Food and Drink

More than 100 food lovers gathered at the famous club to enjoy a selection of fine foods from the Hudson Valley. Chef David Haviland—raised in Cortlandt Manor, a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park and chef at Tarrytown's renowned Equus restaurant at Castle on the Hudson—is no stranger to the bounty of the farm-to-table movement in the Hudson Valley. He specializes in creating dishes that feature the best of HV products and invited a number of his purveyors to participate in this special dinner. Among the numerous dishes served were many of our favorites:

Pardon the pun, but I was very slow to adapt to this method of cooking. As my readers will know, I love braising and never saw a reason to stretch the timing out from 2–3 hours to 5–8. I have finally seen the light. It is not a matter of time but of freedom. Once the ingredients are in the crock pot or slow cooker, they cook themselves and even turn themselves off when done. No need to be home watching over them, and so far the outcomes have been perfect.

I am not saying it is the best—because I really do not know—but I bought this KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker with glass lid. It has four temperatures: warm, slow, medium, and high. It has 24-hour programmability on the digital display, so it is easy to start the slow cooker when you go out and return to a warm, delicious meal. And if you are running late, the slow cooker automatically goes into keep-warm mode for up to four hours after the set cook time elapses. Theoval-shaped ceramic vessel is easy to remove and clean and works for braised meats, soups and stews. 

I have confessed to a number of people that as healthy and as fashionable as it is, I simply do not like the taste of kale. And much to my surprise, almost every one of them agreed. If the vegetable is braised with apples and bacon, to mask the taste,  I can eat it. But served plain—I gag. The truth of the matter is that green leafy vegetables are just too rich in health benefits to ignore, so I am in search of recipes that make them palatable if not delicious. (I would appreciate any of your suggestions.) Recently professional culinary magazines have been singing the praises of collard greens. Almost as rich in powerful nutrients as kale, collard greens have a milder flavor that marries better with other ingredients. It is predicted that collard greens will unseat kale in the coming year on many fashionable restaurant menus.
It is a worthy initiative when those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy great food and wines can partake in our pleasures while supporting the less fortunate. The South African Braai co-sponsored by Pine Plains Fine Wines and Spirits and Wines of South Africa, raised more than $17,000 to fund the Pine Plains Community Food Locker and provide funds for the initiation of a BackPack Program in conjunction with the local school to help feed local children who would otherwise go hungry on weekends. It is estimated that the program will provide food for at least 65 children for the entire school year. "This is a tribute to the many people who supported the South African Braai with their presence and with their additional contributions. It's also a terrific reason to shop local and support local merchants," said Will Carter, the engine behind the event.
Some of you may remember that during my trip to France last year, I reported on being served a salad with fresh flowers in it. It was beautiful, tasty and quite a surprise to me. Little did I know that flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years and after a period of being out of favor, they are back in style and on the tables of the very best chefs. Edible flowers are more than just trendy. Used as a garnish or as an integral part of a dish, they bring unusual flavors, color, and fragrance. Flowers can be frozen in ice cubes and added to beverages; made into jellies and jams; used to flavor teas; added to cheese spreads, herbal butters or pancakes; or candied. Squash flowers may be fried in light batter. Certain flowers are commonly used to make vinegars for cooking, marinades or salad dressings. Below are some of the most common edible flowers and their most popular uses.
Where were you born and raised, and how did you come to the Hudson Valley?  I am from El Paso, Texas, and came here to attend the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park. You have worn many different chef's hats (all toques). Yes, I was chef and executive chef in fine dining restaurants, executive chef for the governor, owned and operated a bakery, taught courses in culinary arts, and worked at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.
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