Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Store Hours:

Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 10AM to 5PM

Sunday from 10AM to 3PM

This weekend: Shop local, shop the Catskills

Above: The Hudson Valley Hullabaloo features indie crafters and makers selling their wares in Kingston. One of the many vendors that will be there this weekend is Wishbone Letterpress, which is run by the Hullabaloo's founder and co-organizer Danielle Bliss and her husband Joe Venditti. They make snazzy cards like the one you see above. Photo via the Hullabaloo blog. 

Giving gifts to loved ones is great fun. Getting those gifts is great fun too, when you stay clear of the mass markets and head instead to the local merchants and makers. Supporting those folks makes our communities better all year long.

Here, then, is the first installment of our Catskills holiday season shopping guide to where and when you’ll find the good fresh local stuff among smiling faces. We'll be posting each week with events to check out around the region. Want even more things to do? Check out our ever-updating Catskills events calendar  Read more

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to all our Friends and Neighbors

Holiday Store Hours Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10AM to 5PM

Sunday 10AM to 3PM

Closed Tueday and Wednesday

Number of reservoir boaters grows; majority are locals

Above: A paddler heads down to the shore of the Pepacton Reservoir during the 2014 boating season. Photo via the NYC DEP's Flickr page. 

In the three years since the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) opened four of its upstate reservoirs to recreational boating, the number of people taking advantage of the program has steadily grown.

On Nov. 13, the DEP released its statistics for the 2014 season, which lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with the announcement that visits to the Pepacton, Neversink, Schoharie and Cannonsville Reservoirs have hit a new all-time high of 1,182. 

In 2013, the total number of visits to all reservoirs was 1,074. That's a 10 percent rise, which is better than the average stock market return.  Read more

This Weekend: WaterMusic

Above: Michael Pinciotti's neon water installation. Pinciotti is one of 18 artists featuring work in the Catskill Art Society's "River and Biota" exhibit, which has its final weekend on Nov. 15 and 16.

Water is an ever-present fact of life in the Catskills--especially in the small towns that have seen frequent flooding in the last few decades.

It's also an ever-renewing source of inspiration for artists and musicians, from 18th-century German composer George Frideric Handel to local artists like painter Kathe Frantz and composer Andrew Waggoner, the artistic co-director of the Jeffersonville based Weekend of Chamber Music.

On Nov. 15, the Catskill Art Society is hosting a multi-media arts event featuring music, video, and art installations, all inspired by water.

Left: Weekend of Chamber Music's Andrew Waggoner. Photo by Tom Bushey.

It's the last weekend of the gallery's "River and Biota" exhibit, curated by Naomi Teppich and featuring water-inspired works by 18 local artists, including Michael Pinciotti (above), and Kathe Frantz (below).   Read more

A Catskills rhapsody: "To Be Forever Wild"

David Becker released "To Be Forever Wild," a documentary film about the Catskills, in the summer of 2014. The project has been four years in the making—we interviewed Becker back in 2012 about his plans for the film, which was shot and edited collaboratively with the help of a large crew of volunteers. This fall, Jenna Scherer, our arts correspondent, got to watch the finished product. Here's her review. - Ed. 

The Catskill Mountains are hundreds of millions of years old, formed by eons of sedimentary accumulation, continental collision, glacial erosion and deforestation. But for every new generation that claps eyes on the region, it’s something brand new.

That sense of novelty and aw-shucks wonder is the engine that fuels "To Be Forever Wild," filmmaker David Becker’s new documentary about the Catskills and the way they make people feel.

Left: Director David Becker, photographed at Dibble's Quarry in the Catskill Mountains.

The film covers 12 days in the lives of Becker his crew, a group of young artists, filmmakers and musicians—mostly from New York City—as they head north to do the mountain thing. Along the way, they rub elbows with knowledgeable locals versed in everything from geology to fly-fishing—and, of course, Sullivan County homeowner and movie star Mark Ruffalo.

As a director, Becker goes out of his way to capture a sense of motion and life, taking the camera on cliff jumps off the edge of waterfalls, on zip-line rides through the tree canopy, and careening down scenic sunlit highways.

The in-between moments in this movie are about the crew finding creative inspiration in their surroundings: folky jam sessions around a campfire, sketches at Artist Rock in Greene County, and antique-camera photos of swimmin’ holes.

