Archive | February, 2013

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe

28 Feb

BlueberryHill7

Local in New Lebanon

“Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is a place where people can be on their own clock.. whether they’re running in to grab something quick or they’re there to spend a few hours…” – owner Melanie Hunt

Part local market and part bakery cafe, Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is one of the newest best kept secrets in New Lebanon.  Owner Melanie Hunt bakes breads muffins, scones and cookies from scratch, and offers breakfast and lunch time favorites like local blueberry pancakes, seasonal vegetable quiche and frittata, chicken salad, pulled pork, Kinderhook Farm grass fed beef burgers, watermelon lemonade, and composed salads with local greens.

The market features Ronnybrook milk, local cheese, Kinderhook Farm grass fed beef, Liquid Assets locally roasted fair-trade organic coffee, breads from Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Tierra Farm natural foods, Lebanon Springs’ soaps, local maple syrup, honey and produce from the farm at the Abode of the Message.  Blueberry Hill Market Cafe is also home to Magdalena’s tamales, known and loved at farmers markets throughout the Hudson Valley.

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe

515 Route 20, New Lebanon, NY
518-794-2011

Photography by Jane Feldman

New York Dairy Review

27 Feb

Cleawater cheese

New York Dairy Review

As the third largest national producer, New York leads the country in the making of cottage cheese and Greek style yogurt, and is the third largest producer of cheese. At the top of all agricultural industry, dairy in New York employs 1.4 million dairy cattle on more than 6,000 dairy farms to produce 12 billion pounds of milk a year that is worth nearly $2 billion.

With such a large volume of dairy production, it’s not surprising that New York is home to an amazing array of great dairy products. Here are a few of the Consortium’s top picks.

Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche

If you’ve never tried Hudson Valley Fresh’s sour cream, it is well worth the indulgence. With a decadently thick, rich and creamy flavor, it is slightly tart but not overly acidic. Mixed with a little maple syrup or brown sugar it makes a perfect sauce for summer ripe fruit, as the base for panna cotta or even ice cream.

If you’re looking for creme fraiche, Ronny Brook Farm Dairy makes a rich, great tasting creme fraiche that is a little pricey but worth the expense. In the Hudson Valley look for Hudson Valley Fresh’s sour cream and Ronny Brook creme fraiche at Mother Earth’s Storehouse and Hannaford grocery stores.

Drinkable Yogurt

As an on-the-go breakfast drink, drinkable yogurt has grown in popularity over the years with several national and local offerings including Ronny Brook Farm Dairy, Coach Farm and drinkable newcomer Tonje’s Farm Dairy.

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy was one of the first local dairy farms to pioneer a line of drinkable yogurt flavors. Today there are a dozen or so varieties, including banana, honey vanilla, strawberry and mango. Stand out flavors, in our opinion, include peach and blackberry.

With a pleasant goat’s milk finish, Coach Farm’s line of Yo-Goat drinkable yogurt is a bit lighter than Ronny Brook’s. Mango and raspberry flavors are especially delicious. All of Coach’s products are available on-line by mail order but be prepared to pay a bit extra for shipping.

Both Coach and Ronny Brook’s drinkable yogurts freeze and defrost well. Ronny Brook’s will defrost within a day or two but Coach’s might take as long as three to four days with a few icy chunks remaining.

Yogurt and Quark

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy, Coach Farm, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, 3-Corner Field Farm, and the Argyle Cheese Farmer are all producing a variety of whole and reduced fat yogurts. Try The Argyle Cheese Farmer’s Greek style yogurt. It’s spreadably thick and rich with an intensely concentrated yogurt flavor. Our all time favorite whole milk yogurt is the Maple Vanilla flavor from Hawthorne Valley Farm but the Argyle Cheese Farmer’s cream top whole milk plain is a very close second. Both Hawthorne Valley Farm and the Argyle Cheese Farmer are producing quark, a soft cow’s milk cheese with a sour cream like consistency. Look for Hawthorne Valley quark at Mother Earth’s Storehouse. The Argyle Cheese Farmer sells quark at the Troy and Saratoga Farmers markets.

