There was a lot to celebrate this past weekend–Craig got hired to direct an episode of MTV’s “Made,” I (insert secret exciting thing here), plus it was our four year anniversary–so we decided to go away before our lives got incredibly busy. I researched online various options for us, places easy to get to from Manhattan (some contenders: the North Fork of Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Asbury Park) but when I typed in “Catskills New York Times” and this page loaded up, I had to call Craig in from the other room to tell him what I’d found.
“Ok,” I said, “I just discovered a place that was BUILT for you and once I tell you what it is you won’t want to go anywhere else this weekend.”
To understand my excitement, you’ve got to know something about Craig. When most middle schoolers were playing spin-the-bottle and ripping holes in their jeans, Craig would walk around Bellingham, Washington with his Walkman blasting the music of one particular band: The B-52s. He was such a diehard fan that when it came time to write a 7th grade report on an important figure in history he didn’t write about Washington or Jefferson, he wrote about Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, Ricky Wilson, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson.
And it was because of Kate Pierson that I called Craig into the room so enthusiastically. It ends up that she opened a motel in the Catskills called “Kate’s Lazy Meadow,” a B-52s fan’s Shangri-La, with kitschy rooms and AirStream trailers and a little creek for trout fishing. Needless to say, Craig’s reaction was as inevitable as it was unsurprising: “That’s where we’re going.”
Friday morning, we Hertzed it up to the Catskills (a quick 2.5 hour ride) and there we were at The Lazy Meadow in the Annie Oakley suite:
There was even a kitchen:
And this funny message from Kate by the door:
(I wonder what’s so bad about the Krazy Kafe in Boiceville that they put these in every room?)
But the highlight for Craig was this VHS collection of kitschy horror movies:
We watched “Poltergeist III.” It was so bad, Kate needs to put a warning up about it too.
Luckily, the scenery is so pretty outside, a walk by the creek can help you shake all memories of looking into the light:
Since this is a food blog, however, let’s move on from the Motel and I can tell you about the food we ate. Many people on Twitter and Facebook suggested other weekend getaways for the food; we chose the Catskills for the nature (and the B-52s connection) so I wasn’t expecting any gourmet experiences. But, believe it or not, the food we ate on this trip was so great, if we ever go back (and I hope that we do) it’d be my stomach that’d lead me there.
Don’t believe me? Welcome to Peekamoose:
This has to be one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever been to and the food was really, really stellar. Here’s the outside:
And the inside view, from our table:
Aren’t you charmed too? It’s like a fantasy of the kind of lodgy restaurant you want to eat in when you’re in the mountains. And the fact that it suddenly grew cold that night (it started to snow when we walked out!) made it even better.
This bread was crusty, garlicky and hot; and the butter was creamy and studded with chives:
The first course tells you they mean business—it was a rabbit rilletes:
Even New York restaurants might shy away from serving rabbit to unsuspecting customers for fear of closed-minds and limited palates, but not the Peekamoose. And it was fatty and meaty and good.
Apparently, Peekamoose is famous for its 12-ingredient chopped salad:
I’m not quite sure there was anything notable about this salad except for the fact that I loved every bite of it. It’s just the kind of comforting salad (romaine, bacon, blue cheese, balsamic dressing) that makes you happy. I could’ve eaten two helpings.
With that salad, I drank a glass of Riesling from the Finger Lakes of New York. It was a great wine, as was the wine I drank with my entree, a grilled leg of lamb (terrible picture alert!):
With that I drank a wine I’d never heard of before, Chamine:
Is there any combination more wonderful than that of red wine and red meat? I seriously don’t think so. And that wine with this grilled lamb (which was cooked to perfection and paired with lovely fennel and spring onions) was out-of-this-world terrific. I’m dreaming about it right now……
The only downside to the meal was the dessert. It wasn’t bad (most desserts aren’t) but the cake part of our upside down apple cake was a little chalky:
Despite the chalky dessert, we left the restaurant with that deliriously happy feeling you get after an incredible meal. It was that perfect marriage of food, wine, location, environment and service (we loved our waitress) that makes you want to go back again and again. After that one meal, I pledge allegiance to Peekamoose.
The next morning, we enter the town of Phonecia, just a short drive from Kate’s for breakfast at the beloved, justly famous Sweet Sue’s:
Sue’s, like Peekamoose, is another charming mountain spot. Here’s a look at the interior:
The menu is overrun with sweet breakfast items, namely–pancakes and French toast:
My first morning there, I had the pecan coconut banana bread French toast:
Trust me, that’s harder to say than it is to eat. (It was remarkably light and not at all dense.)
The next morning, I ordered their gargantuan pancakes—these were lemon ricotta pancakes topped with strawberries and pecans:
Those pancakes probably carved years off my life, but they were worth it. As for Craig, predictably, he ordered more savory breakfasts both times (an omelet the first day, huevos rancheros the next day) which were good but not worth showing.
Now, quickly, before our last meal (and the climactic story twist!) we took a hike. Well, we thought it was a hike; actually, we accidentally climbed a mountain.
This really nice guy behind the desk of our hotel suggested a hike just a short drive away for our Saturday activity. Craig and I didn’t bring any water, we imagined a nice little trail going around a creek. It ends up, the trail we chose? It was a 3 mile hike up Mt. Tremper.
Shockingly, we made it 2.5 miles up the steep, rocky incline. There were some beautiful sights along the way (I’m particularly proud of this picture):
We made it all the way up to here, a little shelter with an outhouse and a resident porcupine (that we didn’t see):
Not bad for two guys with no water!
Plus, we burned off so many pancakes and rabbit rillettes, we could justify a big dinner. And that’s precisely what we had.
On Kate’s Lazy Meadow website, Kate Pierson herself recommends a restaurant called Cucina as her favorite place to eat in town. Naturally, we made that our final dining destination:
Cucina is in a lovely yellow house, just as inviting as the Peekamoose lodge:
The place was bustling with people (we were very happy that we had a reservation). Here’s what the room looks like; pay special attention to the empty table on the left:
For our first course, we shared a wonderful crab crostini made with blue crab (which, surprisingly, Craig didn’t object to):
For the salad course, I had a really lovely raw kale salad with pine nuts and currants and Parmesan and balsamic (a salad I’ll try to recreate soon):
Craig had a Caesar BLT which had, in addition to all the Caesar stuff, bacon and tomatoes:
My entree was pretty killer—-it was a homemade farfalle with proscituto, radicchio and mushrooms. It was love at first bite:
(I may try to recreate that at home too.)
Craig had an exquisite seafood risotto, which he devoured really quickly:
But the real star of the show, after all that incredible food, was the dessert. This butterscotch budino with creme fraiche on top made me want to cry, it was so good (it had that salty, sweet caraemelly thing going on):
And now for the climactic story twist.
Remember how I told you that we came to the Catskills because Craig loves the B-52s, spent most of his life a crazy fan, playing “Rock Lobster” every chance he got? Well, who should walk in and sit with her friends at that empty booth but none other than our hotel’s proprietress, Kate Pierson herself.
Craig was going ga-ga. He couldn’t look away. And, I will admit, it was pretty exciting and a perfect capper to a rockin’ weekend.
So, you food snobs who shy away from the Catskills for more established dining destinations, don’t turn up your nose. We ate some serious food on this weekend retreat, food that I’ll remember for a long time. And as for Kate’s Lazy Meadow, if there’s a quirkier, more delightful getaway, I don’t know what that is. Unless, of course, you’re talking about….