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lineup

Line Up

Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg plants its banner in Kingston

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 PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROY GUMPEL

Brooklyn, Manhattan, Los Angeles and … Kingston? If that grouping sounds jarring to you, then you haven’t been paying attention. In that, you differ from Jonathan Butler, who has been paying very close attention to the Hudson Valley. The most recent outpost of his Smorgasburg market at Hutton Brickyards in Kingston opened this past August, to great fanfare and astounding crowds, and will run each Saturday through October of this year (and, no doubt, will return next spring).

Butler, who is co-founder with Eric Demby of this mini-empire of culinary and craft, has a trio of New York City markets—Brooklyn Flea (debuted in 2008), Smorgasburg (2011) and Berg’n (2014)— and all embody what may be the perfect storm of Millennial aesthetics. The markets function like modern town squares built into the industrial remnants of the city; they’re the places where all things vintage, handmade, artisanal, locally grown and Instagrammable are celebrated and consumed. In Williamsburg, Smorgasburg attracts up to 10,000 visitors on each Saturday and Sunday. The market has earned almost 70,000 followers on Instagram and has been geo- and hashtagged in nearly 93,000 posts. Even if you don’t accept that social media is the contemporary version of word-of-mouth, Smorgasburg is a juggernaut. Its success is so profound that, this past June, Smorgasburg exported its Brooklyn chic to Los Angeles, the organization’s first West Coast outpost.

Hutton Brickyards, the location of Butler’s Smorgasburg Upstate, is a sprawling industrial compound, positioned on the western banks of the Hudson River, whose site was chosen in the 1870s for a miraculous confluence of natural features. Not only did Kingston’s soil offer the rich clay deposits necessary for brickmaking, but nearby lay ample firewood for the brickyard’s kilns and a high-speed conduit—the Hudson River—to the southern brick-hungry market of an expanding New York City. Currently, the 10-acre site still bears the soaring, rusted structures of industry (Hutton was operational until 1980), but its frontage also offers expansive views of the river. For modern purposes, Hutton Brickyards has two other merits. It is centrally located in the increasingly hip Hudson Valley, and Kingston’s star is still ascendant.

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Feeling the Pulse

Butler is no stranger to surfing upcoming hotspots. His first commercial venture was a website called Brownstoner.com—it tracks Brooklyn real estate and was there at the borough’s most recent boom. (Butler recently sold the site.) He admits, “You never really know when something is going to big up. After Brooklyn had its boom, it was like, ‘Well, duh. Of course: You’ve got this beautiful place with beautiful housing stock and it’s so close to Manhattan.’” He continues, “But you’ve got a similar thing in upstate New York. It’s a stunningly beautiful place and very accessible to New York City. And the housing stock is pretty incredible.” Of course, the best opportunities go to early adopters. “I feel like it’s still pretty early in Kingston. It’s not Hudson. And it’s much more interesting for me to get in early and have an impact than to go to Hudson where Warren Street is pretty much done. But, you know,” he laughs, “in a very nice way.”

“What we’ve been successful doing—and this is going back 10 years to when we started Brooklyn Flea and then Smorgasburg—is to give a center to a movement that is already palpable,” says Butler. “And I think that over the last, say, five years or so, there have been increasingly interesting things happening in the Hudson Valley region, food-wise. What we’re doing in Kingston is similar to what we did with Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg; we’re trying to create a single spot where a visitor can go and get a pretty good snapshot of the scene.”

At its debut in August, Smorgasburg Upstate hosted 20 food and drink vendors (including craft breweries), plus a variety of traders in what Smorgasburg Upstate’s site calls “a curated selection of handmade design, vintage clothing and antiques.” The stalls are primarily located outdoors under large, open-sided coverage comprised of the remaining brickyard structure. Says Butler, “The great thing about this plan is its sight lines. From all over the site, you have incredible views of the river. Hopefully, we’ll be hitting the perfect balance: pretty well hedged against the weather, but it’s still gonna feel like you’re outside.” Butler anticipated three or four thousand visitors at Smorgasburg Upstate’s debut; the first week exceeded his expectations by about double.

