I just got back from Mid-Hudson Mensa's Autumn in New York RG. What a truly wonderful weekend!!! Although the title is a misnomer, since it is still summer (and we had gorgeous warm sunshine as proof), nothing else about this gem of a Regional Gathering is in the least misleading.
Set in the picturesque Hudson Valley at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, the location is perfect for any outdoor enthusiast, whether ardent hiker, casual stroller, canoeist, or just sit-on-the-porch-and-watch-the-deer-and-chipmunks nature lover. Accomodations are in cabins reminiscent of your summer camp days, albeit with plenty of hot water and comfortable bunk beds. Delicious meals are prepared by a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, with special dietary requests (vegetarian, kosher, etc.) also available. This year's theme was "Eat Your Way Through the Catskills"and all attendees heroically tried to do just that.
In addition to the outdoor attractions, folks played a variety of card and board games, put puzzles together, and discussed myriad topics like St. Paul's personality, the dynamics of smoking, SAT test scoring, and bus driver pension plans, to mention just a few overheard conversations.
Mark Adams, whose family has farmed in the Hudson Valley for almost a century, gave a fascinating presntation on ‘Foods of the Hudson Valley'. As president of the Dutchess County Farmers Association, Mark is in the forefront of promoting sustainable agriculture and educating consumers on the benefits of locally produced foods. His lecture included tastes of heirloom tomatoes and apples, cheese, honey and even venison sausage (for the meat eaters). A lively discussion about genetically modified foods rounded out his talk.
Tim "Merf" Murphy's presentation on ‘Knife Safety' was most informative. As a cook in a large restaurant, he has had ample opportunity to observe the correct (and incorrect) ways knives are handled, from cutting to carrying to sharpening.
Yours truly gave a talk on ‘Blue Ribbon Baking - How to Win Recipe Contests and County Fairs'. Having done the former and judged at the latter, I passed on some tips for would-be contestants.
The featured speaker was Geraldo "Dr. Demento" DeMenna Ph.D., whom I met at the 2000 Philadelphia AG, when he gave a standing room only presentation on the chemistry of chocolate. Jerry, who has a doctorate in Food Chemistry, had all of us enthralled with his lecture ‘Culinary Spectroscopy: Organic Synthesis with Edible Reagents or Clinically Correct Cooking'. Why alkaline foods taste better with white or black pepper while acidic foods need red pepper, the evils of hydrogenated oils, a chemical analysis of french fries: these topics and more were explained clearly for even the chemistry-challenged.
I urge all of you to seriously consider marking your calendars for next year's RG (8-10 September 2006) - your psyche will thank you!
New York apple farms produce the greatest variety of apples in the United States. Since autumn is apple time, here is a delicious omelet using apples in a non-traditional way.:
Cheese and Apple Omelet
- Saute apples in 2 tablespoons of the butter in large omelet pan over high heat until just fork-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate.
- Whisk eggs, water or milk, salt and pepper in medium bowl until blended.
- Heat remaining tablespoon butter in omelet pan over high heat, tilting pan to coat sides with butter.
- Add egg mixture; cook, stirring with fork, until eggs begin to set.
- Sprinkle cheese over one half of the omelet; spoon half the apple slices over cheese. Fold omelet in half; transfer to warm platter. Garnish with remaining apple slices.