Well I sure hope so! There is nothing as sweet and tasty as a fresh farm strawberry. Farm strawberries are generally slightly smaller than the ones that are in the grocery store, they are also red all the way through as you can see in the photo of the strawberries I cut this morning (ever notice that when you cut into a store strawberry the inside is white and the berry is tart?). Farm strawberries actually smell like the artificial strawberry smell in candy! I’m crazy about them, and really will only eat them when in season because the ones imported from California out of season don’t begin to compare. I learned something last year when I went to San Francisco in April, California farm strawberries aren’t that much bigger than ours, so I have no idea how they are cross germinating to get those huge tasteless ones that Godiva and Stew Leonards dip in chocolate. The family just got back from our annual trip to South Carolina to visit relatives and I’ve eaten 5 quarts of Charleston strawberries in the last 10 days. According to the farmers at the Charleston Farmers Market and at Boone Hill Farm store they are at the end of the strawberry season in Charleston, which is very early (usually the season doesn’t really get into swing until the second week of April). One lady exclaimed that strawberries were available locally since January! Like New York, South Carolina had an extremely warm winter so their growing season is in full swing (yes I’ve already had summer corn last week!). For those of you who venture to the NYC Greenmarkets (which I frequent until Catskill Maison Bed and Breakfast is open for business next weekend and I can get them from Bohringer Farm or Eger Bros Farm), you will see that local lettuce has been available since the last weekend of March and asparagus has been available for the past 3 weeks! I would anticipate that strawberries are not far behind. I’m so excited about strawberry season, for us in the Northeast it’s usually in season from about Memorial Day (on a good year) until 4th of July and then back again in early September. It will be interesting to see if they are available this weekend at the market or if the recent cool weather has slowed the season a bit. Regardless, I will hedge a bet that we will be able to serve strawberry french toast to guests this Memorial Day weekend!!!!
Archive for the ‘Vacation Restaurants and Events’ Category
May 8th, 2012 by moffett
May 4th, 2011 by moffett
Two years ago I played hookie for a week from Catskill Maison Bed and Breakfast during ski season and went to San Francisco. While I was there I had the treat of dining at Incanto, Chris Cosentino’s offal centric Italian gem hidden in the Noe Valley section of the city. When I dined there Chris was known but he wasn’t a “celebrity chef” at least not to the extent he is now. I ordered every piece of offal on his menu (disclaimer: pork is a food group for me and Cosentino swears by the pig, and if you read this blog you will figure out that offal and pasta are my two favorite things in the whole world!). I had the pleasure of speaking to Chef Cosentino for quite a spell after dinner (being New Yorkers we closed the place down) and I told him that his restaurant gave me one of my best meals EVER, and coming from me (a self proclaimed foodie from NYC who has been to many of the “heavy hitters that this city has to offer), that’s a compliment because I can be quite critical.
When I found out I was going back to SF this past April needless to say, the first reservation I made was for Incanto. I was hesitant, first because I made it for a Saturday night and I thought that service was going to be compromised, and second because Chris has become a hot hot hot commodity of a chef (and sometimes quality of food from a chefs kitchen is inversely proportionate to a chefs level of fame). Well, I’m pleased to report that I was blown away AGAIN! This restaurant is still one of the best EVER and a must must must go to if you have a penchant for homestyle, rustic, peasant Italian cooking. The flavor and texture profile that Cosentino puts together is not far from genius! I could go on and on about his dishes but let me just point out some highlights (yes we ordered about 10 things off of the menu that night and it was only 3 of us dining).
Venison Liver Bruchetta – OMG OMG OMG, super rich, super crunchy and smooth and salty and yummy!
Hot Mess – a concoction of trotters, foie gras, fresh local strawberries and jam – ok what sick freak pairs trotters with strawberries…and it really works, it hits all parts of your palate!
Pasta with snails and snout (pork snout) – not for the faint of heart (literally and figuratively) – this dish was almost even too rich and heavy for me…almost. It was so decadent, but honestly I was glad to have the pasta with tripe en brodo (broth) with spring peas and leeks and herbs as a chaser…that dish was super delicate.
