THE CATSKILLS: COUNTRY ROADS

 Photographs by William Abranowicz

Photographs by William Abranowicz

Just 150 miles from NYC the Catskills are an easy weekend trip. The area has always been a haven for creative types--artists, musicians, writers, and designers. Our good friends professional photographer, William Abranowicz and location scout, Andrea Raisfeld define that description and fittingly bought and built a fabulous house here a few years back. The small town unpretentious charm, beautiful upstate vistas and plenty of outdoor activities make this is a perfect get away. So trade traffic for tranquil and follow Andrea’s tips exploring this central Catskill area of New York State. 

Tripper Tips:

Rent kayaks or canoes just north of Margaretville at Susan’s Pheasant Farm and spend an afternoon on Lake Wawaka or on the east branch of the Delaware River.

Wintertime—hit the slopes for some skiing or snowboarding at nearby Belleayre Mountain. Plattekill Mountain has 60 miles of lift served bike trails.

Graham and Co. in nearby Phoenicia, or The Roxbury in the historic town of Roxbury, are two other options for small, quirky boutique lodging.

If you are heading Upstate, take a peek at two great new blogs And North and Escape Brooklyn

Friday: How best to make the most of a short visit to Margaretville, NY? Begin your journey late on a Friday afternoon, so you can stop for dinner at Peekamoose on Route 28 in Big Indian, NY. The vibe is dark, cozy, and mountain cabin-y, and their hamburgers are good enough to tempt this once vegetarian that eating a locally grown, grass fed cow is almost a moral imperative. The french fries are sublime—don’t under-order and think you’ll be ok to share.  The 12 ingredient chopped salad is a good start to dinner, but my favorite part of the meal is the end. Just outside the entrance, a roaring fire pit waits with a big jar of marshmallows and long wooden sticks. Such a convivial way to meet fellow travelers, and have that toasted bit of post-prandial sugar.

Sleep: We stay at our own house, but airbnb or A House Around the Bend have some fine local overnight options.  If you’re lucky, the night will be crystal clear, and you can look up and see what a nighttime sky is meant to look like, away from the glare of urban centers. 

Wake Up: Saturday morning in Margaretville offers good yoga appropriate to all levels at The Ashram Center, nothing fancy, an hour and a half of solid instruction for a mere $15.  They like to bring in teachers from all over, and with that variety always comes tidbits of new knowledge.

Eat: Limbered up and hungry, you should head straight to the Pkatakan Farmers Market in the red round Barn on Route 30, open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. How does Belgian Waffles hot off the grill, pulled pork sandwiches, good strong coffee, and chocolate chip cookies sound!  Of course there is plenty of appealing produce too, the most notable of which is Lucky Dog Organic, whose Hamden, NY grown-greens can be found on the menus of some well-known NYC restaurants.  Look for cheese from Harpersfield, variations on Tilsit like Raw, Aged, Lavender, or Dill.  Pick up a baguette from Bread Alone, a jar of Hot Jalapeno Jelly from Teathyme Herb Farm, some smoked trout, and some killer baked goods from Holiday Farm Biscuit Co.  Now you have the makings of a perfect picnic. 

Outdoors: Hike on the Dry Brook Trail loop, or take the lazier fork in the road, by spending an afternoon by the water’s edge at Belleayre Beach, a New York State swimming hole complete with a sandy shore, lifeguard, and swimming lanes. Don’t forget your picnic lunch!

Small Town Charm: Leave time for Main Street in Margaretville, not what you’d call a shopper’s mecca, but still with some places you’d want to visit.  I love Home Goods, not the mass chain, but a small corner store that calls itself a “Toy Store for Cooks and Entertainers.”  I just bought metal straws that make drinking a smoothie even more chillingly satisfying—and that much more eco-responsible.  Just a few windows down is 768 Main, a cavernous coffeehouse with fresh-baked goods, teas to purchase from Tay Teas of nearby Andes, NY, antiques, and my favorite display, leather goods by Liza Belle, a local artisan who crafts leather sandals, handbags, and jewelry of great quality and timeless style. Go 11 miles west of Margaretville, a windy hilly ride past small waterfalls and farms, to the village of Andes, worth a few hours if daylight permits.  If nothing else stop in to Kabinett & Kammer, a contemporary curiosity shop layered with oddments of taxidermy, vintage anatomical posters, antiques and curated objects.

Not Your Everyday Place: Across the street is the ultimate book-lovers haven, Bibliobarn, a warehouse filled floor to ceiling, corner to corner, with used books, organized into arcane categories like The Occult, Moribundica, Railroading, and Oppressionia, among the more pedestrian strains like Women’s History and Sports played with a Ball.  Any category--or sub-category--you can think of, they’ll likely have it, and somehow know, among the million volumes they appear to stock, where it can be found.

Night Activities: Ok,now you have to make a choice.  If the Belleayre Music Festival is going on (early July to end of August), you should consider heading over to the mountain in High Mount for some music or comedy under a pretty tent at the base of the ski slope.  We recently saw Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, front row center, (my husband is a Jersey Boy and this was big excitement, and I gotta admit, it was really fun.) If dinner is more compelling, the place to go in Margaretville is Summerfields.  If it’s warm enough, ask to sit out back on their huge back patio, which is a cross between someone’s ambitious backyard tiki bar and, well, I don’t really know what else, set above the East Branch of the Delaware that runs through town (the very river that rose to such disastrous effect in Hurricane Irene in August 2011).  There’s an air hockey table and a pool table, but if you want a more sedentary experience, you can sit at the table with the slider benches, or at a festive high top for two (or more).  Regarding the menu, basic is best, chicken wings, nachos, steak or lobster.  Hold out for dessert, because nothing is more small town upstate New York than the Bun n’ Cone, which serves Perry’s Ice Cream, an upstate New York brand that deserves and has our undying devotion for its Panda Paws, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Caramel Cup Craze. 

Sunday Drive Home: There’s a great dining option on your way home.  A homely little roadside joint along Route 28 in Phoenicia has in the past couple of years been reborn into a hipster must for great food and a classic vibe (without the retro kitsch), The Phoenicia Diner.  Let us know what you think!



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