The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.
One of My Favorite Places on Earth

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Al Fresco Brunch in Salem, N.Y.

Glorious Local Food

Now that's one Happy and Sated Crowd

Yvonne Kress & Irene Schultz of Manhattan, in post-feasting repose.

He's always giving: Suvir Saran of American Masala Farm in Hebron and Devi Restaurant in Manhattan. Giving and Talented, I LOVE that in a guy!

Sally "Aunt Sally's Catering" Longo and DeWitt Jenks oversee the creation of omelets made with American Masala Eggs. Get a load of their golden color

Suvir Saran and Charlie Burd: Proud parents of the Heritage Chickens who lay the adored eggs at American Masala Farm in Hebron.

Halfway to making Max London's Inspiration a reality: Grilled Peaches Stuffed with Mascarpone & Duck Confit

I told Mr. Saran these should be sold at Yankee Stadium. Who's with me?

The American Masala Table: Suvir Saran's Opulent Corn Chowder and Spicy Peanuts

Isn't Edible Art Divine? Savory Cardamom & Chevre Cannoli from Chef William Scully of Pangaea Restaurant in Bennington, Vt.

Jaime Diaz from Hattie's Restaurant in Saratoga Springs and his Summer Squash Salad

I think these photos say more than I can about the annual Al Fresco Brunch in Salem, N.Y. Every morsel was grown or prepared locally by area chefs and their tireless assistants. From Brian Molino's spicy shots of Gazpacho (74 State in Albany) to Hattie's lemony Summer Squash Salad to Suvir Saran's luxuriously smooth and spicy Corn Chowder, it's clear why brunch attendance grows exponentially each year.

It's not to early to reserve tickets for Al Fresco Brunch 2010: (518) 854-7053,, or .

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Al Fresco Weekend is Almost Here

Al Fresco Brunch 2008

Chef and "Indian Home Cooking" author Suvir Saran, "Trail of Crumbs" author Kim Sunee, Jim O'Herien and Charlie Burd at last year's Al Fresco Dinner

Seats are dwindling, but Donna Farringer, executive director of the Historic Salem Courthouse Preservation Association, says there are still some tickets left for the 7th annual Tuscan-inspired Al Fresco Weekend in Salem, N.Y. Picture plates of Goat Cheese & Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese, Hand-Crafted Sausage with Leek Demi Glaze, and warm Fruit Cobbler crowned with Batten kill Creamery Whipped Cream – served outdoors under crisp white tents and you’ve got the idea. All the food served on Saturday and Sunday is locally grown or produced.

The Al Fresco dinner at 5:30 p.m. is slated to accommodate 400 guests. Local and out-of-state interest in the Al Fresco weekend has grown exponentially over the last few years and this year’s dinner will require the cooking, set-up and clean-up services of no fewer than 200 volunteers. This year’s dinner chef & coordinator is Michael Mahar - personal chef for Norman Lear. Live music will be performed by the Roadside Blues Band and there will also be a silent auction. Tickets for the dinner are $50 each.

The Al Fresco Brunch at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, July 26, will have 12 chefs from Manhattan, Vermont and upstate New York serving 300 guests delicacies such as William Scully’s Savory Cardamom & Chevre Cannoli, Suvir Saran’s American Masala Corn Chowder, and Max London’s Mascarpone-Stuffed Peaches & Duck Confit. Live entertainment is by the Rachel Cuite Trio, and there will be a self-guided tour of six local farms. Tickets for the brunch are $20.

“Food lovers come from as far away as California,” said Farringer. “The first reservations we took this year were from a family in Menlo Park California who purchased 8 dinner and 8 brunch tickets.”

For more information, call (518) 854-7053 or visit

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Defense of Farmers Markets

Stevie Stevens and his wares

Sweet Spring Farm - One of each, Please

Joseph of Saratoga Apple with his favorite customer

Crop of the Day from Butternut Ridge Farms in Argyle

Squash Blossoms in Their Natural State

Squash Blossoms Bathed in Chickpea Batter and Sizzling in Olive Oil

OK, farmers markets really don’t need defending, I just love an excuse to emulate one of my favorite authors: .

