Author Archive | ERIC STEINMAN

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Comfort Me with Memories

A visit high on a hill with Ruth Reichl

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Ruth Reichl, at home in Columbia County

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JENNIFER MAY

My first recollection of Ruth Reichl was as a spy, of sorts. I had read, a few decades ago, about this phantom woman who had previously been the food editor at the Los Angeles Times and then became the restaurant critic at the New York Times, and who, in an effort to maintain her anonymity, would routinely disguise herself with wigs, makeup and other accessories to mask her identity as the person who could make or break a restaurant with a review. For a few years there, Reichl’s pen was mightier than any sword put to use in any kitchen. She went on to author numerous books like Garlic and Sapphires and Tender at the Bone and then, maybe more notably, she served as the powerhouse editor in chief of Gourmet until it was unexpectedly shuttered in 2009. But now, on a day in late fall, Reichl stood in front of me, armed with a smile and a knife, and welcomed me into her home.

Sitting high upon a shale plateau in Columbia County, dramatically overlooking the Hudson Valley, is Reichl’s contemporary home that she shares with her husband, Michael Singer. This is the place where Reichl now conducts much of her life’s work—cooking and remembering. In 2009, when Gourmet met its demise, Reichl was admittedly “devastated” by not only the loss of a magazine, which had a lengthy history before she joined but which she helped shape into a defining voice of food journalism, but also by the loss of her loyal and trusted staff, who were set out on their proverbial asses, just as Reichl was. “They were my family,” Reichl remembers, and she felt not just protective but indebted to them. Reichl has remained in close contact with many of her former staff and has watched them extend their influence into the larger world, but the experience rattled her. With such crisis came inspiration, and in 2015 Reichl published My Kitchen Year (Random House), a four-season cookbook as well as a tender meditation on grief and reflection. One page muses on the perfect fried oysters, while another page addresses the moments of solitary regret about the end of the Gourmet era.

For Reichl, she no longer misses the rush of the editorial deadline, nor the thrill of eating incognito. Instead, she is wholly in love with the act of cooking for friends and family. She equates cooking for people as providing care in the form of food. She views recipes, like the ones in her book, as “conversations” rather than “lectures” and believes that the simple act of cooking should be more of a product of expression than intended result. She likes mistakes, but honestly, her mistakes are probably no less delicious than her triumphs.

ruthreichl.com

RECIPE

THE DIVA OF GRILLED CHEESE

 

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Way back issues of Gourmet from Reichl’s personal collection

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Items from Reichl’s well-worn collection of culinary writing and recipe notes

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Reichl’s oasis: a small writer’s retreat just steps from her backdoor

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GRIST FOR THE MILL: ELECT THIS

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To say the most recent election season was an exciting, off-putting, disconcerting, anxiety-provoking, colorful, embarrassing, distracting, petty, bombastic, sensational, vulgar, phenomenal, loud, unprecedented, provocative and singular affair would not only be a gross understatement but also a mischaracterization, as one is still leaving out any number of linguistic or adjective phrases that could be thrown on the pyre of our collective conflagration over the last year or more to accurately describe the most bizarre … oh, you get it.

The disruption that the aforementioned spectacle, which thankfully is now in the rearview, bestowed upon us, at least temporarily, ruined a lot of things, including: civil discourse, cable news, family gatherings and appetites. If nothing else, all of this has brought back our unmitigated and insatiable desire for comfort food. Not since post-9/11 have we seen the intense draw to all things warm, gooey, cheesy, chocolaty, earthy and relating to the consumption of comfort, in an altogether literal way. But before the bread bowls are hollowed out and cupcakes have yet another resurgence, let’s take a moment to visit one of the few topics overlooked during our appendix burst of an election.