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A Place to Stuff your Face

Take a look at any upscale supermarket, and you’ll see the same story. More and more of its coveted real estate—floor space formerly devoted to, say, produce—is being converted to sneeze-guarded steam tables that hold hot, prepared food. The same goes for farmers’ markets, where, increasingly, wood-fired pizza trucks and barbecue rigs are shouldering up next to farmers. Smorgasburg is the ultimate expression of that trend. Says Butler, “The first year of Smorgasburg Brooklyn, we tried to put a farmers’ market in the middle of it and no one, no one wanted to buy lettuce. His takeaway? “Smorgasburg is more a place to go and stuff your face than to buy your weekly produce.”

Given this—and the fact that Kingston already has a thriving farmers’ market on Saturdays (“and the last thing I want to do is cannibalize their business”)—Butler’s stated intention for the market is to showcase Hudson Valley–grown foodstuffs in the dishes of his vendors. “I’m more interested in finding ways to integrate the Hudson Valley farmer supply chain with the Smorgasburg vendors than I am in competing with the local farm stand.” At its debut, fewer than 10 percent of Smorgasburg Upstate’s vendors will hail from Butler’s Brooklyn markets. Instead, the dishes featured at the market will overwhelmingly be created in the Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley chefs.

The curation of the prepared food vendors at Smorgasburg Upstate includes such regional brick and mortar mainstays as Santa Fe, Bread Alone and Terrapin, as well as less established locals like Raven & Boar and PAKT. When considering the selection process, Butler heard from Hudson Valley residents that great Asian food is scarce in the region. Both of the Brooklyn food vendors that have committed to Smorgasburg Upstate will sell Asian food. “We’re trying to have some stuff that’s fun and Instagrammable, but, at the end of the day, it’s pretty accessible stuff.” This “Instgrammable” offering comes in the form of the Ramen Burger, a whimsical creation by chef Keizo Shimamoto, that consists of a fried ramen cake wedged into a stacked burger—an invention that has garnered formidable queues throughout Brooklyn.

Here is the power of something like Smorgasburg. When Keizo Shimamoto introduced the Ramen Burger at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn back in 2013, the dish became an immediate media sensation.

Not only was the burger covered in countless city and national publications and websites, but, so far, it has been hashtagged in some 45,000 Instagram posts. Given each poster’s network of followers, that impact is vast. For a start-up food business, Smorgasburg offers a huge platform for a comparably miniscule investment. Says Butler, “Take somebody who thought he made great fish tacos 10 years ago, and, you know, he had his friends taste them.… Read More

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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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Route 212

A storied edible ramble

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROY GUMPEL

There’s a short film on YouTube called From the Village to the Basement. It’s a teaser for The Basement Tapes Complete, the 2014 box set that at last unearths all—or so we’re told—of the mythically elusive music recorded by Bob Dylan and the Band in 1967, when they were, in Dylan’s words, “escaping the rat race” by living in the idyllic woods of the Catskills. The three-and-a-half-minute documentary starts out in the West Village, cruises 100 miles up the New York State Thruway, takes a left at the end of the Exit 20 off-ramp in Saugerties and finally delivers you straight into the basement of “Big Pink,” the house in West Saugerties where Dylan and the Band made the bulk of these influential recordings and for which the latter’s album Music from Big Pink is named. Big Pink sits in the woods between the Village of Saugerties and the Town of Woodstock by way of New York State Route 212. In addition to feeling the wheels and feet of famous musicians, this winding, two-lane artery of upper Ulster County is also celebrated for having some of the finest and most varied food anywhere in the world.

PLEASE LET THESE CROPS GROW TALL

Route 212 originates in the Village of Saugerties, which was settled by the Dutch in the 1650s. Food played a bit part in the town’s early history: A loaf of bread was among the goods with which the English purchased the land from the Esopus Indians in 1677. The village’s heart is the intersection of Main and Partition streets, which are lined with brick buildings housing antique stores, a hardware store, an old neon marquee movie theater—and an excellent selection of bars and restaurants.

