Obercreek Brewing

Hudson Valley Hidden Gems

Travel

Diamonds in the rough. Underdogs. After living in the Hudson Valley post-college, I ventured to those smaller places off the beaten path that promise personality and uniqueness compared to the busy hot-spots covered by big New York City publications. Though those spots deserve the coverage they receive and I adore them, let’s give it up for the little local spots that more than hold a candle to competition.

Obercreek Brewing Company

Located on Obercreek Farm, this brewery barely distributes which makes my proximity EVERYTHING. I first visited in the winter and remember the beers were deep gemstone colors. The style I tried was deep magenta and flavored with currants. The IPAs are refreshing and floral, unlike the bitter IPAs that I tend to avoid. Some beers are peachy and sour and some are thirst-quenching, but all deserve a taste. A newcomer to the craft beer scene, only in the game for just shy of 2 years, Obercreek is a contender against Hudson Valley Brewery and Plan Bee, two phenomenal breweries in neighboring towns.

Palace Dumplings

Honestly, I thought this place was just called “dumplings.” From where it’s visible on route 9, the large block letters against the green background are all that’s legible. The exterior is underwhelming. It looks like a run-of-the-mill take-out spot. But there’s wizardry in that kitchen. Plates of steamy dumplings arrive, wrapped in the thinnest dough wrappers so the plate of 12 is manageable. The pork and scallion are classic, but the flavors get more interesting: lamb, egg and sour cabbage are only some of the options from multi-page menu. You’ll wait a long time on a busy night, but the result is worth the wait ten-fold.

Armadillo

I remember the first time we ever visited Armadillo. It was our first time in Kingston and we were hanging out at Rough Draft (a noteworthy spot) looking up places to eat. Stomach rumbling, I said “fine, let’s just go there.” Enthusiastic, right? I should’ve been. Hands-down the best house margarita, neither skimping on quality nor tequila. Portions are huge and of equally high quality. I remember the burrito I ordered fed me for days and I only craved more. The creamy green sauce served with chips? Life-changing. It’s just the perfect low-key spot meant for nothing but good times.

The Vinyl Room

We all know I love multi-functional spaces. Maybe it’s from Alton Brown’s aversion to uni-taskers and my affinity for Good Eats. Regardless, this vinyl shop/bar combo is genius. The beer on tap is a mix of stellar local beers and in-the-moment craft brews. You want food? There’s a pizza window. There’s constantly good music spinning, creating the ideal ambiance for flipping through rows of vinyl. Not looking to buy? The arcade games are already loaded and ready for play. So yeah, you could go there, drink beer and play PacMan.

Kettleborough Cider House

So I’ve only been able to visit this location once, but it’s somewhat of a seasonal treat. One crisp fall day we wanted to try some of the smaller cideries in the area. No offense to Angry Orchard, but we wanted a quieter experience with a different cider variety. This honestly came up in a quick map search while we were driving through New Paltz, and I’m so glad it did. The orchard sells donuts and apples, but the shack out back does cider flights. The seating area overlooks the beautiful Shawangunk ridge, an unexpected, breathtaking surprise, and the cider selection ranged from farmy to dry. Next time, I’d bring a blanket and sit outside overlooking the foliage all day.

I move out of the Hudson Valley in a week. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I’m so fortunate to have been able to find these places and support the amazing work of the folks who put their whole hearts into a craft. Do me a favor and keep these places packed while I’m gone. Okay?

Homemade Lactofermented Hot Sauce

I want to pickle and ferment everything now

food

I’ve been pretty obsessed with the idea of fermentation. Keeping something in a jar on your counter in hopes it’ll become a bubbly science experiment excites me in a little kid sort of way. Five year old Marcella would never get away with making this kind of mess in my family’s kitchen. But 22 year old Marcella pays her own rent and can leave jalapeños in a cloudy brine on her counter for as long as she likes.

Now I didn’t just enter the world of fermentation and nail it. I wanted to ease into it. I started with a quick pickle. A quick pickle method emulates the flavor of those crispy summertime pickles you want to slap on burgers or just eat out of the damn jar. It’s basically a long, vinegar-based marinade. The sugar/vinegar combo gives it that pseudo-funky flavor but without all of the benefits of natural lactobacillus fermentation (big words, we’ll get there). The gist of a quick pickle is submerging the vegetable in a heated mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Dissolve salt and sugar in the liquids and add aromatic spices like bay leaves, coriander, peppercorns and really whatever hearty spices you want to bring out. Then pour the hot mixture over the vegetables. The vegetables can get spruced up with some added raw garlic and other softer aromatics like leafy herbs or ginger. Let all the contents marinate in that jar for a few days before cracking it open and putting those crispy and delicious veggies on EVERYTHING.

