Saturday, January 16, 2010

Farm & Food Hopping

We kicked off our Saturday of farm & food hopping at 10:30 AM with a drive up to the Red Hook Winter market, housed in the Elmendorph Inn. The Inn is a tiny old building, but they sure pack a lot in the four rooms. Although today was an exceptionally warm day (it went up to the mid-40's!), it's nice to be able to look at and sample the vendors' wares in indoor comfort. Here's an idea of what you can buy: any of 20 or so varieties of apples, fresh cider and cider donuts, raw honey, currant juice and preserves, wine, parsnips and carrots and daikon radish, homemade ravioli, grassfed beef and lamb, naturally raised chickens and pork, cheese, Hudson Valley Fresh milk, fun-sized butternut squash, wool and yarn, candies and granola, and even more that doesn't come to mind right now.

After some coffee, we continued on to Pleasant Valley. Actually, I think we probably went to Pheasant Valley, considering that our next stop was Quattro's Game and Poultry Farm. Here the Quattrociocchi family has been raising fine birds (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and pheasants) and venison for over 50 years. We all agreed that their farm store is what every store aspires to be: first-rate butcher shop and grocery in one half of the store, gun shop in the other. Our Jeep was all alone in the long row of pickup trucks. Inside, two large freezers were like gold mines for meat fiends. We found whole chickens and livers, breakfast sausage and lamb shanks and whole pheasants, turkeys and geese, a jumbled profusion of carcasses and parts. Love it!

The three of us managed to spend over $80 on meat - a dry-aged steak for Jason, a pint o' livers for future pâté, a fresh chicken for tomorrow (killed just Thursday), a whole Pekin duck, some nice slab bacon, a pound of made-just-today truly hot Italian pork sausage, and a smoked venison sausage for snacking on the road. That poor sausage didn't make it too far! Pretty awesome stuff, I must say. Everyone should go to Quattro's - I know we'll be back.

Next was Sprout Creek Farm, home to absurdly cute Jersey calves and delicious cheese. We sampled cheese, bought cheese, and ate cheese all the way home. Sprout Creek also makes some amazing ice cream. We sat outside at the picnic table while it was 40 degrees and dug into our quart of Rocky Road and watched the calves frolic. I, being the cow lover, allowed the calves to slobber all over my hands. I wouldn't mind living here.

Our final stop was Adams Fairacre Farms. Jason described it as the Wal-Mart of the organic world, but I disagree. There is nothing remotely Wal-Mart-ish about it, except maybe the fact that you can find everything you'll ever need here. You can't buy locally made real whey ricotta or pork tongues or bay laurel trees at Wal-Mart though, can you? Nope.

Anyway, we all decided to never shop at Stop & Shop again. Nothing against S&S, but Adams meets our needs just a little better: a marvelous cheese display, affordable produce; a selection of butters numbering in the teens (even German!), a well-stocked plant nursery, and foie gras, should we ever need a fix. I also like how the selection of flower and vegetable seeds is far more vast than that of any garden center I've ever encountered.

We came home after that, and I glanced at the clock. It was almost five and the sun was setting fast and I was desperately in need of exercise. So of course I changed and jogged out into the woods for a quick run. It's a different world out there when the humans all go home. I heard a lot of weird animal noises - maybe coons? and I saw a pair of owls - honestly I couldn't identify them because it was too dark - but they were quite large and had small or no "ears". They swooped out of their respective trees and up the path, escorting me to the edge of the woods where they took off into the night.

I sat on the top of the hill, looking out at the whole FDR property spread out before me. From the woods to the left I could hear the birds bedding down for the night. The sun had already set, but the pink blush was slow to fade. The moon was only a tiny crescent high above in the clear sky. For a moment I smelled summer. Not a flash in my mind of what's to come, but the actual green grass and fresh air and warm leaves and life of East coast summers. It was uncanny. Normally it is so frigid all winter that I can't smell anything.

Then I was suddenly all cold and shivery, so I ran back down the highway to school.

Naturally, we had a lot of food to cook for dinner. We munched on cheese and finished our quart of ice cream while I made a very flavorful red lentil soup with lots of onions and some apples, plenty of garam masala and butter. To a salad of lettuce and beet greens we added sauteed red peppers and beet stems, butter-roasted cippolini onions, the hot Italian sausage and plenty of the grated goat cheese. I drizzled mine with spicy sausage drippings. I wish I could eat like this every day.

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