lime yogurt cake with blackberry buttercream frosting

photo by Elizabeth Engel

Generally, I’m not one too get too fussy about cakes. When I bake them myself, I usually make what I like: plain ol’ yellow cake with chocolate frosting. In a pinch, I’ll use the chocolate Pillsbury frosting from the little blue tub. Then an inner nostalgic (or sugar fiend) takes hold and suddenly I’m spooning the chocolate frosting into my mouth before it ever reaches my naked cake. But I digress.

This lime yogurt cake warrants the fuss. Simply put, it’s delicious. A hint of fresh lime zings through every bite. Lemony or limey desserts tend to evoke memories of my grandma’s overwhelmingly lemony lemon meringue pie, which seven-year old me decided she categorically did not like. But the tartness of the lime yogurt cake is subtle and fresh. And the pillowy buttercream frosting, made with fresh blackberries, is the perfect counterpart.

photo by Elizabeth Engel

In a sunny kitchen in Park Slope, I helped my friend Liz make this summery confection. As we zested and measured and stirred, I tried to convince Liz to start her own food and/or lifestyle blog. She’s an especially good baker, loves photography and  her kitchen is stocked with dainty and highly photogenic provisions. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Hopefully we’ll see more of her baking ventures on the blogosphere soon…

Back to that cake, it’s only Wednesday, meaning there’s plenty of time to pick up fresh blackberries and make this a weekend project. All that fruit must mean it’s kinda healthy, right? Either way, anyone with taste buds will gobble up this cake.

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paella with chicken, shrimp and veggies


I remember the first time I had an authentic paella – the Valencian rice dish that’s flavored with saffron and made with chicken or rabbit or seafood or a mixture of them all. It happened when I was working as an English teacher at a summer camp in the Valencian countryside of Spain. It took two grown people, each holding a handle, to carry the giant paelleras from the shack in which the paella was cooked over an open fire, and into the cafeteria. Forty kids and a handful of counselors were fed from a couple of giant pans, filled with chicken, vegetables, and (sorry vegetarians) rabbits that I had seen hopping around the compound the day before, and topped with just-picked rosemary. Delicious isn’t even the word.

Over the weekend, I got together with my friend Marisol, whose father comes from Valencia and so she knows how to cook an authentic paella. At around noon on Saturday, we started drinking mimosas and cooking, with Marisol guiding me through the process. By the time we popped a second bottle of Prosecco, Marisol had taken the steering wheel, but I carefully observed her every move so that I could share the wisdom with you all. We cooked our paella until the rice was al dente and a little crunchy on the edges. With the below instructions, you can make your own paella at home too – because the best paella is a homemade paella that you make to your liking. OK, the best paella is one that’s made over an open fire, but let’s master this way first and then we’ll revisit the open fire method. Happy Monday, folks!




(serves 4)

  • 4 jumbo shrimp
  • 4 chicken thighs, cut into quarters
  • 1 red bell pepper, de-cored and de-seeded, cut into thin strips
  • 1 handful of string beans with the very ends snapped off
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups of medium grain rice (like arborio)
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 or 2 pinches saffron
  • 1 packet of colorante or a paella seasoning packet – it would be nice if we could use 100% pure saffron, but the real stuff is pricey in the states, so this is a useful supplement
  • kosher salt to taste
  • a few tablespoons olive oil


  • Pour a couple glugs of olive oil into a large paella pan. When pan is hot, add shrimp, throw on some salt. Brown shrimp on each side, then remove to a separate bowl. Don’t pour out the olive oil!
  • Using the same pan and same olive oil, add peppers, salt, and cook until browned. Remove about half of the peppers to a separate bowl, reserving the olive oil.
  • Add chicken and string beans, throw on a few pinches of salt. Cook chicken until brown on all sides, then remove chicken to separate bowl.
  • Add tomatoes and garlic, salt again. Cooking stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down.
  • Add half of the rice to the pan. Allow it to brown a little bit, and don’t be afraid if it gets a little burnt.
  • Add 3 cups of water, reserving 1 cup for later if needed, and add the saffron.
  • Stir, then taste for salt.
  • Place shrimp chicken and red peppers on top of mixture and *decorate* as you like (the traditional way is to place everything radiating out from the center, like spokes on a wheel). Press chicken and shrimp down a bit so that the rice cooks around it.
  • Cover with tin foil and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Taste the rice (a little from the center and a little from the edge) to test for doneness. If water is mostly absorbed and rice is still crunchy, add reserved water. Add more salt to taste. Cover and continue to cook.
  • When water is absorbed and rice is al dente, uncover and let cool slightly.
  • Place paella pan in the middle of your table, and allow your lunch or dinner guests to scrape out their own serving with spoons, reminding them to take some of the “socorrat”, which is the burnt, crispy part on the bottom of the pan that has the best flavor.
  • Add more crunchy salt as desired.

