Rosemary Parkinson, Contributor
Glazed and grilled Atlantic swordfish with neo-southern organic peach-chipotle salsa, local organic purple potatoes, braised greens and grilled beets.
DID I do a fast track travel all alone this week or what? Map this across the USA - Lexington (Kentucky), Cincinnati and Cleveland (Ohio), Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany (New York). Some 18 hours by bus. Very, very interesting. I was picked up in Albany by my friend, famous tattoo artist and whisked away into the Catskill Mountains.
I spent four glorious days on hallowed Indian ground no less - the property so huge, its owner, Mister Bruce, can hardly point it out without a "well let me see now" speech. It did not take long before dinner at The Bear Café was the call. Set in a beautiful old home, The Bear Café was created in 1971 by Albert Grossman, music industry visionary who managed artists such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Peter, Paul and Mary. Peter Cantine, Chef Eric Mann and Andy Cooper are the new owners.
For dinner, we started on Wellfleet oysters on the half shell with cocktail and lemon, going straight into tastes of their fresh house-made cheese and fresh herb ravioli with spinach, oyster mushrooms, garlic, Parmesan and truffle oil and scallions - both short of divine. For an entrée my choice was the pan-roasted all-natural Murray's chicken with Madeira-Green peppercorn sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. The chicken was melt-in-your-mouth and the sauce absolute perfection - just spicy enough to allow tastes to thrill. I was so enthused with my little lot that it mattered not much what my dinner companions ate otherwise but whatever it was, I know it was all devoured with gusto.
So, what with the great service, the hectic but more than pleasant atmosphere touched by not only a smooth bitter-sweet chocolate mascarpone mousse with Dulce de leche and toasted Hazelnuts for dessert but, copious Margaritas and fine Scotch, I could not have asked for a better introduction to Woodstock.
The following night we dined at The New World Home Cooking. I dearly loved this place and recommend it highly. Their menu reads: "When we opened the original New World in the haunted Stone house on Zena Road, our formula for success was cooking the freshest, sustainable and chemical free stuff on the grill with intense sauces to bring all of the flavours to the maximum. Our recipes for basting, slathering and dressing to the nines have been our most popular items since day one!"
THE AMERICAN MELTING POT
Chef Ric Orlando (and partner Liz Corrado) serve interpretations of the assertive cuisine of the American melting pot and although we in the Caribbean like to be set apart from the Americas, we certainly are what I term the new "old" world. Thank God! Ric sees it fit not to shout out "we cook foods from the Third World" or I would have had motor-mouth right through our meal! Ric has written a very interesting informative recipe book called: We Want Clean Food - you can purchase same and read all about this most affable and larger-than-life chef on www.newworld homecooking.com.
Has anyone heard of the Slow Food Movement? Well I had not until New World, for this Grill is an active member of the Chef's Collaborative and Slow Food USA - chefs who are committed to fight chemical companies who invent indestructible foods - as Ric says: "What is wrong with fresh local tomatoes in the summer, dried in the winter and fresh corn in the summer and polenta in the winter." I love this thought and have secretly ('though not a chef) joined this group - for unfortunately, as I said in my last review, we also import foods in Jamaica that have been forced into the world with all manner of horrid chemicals to enhance them into growth, colour - the results - no real flavour and a detriment to health.
For starters at New World Home Cooking, I had the cajun peppered shrimp - four shell-on gulf jumbos in an addictive lemon-black pepper-rosemary sauce. Now let me explain that New World Home Cooking has a 'Ricter scale' for heat in terms of "peppah" and each dish is given its mark. O-3 Mild. 4-5 Assertive but not too hot. 6-8 Authentic Caribe, SE Asian or Central American Style and 9-10 over the top, for afficionados and thrill seekers only. By the way, dishes over the 9 Ricter cannot be returned if not enjoyed. Great eh?
