Old School Local!
We were Locavores before before the word existed.
..or maybe that is loco-vore!
One of my motivations to leave NYC in 1988 was to really get back to the farms and to live a less stressful life. (So much for the latter...)
Liz and I first started exploring the Hudson Valley while we were still living in Boston and her eldest sister Marie moved to Coxsackie in 1985. We would get lost on the backroads of Greene and Schoharie counties on our visits. It was pretty amazing! Marie and her Husband Mike Lenane, along with his sister Susan and her Husband Bill Benson opened the Palmer House in the tiny hamlet of Rensselaerville in 1986. I visited often as the place was being built and knew I too would end up in this enchanted, foggy, rambling, hilly country!
Back in NYC in 1988, Liz and I, with our two awesome babies Margot and Willis, (Terry came a few years later) planned the escape! We moved to Albany in 1989 and worked our way down the river each time our lease was up. Albany 1989, Glenmont, 1990, Coxsackie 1991 and finally Woodstock in 1993 where we have been since. I know every farm, antique store and quick stop on that 50 mile span like the back of my hand.
I began cheffing at Yate's Street in Albany in August 1989, and then Justin's in February 1990. I was inspired by my early days in the kitchen (1883-86) at the legendary Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My local food connections really began. I bought Fromage Blanc and ecletic greens like Claytonia, Borage and Burnet from Laurie Goodheart, then owner and cheesemaker at Nettle Meadows ("I grow these greens because Mesclun has become so-o-o boring"). I also began a relationship with Richard Belinski who was just getting Northwind Farms on its feet, from whom I purchased Ducks, Guinea Hens and other feathered treats. I bought my tomatoes at Story's Farm in Catskill and Black Horse Farms in Athens and still do 21 years later!
A mad chef schlepping the hills in my oft-overheating Aqua-Marine Volvo Wagon, listening to the Pixies, Rollins and Nirvana, I was one of the early East Village Punk Hippies to market the Local Stuff bylisting Hudson Valley local products on my menus.
..and the rest is the History of my life....
Being in the Northeast means you can't serve all local all the time. Even I want a salad in February. But we try to keep it reasonably clean and we also try to meet a price point that my customers can also digest. It takes a lot of work, but that is my work.
We have forged long term relationships with farmer friends that we hope will last a lifetime.
You also see me shopping at the Saugerties, Woodstock and Kingston Farmer's Market as well as the Delaware Av Farmer's market in Albany. (There are too many vendors to list that would be filed under impulse buys and one stop shops!)
Add to that my passion for Foraging!
Being a Sicilian, it is in my blood.
As the spring comes so do Morels, Ramps, Fiddleheads, Nettles etc.
Into Summer it is Chanterelles, Porcini, Bluefoots and
into fall look for Hen of the Woods and more cepes in our kitchen.
It is the best way to walk the dog in my book!Read it on my website