Cowbella owner Shannon Mason is a sixth-generation dairy farmer, and her little daughter Daisy is determined to take over as the seventh just as soon she's old enough. The company makes divine butter and naturally flavoured yogurts using local fruit and produce; look out for the maple yogurt they whip up whenever their neighbour comes round to tap their trees. +1 607 652 2814; www.cowbella.com
Article Excerpt Below:
I USED TO DREAM of the Catskills, though I'd never been. It was circulating somehow in my blood. When my father was growing up in Brooklyn, anyone who was anyone summered there, in the Borscht Belt, gathering at huge holiday camps to play tennis or golf; to have lox and a schmear at sumptuous kosher buffets; maybe even to enter a talent contest, nervous and daring, after a sip of crème de menthe. Music played. Young newcomers Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers might be on stage, or Woody Allen, performing to the home crowd.
Thirty years later I watched Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancingand lived and relived it; I longed to goback in time and be part of that innocent glamour. I didn't know those places came into being because no other holiday destination wanted Jews to stay there; that newly middle-class immigrant families had to open their own hotels, to find their own fun. But, boy, did they find it. By the 1950s and 60s, the Catskills resorts were the place to see and be seen among the East Coast's Jewish families - the upstate mountain forests studded with glitzy bingo halls, slick skating rinks and winking turquoise swimming pools.
Why did it all end? We didn't really need it any more. Civil rights improved and other people would have us to stay; international travel became affordable. That world drew its last, laboured breaths in 1986 when Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel - so large it had its own zip code - finally closed its doors. It's perhaps no coincidence that Dirty Dancing, a celebration of the glory days, came out the following year. For a long time after, the Catskills were abandoned by visitors, remembered only in kitschy and nostalgic sepia.
Pizza at Table on Ten, Bloomville, Delaware County
But the Catskills are on the move again. Primrose Hill may have decamped long ago to the Cotswolds, but across the Atlantic, the first pioneering Brooklyn hipsters have just begun rediscovering the vast natural beauty of New York's mountains - more specifically Delaware County, in the western Catskills.
In the car on the way there, I admit, I was barking up the wrong tree. Falling maple leaves drifted across the road and I sang Bill Medley, loud and out of tune, as I lurched up and freewheeled down the rollercoaster mountain roads to Bloomville. Along the way I had stopped for directions from a man mending the screen doors on his porch, dressed in dungarees and a paint-splashed football sweatshirt. Which Bloomville was I headed for? Bloomville, New York, I told him, and he shook his head, disappointed for me. 'You can go square-dancing in the other Bloomville.'
Delaware County is dairy farmers' country, further north and west than my fantasy Catskills. I began to look around. I turned off 'Hungry Eyes' and tuned in the local radio; I guessed the words to country ballads, and in the ad break learned about the upcoming pancake breakfast at the local firehouse. I passed through forests of sugar maple and peeling paper birch, then open, rolling fields of grazing cattle.
So, no square-dancing. But this Bloomville has something better - possibly the best little restaurant upstate. It's hard to imagine more welcoming hosts than Inez Valk-Kempthorne and her husband Justus Kempthorne, owners of Bloomville's adorable and utterly unexpected Table on Ten. Originally from Holland, Inez met Justus, a carpenter, when she was modelling in Manhattan, and the couple began to spend weekends upstate, visiting friends who had a place in the magnificently named town of Bovina. They met a set of people who shared their values, a tight circle of former New Yorkers committed to sustainable, responsible, small-scale agriculture and, above all, to dreaming up feasts with what they and their friends produced. Most weekends they would meet in someone's farm kitchen and cook together, and eventually Delaware County got under their skin and the couple made the move full-time. They set about building their own post-and-beam house, sleeping in a teepee until they finished it.
And then, over the years, an old, abandoned house nearby on Route 10 kept catching Inez's eye. 'I would drive past it all the time, and eventually we found out who was selling it, and made a sort of crazy offer.' The house had been empty for decades, but it sang to her, sitting high and proud above a crossroads in the centre of Bloomville. Inez understood its potential. Justus restored it and used oak salvaged from the old floorboards to construct a café.