* If you don’t have a paella pan, try a large cast iron pan or a wok.

** If you want to buy an authentic paella pan, check out the selection from La Paella, a family-run business in Long Island City.

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Callicoon Farmers’ Market + broiled carrots

Happy Wednesday y’all! With the summer season (and all of its lovely produce) winding down, you’ve really got to start planning: which farmers’ market am I going to hit, what should I buy and how am I going to cook it?!

Let’s start by choosing a market to visit this weekend. In the Hudson Valley, lucky for us, there are A TON of local farmers’ markets.  Check the schedules, the vendors and make a Saturday or Sunday morning plan of it. If you’re in driving proximity to Callicoon, I highly recommend the Callicoon Farmers’ Market, where all of the vendors grow or produce their own food and operate within 75 miles of the market. My mom and I popped over to Callicoon last weekend to check out the goods.

Next step: what should I get? No clue? No worries. I usually just go and let myself be inspired by the things I find. As soon as I stopped by the Willow Wisp Organic Farm stand, I knew I had to make something with their gorgeous carrots.

And while you’re perusing, don’t be shy. Ask the vendors the best way to cook their produce. I was planning on buying the orange, chubby carrots to roast and eat on their own. But Willow Wisp farm hand Bobby advised me that the chubby carrots are better for stews and the like. The skinny boys are better for roasting, and each color has a different level of sweetness, orange being the sweetest, then yellow then purple. I grabbed a handful of a colorful carrot mixture. And I ended up broiling them later that day, with melted butter, a touch of real maple syrup and crunchy salt. That natural sweetness sure did sing… Get the recipe below, and get out there and hit the markets this weekend!


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sparkling sangria with huckleberries

I feel like I blinked and then it was August. August already??? Not to worry: there’s ample time to make good use of our local, seasonal bounty. Today’s recipe is an easy summer cocktail that’s light enough for your afternoon barbecue and delicious enough that your guests will want to sip it all night. And we’re mixing it up with my favorite seasonal fruit: huckleberry – blueberry’s wilder, smaller, tarter cousin.


This past weekend, my siblings and I did something that we used to do every summer when we were kids – grabbed our buckets and set off down the road to go huckleberry picking.


For us, it’s an activity that’s nearly muscle memory. My brother, sister and I know the spots where the bushes with the most huckleberries grow. We cut into the woods and navigated through a patch of trees that my great grandfather planted nearly a century ago – that’s why they’re in rows. While I complained about bug bites and my siblings complained about me stopping every three minutes to take photos, we spotted the bountiful bushes, bent down their branches and went to work.


huckleberries (2)

After the hard work was over, we hung out on the back porch and rewarded ourselves with a sparkling sangria, full of Cointreau-soaked huckleberries and lemons (which I had soaked for at least a few hours). Although sangria is typically made with red wine, this recipe stays true to the basic components: wine, a splash of spirits and macerated fresh fruit. And it’s perfect for hot summer days and nights. So we drank sparkling sangria in that early evening light, with cava and huckleberries and lemons and even a couple gorgeous peaches that my mom had lying around the kitchen. And trust me, it was good. Here’s to enjoying the rest of your summer weekends… Cheers!





  • 1 bottle sparkling wine: try a cava that’s dry or semi-dry (“seco” or “semi-deco”) – avoid the sweet stuff
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1 – 2 cups huckleberries
  • +  add any seasonal fruit you’d like!
  • 100 ml Cointreau (other options: cognac or Grand Marnier)


  • Have your cava chilling in the fridge way ahead of time. Sparkling wine should never be cooled in the freezer because freezing could destroy the carbonation.
  • Drop your fruit into a jar or pitcher. Add the Cointreau, stir gently and refrigerate for 3-5 hours. Planning ahead is important because you want to soak the fruit long enough for the fresh fruit flavor to permeate every drop of your sangria, but not too long – you don’t want the fruit to disintegrate or the rinds to make your sangria bitter. For more resilient fruits, like oranges, lemons and apples, feel free to soak the fruit up to overnight (in an airtight container), but no longer than that. For soft fruits like peaches, raspberries and blueberries, a few hours is enough to spread the fruit flavor throughout the liquid without the fruit disintegrating. Make sure you add enough booze to totally cover the fruit (or cut it with water and ice if you don’t want your sangria to be too boozy).
  • When ready to serve, pour your fruit mixture into a large pitcher. Pop the bottle, pour on the sparkling wine (tilting the pitcher at an angle so as not to kill the bubbles right away).
  • Stir and serve in individual glasses, using a spoon to scoop a little of each fruit into each glass.

