© Ben Hoffmann
Manhattanites turned gentlemen farmers.
I’ve recently put together my summer reading list to keep me occupied when the waves are flat this summer at the beach. This past weekend I finished The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers.
The witty new memoir from Josh Kilmer-Purcell tells the story of how he and partner Brent Ridge unexpectedly found themselves reviving the dormant Beekman farm
in Sharon Springs, NY. They channel Martha Stewart (Brent was vice president at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) as they make a go at goat-herding, heirloom vegetable gardening and even soap-making. At the beginning, the author cautions that the book isn’t about living your dream: “It will not inspire you. You will not be emboldened to attempt anything more than making a fresh pot of coffee.” But after reading the ups (perfectly ripe Cherokee Purple tomatoes) and downs (dealing with a truck full of stinky, sick baby goats or a tree of dead sparrows) of farm life I was ready to move to the country and start homesteading.
About a month ago I went to a Sonoma County
event and came away with a rare treat: some Black Pig Meat Co.
bacon. The company, founded by Sonoma chefs Duskie Estes
and John Stewart
of Zazu and Bovolo, makes a mean bacon. They dry-cure heritage-breed, hormone-free pigs for up to three weeks, then finish them off with applewood smoke. The country has long been nuts for swine, using it in everything from cocktails to chocolate
, but for me, the only way I was going to eat this bacon was in a BLT. I froze my stash in anticipation of summer tomatoes at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market
in Brooklyn, and this weekend I was rewarded: I only needed two of the thick-cut slices and the thinnest sliver of tomato to make the perfect sandwich. It'll be hard to get me to stray from this classic combo, but these F&W variations on the BLT
have definitely caught my eye.
Full disclosure: We didn't totally rough it
while in Yosemite
(left). Although we spent our nights on the valley floor in the $5-a-night backpacker's camp
, we also ate our first meal in the Ahwahnee
Dining Room, the park's best restaurant. Normally I would steer clear of a place like this: diners reserve tables weeks in advance, seemingly for the dramatic dining room steeped in California lore, leaving no real need for the chef to put out great food. But the Ahwahnee was much better than it had any right to be, even if the dress code
meant I had to change from hiking boots to high heels in the lobby. The service was friendly and efficient, and the food was tasty: my Arctic char was flaky and perfectly seasoned, while my husband's venison was tender and paired well with cranberries and späetzle. The homey chocolate fudge–pecan pie was an indulgent, messy-in-a-good-way dessert—I'm not at all surprised they've kept the same recipe for decades.
© Donna Da Vine
Brooklyn's Donna Da Vine wine shop.
I have a “work hard, eat well” mentality. I’ll run 12 miles or bike two hours, and rather than refuel with a protein shake, I’ll go someplace like ’Fatty Cue and feast on pork spareribs and ’cue coriander bacon. So I was curious when friends invited me to a workout-and-wine-tasting event last week at Donna Da Vine wine shop in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Personal trainer Leanne Shear meets a group at Cadman Plaza Park and conducts a 45-minute workout with running and some strength training. Afterward, the group goes back to Donna Da Vine for a wine tasting. The first session was such a hit that there are plans to start holding a Bootcamp and Beer version when Donna Da Vine opens its sister shop, highlighting local beers and cheeses, next month.
The one drawback to back-country camping is that you have to carry all of your food with you. Last week I did it in Yosemite
, which added another layer of meal-planning complication: everything had to fit into a smallish bear-proof canister
. Many people rely on the ease of chalky freeze-dried foods
for these trips, but I wasn't willing to go there. I wanted flavor and nourishment, so we packed energy-rich foods that wouldn't take up a lot of space (think tortillas, not bread) and were able to make it work. Breakfast was scrambled eggs (left), oatmeal with homemade granola
and tea. Lunch was cheese, salami and dried mangoes. But the dinners were the best part. Spanish chorizo added a spicy bite to our rice and beans
one night; another time, we dropped homemade jerky
into a corn-and-potato stew. Dessert was Italian chocolate with hazelnuts. Great fuel for days spent on the trail.
If I had car-camped, these recipes
would've been at the top of my list.
For more on enjoying the great outdoors, here's travel editor Jen Murphy's guide to going luxe (or rustic) in some of our National Parks.