During this election cycle, there was barely a word mentioned about food and/or agriculture. While this is decidedly bad for everyone, it is especially bad for rural America (46 million Americans live in rural communities)—an ever-shrinking locale where the vast majority of our food is grown and harvested, and, not coincidentally, a place where economic dissolution and resentment runs rampant. Because of the bluster and attention paid to a myriad of subjects (including beauty pageants, e-mail servers, Tic-Tacs and the like), we never quite got to the meat and veg of the matter to deal with the healthcare of our food system. Unfortunately, caring about food, and the systems that support our ability to sustainably feed ourselves, has become unfairly perceived as an elitist endeavor, engaged primarily by urbanites who eschew grain-fed beef and insist on “craft” being a part of everything they consume. Thus, the food movement has done a great deal to secure the growth of artisan chocolate and heirloom grains but has yet to effectively address and promote issues around farm policy, land management and a truly sustainable system. This, sadly, creates and reinforces a sense that there is a schism between consumer and producer, urban and rural, blue collar and everyone else. It should go without saying: We need to get a little bit louder on these issues.

But onto the issue at hand: Winter in the Hudson Valley is upon us, and we look for the life underneath the yearly winding down and relative hush of the season. We visit an unlikely enterprise in Newburgh—a sustainable shrimp farm growing exemplary seafood in a way to inspire anyone who has groused about the dearth of quality shellfish in the area (page 32). We head over to Sullivan County with chef Cesare Casella and witness the beginnings of an ambitious plan to bring Italian salumi-making to the Catskills (page 36). And we check in at Bartlett House, a lovingly restored eatery in Ghent that aims to please with all manner of baked goods and warm drinks (page 26).

Stay warm this winter (as if I need to really tell you), lick those psychic wounds inflicted from a somewhat brutal year that has all but passed, and fill your stomach and rinse your gullet with the valley’s finest, while scheming on how you could make 2017 a vast improvement on the year that preceded it.

Eric Steinman, Editor
eric@ediblehudsonvalley.com

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Storyhorse Theater Farm to Stage

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PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF STORYHORSE DOCUMENTARY THEATER

Despite the rapidly increasing popularity of the podcast format, the practice of sharing oral histories remains somewhat retrograde and quaint. But if you have the experience of being a party to a storyteller, generous in spirit and candid in word, it can be a truly dynamic encounter.

Restoring this element of dynamism to the oral tradition is writer Jeremy Davidson’s intention in his documentary theater project Storyhorse, which he co-founded with his wife, Mary-Stuart Masterson. Both husband and wife are career actors in stage and screen (with numerous credits too lengthy to list) and cultivated a deeper appreciation of oral histories after moving in 2013 from NYC to the Hudson Valley to raise their children. Davidson, shortly after getting settled in Dutchess County but still commuting to NY and L.A. for work, was struck by that sense of disconnection that many experience when work takes you away from the place where you have chosen to live.

This sense, which Davidson defines as a “spiritual disconnection,” inspired him to reach out to local Hudson Valley farmers, gather their stories and assemble Good Dirt, a multimedia performance happening at Bard College in October. Written by Davidson and directed by Masterson, the production is based on interviews with six farm families in the valley about their experience as career farmers, including Green Goats (Red Hook), Soul Fire Farm (Grafton), Tello’s Green Farm (Coxsackie) and Northwind Farms (Tivoli).

The stories collected since 2014, while originating from lived experience, are not told by those who lived it but interpreted onstage by professional actors as a way to gather stories from the community and offer them back to the community in theatrical form. “When you hear a story told by someone—there is a power to someone opening their heart,” Davidson contends. “The story impacts us in a particular way.” The performance is meant to be “a sustained meditation on these collected stories and words,” according to Davidson. “It is a collaborative thing happening in the community about the community. Live theater happens but once.”—Eric Steinman

Good Dirt
Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson
Sunday, October 2, 3pm
Tickets: 845.758.7900
fishercentertickets.bard.edu

 

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GRIST FOR THE MILL: THE LOST GARDEN

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For whatever reason (and I am certain there are many) my vegetable garden really faltered this summer. Its performance throughout the growing season landed somewhere between a vegetal letdown and a blight-tinged washout, and I should probably be laden with shame, but I am choosing not to be. The usually lovely Juliet tomatoes showed promise in June but began to wither and drop their semi-ripened fruit by the close of July. My dill bolted in the heat, and my chives drooped and became bitter, and my rows of carefully planted lettuce stood as tall as Lilliputian soldiers but barely prospered beyond an initial show of force. Even my kale, that indestructible and phoenix-like brassica, just decided to lay down next to the yellowing basil like something out of the 15th century’s Ars Moriendi, or “The Art of Dying.” However, my bush of shishito peppers didn’t seem to be fazed by the casualties that surrounded them, and they continue to jettison green bulbs every few days, and I do hold out hope for the mini-pumpkins of autumn that I have planted, despite my misfortune.

