Layered Soup – more than brodo

layered soup2I make two or three soups a day at Hudson Valley Desserts in Saugerties, NY. Each is made from scratch, with the chicken or vegetable stock each recipe calls for also made from scratch. They are delicious and very popular additions to the menu, but all lack a dimension I’ve been searching for in my cooking at home. Now I’ve found it.

When cooking commercially for a crowd as I do, making two and a half gallons of soup at a time, it really has to be a one-size-fits-all proposition. At home I can just make soup by the bowl. That allows me to layer the tastes, textures and complexities of each element to build a satisfying meal in a bowl.

It all began when the weather turned cooler last fall. I started to serve just a bowl of good homemade broth for dinner one night a week. It was meant as a night of no excess; a way to keep weight down as the lower temperatures cranked up my body’s cravings for rich, heavy, caloric meals. Gradually I added a fresh vegetable or two, then some ramen noodles crept in, until it became a satisfying bowl of (conventional) soup.

Then, suddenly, broth was all the rage, with the new broth-only restaurant called Brodo (Italian for broth) opening in Manhattan, and my broth dinners were on the culinary cutting-edge. That’s when I took it to the next level.

Now each element is different. For instance, last night I heated some rich, homemade beef broth for a really spectacular soup. I began with leftover roast chicken which I fried in seasoned olive oil (called Galician Oil because of all the paprika) with onions and garlic until it was browned and just crispy. I set that to warm, uncovered, while I stir-fried a package of Fresh Farms Oriental Salad, adding the all-natural ginger salad dressing for the last toss. Meanwhile I boiled water and blanched some broccoli and some green beans. Then I put it all together.

First went the crispy chicken mixture, next to it in the bottom of the bowl went the stir-fry salad. Layered on them were the blanched vegetables. I poured hot beef broth over top to fill the bowl a little more than halfway and topped the whole pile off with the package of Asian noodles and slivered almonds that also come with the salad. That last touch adds a nutty crunch (and the only carbs) to a complex dish.

It’s all real food, healthy and balanced nutritionally, with enough different tastes, temperatures, textures and mouth-feel to satisfy any hunger. The bonus? Not only did I not gain weight over Thanksgiving and Christmas (the two biggest eating holidays of the year) but I actually lost a few pounds, and I feel great!

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Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Sunday, January 25th, 2015, at 3 p.m.

Saugerties Pro Musica presents the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Sunday, January 25th, 2015, at 3 p.m. This is their sixth exuberant appearance on our stage. The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers always play to a full house and receive rave reviews. They are middle school and senior high students from throughout the Hudson Valley who are dedicated string musicians. This year their youthful energy will help to ring in the New Year with a concert filled with smiling, foot-stomping, fiddle-playing, good family fun!

The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers are directed by Emily and Carole Schaad. Evolving since 1999, the Fiddlers are now part of Stringendo, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit community music school. Besides learning string instruments, these young students are taught how to present themselves well and please an audience. There will be some singing, some dancing and, of course, some great string music performed for your enjoyment. Please join us for the irrepressible enthusiasm these talented young string players are guaranteed to bring.

Last year's crop of Fiddlers at Jay Unger & Molly Mason's Ashokan Campus

Last year’s crop of Fiddlers at Jay Unger & Molly Mason’s Ashokan Campus

Future Saugerties Pro Musica concerts:
February 22nd – pianist Yalin Chi, Principal Keyboardist of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and Staff Pianist at West Point, who appeared to rave reviews with the West Point Band last season, will present her first solo performance on our stage.
March 29th – pianist Thomas Pandolfi, who performed two seasons ago to equally rave reviews, is also returning to our stage for a virtuoso solo performance.
April 19th – we break tradition by presenting a rare saxophone concert by Ashu, who will perform with piano accompaniment.
May 17th – Finally, to close our season, we present the very talented Hyperion Quartet to perform enough wonderful classical music to last through the summer hiatus.

We hope you’ll join us for many, or all of these fabulous offerings. These concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting – and at very affordable prices. Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue and Post Street in Saugerties.
Adults $12 and Seniors $10. Students are always free. Call 845-246-5021 or 845-679-5733 for more information, or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule:

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American Standards/Jazz SWINGTIME DUET 10/19 from Saugerties Pro Musica

With a show entitled My Blue Heaven, which is also the title of their new CD, Saugerties Pro Musica is proud to present Terry Blaine and Mark Shane in a return to their duo roots as Swingtime Duet.