This is my weekly ritual May through pumpkin harvest (at which time I plunge into seasonal mourning). It could be Queensbury, Troy, Saratoga, Glens Falls…and when I’m feeling pastoral, the Cambridge Farmers Market. Doesn’t matter. They’re all good. I just pick the nearest one and GO.

From the crowded stone mazes of Jerusalem’s Old City (where I came upon a cache of sweet-smelling zataar to bury deep in my suitcase for the flight home) to the edge of a pine forest on Route 73 near Saranac Lake, I’ve never met an open-air market I didn’t like.

What do I like most about them? Quite simply, that nothing has been shipped at a distance. Just picked, blended, chopped or stirred only hours before the market officially opens for business. Oh yes, and the vendors at these markets have a tendency to look you in the eye and smile – love that!

As Jeffrey from Sweet Spring Farm in Cossayuna gathers my usual two packages of White Lily, his signature soft-rind goat cheese, he reminds me that as soon as the last leaf has fallen in November, he’s off to Brazil for the winter.

Stevie Stevens doesn’t need a sales pitch for his bumper crop of deep-emerald broccoli (so full of flavor, it would be an official crime to boil it). His strawberries sell out within the hour. Next door, his sister-in-law, Debbie Stevens, has just put out a tray of the most gorgeous white onions I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Before I reach the shining rows of cherries from Saratoga Apple’s table, Joseph is already flashing a grin as he extends a stemmed ruby gem for me to try before I buy.

The table from Kilpatrick Family Farm in Granville is laden with scallions, lettuce, early tomatoes, and radishes. I ignore them all and head for a bin of squash blossoms. Elated, I sift through the pile for the sturdiest ones I can find, fantasizing how, in less than two hours, they’ll be bathed in a chickpea batter and sautéing in olive oil. These squash blossoms are stellar: the color of fresh egg yolks and as big as tiger lilies. Before I count out eight of them, three people stop me and ask what to do with them.

“It’s easy,” I assure their puzzled faces. “And so much better than French fries.’

Fried Squash Blossoms

8 squash blossoms *
1 cup flour (I’m partial to chickpea or rice because it’s gluten-free)
1 can seltzer
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Grapeseed or olive oil (not extra-virgin) for frying

* I don’t rinse the blossoms because they’re extremely fragile and absorb a lot of water. Instead, I shake them for insects. And of course, humanely deposit any I find on the porch.

Note: A non-stick pan works best for this recipe. Despite generous amounts of oil, I could not keep the blossom from sticking to a cast-iron pan)

Place frying pan on medium heat and add enough oil so that it’s about a quarter-inch deep.

While oil is heating, place flour, salt, and baking soda in mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, blend in enough seltzer to make a frothy batter. Consistency should compare with a thin cream soup.

Coat each blossom with batter, rolling it around so all sides are covered, let excess drip into bowl for a few seconds and then place in pan (oil should be hot enough that they sizzle).

Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably have to fry in batches. Cook for three minutes on each side until crispy. Place on a baking sheet in a warm oven until all blossoms are done.

Serve with mescaline salad from your nearest farm and a wedge of White Lily.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I still remember where I was (a café at Skidmore College) that afternoon in early 2008 when a profile on the food page of The New York Times stopped me in my tracks and clenched my throat into a lump.

Anyone who knows me knows all about my adulation of good food. When something looks or tastes Divine beyond words (even on paper), I’ve been known to shed tears. But I felt myself wiping away the saline trail on my face for a different reason. I had just read a recap of Kim Sunee’s memoir, “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and The Search for Home.”

The book starts off like this: A mother-daughter shopping expedition is taking place in a crowded marketplace in South Korea, only it’s not really a shopping trip, but the perfect location to abandon a three-year-old child who, for whatever reason, has been deemed expendable by her family. We never know and Sunee to this day doesn’t know why her mother left her in that marketplace with a piece of bread wadded into one hand, wandering for a day or two until the police take her in and deposit her in an orphanage.