I think that the ultimate surprise (and the next time I go to SF I pray this is on the menu) is the pasta with tuna heart with hot pepper flakes with raw egg in the middle – rich and light, spicy and creamy and crunchy and AMAZING!!! (Sorry chef I know I didn’t do this dish justice)…trust me, this dish works on every level!
Cosentino also has a cured meat stand at the Ferry Terminal Boccalone – I had a cone of all sorts of pig parts, and I had my cone custom made…great, but honestly I live in cured pork central (near Arthur Ave in the Bronx), so except for the fact that it was impeccably cured and the meat was properly sourced I get really good salumi here in NY.
All in all, as soon as I know I’m heading to SF again once again the first thing I’m going to do is make my reservation at Cosentino’s restaurant, great food, great wine, great service and great company BRAVO!…did I mention that he still is expediting in his kitchen on a Saturday night despite his fame and fortune? That is a testament to just how passionate he is about what he puts on the plate! Go Chris…Yes I admit I’m a Cosentino groupie LOL!
April 29th, 2011 by moffett
I’m a New Yorker, and I swear by the NYC culinary scene. Where else can you get Pho, a great bagel, a Jamaican Jerk and the best pizza in the world all within 3 blocks and have it all be super authentic and wonderful? But I have to admit, though the scene for authentic Mexican food has greatly improved with the influx of more Mexican immigrants over the past 10 years; California Mexican food kicks NY’s butt up and down the street! When I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago we came across Papalote’s, and boy were we in for a treat! The chef at Papalote happened to beat Bobby Flay at a burrito Throwdown and I can definitely see why. These burritos were huge, flavorful and a wonderful texture and were super fresh with all local ingredients! They were simply wonderful, and the prawn tacos were winning too! If you happen to be in SF don’t hesitate to go and grab yourself one of these mega burritos.
April 20th, 2011 by moffett
I haven’t posted a blog entry in awhile, partly because it’s “mud season” here in the Catskills and there is nothing really interesting to discuss and partly because I’ve taken this time of year as the perfect opportunity to head out to vacation, and I just got back from a wonderful 10 day trip to San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. Instead of writing a 20 page blog about everything I did, every experience I had and most importantly everything that I ate and drank I figured that I would tantalize (or torture) you, the reader about the events of my trip in different blogs.
When I touched down in SFO the first thing that I did (after renting the car) was to call Dynamo Donuts to make sure that they didn’t run out of maple glazed bacon donuts. Dynamo Donuts is arguably one of the best (if not the best) donut shop in the entire country. This aint your Duncan Donuts by any stretch of the imagination! I’m not usually a donut fan, and would never call a donut shop to ask them to “hold” donuts for me until I get there. But let me assure you, that once you eat one of these bacon donuts you will crave them regularly and you will call Dynamo if you have a morning arrival as well to make sure they don’t run out! These donuts are soft and crispy and sweet and salty all at the same time. I’m definitely going to make a test batch so that I can serve a variation of the maple bacon donuts at Catskill Maison in the future!
December 24th, 2010 by moffett
I just came back from an 11 day trip to Rincon Puerto Rico. I’ve been to Puerto Rico so many times that I’ve lost count, but in all of the times that I’ve gone I never ventured to any of the famous coffee plantations. This is very ironic because I’m so addicted to Starbucks that I’m a gold member. Therefore this time I made a point to myself that I was going to take a day and explore a plantation to get a first hand view of where the rich and flavorful Puerto Rican coffee comes from. I googled “Coffee Plantation Tours Puerto Rico” and found a “Ruta del Cafe” tour from Adventours that left from Mayaguez. I contacted the tour company and received confirmation from the owner (Hilda) that the plantation was open for a visit.
The trip up to the plantation was very long and up some really steep and narrow roads (yes all paved), Hilda who was our tour guide did a great job of pointing out various sites along the way. I was really glad to have Hilda driving, because I’ve driven up those same narrow curvy mountain roads to the organic farm Cielo Verde in the mountains of Mayaguez where we buy produce and did such a bad job last time that my mother swore off ever going up the mountain again (so needless to say she wasn’t amused when she agreed to accompany me on this tour and was forced to another drive up the mountain).
