Early in the morning around 7.30 am I arrive to Star Route Farm. Four other devoted farmers have gathered around the Star Route Farm barn to go through the daily implementation plan. Coffee is brewing in the percolator. There is no heating nor water from taps in the barn and the mist brings humidity.
It feels like an enchanted realm!
Charlotte Valley is covered with a low horizontal mist floating above the circa 70 acres of farm land. The hills opposite the valley are lush green and just the tops are visible amid the mist. It feels like an enchanted realm! This area has rich and healthy soil, some parts having a clay-like feel. It is especially propitious to heirloom produce with purple coloring like the Magic Molly potato, Cosmic Purple carrots and red cabbage.
What strikes me the most is the high level of quality and work by hand.
The farm provides incredible Italian heirloom produce to Brooklyn and New York´s best restaurants (Harts, Reynard and Cervo´s to name a few), like Castelfranco lettuce and cardoons (a relative of the artichoke). My favourites, the tomatoes have an abundance of taste and for a cook are closest to heaven. What strikes me the most is the high level of quality and work by hand. All the arugula leaves for example are cut by hand, washed in two bathtubs of cold water and dried in an old washing machine tumbler.
The owners, the organiser Tianna Kennedy and the knowledgeable Walter Riesen are diligent workaholics. There are no days off in farming. Walter is the man behind the tractor and Tianna runs the daily operations. The rest of the crew are a lovely mix of personalities, all with very different backgrounds. The mutual love of high quality produce unites the bunch.
Farm work stops for lunch and this is the moment when you are rewarded for all the hard work on the fields. There is always some produce from the farm and it is soo good! It really is a matter of having the highest quality ingredients to prepare good food.
Star Route Farm is the founding member and part of the 607 CSA (community supported agriculture) that delivers produce to NYC. Seeing the bountiful harvest, preparing and packing it was weekly exciting and especially imagining what the receivers would prepare of it. I love the idea that a pickup point in Brooklyn is a record shop!
The day has passed breathing fresh air in this small wonderland where lettuce, vegetables, greens, herbs and flower grow.
The farm´s workday ends around 6 pm. The day has passed breathing fresh air in this small wonderland where lettuce, vegetables, greens, herbs and flower grow. Today I have for example improved the growing conditions of herbs (like sage, shiso and basil) by weeding. Simple work. It is surprising how a day at the farm makes me feel valuable, humble and salutary. Charlotteville Valley prepares for the night; the mist rises and small drops of moist form on the leaves. May the growing continue!
One year ago I travelled to the Catskills, state of New York. My goal, the café/restaurant Table on Ten in Bloomville. I drove there from JFK airport, having Google maps as my guide, accompanied by jetlag and driving the craziest small roads possible, almost losing faith of ever arriving but eventually I managed to find my way to no place better than Bloomville. It is situated in the middle of nowhere (actually on route 10 as the restaurant name suggests) with chickens and cats running free.
As I have always felt that customer service in the States is top-notch I wanted to see with my own eyes how hospitality works. I found interesting articles on Bon Appétit, the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveller about Table on Ten and was very excited to organize the work experience thanks to the sweet and kind owner of Table on Ten, the Dutch Inez Valk.
No pampering luxury here but all you need to feel warm and welcome.
The idea of having a café/restaurant and above guest rooms reserved via Airbnb is smart. Guests enjoy breakfast and lunch from the café and on Friday and Saturday evenings Table on Ten prepares an imaginative selection of scrunching pizzas. The rooms above have a lot of character and especially the whole attic has its own 45 record player, lots of intriguing books to look at and a free-standing bathtub. No pampering luxury here but all you need to feel warm and welcome.
The selection of food is limited and everything served is prepared with love.
The café/restaurant has a European feel to it. The selection of food is limited and everything served is prepared with love. The food ingredients are sourced from local producers. It makes a lot of sense. As a coffee lover, I was impressed with Irving Farm´s Table on Ten coffee blend A3 and Inez dries herself the herbs that make the two delicious tea infusions. There are small hints of Holland like the checkered teatowel and speculaas cookies.
The pizza evenings are organized to perfection in the kitchen and I wish Finnish restaurateurs could take a lesson here to understand that by organizing all the stations in advance, the pizzas keep coming from the oven fast. The kitchen is a very small space and yet many dishes are served.
The popular eggs in a white or red pan are a must!
Those who have a sweet tooth find happiness with the Four &Twenty Blackbirds pies. My favorite was hojicha flavor, a Japanese roasted green tea. The popular eggs in a white or red pan are a must! The white has mushrooms, cream and parmesan cheese whereas the red has tomato sauce, basil and parmesan cheese. Both are filling and yummy.
The staff at Table on Ten made me feel at home from day one and I truly am grateful for the experience. A characteristic locality and for the foodie the place to visit.
Life is full of surprises!
Some years ago I was living right in the center of Helsinki and now am happily living in the countryside with three beehives in my garden.
I have a connection with bees as my grandfather in England had several beehives in his garden and wonderful tasting flower honey. I was just a little child when I first visited these beehives and can still remember the sheer excitement of putting on the white coverall with the veil and the long gloves. The outfits looked like aliens had landed on earth! And then seeing thousands of bees buzzing with the incredible and recognizable sound and sensing the intoxicating scent of fresh sweet honey in the hives.
A single queen bee lays eggs up to 1500 daily during summertime.
In each beehive there are three different types of bees; a queen bee, worker bees and male drones. A single queen bee lays eggs up to 1500 daily during summertime. Thousands of female worker bees (20.000 – 60.000) look after the queen bee, keep the beehive tidy, collect pollen and suck nectar into their honey stomach. The nectar is passed on through worker bees mouths to other worker bees until gradually it turns into honey that is stored in honeycomb cells. The male drones sole purpose of life is to fertilize the queen bee.
Up to 2 million blossoms are visited by worker bees to produce half a kilo of honey.
The worker bee collects about a teaspoonful of honey and flies 800 kilometers during its short life. Up to 2 million blossoms are visited by worker bees to produce half a kilo of honey. The bees are truly workaholics! Think of all the incredible work bees do to humans next time you are about to enjoy honey.
Pollinating bees make a huge difference in my garden. Flowers blossom and especially apple trees and currant bushes produce at least over 20% more crops. It is a soothing sight to recognize my bees at work in the garden and knowing that my neighbours gardens benefit of the bees, too.
Did you know that honey is the only food that includes all the substances to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals and water?
Illustration by Teresa Moorhouse @teresa.moorhouse