“Saugerties is a really nice town with a cool vibe,” says Marc Propper, who co-owns Miss Lucy’s Kitchen with his wife, Michelle Silver; the pair ran Grove, a restaurant in the West Village, before moving to town in 1997. Miss Lucy’s, with its countrified interior—wide-plank floors and antique farmhouse tables, features a locally sourced, farm-to-table menu that changes daily and features herbs, vegetables and flowers grown in the couple’s garden. “All of the protein items, the rabbit, duck and chicken, come neighboring farms,” says Propper. “The fish is all sea-to-table, which means we order it straight from the dock and it’s overnighted immediately to us here.”

Almost directly across Partition Street is Love Bites Café. A brunch lover’s paradise, Love Bites serves up such innovative dishes as the Filipino beef tapa (sweet soy-marinated sirloin with garlic rice and eggs, pickles and spicy vinegar), spicy sweet potato-tofu hash (with caramelized onions, garlic and wilted spinach) and coconut-carrot French toast (with vanilla-citrus butter and maple syrup). Also on Partition is seasonal barbecue haven Cue, which is co-owned by Propper and a carnivore-pleasing hit thanks to its hickory-smoked, dry-rubbed pork shoulder, ribs, brisket and chicken and homemade sauces. (Try the Carolina Gold.) On summer evenings, the outdoor tables are packed with customers enjoying dinner or dessert and digging the live bands who carry on the area’s musical tradition, especially on “First Friday,” which occurs on the first Friday of each month in Saugerties and gives the town reason to come alive with food, music and festivities.

And when it comes to beer in Saugerties, it’s the Dutch Ale House that’s a true Saugerties tradition. Originally opened on December 5, 1933—the day Prohibition ended—the Main Street tavern is now a microbrewery with 15 craft beers on tap (owner Johnny Pavich brews a selection of the house offerings himself ) and nearly 50 bottled and canned styles in the fridge, as well as wine and spirits. In addition to its constantly changing beer selections, the bistro serves lunch and dinner; the burgers and pub food are the main attractions.

route212_2clockwise, from top left: Cheryl Paff of Black-Eyed Suzie’s; Cucina’s catering
space as seen from Route 212; New World Home Cooking’s Purple
Haze Shrimp; Burger and beer at Dutch Ale House

Black-Eyed Suzie’s, which opened in 2015, is a new addition to the Saugerties foodscape offering eat-in options, catering and take-away. Co-owner Cheryl Paff, who until recently managed the farmers’ market in nearby Rhinebeck and helped launch the Woodstock Farm Festival, partnered with Mexican-born chef Juan Tzitzimititila, a Zagat award-winning veteran of top-rated Manhattan Mediterranean restaurant Pylo’s. The modestly priced brunch and dinner menus use local ingredients freshly culled from Paff ’s farm connections, as with the Wild Hive cornmeal-crusted chicken or the Meiller Farm beef burger.

If you possess a sweet tooth, head north on Partition to Lucky Chocolates. Started by owner Rae Stang in her home kitchen, Lucky creates small batches of candies made from organic, fair trade ingredients and offers traditional and vegan chocolates, as well as custom batches for special occasions.

This year marks the fifth season of the monthly Hudson Valley Food Truck Festival, which takes place on the third Thursday from May through October at the town’s Kiwanis Ice Arena / Cantine Field recreational complex. “On most nights, we have between 800 and 1,200 people attending,” says co-creator and restaurateur Pierre-Luc Moeys, the founder of Woodstock restaurants Yum Yum and Oriole 9 and current owner of Lekker 209 in Stone Ridge. “We’ve set the number of trucks at 15, to keep the quality level high, and this year we’re partnering with a local brewery and wine distributor. There’s a beer garden, live music, and kids’ entertainment. And it’s free.”

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE

Head west out of Saugerties on Route 212. “Saugerstock” is the unofficial name for the rural area through which the road runs en route to Woodstock. At one bendy spot is Smokehouse of the Catskills, a family-run authentic German butcher shop that’s been in the business for more than 50 years. “All of our products are smoked and cut on premises and totally processed by hand, the old-fashioned way,” explains co-owner Heidi Ferraro. “We use only meat and spices—no fillers.” The facility has a passionately devoted clientele, who faithfully return for its hand-cut steaks and chops and handmade hot dogs, bratwurst, sausage and kielbasa.

