Winter Adventures in the Time of COVID

The Catskills called and it's freezing but there's beer

Kaleidoscopic crumbs melted on our tongues, complemented by a satisfyingly starchy and savory flavor. We were eating yucca fries in my car, parked in the lot off Route 9W in Newburgh that houses the anarchist food truck Empanada Nirvana. The cold outside was too biting to roll down the windows and I worried that the oily scent would stick to the seats. But the empanadas were delicious, particularly the Rican-style jackfruit, stuffed fat with sappy fruit, like pulled chicken but voluptuous.

I was clicking around, trying to decide where to order lunch from in Woodstock when I came upon this post on Garden Cafe’s Instagram. “Balance... our Macro Meal resets me,” the caption read. Naturally, I was reminded of my beloved Souen and how I feel after eating one of their macro plates. Balance. It resets me. Yes, exactly! Great. Done. There was fluffy brown rice and steamed kale, stir-fried vegetables, my choice of tofu, and a ramekin of tahini sauce. Sometimes your body craves something basic and wholesome, and this is that.

Say you decided to take a break from eating meat. It’s been a month. Then you’re in the backseat of your friend’s car and they’re driving towards a sandwich shop called Lunch Nightly. You have the menu pulled up on your phone, your eyes glaze over the options and keep landing back on the turkey number. It comes with cheddar, “balsamized” lettuces (cute), pickled red onion, and chipotle mayo on a kaiser roll. You start to think about how satisfying a good turkey sandwich can be, how in high school you’d go to the bodega on the corner of Bleecker and Prince during lunch breaks and ask for turkey with cheddar or maybe swiss, spicy mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, sometimes “just a little” red onion, on a roll or in a wrap. And how although M & O Market & Deli’s sandwich counter was ten times better and just a few blocks east, on Thompson, you only started going there post-college, when colleagues from your first job invited you to join in on fresh turkey Fridays. You realize then that it’s Friday, click on TURKEY, add it to your cart, then look up. “What does everyone want?”

I made my first casserole. Actually, it was a group effort between myself, Saarim, and our friends Sam and Liam—a fun winter activity, as it was five degrees outside and a casserole comes together much quicker when you have one person chopping herbs and aromatics, another sautéing the mushrooms, a third making the rice, and a fourth blending the bean purée. We danced around the stove smoking weed and drinking pét-nat. The dish in-the-making tasted delicious each step of the way, especially right before the filling was piled into a ceramic dish and topped with seasoned breadcrumbs. In the end, after it baked, I liked it less. Too mushy. Not my thing.

Many of you have probably been to Kaaterskill Falls. It’s a two-stage waterfall accessible by a short hike, highly trafficked in the summertime. I’ve seen countless Instagram posts and stories tagged with the location. But have you had West Kill Brewing’s Kaaterskill IPA? It tastes like a tiki drink on the beach at sunset but hoppy, a beer so juicy you’d be silly to drink it with a meal, but salty chips pair nicely. I had two while we sat by the bonfire at the brewery atop thick mounds of snow, watching the house cat Teddy make his rounds. Then I bought a four-pack to go.

I was buzzed when we pulled up to Brio’s on our way home from West Kill. Fuzzy memories of their wood-fired pizza, granted as a prize when my bunkmates and I passed inspection with top marks, led me to recommend it for takeout. The camp I went to for eight weeks every summer for six years was less than seven miles away. I expected the pizza to be worse than I remembered, but it was just as good, if not better. If you happen to be in Phoenicia, swing by for a wild mushroom pie. The sesame seed crust makes it special.

Three products I purchased upstate that I would easily buy again:

  1. Westwind Orchard’s Raspberry Jam

  2. This 68% Dominician Hispaniola chococolate bar from Fruition Chocolate Works

  3. One whole smoked trout and a jar of honey from Lenny Bee (a man I have much more to say about, but I’ll save that for another time. H/t Molly for sending me to him!)


Heading upstate, or hope to, someday?
Here’s my list of Hudson Valley and Catskills highlights.



On why the vegan Caesar salad has become nearly as ubiquitous as its forebear for TASTE

On how there’s no place like a restaurant on a Friday night for Resy

For New Yorkers: February’s Hit List for takeout and al fresco dining includes Ha’s Dac Biet, Xilonen, Chez Ma Tante, and more


A few recommended reads:

Jonathan Nunn for The Economist: Gulp! The secret economics of food delivery

Charlie Mitchell for The Baffler: Fake Meat, Real Profits

Helena Fitzgerald for Griefbacon: love and slush puddles

Kyle Chayka for The NYTimes: How Nothingness Became Everything We Wanted


I’m @emilyjwils on Twitter & Instagram.