

Update: Goods available to purchase online or by phone on Wednesday: Tay Tea, Cheezehound, Tree Juice Maple Syrup, Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments, Northern Catskills Essentials.

Local Catskills Holiday Gift Guide


Support local producers and shop locally for your holiday gifts this year. Shopping locally benefits the local community in countless ways. Every dollar spent in your local community benefits that community by 5-7 dollars. Here’s a list of crafts, food and bodycare products from Christmas stocking stuffers and gifts for colleagues and friends, to more expensive gifts that go under the family tree. Below find our best picks for scrumptious local food, beautiful gifts and local crafts.


© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Everyone loves food. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns has a wealth of beautifully packaged herbs, sweets, condiments and spices that make fabulous gifts for the home cook. Special items are the Spices Des Fes blend for making tagine, preserved lemons, fruit compotes and Casablanca chutney. Perfect stocking stuffers or make great gifts for friends and colleagues.

Grab a bottle or two of Wayside Cider when you’re next in Andes and, maybe stop awhile for a quick refreshing apertif on your way to a dinner party.

Enjoy their tap room and pick up a bottle of locally distilled vodka at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville.

If you’re in Margaretville and feel like something sweet or need a sweet gift, The Cheese Barrel stocks mouth-watering cookies like Bahlsen, Italian chocolate, nougat, jarred condiments, tea, coffee and jams that make great stocking stuffers or dinner party gifts. At Homegoods of Margaretville you’ll find everything the modern cook could want from cute salt and pepper shakers to Le Creusette pans and everything in between. They also stock tea, lotions, cookbooks and spices.

Tay Tea has a shop in Delhi selling all things tea: a large selection of house-blended tea, teapots, arts and crafts. Their tea is beautiful and stylishly packaged. If you’re looking to give up coffee, their Coffee Lover’s Tea is a wholesome, flavorful alternative with light caffeine content.

For authentic local maple syrup go here to read local guide published earlier in the year.


© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Catskills have the finest lotions, potions and unguents on offer made by hand by local artisans. Click here for our guide published earlier this year.

Catskills Northern Essentials
Northern Essentials products are fabulous. Yes, a single bar of soap can change your day! Perfect for small gifts and wedding favors, they are beautifully packaged, make a creamy lather and contain comforting essential oils like rose and invigorating lemongrass. There’s a wide range of soaps to choose from, using speciality ingredients like goat’s milk, sea buckthorn, pine tar and activated charcoal.

Lady Bug Soap, 42 Creamery Road, Greenville, NY
Lee Lewis started making her own lotions, soaps and potions to cope with eczema. She has over 80 products available including bug and tick repellents. Her hand soap is gentle on dry hands and lightly aromatic, a perfect foil for winter dryness. Store hours are Thursday & Friday 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 11am- 3pm. You can also shop online at Lady Bug Soap.


© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Here are our three favorite general stores to support this holiday season, stocking all your essentials.

The Roxbury General Store, 53538 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474
The General Store has some seriously classy, high-quality local gifts for everyone your life, whether it’s a colleague, friend or family member. You also have the added bonus of perhaps catching a wine tasting on the opposite corner at Roxbury Wines & Spirits.

The Blue Barn, 7053 Route 28, Shandaken, NY 12480
The Blue Barn has always been reasonably priced and a great go-to for antiques and more modern items from local furniture dealers and craftspeople. A no-brainer if you’re passing through or for locals: an Upstate Dispatch favorite. Read our write-up of the Blue Barn here. Check their facebook page for their winter hours which are usually weekends only.

Lucky Dog Farm Store, 35796 State Highway 10 (Main Street), Hamden, NY 13782
This delightful general store is a one-stop shop for all manner of high-quality food, condiments, clothing, kitchenware, lotions, soaps, candles and wool products. They stock Jos Vulto’s delicious cheese, local honey and many, many other speciality local products. They also deliver and offer case orders at a 20% discount. Go here to see their extensive product list. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday.


Steve Burnett Metal Sculpture

Steve Burnett Metal Sculpture

Catskill Mountain Artisan’s Guild, Main Street, Margaretville, NY
The Artisan’s Guild offers an extensive range of high-quality arts and crafts like painted silk, leather goods and jewelry and has the benefit of being open all week long.

MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street, Hobart, NY 13788
The Gallery Gift Shop at MURAL began several years ago as a way to support their endeavours to promote art in the region. Proceeds from the gift shop keep the fine art gallery open to the public free of charge, keep the costs of their invaluable workshops and events low, and provide an additional revenue stream for local artisans. You can also find Solveig Comer’s Most Precious Pottery here.

Bovina Brown Bats, Bovina Center, NY
Bovina Brown Bats is run by owner John Virga, a graphic artist and carpenter who makes custom bat boxes in addition to other things. The best time to put up a bat box is in the Spring.

Arkville Bread Breakfast, 43285 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406
This legendary sandwich shop, beloved by all, run by Jack, is having a local, holiday market on Black Friday featuring a selection from the Upstate Dispatch Daily Catskills Collection, Steve Burnett’s metalworks (pictured above), Catskill Clothing Company and other local craftspeople. Steve Burnett makes striking metalwork sculptures (pictured above), watercolors and drawings. His last show was at Rachel’s Framing and Fine Art in Delhi.

2nd Annual Holiday Pop-Up Market, 778 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.
Last year’s market was a “phenomenal success”, so this year’s holiday market will be expanding into two days, November 25th and 26th, 10am – 5pm. Local crafts, clothing and jewelry including Halia Grace jewelry and more.

Catskills Holiday Gift Guide: The Arts

Robert Schneider, "All Hallow's Eve" Oil on Panel, $1200, photo courtesy of MURAL on Main

Robert Schneider, “All Hallow’s Eve” Oil on Panel, $1200, photo courtesy of MURAL on Main

Support local artists by shopping in the Catskills for holiday gifts. As the quote goes, “vote with your wallet for the kind of change you want to see in the world”. Consumer power is real. If you stop buying products produced overseas, fewer will be imported. The latest economic conversion metric for shopping locally is: every dollar spent locally benefits that community to the value of 5-7 dollars. Support your local artists.

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Round Barn Saturday Farmers Market in Halcotsville Extending Through November

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Pakatakan Farmers Market in Halcotsville on Route 30 is extending its Saturday market through the end of November. Today there was a limited edition of what you’ll normally find there, but if you’re looking to stock up on local vegetables, Lucky Dog and Straight Out Of The Ground were present. Madalyn Warren’s famous kimchee is delicious. She also had fresh ginger, heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes and other greens. Lucky Dog had all its usual green vegetables and herbs. Owing to the late Summer/warm Autumn combination (yesterday it was 70F), there will be more to sell for the next month. Under the large awning there was local chicken for sale, more vegetables, a bakery, soups, coffee, tea, local cheese and Catskill Funghi. Open 10am-2pm every Saturday from now through November. The final market will be on November 19th but a special holiday market will take place on November 26th. Today was dismally freezing with a biting wind, but it’s worth braving the cold to get such excellent produce. Support your local farmers.

A Local Guide to Catskills Products: Local Sugar

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

We published a piece about local sugar that you’ll find here in September 2014. Below is a more comprehensive list of the Catskills maple syrup producers. Tree tapping began much earlier this year, with tapping beginning in the southern Catskills as far back as Christmas. New York State’s Maple Weekend takes place on March 19th and 20th, and again on April 2nd and 3rd, 2016. There’s no reason not to get local sugar. At last count, for every dollar spent locally, the community benefits to the value of five to seven times that dollar, and all that money stays in the community. If you spend $20 on a bottle of maple sugar, it is the equivalent of putting $140 back into your community.

Maple syrup also has many health benefits:

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A Local Guide to Catskills Products

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The New York Times recently published a “guide to Delaware County’s thriving craft culture” and although a few of our friends and neighbours were included, a significant portion of our wares was omitted. Here in Delaware County and in the wider area of the Catskills, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a local producer of the highest quality. We have a vast array of everything artisanal, handmade and locally produced. The Catskill Mountains are home to a huge community of entrepreneurs, craftspeople and artists but the aforementioned article only included ten local purveyors. This post is the first part of a guide to all things made in the Catskills.

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The Annex in Andes

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

My persistent, resolute village envy has been exacerbated by the opening of The Annex in Andes, a boutique indoor market selling freshly cut flowers, cider, honey and herbs grown from seed, all locally produced. The building is on the corner of Main Street, that is Route 28, where it does a sharp right on its way to Delhi. Its interior looks like a rustic, aged restaurant made lovelier by the presence of herbs and flowers in the front and thirst-quenching Wayside cider in the back. Phoenicia Honey Co makes a welcome appearance.