This can all feel a little precious at times, but fortunately, that’s not the meat and potatoes of the film. That would be Becker’s motley mix of interview subjects, who all get jazzed about the Catskills in different ways.

Among them are natural historian Michael Kudish, who leads the film crew into the woods as he cores a bog; Ellen Kalish of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, who rehabilitates injured owls and hawks; and Lama Karma, a monk from Woodstock’s Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery, who emigrated to the region from Tibet. The diversity of perspectives gives you an appreciation of just how many different ways there are to look at a place like this.

Becker's muse is 19th-century naturalist John Burroughs, the Catskills’ own famous essayist and conservationist. But "Forever Wild’s" spirit is closer to that of a group of little kids who appear early in the film, waxing rhapsodic about sticks.

  Read more

Friendly neighborhood cider-man: Hard cider in the Catskills

Above: Bottles of Yankee Folly Cider at the cidery in New Paltz. Photo by Tom Smith.

Hudson Valley Cider Week begins on Friday, Nov. 14 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014.

Hard cider is the fastest-growing beverage in the alcohol industry—and it’s right at home in upstate New York, a region that’s home to dozens of orchards. A new group of cider makers are taking the trend and giving it a regional twist, using high-quality local produce and employing that famous Catskills tenacity.

Hudson Valley Cider Week, which begins on Friday, is the perfect time to try local cider. Tastings and events are being held from Yonkers to Albany, with fifteen regional cider makers participating.

The pomaceous bounty of the Catskills has converted more than one maker of beer or wine into a preacher of the cider gospel. Edmund Tomaselli, who runs the Yankee Folly Cidery (69 Yankee Folly Rd., New Paltz, 845-255-1155, yankeefollycidery.com), comes from an Italian winemaking family who turned to cider after landing in Woodstock.

Left: Tomaselli in his New Paltz cidery. Photo by Tom Smith.  

When Tomaselli came back to upstate New York as an adult, he hoped to restart the tradition. He didn’t exactly have a family recipe for reference—he joked that his parents “threw apple juice in a keg” and hoped for the best—but he did recall one piece of advice from his father: “He told me the best apples come from Jenkins-Lueken Orchard.”

Not only was the orchard’s owner, Eric James, happy to provide fresh-pressed juice for Tomaselli’s cider; he also offered Tomaselli the use of a former storage shed on the edge of the orchard in the Ulster County town of New Paltz.

Eager to expand his operation, Tomaselli transformed the space into a commercially outfitted cidery, and a partnership was born. The result: a refreshing, European-style (meaning still, not sparkling) cider that’s been steadily gaining fans across the region.

Right: Tomaselli's Yankee Folly Cider photographed in the orchard. Photo via Edmund Tomaselli.

A similar story comes out of the nearby Kettleborough Cider House (277 State Rte. 208, New Paltz, 845-419-3774, kettleboroughciderhouse.com). Founder Tim Dressel spent his childhood on his family’s apple farm before attending college at Cornell University. While there, he took a summer job at a Finger Lakes winery and studied viticulture (grapes) and oenology (winemaking). After college, he returned to the farm, where he was able to put his new knowledge to use.

“Since I already had a steady supply of apples, the adjustment from wine to cider seemed natural,” Dressel said. He soon began planting cider apples, and the rest was history.

According to Andy Brennan, owner of Aaron Burr Cidery (Wurtsboro, 845-468-5867, aaronburrcider.com), high levels of acid and tannins (which produce juice that ages better) distinguish cider apples from everyday apples. Brennan got his start making beer, but gave apples a try after moving to rural Wurtsboro in Sullivan County. The push to go pro came from the economic downturn; after losing his job, Brennan turned his focus to full-time cider production.

Patti Wilcox and Casey Vitti, who run Gravity Ciders (44 West St., Suite 8, Walton, gravityciders.com) in the Delaware County town of Walton, also cite economic factors as inspiring their start in the industry.

“This business fit a lot of personal goals we held, including creating a product that could be made in this somewhat impoverished region and exported to surrounding areas, bringing new income to the whole community,” said Wilcox.

Wilcox and Vitti make a series of ciders they call Awestruck, which come in three flavors: eastern dry, hibiscus ginger and lavender hops. 