Ice Cream and Chocolate Milk

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy and the Battenkill Creamery both produce an exceptional line of ice cream flavors. Our favorite ice cream flavor of all time is the coconut from Ronny Brook Farm Dairy. Try the Battenkill Valley Creamery for Coffee and Chocolate flavors. Speaking of chocolate, the Battenkill Valley Creamery gets top vote for best chocolate milk. It is thick, rich and very much like melted chocolate ice cream. Meadowbrook Dairy is our second choice for chocolate milk.

Cheese

There are hundreds of great cheeses in New York State. Here are a few of our top choices and a few more that are interesting:

Nettle Meadow Triple Cream, our all time favorite New York cheese. Kunik is very much like a really thick, cheese-flavored heavy cream or fondue, that’s been wrapped up in a sexy Camembert style rind.
Coach Farm’s Grating Stick One of the closest things we have found to a really hard cheese like Parmesan
3-Corner Field Farm Feta A classic sheep’s milk feta
Palentine Valley Dairy Great cheddar. The smoked cheddar is our second all time favorite cheese.
Harpersfield Cheese Great Tilsit style cheeses. Interesting flavors include raspberry and Lapsang Souchong.

Nettle Meadow Chevre with Garlic and Olive Oil

26 Feb

NMchevre1

Nettle Meadow Chevre with Garlic and Olive Oil

A food review by Daniel B.

Nettle Meadow Farm is a dangerous place. It’s not dangerous for the animals, as this is a place where animals come first, even when their productive milking days are over. It’s not dangerous for the two owners Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan who operate the farm, or visitors to the farm either.

No, it’s dangerous for me.

Because these two women with the help of Sheila’s mother have been able to turn this 50 acre plot of land in Thurman, NY (25 miles northwest of Queensbury) into a nationally renowned cheesemaking operation. My inlaws have a slightly smaller farm in rural Pennsylvania, and converting that land into a farmstead cheesemaking operation has been a longstanding pipe dream.

Looking at pictures of the farm and tasting their handmade cheese, it’s hard not to revisit those old dreams and consider cashing in the 401k for some cheesemaking equipment. But for right now I’ll have to settle for telling you about one of my favorite goat cheese accompaniments.

NMchevre2

Olive oil.

Goat cheese makers have told me in the past that a surprising number of people have a reluctance to even try a fresh, unaged goat cheese. Me? I love that tangy goatiness. But people are split on what it goes best with. There is a school of thought that pairs likes with likes, and a lean tangy cheese will go with a lean tangy wine, such as sancerre.

I like to go the other way. Contrasting but complementary flavors and textures are what excite me. So I like my goat cheeses with a rich, round, buttery and fruity chardonnay. I find the two keep each other in check.

It’s probably no surprise then that I also enjoy fresh goat cheese with a rich, round, buttery and fruity olive oil.

What a pleasure it was to discover that Nettle Meadow Farm had a fresh goat cheese with the olive oil already in it. The garlic flavor was light but clearly present, but I felt the cheese needed some more olive oil. That is a problem that’s easily fixed.

Certain ingredients work harder when they aren’t incorporated into the product but are allowed to sit on top. Think about the impact a few crunchy flakes of sea salt would have on top of a dark chocolate souffle, and how those same granules would simply get lost in the batter.

Good quality olive oil drizzled on top not only shows its vibrant color but also gives the full impact of its aroma.

At Nettle Meadow Farm, fresh goat cheese is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s their aged blend of goat’s milk and Jersey cow’s milk in a bloomy rind that’s the star of their cheesemaking efforts and won them their first award from the American Cheese Society. It’s called Kunik, and everyone loves it. But they also have sheep’s milk cheese and a blend of all three milks called “Three Sisters” which also came back with an ACS award.

One of these days I’ll have to visit their farm. It’s normally open to the public for cheese sales from 11 am to 3 pm Thursday through Monday. But there are tours of the farm available at noon on Saturdays.

Maybe a tour will remind me why I’ve moved on to other dreams and left the thoughts of cheesemaking behind. Or perhaps seeing a similar sized farm to the one I visit regularly in Pennsylvania will shake me from my complacency and spur me into action.

