Anybody who’s been with us since the first Egg In A Nest hopped up onto the counter like Bathsheba’s loofah, will probably have noticed that chalk and chalkboards play a big role in the life of Table on Ten. There’s something primal at work in the relationship between hand, stone and wall. When late-Neanderthal noticed reindeer running past the mouth of his cave, he etched his feelings rudely over the mantlepiece. Hittite housewives, having witnessed their husbands sucked up by tractor beams from flying saucers, would immediately reproduce the scene on the wall to avoid accusations of matricide when friends came round later for cold barley porridge. And the following conversation wouldn’t have been out of place in the troglodyte dwellings of ancient Cappadocia:
Byzantine Man 1: Have you heard the one about the Immolation of St Garibaldus?
Byzantine Man 2: Why don’t you scratch it on the ceiling?
Whilst we rarely use Table on Ten’s chalkboards for religious inspiration (unless it’s the worship of Yemana’s Nettle Balls), they are nevertheless a kind of ever-evolving expression of the fundamentals.
What’s on the menu (in chalk).
What’s not on the menu (chalky smear).
What’s on the menu instead (in chalk over chalky smear).
In an effort to introduce perishables into the Microshop, we recently acquired a sarcophagus-sized, mustard-coloured refrigerator and coated it with Rust-oleum chalkboard paint. What’s inside is stated on the outside. Where you might have expected to find the mummy of Tutankhamun, you can now find such items as local non-homogenized Crystal Valley milk, our Table on Ten soups ‘to go’, Last Harvest Farm free-range eggs, hickory-smoked bacon from Dan Finn Farm, fresh greens from Burnett Farms, sweet pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and limited-edition savoury pies from Table on Ten. New stuff will appear – inside and out – as the seasons progress. And in every case we’ll chalk it up when it’s here, wipe it off when it’s gone. Like a metaphor for Life. The temporal nature of all good things.
Weekend Specials we try to render specially: on the board by the door, if there’s time and inspiration. Whether it’s about pies or soup or just the chicken-scratchings of a homily. It’s kind of our humble nod to the painterly Cappadocians, busily making beauty for beauty’s sake in some remote corner of an occasionally unforgiving landscape; and trying to do it beautifully.
Ever since the inauguration of Friday and Saturday pizza nights, way back in our Pleistocene period (October of last year), we’ve had to untangle the weekly riddle of how many doughs to prepare. Weekends in Bloomville are unpredictable; forecasting who’ll bounce through the door seeking pizza is weird science. Multiple factors come into play. There’s the notorious weather of course. Then there are holidays, events going on in New York City, events going on around Delaware County, Facebook posts, word-of-mouth, who already popped in for lunch, sinkholes, bath salts, Acts of God, traffic, deer migration patterns, the phases of the moon, voices from beyond the grave and the life-cycle of the monarch butterfly.
Too few doughs and we’re those men with ping-pong bats on airport runways, turning away carloads of distressed customers who have driven across the county only to find the cupboard bare. Too many, and we’re on an all-dough diet until it’s gone. Because disappointed customers are by far the greater sin, we default to making more than enough and consequently being left with a few. But what to do with retired pizza dough? There’s little call for dough pot-holders and dough macrame is unwieldy and so 2010.
Then it struck us. What about … baking it? I mean, call us crazy, but it’s completely amazing live sourdough, the blue-blooded end of an ancestral thread that stretches back through Brian and Kelli and beyond.
Sunday morning: we gathered at the kitchen table, emptied out the remainders and moulded them into different shapes and sizes. A light misting with water, dusting with flour and in they went. And out they came. Beautiful Table-made sourdough loaves. Just enough bite to give them presence, not so much as to claim your dentures or leave your cheeks bruised.
We are keenly aware that bread-making is an arcane art, with its own folklore, orthodoxies and mythological men in bronze helmets prancing about in front of ships. And we’re not claiming to have reinvented any wheels here. But what we have done is repurposed stuff that would otherwise have gone into the compost and come up with something natural, completely local and really tasty. We toasted up some slices and spread them with butter and meyer lemon marmalade. Delicious. And then we cut it thick, toasted it, and made it the base for Marmite Guacamole toast, a vegetarian staple of the lunch menu. The recipe is below. Come by and give it a spin on its new homespun platform. Marmite is for sale in the microshop too …
thick slice of hearty bread
most of a ripe avocado
heavy smear of chipotle pepper
teaspoon of lime or lemon juice
few basil leaves, ripped
Frankies olive oil
fresh, cracked black pepper
Maldon salt flakes
Lightly toast the bread, spread it with butter and a thin smear of Marmite. Put the avocado, chipotle, lime juice and basil in a bowl and mash it well with the back of a fork. Spread it thickly on the toast. Drizzle with the Frankies oil, sprinkle with black pepper, feta and Maldon salt to taste. Deluxe Version: before sprinkling on the pepper and feta, make a deep dent in the guacamole with the back of a spoon. Poach an egg. Lower it into the dent, flare the edges of the guacamole so it looks nested. Sprinkle the pepper, feta, salt. Immediately before eating, break the yolk and let it run into the guacamole.
It’s been no more than a couple of weeks since the persistent blanket of snow finally gave way to the browns and duns of a Delaware County spring. Perhaps it’s the soul’s innate capacity for self-preservation that stretches time, making it feel longer since winter’s bony grip was at our elbow. But now it’s official; spring has arrived and the redwing blackbirds will not shut up about it. Ramps are muscling up between the rocks and cyclists are blurring the backroads with spandex.
Odd that it was just February – six weeks ago – we were approached by our friend and unfailing pizza-night supporter, the astonishing Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, with the bones of a conceptual photo story based around Table on Ten, for the inaugural issue of her new Magazine OSMOS. Even as we excitedly listened to Cay Sophie’s proposal (probably with our arms in the wood-fired oven or one of the sinks) it became clear that she was thinking of something quite different from the kind of pieces we’d been involved with till then – Wilder, Martha Stewart Living, Remodelista. No sunlight dappling the surface of potato pizzas or meticulously-casually abandoned forks for Cay Sophie. She’d seen a grid of pictures we’d posted, illustrating a journey around various farms picking up ingredients for a pie. We must have been in esoteric mood that day; the grid was more dreamscape than literal rendering of the journey, and it was that aspect – the landscape of the mind, perhaps – that Cay Sophie was interested in exploring.
With deadlines already pressing, London-based Danish photographer Henrik Knudsen flew from the warmth of California into the teeth of Delaware County’s lingering winter. For the best part of a week, he ploughed a furrow through our snow-bound corner of the county, up hill and down dale, calling in at producers Burnett Farms and Harpersfield Cheese, frequently scuttling into Table on Ten to borrow Inez so she could walk shin deep through snow, sit behind foggy windows, drive along deserted roads.
An amazing few days: we cooked dinners, lit bonfires, gathered each evening to look at pictures and watch the storyline unfold. In some ways the process was quite natural – reflecting upon the familiar choreography of living and working in this landscape – and in other ways a complete departure. Walking slowly across a frozen field of corn stubble is something we all know. Walking back-and-forth across it a dozen times in the bone-chilling cold is somewhat less familiar. The narrative that emerged felt something like the lingering edge of a waking dream.
It was a privilege to be able to collaborate on a project of this stature with Cay Sophie (a force of nature in her own right), Henrik and Christian. And what a thrill to see it out so quickly, just a few weeks after it was shot, beautifully printed and currently available on the shelves of the microshop. Here are a few pictures from the story; you can also see the whole piece as it ran in OSMOS in the Press section of the website.
Wind from the North, the sap cometh Forth.
Wind from the East, the sap runneth Least.
Wind from the South, there is a Drouth.
Wind from the West, the sap runneth Best .
We have it on good authority that they’ve been making maple syrup in the northwestern Catskills since the Wabanaki spirit Glooscap plucked hairs from the belly of Grandmother Woodchuck and wove them into a magical bag. Dan Finn makes no claim of similar intimacy with the local ground-squirrels. Still, March-in, April-out, you’ll find him at that remote point where the circumference of Bovina bleeds gently into Delhi, sturdily manning the massive old wood-fired boiler in his sap-shed; alchemizing sugar from sap. Like Casey Jones. Steamin’ and a-rollin’.
Whilst the nuances of maple syrup production are delightfully arcane and embroidered with folklore, the basics are pretty straightforward. When the weather starts warming up in Spring (which could be as late as mid-August in Delaware County), sap in maple trees starts running from the roots through the trunk to the branches. During the cusp period when temperatures are above freezing by day but below by night, the sap runs up-and-down like a bellhop in a Paris hotel. Bore a hole into that vertical stream, fashion a little spout, hope something drips from it. Build a fire, reduce what you’ve gathered by boiling. Pour it on your pancakes.
In ages past, maple trunks would be punctured with sharp rocks, the sap channeled to hollowed out logs along conduits forged from birch bark. And though Dan offers us no such aboriginal prowess, he pretty much does things the old way. The boiler’s out back in the old shed, it’s the size of a 1970’s Sedan DeVille and is fired by wood. The sap is trundled down from 200 trees above the farmhouse behind an ancient tractor in giant metal drums. There’s PBR and 90’s music from a battered plastic boombox. Nobody’s reversing any osmosis on Huff Road. But it’s plenty hot in the shed, and Dan’s right there at the helm stoking the beast like Beelzebub pokering sinners in the fiery furnaces of Hell.