Now, three years later, Inez's vision for the place is most in evidence on weekly Pizza Night. Every window is alight, and the clapboard house looks all the more inviting amid the partial dereliction of the rest of the tiny town. It looks every inch the gathering place they had dreamed of. The downstairs restaurant is packed with weekending families and young locals, all sharing tables and slices of Inez's sensational caramelised-fennel pizzas (followed by chocolate-and-ricotta pizza, too); upstairs the couple have added two rooms, available to rent on Airbnb, so that people can stay and see, up close, what they do.
On warm evenings the crowd spills into the garden for homemade Meyer lemon ice-cream sandwiches. One friend churns the butter, another brings eggs from her parents' farm down the road. Beef comes from Flaca Vaca Farm, run by a pair of fellow city transplants whose herd of beautiful Red Polls are as affectionate as house cats, and just as loved and nurtured. The producers share Table on Ten's ethos. 'Even in the case of our chickens, you're with the animal till its last breath,' Flaca Vaca's co-owner Simon Martinez explains. They're emotional, these farmers, and know each cow and bull by name.
Pie at Table on Ten, Bloomville, Delaware County
Inez is distractingly beautiful, but she's a great deal more than a 10-a-penny model-turned-foodie. She has a passion for using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, often grown by people she knows, and turning them into creative, modern dishes. 'It's really all about the food,' she says. And it is: food is the thing that binds together an ever-expanding group of friends here. Within hours, I find myself invited to dinner at a farmhouse; I arrive to find every surface festooned with drying linguini, strung around the house like streamers - off the chairs, the back of the fridge door, the handles of the Aga, a few willing people's outstretched arms. Inez has brought fresh beetroot pesto; someone else has made ice cream with another friend's moonshine maple syrup. It's just a regular Thursday night in Delaware County - an embarrassment of fresh-farmed riches, and a group of ex-urbanites who have found refuge and inspiration in the countryside. Who needs Manhattan's restaurants when your neighbours make amazing raw-milk cheese and grow their own dinosaur kale?
A few miles down the road, another new kid on the block, Turquoise Barn, is a B&B with a different vibe - a little bit hippy-dippy, and seriously relaxing. Michelle Premura makes exquisite raw-food vegetarian breakfasts for her guests: oats in homemade brazil-nut milk, sprinkled with Tahitian vanilla, peppery nasturtium flowers and thick raw honey from a local beekeeper. This barn is a haven of dark woods and yoga-studio calm, wind chimes clinking and beautiful crimson amaranth growing just outside the window. I felt calmer just stepping through the door.
Turquoise Barn B&B, Delaware County
After days of tucking into rich cheeses at the local farms, the Turquoise Barn is the perfect haven - the food is healing, and there is a healthful tranquillity in the air. It's the sort of place that makes you wish you'd packed Thai fisherman's trousers to drift around in. Michelle runs workshops and retreats, and teaches raw-food cooking to city refugees seduced by the peace and natural beauty. Local forager and herbalist Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower leads guests on walks through the countryside. Delaware County is a small world; it's Marguerite who also supplies Table on Ten with bags of mixed leaves hand-picked from her garden, and she teaches the odd class there, too.
But it's not always so quiet around here. In 2013, Michelle's husband, Mike Milton, held Bloomville's first reggae festival on their land, incongruous in the middle of working farmland and the odd placidly grazing local cow. It was a surprise hit - live bands, delicious homemade drinks dreamed up by Michelle, happy campers dancing barefoot into the small hours - so they did it all again last year, and plans for the 2015 event are under way. Perhaps there's a little festival magic in the air; Woodstock, after all, is only a 90-minute drive away.
Delaware County is almost the antithesis of the Catskills I'd imagined: muddy boots and country rambles; leaf-peeping; wheels of beer-washed cheese and litres of dark-amber maple syrup stacked in honesty shops and roadside stalls; sharp wood smoke on the air. People here believe that the three-hour drive from Manhattan creates an invisible boundary - and Bloomville and the neighbouring towns are a crucial 40 minutes further on, which weeds out the fair-weather weekenders and flashy faux-farmers. Out here a community is forming, slowly but surely, combining new ideals with old-fashioned values. On Stony Creek Farmstead near Walton, Kate and Dan Marsiglio have put up quirky little rustic teepees on their land, and one of their greatest pleasures is to watch visiting families reconnect amid the simplicity (and utter lack of mobile-phone coverage) of rural life. Guests are invited to get their hands dirty - to gather herbs, collect their own eggs, muck in with the pigs or milk the cows if they'd like. If you ask nicely, they might even let you carry a watermelon.