Below: Three flavors of Awestruck Ciders. Used with permission.

It’s not easy work. On top of production and bottling, cider makers must become jacks-of-all-trades, handling sales, marketing, distribution, local events and bureaucratic red tape.

“Some days I'm in the trees, some days I'm in the cave [the cidery], and some days I'm at the market,” said Brennan.

Wilcox says that the “less than glamorous” parts of the job—namely cleaning bottles and equipment—are a constant. Many cider makers work seven days a week, and there’s no seasonal break as there is in other agricultural work.

“The harvest is only the midway point,” said Brennan.

But the industry isn’t without its perks. For Wilcox, seeing the Catskills community step up to support the product is the most exciting part.

“These are people who don’t know us and have no reason to help us out,” she said. “But they’re trying our product, they’re liking it, and they’re saying, ‘We’ll do it, we’ll put it on our shelves.’”

As for Dressel, he gets the most satisfaction from the scientific aspects of the work.

“From planting and growing an apple tree to the fermentation process, it’s a fascinating endeavor,” he said.

Brennan feels that the work connects him to nature, likening it to a kind of spiritual fulfillment that can’t easily be sacrificed for higher profits.

“There’s a lot of love in each 750-milliliter container,” said Wilcox, and the others echo her sentiment.

“It’s not a job,” said Brennan. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Hudson Valley Cider Week. Nov. 14 to Nov. 23. Many Catskills restaurants are getting into the cider spirit: Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville is hosting a cider and cheese tasting on Sunday, Nov. 16, and the Andes Hotel in Andes is offering four-course meal paired with local cider on Saturday, Nov. 22. For a full list of cider week events, go to ciderweekhv.com.

An edited version of this article appears in the print version of the 2015 Catskills Food Guide, our annual publication covering food and farms in the Catskills. The Catskills Food Guide is distributed across the Catskills region and at select locations in the NYC metropolitan area. Find a copy near you here. 

  Read more

The big gamble: Casino decision looms for Catskills

An artist's rendering of the Montreign Resort Casino, which a developer wants to build in the Sullivan County town of Thompson. Source: montreign.com.

The prize casino developers have been vying for all year is almost at hand. The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board is scheduled to announce plans to build up to four casino resorts across the state--with two possibly slated for development in the Catskills--later this month. 

But the economic impact of casino resorts may not be as big as developers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo hope.

In an article on Thursday, Nov. 6, the New York Times tells how a casino resort built in the Poconos in 2006 has failed to live up the promises of developers and elected officials. The hope was that the casino would revive the economy of the whole region, a Pennsylvania mountain resort area that thrived in the mid-20th century.

The NYT reporters reviewed Mount Airy Casino Resort's earnings and talked to locals about whether they're seeing more customers since its opening.   Read more

Catskill Watershed Corporation bristles at Eldridge over comments

Former congressional hopeful Sean Eldridge has drawn the ire of the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) with his comments about economic development in the New York City watershed.

Eldridge, a Democrat, lost the race for New York State's 19th Congressional District to Republican incumbent Chris Gibson on Nov. 4. 

Before the election, Eldridge gave an interview to the Watershed Post where he discussed the importance of lending money to small businesses in the Catskills.  Read more

Gibson leads by large margins; Eldridge concedes

Republican Congressman Chris Gibson kept his seat in New York's 19th Congressional District with large leads over Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge on Tuesday, Nov. 4. 

In a statement emailed to the press at 10:42 p.m. on election night, Eldridge conceded the race to Gibson, saying that he was "proud of the issues we focused on in this race."

Gibson had a hefty lead over Eldridge in early election results: at 10:30 p.m., with fewer than half of the precincts in the 19th District reporting, Gibson had 62 percent of the vote overall, while Eldridge had 35 percent.

In the Catskills counties that reported unofficial results before 11 p.m., Gibson won by even larger margins: 61 precent of the vote in Sullivan County, 74 percent in Greene County, and 79 percent in Schoharie County.

Gibson emailed a victory statement at 11:01 p.m., thanking voters and citing broad support for his campaign "across party lines." Gibson said that his first act will be to shepherd a Lyme Disease bill into law. 

Here are the statements from the two candidates in full:   Read more

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