The Women of the Hudson Valley
"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." --- Maya Angelou
Meet the shakers, makers, movers and all around women warriors working and thriving here in the Hudson Valley.
The Omnivore: Barb Fisher, Proprietor, Barb’s Butchery
Playing with meat might seem like an odd career choice for a former vegetarian, but Barb Fisher says it was the food industry, not meat, that had grossed her out.
“I got into running and my body craved meat. I finally caved, ordered a prime rib and never looked back,” she says.
The newfound carnivore and mother of two began buying sides of beef from upstate and realized other people might want access to grass-fed, grass-finished, humanely raised meat. She quit her job as a college math instructor; spent 18 months apprenticing with Mark Elia, owner of Hudson Valley Sausage Company in Highland; and in December 2014 opened Barb’s Butchery in Beacon.
Her dedication to working with the best small farms, including Meiller in Pine Plains and Dashing Star in Millerton, quickly earned her a devout following. Fisher holds her own in the male-dominated field, but admits she did have to join CrossFit to keep up with the physical demands of moving hog halves and grinding 250 pounds of sausage a week.
“People think butchering is about knives and blood,” she says. “It’s really about precision. My inner math and science nerd found its calling.”
Photo by Damon Jacoby.
The Artist: Rose Viggiano, Proprietor, Chatham Hill Honey
Some say TV rots your brain, but in Rose Viggiano’s case it enlightened hers. While watching a “Nova” special about honeybees, she was overtaken by the urge to become a beekeeper. Having inherited the family country home on 50 acres, she had the space to do it. The worn-out land wasn’t fit for farming, but it was prolific for wildflowers. Perfect for bees.
For advice Rose called a local beekeeper, who suggested a few books that would teach her the basics. Then, two months later, he gifted Rose with two full-grown hives. At the end of her first year as a beekeeper, Rose was amazed that her interest had not waned. As an artist and teacher, she began to see some parallels between her passions for bees and the art of cast bronze sculpture. Both require patience and collaboration. She even created a line of jewelry cast in silver from beeswax honeycombs. Today Rose has eight active hives and some of the most sought-after honey in Columbia Country.
“I highly recommend beekeeping. To watch a hive is to witness a creative process that is unique and mysterious, not unlike the process of making art.”
The Lady Farmer: Ruby Duke, Raven & Boar
Ruby Duke describes herself as “persistent,” but that’s only one of many traits essential to being a farmer, charcutier, designer, mother of two and wife. Charcutier? you ask. That’s the pork butcher responsible for preparing the bacon, sausages, pâtés and terrines we know (and love) as charcuterie. In partnership with her husband, Sather—also her collaborator on the design of interiors and furniture for their formerly Brooklyn-based company, hivemindesign—Ruby runs Raven & Boar farm in East Chatham, NY. Since 2009, they have been raising heritage-breed pigs in a woodland setting and are now building a facility on the farm, one of very few certified kitchens in the area, to scale up production of their Hudson Valley Charcuterie.
“It’s inspiring for us to know that we can raise the animals, make the products and sell them ourselves,” says Ruby, “but it’s also deeply meaningful that this hard work creates a sustainable model for our farm and family.”
This journey has taught her how difficult it is to make something from source to finished product; the ongoing challenge is to communicate its singular value to customers. Luckily, those smoked pork rillettes speak for themselves.
The Good Witch: Jori Jayne Emde, Lady Jayne's Alchemy
There is a long and storied folk tradition of women—witches, healers, midwives—who use time-honored practices and ancient herbal remedies to assuage everything from heartache to hives. Jori Jayne Emde has taken up this mantle and, through a combination of study, intuition and experimentation, crafts all manner of elixirs, tonics and bespoke potions in her barn in Old Chatham, NY.
Alongside her husband, award-winning chef Zakary Pelaccio, she decamped from New York City to open Fish & Game, the Hudson restaurant known for its sophisticated renderings of ingredients from local farms, forests and fields. Jori relies on a variety of fermentation and preservation techniques to turn the kitchen’s leftover wines and vegetable scraps—as well as the unsightly produce neighboring farms can’t sell to conventional operations—into umami-rich vinegars, sauces and condiments.
“Getting the conversation moving about creative ways to repurpose waste is a big step,” she says, “but one that I see coming around the corner.” Her many wooden barrels filled with fermenting chilies, funky fish sauces and wild vinegars are a powerful example that Jori’s unique brand of practical magic is already well under way.
Photo by Damon Jacoby.
The Mistress of Ceremonies: Nini Ordoubadi, Tay Tea
Tea flows through Nini Ordoubadi’s veins. It is deeply ingrained in the Persian culture of her birth and an enduring part of her family’s legacy. She grew up spending summers at her great-aunt’s home on the Caspian Sea, where clients gathered for private tea-blending sessions in the garden. A New York resident since she left Iran to attend Barnard College, Nini initially sought out the green stillness and slower pace of the Catskills for weekend retreats, but soon dreamed of creating a space where she could invite people to experience tea “in all its ritualistic beauty.” Now a full-time resident with a thriving tea atelier and shop in Delhi, NY, Nini also uses the space to host seasonal workshops for the community. She is thrilled to be connected to so many artists and entrepreneurs actively involved in adding to the unique flavor of the area. With her delicious teas—many of which incorporate locally grown ingredients—her welcoming smile and her genuine empathy for all who cross her threshold, Nini truly is the consummate hostess.
The Prophet: Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in the late 1790s as Isabella, a slave of the Hardenbergh family in Swartekill, now Rifton, Ulster County. She escaped slavery in 1826. She became an itinerant preacher, took the name Sojourner Truth and fought for abolition and women’s rights. During the Civil War she nursed soldiers, and after the war she focused on guiding Southern slaves to the West. Truth died in 1883, but her immortal words delivered at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, remain.
—Peter G. Rose
AIN’T I A WOMAN?
Well children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ’twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white man will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
The man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?
I have borne 13 children and seen most all sold off to slavery, and I cried out with my mother’s grief. None but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [Someone in the audience whispers: “intellect.”]
That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Dover Publications, 1997)
Nell Irvin Painter. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (W.W. Norton & Company, 1996)
The Third-Generation: Laura DeMaria, Farmer/Owner/Shopkeeper, Hemlock Hill Farm
The story of Hemlock Hill is long and, at times, tragic. The 120 acres in Cortlandt Manor has been in the DeMaria family since 1939, when Bronx native Nicholas DeMaria fulfilled his city-kid dream to own land. For 78 years, this now Certified Organic farm (which raises vegetables, pigs, cattle, goats and chickens) has dodged the development that erased most of Westchester’s other farms. Laura is stepping into her father’s shoes and modernizing the operation.
In the ’90s, a fire struck Hemlock Hill’s 200-year-old hay barn, burning it to the ground. Another fire, in 2013, leveled a separate 150-year-old structure. Says DeMaria, “For our history, two fires isn’t that extraordinary. They were naturally occurring fires—damp hay, natural combustion, weather-temperature conditions. But we took the second fire as an opportunity to make some changes. That’s when I opened the Kickstarter to get the community involved.”
Westchester restaurants, marshaled by Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, held a week of fund-raisers to support the DeMarias. That money, combined with the insurance settlement, and the Kickstarter, raised $30,000—enough to build a new barn and a chicken coop. DeMaria has also renovated the farm’s slaughterhouse; now, operating under a USDA license, Hemlock Hill can break down its livestock and sell the butchered cuts more profitably in its shop.
Kathleen Finlay, President, Glynwood
Kathleen Finlay made her way to her current job as president of Hudson Valley’s Glynwood through “a respect and love for the natural world.” Finlay grew up in California, went to graduate school at Boston University for science journalism and worked in communications at the Bermuda Biological Station of Research. “It was there that I became intrigued with how the health of the natural world is coupled with the health of human beings.”
Thinking about how humans are put at risk as the world at large is “degraded” led Finlay to Harvard Medical School, as the managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment. In 2012 she came to Glynwood.
