Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gardening at Mohonk: News from the Gardens!

Gardening at Mohonk: News from the Gardens!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's been too long - but is down and I figured I'd work to gain and remember access here so I can cross post. I have video and photos on in my Everything about New York group.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 is like MySpace without the teenyboppers and sexual predators. is like being in MySpace without the teenyboppers and sexual predators. It is blogging for adults. Lately all my energies are going there. Here's a link to my website:
Check it out - join - and connect with me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Spanish Gastronomy Redux - Bilbao

On a recent visit to Bilbao, Spain, I found out that tapas, by any other name, still taste great! Where's Bilbao, you ask? Since the 1997 opening of the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao is on all the art & architecture tourism maps, but it is only recently being discovered for its food. That will change when the new harbor for cruise ships opens in March of 2006. Then Bilbao will be the immediate world's "new" destination. For now, off season, there are just surfers and a few stray "foodies" such as myself, in the heart of Basque country, on Spain's Northern coast, enjoying the best the region has to offer: good surf, great food and genial company.
Naturally, people here speak Basque, which isn't similar to Spanish, and has enough x's and z's to be Greek to me. So when I asked at the first tavern for tapas, they said pintxos (peenchos), literally meaning food on a stick. Both are bite sized snacks either on little skewers, or with a toothpick stuck in them. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually served on a crusty slice of bread. Eating them is the social equivalent of a buffet dinner party. You can eat them as appetizers, or make a meal of them while visiting with people around you. Either way, you're enjoying very good food!
Pintxos can be something as simple as olives with an anchovy filet, a fried sweet green pepper dipped in salt, or a single, translucent slice of Iberian ham in a small dinner roll, each with a toothpick holding it together. Some more complex varieties are a skewered fresh anchovy filet wrapped around squid, with tomatoes and watercress in an ink sauce, or a puff pastry "boat" stuffed with crab salad skewered with an upright shrimp "sail". These beautiful and elaborate creations aren't the "norm", but when bar-hopping for pintxos I found that the selection was only limited by the creativity of the cook. One thing for sure, all are made with the freshest local ingredients.
A typical pintxos crowd moves from bar to bar, so if you stay in one place long enough you can meet the whole community as the waves of patrons move through the neighborhood. Eventually I got caught up in the rhythm, nodding to familiar faces as I ate and drank my way around the old section of the city. The dining is so casual that one helps oneself to the lavish spread along the bar, motioning for a glass of wine or beer to wash them down. A plate is a rarity, but napkins abound, and the custom is to drop them on the floor when you're done. The best way to settle up is by counting the toothpicks. It's all done on the honor system, holding up fingers if language is a problem. When it comes to food, language is never a problem for me! Besides, the Basque are a trusting, if somewhat stern looking bunch. I found that a smile and a kind word were always returned, and what at first seemed brusque was just the natural reticence of a warm and friendly people. They love their food as much as I did, and proudly show it off.
If you are looking for a wonderful place to visit, with great regional food, this cultured, but still relatively simple city is recommended. Go soon. When Bilbao completes its transformation from the industrial center of Northern Spain to "the" world-class destination for haute cuisine, you can say, "I remember it when."
(the exchange rate during our visit was $1.17 = 1 euro) Generally tips were included, but great service could have a 5% tip, although it is not expected. Add 7% VAT to hotel & restaurant bills.
Guide Service: Guia turistico (Xabier Lexartza Argiarro)
Bilbao Tourism:
Sheraton Bilbao Hotel - off season 85 euros per night double room plus 18 euros breakfast buffet. Good food, bar and cordial service. Promised 5 star facilities and services such as a pool, and Internet access in the rooms, were not yet available at this extremely convenient location.
Guggenheim Museum 9 to 12 euros depending on exhibits. The current Richard Serra exhibit is amazing, as is the odd phenomenon that every 62 minutes the museum becomes enshrouded in a man-made fog, rising from the fountains and pools outside the building as if Penn & Teller were hired to make it disappear and appear again as the winds dissipate the mist!
Jatetxea Restaurante price fixed 53 euros (plus wine & vat)
Restaurante Etxanobe Gastronomy Menu 65 euros (plus wine & vat)
Zortziko 50 to 60 euros (plus wine & vat)
See for more photos and side trips

A little gem of an origami book

By Anita Barbour. From the author who, along with her husband Spider, wrote, ilustrated and took the photos for "Wild Flora of the Northeast", and writes a weekly a nature column for Ulster Publishing, comes her first book on the ancient art of paperfolding. Reviewed as "artful and sophisticated, appealling to all levels" and "one of the best primers ever written on origami basics and folding techniques", this collection contains over 60 original, and/or adapted designs for origami to be used for seasonal ornaments. 8.5x11 120 pages b&w drawings Paper $14.50 Order:

A famous historian's long awaited last book

Kingston, City on the Hudson
By Alf Evers. From the author of "The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock", which is the regional history by which all other regional histories are now measured, "Woodstock, History of An American Town", "In Catskill Country" and countless children's books, comes the first history of New York's original capital in over fifty years. More than ten years in the writing, this book was literally completed the day beloved historian, Alf Evers, died at the age of 99. He promised a readable history, one that will challange the complacency of readers and surprise historians with the exposure of the popularly held fallacies and misconceptions we have all come to accept as truth. Expected by early October - 6x9 640 pages 100 b&w photos & illustrations Hardcover $37.95 order: or email:

New York History Geek's ultimate reference

The Encyclopedia of New York State
Peter Eisenstadt, Editor in Chief, Laura-Eve Moss, Managing Editor. The Encyclopedia of New York State is one of the most complete works on the Empire State to be published in a half-century. In nearly 2,000 pages and 4,000 signed entries, this single volume captures the impressive complexity of New York State as a historic crossroads of people and ideas, as a cradle of abolitionism and feminism, and as an apex of modern urban, suburban, and rural life. It is a massive (HUGE!) compendium of more than everything you ever wondered about New York State. An incredible reference - thousands of entries arranged alphabetically - with hundreds of illustrations, maps and tables extensively cross-referenced and indexed. An indispensable resource for lovers of New York State. (It weighs 8 lbs. and is the size of the Manahattan phone book!) 8.5x11 2000 pages hardcover $95.00 order: or email:

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Family Reunions

Family Reunions - Where else can you actually visit with and enjoy fellow waders in your own gene pool, the people who share the same family memories and tragedies as you? It is so much better than just sitting next to each other at weddings and funerals. You get to watch the kids grow, as you create good times (and good memories) for that future generation. My reunion is the last Saturday in June every year. This year the weather was beastly hot, and the humidity had us all dripping, both from perspiration and from the pool. The food was good and the company was better. I heartily recommend it, even if you have to overcome petty jealousies and annoyances to relax and have a good time with everyone. They're your family, for goodness sake!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Year of Gastronomy in Spain

April was the month for an unexpected journey. On the 20th an old customer called with a question. She was invited to go to Spain as part of the Year of Gastronomy promotion sponsored by the Spanish Tourist Office. They wanted her for her travel writing experience, but she called me to ask if I could bring her up to speed on the food part of the trip. (Many of you don't know that I write a regular column in the local newspapers (both) - often food-related.) She happened to remember one in particular, on the Spanish dish, Paella, that opened with a steamy paragraph about harvesting the reproductive organs of the autumn crocus for the principal spice. Her (and everyone's) initial reaction was shock at the salacious writing, but I was just having fun, and pulled it off without crossing any lines or offending any sensibilities. It was a reminder that eating is a sensuous experience, and everyone enjoyed it. Here - judge for yourself ---

"Beneath a diaphanous, azure covering, there, lying naked and inviting before me, was the prettiest beauty I'd ever seen. I gently lifted what was so blue it could have been the reflection of the perfect October sky, and deftly slid my caressing hand down onto the now exposed genitals. My mind was in turmoil. One part was shocked by the violation I was about to perform, but, the other was so excited that I could barely control my emotions. There has to be a first time for everything, I reasoned. I started to salivate as my trembling fingers circled the swollen p--
Before I go any farther, I'll share the advice an author once included at about this point in the first chapter of his book. He said that to get a reader's attention and really hold it, the opening paragraphs should be so hot the pages almost burn your fingers as you turn them. And, while I certainly want to hold your attention, I am torn about the salacious writing used to accomplish that. It's just that I was struck by the sexuality of my actions as I - well, never mind. I'll just back up a little bit and finish the sentence so you'll see what I mean.
. . . as my trembling fingers circled the swollen pistil and ripe stamens of the Crocus sativus, the autumn flowering, or saffron, crocus. Then I plucked them. Yes, a momentous event occurred today. I harvested my first crop of saffron! For those of you who don't know, saffron is made up of the tiny little reproductive parts of the diminutive fall crocus. It sells for around $200 a pound. Most recipes call for a half teaspoon, or less, so my efforts this morning are enough for two, possibly three meals of -- Paella."

See? That wasn't so bad, was it? Anyway, all the culinary information I offered her was very well received by the tourism office, and she was set to go on the tour.
Unfortunately for her, she became very ill the next day, and had to decline. Since the trip left on the 23rd, this was a very last minute cancellation, leaving the tourism office in a bind. She told them of my assistance, and suggested I go as a replacement. I was stunned when they asked me. In fact, I am still in a state of disbelief that it happened at all. It was such a last-minute, impetuous thing to do, but I accepted. Could you say no to an all expense paid, week-long gastronomy tour of Spain? I couldn't!
So - now you know why the shop was closed and I was unavailable. My apologies for disappointing so many customers, but a week of being treated like visiting royalty in four-star hotels, with chefs of international renown preparing an endless succession of nouvelle cuisine recipes, using all native ingredients, was the experience of a lifetime (and then some!!) But now, exhausted and stuffed to the gills, and with a cholesterol count in the stratosphere - I'm baaack!

Read all about it and see some great photos -

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Newsletter news

It’s that time of year again. “’Hope springs eternal’ but Spring we can only hope for!” (who said that?) At least, here in the Northeast, yesterday's storm was rain, and - judging from the 2 plus inches we got - thank goodness it wasn’t snow, or we’d have feet of it to shovel! It helped melt some of the snow cover - a really “good thing” - since the ground never froze last winter. Now it looks as if the snowplow pushed more sod and gravel into piles on my lawn than anything else. What a mess! Add to that work the locating and sorting of all the new Spring titles appearing like snowdrops on the southside of the house, and you can bet I’ll be busy.
So begins my April newsletter (Volume 7 Issue 4) which I email out monthly to nearly a thousand subscribers interested in New York State books. If that is your interest too, copy my email address and send me an email with SUBSCRIBE in the Subject Line. You'll receive a list of new titles, price changes, and changes in availability around the first of every month -- --