On Thursdays, ex-Brooklynite Suko brings you insider tips from her corner of upstate: the town of Northeast and its environs, in Dutchess County. Today: hiking, and dining, in Pine Plains.
Taking advantage of this snowless, warm winter, I recently went for a hike in Pine Plains. The Nature Conservancy has great hikes at the Thompson Pond Preserve, a flat, roughly four-mile loop and a steep 1.25-mile hike to the top of Stissing Mountain, where you can also climb the fire tower and have a 360-degree view of the valley below.
After the hike I was surprised to find the local café has undergone new ownership and has a new name. No longer the Mountain Cow, The Pine Plains Platter (2987 Church Street, Pine Plains, 518-398-0500) is familiar yet a little different. Flooded with sunshine on a brisk Sunday afternoon, it’s an exceptionally pleasant place for lunch and conversation.
Partnered with the folks at Black Sheep Hill farm, the meats and dairy are locally sourced. A breakfast burrito with crispy home fries goes for under $6, and they have a selection of sides to stay or for take out. I admit to being a bit neurotic about my locavore and meat-eating habits. I’m about 80-90% vegetarian for environmental, ethical and health reasons, and generally only eat meat from farmers I know, so it’s wonderful to have affordable, tasty options in a local cafe.
Hudson Valley agriculture is still a long way from regional food sovereignty, so I understand the global seasonality of my veggie side dish, buttery brussels sprouts, cauliflower and asparagus. If it’s coming from California and Mexico, does the seasonality matter? But as a gardener/farmer who rarely cooks out of season or HV farms, I have to note the mix.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that only makes sense to cultivate outdoors. Its season is short, three to four weeks, and falls in May. I’ve heard of farmers in the area getting a jump on the season as result of heating the soil with a flame weeder, but it’s one of those foods that is abundant when available, and that’s it.
Brussels sprouts take 120 days to reach maturity, so if they’ve made it though all the challenges of the growing season, drought, flooding, hail, deer, you can be lucky and harvest well past the first hard frost and maybe into the solstice. Cauliflower could easily pair with brussels sprouts. It prefers the cooler weather, so you can usually get an early summer and then again a late fall crop.