Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some Cuisine of the Catskills

"If I sit on the hearth by the fire and stare at them, maybe they will give me some attention."
 It's been a cold and snowy 2011 so far and I've already been wanting a much-needed vacation or maybe just a break from the snowy, snowy city. Last weekend, we had the pleasure of being invited to our friends' ski chalet in the Catskill mountains.  We drove the 2 1/2 hour trip during the second snowstorm of the new year knowing that once we arrived, it could snow all weekend and we wouldn't mind a bit.  We were about to spend the weekend with great friends, great food, frosty air, and open sky. 

Just some of  Sweet Sue's pancake menu
The chalet is adorable and comfortable, has a cozy fireplace, and even has an outdoor hot tub perfect for frigid snowy nights.  We enjoyed it almost as much as we enjoyed the company of the good friends we sat in it with (and their adorable dog, too, but he wasn't allowed in the hot tub).  It was a welcome three-day procrastination from getting back to the grind in NYC and gearing up for regular life again now that the holidays are over.  We ate and drank well the entire weekend, by both combining efforts at the chalet and hitting a few favorite local haunts that we love to visit when we are up that way.  Both restaurants can be found in a nearby town, Phoenicia, NY, a quaint and tiny town nestled in the mountains full of cute and hip spots and colorful locals.

One spot we love is a quirky combo of a place called The Sportsman's Alamo on one side (great California-style Mexican) and Brio's (homemade, fresh Italian) on the other side.  They are two restaurants that share a kitchen and allow you to order off either menu regardless of which side you have chosen to dine.  Friday night after we arrived and unpacked, we headed straight there.  My husband, Will, got his favorite menu item, which is incidentally the only thing he has ever gotten there.  His pepperoni, onion, and green pepper calzone with fresh mozzarella and ricotta is the only thing he even considers when coming. I enjoyed my chipotle shrimp with a huge serving of fresh sauteed spinach as much as I did the the Chilean Cabernet.  I was so immersed in my great meal, I can't tell you what our hosts got.  Probably something delicious. 

For our favorite Catskills breakfast spot we hit up Sweet Sue's Saturday morning, which has the most diverse and incredible pancake menu this side of the Hudson, as well as great coffee, outstanding house-baked breads and muffins, and just exceptional all-around brunch food. At our table, we had the biggest 1" thick pancakes I've ever seen.  They never cease to amaze me.  One order of blueberry and one order of chocolate chip for the boys.  Two Greek omelettes for the girls and assorted sausage--handmade turkey sausage (the size of a hamburger!), classic beef/pork, and veggie sausage, as well.  Bottomless cups of coffee rounded things out and we had to roll ourselves to the car.

The Porn Horns kicking back ready for another eating session.
Our hostess made two incredible lasagnas that night with a beautiful salad and we had flourless chocolate cake for dessert. On Sunday morning, she whipped up some lovely broccoli quiches without flinching, despite the fact that we were up late boozing in the hot tub.  We ate assorted appetizers the entire time including quinoa tabouli with whole wheat flatbread, spinach artichoke dip (you know the one), local Hudson Valley tomato-basil cheddar cheese, the hostess' own marinated antipasti, semolina bread with olive oil and balsamic, and plenty of wine.  I won't tell how much. Yep, we know how to do it.  Now for that New Year's scale-back on the gooey food and gluttony.

The chalet kitchen was up and running the whole time.
Below is my favorite part of our huge appetizer spread.  It was simple and delicious and my part-Italian hostess demonstrated delicious Italian simplicity by her choices of antipasti and pepper-marinating.  It is the way to go for a light and delicious appetizer selection.  

Hostess Antipasti Platter

1 6 oz jar roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic, finely minced
dash of dried oregano
dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T+1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup oil-cured black olives
1 loaf really fresh Italian bread
1 t balsamic vinegar
Italian or Italian-inspired cheese (such as above mentioned 'Hudson valley-made tomato basil cheddar')

Drain the peppers and slice into thin strips or rings and transfer to a small bowl.  Add minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of good olive oil.  Toss together and let marinate.  Refrigerate if you are making this well in advance (and you should!  It gets better the longer it marinates.)

When you are getting ready to serve, warm the bread in a hot oven and set up the platter.  Combine the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with the balsamic and a pinch of salt and pepper and put in a tiny dipping bowl.  Slice cheese into 1/4" thick squares or triangles, whatever makes sense for the cheese.  

Arrange cheese, olives, oil, sliced bread, and marinated roasted peppers on a platter.  It is simple to do and marvelous to taste. 

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