Like I said, it sounds like a dangerous place.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

A Guide to Buying Farm Fresh: Eating Well and Safely in Upstate New York

26 Feb

JANEpasta

A Guide to Buying Farm Fresh: Eating Well and Safely in Upstate New York

Julie Cushine-Rigg

Juliecover-199x300Chapter 9 – Chefs

There are many local chefs who are incorporating local foods into their seasonal restaurant menus. For example, you may have noticed local greens featured in salads at New World Bistro in Albany. This is just one example of how chefs like Ric Orlando at the bistro serve as critical links between farmers and consumers. They’re serving products that farmers are raising, and influencing food trends.

It may seem like a new trend, but “cooking with local and fresh ingredients” has actually been common practice among chefs for a long time. As almost any chef will say, “Be sure to get the freshest ingredients you can!”

Cooking at home with local and fresh ingredients is just as important as it is at restaurants. While most of us don’t cook like restaurant chefs every day, we can borrow techniques and recipes from them. And it’s relatively easy, with access to popular cooking shows, and the ability to “Google” recipes. Whether you want to master a soufflé or just get a healthy dinner on the table in under an hour, there is a lot of information available on how to reach your cooking goals.

Famed chef, Julia Child puts the idea of cooking nicely in her book from 1989 – The Way to Cook. The opening paragraphs, read, in part:

…we are becoming more health conscious and more aware of what is in our food. That very awareness is the best of all reasons for learning ‘The Way to Cook’.

While attitudes about food have changed…the principles of good cooking have not. The more one knows about it, the less mystery there is, the faster cooking becomes and the easier it is to be creative and to embrace new trends and ideas – in addition, the more pleasure one has in the kitchen.

That Julia! She was onto something hey?

Let’s take some of the mystery out of the art of cooking, as Child suggests, by getting to know a little about what some of our local chefs are doing. Maybe you’ll discover a new love for cooking, rekindle one you had, or just plain be inspired!

Chef Nicci Cagan

Chef Nicci Cagan is a coordinator of Farm to School in Ulster County’s Roundout Valley Central School District, member of the Chefs Consortium, and director of From the Ground Up, (a garden based wellness initiative).

The Chefs Consortium is “a group of chefs those who advocate sustainability to raise awareness of local food systems and regional history through the creation of dynamic events, market and cooking demonstrations, culinary and sustainability education, seed to table initiatives, farm to school programming, and work with regional food pantries and other deserving organizations. We believe that all food has a story, and we are out to celebrate communities and change lives one bite at a time,” as stated on http://www.chefsconsortium.com.

The Chefs Consortium formed in spring 2010, and has been a steady and growing network among local chefs. Sharing ideas, cooking together and interacting with audiences about ingredients and using local foods is what it’s all about. Since The Chefs Consortium started, member chefs have participated in food events up and down the Hudson Valley from the Adirondacks to New York City.

Some of the most successful recipes, especially with Farm to School, Chef Cagan says, are ones where kids can be involved with the process of cooking. Often when you start in the classroom and let the children know where the food comes from, what it’s all about – it can be a wonderful starting point. They’re more likely to try recipes they know something about (or they’ve had a hand in making).

“Crepes were a big hit. We did some up in the classroom and the kids just loved them!” she says of one such experience.

Add to that a little taste testing, bringing agriculture into the classroom and you’ve got kids bringing home ideas to parents!

‘Specials’ that have worked nicely – that can just as well be adapted at home – include; Fresh Food on Fridays and Try it Tuesdays.

When it comes to home cooking, Cagan advises to think about simplicity and flavor: just a few simple ingredients. A good combination she says, is roasted vegetables with herbs from the garden, olive oil and salt and pepper. There, you’ve got a side dish! Boil up some noodles, toss with the vegetables, and top with a little good quality shaved parmesan cheese and you’ve got a meal!

“Food has its own integrity,” she says. Letting that shine is important. Whether the flavors are sweet, or sour, Cagan suggests, “Wake up your mouth with your food!”

