With the past few gorgeous sunny, warm, days, and sometimes teeth-chattering evenings, it's been very easy to forget the tortuously hot, sticky summer we've left behind. And, of course, in this socially busy Hudson Valley the temperate climate has made celebratory events even more special - and certainly more comfortable.
Last weekend my friends, Chris & Bert gave a dinner in the old barber shop building on their property. Ostensibly the dinner was part of Chris' birthday festivities but it also feted the delightful bridge that we walk over from summer into fall. Yes, dear readers, it's a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
In 1929 a barber from Queens, NY, in search of a new life and way to support his family after the great crash bought a west-facing property in Ghent, NY, at the bottom of hills that slope enough to allow a gracious spot for the sun to melt out of sight, where my friends now live. He became a dairy farmer and didn't give haircuts a second thought. That is until the old Ghent town barber shop came up for sale. The dairy farmer bought the shop and moved it to his farm. From time to time he gave an occasional haircut. When Chris and Bert became the owners of the property they repurposed the shop into an outdoor/indoor dining room - the site of wonderful parties. Like the one I attended the other night.
Guests arrived at dusk in time for a cocktail and a round of hors d'oeuvres passed around by Chris and her daughter, Hannah. Fresh figs warmed just enough to allow the blue cheese atop them to melt; little squares of pissaladiere, and sugar-sweet Hudson Valley tomatoes with mozzarella. When the sky turned navy blue, sprinkled with 30- and 40 -carat stars, we helped ourselves to a massive buffet of food set out by chef Bert: salt and pepper-rubbed fillet of beef grilled over hickory chips( which gave the beef a smoky, nutty flavor), red and golden beets salad -simply dressed, grilled jumbo shrimp - simply prepared, roasted corn and red pepper salad, a gorgeous mosaic of red, purple, green and yellow tomatoes -dressed with extra virgin olive olive and salt, stuffed peppers, and a white bean and broccoli rabe salad made by cooking the soaked beans in rosemary-infused water then tossing the cooked beans together with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, whole cloves of roasted garlic, and blanched, chopped broccoli rabe.
With our plates loaded, we went into the candle-lit barber shop, found our assigned seats and sat together at a long, white-cloth-covered table decorated with bunches of early autumn flowers; dahlias, roses, limelight hydrangeas, punctuated with a few wild flowers sitting in various cut and molded glass celery servers. The rafters of the shop were hung with baskets and vintage signal flags. and then we ate, and drank, and had very interesting conversations with our neighbors. It was grand.
Dessert arrived a few hours later. We were each given a plate with a slice of Chris' chocolate cake, her ricotta cake with my plum sauce and Bert’s tarte tatin – which he made at the last minute thinking that we might starve without it! And he was right – we needed that fruit-filled flaky, buttery pastry, all caramelized- taste in our mouths as a way to end the meal.
The next day, the sun shone on the remains of a splendid evening. See the streamers from the previous eve's crackers hanging off the rafters and spilling into empty glasses.
Last weekend a curious wedding was celebrated in downtown Hudson. It was the wedding of two businesses, Verdigris and The Chocolate Bar. They moved in together (!!!) and their marriage was feted at the former business' home at 135 Warren Street with wine, Prosecco, tea and glorious cakes made by Regina Simmons: white wedding cake with layers of white peaches and white chocolate creme chantilly, and a black and white layer cake filled with chocolate mousse dotted with crushed chocolate espresso beans. May they, and you enjoy many happy years sipping tea and chocolate, and eating (and buying) chocolates and pastries at Verdigris.