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September is a relaxing month to wander through farm country to the Washington County Cheese Tour, a self-driving, free event. The land is full of maturing corn fields, the greenest hay fields, and livestock grazing the lush pastures.
On Saturday Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can visit four farms that also participate in the Saratoga Farmers’ Market: Argyle Cheese, Moxie Ridge, Dancing Ewe, and Battenkill Creamery. While you visit, tour the farms, sample and purchase products, and
Battenkill Valley Farm & Creamery. Photo by Pattie Garrett.
Dave and Marge Randles, Argyle Cheese Farm, make yogurt and cheeses on their family’s dairy farm, which dates to 1860. In addition to NYS Fair prize winner Amazing Grace, they offer more cheese, gelato, buttermilk, and yogurt smoothies. Try breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches, and deep-fried cheese curds.
Moxie Ridge Farm, the newest Tour cheesemaker is also in Argyle. In 2016 Leah Hennessy bought her farm from Liza and Dave Porter, former Market vendors. Today Leah continues to make goat cheese, and will debut an aged cheese. Watch hand milking, and meet the goats.
While Jody Somers, Dancing Ewe Farm, was in veterinary school, his family bought a farm in Granville. Soon he switched and studied sheep milk cheeses in Tuscany, where he met Luisa. When she came to the US and visited Dancing Ewe, she never left. Today they produce Italian style cheeses and cured meats. You can make lunch or dinner reservations.
This year, Battenkill Valley Creamery, Salem, has joined the Tour. Don and Seth McEachron produce delicious milk, cream and ice cream. In 2010 they won a prize for best milk in New York State.
In addition to Farmers’ Market members, other places to visit are:
Consider Bardwell Farm, Eastern Washington County and West Pawlet, Vermont. Angela Miller and Russell Glover produce cheese from goat and cow milk. Learn the history of the 1860 cheese cooperative; see cheese making demonstrations.
Victory View Vineyard, Easton. A perfect compliment to the cheeses are red wines handcrafted from their marquette, maréchal foch, frontenac, and other grapes. RS Taylor and Sons Brewery, Misty Bleu Farm, Hebron. The Taylors built their tap room in 2015. Three generations of the family live, brew, and cook there.
For more information on the Washington County Cheese Tour visit thecheesetour.com.
Vicki Brignati always loved to bake. But when her son Alex was diagnosed with severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and peas, her baking took on a different meaning.
“Her life became devoted to learning everything there was to know about food allergies and keeping him safe,” says Kristen Poulin, who co-owns Alexander’s Bakery with Brignati. “Alexander’s Bakery was created with a simple premise – everyone should be able to enjoy baked goods safely.”
Brignati and Poulin brought Alexander’s Bakery to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market this year. At their stall, located on the north end of High Rock Park on Wednesdays, they offer a range of baked goods, all of which are free of such allergens as peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. They also sell at the market’s Clifton Park location on Mondays.
Alexander’s Bakery’s goods also are vegan and gluten free. In this sense, Brignati and Poulin represent a small but growing group of prepared food businesses that are dedicated to creating foods anyone can eat.
Vicki Brignati, Alex Brignati, Kristen Poulin of Alexander's Bakery. Photo by Pattie Garrett.
Photo provided by Alexander's Bakery.
“We quickly realized that we were filling a gap,” say Brignati and Poulin.
“We have been so warmly received by people with food allergies and sensitivities. They have told us many times how happy they are that we exist. We’ve also been well-received by many people who do not have food allergies or sensitivities. They simply love our products.”
Among the favorites is a whoopie pie that also is vegan, gluten free, and made without the major allergens that plague many residents of the Capital area and others nationwide.
In addition to eliminating allergens, Brignati and Poulin try to take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. They debuted an iced blueberry lemon cookie at the market’s blueberry festival in late July. As fall approaches, they’re looking forward to unveiling iced pumpkin spiced mini muffins and apple cinnamon granola. The latter features locally grown apples that Brignati and Poulin dry themselves.
The pair describes the summer and their decision to sell at three farmers’ markets as a big step. They look forward to continued growth through the fall and next year.
Rose Contadino, owner of Mangiamo.
As the Saratoga Farmers’ Market opening bell rings, Rose Contadino begins making pasta. Regulars and newcomers gather around the pasta board to watch the process – the sprinkling of semolina flour, the rolling of the dough into strips, and the dough’s final trip through the pasta cutter into ribbons. “It’s like a show,” says Contadino, with a laugh. “People love it.”
Contadino owns Mangiamo, one of the market’s three new Italian prepared food vendors. While the other two – Giovanni Fresco and La Dolce Vita -- make dishes to be eaten on the spot, Mangiamo offers fettuccine and pappardelle for home cooking.
Contadino arrives at the market with her dough, prepared in a commercial kitchen. As she prepares the fresh pasta, she lets it dry under a protective mesh. She offers half-pound and one-pound portions. Market goers take the pasta home, set up their pots of boiling water, and can get the noodles cooked in three to five minutes. Contadino also offers ravioli, prepared with a seasonal vegetable as filling.