Our ramble with Dan has not been exclusively along the path of Moonshine Maple. We used his milk-fed Yorkshire Pork – in many cuts and consistencies – for the 10-Mile Pie, and his Highland Beef for the hand-numbered Steak and Ale Pies. In the days before Horizon Organic spirited all his Jersey milk from the hills and hollows of Glen Burnie, we’d go over to the farm, drink a beer, sample his artisanal cheeses (‘Danchego’) and listen to vintage Pavement cuts.
Now, along with Moonshine Maple, we carry Dan’s bacon in the microshop and use it in the bacony version of the Egg In A Nest. We’re also employing Moonshine’s more delicate sibling – maple sap itself – as the basis of one of our house-made sodas. Filtered and pasteurized, we carbonate it and pour it over ice. Sap, ice and a little Wind from the West. As elemental as can be.
Anybody remember last Autumn?
October 2012. Before the weekends had specials and soup. Before the building had heat and the pies meat. Before meyer lemon marmalade, marmite guacamole toast and the egg in a glass. Before the snow. Rushing, rushing to be ready for our inaugural pizza weekend, knowing that the crowds were assembling and a coterie of friends advancing on us from around Delaware County, not to mention up I87 from New York City. Among them Gemma and Andrew Ingalls from Brooklyn, armed with camera gear, and Anna Moschovakis from Hobart armed with her pen and a mission from Wilder Quarterly to tell something of Table on Ten’s early story and our hopes for the future.
The idea of being featured in Wilder was … still is … a big deal for us. We’d only been open a few months, the menu and microshop were growing but it was early days. The first chill of winter was in the air and the furnace and heating system were still theoretical entities. The magazine had featured Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle in Morocco, the Moss Temple in Kyoto, wild foraging in Finland and off-limits geode vaults in the American Museum of Natural History; and now they were on their way to Bloomville in the Western Catskills. And the pizza oven was still curing.
As we now recall with joy and relief (and memories of warm sunshine), everything went off beautifully. Gemma and Andy shot voraciously for two days and roamed the neighborhood, visiting Steve at Burnett Farms and Richard and Holley at Lucky Dog amongst others. The unveiling of the oven saw us jammed to the rafters with friends and supporters, and down to our last scraps of sourdough. Our extended family of local heroes helped with everything from entertaining all-comers, running pizza and wine through the crowd, washing dishes, crafting donation boxes and juggling the phalanx of iPods.
And now, many months later – as the first rays of warm sunlight are once again dappling the picnic table – the Winter 2013 issue of Wilder Quarterly is on the news-stands. And we’re right there amongst the Maine oyster farmers, Vietnamese farm-to-table exponents and Alaskan salmon-fileters.
We’ll have an issue or two for browsing through in the café very soon, as well the full article on the press section of the site.
‘Noise proves nothing. A hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid’ – Mark Twain
The lowly egg. Humans have been shoveling ’em down since we first got our knuckles off the ground. Fragments of fossilized egg-shells have been found in the Lascaux Caves in Southwest France, presumably the remnants of a box lunch packed by Paleolithic Woman for Paleolithic Man, busily noodling his life away on yet another sketch of charging bison. There were eggs in the tomb of Haremhab the Hairless, right there by his sarcophagus in case he got a bit peckish on his eternal ramble through the afterlife. And when Vesuvius blew in AD 79, what were the hapless Romans munching on as they looked up from their breakfasts at an onrushing cataract of molten lava? Eggs.
But if eggs were brought to Mesopotamia by the Nubians in 1500 BC, they were only brought to Table on Ten by Katrin and Jamie Stelmashuck of Last Harvest Farm in the summer of last year: and they proved so fresh and tasty that we have been eagerly devouring them ever since. They are a staple of our baking, the mainstay of the Egg in a Nest and Egg in a Glass. For the Marmite Guacamole Toast, we sometimes poach one and lower it into a bed of spiced, mashed avocado, sprinkle it with black pepper and a little feta.
Last Harvest Farm fits our ideal model for local suppliers. Katrin and Jamie are so local that a fit, athletic man in search of eggs could run up Bloomville Hill Road to the farm and back in a few minutes. But we don’t have any fit, athletic men, so Katrin brings the eggs down in her car. The chickens are madly free-range and all have lovely chicken-smiles on their faces. They are a whole mess of breeds; Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, Golden Comets, Tetras … and a single Araucana who pops out a bluish-green egg about once every two days. Who knows, you might have unwittingly consumed one of her treasures last time you popped in for breakfast.
We also sell Last Harvest Farm eggs. $3.75 a dozen. Look in the refrigerator, next to the milk.
And by way of an example of Last Harvest Farm eggs in action. Here’s our version of Egg in a Glass.
2 soft boiled eggs
fresh herbs (including chives)
dried red pepper
big tablespoon of Frankie’s olive oil