To be honest, I watered intermittently during a summer that was strikingly dry. I likely watered too much at times—saturating the tomatoes in the middle of the night. I should have amended the soil. I probably planted the rows too close together, and I was gone and preoccupied more than I care to admit. I think the garden witnessed my nonchalance and gave up the ghost. However, there is always the fall, and if I completely fall on my face this season, there is always next year.

Thankfully, as I stumble, the rest of the valley has remained steadfast and fecund. This issue, as always, reveals the characters and stories that make up the enduring spirit of our local food scene. We visit with the best farm stand around, Montgomery Place Orchards, and get some perspective on how the decades-old farm is adapting to Bard College as its new landlord (“The Inconvenient Farm Stand,” page 44). While the Valley is probably not the first thing many think of when they consider Mexican food, we travel to Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Fleischmanns to get a look at how years of Mexican migration north has made these places hubs of traditional (as well as hybridized) Mexican cuisine (“El Norte,” page 52). We also check in with Smorgasburg Upstate, in Kingston, and explore Westchester’s “Little Empire” of food offerings (page 34).

So with fall comes the reckoning of the bountiful season that has just past (in my case, not so much) and a taking stock of reserves as well as intentions for the coming months.

I hope we have a great autumnal season on our hands and please pray for my mini-pumpkins— I need a miracle.

Eric Steinman, Editor
eric@ediblehudsonvalley.com

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Rise of the Technovore

Many of us hold dear a notion that “farm fresh” food, if held to the rigors of its own weighty integrity, should be as plain and homespun as a newly picked zucchini ceremoniously handed directly from weathered farmer’s grasp to eager consumer with dollar bill in hand. It’s an exchange that passively and self-righteously thumbs its nose at the cellophane-wrapped, high-yield, industrialized food system, which makes up the vast majority of food purchased and consumed in this country. It’s a perception that is equal parts romantic and antiquated.

While some farmers and cultivators might relish the simplicity of working the land and livestock employing methods tried and true, consigning the business angle of their enterprise to an afterthought, technology necessitates that both producer and consumer grow up for better or worse. Tech startups like Farmigo, Barn2door, Good Eggs, and our local Farms2Tables (reported on in the spring issue of the magazine) are attempting to crack the big nut that is farm to consumer distribution by creating new food chains.

Enterprising farmers are utilizing mobile technology to chart distribution, monitor plantings and weather patterns, and even dispatch robotic technology into the fields in the form of robotic planters, weeders, and of course, drones. Investors have dumped $1.65 billion into e-commerce companies serving primarily small to mid-sized agricultural producers in the last 18 months. And with sales at farmers markets in decline (according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and CSA memberships becoming more competitive as well, it seems like high time for all of those involved, consumers and producers, to disabuse ourselves of a decade’s old notion of the locavore and embrace our inner technovore.

But don’t let such forecasting and prophesy intimidate you, this issue you hold in your hands (or are skimming on your screen) is not all about the dehumanization of our food system—on the contrary. We visit with butchery royalty Joshua Applestone to get a view into his very tailored idea on how to run a contemporary butchery, replete with automat-style vending machines for cuts of beef (Applestone Meat Co.). Herb farms are plentiful on both sides of the river and we meet four women farmers who are cultivating both edible and medicinal herbs on their modest farms. Route 212 serves as culinary escape as we make numerous stops between Saugerties and Bearsville on this storied Ulster County route. And then there is beer, and we look at an ambitious micro-brewery doing a farm-to-bottle brew right on the farm (From the Ground).

