What began as an evening of dinner, drinks, and Brazilian jazz at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center, 10 Columbus Circle in New York City, led me three weeks later to Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y., where Liz Neumark, CEO/founder of Great Performances (the operator for Dizzy’s), Jason Flores, the general manager of Dizzy’s, and Saul Bolton, the executive chef of The Norm at the Brooklyn Museum (another one of Great Performance’s venues), sat down to chat about food, restaurants, catering, hospitality and organic farming over an amazing lunch, fresh from the farm and the local food producing region.
Unfortunately, Corey Samuel, chef de cuisine at Dizzy’s Club, who’d initially spoken about Katchkie Farm, was unable to meet with us. He did, however, want to share a couple of his recipes below, perfect for this time of year. “Corey’s Comeback Sauce” tops off Dizzy’s Burger (1/2 pound house beef blend, white cheddar, caramelized red onions on a brioche bun). The strawberry ketchup steps up the bottled version several notches.
At Dizzy’s, I indulged in the Southern fried chicken served with mac ‘n’ cheese, cornbread with Cajun honey and oh, those Carolina fried pickles with Comeback Sauce, and the Low Country Crab Cakes with mango avocado chutney, red pepper aioli and basil oil ... authentic Southern cooking at its best in Manhattan! The avocado and heirloom tomato salad is prepared with arugula, burrata drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Wow ... so fresh from the farm. The recipe for the crab cakes is at https://bit.ly/2Rwm9q3 .
It is fascinating to learn how food businesses evolve from humble beginnings. Great Performances began in 1980 as a waitress-staffing agency for women in the arts and has grown to be the largest off-premise catering business in New York City.
The company catered the food extravaganza celebrating the reopening of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Cost: $1 million. The company is the caterer for venues such as the famed Plaza Hotel, Apollo Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall (home of Jazz at Lincoln Center), among many other cultural institutions. Great Performances also has produced notable events such as the Miami Boat Show, is one of the caterers at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and is the official caterer for the New York City Wine & Food Festival. And, as I write this column, it was announced that Neumark has again been named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women” in New York City by Crain’s New York Business. Three weeks ago, she was the commencement speaker at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.
The venues they serve might be prestigious, large and complex; however, the company’s food philosophy is simple: “Exceptionally delicious food, thoughtfully sourced ingredients.” Menus are a plant-forward celebration of contemporary American cuisine, maintaining a strong emphasis on seasonality and the sustainable sourcing of ingredients. Liz and company have developed close relationships with farmers and stress the full use of ingredients.
During my interview with Liz , she said “there was something missing and that little something is an organic connection to the land.”
Liz took her dedication to food and food culture further. In 2006, she established Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook and founded The Sylvia Center , also located on the farm. It is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing issues in children’s health.
The center is named for her late daughter. Liz and her colleagues are activists in tackling food-related issues and engage in a number of initiatives including food rescue, anti-hunger, healthy food access, local agriculture and the full utilization of food. The 60-acre farm is named for her son Sam’s childhood nickname, Katchkie, meaning “little duck” in Yiddish.
July 13 is The Sylvia Center’s Farm Dinner, hosted by Great Performances. The drive to the Hudson Valley of New York will be worth it. You might just want to stay the night in a nearby hotel or country inn. You’ll enjoy an exquisite meal in the fields of the farm, and an evening of garden tours, cooking demonstrations and community gathering. And, you will be supporting an organization whose mission is to teach young people essential skills in the kitchen, gain confidence, and make healthier choices. Cocktails are at 6 p.m. with a dinner buffet following at 7 p.m.
Other events during the year include Spring Planting Day, Fall Harvest Day (Oct. 19), The Art of Cooking held in NYC (Nov. 19), and the 11th annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum (Dec. 16). “Full Plate on the Farm,” are four-hour, culinary-focused farm programs (mid-May to mid-October) at Katchkie Farm and are designed for schools and youth organizations. It gives youngsters the opportunity to be involved in every step of the story of food, starting with the planting of a seed and ending with sharing a wholesome, farm-fresh meal that they prepare in the outdoor kitchen. For tickets to the farm dinner or more info on these events. visit www.sylviacenter.org.
Want recipes from the farm? Check out “Sylvia’s Table: Fresh, Seasonal Recipes from Our Farm to Your Family” by Liz Neumark with Carol Lalli. Here is the recipe for Katchkie Farm Spinach & Strawberry Salad.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and shallot together in a large serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Add the spinach, strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese to the vinaigrette, toss to combine, and serve. Serves 4.
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.
Combine strawberries, onions, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and soy in small pot. Bring to a simmer on med heat and cook for 13-15 minutes until strawberries are soft and broken down. Transfer berry mixture to a blender and puree on high. Strain into a bowl with a fine mesh China cap or sieve. Discard the solids. Add Vinegar, ginger, salt, white pepper, smoked paprika, cumin and cloves. Whisk well. Cool and transfer to a container. Refrigerate.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner: “Deadlier Games” July 12, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, https://bit.ly/2O3TQzQ, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Wear your most outrageous hat to compete for prizes.
Worth Tasting: July 20, 10:45 a.m. Guided 31/2-hour culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven, reservations required, 203-415-3519, 203-777-8550, $65. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2FjiwMP. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites. You won’t be hungry after this tour. I will lead this one.