Finding Our Fabulous Farms
I’m guilty. So that means I can’t be too judgemental. But there’s an alarming trend that I’ve noticed, and it demands some attention.
Today, we won’t focus on the whole trend, but rather one data point. And I hope in the days and weeks to come to cover additional data points. That way, those who doubt that today’s story is part of a larger narrative will see a bit more of the big picture.
For those who are just tuning in, one of the big questions the FLB has been trying to answer over the past several years is, “Why is food not better in the Capital Region?” And we’ve come up with lots of answers. But I’ve still been flummoxed with the fact that we’re surrounded by great local farms, and yet precious little of their delicious bounty winds up on restaurant menus.
I’ve come to realize that locals just haven’t found these critical culinary resources.
This past Sunday, I was invited to dinner by Carol Clement, owner and farmer at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow. Rob Handel is the chef there, and once a month they host a five course supper club. October’s menu was all about poultry. November is going to be all about pastured pork.
I had first met Carol and Rob when celebrating some festive occasion with Deanna Fox at her farm, or homestead, or what-have-you. Anyway, I was excited by what they were doing with local and foraged ingredients, but in all honesty the farm felt just a bit too far away for me to visit.
Like I said at the start, I’m guilty here too.
But if you want to eat, locally, seasonally, and sustainably, this is how you do it. The farm raised the birds, the chef foraged for ingredients, the owners pressed the cider, and the remaining ingredients were sourced from local producers.
When you are responsible for raising the animals, I think the resulting dishes are treated with a bit more respect and thought, often with delicious results. Like the goose sausage that was stuffed into the skin of the goose’s neck instead of classic sausage casing. Then that skin was browned in additional poultry fat.
Next month’s menu is cleverly called “Eat Like a Pig” in which Rob is going to forage ingredients the pastured pigs consume, and use those as accompaniments for different breeds of heritage pork. it sounds both totally unique and delicious.
These five course meals aren’t inexpensive, but they are truly special. You can’t get preparations like this anywhere else in the region. And I know that it feels like a hike.
The reality is that it’s just an hour outside of Albany.
Now here’s the kicker. Heather Ridge Farm seems more beloved by out-of-towners than locals. Yes, Deanna wrote a lovely piece on the place for the TU last year. And Albany Jane shared her experience at one of the farm’s dinners.
Last year Edible Manhattan covered this corner of our region, and wrote a story that included the farm and an event that was totally off my radar. Heather Ridge Farm lamb was on the menu at a restaurant down in Brooklyn that was proudly sharing the news
So should it be any wonder that when you look at the glowing Yelp reviews for Heather Ridge Farm, only one is from the Capital Region? Yes. One. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of reviews. However, three come from New York City, two come all the way from California, and the last is from Connecticut.
Tourists would seem to love and appreciate our local resources more than we do. It’s great that Heather Ridge Farm has a glowing reputation beyond our immediate community. But I’d love to find a way to get more locals out there to experience this for themselves. You would think a place with a national reputation would garner a bit more hometown pride.
Well, the cafe is open for weekend brunch from 11a to 3p all year long. The menu can be found here. And I’d highly recommend you consider the November dinner too. It will fill up, as the communal seating doesn’t allow for that many guests, so plan ahead and book early.
Just remember, If you do go, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES FOLLOW THE GPS/iPHONE/GOOGLE ROUTE. That’s a long, scary story, and maybe R of Chopsticks Optional will share it with you. She was a trooper, and an incredible co-pilot in the hill towns where cell phone service is non-existent. Instead, follow these directions from Carol.
Maybe after you go, you too can help spread the word.
Addendum: I was looking through my pictures of the dinner, and realized I should include at least one more. This was the five spice cake, topped with smoky duck fat caramel, and served with Grenada Chocolate Company ice cream. Good stuff.