Noah Sheetz

I met Chef Noah Sheetz for an interview at a community garden in Albany, on a very hot July day. Before he arrived, I had a few minutes to look around at what was being grown. I was surprised to see the variety in what seemed like a pretty small parcel of land in the middle of the city!

There were cucumbers, corn, a few different types of squash, at least three different varieties of lettuce, kale, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, mustard greens, peppers, pumpkins, grapes, and garlic. That wasn’t even everything in the way of edible crops.

There were also herbs and flowers; coneflower, day lilies, dill, basil, zinnias, yarrow, and marigolds. Just beautiful. In just a little corner near Lincoln Park not far from the Governor’s Mansion was all of this variety! Kind of made me feel guilty for not having put in my own garden that year. Sheetz was as gracious with his time as the land was bountiful.

“Just look at this, it takes practically nothing [to plant]!” was his proclamation to me when we got chatting about how accessible fresh ingredients can be to everybody, especially through gardening. Even in the small urban garden, variety was plenty!

Sheetz is originally from Texas, he moved to the Hudson Valley to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. His philosophy – “To buy fresh, local, and seasonal foods.”

He regularly participates in events with Nicci Cagan and others from the Chefs Consortium, spreading the word about supporting a sustainable food system.

Learn more about A Guide to Buying Farm Fresh and Julie Cushine Rigg

Pasta photograph by Jane Feldman

Local Pork in New York

24 Feb

HVFpig

Nitrate-free, organic, natural pigs raised in New York make for delicious local pork

“The Ossabaw pig is named for the tiny island of Ossabaw – just off the Georgia coast, where they have survived for four hundred years. Originally they came as the Iberico breed but from four hundred years on a very small uninhabited island with limited winter forage they downsized and gained an amazing capacity for putting on a great deal of fat on practically nothing.

The Ossabaw pig fat is a healthful fat filled with omega 3.

The Spanish explorers apparently dropped off a few breeding pairs at portages they intended to revisit – to have a handy supply of protein when they returned. Since Ossabaw Island was never inhabited the breed went feral and there were no other breeds of pigs to interbreed with. The State of Georgia was in process not that many years ago of exterminating them since the pigs were destroying the eggs of the Loggerhead turtles that nested on the island’s beaches. A number of farm owners stepped in and have gotten Ossabaw stock to keep the breed alive.”

— Peter Davies of Turkana Farm in Germantown NY

    • Turkana Farm
      110 Lasher Avenue
      Germantown, NY 12526
      e-mail: daviesturkana@valstar.net
      Organically raised Ossabaw and Ossabaw/Tamworth breeds.
    • Eagle Bridge Custom Meat & Smokehouse
      139 Center Road
      Eagle Bridge, NY 12057
      518-677-2702
      Eagle Bridge is known for high quality smoked and cured pork products.
    • Sweet Tree Farm
      138 Karker Road, P.O. Box 88
      Carlisle, NY 12031
      (518) 234-7422
      e-mail: info@sweettreefarm.com
      Frank Johnson of Sweet Tree Farm is organically raising pork and smokes a variety of pork sausages, ham and bacon. He sells at the Troy Farmers Market on Saturdays.
    • Van Wie Natural Foods
      6798 Route 9
      Hudson, NY 12534
      (518) 828-0533
      Van Wie Natural Foods sells naturally raised pork and nitrate and nitrite free smoked pork products from their retail location and by mail order. Whole, custom and individually cut animals are available. Van Wie Natural Foods also offers off-site pig roasting services.
    • Lewis-Waite Farm
      Alan & Nancy Brown
      135 Lewis Hill Lane
      Greenwich, NY 12834
      518-692-9208 or 3120
    • Flying Pigs Farm
      Jen Small and Mike Yezzi
      246 Sutherland Rd.
      Shushan, NY 12873
      518-854-3844
    • Hudson Valley Bounty pork producers

Green Peas TV, The Whole Berkshire Hog

City Farmers

23 Feb

Meryl1

Watch Meryl Joseph’s City Farmers (31 min. documentary)

City Farmers… “A horror, a war zone, you couldn’t walk on the sidewalk..”

