Pin It

Eat Your Scenery 

Farm-to-table eating is the latest term for the art of eating locally—an activity wonderfully well suited to the farm-endowed Hudson Valley and Catskill region. Interest in local foods and supporting local farmers in their endeavors to produce pure, organic, cruelty-free, and natural foods has developed over the last 10 years morphed from something on the foodie, hippie, naturalist fringe to more mainstream American demographics. Michelle Obama introduced America to the term hoop house. Rising oil prices’ effect on formerly cheap industrial food prices combined with inopportune (or perhaps, propitious) food-borne epidemics prompted whole new folds of citizens to utter local and organic. Thing is, up until the turn of the last century but disappearing in earnest after the two world wars, farm-to-table eating was the standard food model.

Chemicals, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, genetically modified seeds, preservatives, and cheap oil relegated local and farm fresh to the dusty, outmoded bin. In 2010, farm-to-table eating is important all over again—advancing even over organics because organic food has been co-opted by large-scale companies.
Farm-to-table means local food and eating with the seasons, essentially eating what is available at farm stands, in resurrected general stores, and at farm markets. Farm-to-table supports culinary creativity—an overabundance of garlic scapes right now means eating them raw like scallions, sautéing them, or pureeing them into pesto. Farm-to-table supports nutritious eating—nature grows seasonally what our bodies seasonally require—heavier, more fibrous foods (squash, potatoes) in winter and foods with higher water content (cucumbers, tomatoes, melons) in summer. Farm-to-table eating supports local economy, keeps farmers on farmland, and keeps the scenery pastoral. Farm-to-table eating is also a taste of place, a gastronomic tour de terroir.

No Fairy Tale

Fable at Stone and Thistle Farm in East Meredith combines farm and table and—romantic as it may sound—Fable is no fairy tale. Fourteen years ago, Tom and Denise Warren chose to raise animals on pasture because “we were broke and grass was free.” The Warrens raise cows, pigs, rabbits, lambs and goats, chickens and turkeys on organic meadows without pesticides or artificial fertilizers. The animals’ diets are supplemented with certified organic grain. No antibiotics or growth hormones are used. “We were a decade ahead of the grass-fed movement only because we were financially strapped,” says Denise. The reality at the core of Stone and Thistle Farm—the name is a play on Tom’s Irish optimism, “stones and thistles are two things farmers don’t want”—is also the beauty and importance of Fable.

Yes, the herbs—basil, sage, thyme, rosemary—are fresh snipped, onions freshly dug, ramps foraged, goat milk from the goats afield churned into goat milk ice cream, and basil transformed into syrup for drizzling over raspberry pavlovas—a meringue-based dessert named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. All very gourmet in the back-to-the-land sort of way heralded today. Yet there exists the certain actuality that the goat milk for the ice cream (or the yogurt for the rhubarb yogurt cream cake) was milked by Tom the night before. There is also the fact that the roast loin of pork came from a pig that was slaughtered three days before a Fable’s weekly dinner on Saturday. “I do not fork food into my mouth without thinking about where it came from or what ingredients are in it,” says Denise.

Fable embodies conscious eating. Guests are dining at a working farm in Delaware County and are reminded via panes of floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep that are, for today, in the field. The aforementioned pig that supplied the roast loin of pork (served with rhubarb-orange-mint chutney) also comprised part of the pâté de Campagne appetizer presented with a side of dandelion jelly and a pickle. The week prior, several chickens were harvested and served up—roasted with herbs, dandelion preserves, and spring turnips with browned butter. Livers from those chickens were set aside and made into the chicken liver mousse appetizer for the next week’s dinner. Snout-to-tail eating for the Warrens is customary—they’ve been eating the ears and head and neck and trotters and livers for years. While ingesting the unusual bits of pigs and cows is au currant for foodies, it is intimidating for everyone else. This year, Fable will offer a snout-to-tail dinner with the intent of demystifying the off-bits of animals.

A Serendipitous Error
In 2007 an architect’s error of scale transformed the kitchen of the Warrens’ 1860 Greek Revival farmhouse from modest cooking space to soaring aerie. Years of recipe inquiries from friends and neighbors helped prompt the Warrens to take the step from farmers to chefs. “We collect old agriculture books and especially enjoy the manuscripts on agriculture from Thomas Jefferson.” Denise proffers her copy of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s tome The River Cottage Cookbook Meat Book, where she finds inspiration for many of her dinners. “I feel like I’m reading my life,” she says, due to the combination of farm stories with recipes for offal and other off-cuts.
Wild forageables are frequently featured on the menu—ubiquitous perennial plants like lambs quarters, sorrel, and dandelion. Nasturtiums and borage regularly grace salads. Lemon balm and lemon verbena re-create the citrus flavor of decidedly unlocal lemons and oranges. An orange-scented mint was used in the aforementioned rhubarb-orange-mint chutney. Honey ricotta cheesecake arrives with a lemon balm coulis one night. Another night, lemon verbena panna cotta is the featured dessert. Fable is a reflection of the Warrens’ personal eating habits—seasonal and local—with the few exceptions of coffee, olive oil, and sugar. “If we can’t eat local, organic food, we choose local over organic food,” Denise says. “We have relationships with the local farmers and can have conversations about the how the asparagus is raised or how the strawberries are raised. We always choose a local nonorganic strawberry over an organic strawberry from California.”

  • Karin Ursula Edmondson talks with the Warrens about dining at their farm.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Farm to Fork Fondo

    Cycling, cider, and community meet in this two-day event, featuring an 11-mile bike ride, the Ramble Ride, winding through Warwick's countryside.
    • Jun 1, 2016
  • In (The Belly) With the New Recent Restaurant Openings

    Along with the Hudson Valley's growing fame as a food producer, it has become a magnet for restaurateurs eager to put their personal stamp on the farm-to-table movement. From Southern comfort to rustic charm, we break down some of the most interesting newcomers to the Hudson Valley dining scene.
    • Sep 1, 2015

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Mindful Yoga @ The Dream Center

Mindful Yoga

Sun., March 26, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. — Yoga practice a time to be present, aware, and practice controlling attention...

Singer/Songwriter J. Kaine

Sun., March 26, 4-5 p.m. — He uses his soulful and bluesy sound to express his poetry, creating...

View all of today's events

Latest in Culinary Adventures

Related to Culinary Adventures

  • Kids in the Bakery
  • Kids in the Bakery

    Frida’s Bakery in Milton are hosting regular Sunday kids’ classes where you can make treats like ice cream and pop tarts, decorate cookies and cupcakes, and try your hand at making pizza, pretzels, and dinner rolls.
    • Feb 15, 2016
  • Sharing the Kitchen with Teens
  • Sharing the Kitchen with Teens

    On November 7th, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park is throwing open its doors to parents and teens who want to take their kitchen skills up a notch.
    • Nov 2, 2015
  • More »

More by Karin Ursula Edmondson

  • Local Luminaries: Lissa Harris and Julia Reischel

    Karin Ursula Edmondson talks with the creators of the Watershed Post.
    • Dec 27, 2011
  • Backyard Bonanza

    The Top 10 Garden Tips for 2010.
    • Mar 25, 2010
  • Backyard Triumph

    Karin Ursula Edmondson talks with the fertile minds behind the new victory garden movement taking root across the Hudson Valley.
    • Jul 15, 2009
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets