Can you go back? Hunting for food memories in the Catskills

Are those completely awesome thrilling times from your childhood really as great as you remember? Blanket forts? Bags of cotton candy?

Did I really eat those?
Did I really eat these?

With my professional background in wine and food, it is no wonder that I have many  food memories. As a 6 year old 1st grader, it was a delicious and rare treat when my mother would pack me a Thermos of hot spaghetti-o’s for lunch. Fast forward 15 years and I am living on my own after college. I remember pleasure I had realizing that I could buy and eat spaghetti o’s as much as I wanted, and the following disappointment when I consumed them. Were they always this bad?

Wine class is a thing
Wine class is a thing

When I teach wine classes or work with customers, I always remind my students that you cannot separate the wine from the environment in which you are consuming the wine. At For Love of Wine, people would come in and say, “The wine in Italy is better than the wine we have here. When I was on vacation, we were at a cafe …” Well, you were on vacation, away from stresses, enjoying yourself. Wine against that canvas is sure to be bearable at the very least! Now, you are stuck home, back in your daily routine – how is the wine consumed in this environment to compete for your love?

My first food memory
The summer I turned 12, my parents announced they were sending me to a sleep away summer music camp, NYSMC. I did not want to go. After endless, “Are we there yets” and “Mom, Dad I think we are too early for registration” we finally arrived in Oneonta, NY. Finally at the registration desk after waiting in line, we learned that we were indeed four weeks too early for the session my parents planned to have me attend. They were testy and I, triumphant. I was both right and not being sent away, just yet. Happily, we began the long ride home.
The drive back home was long stretches of nature peppered by tiny towns  and trading posts. Around dusk, we stopped at a restaurant. Glittering lights and lots of cars, it was like a festival hidden in the middle of the forest. We ate on the deck decorated with hanging plants and tiny lights. I had a steak and a virgin piña colada. My drink was served with a fuchsia flower floating in it. The steak was so juicy and flavorful I did not think to use steak sauce. My 12 year old mind and taste buds were blown away.

For the record, band camp really was very fun, but I did not know it as yet.

Moving back to the Catskills after 20 + years away, and with the freedom that comes with adulthood, I wanted to find this restaurant and experience childhood perfection again.

Studying the map, I isolated the towns where it could have been. I then searched for restaurants and cross checked with Google earth images. I found a restaurant in the approximate location, now called Peekamoose.
All winter and spring I said to my husband, let’s go there. Finally we went, not once but twice!

But, can you really go back?

Otter Falls swimming hole
Otter Falls swimming hole

Our first trip to Peekamoose, We arrived in the hamlet of Big Indian with five hours to kill. We decided to get a quick bite to eat at a local burger joint. Service that should have taken 20 minutes took a 1.5 hours and we sat in the hot sun. A half hour later we were stuffed and heat stroked. But our plan was to eat at Peekamoose!
To try and aid digestion, we hiked to Otter Falls, a local swimming hole on the Esopus creek.
(Note to the gentle reader: don’t try hiking in 3 inch sandals)

Deliciousness in the Catskills
Deliciousness in the Catskills

3 hours later, we are still not quite hungry, definitely slightly sun stroked and in major need of refreshment. We stumble into Peekamoose. To my delight, it WAS the  restaurant – the big staircase –  to the large deck and the cozy, yet spacious dark wood dining room. Things are looking good.

My best friend and I devour the wine list while Allan talks about beer. Slightly underwhelmed by the wine bottle list, I guzzle water to combat the heat fatigue.

We order compressed watermelon, beet soup with goat cheese and truffle oil, the charcuterie board and a bottle of the Gigondas.

The watermelon was refreshing though … Watermelon. The beet soup was tasty, hot and borscht like. It was unlike the cool, thicker blended soups we did at our restaurant during the summer. A nice summer weight, The charcuterie platter was tasty and a great pair to the Gigondas.

On the ride back, I had plenty of time to think. Was it was awesome as I remembered? I don’t know.

A few weeks later, my husband and I returned on a Friday evening when we were truly hungry. We ordered the wild mushroom dish and the short ribs. If the wild mushroom was like a cool weather spring dish, the short ribs were definitely a winter dish. Both were delicious and made me think of how we had to come back in the fall.

Was it the magical experience I had of my youth? Maybe not, but it was quite satisfying. Thankfully, I live in the Hudson Valley. This is the beautiful region of the Catskills, the Hudson River school, wineries and farms. There are passionate people who truly want to showcase the bounty and treasures of the area. Lucky for me, there are so many places to waiting to be discovered, so I can create more magical experiences.

One thought on “Can you go back? Hunting for food memories in the Catskills

  1. Hi K, Just found your blog! I cannot agree more about the food/memory experience. We try not to give in to the quick fix meals for the kids as to try and a develop a more diverse palate for them (and I really don’t want to eat their leftovers if they are boring!) I had to laugh seeing your can of spaghettios because I opened this door for my kids the other day. Of course I wasn’t going to give them the spaghettios of my childhood. No no, you know how I am. So, I pondered “how can I make this qucik meal pallatable since I’ll be eating half of it…” So I had a can of “organic o’s” (hahhaha) and I added about 1.5 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat. Let me tell you- it was DELICIOUS. But, I’m 100% certain it was better for them than it was for me. I doubt either child will remember their first can of mommy’s gourmet canned spaghetti, but I will remember for sure. It will never taste as good as it did the other night.

    Great Blog love! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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