Once we reached our destination at Hacienda Palma Escrita (Cafe la Casona) in the mountain town of Marias we were treated to an extremely informative tour about the production of coffee. This Hacienda is a working hacienda and harvests coffee about 7 months out of the year. We got to see Arabica coffee growing on the trees, then we got to see the actual production facility, as well as the coffee beans in various stages from raw to roasted…it was really interesting, and I had no idea that after you peeled off the skin the coffee had to be cleaned, dried and roasted. The process was really intricate. I also got to understand how much the flavor of coffee is influenced by weather, ratio of sun to shade, temperature, precipitation and handling/production methods. It was almost as detailed as deciphering the different nuances in vintages of wine!
A tasting at the hacienda further confirmed the level of complexity of the coffee production process, there is a difference in depth of flavor from coffee brewed from 100% arabica beans and coffee brewed from a mix of arabica and robusta beans (robusta beans are considered less desirable than arabica but still yummy to me)…also different harvests produced subtly different flavors. I was in coffee heaven. This coffee was strong, but slightly sweet and smooth as silk. It was possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had! I told the owner that I own a Bed and Breakfast, Catskill Maison, and that I would be very interested in featuring her coffee on our breakfast table as well as in our wine bar once it’s constructed. I am so excited to have made this contact, we are incredibly committed in supporting local farmers and their products whenever possible, and there are clearly no coffee plantations in the Catskills, to have the ability to feature coffee from a local farmer, that is freshly harvested is a dream come true. Look for different blends from Cafe Casona produced specifically for Catskill Maison in the near future…this isn’t coffee that you can get from your local grocery store!
October 1st, 2010 by moffett
I just got back from celebrating my birthday in New Orleans, a city with familial ties and a foodie heaven. I go to New Orleans often, and try to dine in as many of the restaurants that promote local and sustainable products as possible. This trip we feasted at Dante’s Kitchen, August, and Brigtsens; all wonderful restaurants with a commitment to locally sourced ingredients. However in my opinion there is no chef in New Orleans who is more true to the locavore movement than Donald Link. I’m not a celebrity chef restaurant groupie, believing that celebrity chef owned restaurants fall short of expectations on a regular basis so for me to have such high regard for Donald Link is out of character. Maybe it was his commitment to the New Orleans community right after the devastation of Katrina that draws me to him, or maybe it’s his commitment to using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible because he realizes how important it is to support the local farmers (not to mention how good the food is when it’s fresh picked); or it could be that his food simply gives me goose bumps because the flavors bring me back to food from my childhood and relatives long gone. Regardless of the reason, I’m definitely smitten; so much that we went to Cochon for dinner, Herbsaint for lunch and then right before our flight made a mad dash for Cochon Butcher to purchase meat and sandwiches for our flight home (possibly the best pork shop EVER!). Like us at Catskill Maison, Donald Link sources his own pigs, he knows exactly where his meat is coming from…he’s a proponent of nose to tail cooking and makes the best sausages and salumi I’ve ever had in my life. His head cheese, boudin (a Cajun sausage made with herbs, spices and rice), and blood sausage make you wanna “slap yo mama” (as my relatives in the south say so often). Sausage making is an art, I’m always so grateful when our farmer/butcher smokes our meat just to our liking and seasons our sausage to our taste…I don’t take it for granted and nor do I take the artistry of Donald Link for granted. I put my money where my mouth is, I purchased pounds of different types of sausage and head cheese, asked the butcher to give me a
bag of ice and I hauled a huge paper bag full of meat and ice in the overhead carrier of the airplane back to New York. I must say I’m very proud of two things, 1. That I was able to get by the TSA smuggling all of my pork parts (HA!) and 2. That the bag didn’t bust until I was curbside waiting to be picked up, I avoided the humiliation of having the entire airport viewing links of sausage falling all over the place like a trail behind me. But even if they would’ve fallen and I had to carry the sausage in my arms it would’ve been worth it. We are trying to figure out how to get Donald Link’s andouille sausage in mass quantity to enhance our dishes at the upcoming Wine Bar…stay tuned. If you can get to New Orleans do yourself a favor and check out Donald Links restaurants, and if you can’t get to New Orleans, we will do our best within the next year to bring New Orleans to you.