By Peter Weltman
Provenance can only be understood through feeling, seeing, touching, eating, and experiencing. That is why we piled a photographer (Francesco), Eleven Madison Park sous chef (Bryce), and a writer (me) into a shiny Audi eager to meet New York State farmers, taste their fantastic products, all the while cultivating stories. Eventually, we hope to use this content threaded together for an experience that speaks to a sense of place—our home, New York. With the first trip now over, there are behind the scene moments that occurred with our group immersing into the pastoral life.
Leave it to three people who meticulously prepare for their respected practices to not consider the obvious. Upon arriving to Bodhi Tree, our very first farm, there was a collective “oh shit” gulp when we saw the muddy conditions. After heavy rain the two weeks prior, everybody neglected to pack proper footwear! Graciously, owner Nevia No supplied us with proper rubber boots to borrow for the remainder of our trip.
There were always early starts: 4:30 A.M at Homarus Lobster, 6:30 A.M. pig slaughter with the team at Four Story Hill, and 6:00 A.M wake-up for beautiful morning light on the storybook hill at Sheep Meadow Lamb farm. Sure there were tasty nibbles along the way including pungent micro greens at Blue Moon Acres, baby pine needles with Mountain Sweet Berry’s Rick Bishop, and hedonistic chocolate milk at Battenkill Farm. Let’s face it; these flavorful accents were not going to fuel three grown men on a mission.
We thought the road to each farm was going to be paved with quaint establishments serving food grown by thy neighbors. Horrible mistaken, more often than not we ate at road side diners—sometimes people were nice, other times they were not—with our lowest grade meal including un-authentic Mexican fare. Although some stops rewarded us with small town charm, bottles of wine and cured meats have made our future packing lists.
Feeling deprived, all was reconciled at Paisley Farm in Tivoli, New York. After joining owner Michael Kokas on a wild nettle forage through the woods, we convened on his back deck. Awaiting our return was the meal we’d been seeking: local salad greens, cheeses, beautiful quiches, and a Hudson Valley Foie Gras tourchon. This was our last stop and we ate every morsel, reveling under a veil of beautiful light from the evening sun’s glow. Oh yeah, it had finally stopped raining.
"Francesco's photographs are featured on the April cover of Cooking Light magazine and in the "Noodles of Spring" feature."
With asparagus season just about to begin here in the Hudson Valley, I like to propose you a very simple way to enjoy them.
I like to gently stew the asparagus in a pan with extra virgin olive oil or butter, salt and just enough water to allow them to cook through. This way the asparagus flavor and nutrients stays with them and their taste is very rich. Fresh peas, if available, can be cooked the same way and make an excellent complement to this dish.
Serve asparagus and peas along the side of a soft boiled farm egg (cooked in boiling water for 6-7 minutes and then carefully peeled) placed on a toasted bread crouton, which will offer a pleasant touch of crunchiness and help absorb the creamy, dripping yolk. Season the egg with salt and pepper, shave some Parmigiano-Reggiano around and drizzle more olive oil and balsamic vinegar all around.