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Is there an Upper Delaware Cuisine?

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If you are lucky enough to live or visit the Upper Delaware Valley, you are in the heartland of some of the best culinary delights in the Northeast. Local farm bounty affords the opportunity to taste a wide variety of goods, produce, seasonal vegetables, poultry, meats, dairy and local fresh trout. The labors of the local farmers, on both sides of the river, can be found in local stores, farmers’ markets and the many fine restaurants that are throughout our area. The farm-to-table cuisine is seeing a renaissance of cultural reawakening of the importance of freshly sourced foods, and the Upper Delaware has become a center for the use of locally grown organic produce that can be whisked to the table for ultra-fresh and fabulous meals.

Willow Wisp Organic Farm in Damascus, PA is one such certified organic source. They grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers tended with care. I spoke with Tannis Kowalchuk, who along with her husband Greg Swartz run the farm, about preparing a farm lunch that would represent local cuisine. Her suggestion had my mouth watering; she would start with an appetizer of sun choke soup using the Jerusalem artichoke.

bowl of peaches up close

This root is a species of sunflower that is native to North America that grows wild and is cultivated on Willow Wisp Farm. The root reminds me of a ginger root in appearance. The taste is similar to a potato, with a more earthy and nutty flavor. They are rich in fiber, low in calories and a great source of magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium—just what the bones will need to get us through these cold nights ahead. These are best pureed in a blender, and the skins are edible; just give them a good wash. A quick search on the internet yields many recipes, but the one I liked had everything in my kitchen. The recipe is fairly easy and the taste is amazing.

Henning Nordanger of Henning’s Local in Cochecton, NY would add a pan-seared Beaverkill trout served with soy beurre blanc and roasted potatoes to this lunch. For this tasty treat, you will have to visit his restaurant. Nordanger is a Norwegian chef whose dishes are inspired by the best that our local farms have to offer. He prides his relationships with regional farms, bakeries and wineries for his ability to showcase his love for good, honest food. Henning’s Local has received rave reviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, Hudson Valley Magazine and Escape Brooklyn among others. Embracing the farm-to-table philosophy has been a cornerstone of Henning Local’s success. When discussing it with Nordanger, he told me, “This region is all about eating local and sharing the bounty of the Catskills and Poconos.” Other local restaurants that have benefited from his expertise in formulating menus are the Western Hotel in Callicoon, NY and the Cochecton Fire Station in Cochecton.

“This region is all about eating local and sharing the bounty of the Catskills and Poconos.”

There are many farmers’ markets in our area; some, like the Callicoon market, will run into December. These markets are a great source for foods that you may not find on the grocery shelf. I look for one in particular and that is the French breakfast radish. This radish is known for its vibrant fuchsia-red to bright white tip that have a mildly spicy flavor. Roasting them will bring out the subtly sweet and nutty flavor. The top greens are edible and a nice addition to any salad. After roasting this radish, I slice it and top my salads with it while it’s warm.

Chefs are always trying something new, so be sure to ask for specials of the day when you do venture out. There are many fine establishments throughout the area and one we have tried recently is Tavern on Main in Jeffersonville, NY. Don’t let the word “tavern” fool you, the dining room is very nicely decorated and reminds me of a bygone era of gas lamps and lace—very comfortable. Chef John Nichols serves up features based on seasonal availability from the best of what Sullivan County has to offer. The main dishes we tried were the Vietnamese fish tacos with marinated cod and his Southern buttermilk fried chicken. The portions topped the plates and we left very satisfied. The buttermilk chicken reminded me of my grandmother’s, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy. Save room for dessert, since the sample tray of offerings cannot be passed up. Tavern on Main has received many great reviews on places like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook. In general, I would always recommend looking at the reviews before you go, but also letting your own good judgment be your guide.

As the winter season approaches along with the cabin fever we all suffer from, get out and try something familiar or something new in the culinary world that we are lucky to have in our back yard. I am sure it will be worth the trip.

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