The shrimp were indeed addictive although 8.5 in terms 'heat' was probably very, very Woodstock. Not hot Sah! But truly well and deliciously spiced. I can still taste that beautiful lemony peppered sauce in my mind - too bad I am now 18 hours away from New World or dinner there tonight would be a must. For entrée, I thoroughly enjoyed a hemp nut eco-fish king salmon dressed with home-grown pineapple sage vinaigrette, set on organic baby greens and herbs, with mango, roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables - a joy through and through.
NEW WORLD JERK
Oh! Yes! New world jerk chicken on the bone or not was on the menu - "marinated and glazed with jerk, a dark, savory marinade inspired by the original from the Arawak tribe in Jamaica ... with allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet peppers, molasses and onions rated for ordering on a scale from three, five, seven to 10. Sorry! the thought of comparing did rear its head, but hey! I am not leaving Jamaica to eat jerk - what would my friends at The Ultimate Jerk Centre, Discovery Bay or Pon de Corner in Portland, think?
Mitch had his "everytime-he-comes-to-New-World" Cuban dish Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) - home ground sofrito, capers, olives, wine, garlic and tomatoes served with black beans, brown rice, veggies and plantains. Brucie went for the glazed and grilled Atlantic swordfish with neo-southern organic peach-chipotle salsa, local organic purple potatoes, braised greens and grilled beets. All dishes were adored and simply devoured. Ric sent out a signed copy of his book for me, together with a key - lime pie - a fine ending to a special evening.
And so it came to pass that Friday night we dressed to the hilt in designer threads and ting for the opening night of a new, very stush restaurant called The Emerson Grill. Yet another fabulous renovated old building (please, please note my people ... history is not to be destroyed but revered!) where the who's who of Woodstock had gathered. High praises for Tensing Pen from their consultant who spent a week in Negril! Hand-painted stained glass lighting fixtures by famous artist Ulla Darni (also has a website) bedeck the rooms. Waiters, Julian and Patrick, were absolutely smashing in their silver synchronised silver service, their understanding and explanations of every dish, and their ability to recommend knowingly. The Emerson Grill is a welcomed addition to Woodstock for those who want a 'special' night out on the town.
Saturday night brought my cooking a great Jamaican rice and peas to a celebratory dinner at friends in Albany, a night spent catching up with old-talk with Lady Sue Ellen and Bruce's daughter Delaney. Sunday morning arrived with thoughts of the long journey back to Lexington, turning food into a major demand. A 75-year-old historic diner - Miss Albany - in this really pretty capital of New York State was the choice.
Set amongst some notable old buildings that house the heart of America, this diner, owned by Clifford and Jane Barrow, is a trip. 'Mad is okay' is their motto and mad it is! At one point, the rather on-the-large-side-Bill (the cook), came flying out from the kitchen (obviously under pressure being the only one cooking), shoved a plate of food in front of a rather loud customer with: "Now Bradley, Bradley, shut up and eat!" Everybody just laughed and carried on nonchalantly.
With gourmet breakfasts that include Mad Irish French toast doused in Irish whiskey, to power breakfast of everything-except-the-kitchen-sink with Atkins Enemies and Lubrications some of the titles of offerings; pamphlets with the psychology of pancakes shown to anyone who happens not to be munching same to Clifford's liking; people and waitresses shouting for food; Jane pushing Clifford into the kitchen to wash dishes and he in turn inviting me to come on in and help with a flirting twinkle in his eye; this diner is the epitome of total hilarity - particularly when you read all the notices hung every which where: "We all love children, our customers are disturbed by indisciplined parents", or "Bacon is served wrigley or crispy" and "French fries come in light, medium or well-done". On the site since 1929 and in near-original condition, Miss Albany's Diner is on The National Historic Register and well worth a visit - www.missalbanydiner.com.
And now the trip back home and straight to join all of Jamaica's foodies at The Epicurian Feast - Grand Lido Negril. It should be a grand affair so see and be there. And thank you, my American friends, for everything.