Another outlet for interesting edibles is Jolly’s British Food and Good Grub Groceries, located on Route 212 roughly midway between Saugerties and Woodstock. The store, started in 2006 by expatriate Brit couple Helen and Lucinda Wells, carries imported British specialties like meat pies, Walkers Crisps, marmalade, mushy peas, marmite, chutney, Weetabix cereal, biscuits, Cadbury chocolates and jelly babies, and, of course, a staggering selection of authentic English teas pack the shelves, fridges and freezers. Jolly’s does a bustling mail order business online and sells light meals to go (the curried chicken sandwiches are favorites).

Back in the 1980s, before its founding chef and manager, Ric Orlando, became an award-winning TV cooking phenomenon and figurehead of the “Clean Food” movement, the site of New World Home Cooking was the Getaway Inn, a converted barn that hosted performances by members of the Band. New World’s locally sourced menu blends traditional American comfort fare like burgers and barbecue with Cajun, Thai, Italian and other global influences. For many, it’s the lipsmacking pan-blackened string beans that come to mind first when they think of New World; then again, it might be Ric’s Original Purple Haze Shrimp (with habaneros, pineapple, ginger, red cabbage and thyme) or the Ropa Vieja (a spicy stewed meat dish that translates to “old rags” but tastes far better than its name would indicate).… Read More

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Make Hay

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whiskMakeHay2PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF RANEA DAYTON

Hayfield’s co-owner Renea Dayton, 32, a city girl originally from Houston, moved to the Hudson Valley after graduating from Trinity University. Dayton developed a passion for shooting photos of nature, and her photos inspired a connection with agriculture. In 2015, Dayton along with husband and wife team Peter and Jackie Kamenstein took over the former Country Farmer, a roadside fruit and vegetable stand, which the trio of new owners renamed Hayfield’s in tribute to the surrounding landscape.

At Hayfield’s, customers (mostly locals) can pick up flowers from the outdoor nursery center to plant, as well as harvested produce from over 80 New York small farms or just a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

The market has partnered with Field Goods CSA to provide bags of fruits and vegetables for members on a weekly basis. Hayfield’s also periodically offers gardening workshops for those with a DIY motivation. On the first Sunday of every month from 9 am to noon, Hayfield’s hosts a Cars & Coffee event.

Auto enthusiasts are rewarded with a free cup of coffee for driving over in their vintage and electric cars. The event is a fitting nod to the building’s past life as a gas station.

Dayton says that Hayfield’s will continue to grow, hopefully adding a few taps of local brew, a food delivery service, some BYOB summer evening barbecues and a seasonal supper at Ryder Farm in Brewster this coming September.

“We have a lot going on. And we have the landscapers in their scuffed jeans, the elderly women coming for afternoon tea, and the high school right down the street. We’re on the corner of a commuter road, and our demographic is basically everyone,” says Dayton. —Fen Fenton

Hayfield’s
1 Bloomer Road, North Salem
914.669.8275
hayfieldsmarket.com

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Palatable: Food and Contemporary Art

The subject of food has long been the focal point of great works of art—from Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper to Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans series. Recently, the Studio Museum in Harlem assembled a new exhibit titled Palatable: Food and Contemporary Art, showcasing the work of contemporary artists and their use of food as a means to address issues of politics, memory, heritage, race and culture. All the work is from artists of African descent. Artist Benny Andrews, who died in 2006, was a teacher, painter and printmaker with a strong sense of social justice, who the year before his death traveled to the Gulf Coast and worked as an art teacher with children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. His powerful piece Poverty is an examination into not bounty but lack of food.