*Note: if you want to use white wine, mix it with the fruit and Cointreau ahead of time and let the fruit soak it in. Then, right before serving, add 1/2 liter of club soda.

soaking berries
soaking berries





What are you making with huckleberries/blueberries this summer? Share your ideas in the comments.




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lobster boil

lobster boil 3

Hi folks! Writing to you from the Jersey Shore, where the weather and food have been superb all week.

These are my favorite meals of the year: those nights when my whole family is together and we order takeout lobster dinners, replete with: a few bright red, boiled lobsters (with lemon and a tub or two of drawn butter), a pint of clam chowder, a half dozen ears of Jersey corn (and again that butter comes in handy), a couple dozen Jersey little necks, and maybe a few Alaskan King crab legs. We pass around paper plates and get to work on cracking and digging and dipping and eating. With less conversation than normal, because we’re all focused on our tasks at hand, we eat until all that’s left is lobster shells, bare cobs and sticky, salty fingers. (Side note: here are some good ideas on how to use the whole ear of corn). Then we sit around, digest and muster up the energy to walk to the closest ice cream stand for soft serve.

And that’s basically how we spend every night of our family vacation. Sure, there are plenty of restaurants around, but that could involve fixing our hair or changing from our cozy beach attire – something that we avoid at all costs when we’re here.

But even if you’re not at the beach, you can make your own lobster boil, open a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and refuse to fix your hair. Here are some tips on how to make the important players: the lobster and that drawn butter.

lobster boil 2lobster boil

lobster boil1

The Lobsta’

  • Fill a large pot with water, leaving enough room for your lobsters.
  • Bring water to a boil. Using kitchen tongs, place lobsters one at a time in boiling water. Place lid on pot and bring water to a boil again.
  • Once water is boiling, cook the lobsters for 12-20 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the lobsters. 12-15 minutes for 1 pound lobster, 15-20 minutes for a 1 1/2 pound lobster, 20-25 minutes for a 2-3 pound lobster. Drain, let em’ cool, crack em’ open and enjoy.

Drawn butter (recipe via Bon Appetit)

  • Cut butter into small pieces and gently melt in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  • Cook until there are 3 distinct layers in the pot: a top layer of foam, the golden clarified butter in the middle, and a bottom layer of milky white (these are the milk solids). This process will vary in time, depending on how much butter you’re clarifying. Be patient, as it’s important to heat the butter gently. The separation process can take up to 30 minutes.
  • Remove pot from heat. Spoon off top layer of foam and discard. Let pot sit a few minutes so the milky-white layer can settle to the bottom.
  • There are 2 ways to separate the clarified butter from the milky-white layer: Either carefully spoon the clarified butter into a clean container and discard the milky-white layer, or strain the mixture through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheesecloth.
  • Clarified butter will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for several months.
(if you’re feeling lazy, just microwave butter in a micro-safe bowl until completely liquid and call it a day!)


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berry good ideas

Summer, for me, is all about the berries. From the huckleberries I’ve picked in the woods around my house ever since I was tall enough to reach them to my mom’s fresh baked, slightly tart strawberry rhubarb pie to the smashed blueberry mojitos that my sister makes for nighttime barbecues (and we sip them on the porch, under the stars, while lightning bugs blink around the lawn) – so many sweet summer moments associated with berries. Oh, and did I mention: healthy?

In the Catskills, one of our local treasures is the berries (and other produce) from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, Rick Bishop’s farm in Roscoe, New York. Mountain Sweet Berry Farm has a serious following by chefs in the hottest kitchens in New York – Per Se, Jean-Gorges, Blue Hill – to name just a few. MSBF also has a huge following in my family’s home upstate, where I recently found a huge bowl of MSBF’s freshly picked baby strawberries, waiting for me to use and/or eat them immediately.

So, what to do with all of the berries.? I’ve sifted through the interwebs and come up with a list of suggestions for you. From drinks to semi-savories to desserts, I’ve got some berry good ideas (sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Also important:

Get your berry on.

