Crabtree’s Kittle House—Truly Farm-to-Table

by Anne Maxfield on April 23, 2018

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's Chef LippinThere are a lot of restaurants calling themselves farm-to-table, and in a sense, all food is farm-to-table. Some may just have stopped at a processing plant or two and some may have traveled further than you have in your lifetime.

That’s not the case with Chef Jay Lippin at Crabtree’s Kittle House.

Here’s a place where the chef has binders full of notes, for the 40 or so farmers he works with. And that’s not counting the garden beds ringing the property.

It started out when farmers would come to the back door of the kitchen offering to sell their crops. As the numbers and quality of local farms increased, so did the potential for using as much local food as possible.

In the fall Chef Lippin reviews what went well, exhaustively studies seed catalogues (marking them up to the point where one farmer said it looked like a porcupine!) and analyzes everything with each farmer who supplies the restaurant.

All this attention to detail and care is reflected in the food. Along with sourcing as much as he can locally, he’s made it a point to use less-than-perfect food and bits, like green coriander seeds, with spectacular results.

We’ve eaten there a few times and every meal has been memorable.

Recently, I broke with tradition and insisted that my birthday dinner be at Crabtree’s.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree Tap RoomWe opted for the Tap Room, it’s more casual and you have the advantage of being able to order from both menus.

A half dozen Kumamoto oysters and a “perfect” Moscow mule for Frank got us off to a great start.

The kitchen sent up what Jay calls salmon bacon and eggs. It’s maple-smoked salmon on a piece of cornbread and topped with a tiny sunny-side up quail egg. Sweet and smoky it paired wonderfully with an incredible Spanish white that Leo, the sommelier gave us to taste.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's SalmonI opted for the duck breast, served over puréed fava beans with a black currant compote. I’ve never really given fava beans much thought—too much prep work, but after last night I may have to rethink my stance on them. The duck was perfectly cooked and seasoned and would have been fine on its own or with just the black current compote. However, the fava bean purée just launched it into a whole other dimension–spectacular!

Frank had the hangar steak, also perfectly seasoned and cooked. There was a pile of perfectly stacked onion rings that came with it. Onion rings to me, are almost always a disappointment—too thick and bready, or too thin and flavorless. These managed to have the best of both worlds, thin rings of onions with a batter that was just thick and spiced enough to give them both flavor and character—the best onion rings I’ve had in ages!

We were way too full for desert, but Frank managed to make the most of an almond cake with almond ice cream and almond brittle. I snuck a bite or two because it was so good.

The kitchen also sent over an espresso panna cotta which was almost like a dessert version of a cappuccino—top layer of espresso and bottom layer of cream. Considering how stuffed we were, we did manage to eat a good portion of it.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's DessertAll our experiences at Crabtree’s have been terrific. While the food is consistently great (I honestly don’t think I’ve had a bad bite there), I also want to give a shout-out to the staff. It is one of the most professional, attentive and friendly groups and they are a big part of what makes it a wonderful restaurant.

 

A couple of notes: Since it was my birthday where we were there this last time, I wasn’t taking pictures, so these photos are from previous visits. Also, the wine cellars there are so incredible, they deserve their own piece, so stay tuned.

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7 Tips For Finding the Right CSA

by Anne Maxfield on April 16, 2018

Accidental Locavore CSA LettuceThis is the time of year when we all start yearning for anything fresh.

A CSA or Community Sponsored Agriculture share is a great way to support local farmers and put plenty of great produce on your table.

While a few years ago, this was a pretty new concept, now there are CSAs for almost everything from fruits and vegetables to coffees and breads.

How do you pick the best CSA for you?

Accidental Locavore CSAThese were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, here are 7 tips:

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for the number of people in your household. If you hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice–cooking as fast as you can, only to have a whole new box show up, you might want to split a share with a neighbor or friend. Some CSAs offer half shares or will match you up with other members who are looking to share the bounty.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices, but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. We originally joined Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s CSA because a woman farmer I knew was working there and I liked her and her agricultural point of view.
  5. Choice. One of the things I love most about PFP is the ability to choose from about a dozen or more weekly offerings. I can get carrots when I want them and skip the beets. They also have pick-your-own options which add herbs, berries and flowers to your share if you’re willing to go out in the fields. Over the years they’ve added the options to add a fruit share, coffee, meat and even a winter share to get you through the dark months.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for (and can use up). When we joined, we were looking mostly for produce. However, there are many CSAs that offer meat, poultry, bread, eggs and other foods. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.
  7. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but Poughkeepsie Farm Project is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.

