LOCAL MAN SERVES ICE CREAM
What is that Neil Young lyric about rock and roll? “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” Well, many rockers have taken such iconic lyrics to heart, almost as a forewarning to be heeded without equivocation. Nothing was said by Neil or any other sage, however, about the fact that, after rock and roll and the requisite burn out, you could still endeavor to bring joy back to the hearts of young people, this time with the help of ice cream.
Adam Strahl cut his teeth in the NYC punk and indie-rock scene throughout the 80s and 90s, playing in bands, recording and touring. Whenever he wasn’t rocking out, he was paying his way in the restaurant trade, eventually landing in a front-of-the-house job at the famed Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Strahl did a seven-year stint at Blue Hill, learning the trade and developing his appreciation and understanding of how to operate within a local food movement. In the process, Strahl moved his growing family out of the city to the bucolic town of Chappaqua, where there were plenty of eateries but none that embodied the wholesome local ethos that he had grown to value.
“Chappaqua really needed a great place to hang out—a place that you might find in your neighborhood in NYC or in California; low-key, musical, delicious food, served simply by people who know what they are doing and who really enjoy food and hospitality,” Strahl recalls. So out of an admittedly selfish desire for such a place, he opened Local, a handsome and modern-looking ice cream shop, festooned with cow skulls and Nelson lamps, in the center of Chappaqua.
Stocking SoCo Creamery ice cream from Great Barrington and Ronnybrook ice cream from Ancramdale, Strahl initially wanted to fill the void by providing a warm and welcoming spot that dealt out real ice cream to real people. But he soon noticed another void: a lack of affordable healthy options for families who wanted to grab a wholesome lunch or dinner in the town. So he created a menu that, more than anything, reflected how he liked to eat at home—local, fresh and inspired by the ease of simple cooking.
On any given day at Local, you can find a house-made quiche made with local cheeses and greens, kale salad and even a grilled sausage sandwich topped with chutney. This is an impressive feat, considering the diminutive size of the 600-square-foot eatery and the proportionally small and low-tech kitchen Strahl and staff has to work with. Still, what makes its way out of the kitchen is as inspired by the daily deliveries of farm-fresh produce as it is by the collective desire to feed people something fresh and expressedly local.
But who am I kidding? The true inspiration, as well as the heart and soul of the place, resides in the frosty depths of each bucket of ice cream, which are summarily dished out in cups and cones for adults and children alike and finished off on an almost daily basis. Strahl, especially in the summer months, sometimes has a difficult time keeping enough ice cream on hand to satisfy his base of treat-hungry customers. He also adds some appeal, as well as a bit of personality, with an array of “ice cream treats” sporting names that hail back to the ’90s heyday of indie rock (Sonic Youth, Oasis, Nirvana, etc.) as well as his own past life as a rock-and-roll journeyman.
But for the Chappaqua locals, such references probably go unnoticed as they focus on the simple pleasure of ice cream. As the Kinks sang in the twilight of their career, “Give the people what they want!” a directive that Strahl is happily doing, with a bit of flair. —E. Steinman
75 South Greeley Avenue, Chappaqua
BETTING THE FARM
There was a time, albeit over a century ago, when nearly every Hudson Valley institution, whether a school, large estate or even prison, had a modest garden that produced food for the masses. Most of these gardens were supplemental, and not entirely sustaining, but existed out of both necessity as well as a tangible link between the institution and the land. Population density and significant improvements in food distribution have made such institutional farms a rarity, or at least a quaint little exploit. But at the Bard Farm, located on Bard College campus, something more than a little exploit is in the growing process.
The Bard Farm is a quite modest 1.25-acre sustainable urban farm located in not such an urban setting. Situated between the campus’s stately Manor House and a thicket extending down to the Hudson River, the farm organically grows fruits, vegetables and herbs to sell directly to Chartwells, the campus dining service, which it quite successfully did when it sold over 6,000 pounds of produce to them last year.
While the farm is routinely and lovingly worked by a cadre of dedicated Bard students, the genial mastermind of the venture is the young farmer John-Paul Sliva, who started the farm in 2011 and envisioned the project as a means to explore a viable model for an urban farm and provide a working demonstration of the realities of small-scale farming and the potential for community to develop around food. Sliva built up the farm from uncultivated land and with the simple idea that community-based farming, even on such a small scale, could not only create a sustainable community hub, but also, through a direct relationship, greatly improve the institutional buying habits of large-scale food companies like the one at Bard.
“This relationship” Sliva insists, “is a very important question for food activists right now: how can institutions change their buying habits and allow transparency, support sustainable food production and create greater happiness for farmers and consumers?” For Sliva and Bard Farm, this relationship works because they choose to be highly competitive with pricing and meet the demands, at least in part, of the institution and Chartwells. They are able to do this because the Bard Farm is modeled after more than just a business: it’s a student space to work, think, study and create outreach programming. Because of this partnership, the farm benefits from a financial support net, in the form of institutional support and occasional grants, that other local farms do not have, and it is therefore operating within the demands that come with local farming, without nearly as much risk.
Because the farm has woven into its design a certain room for creativity, Sliva and company are seeking out innovative ways to push the boundaries of local micro-farming. One crop that Bard Farm cornered the market on was locally grown cranberries, which proved to be an ideal crop to grow in wet clay soil and was seen as a highly desirable local crop to sell directly to Chartwells due to the fact that no one else in the Hudson Valley was growing and selling cranberries. Similarly, Bard Farm elected to grow hops, yet another crop not widely grown in this area, for flavoring beer. They just harvested 31 pounds of hops, which they turned around and sold to Crossroads Brewing Co. in Athens for their locally brewed Black IPA. This makes for a truly local beer.
Continuing toward harvest and the 2014 growing season, Sliva is never short on ideas on how he could sustainably exploit his modest acre, but he also understands that the farm’s reason for being, in this location in particular, has everything to do with the student experience and the overriding mission to usher micro-farming into the future.
“I wanted to create a landscape sculpture that would connect students, the consumer, directly and passionately to sustainable food production, the act of hard manual labor and the transformation of food and space.” —E. Steinman
LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE
For anyone who has considered either relocating to a country or just fixing up a long-neglected home in the bucolic Hudson Valley, a trip to the rustic, design-savvy depot of country living by the name of Hammertown is kind of a must, if for inspiration alone. Joan Osofsky has been operating the string of Hammertown stores since first launching her concept in a Pine Plains barn nearly three decades ago (locations now also include Rhinebeck and Great Barrington), providing a certain level of taste making to the country-chic set.
The success of Hammertown is based on the concept of place as well as design. In this home emporium, antique whisks become art; a throw crafted from local wool plays against a modern table. Osofsky’s vision of “home” embraces the community; her shops frequently host art shows of local talent and provide a venue for food artisans to present classes and demonstrations.
Now Osofsky, along with fellow author Abby Adams, has materialized the Hammertown shopping experience and ethos into a handsome coffee-table book genially titled Love Where You Live (Rizzoli, 2013) that will motivate as much as it may stir up a bit of house envy. With pictorial profiles of 18 stunning homes in the area, Osofsky and company tour us through an array of styles and approaches that outline the creative process and vision taken to revamp and remodel such homes to reflect a personal aesthetic. It takes something old, something new and a good deal of resourcefulness and tenacity, along with heart, to make a home, but this book sure makes it look easy. —E. Steinman
Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country
By Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams
Photography by John Gruen
Rizzoli New York
SAVE THE DATE:
On Friday, September 20, 2013, from 5–7pm, Hammertown Rhinebeck will host a book signing and reception. Join in the celebration or visit hammertown.com for additional book-related festivities this fall.