Downstate friends can find Mountain Sweet Berry Farm’s berries and other local produce at the Union Square Greenmarket ・*\(^O^)/*・

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DV8 Magazine: An Inspiring New Upstate Voice

Photograph from DV8's upcoming issue

When I hear about a new arrival to the upstate scene: a restaurant, a brewery, a distillery, a hotel – I get this excited feeling that the rest of the world is finally discovering the charm of upstate New York – the small towns, the slower pace of life, the abundance of nature. There’s something special about it. The fresh air, the quiet and the open space have an immeasurable value and can provide a canvas for growth and creativity.  And then a voice arrives to town that is able to capture the unique beauty of upstate, both old and new, and shine a light on some of its innovators. DV8 is that new voice.

DV8, short for Delaware Valley 8, is dedicated to covering the upstate scene. I love the magazine’s clean, ahhhh-inspiring aesthetic almost as much as I love the stories within. Like this recent piece about photographer Marianna Rothen. Or this one about the local gem of a restaurant, Benji and Jake’s.

I was recently able to catch the Founder of DV8, Nhi Mundy, to do an interview for the Local Feast. Read on and discover the vision behind DV8 and Nhi’s favorite local digs. And then check out DV8 – be inspired.

What inspired you to start DV8?

It was simple actually. I felt the area needed a magazine after Green Door shuttered; so I started one.

What led you to upstate New York?

My husband and I decided to move full-time to our weekend home in Sullivan County after Hurricane Sandy had flooded our apartment in the city. We haven’t looked back since.

What kinds of stories do you aim to share in DV8?

I want to cover stories on all the incredibly interesting people that I have met up here and highlight the interesting things that they are doing.

Which publications inspire you?

I’ve been avoiding looking at magazines these days because I don’t want to be creatively influenced. I’m currently inspired by my friend Jan Dikkers who helped me on the first issue of DV8. He’s the former creative director of White Wall magazine and currently the founder of Issue Magazine, two very inspiring publications.

Any favorite stories/interviews in DV8?

I loved all of them! But if I had to chose one, it would be the Forbes March story. I was introduced to Forbes at a party by a mutual friend. He’s such a character, and at the same time whip smart and very sure of himself. He’s larger than life. It’s nice to meet people like him – makes the world a more interesting place.

Have there been any challenges in getting the magazine off the ground?

I think the biggest challenge was convincing people who did not know me to trust my vision. Luckily, I found a group of people who believed in me and helped make DV8 a reality.

Can locals contribute to DV8?

Our staff writer, Isabel Braverman, is a local – born and bred! We also have a team of writers and contributors who have either grown up here or are full-time residents of the area.

Upstate favorites:

Lunch spot I love the bulgogi at Salt & Pepper in Monticello and the branzini at Yiaso’s in Liberty

Place to take out-of-towners Honesdale. There’s so much to do there. Fantastic shopping at Milkweed, great food and cocktails at Dyberry Forks, fun parties and venues at Basin & Main and The Cooperage and there’s even a movie theater!

Natural retreat My backyard

Local artisan I love Melissa Easton’s jewelry sold at Mayer Wasner.

All photos are by Michael Mundy.


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Catskill Distilling Company

There are so many reasons to visit Catskill Distilling Company. A ride through the green fields of Bethel, New York (the site of the original Woodstock) is just the first. Interested in learning about the distilling process, from grain to spirit? No problem, just have a stroll through the distillery where one of their expert distillers can walk you through the process. Ready to taste a few spirits? Grab a stool at the bar inside the distillery, and you can swirl, sniff, sip and search for those botanical notes in their Curious Gin, or see whether you can discern the buckwheat in their Buckwheat Otay, a whiskey-like spirit made with 80% buckwheat. All that drinking got you hungry?  Right next door, the Dancing Cat Saloon serves foods to suit all tastes, from Woodstock wings and Righteous Bourbon BBQ pork ribs to Ahi tuna and truffle fries. And if you come at night, chances are you’ll catch a set of live music too. The vibes are good all around and it’s no surprise that when I visit the Catskill Distilling Company I usually make an all afternoon-evening out of it.


The buzz about this local gem is only growing. The Village Voice named them 2014’s Best Local Distillery. The NY Times named the Righteous Bourbon one of their Top Ten bourbons. Saveur donned the Buckwheat Otay as one of their favorite whiskies. And Thrillist named Catskill Distilling Company as one of the best bars outside of NYC. The good reviews keep pouring in.

