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Hudson Valley Reading


We are very fortunate, living where we do, to have a number of quality free local magazines. All keep at least one eye on the wealthy “weekender” population that makes up as much as 50% of the home-owners in certain towns around here, but that’s not to say they don’t also cater for those of us who do our damndest to live the lifestyle all year round.

When we were first “weekending” up in Hunter, the Catskill Mountain Guide was the only monthly magazine we set eyes on. In part, that’s because it’s published in Hunter, by the Catskill Mountain Foundation, and caters more for the thinly-populated northern Catskills – an area that needs the encouragement. Over time, I’ve gotten frustrated by the CMG’s heavy editorial bias towards its advertisers, but it’s still worth picking up every month for its central photography section and for Jimmy Buff’s Outdoor Adventure column; fortunately, you can’t do advertorial deals with the great outdoors.

Jimmy’s latest column is about the 25-mile hike he took with my fellow Brit, Stewart Dutfield, which made our nine-strong jaunt last weekend look like a genuine stroll in the park. Apparently, many miles from home, and just as the sun was setting on them, ….

Any excuse to reprint this picture of the sunset as seen from approx 3000ft altitude, on our way down from Peekamoose last Saturday.

“The trail markers just stopped. We got to a place and there was a downed tree with a trail marker on it that someone had propped up and bound to a smaller tree using what looked like a shoelace and that was it, no more markers. We circled around looking for any indication of which way the trail went and found none. Overgrown and lightly traveled, wherever the trail was formerly now lay hidden to us.”

Read how they finally got home here.

To its great credit, the December issue of the Guide also has a feature on a cross-cultural, international initiative just launched by our local bakery, Bread Alone (whose loaves are also distributed daily across New York City, including to the Park Slope Food Co-Op), called the South African Whole Grain Bread Project.

At the heart of the undertaking is a fortified whole grain bread mix, developed under the advisement of nutrition and medical experts in the U.S. and South Africa to deliver an optimal balance of essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. The mix will be distributed to small, community-run bakeries where it will be baked fresh and sold at a price competitive with the low-quality government issue white bread currently available.

It’s a complicated and quite ambitious project; you probably need to read the whole article to understand where it’s headed. But let’s raise a toast – or at least some yeast – to Bread Alone’s Dan Lander, and Woodstock residents Neill and Leann Ratner, for having the courage to launch it in the first place.
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Chronogram magazine, also monthly, and which now publishes a Capital Region edition in addition to its long-standing Hudson Valley edition, is more liberal with its editorial policy than the Catskill Mountain Guide. In fact, to play on words, Chronogram is proudly, almost fanatically left-wing with its editorial policy. Every month, it bolsters its profiles on a Local Luminary (this month, Bard professor Catherine O’Reilly, who has been studying climate change in East Africa for the United Nations) and initiatives (the Childrens’ Media Project in Poughkeepside) with Larry Beinhart’s Body Politic column (this month: This Month In God) and global politics (a first-person report from Venezuela on President Hugo Chavez). Even the Astrological forecasts are laden with social portent; for obvious reasons I found this month’s Planet Waves feature by Eric Francis Coppolino, who recently returned from a period living in Europe, especially apt:

I have always read that you have to leave your culture in order to appreciate it, or even to see it. That is what I did these past four years. Europeans view Americans as naïve, which I would say is true. Living in three different countries in Europe and spending a good bit of time in about three others, I slowly figured out that most people from the Old World have something else going for them, which is cynicism. That is, a less-than-subtle bitter haughtiness born of certainty about how bad the world sucks, so you may as well drink your wine by the bottle, smoke a lot of cigarettes, and never quite get to the point.

I find cynicism the more objectionable mental state. Part of why I came back to the States, besides being sensitive to cynicism and cigarette smoke, was because I wanted to be on the front lines to fight side by side with my countrymen when the shit hits the fan for the 2008 elections. I decided I needed a year’s running start to get reestablished, amass a war chest and a modest army, and be ready to go to the mats (as we Sicilians say) when Dick Cheney declares himself president for life.:

You can download the entire issue of Chronogram as a PDF file from the magazine’s front page

But Chronogram is not all doom and gloom and man-the-barricades urgency. I particularly resonated with the First Impression column this month, in which my friend Robert Burke Warren waxes highly poetic about his fading mix tape collection:

The fidelity on those tapes is, in comparison to mix CDs, muddy and laden with hiss. And yes, analog tape degrades with each playing. But that’s why it’s cool. Because like a person, the mix tape ages and eventually it dies. Perhaps slowly in a damp cardboard box in a basement, or with tragic swiftness on a dashboard in the August sun. But its fragility is part of what makes it precious; its uncontrollable decreasing sound quality is a lesson in the acceptance of loss.

