Archive for October, 2008

Rural Projects

October 6, 2008

I am now obsessed with the idea of getting a few chickens. It all started when my friend Amelia introduced me to her friends Greg and Sarah. Amelia had invited me up to Ancram to a dinner party she was hosting with Greg and Sarah and their organization Rural Projects. I love Amelia’s cooking and decided I was up for an adventure.

 

Martine Kaczynski's sculpture, Route 11

Martine Kaczynski's sculpture, Route 11

 

The dinner was inspired by Martine Kaczynski’s site specific sculpture, Route 11 which was installed on the side of the road by the same name. I must have driven by that sculpture, an old replica of a gas station canopy, three times before realizing that it was the location for the cocktail hour. The road was dark save for the sparkle coming from the lights strung around the sculpture. I mean it was pretty obvious that this was the only place on Route 11 where anything was going on that night. 

After I found where the other cars were parked, I made my way over to the cocktail hour which was already in full swing. I found Amelia who was mingling and her boyfriend Anthony who was manning the bar and fixing drinks. On the drinks menu were two cocktails: the Columbia Cocktail with honeycrisp apple infused voda, rosemary syrup and soda and the Rural Rose (my choice) with pluot puree, Pernod, and champagne. I was relieved when I met Greg who told me I could stay at their neighbor’s house for the night – basically giving me permission to enjoy my Rural Rose and many glasses of wine to follow. Unfortunately, I had timed my trip badly and arrived too late to enjoy the green chile cheese tamales and the walnut roquefort cookies with pickled onion and apple. Maybe Amelia will give me the recipes and I can make them at home.

Greg and Sarah then announced that it was time for us to make our way over to their neighbor’s for a seated four course dinner. I stayed behind to take a few pictures of the gas canopy while Anthony loaded up the contents of the bar into his car. When we arrived for dinner, there were two tables set for about 20 people. I joined Amelia in the kitchen and helped serve the first course, a butternut squash and apple soup with a playful garnish of walnuts and bacon. I sat down at a table with Greg and Sarah, their neighbors (our hosts), and a few other couples. We all sat in silence for a short time while we enjoyed the soup and then exchanged smiles and nods over Amelia’s artful creation. 

The salad course allowed for more conversation. I learned more about my companions over a salad composed of spicy greens, fennel, purple basil and grated beets. I sat across from the town doctor who had moved up to the Catskills with her husband from Manhattan. The doctor’s hat reminded me of a chicken, and I should have asked her where she got it (or maybe she made it).

When the next course was served, talk turned to what made a farm a farm. I had offered up my experience at the Red Hook Community Farm and was basically told that my CSA work share experience was more akin to gardening than farming. I wasn’t too happy to hear that so I turned my attention to the chicken spiced with jus, smoky eggplant puree, crispy polenta and roasted tomato. While I took comfort in the fresh chicken, my dinner companion told me that perhaps he had been too quick too judge and apologized for what he said. I think he was speaking from his experience of having once had a garden on his roof in Manhattan and then making the move up to the Catskills where he had a farm. I think what makes a farm a farm is personal and it’s hard to put a label on something like that.

I then ducked into the kitchen to check on Amelia and her friends who were working on the dessert course. Amelia stood at the stove warming the sexy star anise whiskey sauce which she then poured over a deliciously yellow sweet corn ice cream.

As the evening wound down, I went outside with Amelia as she said her goodbyes to some of the guests. Relieved that I was staying put for the night and that Amelia only had to wander across the street to Greg and Sarah’s camper, we finished the last of the wine and reflected on a successful supper club in the perfect Columbia County setting.

The next morning I was awakened by hushed stirrings in the kitchen and decided I needed to jump in and help with the dishes. After catching up over coffee with our hosts, we went to Greg and Sarah’s which is where I saw the chickens. Tomato vines lined the fence and zucchini and squash were growing too. I just stood a while and studied the chickens. 

 

Greg and Sarah's chickens

Greg and Sarah's chickens

 

When I got home to Brooklyn, I asked Jonathan what he thought about us getting a couple of chickens for our backyard. He thought this was a good idea until he realized I was serious. Well, I am serious. It’s just that we don’t have any grass outside, just concrete. So, I think I’ll have to put my chicken aspirations off, at least for a little while.

More about Amelia & Rural Projects:

For more information on Amelia and what she’s up to, visit www.marinationwide.blogspot.com and www.sugarbuilt.com. For more on Rural Projects and Greg & Sarah’s endeavors, visit www.ruralprojects.org.

Advertisements