My Blue Heaven pays homage to the marvelous treasure trove of music from America’s Golden Age of Swing. Together they create an irresistible duet.

Songs include My Blue Heaven, Ain’t He Sweet, Honeysuckle Rose, Melancholy Baby, and Come Up and See Me Sometime; beloved singers such as Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Annette Hanshaw, Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee and Mae West are showcased; and the great Harlem-style piano tradition born with James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Earl Hines shines on.

Jazz singer Terry Blaine has been singing virtually all her life. She has enjoyed a multi-faceted career that includes live performance, TV/radio, recordings, studio work, songwriting, production, and music therapy. She gained international attention and recognition as one of today’s finest interpreters of hot small-band swing from the 1930s. Terry’s singing is a gentle, swinging reminder of where we came from, instilled with a spirit that only genuine affection can inspire.

Mark Shane’s piano, featured in the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, adds a distinctive new voice to the tradition of hot ensemble playing. His jazz piano has also been featured on film soundtracks, including The Cotton Club, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Working Girl. Mark’s piano reflects a true sense of living jazz history, and continues the Classic Jazz Piano tradition that is one of America’s unique contributions to world culture.

Future Saugerties Pro Musica concerts include the winner of the 2014 Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition, violinist Gabriel Baeza on November 9th, pianist Thomas Pandolfi on March 29th, 2015, saxophonist Ashu on April 19th, 2015, and the Hyperion Quartet on May 17th, 2015.

Of course, the perennial favorites – Strawberry Hill Fiddlers – will return January 25th, 2015, but our traditional free concert by a West Point Ensemble has been cancelled, to be replaced this year with classical pianist Yalin Chi on February 22nd, 2015.

Tickets for all concerts are $12 for Adults, $10 for Seniors, and all Students are always free.

Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting, and at very affordable prices. Concert times are 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue and Post Street in Saugerties. Season tickets are a bargain at $50 (for 7 concerts!)

Call 845-246-5021 or 845-679-5733 for more information, or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule:

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Ferncliff Fire Tower hike is a perfect way to start the day

This is one more reason the Hudson Valley receives 4.75 billion dollars in tourism

Looking west over the Hudson River (and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge) to the Catskill Mountains

Looking west over the Hudson River (and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge) to the Catskill Mountains

every year – it is beautiful! The fire tower is just off Rt 199 in Rhinebeck, and the gentle walk in – less than a mile – is shaded and lovely. The tower is more than 220 ft high, so the 360 degree view is spectacular on a clear day.

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Wedding Bills – does having more disposable income mean gays have to throw it away?

In the past decade on the marriage front gays went from being discriminated against by denying their right to marriage, to being discriminated against and targeted by the wedding hucksters as the population with the most disposable income. Somehow the LGBT community sees the change as positive even though both are discrimination. Suddenly gay weddings are a hot market. It’s called “Follow the money.”

The same curious reverse polarity happened in the travel industry, real estate and countless other areas where gays went from being vilified as pariahs to being courted. The reason? Gays are statistically identified as being of higher income with fewer expenses than their straight, married with children counterparts. It’s all about disposable income. Gays have the money!

It follows that society’s widespread acceptance of same sex marriage has more to do with money than progressive enlightenment. Once the LGBT community was identified as a valuable demographic, capitalism changed the tide of sentiment – gays won! And, sadly, they went along with it as if the end justified the means. The latest evidence of this phenomenon is the gay wedding market.

According to Pew Research at least 71,165 same sex weddings have been performed in the US since (or in California’s case, while) they were legal. A search of gay weddings on Google returns 75,700,000 hits, or more than 1000 websites for each wedding. The average number of guests at a same sex wedding (in NYC) is 36, for now, far less than a straight wedding’s 70 guests.

All this is simply to point out that there are ways to get married to your same sex partner without falling into the trap created for straight weddings. While size may matter in the bedroom, bigger is not better in the wedding category. Right now the cost of same sex weddings in the US average $9,034 each while straight weddings hit more than $21,000. But the gap is narrowing as all those websites market bigger (read that more expensive) weddings to equality-hungry gays. Soon, the average number of guests in straight or gay weddings (and therefore the cost) will be the same unless we stop this trending insanity.