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Andrews, Benny. Poverty (America Series). 1990.
Oil and graphite on paper with painted fabric collage, 50¼” x 38¾”.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, NY, NY.
Food and Contemporary Art (through June 26th)
The Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street, NY, NY
studiomuseum.org

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Heirloom Harvest

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Preservationist and gardener Amy Goldman has been cultivating her 200 acres of farmland in Rhinebeck for several years, with a pointed dedication toward heirloom fruits and vegetables. In her latest book, Heirloom Harvest: Modern Daguerreotypes of Historic Garden Treasures (Bloomsbury, 2015), Goldman teams up with Jerry Spagnoli, a seasoned and masterly daguerreotypist, as well as photographer, to engage in the definitive form of preservation, using photography to document and celebrate heirlooms. Using the age-old daguerreotype process of printing the image directly on a polished sheet of silver-plated copper, the project reveals dramatic and unearthly images of various heirlooms that hold an even more ancient pedigree.

Heirloom Harvest: Modern Daguerreotypes of Historic Garden Treasures is available online and at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck.

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Tattfoo Tan

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The Nature Matching System, 2013
Vinyl photo mural

Dating back to the 16th century, artists have been favoring food as a subject of their work. Whether it is in still life or as a subtle nod to sexuality, food has served as muse for both the technical and the thinking artist. In a new exhibit at CR10 Arts, a four-year-old nonprofit contemporary arts project space in Linlithgo founded by Francine Hunter McGivern, the focus is not just on food, but how ideas of sustainability, community activism and small-scale farming impact our perception of our shared food system. Included in the exhibit FOODshed: Agriculture and Art in Action, curated by Amy Lipton, a collection of artists (including Tattfoo Tan, who’s work is represented here) will use the space, in a site-specific manner, to wrestle with these issues and explore how awareness fuels our hunger, and vice versa.

FOODSHED: Agriculture and Art in Action
August 8-September 5
CR10 Arts
283 Country Route 10
Linlithgo
cr10.org

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Drive In Saturday

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Photographs: courtesy of Four Brothers Drive In

The first drive-in theater in America opened in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey, and was a makeshift affair with just a Kodak film projector and a white bed sheet. Some 80 years later, with the cultural cachet of drive-ins having ascended and then plummeted, the newest drive-in offering in the area is decidedly a more sophisticated and cultured venture. The Four Brothers Drive In Theatre in Amenia opened in the summer of 2013, as an extension of the modest Four Brothers Pizza empire, and has grown in popularity and ambition over the last two years.

Started on a whim by John and Paul Stefanopoulos (sons of John senior, one of the titular Four Brothers), the drive-in provides a comprehensive entertainment and dining experience with double firstrun features every night of the week and a carhop service that will bring ice cream or a pizza right to your car. The entire feel of the endeavor is tinged with American nostalgia thanks to reclaimed vintage signs, a playground and live music and face painting on weekends.

The two brothers had the benefit of inexperience, as neither of them had ever been to a drive-in theater before conceiving of their own. This gave them fresh eyes and provided them with a boundless creativity that made for a unique and ever-evolving movie and dining happening. As for the future of the theater, John waxes a bit philosophical and says that while the idea of a drive-in is a bit oldfashioned, their philosophy and approach is something that is always developing to remain relevant and engaged in contemporary society. He admits, “It’s always a work in progress for us, and we love that.”

—E. Steinman

Four Brothers Drive In
4957 Route 22, Amenia
Open seven days a week until November
playeatdrink.com

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Betting the Farm

Making agritourism the flavor of the Hudson Valley

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Illustrations by Lucy Engelman

As an imagined source of refuge, and remediation, “the countryside” has long gripped our collective imagination. Indeed, the idea of the country underpins the historic popularity of agritourism, the practice of touring farms and participating in farm activities, which dates to the late 1800s. As cities and their correspondent woes grew, urbanites fled to recuperate among rural relatives. In the 1920s, with the invention of the automobile and an expanded road network, New Yorkers took up travel to rural areas with gusto, especially as other forms of re-creation dwindled during the Great Depression and World War II.