Accidental Locavore CSA shareWhatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers.

But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!

 

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Lamb Larb

by Anne Maxfield on April 9, 2018

Accidental Locavore Lamb LarbAs part of our lamb CSA share this year we got a lot of ground lamb, so I’ve been trying to think of interesting new ways to use it. This recipe from bon apétite seemed similar to a pork recipe we’ve loved.

It was quick and easy and served 2 greedy people with a smidge leftover.

  • ½ cup peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or pork, or beef)
  • Salt
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 red or green Thai chiles, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoons fish sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup torn mint leaves
  • Cooked jasmine rice and lime wedges (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing halfway through, until nuts are golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop or crush into small pieces.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, smashing down on cloves to break into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until some parts are golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Push garlic to one side of pan, then add ground meat and a pinch of salt to the other side. Cook, smashing and stirring meat and garlic together, until no clumps remain and meat is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Be careful not to overcook; as soon as you can’t see any pink, remove from heat.

Mix in shallot, scallions, chiles, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, and half of peanuts. Let larb cool slightly, then stir in mint. Taste and season with more salt and fish sauce if needed.

Serve over rice, garnish with remaining peanuts and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Lamb LarbMy verdict: Now I know where the rest of the ground lamb is going! This was really good and easier than the pork recipe we’ve loved. I started a pot of rice and by the time the larb was finished the rice was done.

The original recipe called for serving it with cabbage leaves, which we might have switched out for some bibb or Boston lettuce cups, but no one wanted to go to the store, so we just did it over rice and were perfectly happy.

I roasted the peanuts on a plate in the microwave, for about 3 minutes in 30 second bursts. The oven, or even a dry frying pan would probably work just as well.

I have some ground lemongrass that I keep in the freezer and used about a heaping tablespoon of it for the larb and probably a scant tablespoon of fish sauce. Both worked out perfectly. We were low on limes and I thought the larb could have used a little more lime juice, and possibly another Thai chili or a squirt of Sriracha for a little more kick.

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Hookline Fish Company

by Anne Maxfield on April 2, 2018

Skip and Smoked Salmon Who doesn’t like smoked salmon?

And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to explore a smokehouse and store to learn about and taste some great smoked salmon?

Go hungry because there’s a stretch of Route 28 in Kingston, New York that is becoming a destination for lots of great food. Hookline Fish Company turned out to be next door to my favorite local cheese shop, Cheese Louise. One-park shopping at its best!

At a recent visit, we tasted some great smoked salmon, learned a lot about what makes their smoked salmon so tasty, and how to make any future salmon I smoke taste even better.

Accidental Locavore Hookline Smoked SalmonSkip, the founder, wanted to replicate the taste and quality of the smoked salmon he’d grown up with in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a completely different process, fish and taste from what we’re used to plopping on a bagel.

What makes his product unique (and delicious) is his attention to detail. All the salmon are ocean raised in the Faroe Islands (north of Scotland, if you’re geographically challenged), flown here where Skip cuts them into portion sizes, brines them and smokes them.

He uses alder wood because he likes the delicate flavor it gives the salmon and because he’s found that apple and other fruitwood often has been sprayed and may contain pesticides—a disturbing idea, I’d never considered.

Accidental Locavore Hookline Smoked SalmonBy cutting the salmon into portion sizes before smoking it, he’s giving it more surface area and therefore more area to absorb the smoke. It also gives us consumers a choice between the different parts of the salmon.

Hookline sells a bunch of different cuts, all well described on their website. My favorite is the salmon belly—essentially salmon bacon—fatty, smoky and totally yummy! If that’s not around, you can’t go wrong with any of the other cuts, depending on your preference for fat, saltiness and smokiness.

At the store/smokehouse, depending on the day, you’ll also find smoked salmon chowder, pâté and other goodies along with a warm welcome from Skip and his crew.

Check their website for hours; they’ve just added in Wednesdays and may add more as we move into summer.

Accidental Locavore Hookline Smoked Salmon

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