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By far the best of the current crop of free local magazines is the newly-published winter edition of the Hudson Valley Table. Food and drink is one of our region’s main calling cards. When we were members of the Park Slope Food Co-Op back in Brooklyn I was always fascinated to see just how much of the local produce came from the Hudson Valley and now that we live here we try and buy as much off the farms (either in person or via local stores) as we can. In addition, the combination of weekenders’ purchasing power and the presence of the CIA headquarters in this region (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the other CIA) makes for an impressive number of local restaurants. I just wish I had more time and money to get to them all.

The Hudson Valley Table winter edition: wine, mushrooms, beer, and local vegan restaurants. Most features available online.

But better late than never: last Sunday, we stopped in at the Garden Café, on the heart of the Woodstock Village Green, where the food was just fantastic. (In fairness, I’ve been by before and it’s been jammed to the gills. It does not appear to be lacking for support.) The Garden Café is vegan, but deliberately does not announce itself as such. “That’s not my purpose,” says founder and chef Pam Brown in a feature on her cafe in the Dec-Feb edition of the Hudson Valley Table. “I could never stay open if I depended on just vegetarians. I’d like everyone to want to eat this food.”

Judging by the quality of our meal on Sunday, everyone should want to eat it. I had a beautiful Indian-flavored Bombay soup, and a filling white bean cassoulet that came with a healthy side of kale. Others got stuck in on various whole wheat wraps; the entire meal, 4 middle-sized courses and two starters plus coffees and teas, came to just $52. Brown stays away from faux meats and concentrates on the local offerings; as if quoting Mick Jones from the Carbon/Silicon song “The News,” she says that “People need to understand how powerful their food choices are, that the food we choose to eat can have ramifications everywhere–all around the world.” I fully intend to revisit the Garden Café over the holidays – complete with a bottle of wine, for which I will be more than happy to pay the nominal $5 corkage.

I rarely have problems matching wine (except Cabernet Sauvignon) with vegetarian food, but should I need a refresher course, the current HVT has a piece called In Vino, Vegetas, that offers just that. I plan on picking up several more copies and having them on hand for every time a meat-eating friend wonders how I can possibly have a hearty red wine with a hearty vegetable dish. In the meantime, whether you’re a casual wine drinker, occasional host for a visiting vegetarian, or a hardened vegan wino, you could do a lot worse than bookmarking this link, or just printing it out and keeping it somewhere between your cook top and your wine rack. For example:

Beans, lentils, pulses: These meaty, high-intensity flavors call for medium- to full-bodied reds with a dose of tannin and a load of fruit: Syrah (Shiraz), Merlot, Chianti Classico, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or Cote du Rhone. Also, look to the dry whites from Alsace, France (they behave like red wines in drag).

This current Hudson Valley Table seems to have been published very much with vegetarians in mind. (The last issue had a big piece on beef cattle, and most of their advertisers are meat-friendly restaurants; this issue is clearly an exception.) As well as the above two pieces, there’s a feature on local mushrooms, my favorite vegetable, complete with a couple of recipes; and another on “the Localvore’s Dilemma,” about the genuine hardships facing those who desire to eat and drink locally-produced options.

The Spotty Dog: Books, beer, wine, art supplies, performances and free Wireless Internet: the perfect store.

And then there’s the six-page spread on my favorite book shop/art store/performance space/brew pub/wine bar in the world: the Spotty Dog in Hudson. Says co-owner Kelley Drahushuk:

“People love the idea! They come in and go, ‘Oh my god, you have beer! And books!’ The idea went over well: People think it’s great to be able to sit down with a book and a glass of wine or beer and relax. They call it a concept. I didn’t really approach it as a concept, but if you like it, hey, good, it makes me happy.”

Read the feature and you’ll not only understand why I’m one of many who “loves the idea.” You’ll finally get the full, unexpurgated story surrounding Albany’s marvelous brewery, Evans Ale. Cheers!

Tony

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