Dinner with the Fabulous Beekman Boys
At the last minute, we managed to snag reservations to one of the two sittings of the Harvest Feast at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs.
Our timing was good.
We ended up sitting at a table next to that of Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, better known as “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” the Planet Green cable channel’s Sharon Springs-based reality show.
The show has been getting a lot of attention and has been renewed for a second season. Think of an updated “Green Acres,” at least as it concerns city slickers moving to the country to operate a farm. (If you haven’t seen it, talk to Time Warner, which isn’t offering Planet Green; we caught some of the episodes on an on-demand cable channel earlier this summer, but they’re no longer available.)
When they weren’t working the room, Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell chatted with us and our table mates and proved to be a fun and charming duo.
The feast was in its second year, and it has grown so dramatically that there were sellout sittings over two days, compared to one sitting last year.
The food — imaginative dishes created by the American Hotel’s Chef Lee Woolver — is virtually all produced locally. The idea behind the dinner is to point up the importance of agriculture in Schoharie County, which was known as “the Breadbasket of the Revolution.” (It’s a good cause which draws an eclectic crowd, but it’s not inexpensive. Guests paid $125 apiece along with tax and gratuity.)
Those who attended Friday’s dinner had to put up with a lot of intrusions by television camera and technical crews who scampered around the dining room through at least the first half of the meal, but the crowd was in a genial mood. (Did I mention there was a lot of wine with dinner?)
Guests were welcomed to the event by the hotel’s owners, Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts, who in 1996 purchased the dilapidated Greek Revival building and restored it to its present splendid state. Partners Plummer and Roberts appear as semi-regulars on “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” whom they introduced to the dinner crowd.
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell offered their own words of welcome, and talked about some of the foods they produce themselves, among them a variety of heirloom vegetables and their wonderful cheese, Beekman 1802 Blaak, a semi-hard cheese created from 60 percent goat milk and 40 percent cow milk. The cheese is aged for four months and is coated with ash at each turning to aid its ripening. You can purchase the cheese online — it sells for $45 per two-pound wheel — at the Beekman 1802 website which is HERE, or you can visit their store, the Beekman 1802 Mercantile, opened earlier this year in Sharon Springs.
Besides the celebrities, there were also guest commentators who made brief presentations between courses on the wines served and the food and its history in American cuisine.
Here is what was served:
Cranberry Bean Soup or
Creamy Cabbage Soup (with kielbasa and egg noodle cakes)
and Bully Hill Seyval Blanc
Lamb Scrapple (with apple-peach puree)
and ’08 Hosmer Dry Riesling
Choice of entree from these three:
• Braised Ox Tail (with late summer vegetable ragout)
• Turkey Hot Brown (bacon-wrapped turkey steak, tomato relish, Ommegang cheddar cheese sauce)
• Shredded Pork Shoulder in Rice Crepes (with sweet-hot onion sauce)
and ’08 Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc
Beekman Blaak (with mustard greens and raspberry sauce)
and Lamoreaux Landing Estate Red
Ginger Cake (with carrot ice cream)
Guests also were briefed on the success of the distiller Hudson Whiskey, located in Gardiner, in Ulster County. The owners purchased the Tuthilltown grist mill in 2001 with plans to create a rock climbers’ ranch, but the neighbors balked. “So we had to find another way,” company literature says. “The 240-year history of the mill led us to it. Grain, water, yeast and a new purpose: We decided to make whiskey.”
The company’s product line is the first whiskey distilled in New York state since Prohibition.
Samples — about two thimbles full — of Hudson’s Four Grain Bourbon, Manhattan Rye Whiskey and Corn Whiskey were provided to guests who seemed generally receptive to the idea.
Beverly and I particulary liked the Beekman 1802 Blaak cheese and the Lamoreaux Landing Estate Red wine, as well as both soups. The Lamb Scrapple, a valiant attempt to make offal less than awful, failed to turn us on, but the turkey and pork shoulder dishes won favorable reviews from us, and the oxtail drew praise from one of our tablemates.
The dinner, with its multiple courses, wines and mini-discourses, stretched over three hours, and we agreed at the end of the night that it might just become an annual ritual for us. If you can’t make the dinner next year, there’s also a harvest festival that’s conducted over the same weekend when local farmers and other producers sell their food and talk about their experiences with visitors.
PHOTO BY BEVERLY M. ELANDER: Brent Ridge, left, and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, address guests at the second annual Harvest Feast at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs.