Reinventing Road Food
RICHARD AND MARY ANNE ERICKSON’S Blue Mountain Bistro sat at the intersection of the Glasco Turnpike and Rt. 212 in the middle of nowhere on the back way to Woodstock from Kingston (or the front way if you were coming from Saugerties). There, Richard served extraordinary yet simple dishes to patrons who knew the difference between good and just flashy mediocre. The restaurant was revered by many for the quality of the food, the friendliness of the staff (Mary Anne worked the front of the house), its warm atmosphere and lack of pretension.
After a devastating fire, the couple decided not to continue the bistro, choosing instead to open a carry-out cafe that, on the surface, seems to be the diametric opposite of its progenitor. In a small, busy strip mall along a crowded section of Rt. 28 heading north from Kingston into the Catskills, they set up Blue Mountain Bistro To Go.
The Ericksons continued what they had been doing—Richard creating dishes using fresh local ingredients sourced from farms and farmers he knew personally, Mary Anne continuing her art, design, illustration and writing. This time, though, they were serving a whole different public—one that was in a hurry, one that was used to pulling into a mall, ordering a paper bag lunch at a drive-up window and hightailing it out of there. So Bistro To Go reinvented road food, or at least what most people expected road food to be along Rt. 28 in Ulster County, NY.
Bistro To Go has been remarkably successful, and the Ericksons have finally decided to divulge some of the secrets behind that success, which is to say, we finally have a cookbook filled with the recipes, insights, anecdotes, tricks and philosophy that made Blue Mountain Bistro a legend.
Inside Mary Anne offers colorful illustrations, including a map of some of the couple's favorite haunts—farm stands, orchards, hiking trails, vineyards and bike paths, beckoning readers to take their own road trip through the Hudson Valley.
The recipes are simply and clearly presented and playfully illustrated. The dishes are unimpeachable and would, without exception, raise the ante at any lunch or dinner table. There are illustrated profiles of the farmers. This is not a cookbook that demands knowledge or understanding of esoteric professional techniques, special tools or equipment. This is a cookbook that requests you seek out fresh ingredients, treat them and the people who grew them with respect, prepare them carefully, and take joy in the result.
Richard and Mary Anne Erickson, Feel Good Food: Recipes from the Hudson Valley's Blue Mountain Bistro-To-Go (Blue Mountain Bistro, 2018); $29.95, hardcover.