Everybody eats. Whether at our kitchen tables, at a fancy restaurant or out of a car cupholder on the daily commute, every meal we eat represents a choice made. As OnEarth Magazine put it in an article about the Catskills’ growing role as a “foodshed” last year: “With interest in eating high-quality local food higher than at any time since local food was the default, the Catskills are perched on the threshold of perhaps the greatest food-marketing opportunity in North America.”
What that means for Catskills residents and visitors is that we are extremely fortunate in our range of food choices that embrace and support a local economy, at a time when a quarter of every dollar spent nationally on groceries goes to Wal-Mart. We can meet the farmer who cares for the hens that lay our eggs—and we can even meet the hens. We can pick and freeze 20 gallons of blueberries in July and make muffins in January, or pay a local baker who’s done it for us, with berries, eggs and butter that never left the county. We can eat cow-to-cone gelato from an Arkville dairy farm that features fruit harvested from neighboring orchards and bean-to-bar chocolate produced in small batches by hand in Shokan. We can drink beer crafted with hops grown in nearby fields and vodka distilled from local corn.
Our restaurant options are expanding, too, both in variety of cuisines and styles and in numbers of eateries whose proprietors have figured out that tapping into the supply chains of meat, produce, cheese and other local ingredients makes a lot more sense (and tastes better) than shipping garlic from China and fruit from California. Mom-and-pop general stores that have been around for generations—and some that have just opened—create gathering places that nourish bodies and communities. A growing fleet of food trucks serving a wild assortment of goodies roams the hills. There are after-ski beer-and-burger places and white-tablecloth mother-in-law birthday places whose proprietors greet you like a long-lost friend, even if it’s the first time they’ve seen you.
It’s an interesting, exciting time for Catskills food, from all the farms to all the tables, which is why The Watershed Post team invested time, effort and money into chronicling the choices before us in our new Catskills Food Guide. Our glossy new print magazine is jam-packed full of info and available for free across the region and in New York City (find one here). The new food section of our website, launched this week, will showcase stories from the guide and, going forward, ongoing news and features about farms and restaurants, as well as offering a searchable, sortable database of local restaurants and food purveyors.