Don and I just dropped back to earth after a weekend getaway-from-the-kitchen-carnage (yes, it’s still going on). It also happened to be our minus one year wedding anniversary. We left work/school early on Thursday and hopped on one of only two daily Trailways buses up to Palenville in the Catskills. The bus felt like a journey back in time, complete with a driver born in 1900, unmarked bus stops and a glimpse at a world away from Starbucks and Duane Reade’s. Only two and a half hours outside Manhattan-who knew? Palenville isn’t so much of a town as a village, a village shop that doubles up as a garage station, a village pub serving 25¢ wings on Thursday nights (Irish, obviously), a small library, a church, a post office, n a family run restaurant and a B&B- for city types looking to get out of the city. We were very much out of the city. Oh, yes.
What a city type forgets, of course is that once you are out of the city- you’re out of the city. All of a sudden Starbucks and Duane Reade’s on every corner don’t hold the same negative connotations. In fact they seem positively bloody marvelous. Palenville, was more like three hours outside the city and we had to take a break for the driver in Rosendale so the romantic picnic I had planned for when we arrived was eaten on the bus with plastic forks and little paper sachets of iodized salt. That is all but the beer, which was by now luke warm. It was only a couscous salad, one of the few grains whose instant cooking nature lends itself well to cooks without a cooker. I tossed it with teeny cherry tomatoes, handfuls and handfuls of herbs (parsley, basil and mint) that I had blitzed in my mini food processor with garlic and lemon juice and zest and then folded through some rocket and crumbled goats cheese.
The B&B was delightful and Don’s six foot three frame wrangled us an upgrade to the ‘French Quarter’ complete with claw foot tub and guide books to Paris- which were much more enticing than the leaflets for Palenville. We were in decidedly good hands though. Michael, a fellow Brit and his French wife Christine were trained chefs from the Savoy in London and the Red Cat in NYC- breakfast alone was worth the trip. A perfectly cooked omelette filled with oozing goats cheese and crispy slices of chorizo served with a potato and bell pepper hash. The kind of feast one needed for hiking and that we wouldn’t be finding in the village shop/gas station that would provide lunch. The hike ( I use the word singularly because there was only one hiking trail, and we only did it once) was supposed to start out with a two hour climb. In fact nobody had ever completed it faster than two hours and though Don and I assured each other that we were going to take things easy and plod along at a normal pace we managed to do it in one hour and forty minutes- it must be that city-type sidewalk aggression in us.
Exhausted from our five hour march we were in need of a hearty meal and Fernwood was our only option in walking distance and so there we headed. The walk took us over a suspension bridge with a sign “constructed by the people of Palenville” swaying over the top as we too swayed across the creek. The family run restaurant was located on a quiet cul-de-sac- the only business on the street and we dined in what appeared to be the family’s living room. The tables were covered with floral patterned tablecloths, the room garnished with a variety of family photos and kitch collectables and each diners chair was unique. The mother was the chef, the daughter the hostess/waitress and the son the bartender. Dad made the “made to order table side Caesar salads”. It was an unforgettable restaurant- if not for the food. Don ordered “Chicken Nicholas” for a pocket pinching $20 and I opted for the safe option and ordered the most basic thing on the menu: Tagliatelle with meat sauce. Don’s dish arrived as a whole chicken breast garnished with two shrimp and a creamy mustard sauce. On a side plate he was given eight green beans and three tablespoons of mashed potato. He cleaned the plate with gusto- but then that’s nothing unusual. The pasta was fine, the sauce on the soupy side- I finished the meal looking forward to another five star breakfast and I would not be disappointed.
Our weekend get-away was cut short by the looming storm front and we elected to head home on the early bus rather than stick it out in Palenville and the promise of another garage lunch. Pleased as I was to be heading back to civilization as the Manhattan skyline loomed in the distance I was reminded of laundry that needed to be done, unopened post and yet another inch of dust that would need to be brushed off every surface in the apartment. The French Quarter and Palenville were a long way away it was back to cooking porridge in the microwave and washing up in the bathroom sink. At least for the time being.