The Farms Take Manhattan
Story by Kymberly Breckenridge
Photos Courtesy of Laurie Szostak
I dined at the Harvard Club of New York in late September with Editor-in-Chief Laurie Szostak. The Manhattan social club was not on my bucket list, but reserved to a list of places I would unlikely visit in my lifetime. It was exactly as I imagined it to be: a refuge from the dirty, loud world outside. As you step through the heavy doors, you are transported back in time to elegantly appointed sitting rooms and staff whispering in the corners. The rooms seemed to taunt Manhattanites with a capricious use of space. True artisan work covered the thick wood walls, and fantastic chandeliers made you feel like you were dining under the firmament.
Which is why I was there: to dine upon the bounty of the Hudson Valley. Executive Chef David Haviland once again offered Harvard Club members a chance to taste fresh food grown less than two hours from the city, with its belching smokestacks and racing cabbies. Unlike other chefs who hide bad food under excessive interior design, Chef Haviland’s understated decor allowed each of the farms to shine with their offerings. The menu was simple: tapas-sized bites designed to draw out the unique flavors of the featured farm fare.
First stop on the dining tour of the Hudson Valley was Hudson Valley Distillers cocktails made with Adirondack and Chancellor’s Hardscrabble Applejack and Spirits Grove gin and vodka, with names such as the Nonny Rose or Mint-Chocolate-Covered Cherry. Sadly, as I was manning a table that evening (for our beloved Organic Hudson Valley), I chose not to partake, but I was amused to see how hard hit the table was by increasingly jolly Harvard types.
The Best of the Hudson Valley Autumn Harvest Tasting Event featured meats of all kinds: Walbridge Farm’s konro-grilled black angus beef skewers; Hudson Valley Duck Farm’s duck legs braised in Pitchfork Hard Cider; Mauer’s Mountain Farms’s guinea hen breast stuffed with herb forcemeat (Chef had me at forcemeat) and Bield Farm’s roast leg of lamb served next to a life-size stuffed sheep and sheep rug display. A sucker for cheese, I went back repeatedly to Hawthorne Valley Farm’s cheese spread; you haven’t lived until you’ve tried their Hudson Alpine Cheese. As I continued walking around, there was a bi-color corn and heirloom tomato and Romano bean salad served with Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery’s Organic Cherry–Red Wine Vinaigrette. On the off chance you have yet to hear of their amazing products, they use a monastic recipe dating back to the Middle Ages, for which the fermentation process requires a minimum of eight months to develop their mouthwatering flavors, including honey-cider, apricot and their rare sherry vinegar. The one beverage I did allow myself to enjoy was a cup of soul-rejuvenating Cranberry Autumn tea by the ultra-impressive Harney & Sons, who are committed to delivering a superior drinking experience.
The best part of the evening was watching the diners interact with the people who grew the food. As the farmers became animated over the trials and victories of farming the land, Manhattanites’ eyes were wide with wonder while they feasted on red wheat berry-autumn squash baby kale salad, the ingredients a combination from Paisley, Hummingbird and Wild Hive Farms. It was so exciting to see these Manhattanites clearly enjoying the delights that only food grown with pride can bring to the palate. Chef David Haviland’s intention to highlight the exciting edibles grown in the Hudson Valley was a true success, and from all the guests I chatted with, it seems he has helped create a growing market for the things that make our home great.
As the farmers and I stretched out on the train headed back to Poughkeepsie, I dozed, happily listening to the excited chatter of new clients and recounts of when the “smokeless grill” caught on fire. Clearly these self-proclaimed country bumpkins enjoyed the opportunity to share what they love with interested yet uneducated soon-to-be customers. The Hudson Valley could not have asked for better ambassadors, and I am once again grateful to be witness to the miracles brought forth from this incredible landscape. So join the Harvard Club this fall and embrace the bounty of the land, combining flavors from as many local farms as you can. For recipe ideas and farm locations, be sure to check out Organic Hudson Valley’s website at www.organichudsonvalley.com.