Author Archive | Brigid Dorsey

Dirt Cheap?

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Left to right: Bob Bernstein; 60 acres of Reality

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Left to right: Marbury and Steph preparing for market; everything old is used, not just Bob.

From the beginning there has been a sense of “If you build it, they will come” around the Copake Agricultural Center. Two hundred acres of prime farmland now home to five young farmers, housing, barns and a greenhouse, all on the flats of Copake— where a few years ago a housing development had been proposed but roundly rejected by the town.

It all came together in less than two years; 18 proposals from throughout the Northeast were winnowed down to yield three new farms.

Yet the process was by no means easy, or clearly destined for success. At one meeting of investors this year most of the questions had been spinning around where things could go wrong. Then a question from Ed Herrington, owner of Herrington’s Lumber, shifted the focus from fearing the negative to expecting the positive.

“But what if it works?” he asked simply, and for Director Bob Bernstein, the question cut through the background noise and dispelled any lingering doubts.

Copake is a hamlet ready for new life. Over the past few decades, economic downturns and a series of arsons changed the face, if not the heart, of this once-thriving farm and summer community.… Read the rest

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Old World Gem with a New World Heart

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Introduction By Brigid Dorsey

Virtually everything is made on premises, including stocks, breads and pastries; he grows herbs and edible flowers along the patio, in use well into the mild autumn this year.

At the Swiss Hutte in Hillsdale, Chef Gert Alper has been crafting traditional European meals with a distinctive fresh American flair for over 25 years. His wife, Cindy, runs the front of the house and together they also manage the four-season inn, overlooking Catamount Mountain.

Gert trained at the Hotel School Montana in Luzern (Lucerne). After stints in Wallingford, UK; and in Zurich, an ad for the Hopkins Inn in the Litchfield hills caught his eye, and he has never looked back. He met Cindy, a registered nurse, while at the Arch in Brewster, New York. By his 30th birthday they were closing on the Swiss Hutte.

We visited at peak foliage and the view from the dining rooms and bar was extraordinary. Soon there will be snow and skiers to watch while having a drink and raclette at the bar next to the fire.

Gert’s training is apparent in his high standards and attention to detail throughout. Virtually everything is made on premises, including stocks, breads and pastries; he grows herbs and edible flowers along the patio, in use well into the mild autumn this year.… Read the rest

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I’M A WORKING DOG

The Maremmas of Stonehedge Farm

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Sophie

On a bright early summer morning at one of the lower barns of Lila Berle’s Stonehedge Farm in Great Barrington, the day was well under way. After a few weeks of nonstop haying in between the record rains of June, there was a little time for a break from chores.

Lila and her Standard Poodle, Butter, greeted a visitor in the barnyard while ducks, geese and ducklings, adopted by the geese when their mother was killed by a raven, ambled about. Butter bounded into the cab of a truck, where four large stainless-steel dishes containing kibble, some wet food and hard-cooked eggs (from Lila’s hens) were perched on the dash and seats.

“Let’s take a ride to meet the dogs.”

The dogs are Maremmas, an Italian breed of working sheep dogs thought to be 2,000 years old, which guard and live year-round with the sheep Lila has become so well known for. Her lamb is supplied to Dan Smith, a pioneer of Berkshires farm-to-table, at his restaurant John Andrews, and now also to Brian Alberg at the Red Lion Inn. For nearly 30 years she’s bred and raised her own breed of sheep, with flocks grazing on 400 acres, some of the most picturesque land in the Berkshires.… Read the rest

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TRIPPING OUT FOR A DAY: HILLSDALE

The little hamlet that could

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Tucked in at the crossroads of Routes 22 and 23 just a few miles west of the Massachusetts border, the hamlet of Hillsdale, New York, has at times seemed a small town that time forgot, a place you might hardly notice on your way to the Berkshires. But that is changing fast. If you haven’t seen Hillsdale in awhile, you might want to plan a visit.

Established in 1788, the hamlet is now a National Register Historic District, a designation that allows significant tax breaks for restoration of both residential and commercial buildings, and it is beginning to show. Anchored by longtime stores Herrington’s, IGA and Taconic Valley Lawn and Garden, which are all family owned, new businesses are finding niches along Route 23 and down Anthony St.

The heart of hamlet change at present is in the semicircle of buildings known as Village Square Plaza, around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument island where the year-round Christmas tree also stands at the corner of Anthony Street and Route 23.

In 2009 Ken Davis and Kevin Draves opened their “lifestyle boutique,” Passiflora, where you can find everything from Lampes Bergers and reclaimed furniture to an adorable baby shower gift or birthday card, including cards with Ken’s photographs from around the globe.… Read the rest

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Let Them Eat Gluten-Free Cake!

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Cookies and Muffins photos courtesy of Irving Farm

For those who by choice or necessity must avoid gluten (a protein found in some forms of wheat, rye and barley) in their diet, life without bread, cookies and cake can seem pretty sad. Often it seems that gluten-free options are not worth the effort of eating. But increasingly, with some care and attention, gluten-free baked goods are achieving results to challenge their gluten-containing cousins. Recently I went on a mission to find a few good local sources.

First stop was the charming Irving Farm Coffee House on Main Street in Millerton. Their excellent coffee is roasted just down the road, but I was there for a retake of the gluten-free peanut butter cookies, which I’d happened on by chance one day before a matinee next door at the Millerton Moviehouse. I was struck by how delicious (read, gluten-like!) they were—often, gluten-free cookies and pastries can have a sandy or cardboard texture or have an aftertaste from the gum or gums (usually xanthan) used with the flour to give structure in the absence of gluten’s protein.

Baker Stephanie Caul told me that after training at the Cordon Bleu in Boston she began trying gluten-free baking just from a general interest in healthy eating.… Read the rest

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