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Local, Antique & Vintage Holiday Gift Guide 2014

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Go to Blue Barn Antiques, in Shandaken/Phoenicia for some excellent bargains on high-quality antiques like this Rockwell-painted plate (above) for $15. There is still a pile left with different Rockwell paintings. Other utterly gorgeous vintage and antique dresses are still there alongside modern artisanal products like Pillowtique’s pillows and handmade crafts.

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Saturday Shopping: Vintage & Antiques

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The artistic and entrepreneurial spirit is thriving indomitably in the Catskills where you’ll increasingly find more accomplished artists, tastemakers and downright fascinating people bringing their urban pursuits to the country. Furthermore, most businesses worth spotlighting here in the Catskills seem to be owned by women. Faye Storms has owned Blue Barn Antiques on Route 28 in Shandaken since 1979, having moved to the Catskills from NYC. “My husband brought me up here to recover from a sports injury and I fell in love with the place,” she says. “Then he put a bid on the store after we got married”. Storms learned the antiques trade after she bought the property, went to auctions, studied books, talked to people and set up the store. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband got into reproduction furniture which made them hugely popular. “There was nothing like it in the area at the time. We had cars lining up down the street.” The property has an interesting history having been a farm, a store and a luncheonette with a dancehall stage at the back that is still intact.

A graduate of FIT in New York City, Storms is also an accomplished artist  – something that antique store owners seem to have in common in the area – a town council member and a real estate broker. She has firsthand knowledge that game changers and influencers, artists willing “to take a gamble or leap of faith” are pouring into the area and buying up property with the intent to start enterprises and encourage growth in the area.

Blue Barn’s prices are also reasonable, making it the place for an exciting bargain. A red, antique, ankle-length dress made in Shanghai, pictured below was $36. The store is also frequented by stylists for motion pictures, dinner theatres and fashion shoots.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There are two buildings on the Blue Barn property: a one-storey building (pictured top) and a two-storey building next to it, which Storms is slowly turning into a dealer center with all different dealers of various wares in addition to antiques like clothing, arts and crafts. You’ll find Theadora Anema’s Pillowthique, which featured early on Upstate Dispatch.

From 12pm to 5pm this coming Saturday December 6th, there will be an open house at the Blue Barn.

Blue Barn Antiques, 7053 State Route 28, Shandaken, (3 miles west of Phoenicia), New York. Open winter hours: Saturday and Sundays, 11-5pm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski


Saturday Shopping: Vintage

© Laura Levine

© Laura Levine

Every dollar that you spend locally is 5 to 7 times the value of that expenditure to your community. When you shop at a big box store you’re diverting your capital directly out of your community to places like Asia, where most American products are made and wherever the owners of the big box store live. Furthermore, big box stores notoriously pay low wages to their workers, so by regularly shopping in those stores you’re contributing to the large-scale expansion of a low-wage job sector, such is the power of your wallet. Moreover, it’s no secret that government is bought and paid for by large corporations through lobbying and campaign fund contributions, the Supreme Court now having ruled that those contributions may be unlimited. Even if every American decided to vote in the next election, this fact would remain unchanged. This means we are remarkably more powerful when we are spending our money than when we are voting. All the power is in our purse and how we spend our hard-earned money, quite an extraordinary fact. Think about what would happen if we all stopped shopping for a few days, or stopped buying brand-new products, or only purchased food from our local farmer.

One way to buy local and recycle is to choose vintage stores for your Christmas shopping, thereby saving your economy and your environment in one fell swoop. One such place here in the Catskills is Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia owned by Laura Levine, an artist who has shown work at the MOMA and has work in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery. Laura has a superbly discerning eye and has filled her “odditorium” with magnificent, beautifully unique gifts like a snakeskin purse, a shearling coat, Liberty of London ties, gorgeously dainty Czech glass goblets and a bucket of polaroid cameras.

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

“I have always collected weird things my entire life,” she says. “I’m from the city. I grew up in the city, but my parents had a little cabin upstate when I was a kid and we used to go to yard sales and in the city I always used to go to flea markets.” Her antique store used to be in a little multi-dealer store in Phoenicia Plaza, near where the Phoenicia Diner is now. She had a 10 x 10 booth and stocked it with antiques until the placed closed down. “I had 30 days to move my things out and I was either going to sell it all or take the next step and open my own shop. I wasn’t going to do that, but I found a little space on the boardwalk in Phoenicia for $200 a month, so I took it. I opened over the summer for 20 days a year and the store grew from there.” That was over 13 years ago and five years ago the shop moved to its current, much larger and more prominent location on Main Street.