Now fermentation is a metabolic process in which natural sugars are broken down and carbon dioxide is released. I remember a biology experiment in eighth grade involving a packet of yeast, juice and a balloon. As time went on the balloon fixed atop a bottle containing the juice and yeast started to fill with air – fermentation was happening and the yeast was, essentially, breathing. We also straight up made wine in class so that was cool.

The chemical process is initiated by yeast which exists in the air, not just in those handy packets at the grocery store. Lactobacillus fermentation breaks down glucose and transforms it into lactic acid. No, this doesn’t involve dairy (but yeah, it could). The transformation is what turns wheat and grapes into beer and wine respectively. It preserves these foods and actually makes them safe to eat even a year after purchasing them fresh. Also makes them funky as hell.

I chose to quick pickle jalapeños using the recipe above (plus turmeric) and ferment jalapeños to make my own hot sauce. I followed this hot sauce video but used jalapeños instead of fresno chilis. Yes, the brine will get cloudy and yucky looking. That means it’s working. However, and I cannot stress this enough, keep the peppers submerged otherwise that cloudiness could become mold, fuzzy stuff on top of exposed peppers.

The result is a tangy, spicy and funky sauce that seems to get spicier as it sits. The two pickled products provide that welcome kick to many dishes (some favorites are tacos, eggs and salads) but the difference is in the nuanced flavor. The fermented peppers are complex and spicy with the sourness of vinegar present but not overwhelming. The quick pickled peppers remain crunchy but the vinegar plays a crucial role in the bright flavor.

Both have their places. I definitely would make both again as they require little active time and the payoff lasts. Different spices and additions can breathe new life into these pepper, or different vegetables can be used to hold onto spring and summer’s bounty long into the winter.

PINK BEER IS HAVING A MOMENT AND SO AM I

beer, drink

 

The words “pink drink” evoke infamous memories of college parties: standing before a cooler with a spout dripping pink liquid. The bastardized amalgamation of pink lemonade, sprite and vodka fill the red plastic cup again and again. When was the cooler last cleaned? Who did I hand $5 to for this cup? I don’t know, but I’m having fun until the morning.

While “pink drink” has been tucked away to a secluded corner of my brain, pink beer is top of mind lately. I’ve been feeling my 2019 Barbie girl fantasy lately ordering and pouring beers that are all coincidentally pink. It’s no surprise that pink beer is having a moment when everything seems to be coming up rosés.

Most pink beers tend to fall into the sour or farmhouse ale categories as those funky, farmy styles are experiencing an undeniable renaissance. Hudson Valley Brewery added a strawberry sour to the family of Silhouette beers and, damn, it tastes like strawberry ice cream. The hazy pink brew resembles a strawberry smoothie. Sloop Brewing Company is re-releasing the first ever Sloop Jam series beer, Razzle Dazzle, by popular demand. The raspberry and cherry sour beer appears jammy and bright. The ever inventive Plan Bee Farm Brewery special released breakfast, a beer brewed with blueberry and coffee and aged in bourbon barrels (ya know, like breakfast). All I can say besides delicious is MAGENTA because in a glass this was a gorgeous jewel tone.

Of course these beers would be delicious straight from the can (sorry, mom) but watching bubbles rise through the deep pink beer really completes the experience. The truth? I’m sure social media has made pink beer explode this season. Berry lambics and cherry lagers have always existed but the craze is picking up now as every layman and blogger has romanticized the pink drink via Instagram alone. More truth? I’m not even mad.

Intentionally burning food was my first sign of true adulthood

food

A timid child, I cried at damn near everything. Couldn’t get the combination in dance class? I cried. Someone made a harmless joke? I cried. I was frustrated easily and fragile beyond help. I was insecure and sheepish for years. That girl is long gone now, but the lingering effects held on in one facet of my life: my cooking. I loved cooking and baking, but I yearned for perfection every time. There were never burnt edges or crispy bits on any of my baked goods or meals, but that resulted in undercooking nearly everything. Setting timers for the minimum cooking time and being the most pesky oven checker were my culinary downfalls. I craved perfection so tenaciously that my efforts had the opposite effect entirely.