So embrace the new, honor the old fashioned ways, and for goodness sake, get outside this summer and eat your way through soon to be memories of perfectly ripened stone fruit, tender peas, plump blueberries and the like. Because now is all we have, and until someone masters some sort of VR simulacrum of summer in the Hudson Valley, we might as well bask in the fleeting romance of now.

Eric Steinman, Editor
eric@ediblehudsonvalley.com

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Garden Tea

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recipe by Laura Silverman

Makes 3 cups

½ cup dried mint
½ cup dried chamomile
½ cup dried nettle
½ cup dried anise hyssop
½ cup dried lemon balm
½ dried lemon verbena

Combine the dried herbs in a large bowl, gently crushing and mixing them together. Seal in an airtight container.

These herbs will brew a relaxing, tonifying and restorative beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold any time of day.

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Meredith Heuer

Beacon-based photographer Meredith Heuer, who has shot for this magazine on numerous occasions, has long been interested in the evocative power of color. Through her photo experiments, Heuer came to see light as a key component to this power. Because of this insight, she began working with an unexpected medium: gelatin. Her goal is to make the color itself translucent, allowing light to pass through. Heuer’s process involves tinting the gelatin (none of it is in the least bit edible, as she is working with pigments) and then photographing the gelatin for the very brief moment before gravity takes it down. The results are reminiscent of Rothko, and reveal fleeting moments of true color. —Eric Steinman

Giclée print, 40×48 inches

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PHOTOGRAPH: MEREDITH HEUER

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First, Worst and Versed

Reflections from local chefs on the
good, bad, ugly and transcendent
moments in the kitchen

BY ERIC STEINMAN
ILLUSTRATIONS BY LUCY ENGELMAN

Anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen has a story, and chefs, with their passion, ambition and often recklessness seem to gather such tales in great number. We reached out to some notable chefs in the Hudson Valley to get a sense of what some of their first remembered experiences were in the kitchen, plus their disasters, as well as their moments of mastery and transcendence. The following are excerpts from some of those exchanges:

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FIRST:

JOSH KRONER
Chef/Owner at Terrapin in Rhinebeck

Cooking has been an important part of my life as far back as the memories began. Holidays were always very important in my family, as they were an opportunity to bring together close friends and family and cook for them. As early as age 4, I was eager to join in. Trusted only with the scraps, such as the ends of the green beans and carrot peels, I went about creating my first culinary dish; I called it “Mish-ka-mosh.” That didn’t go so well. Though the dish was not tasty (more likely inedible!), I took an interest in creating new flavors away from that experience.

JOSEPHINE PROUL
Chef/Owner at Local 111 in Philmont

Some of my earliest memories are of cooking with my grandfather. I remember him making a red sauce, cooking it all day. He went into the fridge and pulled out a lamb shank left over from a restaurant meal. He dropped it in the pot of the tomato sauce. I thought this was both cool and amazing. The taste of the red sauce wasn’t just spaghetti sauce. The marrow came out of the bone. And I didn’t quite understand what it was I was tasting until recently, when I was instructing someone that the richest umami comes out of that marrow. I just remember eating that sauce, and now when I cook I’m always looking to throw a bone in there, or whatever I have, because of the richness it gives.

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SERGE MADIKIANS
Chef/Owner at Serevan in Amenia

I have a distinct recollection of being in the garden of our home in Tehran on a hot summer afternoon, when I’d snuck out into the garden while everyone else was taking naps. I wanted a tomato from the garden. I was a young boy of maybe 6 or 7, barely at the height of the tomato plants. I picked the tomato and went into the kitchen knowing I wanted to somehow make a tomato and onion sandwich, a favorite snack of mine, even to this day. I took the tomato and cut it into circles right on the small flower-patterned table my mother had in our kitchen.

We always had freshly baked barbari bread (an Iranian flatbread). I ripped a large piece of the bread and with my fingers separated it. I had cut slices of tomato with the serrated knife, as my mother had taught me. Then I added the salt. I had learned from her that salt was important, and my mom always had salt ready in a bowl on the table. So, I imitated her, and with my fingers, sprinkled a good amount of salt on the tomatoes. I needed an onion and I didn’t know where to look. I found half a red onion, sitting on a plate in the fridge. I cut the onions into half moons, salted them, and placed them on my tomatoes. I poured some olive oil and pressed the separated half of the bread on top. And that was the first sandwich I recall making for myself.

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WORST:

BRIAN KAYWORK
Chef/Manager at Our Daily Bread in Chatham

When I attended Culinary Institute of America, I was in one of the early cooking classes in the curriculum, which was teaching the basics … stocks, soups, braises, etcetera. This class was not very challenging if you had any restaurant experience (which I had), but if you hadn’t … it was a very important class to build on. For me, I had previously been exposed to many of the techniques and was not having any particular difficulty. When it came time to take the cooking practical exam at the end of the class, students were required to prepare some dishes that they had learned. I was excited, but a lapse in my focus resulted in hot pureed soup blasting out of a blender all over myself. The quiet kitchen was the perfect stage for me to create this scene. … Obviously, everyone stopped to check out the damage, which was splattered everywhere. Moral of the story is hot soup really burns.

BOB TURNER
Chef at River Town Lodge in Hudson

I yelled a lot in my early kitchen management days when I was a sous chef. There was one Saturday night when I asked a cook if he had spun enough banana ice cream for the evening. I asked very specifically about the amount but didn’t actually check. At about 8pm, the cook sheepishly told me he ran out of banana ice cream. I unleashed a flurry of expletive-laced questions on this poor kid. I went down to his station and tore through it, making sure the remainder of his reporting was accurate. I ended up tipping over his freezer and yelling at him to clean it all up.

You can tell yourself it’s just the heat of the moment, that you can apologize later, or that it’s nothing buying someone a beer and admitting you were an asshole won’t fix. But admitting you’re an asshole doesn’t really make you any less of one. And people remember how you made them feel the most. I was too inexperienced to be a true leader and thought playing the character of a chef somehow made me a chef. When I look back on my career and think of failures, I think of the people I failed to teach, lead and learn from.

ERIC KORN
Chef/Owner at Wolfort’s Roost in Irvington

In addition to the restaurant we have a catering business, and in off-premise catering, things go wrong all of the time. It’s just life when you’re in an unfamiliar space, building a temporary kitchen. The reality is, you can’t let a disaster ruin the party or there won’t be more parties in the future—you can’t fail.

Things drop, power goes out, it rains—it’s always something. We’ve had grills freeze up because of cold rain and have had to build a flat top on the fly with sheet pans and Sterno. We’ve plated a wedding dinner for 200 in the dark using cell phone flashlights because the power went out, we’ve even had cook tents flood from rain and have had to work barefoot with our ankles in mud so our shoes don’t get stuck. Actually, all of the above is all from one wedding we catered this past July.

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VERSED:

CHERYL PAFF
Chef/Owner at Black-Eyed Suzie’s in Saugerties

I’d have to say our mac & cheese is the dish that I feel the most connected to. It’s the one dish that’s always on the menu at Black- Eyed Suzie’s, even though the rest of our menu changes weekly.… Read More

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Belly of an Architect

 

 

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All of the pictured restaurants are a product of JFD Studio.
top to bottom: Bread Alone in Kingston, Mama’s Boy Burgers
in Tannersville, Phoenicia Diner Lounge in Phoenicia.
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF JFD STUDIO

Architect Joseph Foglia, owner of JFD Studio based in Brooklyn and part-time resident of the town of Olive, is no fan of design trends, particularly when it comes to restaurants.

Foglia, who has two decades of experience in the field, believes that the places people gather to eat should be designed with intention, not an adherence to what is hot. He recently designed Fruition Chocolate’s space in Woodstock, brought a retro elegance to the Phoenicia Diner lounge in Phoenicia and is well underway with a wave of redesigns on all of the area’s Bread Alone outposts. We had a few questions for Foglia about contemporary restaurant design, especially in the Hudson Valley.