“Moving here allowed me to put into practice what I was thinking about academically,” she said. Finlay noted that the Hudson Valley has a “unique ability to build a regional food system.” She is most passionate about bringing women together in the fields of food and agriculture. “My philosophy is that women’s talents and skills have been suppressed in our culture.” To that end Finlay makes it her mission to offer opportunities for women to succeed, which she stated, “happens when they’re supported by their peers.”
Sara Grady, Vice President of Programs, Glynwood
Simply put, Glynwood’s mission is to support farmers and farming throughout the Hudson Valley, and Sara Grady’s role is to help shape the strategies and content of its widely varying programs. Grady worked behind the scenes to launch Hudson Valley Cider Week, a series of events that connect cider makers with retailers, beverage directors and chefs. Its success put New York State craft cider in top restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City. Grady also helped to create the New York Cider Association, a trade organization for the cider industry. Meanwhile, she’s behind the Kitchen Cultivars project, which seeks to save heirloom varieties of produce that are uniquely suited to grow on our land. Grady has also developed programs that connect chefs with livestock growers. Her reach is widespread—and it’s only growing.
Grady sees a link between all those divergent projects. “The work that I’ve created has been guided by my sensibility and my background, which is from creative media production. And I made art—I did all kinds of different things: I sewed costumes for the circus, I made documentaries, I was a performer and a dancer. All of those things inform my thinking about how we can grow and share good food.”
The Influencer: Colu Henry, Author, Back Pocket Pasta
Colu Henry’s Back Pocket Pasta does what used to seem daunting: It helps me cook dinner on the fly, with whatever’s in my pantry.
We are not talking scrambled eggs and toast. We’re talking pasta. The kind of seductive, pleasurable meals that are just as good eaten on the front porch with the kids at 5pm as they are at midnight, after an evening of cocktails.
Pasta every night? Won’t that get tiresome, you ask? Hardly. Because pasta isn’t the point. The point is self-reliance. With a well-stocked pantry and a bit of practice, the leftovers of the larder can come alive. Tubes of pasta slicked with toasted walnuts, caramelized onions, oregano and feta. Corkscrews with sesame, chili oil and green garlic. A pork bolognese so rich it stains your teeth a rusty red. This, friends, is dinner.
Colu’s simple kitchen philosophy—cook with what’s on hand, with what’s available at the market and with great care—puts her in a slim lineup of storied female culinary talent (think Julia, Marcella, Alice) who, through instruction, are teaching us how to eat and how to live. And in this age of abundance and anxiety, nothing is more valuable than that.
Photo by Damon Jacoby.
The Kitchen Beast: Sajin Perino, Chef/Culinary Research and Development, The Cookery
Chef. Mom. Vegetarian. Workout fiend. Sajin Perino manages the delicate balance of work, family and self-care with style. It’s an admirable enough accomplishment for any woman anywhere, but Perino works in a traditionally male-dominated field: She is a chef, cooking in a thronged Dobbs Ferry restaurant.
Is it hard to be a woman working in all-male kitchens?
“I’d say it’s hard if you allow it be hard—if you allow generalizations about your gender or your expected kitchen roles to define you. It’ll depend on your personality, of course—how thick-skinned you are and how well you get along with other people—but, personally, I haven’t had a tough time. I’m confident in myself as a woman. I’m confident in my skills. I know I can hold my own. It helps that Perino stands six-feet-two and is incredibly fit.
“My height as a woman is commanding: It’s something that you can’t ignore. But if you carry yourself with confidence, whether you’re tall or short—if you have confidence, and don’t allow yourself to be questioned because of your gender—then you shouldn’t have a problem. But, I have to say, being tall has been an advantage.”
The Brewmaster: Nikki Cavanaugh, Co-Owner/Co-Founder/Brewer, Rushing Duck Brewing Company
Nikki Cavanaugh wouldn’t let poverty keep her from a good time; she learned to how to brew in college because she couldn’t scrounge sufficient beer money. It’s this just sort of can-do attitude that led her to open Rushing Duck in 2012 with husband, Dan Hitchcock. Since then, Rushing Duck beers have been flowing from Saratoga to New York City, where they can be found at craft beer meccas like Manhattan’s Blind Tiger Ale House and Brooklyn’s The Owl Farm.
