Hudson Valley Weekend
Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market
Hudson Valley Foie Gras Farm Ferndale, NY
Geese eggs at the Rhinebeck Indoor Farmer’s Market
I can’t complain. I’m living the life here as a foodie in the Hudson Valley. This past weekend, like every weekend at the Culinary, is food-centric. Friday after class, some friends and I high-tailed it to Ferndale, NY, a non-discript town South of the CIA. We went to the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm for an inside look at the highly controversial commodity: foie gras.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras is the largest supplier of foie in the country and for good reason – they are an entirely transparent farm meaning they expose their farming methods and procedures to the public. You don’t have to be Anthony Bourdain to get an inside look at what goes on at HVFG!
The nine day old baby ducks…. HVFG determined that a cross between a Moulard duck and Peking duck produces the best quality foie. The ducks are raised in a cage free environment until they are about 10 weeks old. Then they move to pens where they live in groups of ten.
They all flocked to the far corner when we stepped inside the room.
A sea of ducks!
Gavage, the force feeding of ducks/geese to produce and enlarged liver, is the reason why foie gras is highly controversial. The state of California has recently outlawed the production and sale of foie. Many people, including myself prior to my visit at HVFG, believe it to be animal cruelty. While the majority of foie producers use tradition gavage practices deemed harmful, HVFG uses hand feeders. To understand that this process is not nearly as horrifying as people believe it to be you have to understand the anatomy of ducks. They do not have a gag reflex and they can breath through their tongue – therefore feeding them through a tube is much less traumatic than we believe it to be. While I was at HVFG I had the opportunity to watch several ducks being hand fed. None of them appeared to be in pain or flocking to get away from the feeder. Our tour guide related the duck’s experience to Thanksgiving dinner. After their belly’s are full they are happy and just want to fall asleep.
Reputable Chefs and restaurants are constantly walking through the doors of HVFG.
Although we learn about and work with a variety of products at the CIA, like HV foie gras, it is rare that we are able to visually experience the entire process from farm to table. After an extremely informative and insightful tour of HVFG, I have to admit that I have an entirely different outlook on foie. I truly believe that if everyone had the opportunity to visit HVFG and see the compassion with which they treat their ducks, we would have an entirely different perspective about foie gras. Part of feeling good about what you’re eating is understanding where your food comes from. We need to be more concerned with the large scale factory farms using inhumane practices rather than the independent farms focused on ethical treatment of animals and sustainability.
Even though I felt good about what I witnessed at HVFG, the experience was still raw in my mind. I instinctively reverted back to my vegetarian ways for dinner and well the remainder of the weekend. Going from holding a nine day old duckling to holding a cryo-vac package of foie within an hour is just about as farm to table as it gets. However, the experience at HVFG gave me such a greater appreciation for my food – I believe it is something everyone should do at some point in time.
On our way back from HVFG we stopped at a restaurant in New Paltz, called A Tavola. They gave us fresh bread and fruity olive oil to start.
I got their nightly special: Fritto Misto to start. Fried chickpeas, shrimp and squid with a lemon aioli. We all shared our appetizers….I tried also tried their roast beet salad, saltimbocca and a baked egg on top of creamy polenta and mushrooms.
I’m not sure if it was our hungry enthusiasm or chef whites when we first walked in but the kitchen sent out a complimentary plate of grilled octopus and chickpea salad (culinary school perks!). It is not something that I would normally order on a menu, however, the octopus was incredibly tender and flavorful. I would definitely recommend it for a starter.
I really enjoyed my main entree: squash ravioli with browned butter, blood oranges, watercress and a pungent balsamic reduction. It was the perfect sized portion after indulging in lots of appetizers. It left just enough room for my favorite dessert…
…gelato affogato: salted caramel gelato made in house served with a piping hot shot of espresso and crumbled amaretti cookies. Yum! The perfect end to my dinner.
Saturday I spent catching up on life itself – sleeping, washing whites, grocery shopping and all the other fun stuff I put off all week long. I don’t realize how constant I am all weeklong until I wake up via panic attack Saturday morning because it’s later than 5:00 AM.
Saturday afternoon my friend and I had lunch at our favorite Italian deli, Rossi’s, near school. I must say their sandwiches are out of this world. It’s a sandwich you look forward to all week long. All of their bread is made in house, their mozzarella couldn’t be fresher and their deli meats are sliced to order – let me tell you it makes all the difference. There is a reason the line is constantly out the door! My favorite sandwich is simple: mozzarella, tomato, basil, grilled eggplant, pesto and agrodolce (a thick balsamic reduction) on fresh focaccia.
I realized recently that my afternoon coffee splurges were racking up ….I needed to either cut back on my coffee runs or get a little more creative. Let just say there is no chance i’m cutting coffee out of my day…I decided to use up the half-opened bags of coffee grounds in my room and make a batch of iced coffee.
For an easy ratio you can used 1 G of water to 1/2 # of ground coffee. Since I typically use a Keurig for coffee I boiled water in my microwave and poured the hot water over a sieve and coffee filter to make a larger quantity at once. (For more specifics on making a strong batch of ice coffee click here.)
One of my new found favorite places to get coffee near school is Bad Ass Coffee. They serve Hawaiian Kona coffee…I must say these packages of Kona made a spot on replica of my favorite iced coffee at BA.
I used some of the extra coffee to make coffee ice cubes.
Indoor Farmer’s Market in Rhinebeck!
During the winter the Rhinebeck farmer’s market moves inside of the town hall. They are open every other weekend after Thanksgiving to the beginning of May. Surprisingly last weekend was my first time going to the winter farmer’s market. There were lots of great products and vendors, but it’s just not the same compared to the outdoor market. I miss all the outdoor venders…most of all the fresh falafel sandwiches!
Root vegetables: carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi, and turnips.
I finished the morning in Rhinebeck with a late brunch with friends at where else but Bread Alone. Afterwards we stopped in an antique store in search of the perfect tasting spoons….
Thanks for reading….stay posted for an update on my Banquets and Catering course.