The store has just invested in two pick-up truck loads from an estate sale that she is still picking her way though, but her favorite thing of the moment is a steel shoe mold from a shoe factory, in a men’s size eight. “The thrill of the hunt is really the fun part,” says Laura who still lives in New York City and has an employee run the store for most of the time. “When I am at the store, I love meeting my customers. I’ve made some really great friends. I feel like it attracts kindred spirits and I always end up having something in common with the customers, like our paths crossed in the music business or the art world or something.”

Czech glass goblets © Laura Clapp

Czech glass goblets © Laura Levine

For this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, the store is displaying a table of gift suggestions which range in price from 25 cents (for vintage greeting cards) to about $200, but the average price at the table is $20-$30. Gift certificates are also available: perfect for Christmas and especially if you’d like your in-laws to visit more! Entice them back to claim their gift.

If you’re wondering why Davy Crockett is outside, he’s a loaner from the neighboring Sportsman’s Cantina, moved there after Hurricane Irene, that Laura was thrilled to receive. It’s Davy’s birthday on August 17th and last year they had a Davy Crockett day during which customers dressed up as Crockett and local businesses donated prizes.

Go and have a dig around yourself in Mystery Spot Antiques, 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, New York: (845) 688-7868. Open weekends only for the winter, Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Find them on Facebook and Instagram. THIS WEEKEND ONLY: for Small Business Saturday on November 29th, get 20% off everything, except Mystery Spot Antiques’ tote bags and t-shirts.

Liberty of London Ties  © Laura Clapp

Liberty of London Ties © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Saturday Shopping: Winter Farmer’s Markets

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer's Market

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer’s Market

Could there be anything more emblematic of the revolution in our consumption habits than seeing a branch of Bank of America transformed into a farmer’s market? Route 28, the essential thoroughfare that winds through the Catskills from Kingston’s Exit 19 on Route 87 (the main arterial route travelling north through New York State from New York City) to Delhi, now has a handful of winter farmer’s markets to visit after the fair-weather markets close on or just after Thanksgiving. Year-round farmer’s markets are rare, but if we frequent them, they will spring up to meet our demand.

Here’s a modest list from Upstate Dispatch that runs east to west starting with the Kingston and Rhinebeck markets and ending in Andes.

Should you know of any more, please reply to this post and I will add them.

Kingston Farmers’ Market, Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall Street, Kingston, NY 12401. 1st & 3rd Saturdays from December through April 2015.

Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, Rhinebeck Town Hall at 80 East Market St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Alternate Sundays: Dec 7 & 21, Jan 4 & 18, Feb 1 & 15, March 1, 15 & 29, April 12 & 26

Greenheart Farm Market: the former Bank of America on 2808 Route 28 in Shokan, between the Door Jamb and the intersection of Route 28 and Shokan Road, is open 24 hours. Go here to see it as its former self on Google Maps. Call Al, on (845) 657-2195.

Migliorelli Farm, 5150 Route 28, Mt. Tremper, NY. Contact: MaryAnn Migliorelli Rosolen. Phone: (845) 688-2112.

Andes Indoor Farmer’s Market, 143 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731. Contact: Cheryl Terrace. Phone: (607) 832-4660. All year round Amy delivers frozen soups to farmers and homeowners. Amy is based at the Andes Indoor Farmers Market every Saturday.

On Route 28 in Delhi, you can pick up locally-grown produce from Maple Shade Farm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Saturday Shopping: Chocolate

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski Girl and Bee chocolate bark

Girl and Bee sells chocolate truffles, chocolate bark and infused honey but it’s the chocolate bark that stands out for both its rough-hewn texture and exquisite organic embellishments which include goji berries, lavender, cacao nibs, bee pollen, peppermint and chamomile. Devastatingly delicious, the bark is a tactile experience, coming in palm-sized slabs and thin enough to permit a satisfying snap that releases a burst of color and aroma. It’s tasty and pretty: perfect for a holiday gifts. The bark comes in 4-ounce boxes for $8 and a 12-ounce tin for $20. If you’re in it for the truffles, they are each lovingly prepared by hand: thick, firm and intensely flavored by the likes of vanilla, rose and lavender. “Every truffle has had my hand on it,” says proprietor Melissa Zeligman who sells the 4-truffle sampler box for $14 and an 8-truffle sampler tin for $25. Gold leaf adorns the vanilla truffle like a little crown and combines a dark chocolate shell with pulverized Madagascar vanilla beans in the center.