Nowadays, Cavanaugh has been bumped upstairs. She spends her days running Rushing Duck’s taproom or grudgingly piled high in bills. She says she misses “the tranquility of just brewing every day,” but, happily, Cavanaugh still takes part in the development of new brews. Two of her proudest achievements are Rushing Duck’s flagship Naysayer’s Pale Ale and, her particular favorite, the brewery’s Beanhead Coffee Porter. That beer is brewed with Guatemalan beans that have been roasted by the women-owned Java Love Coffee, located in the Catskill town of White Lake, NY. As Cavanaugh lovingly puts it, “Those two beers are our babies.”
The Mover & Shaker: Donna Watson Haynes, Assistant Director, Promotional Partnerships at MTA Metro-North Railroad
Regional tourism contenders like Dia:Beacon, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, The Culinary Institute of America and Lyndhurst all look to Donna Watson Haynes as an essential source for bringing in city folk. Haynes orchestrates partnerships and promotions to get people on the train to dine, shop, tour, hike throughout the Hudson Valley.
“Donna has been a mover and shaker in helping to increase tourism to the Hudson Valley,” says long-time colleague Mary Kay Vrba, president and CEO of Dutchess Tourism. “Her enthusiasm and energy carries throughout the region and Dutchess Tourism has benefited greatly through her partnership.”
A Beacon resident, Haynes rides Metro-North daily into Grand Central. “I never get tired of the views from my window seat,” she says. “The Hudson River and the river towns that dot the Hudson Line make me feel like a tourist every day and it keeps me inspired when I get to work.”
Haynes is married to musician Jeff Haynes, and together they have three children: Valerie, 23; Oji, 18; and Driani, 15. She is a trustee of Howland Public Library in her Beacon neighborhood and active in the community service missions at her church New Vision Church of Deliverance.
—Laura Lee Holmbo
The Matriarch: Joan Dye Gussow
For nearly half a century Joan Dye Gussow has been an outspoken critic and analyst of our industrial food system. Known as the matriarch of the local food movement, Joan talks about the importance of eating locally and seasonally, and the effects the American diet is having on our health and the health of the environment.
“Early in my career, I testified to Congress about the awfulness of food advertising to children. When my testimony was published I was just terrified. I was very new in the field; I wasn’t a doctor yet, and I didn’t have a degree, I was a student, an old student. So I pushed the panic button and waited for the other shoe to drop. In the end, I got tremendous support from the professionals in the field.
“Ultimately, I was extraordinarily lucky, because I was made chair of the Department at Columbia University Teachers College, and then it was very hard for people—even the guys in the profession who really wanted to get me out had to acknowledge, Well, she can’t be totally crazy, Columbia made her department chair.”
“All these decades later, I think it’s very exciting what’s going on in the Hudson Valley. It’s fantastic that farming is being so revived and honored, and there are so many chefs using local food.”
The Culinarian: Agnes Deveraux, The Village Tea Room
“Originally I was going to open a little bakeshop. Baking is really my passion. But we changed our business plan and decided to open a restaurant, serving local food and buying from local farmers.
There weren’t that many people back then, nobody delivered and you couldn’t buy any meat from a local farmer. But things have changed and now I have so many people offering me local beef, and chicken, it’s wonderful. Our chalkboard downstairs has all the farmers who we buy from, and it’s not just fruits, vegetables and meat. We also have local wine, local bourbon, local gin and local beer.
If I’m going to buy vegetables, I’m going to buy them from somebody I know, like a local farm or business that’s a neighbor, because they are proud of what they do. I believe it’s better: It’s better for you, it’s better for the environment, it’s better for your kids, it tastes better and it’s better for the beauty of the area to have more farms than developments.”
The Advocate: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Clinton is well aware that the affordability of our food and the viability of our small towns depend in large part on the strength of our farming communities. Her impressive record as an advocate for rural America includes the “Farm-to-Fork” program she helped establish during her tenure as a U.S. Senator representing New York. Its mission was to expand markets for New York’s diverse array of agricultural products, linking upstate growers and purveyors with distributors, farmers’ markets, schools and restaurants in downstate regions such as New York City. She never shied from using creative measures in support of it: flying a group of restaurateurs to the Finger Lakes to boost sales of New York wine, and pushing for mandatory “country of origin” stickers to differentiate New York apples from imported ones. One year, she even sent a weather-blighted Hudson Valley apple to former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman as a visceral plea for federal disaster funds. Throughout her long and accomplished career, Hillary Clinton—former first lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State and presidential candidate—has always known that farming communities are vital to making America great.
