The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Nobody can say it didn’t take its time; and studded with false starts. In an effort to incant its kindness, we put the winter-nurtured rosemary out on the porch. A day later it was sticks. We put iced coffee back on the chalkboard only to supplement it with wintry beef-in-stout pies and stews that stick to the ribs. The kale sprouts in the raised beds have come up holding little white flags. There’s a reason Philip Larkin used three afresh’s: the first two went down in ice-storms.
Delaware County makes you earn its glories. But their leading edge is here: we promise. Some time between now and late June we’ll roll like eggs down a grassy slope to the pond, where we’ll splash about like puppies till the Siberian chill of mid-August sets in. If we’re wrong, the Zoloft’s on the house.
In celebration of new life, we’ve set aside our one-shoulder bison-hide onesies and come blinking out of the cave, all sallow and lardy with absurdly unkempt fingernails, like Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu. Still, whilst we may look a bit of a fright, we come bearing gifts: a belated Easter basket of springtime loveliness. Firstly: we’re erecting a Maypole out by the picnic tables. Every friday before Pizza Night, the staff of Table on Ten will dance round it in virginal white gowns to promote fertility. This will continue until there are leaves on the trees or Daniel gives birth, whichever comes first. Secondly, there’s:
Ramps – but if the name causes you to break out into reactionary foodhipster hives (see heritage, artisan, biodynamic salvaged man-bun) we can all agree to call them something else. Wild leeks, wood leeks, rames, rams, ramsdens, ramshes, ramsies, rommies and roms are all colloquial variants. Or maybe something new? Rock Onions? Whatever, the tender beauties ($14 a pound in city farmers’ markets) are here, they’re wild as mustangs and we’ve got ’em on pizza. And likely elsewhere too: in pies with chicken and bacon, braised with an egg, hung round our necks in garlands to ward off drum-circles. We promise not to milk their foraginess to the point of collective migraine. And the sketch on the chalkboard will be gone by next week, we swear.
Moonshine Maple – distilled on the storied banks of Glen Burnie, exploiting a whole mess of lost wisdoms: man-shack belching a sweet pall of vapour, cans of PBR chilling in the snow, a boiler the size of Stevenson’s Rocket, Matador-Records-in-the-90’s-meets-Heartworn-Highways cracked boom-box mix and lots of silent philosophical nodding. This is upstate ayahuasca, with the supplementary benefit of not making you barf like a penguin. On pancakes, it causes similar spiritual awakening and puts you in touch with your extra-dimensional guide. His name is Dan Finn.
Refurbished wine list – incorporating some greatest hits from Zev Rovine with a springish emphasis on The New, via Louis/Dressner. The flag is still firmly planted in small vineyards and biodynamics, but we’ve embraced some new stalwarts: a crisp Muscadet, a great Côtes du Rhône from Roaix and a bright Prosecco (more on this little number soon). Oh, and our prediction for the tipple of the summer – Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna. Alongside these, we’ve augmented the whites with a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay from the Loire Valley, a Veneto Bianco from Gambellara and a Chenin Blanc from Anjou. The reds get a Rhone Valley Grenache/Syrah and a Beaujolais called Chiroubles, which we always thought was a french parlour game involving mild nudity.
Daniel and Jason – when you put out a clarion call for new staff, the last thing you expect is to find it. Which is why the addition of twin pillars – Daniel and Jason – to the weekend dinner team has been nothing short of an epiphany. Daniel has taken to the pizza oven like a dyed-in-the-wool Neapolitan, going so far as to bring in specially selected pieces of wood to give his crusts unique personality. His spontaneous rendition of Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci (Fridays and Saturdays every hour on the hour) would break even the hardest heart. And all for a tiny Ball jar of green tea ice cream. Jason is behind the scenes, anchoring the mood of the kitchen like an oak tree, husky baritone to Daniel’s plaintive tenor.
Egg in a Pan – bringing quadriceps to the breakfast menu (and kicking sand in the face of the Egg in a Glass). Take an intense 4-hour marinara, crack two eggs into it, grate a little parmesan, bake it for 8 minutes. Add ripped basil, black pepper. Serve it in an iron-skillet on a slab of wood, tossed onto the table by Kathleen with practiced wenchy nonchalance. Gobble it like a coyote, mop up the stragglers with toasted house-made sourdough. Robust enough to scare off last night’s kerosene negronis or kickstart a good day up the mountain. Culinary jumper cables.
Specials – when – in late March – the mercury momentarily hit 40, we ran at the specials board like escaped convicts, eager to liberate it from Deep Winter Gruel and Whale Blubber Stew. We embraced leaves and petals, magical elixirs that might be made by fairies at the bottom of your garden. Then the glaciers redescended and we wised up, hunkering in the demilitarized zone of ‘comfort-food with a hint of hope’. Pot pies, Moroccan lamb and Lebanese chicken, Bangladeshi curries, lard-roasted rillettes; armchair tourists across distant worlds of warmth. Now the ice is calving again and delicate alpine plants are pushing shoots up through the cracks. We’re ready with our little scythes. Shredded lacinato salad with a fried egg, red rice from the Himalaya, red quinoa with edelweiss. If anybody’s winter bottom looks like it was shot with 100 BB guns, we’re here to help.
Nettles – if not soon, when? Vast armies of them, obscene in their urchin abundance, are heaping up on the horizon. With their evil bristly stalks and hairy leaves. But this year we’re ready; We have Katrin, in elbow-high rubber gloves, twirling shears like Gary Cooper in High Noon. No more weeping fields of fiery bumps around the ankles. Instead deep infusions of goodness, so steeped in chlorophyll you too will be tempted to photosynthesize and stretch your stalks toward the sun.
Ice Cream – it never completely went away, but who, realistically, was trudging across the tundra in January seeking hand-pressed chrysanthemum gelato? Recently the factory has been retooled, its bowls and dashers glinting in the light. To begin the season we’re embracing crowd pleasers. Fresh mint and dark chocolate scribble, white chocolate salted caramel, Vietnamese coffee. No ramps, not yet. The shaved dogwort granita with little stones will wait for the summer. Until then we’re throwing our arms wide in welcome, like Ben, like Jerry.
Oh, and there’s so much more coming. Memorial Day Special Dinner, the downstairs expansion (‘the room that dare not speak its name’), Last Harvest’s bumper crop in the field, Walter’s cavolo nero, our own soil-tested raised beds, a new house blend of Irving Farm coffee, the Table Spritz, The New York Times piece, Condé Nast Traveler, the retreat from Yakutsk, the mummification workshop. Enough to warrant our own newspaper. Where’s The North Country Tickler when you need it?