“I have always made my pasta fresh and when I moved to Saratoga, I wanted to get into the food business,” Contadino says. “Nobody seemed to be offering pasta made fresh like this.”
Contadino’s parents were immigrants from the Calabria region of Italy. She was born in Stamford, Connecticut, the fourth of five daughters. Every Sunday, after church, the children, their parents and grandparents would gather around the pasta board and make noodles.
“We did it all by hand,” says Contadino. “We also grew our own food, and every summer, canned tomatoes for our sauce.”
Her business pays homage to her roots. Her pasta cutter belonged to her grandmother, and her father hand-crafted her pasta board.
The tradition of making pasta at home resonates for many around Saratoga, where about 17 percent of the population has Italian ancestry. One sign of this might be the group that gathers at the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays as Contadino cuts her pasta.
Some regulars arrive with recipes. Others send emails with special requests. And still others share stories about their own experiences. Contadino listens and enjoys it all.
My husband Jim and I love garlic. Not just the sight, smell, and taste of the bulbs, which are at their peak season now at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, but everything about the planting, tending, and harvesting of it.
We began growing garlic seven years ago, well before our backyard land became Squashville Farm. We started with cloves we got from the Row to Hoe Farm. The following year, we purchased garlic in bulk and began saving seed. By 2015, we were harvesting about 600 bulbs a year.
Photo by Pattie Garrett.
During those years, we also helped form the Friends of the Saratoga Market volunteer organization. In that capacity, we got to know local farmers, learned more about growing food, grew an increasing variety of vegetables, and began raising laying hens, meat chickens, and goats.
This spring, we became vendors at Saratoga’s Wednesday market. At our stall, just past the central pavilion on the north end, you will find lettuce, kale, chard, and other greens; a range of seasonal vegetables; eggs, chicken, and several cuts of goat meat. And, of course, garlic. This is the food we grow to eat and enjoy offering to others.
Garlic comes in numerous varieties, and we like to sample a lot of them. We do this by traveling to the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, where we meet growers and taste their wares. We decide what to plant based on what our taste buds like.
This year, we chose three varieties, one from each of the “hard neck” families. Our Red Chesnok is a purple stripe, great for baking and eating roasted; our Georgian Heat is a porcelain, great for general cooking and longer-term storage; and our Ukrainian Red is a rocambole, known for having a lot of cloves in varying sizes and a true garlic taste.
We planted cloves in November. They sprouted in the spring. The sprouts turned into stalks that produced scapes in June, which we cut off and sold. The stalks then turned brown, telling us it was time to harvest.
As my husband notes, garlic is magical. It’s a year-round anticipation, planning, and celebration of farm-grown food.
MARCIE PLACE’S grandfather emigrated from Syria in the 1940s. Her father spent his weekends with his Syrian aunts learning to cook the dishes of his home country. In the decades that followed, he passed his passion for that food to his children.
Today, Place, owner of The Chocolate Spoon, pours her love for Syrian food into many of her baked goods at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. And even when she isn’t baking, she makes many of the dishes that her father mastered through his aunts.
“I will never try to be as good at cooking Syrian food as my father is, but honoring his heritage is a great privilege to me,” says Place. “After all, food is love.”
She especially looks forward to mid-summer when cousa comes into season. This lime-green squash is like zucchini, only lighter and a bit rounder. It is the base for one of her father’s favorite dishes – Stuffed Cousa, which is made by hollowing out the squash, filling it with a rice mixture, and then simmering it in a tomato broth.
Place shared her father’s recipe with me, and a few weeks ago, Debbie Stevens of Butternut Ridge Farm told me cousa was in season. Since then, I have been buying it at the Wednesday market from her. Kokinda Farm also carries cousa on Saturdays.
Cousa often is mixed into bins of zucchini and summer squash, which can make it hard to find. But the hunt is worth the effort.
Stuffing cousa takes a little work, but it also takes advantage of some of the best of the market’s current bounty. Imagine heirloom tomatoes, basil, newly harvested garlic, sweet pepper, and the satisfying crunch of summer squash. That’s cousa with its added touches. It emerges from its cooking broth looking a little like a sausage, and tasting sweet and spicy. Use whatever broth is left as a simmer sauce for meatballs or, as I did, for fish.
Stevens said cousa is a favorite among eastern European customers who like it stuffed. Stevens enjoys the squash sautéed, as a side.
Place’s father’s recipe is below.
Try it out!
Photos by Pattie Garrett.
WHILE LIVING and vegetable farming in Fort Collins, Colorado, Ann and Josh Carnes decided to move east, after discovering their Ramble Creek Farm near Greenwich in Washington County. Ann’s background with her permaculture degree from Indiana University and Josh’s experience as a retired lieutenant firefighter and handyman has created a well-rounded partnership in farming.
This ambitious couple became vendors at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market less than seven months after establishing Ramble Creek. They currently raise mushrooms, blueberries, poultry and livestock, and are applying for organic certification and starting a commercial kitchen to expand their products.
