Where do we go? Where do we go now? Where do we go Sweet child o’ mine?
Remember the final scene of Merchant Ivory’s A Room with a View? Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter before she became a Tim Burton cartoon) gazes into the eyes of George Emerson (pre-Arachnophobia Julian Sands), framed in a window of the pension in which they met, as strangers, at the outset of the film. Twin Florentine landmarks – the Duomo and Uffizi tower – lurk behind them like benevolent grannies, smiling witnesses to the ineffability of Love. A flame ignited in a Tuscan barley field, guttered under the disapprobation of Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith wasn’t born the Dowager Countess), suffocated under engagement to Cecil Vyse (pre-bombast Daniel Day-Lewis) has finally blazed into an inferno in the city of Dante Alighieri. We once knew somebody who slept in a yellow Ford Cortina with a dodgy alternator outside Greenwich Theatre, hoping his smouldering passion for Ms Bonham Carter would serve to set the Thames on fire. He was last seen pushing the car round and round the parking lot at dawn, hopping in-and-out in a Sisyphean effort to enact a bump-start. Love refuted? We shall see: he may yet claim his prize. In some dank old folks’ home in Golders Green, the grinning beneficiary of early-onset dementia, his bride-to-be squawking ‘I used to be Bellatrix Lestrange!’
We have a new room. On the second floor. It has not one, but three views. None of them are of the Ponte Vecchio arching across the Arno. But if you gaze out of the southern one, you can see the West Branch of the Delaware gurgling under River Street and, in the middle-distance, the frosty silhouette of Bramley Mountain. Truth is, it’s not just a room. It’s two rooms. Two Rooms with Three Views. Do we smell a sequel? Hot-blooded Inez Honingskerk tears off her embroidered kraplap and makes for the mountains, meets chirpy chicken-whisperer Katrin (with a fistful of zucchini), recently excommunicated teen-mother Kathleen, and falls in love with a charming border-collie shepherd mix. Oh, and the room. Imagine two rooms connected by an open arch: hand-made queen bed in one, hand-made day bed in the other. Delightful jelly-cupboard-turned-wardrobe between. Caters perfectly to itinerant lovebirds who want to stay at Table on Ten, but don’t want their toddler to sleep in the bathtub. The traveling foodie who loves to cuddle up with her husband until he begins snoring like Aslan, then prefers to evacuate. Perhaps travel partners who like each other plenty, but not quite enough to meet between the sheets: or maybe are not sure, might get between the sheets but would like the option not to. Depends how it goes. The pizza, the candlelight, the biodynamic Grenache. Furthermore, in (discounted!) combination with its huskier cousin (Cosy Room to the Table cognoscenti) it allows for groups of five to descend upon us and commandeer the entire second floor, like pirates. Touring string quintets, One Direction, Guns N’ Roses tribute bands. But there are seven of you? Jesus, The Pogues. Take the attic as well! And while you’re at it, whip us up a cappuccino, cover the pizza oven and bang out a couple of verses of Fairytale of New York!
The private suite on the second floor. It’s here. It can be combined with this or this; or this, this and this. Now where do we go to photocopy the wine list?
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither. Thou and I will see him dine When we bear the thither. Don and Barbara, forth they went, Forth they went together Through the rude wind’s wild lament And the bitter weather.
But at my back I always hear Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity.
We know; there’s time. But it doesn’t always feel like there is. You open your doors and ideas come at you like bees. So much stuff just itching to be done. There are people up every dirt road around here harbouring amazing skills, doing astonishing things; and more often than not, they do it quietly, without the narcissist’s acute yearning for applause. Perhaps that’s why they’re here, not in Brooklyn or Berkeley. It has been the singular most consistent reward of Table on Ten’s first year: the prodigious opportunities we are daily afforded to collaborate with people who really know what they are talking about.
The dilettante’s curse is to wax knowledgeable on a galaxy of matters without being steeped in any. There goes Renaissance Man, culling wisdom from half-digested morsels in The Guardian and New Yorker. Regurgitating it in well-turned phrases speaks to a erudition that turns out – after the third bottle of Rioja – to be a bit on the flimsy side. It’s when you wake up in the morning with the foggy remembrance of having confidently held forth on Netanyahu’s breathtaking performance in Parsifal that you reach for your forehead and feel the mark of the Impostor.
We opened the doors with baguettes and coffee. We hoped we were planting a flag for a bigger idea; but who knew? Then one-by-one people started turning up with stuff. The foraged chanterelles. The arcane understanding of how to make sausage from blood. The hand-turned porcelain pots. The heritage goat rearing, artisanal cheese-cave constructing, yellow-dock braid weaving, authentic kimchi fermenting, sourdough metabolizing, timber hewing, dulcimer plucking, kiln curing, ping pong playing, nettle ball sculpting. In the span of a season we found ourselves part of a kind of living tapestry, an ongoing narrative of what it means, minute-to-minute, to be alive and kicking in Delaware County.
And now, with the recent conversion of one of the second floor rooms to a bodywork studio, we’re presented with the unique opportunity of incorporating Victoria Lundell’s 20-years of modern dance training, 15-years of personal fitness experience into the expanding menu of services at Table on Ten; in the form of a bodywork adjunct – hands on work, yoga, Pilates, personal training. Vicky’s our neighbour and friend and one of the original Table on Ten community alumni, from the days when the café was barely a glint in its mother’s eye. Having Vicky practice her amazing amalgam of services further augments our efforts to expand the scope of Table on Ten – initially through the menu, specials, food-based collaborations, workshops, then through gallery and magazine projects and more recently by offering rooms upstairs for people to come, stay, be part of the community. With Vicky on board, we’ve added the following persuasive sheaf of arrows to our quiver.
We’re in the Daily Star. Or rather, on it. Full-page and 4-colour. Inez (on stilts?) either muffling a bashful Dutch smile or aching to pee, alongside Katrin giving it her best Miami Steve Van Zandt; they stare back at you from the cover of August’s O-Town Scene like a couple of proctology nurses trying to make colonoscopy look fun. Hell, there’s even a bit of background elbow (in luminous lobster-pink) for decapitated Caitlin, slaving away like Caliban in the kitchen. And then – as if that wasn’t enough – wade inside and discover a full, naked-from-shoulder-to-fingertips double-page centrefold. We’re right there – Table on Ten – in the thick of the action, just before ‘West Davenport Man Loses Pencil’, shortly after ‘Unadilla Gerbil Pulls Funny Face’. Another smörgasbord of photographs – wildflowers, cookies under mesh, obligatory chalkboards, more Inez – then the story of the first year retold in précis. Couple of minor hiccups; we can’t quite claim the 10-mile producer radius (too much amazing stuff falls a short distance over the line); the Egg in a Glass is now part of Table folklore; the chocolate-honey-ricotta pizza has been around since the inauguration of the pizza oven; the downstairs ‘laboratory’ sounds like something from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or a sideline in locally foraged methamphetamine. Other than that, it’s another glowing tribute for which we’re extremely grateful. Unfortunately the Scene section doesn’t make the online edition, so we can’t offer a link. But here’s a couple of trademark renderings of how it looks, and the text reproduced in full. Run, don’t walk, to the stand for your copy. And if you’re passing, bring us a few; we’re up to our elbows in red rice salad and double-chocolate raspberry ice-cream over here.
EATERY OFFERS SOPHISTICATED, HYPER-LOCAL FOOD WITH HEART
It’s easy to drive right past Bloomville’s Table on Ten. There’s no flashing neon and no garish red arrow. There’s just an unassuming tan house tucked into a hillside, and state Route 10 runs a few feet from the front door. but any eater – especially one who loves this region and all of its bounty – would be poorer for not having stopped.On friday and saturday evenings, when owners Inez Valk-Kempthorne and Justus Kempthorne fire up the wood-burning pizza oven, the place is easier to spot. Crowds gather at the picnic tables on the side lawn. Live music plays. The smell of smoke fills the air. The restaurant itself just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Valk-Kempthorne and her husband have been in Bloomville a few years longer. They moved up from New York City, where she worked as a model and he as a carpenter. “I don’t want to make too much of a model becoming a baker – but that is what I did,” Valk-Kempthorne says. Her accent is hard to place until she mentions that she is Dutch. “The idea of Table on Ten kind of came to us. We wanted to have a communal space with no dynamic of ‘your place’ or ‘my place’. A place which was open to everyone who could get together to get inspired, to collaborate,” Valk-Kempthorne says. The bulk of the raw ingredients come from within a 10-mile radius of the restaurant. Supplier Lucky Dog Farms, of Hamden, is one of the few exceptions. But the idea of locals helping locals is never far away. “People literally come in and have a crate of cherry tomatoes and ask ‘Can you do something with this?’ Valk-Kempthorne says. “Because we have such a small menu, we usually can.” While, yes, the menu is small, the taste of the food is mighty – so much so that the restaurant was profiled in the February 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living and in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal. Current breakfast offerings include treat like ‘eggs in a glass’, which is local eggs soft-boiled and dusted with herbs, or meyer lemon marmalade on toast, or house-made granola. Lunch features a crispy and airy baguette stuffed with Tilsit, pickled onions, arugula and safflower mayo, or mozzarella, prosciutto and basil pesto. The weekend pizzas draw from old favorites like smoked pepperoni and soon-to-be new ones like ricotta cheese, local honey, chocolate and Maldon sea salt. And there are always specials, which spring into existence based on what looks best in the local market right now. What excites Valk-Kempthorne most right now are “the ice cream sandwiches. Every week we’re coming up with flavors inspired by what’s around.” These aren’t the frozen novelties you’d buy off of a truck. A few of the recent Table on Ten combos have includes balsamic-roasted tomato and basil, strawberries macerated with vodka and rosemary, and honey lavender.
Not every idea makes it out of the kitchen, however. “There’s definitely things that didn’t work. We post (on Facebook) a lot about what we’re doing and at 5.30 we’re making the first test pizza. You make it up in your mind – but sometimes you are completely wrong,” Valk-Kempthorne says. “We’re always learning and improving.” The changes to the property haven’t stopped with the spare but cosy dining room. Table on Ten just received their beer and wine license. Building improvements continue as well. The couple transformed the top two floors of the house and rents out two guest rooms as well as two offices. Next, they may head down the stairs. “We still have a basement, for example, than can be completely renovated and turned into a sort of laboratory,” Valk-Kempthorne says. Beyond the food and the gracefully spare interior design, what feels most striking about Table on Ten is how much it feels like a part of the community. From the flyers for events pinned to the front door to the nearly all local back-of-house staff, that sense of connection is no accident and has been nurtured by Valk-Kempthorne. “We have gratitude for being able to work with local farms and know the importance of supporting the local economy,” she says. “It’s great.” It’s pretty tasty, too.
(words and pictures: Adrienne Martini/Oneonta Daily Star)
Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
It’s Spring, despite the evidence. We know … Memorial Day Weekend required slogging through ankle-deep mud into the teeth of horizontal rain, like characters from The Road, in order to warm your frosty digits round a bowl of Nettle Soup. But that’s behind us now. Promise.
It goes like this. Hades, God of the Underworld, is noodling along a trail on the slopes of Mount Olympus, all sprightly in lederhosen-mit-alpenstock, when he spies Persephone, daughter of Demeter (Goddess of the Harvest), picking wild flowers: Tess of the D’Urbervilles meets The Sound of Music. He abducts her, naturally. Demeter, distraught, wanders the face of the earth seeking her stolen child: it is revealed to her by Helios, the Sun, that Hades has Persephone duct-taped in the basement. She appeals to Zeus to intervene. He refuses (it’s messy). Demeter downs her trowel and secateurs and the concept of Harvest vanishes, plunging the world into famine, jeopardizing the existence of mankind. Zeus relents; Hades is compelled to release his captive, Demeter and Persephone are reunited, eternal Winter ceases. Only later does it transpire that Persephone, peckish in the Underworld, ate one of Hades’ pomegranate seeds; an act which (rather astonishingly) grants him first dibs to take her as his wife for a third of every year. During which Demeter mourns, nothing grows: Winter. When Persephone trots back upstairs: Spring.
Delaware County appears to have tweaked the myth slightly, keeping Persephone locked up for two thirds of the year. But imagine the carnival of ecstasies when she emerges onto our rolling, grassy meadows.
With Spring comes change. And Table on Ten is burgeoning with it. Some green shoots are those we’d hoped for; others, exciting and unanticipated.
We have rooms. Sweet, comfortable spaces for you and your people to stay in. Two beautiful, bookable rooms, above the café. The biggest is the entire attic floor of the building, windows on all sides. Some look out on the life of the village, others at the hills. Then there’s a cosier room on the second floor, facing north and east. Both come with a good bottle of wine, glasses and hand-made beds. Both afford guests the unique opportunity of staying in a small, unpretentious Catskills village, dipping their toes into the unique stream of life that rolls alongside Table on Ten. The food and wine, the events, workshops, spontaneous happenings, comings and goings of friends, neighbours, producers: be the first to munch on Burnett Farms greens, plucked moments before, just two miles up the road. Sample the special pizzas, soups, pies before they’ve even hit the table. Offer up new tunes for the Table iPods. Or just sit in the café and watch the slow world turn. We can point you at hiking trails, swimming holes, farms and farmstands, places to ride horses or bicycles, dawdle downstream in a tube or kayak, antique shops, yard sales, other places to eat, drink, run, skip or just sit and stare. Many ways to be part of the community of Table on Ten whilst still being able to retreat up the stairs, like Persephone.
The rooms are bookable without fuss or fanfare. Here. And here.