Listen up folks. Weddings don’t have to be expensive. Consider saving your money for philanthropic purposes, or just blowing it on a fantastic honeymoon. The point is, you don’t have to enrich someone else to get married. Don’t throw your disposable income away trying to keep up with the Joneses. Spend it on a lifetime commitment, not on an expensive wedding.

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Stovetop Paella to Serve Hot or Cold

I’ve been saving a recipe for Couscous Sao Paulo Style thinking someday . . .

Well, someday came last week, but before I made it I changed the recipe so much that there is nothing Brazilian or couscous about it. Hence the Paella reference – it really is what I thought about as I put it together.

OVERVIEW: The recipe started as a fish sauce and couscous mold with a few whole ingredients reserved to decorate the exterior, while the rest were chopped to make a rich sofrito that was cooked into that sauce. Instead of couscous, it for called cassava flour and corn meal. I substituted rice that I cooked in a rich lobster broth. It deepened the fish flavor and held its shape beautifully. Besides, I wasn’t sure my guests would like the texture that combination of cassava flour and corn meal implied. The whole process took about 1 ½ hours, mostly chopping and stirring, and could be served warm immediately or at room temperature later in the day. It was delicious!

1 lb white fish fillets (I used cod)
Salt & ground black pepper
1 lb medium shrimp uncooked with shell OR I used shelled and cooked shrimp and added them later in the recipe
1/2 cup vegetable oil + more as needed
2 onions chopped fine
3 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley – chop stalks fine, reserve some tops (chopped and whole) for garnish
9 oz ripe tomatoes peeled & chopped OR one 14 oz can chopped tomatoes drained (liquid reserved)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup black olives pitted & sliced as rings
1 ½ cups white rice
2 ½ cups fish stock, chicken stock or water
1 bunch green onions chopped fine
3 anchovy fillets
½ cup olive oil
3 hard boiled eggs sliced
¾ lb small multicolored mild peppers – about 15 small orange, red and yellow “shooter-sized” peppers – 10 seeded and sliced to form rings reserving the best rings (about 20) and chopping the rest. The 5 remaining get halved long ways, seeded and reserved for garnish

1. Rinse and pat dry fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Shell and clean shrimp (if using uncooked) otherwise just set aside 10 shrimp, 10 black olive rings, the eggs and the pepper rings. Chop the rest.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic and a little reserved parsley until translucent. Add the fish, uncooked shrimp, tomatoes, chopped pepper, and peas. Stir constantly until the mixture is a thick sauce. Add extra oil by the tablespoon to prevent sticking. (if using cooked chopped shrimp – add now) keep warm
3. Bring stock/water to a boil (add salt as needed) stir in rice, reduce heat and cover to just simmer for 17 minutes (rice can be cooking while you make the fish sauce)
4. Add parsley, green onions, chopped olives and anchovies to rice, mix well
5. Add rice mix to hot fish sauce, stirring thoroughly until you have a moist thick and compact mixture. Remove from heat, add the olive oil and mix well. If it seems too dry, add reserved tomato juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
6. Spray smooth sided mold (could be a bowl or a ring) liberally with PAM. Using the reserved peppers, olives, eggs and shrimp create a pattern or random arrangement on the inside of the mold, starting with just the bottom. Then carefully add a few spoonfuls of the rice/fish sauce mix and pack it in tightly. Slowly build up the sides of the mold adding mix to hold the patterned vegetables and shrimp in place. It has to be molded firmly, compacted in the mold so it will stay together when unmolded.
7. Run a knife around the inside of the mold, put a serving plate on top and turn the mold over. It should come right out. If it doesn’t, and it is too much of a mess to repair easily, reserve the decorative vegetables and shrimp, stir the rice/fish sauce mix with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and repeat step 6.
8. Garnish with reserved parsley and peppers and serve warm, or chill and remove from refrigerator ½ hour before serving – then garnish. Serves 12-16

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Chasing the Rose – a brief review

Chasing the Rose - a brief review

Chasing the (fragrant) rose
“A rose by any name smells as sweet” – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1594

When Andrea di Robilant wrote “Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside” he was continuing the chronicling of the Mocenigo estate he began in his bestseller “A Venetian Affair”, a biography of his gggg grandmother Lucia Mocenigo. It was through her journals he learned of the rosomanie (rose mania) period in Paris, France, in the early 1800s and her horticultural experiences within it. That book ended with a description of an unnamed fragrant rose as the sole legacy of his ancestor’s glorious estate.