Today, we continue to fill the 19th-century prescription to “take some air” as part of our recuperative agendas. We believe that farms help us reaffirm our bond with the natural scheme of things. Against refrains of alienation in an increasingly digital world, the current surge in agritourism reflects our dogged impulse to re-ground. Suddenly, we not only want to know where our food comes from but also just how the field biology of our CSA relates to our inner landscapes. We want to talk about sustainability, yes, but more so to know how it sounds, smells, feels and tastes. Even if it’s dirty and unglamorous. And we are willing to pay to find out.

Over the past year, interviews with over 30 agritourism entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley have revealed compelling findings. The particular incentive that jumps out is the one shared by visitors to farms: the desire to reconnect. Apparently, we go to work, or stay or eat on farms seeking a connectedness that we sense has been lost. We are hungry to step out of our daily lives and experience different and, we imagine, better ways of being. We tell ourselves that if we “get away” for a little while, we might be OK, maybe even flourish. If we go someplace where the air is clean, and the living cleaner, perhaps then we would come to our senses, by activating our senses.

PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION

There are many pursuits categorized as agritourism in the Hudson Valley. Traditionally, these enterprises include: outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, wildlife study, horseback riding); entertainment (harvest festivals or barn dances); and on-farm direct sales (pickyour- own operations or roadside stands). However, the emerging agritourism ventures tend to show more rigor and intent in a different way, with a focus on: educational experiences (skills workshops/classes); hospitality services (farmstays, guided tours); on-farm weddings (venue rental); and culinary tourism (farm dinners, tasting events).

The new agritourism paradigm is an entrepreneurial merger of the hospitality, educational, and agricultural sectors—three sectors just getting to know one another in many ways. The type of farm where this occurs is marked by a communications approach that synchronizes the tourism sector with the craft–oriented aesthetic of sustainable agriculture. The character of this aesthetic reflects simplicity, authenticity and abundance. This type of emerging agritourism also mirrors environmental values and land-use management practices; according to research done at Glynwood in Cold Spring, over 60% of the farms offering guest experiences in the Hudson Valley are found on ecologically managed properties, revealing an ethos of sustainability and the sort of practices that lure city folk and the like away from their urban experience.

The principle of the new agritourism is participation. Moving away from the entertainment-based “hands-off ” approach (e.g., visiting a corn maze) and gravitating toward on-farm hosting, agritourism ventures in the Hudson Valley are shifting to programs that promote sensory education. As a crossroads of artistic, scientific and physiological knowledge, farms grow more than food; they also cultivate an experiential reality people crave. New agritourism caters to a new brand of agritourists—engaged, conscious eaters that want to learn while they habituate. In a world of instant fixes and self-proclaimed experts, farms, and farmers, offer an antidote: a substantive life rooted in time, craftsmanship and soil.

RECIPROCITY

For the group of lawyers who recently signed up for Stone & Thistle Farm’s “Farmer for a Day” program, the upshot of their search for reconnection was entirely expected. Upon the group’s arrival, farm proprietor Denise Warren informed the men that the day’s activity was to assist in castrating young piglets. A standard farm duty, perhaps, but this formative visceral experience of their pork dinner shook the young city lawyers to the core. “You should have seen the look on their faces!” laughs Warren. “Especially when they remembered that they were paying for it!”

Generally speaking, agritourism allows farmers to diversify their operations, spread financial risk and, in many cases, keep family farmland in production. The majority of hosted activities rely primarily on family members to operate. While only a supplemental source of income for most farms, agritourism supplies important seasonal income—on average it could amount to a third of a farm’s total revenue. For many farmers, the hospitality component of their businesses, even something as simple as farm tours, has become sufficient enough that it “is impossible to stop doing.” Farmers also consider the nonfinancial benefits of agritourism integral to the overall viability of their enterprise, as it raises awareness as well as regard for the farming enterprise. Most farmers say that opening their doors makes the farm feel like a vibrant center of reciprocity, rather than an isolated entity.

Farmstays, when individuals are hosted right on the farm with room and board as well as an expectation to join in the effort, offer guests the opportunity to expand their educational day on the farm into a weekend or sometimes a week. Farmstays are the most underrepresented areas of agritourism, though this niche has great prospects.