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Saturday Shopping: Bread

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

In the heart of the English word companionship you will find the word bread, such is the reverence given to this humble foodstuff. It’s from the old French compaignon, literally “one who breaks bread with another”. You’d never know this now of course because wheat has suffered a sharp, unfriendly rebuke of late. The staff of life has stuck in the mud, been rolled into the metaphorical fire and the problem is the now-infamous gluten.

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Saturday Shopping: Local Dairy

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you’re one of those people not swearing off dairy for anything from heartburn to allergies, you might consider shopping for local New York State dairy products. If you’re an ethical consumer concerned about the effects on animals and people of large-scale dairy farming, you could help by shopping the Catskills Family Creamery trail. The Catskills Family Creamery is “a group of farmstead dairy producers exploring collaborative marketing, distribution and educational activities” including small farms like Lazy Crazy Acres, Cowbella and Dirty Girl Farm producing gelato, butter, yoghurt, kefir, cow and goats milk cheeses and fluid milk.  (Lazy Crazy Acres bottles the DiBenedetto family’s Crystal Valley Farm milk.) Their motto is “Small Dairies Making a Big Difference” and you could make a difference by choosing to support small dairy operations in which farmers treat their animals with respect and protect their environment: the same environment that gives clean, unfiltered drinking water to almost nine million NYC residents. Not only does it take effort to ethically farm, it takes additional time and work to protect the NYC watershed.

Mark Bittman wrote a column about milk in the New York Times this year stating:

But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.

We could all be a market for a local, small-holding dairy operation that Mark mentions. Vote with your dollar for the kind of farming you’d like to see in the world.


Saturday Shopping: Wood

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Plastic has gradually displaced wood over the last forty years in all products ranging from toys to furniture, to siding for houses and everything in between. Plastic is disposable though and most of it ends its life floating in the South Pacific. In the Catskills, wood is carved and carved upon, built with, juiced, chopped, stacked and burned. We have associations and organizations that manage and conserve our forests. You’ll possess a finely crafted wood product for life and pass it down like art in your family as a treasured heirloom. Supporting local carpenters and craftsmen keeps that craft alive and keeps one more piece of plastic out of the ocean. It doesn’t take much to buy a carving board from local New York State wood like maple (pictured above from Knap Knoll) or wooden toys for children that will last many lifetimes. If you’re looking for a larger handmade heirloom for your family, visit Gary Mead’s Fruitful Furnishings in the Catskills for some of the finest craftsmanship in the Catskill Park region. And, as a side note, to protect our forests from invasive species, like Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle, please do not transport firewood.

Saturday Shopping: Lotions and Potions

The pharmaceutical industry is a trillion-dollar industry in which “simple lab work done during a few days in the hospital can cost more than a car” and patients are reportedly paying $37.50 for a tylenol according to recent investigative journalism like the Time piece by Steven Brill. Consumer expenditure on holistic and natural remedies pales in comparison. Moreover, the toiletries you find on typical supermarket shelves are loaded with preservatives and chemicals like phthalates, parabens and other hormone-mimics that disrupt the endocrine system. There’s much in the natural world that will clean and nourish us more safely and, in coming months, Upstate Dispatch will run a preparatory series on foraging and incorporating natural remedies into our cosmetics and diet. It’s possible to wash your hair and body with products that are entirely free of harmful chemicals purchased here in the Catskills. Today’s potions were Red Clover balm made by Moody’s Mountain Medica of Margaretville, found in The Roxbury General Store and soaps and balms by Green Spiral Herbs containing only natural and organic oils.

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Side Note: Autumnal bliss and more tea…

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Upstate Dispatch is waking up with the brilliant Berry Breakfast this overcast, surprisingly warm and humid morning (61F at 7.30am), in order to join the Halcottvsille Plein Air Group on top of a mountain in Roxbury for a watercolor session. Then it’s back to oils for the winter. We can’t get enough of this surperbly, delicately crafted tea.