What’s Distilling:

  • Peace Vodka
  • Curious Gin
  • Bosco Monte Vecchio Grappa
  • Wicked White Whiskey
  • Most Righteous Bourbon
  • The One and Only Buckwheat
  • Defiant Rye
  • Fearless Wheat Whiskey
Upcoming events:
  • Bluegrass and Bourbon Sunday with the Kevin Prater Band and the Henhouse Prowlers (August 9)












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Crab rolls

There are certain foods I associate with summer. Corn on the cob. Soft serve ice cream. Tomato and basil salads. My mom’s homemade huckleberry pie (with huckleberries picked in the woods around our house in Forestburgh – expect to see this guy on the Local Feast later this summer). And without a doubt, lobster rolls.

Lobster rolls have a comforting familiarity – they always come on a classic hot dog bun and the main ingredient, besides the lobster, is plain old mayonnaise with a squirt of lemon.  Maybe that familiarity is part of the reason I look forward to having them every summer – because they never really change; because a lobster roll today can take you back to that first one you had years ago as a sunburnt summer camper on a trip to Boston.

But change is good people, especially if you’re making a classic dish in your own kitchen. In your own kitchen, you can swap lobster for fresh hunks of crab meat. And you can use garlicky aioli instead of plain old mayo. Heck, you can even put slices of jamón on top – who’s judging? And that’s the recipe I’m sharing today. My homemade version of a crab roll: crab meat, topped with parsley aioli, jamón ibérico, chopped scallions and pink peppercorn, PLUS the secret to taking apart a crab to get to that sweet crab meat inside. Happy summer!

How to remove the meat from your steamed crab:

Crab rolls:

  • Toast and butter your bun, assemble ingredients, and pour a glass of white wine.
Ahead of time, whip up some parsley aioli.

ingredients: parsley alioli


  • one egg
  • 1 clove garlic (raw) or 2 cloves (roasted), chopped.
  • handful of parsley, stems removed
  • olive or sunflower oil
  • salt (to taste)


  • Crack the egg into a cylindrical container, trying not to break yolk.
  • Slowly pour in oil, covering yolk, plus two fingers above egg. More oil = thicker aioli.
  • Mix with hand blender, keeping the blender at bottom of container, moving side to side, not up and down. Blend until mixture thickens to preferred consistency.
  • Add garlic and parsley, blend. Salt to taste.




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Roscoe Beer Company

Glorious. This Memorial Day weekend was absolutely glorious. The weather was with us, barbecues were blazing and there’s no place I would have rather been than in the the Catskills.

DSC_0350the Bashakill


We’re on the cusp of summer – before the seasonal folks arrive and while we can have our local gems – lakes, diners, ice cream stands, breweries – all to ourselves. While the bass from Mysteryland was (literally) pumping throughout Sullivan County, I was taking it easy over in Roscoe, Trout Town USA!, where I went on a most educational brewery tour with brewmaster Josh of the Roscoe Beer Co. It’s been around since 2013, but the Roscoe Beer Co. recently expanded, opening a super cozy, hunting lodge-esque tasting room. It’s the kind of place that locals will regular and out-of-towners will make the trip to visit. Because you can taste a flight of Roscoe Beer Co. beers and kick back on the couch with a group of friends. Because the taxidermy hanging on the wall is as authentic as the beer is good.



Back to the beer tour, Josh explained the brew process, from barley to brew. Supply and demand of NY-grown barley and hops makes it tough for craft brewers to use just the local stuff. It gets expensive. But Roscoe Beer Co. uses much NY-grown barley and hops as possible. Hopefully New York farmers will be able to grow more barley and hops, and eventually ease the prices for local brewers.

josh_roscoebrewmaster Josh

barley_roscoeOn to the tasting room, I highly recommend ordering a flight of beers and figuring out which beer suits your fancy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I tend to like the darker brews, and so it was no surprise that I was a fan of the Brown Ale. My drinking buddy preferred the Amber Ale for its everyday drinkability, and we agreed that the Eagle IPA was a solid choice. The only one we didn’t love was the Wild Ale, BUT, Josh warned us that this brew is made with wild yeast and has a very unique, almost cider-y flavor. One-time naysayers have turned into great fans of the Wild Ale after a few tries – you grow to love it, a lot. I guess we’ll have to drink more Wild Ale to find out.




Roscoe, New York (Trout Town USA!) is worth the day trip if you don’t live locally and the Roscoe Beer Co. is part of the required itinerary.

Visit Roscoe Beer Co.

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