East Coast farmstay pioneers in on-farm accommodation, such as Kinderhook Farm and Sprout Creek Farm, enjoy full occupancy rates each season. Lodging type and luxury level range from high-end farmhouses, such as Mud Creek Farm in Livingston, New York, to renovated barns, to “glamping” tents, such as those available to guests at Stony Creek Farm in Walton, New York. Their tagline, “Let your family free range” says it all. Farmstays in the Hudson Valley are available for nightly or weekly stays at average prices of $150 to $500 per night and $1,500 to $3000 per week.

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Alongside investment,
the new expression of
on-farm hospitality requires
new sets of skills, which is
often a stretch for those
more accustomed to
dealing with livestock
rather than tourists.

AG AND MARKETS

Ten years ago, The New York Times called the Hudson Valley the Napa of the East. The region is replete with entrepreneurial farmers making high-quality artisanal foods and, in turn, receives lots of tourism press. The majority of Hudson Valley farms interested in hosting guests have the advantage of proximity to a large metropolitan area with multitudes of potential customers, as well as the personalities for promoting their business. Agritourism contributes toward goals of land conservation, environmental education and even food security as it fills empty tourist beds, contributes to on-farm livelihoods and translates the region’s best natural assets into the regenerative economic ones. While hardly a panacea for the complex food and farm viability issues we face, agritourism can supply a path toward sustainable, regional economic development.

Yet, despite such a range of benefits to farmers and tourists alike, the sector remains noticeably underdeveloped, this is partially due to the investment needed, as it is not enough to just open your doors to the public.… Read More

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Saratoga Springs Sojourn

A little city with a growing appetite

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An example of some of Saratoga’s finest bread and whisks in waiting from Mrs. London’s
Photography by Keith Ferris

“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga
and your horse naturally won…”

—Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain”

For a city that is effectively landlocked, save for a 4.5-mile lake on the outskirts of town, it is almost a head scratcher that Saratoga Springs is possibly best known for its water, that and seasonal horse racing. But the waters of Saratoga (locals drop the “Springs” when referring to the area), in the form of natural springs, hold mythical curative properties that have been drawing visitors looking for a quick fix and rejuvenation for over 200 years. A two-century-long legacy is a hard thing to trump, but Saratoga has a newly vibrant food and drink scene that is luring people north for more than just a soak and betting on horses.

There’s a buzz in the air—or better a wonderful whiff—of noteworthy dining spots that may become destinations for a broader audience. And they reflect a diverse mix, particularly for a smaller city.

The ambience at many of Saratoga’s eateries reflects the warmth and hospitality of owners who’ve come to the profession with a long-simmering love of food, sometimes as a second career, and with a deep interest in getting to know customers and become involved in their community.

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The dining room at 15 Church

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Hot pickles on the table at Hattie’s

START EARLY/EAT OFTEN

You can start your culinary escapade in the early morning at a number of unpretentious places serving comfort food—waffles and waffle sandwiches are the hallmark of one, or lemon ricotta pancakes and Roman eggs at another—and move on to brunch or lunch with savory and sweet crepes with hand-cut pommes frites with dipping sauces.

Come late afternoon or evening, head for a handcrafted beer or expertly mixed cocktail at the many bars that populate this city and end with dinner that may be as simple—and delicious—as a wood-fired pizza, fresh salad and decadent brownie or as upscale as Italian ricotta with salted crème anglaise or handmade pasta with crumbled sausage or lamb ragout at a new dining establishment with swank decor. Along with these changes have come places to buy specialty foods—two relatively new supermarkets, the Fresh Market out of Greensboro, North Carolina, and the organic Healthy Living Market & Café from South Burlington, Vermont, or specialty meat and fish vendors and farmers’ markets.

But where to begin—and end (this may take more than a day)? There’s no way to be all inclusive, but here is a generous helping of possibilities, including a few that pop up seasonally in the summer at the racetrack.

Twenty-four years ago, Roseann Hotaling opened Country Corner Café, a breakfast and lunch eatery, after moving to Saratoga Springs as a school food service director. The opportunity for her longtime dream of opening a restaurant presented itself when Anthony’s Country Kitchen went out of business a block off Broadway.