The Roxbury General: Local Luxury

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If you’re looking for a killer girls’ weekend of luxury shopping, stylish accommodation and the some of the most beautifully-crafted and generous cocktails in the Catskills, go to Roxbury. This weekend would have been the perfect weekend for it: brilliantly sunny, t-shirt warm, a performance by a group of fiddlers and a tasting of the divinely luscious Organic Traveller’s Tea at The Roxbury General Store, where you can also rent bikes.

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Saturday Shopping: Pillows


Theodora Anema has been a designer for her entire career after having attended an art academy in Amsterdam, the Rietveld Academy. She bought her house in the Catskills in 2000, quitting her job in 2012. On her website Pillowtique, you can find her home accessories: appliqued pillows and ottomans made with leather, suede and ultrasuede.

When her daughter was born, she wanted to design some fun accessories for her bedroom, “some things to spruce up her room. Around that time those abbreviations were widely in use, like LOL, LMAO, etc. So I started doing that and made a whole series of them”.

There’s something homely and comforting about pillows and blankets in tactile soft suede, especially as we go into winter. Beautifully-made soft furnishings like this also make excellent gifts. Continue reading

Saturday Shopping: Vegan Cheese

copyright J.N. Urbanski

copyright J.N. Urbanski

Wholesome, healthful and utterly delicious organic vegan cheeze from Cheezehound, made with the utmost care here in Fleischmanns, New York. The cheese is a raw, plant-based vegan cheese and most of the cheeses have a nut base including macadamia and cashew. Shelf life varies depending on the cheese: some three to four weeks and others up to four months.

Proprietor Lori Robin is at the Andes, New York Indoor Farmer’s Market Saturdays from 10-3pm and Emmanuel’s Market in Stoneridge, New York – Rte 209. For both one time orders or to join her Cheese Club email: [email protected] or call 845 625 9003.

For local orders: in a 30-mile radius, Wednesday and Friday deliveries, plus two cheezes are delivered free of charge.

Upstate Dispatch orders the Qasbah (pictured above) which is not only the tastiest, but also  seems to miraculously allow the Editor to sail through grueling workouts and long work days.

Saturday Shopping: Local Sugar

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copyright J.N. Urbanski

There are plenty of maple syrup producers in the Catskills. It’s worth paying more for local sugar and seeing how it’s made. It’s one of the fussiest and most complicated ways of harvesting a pure product. The machinery and equipment used gets more sophisticated and expensive every year. Farmers and producers use miles of tubing to collect the sap that sometimes get chewed by bears and squirrels, at which time somebody has to spend all day walking miles around a forest to find the leak. You have to condense, by boiling, 50-60 gallons of maple sap to yield one gallon of syrup. It’s completely organic.
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Amish Furniture

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On Saturday September 21st, there was a march in New York City for Climate Change. The Amish were not noted for their attendance, but they’re the ultimate environmentalists. Quietly and unceremoniously saving the planet, they’re still riding horses to work, making furniture,  raising barns all on their own and getting none of the credit.

It would make sense to support these stoic, pastoral custodians and buy a piece of their furniture.

Saturday Shopping: Tea

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copyright J.N. Urbanski

Tea is a thoroughly British custom imported from China via India in the 16th century. It’s a ceremony; a ritual designed to soothe jangled nerves, break the ice or refresh a visitor, usually coupled with a digestive biscuit.

Most flavored teas leave an alien, chemical-like film on the tongue. You can usually taste the distinctly artificial flavoring, but not so Organic Traveler’s Tea, a locally blended brand based in the Catskills. The best flavored teas, like Harney’s Paris, taste like black tea and leave a hint of aroma in the nostrils, their flavor as delicate as water in the mouth. Organic Traveler’s Tea is comparable with Harney’s, using only organic additives like lavender, ground vanilla, coconut and flower petals. Afternoons at Upstate Dispatch are spent with a Hobnob and the Earl in Paris.

It’s more expensive than regular teas at $10 for a 1.5-ounce bag, but worthy of the price because it’s organic, fair trade and you can dry and steep the leaves again like you can with gunpowder green.

The price of most tea brands is kept artificially low. According to the BBC website, tea pickers are leaving the industry:

rural workers are moving en masse to cities in search of higher wages and a better life.

Traditionally, wages have been low in the tea industry, with many workers struggling to survive on less than a realistic living wage. The attraction of service-sector jobs in the city can be hard to resist.

Climate change is also forcing some farmers to move away from tea to other crops. Because of this, Tea 2030 was born with corporations who produce tea collaborating to save their industry. Tea might once more become the luxury it once was.