EHV: From a designer’s perspective, why do you think certain restaurants succeed?

Joseph Foglia: Really the success of a restaurant is dependent upon the owner’s sensibilities. The designer is a part of the process, but at the end of the day, once everything is completed and the doors are ready to open, the owner is left with this thing they need to sell. And because of that, the food and service should lead the experience. Successful design is creating a place that allows people to connect with each other. It should not be a place where people are distracted by their surroundings, but a place where people can share a meal, a conversation and maybe a first kiss.

EHV: Talk about your approach to restaurant design and how you work with the client/owner?

JF: Designing a restaurant is super intimate—it gets very personal and can be very stressful. I ask a ton of questions and I feel we, as architects, have to extract from the client this dream they have in their head. We extract from them something that they often don’t know how to articulate. But this process allows them to engage with the architecture. We give them homework assignments, like tell me about the last pair of shoes you purchased. This information helps me get a handle on, not so much issues of style, but intention.

EHV: How is designing a restaurant in NYC a different animal than designing a restaurant in the Hudson Valley?

JF: Well there is a certain amount of money thrown at restaurants in NYC and there is expectation around the dining experience, as well as fierce competition. In the Hudson Valley, most owners are looking for a certain upstate thing that mirrors the history and feel of the area. Both demographics as well as the general feel of the place determine this. As architects, we want to use materials that are indigenous and familiar to the area, and everything we do has to fit the landscape and vernacular of the area. In NYC there is a theatrical aspect to a lot of the work, whereas Hudson Valley eateries need to reflect the history and character of the area. —E. Steinman

JFD Studio
917.687.4033
www.jfdstudio.com

 

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There’s an App for That

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PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF FARMS2TABLES

One of the trickiest aspects of running a successful farm is mastering wholesale distribution; modern farms cannot subsist on farmers’ markets and farm stands alone. Most farmers would love to get their product into restaurants as well as institutions (like schools and hospitals), but the logistics of making it happen can be overwhelming when you’re trying to run a farm. That’s where Patricia Wind and Cliff Platt come in. They are the co-owners of Farms2Tables based in Rhinebeck, and they’ve set out to simplify food distribution with an app that connects farmers and wholesale clients.

The Farms2Tables app works like this: A buyer for a restaurant needs eggplant for the following evening. He opens the Farms2Tables app on his mobile device and browses the options for eggplant (farmers set their own price). The buyer selects the app’s eggplant supplier, and the farm gets an instant notification to assemble an order of eggplant for the restaurant. Armed with a wireless label printer provided by Farms2Tables, the farmer prints the tag and packs up the order to be picked up in the late afternoon by one of the four Farms2Tables refrigerated cargo vans. All orders are delivered within 24 hours.

The farmers don’t have to mess with invoicing—they’re paid directly through the service. Like Uber, Farms2Tables is the facilitator of the transaction and the delivery system for the goods. The company takes a small cut of all produce sold. The goal is a seamless and transparent business transaction for all.

Wind, who had a long career in the food and hospitality industry, saw the need for something like this after working in New York farmers’ markets and hearing the gripes from local farmers about their struggles with wholesale distribution. The app took more than a year to develop and launched in June of 2015. Today it helps about 50 farms in the Hudson Valley distribute their produce, meat and dairy.

Beyond restaurants, the company is working with local school districts, including Red Hook and Rhinebeck as well as the Storm King School, to provide produce from local farms for school lunches. Next up for Farms2Tables is a new CSA-type weekly subscription service called the F2T box, which includes a selection of produce, meat, dairy and value-added goods, like applesauce, jam and butter, and can be picked up at a variety of drop-off locations throughout the valley. It’s aimed at the general public and does not require an app; members sign up online. Wind says the service is “a mix between those more ‘luxury’ subscription boxes like Quinciple, Blue Apron and Plated, where the meal costs are more than $10 per meal, and a CSA box with more staples and actual groceries, where the meal costs are down to $5 per meal.” —Eric Steinman

www.farms2tables.com
www.thef2tbox.com

 

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