His almost footnote reference to an unknown rose caused quite a stir in Europe’s heady garden elite that sent him on a years long journey to track down its name. Was it a long lost China rose, one thought to be extinct, or a new unknown rose? That question propelled him through exquisite gardens and the almost encyclopedic memory of top gardeners to conclude that . . . well, to tell you the conclusion would ruin the story, so let’s just say he resolved the question to his liking.

What his liking was and his pitfalls along the way are why you should read this book. That is, assuming you like old roses and the history related to them. If you don’t, you probably will by the time you finish this engaging book.

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant
Illustrated by Nina Fuga
Alfred A. Knopf
Book edition April 8, 2014
224 pages

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2014 begins with hope

And by  ‘hope’ I mean Hope Farm Press & Bookshop. My 55 yr old publishing company/book store specializing in New York State books has been getting short shrift over the last year while I spent more time cooking and pursuing my culinary travel interests than selling books. I intend to change that.

My monthly book newsletter, which I sent out faithfully for 13 years, only got emailed 3 times in 2013. My website is open 24/7. Not so my bookshop, which is supposed to be open every afternoon when I finish at the bakery, but only opened for an hour or so daily, if it opened at all.

It turns out that getting up at 4:30 a.m. to open Hudson Valley Dessert Company often left me too tired to stay awake afternoons in the bookshop. After my head hit the keyboard a few times I would close and take a nap. That was good for my overall well-being, but bad for business.

I catalogue 2500 NY-centric titles and stock approximately half of them at any given time. That is a lot of inventory to invest in when I’m not actually selling many books. Things have to change.

This time last year I reduced my hours at the bakery to have more time to devote to my book selling. Then, my assistant cook got ill, my sous chef moved on, and a series of replacements were ultimately unsatisfactory for the job, leaving me to shoulder more work and work more hours.

The end result? A venerable book shop languishes, and loyal customers wonder if I’m still in business. Well, I am! This year I propose to turn over a new leaf, buckle down and (place all the other cliches you can think of here) attend to business.

If you hear of a title you want, know of any new books coming out or just want to see what I have, please visit my website and/or contact me here:

or call 800-883-5778 afternoons. (Please leave a message if the phone doesn’t wake me.)

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

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My Examiner article on the ETC Travel Conference

The AP style 3rd person account of the travel conference examining the statistics and trends on US travel to Europe into the 2020s. It include photos of the event (including the party after) and the first word about a new travel app “visiteurope” that looks real cool!

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Rockefeller Center Loft & Garden

Rockefeller Center Loft & Garden

That’s me, drinking Prosecco “Z” like there is no tomorrow (there was!) with the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral behind me.

On May 9, 2013, I attended the first ETC (European Travel Commission) Transatlantic Conference in 3 years. It was convened in Manhattan to discuss travel trends in Europe into the 2020s. The conference was informative, with new and interesting people to meet, good food and a fabulous after party at the Rockefeller Center Loft & Garden. What an amazing place that is! Imagine being in a green oasis at the center of Manhattan. The early evening sunlight slanted through the scaffolding around the towering spires of St Patrick’s Cathedral and reflected off the skyscraper windows to cast a magical light on this rooftop Eden.
Actor Andrew McCarthy, whose latest book “The Longest Way Home” was named the New York Times Best Travel Book of 2012, regaled the ETC conference attendees with an account of the epiphany that inspired him to add travel writing to his repertoire.
It was the second time I heard Andrew McCarthy speak – he is truly inspirational – both as a writer and as a speaker. (He delivered the keynote speech at the Canadian Media Marketplace in the Waldorf a few weeks back.) I am surprised more of us weren’t in attendance. It seemed important to know what the European Marketing plan was in light of their budget slashes for PR and the cutbacks in press trips. It will help me to make better article pitches if I know what their marketing plan is – what they want to focus on. Besides, I got to spend time with some folks I haven’t seen in years (Meredith Pillon and Marzia Bortolin in particular) and meet new ones. I spoke with Andrew (he’s as nice as you think he will be) and met a content buyer representing many, many newspapers and TV stations, and the man who created the non-NY Times New York Travel Show last April. It was a very good opportunity to network, worth the 100 mile trip in from the Hudson Valley hinterlands.

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