The Voice: Ruth Reichl, Cook, Restaurant Critic, Editor, Author, Memoirist, Novelist, Television Series Producer, and Twitter Superstar
There is no writer on Earth who has mastered as many media as Ruth Reichl. Not only did she start her career cooking alongside Alice Waters at the seminal farm-to-table restaurant Chez Panisse, but Reichl parlayed that cooking experience into influential positions as a restaurant critic at both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. In New York, she was one of the first critics to recognize excellence in restaurants that didn’t adhere to the white-tablecloth model. Her reviews introduced inclusivity to criticism and celebrated the ethnic restaurants whose press mentions, if they got them, had been historically relegated to the Cheap Eats column. Predictably, Reichl’s memoir of those experiences—Garlic and Sapphires—became a bestseller.
Reichl was editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine for 10 years until Conde Nast closed the 68-year-old title, citing declining ad sales. This sent shock waves throughout the both the publishing and food worlds. Not content to retire as the martyred saint of high-class food writing, she persisted and tackled another medium with two food-centric television series for PBS. Reichl appeared as a judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” and, in 2014, banged out her first novel (also a bestseller). Oh, and while all this was happening, Reichl picked up some 950,000 followers on Twitter for her haiku-like meditations about life in the Hudson Valley.
Empire Builder: Bonnie Saran, Chef/Owner of Little Kabab Station, Little Crepe Street, Little Spice Bazaar, Little Mumbai Market and Little Drunken Chef
The restaurant industry welcomes many paths inward, but, still—Saran’s path to owning five Westchester restaurants is strange. Raised in a military family in India, Saran holds a degree in business, but her first hospitality industry job was helping in her mother’s catering business in India. “Basically, what I did was design stages and sets. We launched Corona in India, we launched General Motors Ltd. in India and I worked with PepsiCo and Coca-Cola on a retainer basis. So, I used to have my own thing while I was studying for my degree.”
In the United States, Saran managed an Indian restaurant, which evolved into Saran managing that restaurant’s entire nine-unit group. “When I joined, they were not really doing well. My job was to figure out how they were losing money, and to identify how to get them to a financially viable position.” By 2010, when Saran opened Little Kabab Station, she had learned by heart the restaurant biz motto “keep it small, keep it all.” LKS held 12 seats and no liquor license, and employed all of four workers. Still, Saran gained the fandom of Martha Stewart—who tweeted and blogged about her—and Hillary and Bill Clinton became regulars. Now, with five restaurants, Saran employs close to one 100 people.
The Naturalist: Laura Silverman
Enter the home of writer, forager and cook Laura Silverman and you will not leave feeling unnourished, unnoticed or, frankly, unloved. Laura’s cottage feels lavish: animal pelts draped on gorgeous furniture, boldly patterned rugs adorning dark painted floors. But the decorations contrast the lively way Laura speaks about anything, or whips up a quick, delicious lunch. Everywhere her love for life is evident, and nowhere more so than for the nature that surrounds her home and inspires her cooking. Outside, flocks of birds descend on Laura’s feeder—she knows each one by name. A yellow-twig dogwood reaches up to the sky and Laura tells of the day it came home, just a pot-bound sprout. Skulls—doe, stag, skunk—line her fireplace and kaleidoscopic feathers hang on her wall. It’s this love that brought Laura to Sullivan County, where she spends days seeking out elderflower, or fishing for watercress in cold creeks. It’s this love that’s brewed into her bitters, made from wild-foraged roots, and stirred into her (carefully) hand-picked-nettle soup. To eat with Laura is to not just lap up all the best, most delicious parts of nature—but to bask in the passion she has for it, too.