Meryl2Filmed by award winning documentary film maker Meryl Joseph, City Farmers documents the community gardening movement in New York City in the 1990’s where determined inner-city residents overcame the threat of drug wars, murder, and decay to create gardens that have become symbolic metaphors of survival. The gardeners narrate compelling stories of their experiences and personal visions about struggles in both life and the gardens.

“A horror, a war zone, you couldn’t walk on the sidewalk – all the furniture, the refrigerators, stoves, the meat, rotten meat, the vegetables – the stink, the bees, the flies, the worms – it was gross.” (Gladys Gonzales, East New York, Brooklyn)

Since 1978, more than 15,000 people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem and the Lower East side have transformed 1,000 abandoned lots into garden oases. In the most devastated areas of the boroughs, mixed ethnic community groups have created an inspiring grass-roots campaign that now resonates on a global level.

“When they saw us ladies chopping trees and everything, they said, “That lady’s crazy, she must be crazy” and I said, “No, I’m gonna clean this lot!” (Antonia Diaz, Bronx)

Meryl3With the support of GreenThumb a unique alliance was formed between the government and the people. Community groups were able to obtain leases for land and had access to free seeds, garden supplies, lumber, and educational workshops. Today more than one million dollars in produce is grown annually, much of which is graciously donated to senior citizens, the homeless and needy families.

Meryl Joseph City Farmers looks into the heart of diverse communities where New York’s urban farmers are powerful role models for inner-city residents everywhere. Like their seedlings, defying the broken landscape with an intrepid will to survive, urban farmers search for dignified and graceful solutions to revitalizing their neighborhoods.

City Farmers

Hudson Valley lactic acid fermentation

23 Feb

HONEST4

Hudson Valley lactic acid fermentation

Lacto-fermentation is a centuries old method for preserving excess vegetable yields at the end of the growing season. While lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and European style dilled pickles resemble many other “pickled” foods, the process is quite different than the traditional hot canning method that involves preserving agents like vinegar and sugar. During lacto-fermentation vegetables are cut or shredded, and salt is added. The salt draws out liquid within the vegetables and the vegetables actually ferment within their juices for a short period of time, usually two to six weeks.

The probiotic health benefits of lacto-fermented foods are similar to that of other foods with live cultures, like yogurt and kefir. Eating lacto-fermented foods with high probiotic concentrations ensures the maintenance of high levels of probiotic bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract that help ward off harmful bacteria and intestinal and digestive sicknesses.

Louise Frazier, Lacto-fermentation expert of the Hudson Valley

On the forefront of lacto-fermenting educational outreach in the Hudson Valley is Louise Frazier, nutritional culinary specialist and author of Vegetables First, Home Lactic Acid Fermentation of Vegetables and Around the Calender with Local Vegetables. Louise regularly conducts lacto-fermentation workshops with fresh organic produce from local farms, and talks about how she learned the art of lacto-fermentation from Thomas Stenius while visiting Sweden. She speaks of the nuances that affect lacto-fermentation including the necessity of organic vegetables in the process.

“Vegetables that are chemically fertilized or subjected to chemical insecticides do not have the capacity to produce the bacteria essential to lactic-acid fermentation” (Vegetables First).

HVF3Incredibly high in probiotic matter, organic cabbage is ideally suited for lacto-fermentation. Because of the high probiotic concentration, Louise often adds a handful of shredded cabbage to other lacto-fermenting vegetables to kick-start the fermentation process.

As for the lacto-fermentation method, the process and ratio of salt to vegetables is very simple. For every one pound or cut of shredded vegetables, one teaspoon of salt is added. The vegetables are packed tightly into glass jars with rubber sealed clamp lids. The rubber seals allow bubbling and fermenting juices to escape. After three to four days of active fermentation in a room temperature setting, the vegetables finish fermenting in a cooler 50-60 degree location and are later stored in a cold storage area which stalls the fermentation process. It is not necessary to hot-water bath lacto-fermented vegetables and under ideal refrigeration the vegetables will maintain excellent quality for a year or more.

Shredded vegetable photo by Ellie Markovitch