Sunee’s memoir chronicles an odyssey that centers around a passion for orchestrating unforgettable dishes (Whispery Eggs with Crabmeat) coupled with the inescapable ache of displacement. It’s both a sensual and sad account of an emotionally disjointed childhood in New Orleans, followed by absorbing sojourns in Nice, Stockholm, Provence, Paris, and Korea. Her adoptive parents are well-meaning but distant. Instead, Sunee finds solace with her beloved Poppy, who teaches her the joys of making a flawless crawfish gumbo. Food, specifically hedonistic ingredients such as lemon verbena, truffles, and crème de cassis are both a means of loving others and salving her emotional scars. Each chapter is as touchingly honest as it is delicious.

You know what’s totally beyond me? Why her story hasn’t been made into a movie…and “Julie & Julia” has. Am I missing something? Meryl if you’re listening: you’d be PERFECT to play Kim Sunee’s adoptive mother – c’mon!

Clearly, the fact that Kim Sunee’s book is a compelling read isn’t news, but here’s what is: she’s actually going to be in town next week. In Glens Falls, at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, at Red Fox Books at 28 Ridge St. Kim Sunee will be center stage, signing books and presiding over irresistible plates of her favorite recipes from “Trail of Crumbs,” (prepared by the incomparable Sally “Aunt Sally” Longo). For information, visit .

And you can sit down to dinner with her too: Sunee will be at The Perfect Wife Restaurant & Tavern in Manchester, Vt. at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16, for dinner and conversation. The $50 cost includes a copy of “Trail of Crumbs.” For reservations, call Northshire Bookstore at (800) 437-3700.

Anyway, I’m sure not going to miss out on this and you’ve now got a week to plan it into your schedule. And if you live out of state, there’s still time to get a plane ticket...

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brotherhood Winery: Grapevine Paradise in Washingtonville, N.Y.

There are three things you must do when visiting the Hudson Valley’s Brotherhood Winery: sample their flawless Riesling (you’ll never be the same), eat something prepared by French chef Christian Pierrel who runs the Vinum Café, and tour the winery with Cesar Baeza.

It was on pristine spring morning that I took my maiden voyage after hearing an Albany wine-seller rave about Cesar’s award-winning vineyard. I’m probably the only food writer on the planet not into wine, but the story of Cesar Baeza was too intriguing to keep me away.

The native of Chile got his start in the vineyards of Santiago and proceeded to travel the world to coax the best qualities out of grape crops in the Napa Valley, Spain, even Russia. Now, he’s principal owner and resident wine master of what happens to be the oldest continually operated winery in the nation. Brotherhood was established in 1839 by a family of Huguenots and survived prohibition by making sacramental wines for area churches.

This year marks Brotherhood’s 170th anniversary and Baeza said August, start of harvest season, will be filled with celebratory activities at the vineyard, including grape-stomping contests. Tours are given daily, and the cavernous tasting room is nearly as long as the Lincoln Tunnel. I hardly ever drink (the taste of alcohol just isn’t one of my turn-ons) but I swooned over the Blanc de Blanc Champagne and marveled at the unmistakable oak I tasted as a sip of Pinot Noir washed over my palate. Probably most intriguing is their signature Holiday Wine, an old Dutch recipe infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (not flavorings).

The day I visited, the Zagat-lauded Pierrel served an al fresco lunch of handmade kielbasa and a velvet-tender red potato salad bathed in an olive oil and Dijon aioli. Paired perfectly après-kielbasa was a leisurely stroll through the tasting room. As he poured a pale gold cascade of Blanc de Blanc Brut for me, Cesar explained his theory on grape quality.

“The more stress put on a grape, the more character it has. Our grapes grow in a cold climate so they have to suffer a bit,” he said. “Their maturation is slower so they release a higher level of resveratrol, which is the compound that’s good for your heart. Pinot Noirs from New York State have the highest levels of resveratrol.”