Early in my college career my love for food manifested itself into my academics. In my journalism classes I squeezed food into every assignment I could, from political assignments to longform creative pieces. I attempted to become that modern urban farmgirl who cooked squash and overnight oats and blogged about it. I was passionate about local honey and became evangelical about eating locally and seasonally. I had ancient grains coming out of my ears. I needed to have my quirky side and excel at something niche. I snagged an internship with a local food publication and became a published food writer. And yet, each time I roasted a vegetable I couldn’t keep my hands off the oven handle. I hauled squash from the farmers market to class only to bring it home and woefully under season or undercook it for the sake of not making a mistake. I was the girl watching the pot boil. I would peek into the door and feel the warm dry heat on my face, look at the slight color on whatever was cooking, and take it out prematurely. I would take food out of the oven, plate the dish and realize it was undercooked after slicing into it, after which I would throw it in the microwave and nuke the crap out of it, making up for lost time.

My desire to achieve perfection overshadowed my research and knowledge. The hours I spent reading Bon Appetit and Food52 were wasted because my internal monologue inserted itself into the narrative. I knew that color equaled flavor. I knew that salt was essential to all recipes and despite knowing those facts and more, my food was timid and colorless. I was a people pleaser down to my core, and while then I would never admit it, now I see how desperate I was to be an image of perfection through and through. I can definitely attribute that (and probably any aforementioned insecurities) to some form of anxiety. I would bring baked goods to family gatherings and sit anxiously as everyone cut into my acceptably cooked and seasoned pie, knowing that I could have cooked the crust longer or added spices other than cinnamon to the filling. I was obsessed with following a recipe and not deviating from that, fearing that a freestyle move might cost me my reputation. I made beautiful looking olive oil cakes that could have used extra time in the oven, or more lemon zest than the recipe required. While everyone loves the gooey, undercooked section of the brownie pan, everyone also likes the crispy edges. My insecurities revealed themselves in my inability to deliver both.

In any communal living situation and even when I would cook with my boyfriend, my sheepishness returned. Too nervous to make a mistake, I would either wait until the coast was clear and the kitchen was empty, or ask him (or whoever else I was cooking with) to do many of the things I knew I could do but just felt unsure about in the moment. Everyone’s a critic and for some reason, despite being the most amateur of amateurs, I was afraid my knife skills, or some other trivial aspect of my cooking, would insight mocks and giggles.

I’m now 22 and living alone. In my castle (this one bedroom apartment), I am the queen and I’m cooking for me and only me. It’s now that I’m getting dare I say edgy about cooking. I’m taking risks with flavors because who but me am I aiming to please? In the most cynical of ways, I didn’t care about disappointing myself. And yet, that’s how I achieved perfection, or what tasted like it. I love cooking onions until they stick to the pan and take on caramel sweetness. I love hearing sausages sizzle in the pan and take on crispy brown sides. I like seeing the edges of my fried egg become crispy and lacy from the heat. I season haphazardly knowing that no one around me can tell me something is too spicy. I don’t measure my spices with a spoon, but I feel the granules leave my palm as I just toss. I’m the queen of the kitchen sink, sometimes throwing whatever I have in my fridge together and wishing for the best while I let it simmer, bubble, or bake.

Taking control of my kitchen and eating food that I enjoyed unapologetically was a sign of adulthood. I realized that I actually like kale, provided it was smothered in olive oil and roasted into crisps. Deciding what to eat, when to eat it, and most importantly how to eat it seems menial but the creativity thrills me. You know you’re a real adult when dinner’s uncertain outcome becomes exciting. Cooking for myself, I feel shameless in my choices. I can eat spicy potatoes whenever I want, or breakfast for dinner on a Tuesday.

And mistakes? I don’t know her. In the words of Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Rarely does a silly mistake warrant an unsalvageable meal. Sometimes you just need to think it over and find a way to repurpose or rectify without retrograding and crying over a burnt pan sauce.

In this journey through burnt edges and sloppy sautés I’ve learned more about my heart than I’ve learned about cooking: there’s more to life than perfection, and if you’re a people pleaser make sure you don’t leave yourself out of the equation.

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.