“I wanted to be home with my children for the dinner hour, and there weren’t a lot of places serving breakfast,” she says. Originally only 19 seats, she expanded to 75 to meet demand from the business community, families seeking an affordable place and Skidmore College students and parents. And while the menu includes traditional fare, many choices reflect her twist such as pan-fried oatmeal. Possibly as a way to let the breakfast hour linger a bit, this year she added Bloody Marys and mimosas.

To fill a void in the high-end niche, partners Thomas Burke and Paul McCullough opened 15 Church in early 2014. The building was vacant for 20 years and was given an extensive overhaul that now sparkles with a welcoming bar and comfy upholstered banquettes.

The two partners brought Brady Duhame on board as chef, who trained at the CIA, abroad and at several prestigious New York City restaurants such as Picholine and Bouley; Duhame was given the task of developing a menu of sophisticated yet approachable contemporary American fare. Everyone involved wanted 15 Church to be the city’s best restaurant with ingredients and dishes unique to the area.

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From top: A delicate fruit tart offered up at Mrs. London’s; prepping Rugelach at Mrs. London’s;
a forkful of spicy shrimp Jambalaya at Hattie’s; Hattie’s refreshing mojito;

“I’m trying to do food with heart and soul but that you don’t find anywhere else,” says Duhame, citing his scallion pancakes layered with king crab in butter, oyster sauce, wasabi cream cilantro and a fried egg or hamachi sashimi with crispy wontons, gingered pickled shallots, jalapeños, roasted sesame seeds and soy citrus dressing as two starter examples.

The entrée menu is as inventive, and desserts and daily-made focaccia bread by pastry chef Lacy Worth, formerly with the Equinox Hotel in Vermont, are worth saving room for. The “Notorious B.I.G. chocolate cake” (an indulgent salute to the fallen ’90s rap icon), with side mini-bottle of milk, and zeppoles—cinnamon ricotta doughnuts with two sauces—both “had” to be ordered after they were spied going to other tables. So far, McCullough says, customers haven’t flinched—or at least not complained verbally to him—that the average tab runs between $50 and $75 per person, higher than most other area establishments. “They see the plate arrive, the visuals, taste the food and find the service friendly. The restaurant has been packed on weekends and even during the week in winter,” he says. Summer plans include a revamped large side patio for casual dining with fresh seafood focus and cocktails.

Not one but three Hattie’s Restaurants exist—the downtown “Mother Ship,” which moved to its present turn-of-the-century building in 1969 from its original Federal Street location after urban renewal occurred; the second, a “chicken shack” on Route 50 in Wilton Plaza, and the third, a summer shack at the track. The crunchy, yet tender, fried chicken is a winner at all three, and has remained true to the original recipe Miss Hattie (Gray) from Louisiana developed when she opened Hattie’s Chicken Shack in 1938; she died in 1998.

Beth and Jasper Alexander became the third owners in 2001 when they returned to Beth’s Saratoga origins from Seattle; Jasper trained at the CIA and top-flight places in New York City. The Alexanders’ goal is to maintain the commitment to Miss Hattie’s original fare but introduce their own comfort foods. Loyal customers beg come fall for their macaroni and cheese to return after it’s taken off the menu in summer, Beth says. Portions are quite ample—good for sharing since entrées come with two generous sides. The 80 seats are perpetually filled at the main location. A full-service catering operation has the novel tag line: “From Fried Chicken to Foie Gras.”

As a child, Pete Michelin helped out his relatives with their restaurant as best he could. He grew up, went on to become a bartender and chef but always dreamt of owning his own place. That dream materialized when Michelin moved back to Saratoga, wrote a business plan and eight years ago found the right location, overlooking Fish Creek, which empties into Saratoga Lake. Today, he and wife Gina operate Harvest & Hearth, an artisanal pizza restaurant that exhibits their stamp of creativity—handcrafted crusts with toppings of locally grown vegetables, free-range and nitrate-free meats and novel garnishments.… Read More

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