One of the most important features for foodies in the Hudson Valley is the wealth of fresh farm food available to us through our farmers’ markets. In our area these weekend markets offer a wide selection of fresh produce, dairy, locally raised meat, prepared foods, and handmade crafts. Shopping the market is a great way to meet the neighbors, enjoy some festive music and
celebrate the seasonal bounty of our communities. I visit at least one each weekend—sometimes more.
FRIDAY AFTERNOONS Amenia Farmers’ MarketWhen: Fridays, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., May 17–October. (The Amenia market has winter hours on Saturday mornings, indoors.)
Both still bronzed from their vacation in Tuscany, Beth and Buffy hosted the MBA’s highly successful mixer last Thursday, serving as a refreshing reminder that Babette’s Kitchen now serves beer and wine. The members also enjoyed a variety of delicious hot hors d'oeuvres. Earlier that day I sat down with Buffy to learn what new ideas they picked up in Italy. She related just how tasty the fresh vegetables were and remarked on how inexpensive simple, good-quality food is: lots of salads, fresh soups, frittatas and fresh pasta dishes featuring luscious and healthy legumes, such as fava beans, and many other veggies. Most surprising was a very hard to find vegetable native to Italy called Agretti.
Readers may remember that in February 2012, this page featured an article entitled “A Revolution in Cooking,” in which I predicted that we would soon be eating wonderfully prepared gourmet meals that we received and cooked “sous vide.” Longtime Millbrook weekenders Sam Metzger (most famous for having created the Chipwich in the 1980s) and Peter Morrell (retired CEO of the Morrell Wine Group) are now partners in DCuisine, which offers just that. You can purchase these magnificent soups and main-course dishes on the Internet at dcuisine.com and warm them up in their pouches in boiling water, just as chefs do in their kitchens. At $12- to $16 a serving for the soups and $18- to $24 for the main courses, this is not for the fainthearted. These are restaurant prices at home—but they are actually better than what you get at most restaurants. People who frequent fine-dining restaurants and those who enjoy a good bottle of wine are prime targets for this new “fine-dining at home” concept.
I guess I am a snob—a food snob. In the three years I have lived here, I had never set foot in the local deli. I always looked for the “gourmet” and “fine food” vendors—until I attended the Fire Department dinner, where I had a perfectly cooked sliced flank steak prepared by the Millbrook Deli. I decided I needed to check them out. I met with proprietor, Marcus Gonzalez, who was born and raised in Millbrook, as was his partner and father, Ramon, whom I met when he served me the sliced steak, with a smile. The father-and- son team decided to take over the deli when it was for sale seven years ago. Because he had always loved to cook, Marcus added more elaborate dishes to the normal deli fare. So you can get your soups and sandwiches, coffee and bagels, as you would in most “Boars Head” delis. In addition, however, Marcus offers a blackboard full of both daily and weekly specials—a choice of freshly cooked entrees; Panini, hot-pressed to order. Muffins and cookies are baked on the premises and consequently are often still warm when you arrive for breakfast.
Some years ago one of our wonderful chef friends, Jean-Louis Dumonet, executive chef of the Union Club, brought me a gift—a box of stock concentrates. He told me that whenever a sauce needed a bit more flavor or consistency, I simply should add a spoonful of the appropriate concentrate. I had been using these concentrates sparingly and was about to run out when I spotted them for sale on gourmet shelves at Adams, and now also at Marona’s. Called “Better than Bouillon Concentrated Stocks”, they are reductions of freshly simmered ingredients to make stock concentrates that have a richer, more robust flavor than ordinary bouillons or soup bases. They are available in Au Jus Base, Beef Base, Chicken Base, Chili Base, Clam Base, Fish Base, Ham Base, Lobster Base, Mushroom Base, Turkey Base, and Vegetable Base. By sharing this secret with you, my claim to fame as a “great sauce maker” will lose much of its mystique—but I am willing to risk it.
Last year we invited some friends for a spring asparagus party, for which we ordered a case of white asparagus from France and I made some Hollandaise sauce for a spring feast. Our guests brought us some wild ramps, which had been growing on their property here in Millbrook. I am ashamed to admit I had never seen ramps, which I later learned are a delicacy native to the Eastern seaboard, growing wild from South Carolina to Canada in April and May. They resemble leeks with stringy roots, thin stems, flat green leaves and a purple streak running up the side of the stem. Part of the onion family, they have a pungent flavor somewhere between that of a leek and garlic. They mellow with cooking. Ramps can be used raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, but they go particularly well with eggs and potatoes and are often featured with potatoes in omelets and frittatas.
Gerard and I are big fans of tomatoes. When they are at the height of their season we eat a tomato salad of one form or another everyday, but almost never do we eat raw tomatoes off season. Until this season, when Joyce at Quattros introduced us to these greenhouse cocktail tomatoes that are grown in New Englandin soil (not in water like the Hydroponics). During the day they use natural sunlight which is then supplemented by automated grow lamps so they are able to maintain good tasting high-quality tomatoes all year long. Beneficial insects are integrated into the greenhouse including 48,000 busy bumblebees “who are in charge of plant pollination and are happily paid with an endless supply of tomato blossom nectar.” While in the height of the season we will switch back to the sublime locally grown tomatoes we find at the Farmers’ Market, off season a mixed salad with these is a welcome treat.