The Medicine Woman: Dana Eudy, Field Apothecary
With the birth of her children, Dana Eudy rediscovered her interest in spiritual healing. Raised in Texas, she was introduced early by her father to Latino culture’s use of herbs. From this she developed an attraction to botanicas and traditions that bridged the mystical domain. As a mother, she pursued studies in homeopathy, Ayurveda and Western herbalism so she could treat her kids holistically at home.
This desire inspired her to grow herbs in her Gowanus backyard from which she created the tinctures and tonics that eventually led to Field Apothecary.
“I noticed my kids weren’t getting sick even as they were entering school,” she said. She wanted to expand and share her understanding of “the ability [herbs] have to keep us well and free from disease.”
Brooklyn space limits and difficulty sourcing locally grown herbs, plus her growing desire to spend more time getting to know the plants, encouraged her to move to Germantown. “Getting a bag of dried herbs from another part of the world wasn’t resonating with my inner being.”
Bringing others confidence in the benefits of herbs is a Field Apothecary goal. Judging by the success of products such as Deep Sleep Tincture, Eudy seems well on the way.
It would be enough to design a world-famous restaurant, especially if that restaurant went on to receive countless awards. But what if that restaurant had a mission to educate diners about the ethics and origins of what appears on their plate? And what if it served expensive, supremely high-concept food? What if your task as a designer was to create a visual narrative to introduce and support those missions—which evolve, driven by Dan Barber, one of the world’s most progressive chefs?
This is the challenge that faces Laureen Barber, one of the trio of Barbers behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns. In her role as design director, she oversees everything—with the exception of food—that diners experience during a visit: Her influence touches architecture, interior design, lighting, web design and tableware. It is her work, not Dan’s, that visitors see and feel first.
When we spoke, Barber was overseeing the pop-up of Blue Hill’s WastEd project in London; she was painstakingly creating an entire restaurant, from lights to floors, from salvaged materials—all on the roof of Selfridge’s department store.
“Dan works incredibly fast, and he’s always interested in doing something new. WastEd is the perfect example: He’s challenging himself, he’s challenging everybody. He’s our biggest challenge.”
The Daredevil: Abi Mesick
To hear her youthful voice, you’d never guess Abi Mesick has 35 years of experience as a gardener, tree worker and farmer. As a child Abi was active in the 4-H Club, with a passion for dairy cattle and calves. By 16 she was a talented perennial gardener with her own fledgling business. She became interested in tree work while working as a secretary for an arborist. She fell in love with climbing trees and worked in them for 32 years, until all that backbreaking work did exactly that. Last year she had three discs removed from her back and replaced with bone grafts. This summer Abi will go back to work, but not in the trees—that chapter of her resume is all but over for her. As the co-proprietors of Collins Farm in Chatham, Abi and her fiancé Donal Collins raise cattle, chickens and other livestock as well as fresh eggs, raspberries and blueberries and hay. With a focus on humane slaughter, Collins Farm’s animals graze on lush green pastures and receive the best care possible. You can buy Collins Farm eggs at Ben Gable Savories in Chatham, and Spruce Ridge Farm in Old Chatham sells Collins Farm beef.
The first thing Sharon Burns-Leader ever baked was a pretzel. She was 9 years old.
“My mother didn’t know what to do with me—I was always asking her for ingredients she’d never heard of before, like yeast and buttermilk,” says Burns-Leader.
She found her way to Bread Alone in the mid-’80s and never left. “I walked into that building and I found my home,” she recalls. “I loved the wood ovens. I loved everything about it.”
Her latest project is experimenting with the growing array of regionally grown and milled grains. Inspired by the rye bread she sampled on a trip to Denmark a few years ago, Burns-Leader has developed a line of Nordic breads using einkorn, rye and spelt flours. To bring things full circle, she’s also developed a wonderfully hearty pretzel made with regionally grown grains, sweetened with a little honey and topped with mineral salt. There’s also a rich shortbread cookie, two flavors of babka muffin, a puff pastry pear tart made with spelt and rye flour, a whole-wheat sourdough bread she calls Ashokan Miche, and more. Her line of boutique baked goods is available only at Bread Alone’s Boiceville location and at the Woodstock Farm Festival on Wednesday afternoons.