Ann explained, “There is an unfulfilled niche for growing and selling mushrooms.” Currently they raise a variety of mushrooms such as lion’s mane, shiitake, maitake, and blue and canary oyster, in truck-sized refrigerated coolers.
Most of their meat production is still in progress, but they’ll be offering pasture raised chickens in the near future. Beef production will start in October, and customers can pre-order turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Ann and Josh emphasize the layout of the land so all animals work together to create a happy and healthy environment. Their heritage breed Berkshire and Tamworth pigs, are “forest pigs,” which control the underbrush on the farm’s edge. In August, pork ordered through their website will be available for on-farm pick up.
When the pigs move to a different section, they wag their tails excitedly ready to take on the next spot. Ann and Josh will use wood from the cleaned-out sections and watch for new wild plants and ferns.
Young chicks and turkeys start their lives in the two barns that are on Ramble Creek’s distinct logo. After growing for several weeks, they continue on pasture. They follow the cattle in movable coops, to eat the plants the cattle haven’t grazed and scratch the soil. When the grass regrows, it is beautiful, rich, nutritious and green.
Ramble Creek Farm is as impressive as the products they offer at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. Visiting their farm showed the dedication Ann and Josh have put towards their land and their animals. Ramble Creek Farm participates at the Market on both Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Few Disagreements among Rivals at Malta Candidate Forum
MALTA – The League of Women Voters (LWV) candidate forum for the Town of Malta’s upcoming local races took place at the Malta Community Center on Tuesday, October 8.
The questions from the audience centered on issues that appeared to potentially be fertile ground for candidates to stress their point(s) of difference. Surprisingly, there was near-universal agreement between all, save for some minor nuance. In some cases, this left many questioners and audience members unsatisfied.
Moderator Francine Rodger began by explaining the ground rules, after which those candidates who were unopposed (Highway Superintendent Roger Crandall and Town Clerk Florence Sickels) made short statements.
Two Town Justice candidates, Steve Gottman (R, I) and Ellwood Sloat, Jr. (C) made statements to the audience. Because of judicial decorum, the two candidates did not engage each other or take questions from the audience.
Gottman’s background includes 15 years as an attorney and is the president of the Malta Business and Professional Association. Sloat’s background is in law enforcement, reaching the rank of major for the New York State Police Department before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60.
Complete biographies, links of websites and other information on every candidate can be accessed at the LWV website. Visit www.LWVsaratoga.org.
The three candidates for town council (two of which will be elected) are incumbents John Hartzell and Maggi Ruisi (both R, C, I) and Carol Henry (D). The two candidates for the town/county supervisor seat are incumbent Paul Sausville (R, I) and challenger Cynthia Young (D, WF).
As noted above, Ellwood Sloat, Jr. is a town justice candidate. Yet, it his capacity of long-time town resident (‘Woody’ Sloat) he felt compelled to ask both the town council and supervisor candidates what their position was to stimulate retail occupancy at the Ellsworth Commons complex (an issue that he as town justice would not be ruling on incidentally).
While Ruisi did express optimism about the recent prospects for a yogurt shop and doctor’s office, she and the other candidates, while saying that the town’s role is to be supportive, believed that it was the developer’s obligation to fill vacancies. None of them put forth any concrete ideas.
These responses did not please Sloat at all. “We have a healthy and vibrant town, but unfortunately Ellsworth Commons is an eyesore reminiscent of a ghost town,” he said. “This unsightly condition should not be ignored as it doesn't represent the true vitality of Malta.”
“I feel economic development does fall within the responsibilities of the town supervisor and town council,” Sloat continued. “The questions I posed to these candidates regarding plans to correct this situation were answered without any substance. It left me with a feeling that this situation was not a priority.”
Another issue of concern among questioners was the Round Lake corridor and the possibility that roundabouts would be part of a traffic solution. The candidates for town council acknowledged that the concerns of residents should be taken into account. Hartzell said that he was continuing to ask hard questions about the subject before deciding; Ruisi said she stood behind the original engineering study on traffic safety. She was awaiting the results of a more detailed study and reminded the audience that the roundabouts contemplated were smaller than the double lane ones that are on routes 9 and 67. Henry said she was keeping an open mind and that driver education and traffic safety were important considerations to balance against Round Lake residents’ concerns.
This did not come close to satisfying Murray Eitzmann, who lives on Round Lake Road.
“I’m afraid that the primary concern will be to provide the quickest access to the Northway without delay.” Eitzmann said. “Round Lake is a thriving hamlet. This area and around exit 11 have residences, senior housing, an elementary school and a great mix of thriving businesses. Why would they even think of anything that might compromise this?”
“A petition of almost 300 citizen signatures was submitted to the town board that opposed the roundabouts.” Eitzmann stated. “The candidate that takes a courageous stand against some engineer’s Cadillac solution is whom I’m voting for. I’m not sure I saw that person tonight.”
Indeed, the Malta candidate forum deserves high marks for the civility all candidates showed towards each other. But afterwards many in the audience were heard to express surprise that the candidates, particularly challengers, did not go to any length to lay out bold distinctions between themselves and their opponents. It remains to be seen if these points of difference emerge between now and November 5.