Heading upstate can have such a ubiquitous meaning. Literally there are a ton of places you can visit when you are going “upstate.” We (meaning Nicole because she is from the Midwest) are learning it means mostly visiting the Catskills and Hudson Valley area. Fortunately for us we have heaps of friends hearing the call of the great outdoors, and best of all they only have the best recommendations to share.
Recently we were lured on weekend getaway to hear the crunch of the leaves under our feet and soak in some epic change of seasons as we transition into fall. Breathtaking (yes breathtaking, we said it) is the only world to describe the beauty you will witness if you time your trip just right.
Brushland Eatery has been on our minds non-stop as of late so we jumped at the opportunity to stay in their spacious yet cozy apartment, and explore the quiet and scenic town of Bovina. We admire the owners of the restaurant and inn, Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert, for exemplifying the perks of a slower pace and a healthy approach to balancing creativity and work. Tracy and Jamie Kennard found themselves upstate building a local wine bar, Brunette Bar, where friends could hang out and they could pursue a passion project that combines Tracy’s expertise as a small business consultant and Jamie's background in graphic design. Kelli Galloway found herself turning a weekend of playing with flowers into a budding florist career in Kingston, another small town outside of the city, and opening a locally inspired shop along the way.
Something pretty special seems to be happening in this mysterious upstate region. Groups of loyal city dwellers are finding something more in the countryside just a mere hours away. The center of the shift upstate seems to revolve around the kind and open minded people who are creating a community ready to live the lives they’ve always dreamed. These three stories perfectly weave together the fabric of the local upstate that we love and know.
Meet the amazing local creatives that are making upstate the place to be.
Brunette Wine Bar
33 BROADWAY, IN DOWNTOWN KINGSTON, NY.
Current wine of choice.
It changes on a daily basis, but right now, I am obsessed with Buena Onda, a pet-nat rosé made by Jeremy Qastana. It’s made from Gamay and is just a touch off-dry, which makes it perfect for Fall. I know everyone says they don’t like sweet wines, but I challenge them to try this one without falling in love.
Any Suggested snacks to pair with that wine?
We make a savory bread with gruyère, ham and thyme that is a pretty perfect pairing. It’s also good with a spicy sopressata that we get from our friends at Fletcher’s BBQ in Gowanus. They get the sausage from Staubitz, which is the oldest butcher in Brooklyn, and smoke it themselves.
The attention to detail is impeccable in this space. What is the process like bringing a bar to life?
The process is much like any other big undertaking. It requires organization, vision and purpose. We wanted to build a bar that felt like an extension of our home and to create a place that we and our friends would want to hang out in. So we designed it to be bright and airy, but small and intimate at the same time. There was definitely a point when I started worrying that Brunette would look like a space bar - all white and weird. Even our contractor tried to get us to paint the wainscoting grey. But we stuck with our instincts and we're glad we did; It works just as well in the evening when every stool is taken, as it does on Sunday afternoon, when people come by solo to read the paper with a glass of bubbly.
How does one end up upstate opening a bar? Please advise.
Well, when you spend 10 years of weekends driving back and forth from the Catskills, you start to get creative about how to create a better balance between your two worlds. Because Jamie and I both run our own businesses, we had the flexibility to spend more time working from upstate. Once we started shifting the time split between upstate and NYC, we realized we still wanted to feel connected more to the community. What better way to do that than by opening a bar?
Thoughts on upstate vs city living.
Do I really have to choose? They’re both the best! My time in the city lately is very purposeful. I schedule meetings back to back and if I'm lucky, I have time to get my fill of soup dumplings before hopping back on the train upstate.
Upstate is also a wonderful place to work and live, for all the obvious reasons and then some. I consider myself pretty lucky to get to enjoy both on a regular basis.
The most babest brunette of all time is...
We have an entire wall in our bathroom dedicated to them, so this is a tough one. But right now, maybe Patti Smith? Super talented, smart, articulate, and great style gorgeous, to boot.
Floral Designer, stylist, owner of Hops Petunia Floral. I love building and creating a cozy atmosphere with flowers so I tackle most anything to create that.
Fall Flowers are so romantic, which make the best arrangements this time of year?
Well as we all know Dahlias are the seasonal hit, but for me this year I really fell in love with Cosmos and mini Zinnias. Their wild, free spirited stems are really fun to work with and add interest to any arrangement.
Tell us about some local makers you carry. We can never get enough!
I love finding people who are working hard to create what they love and being from the Detroit area there are a lot of hard working folks there. I wanted Hops to share those people with the Hudson Valley. I've made an effort to not just carry NY makers but to bring in lots of different hardworking people to the shop. I have Little Flower Soap Co. from Detroit, Cherry Republic, maker of jams, salsa, teas and chocolates from Traverse City, MI. Emily Katz Macramé and P.F. Candles from Portland, Species by the Thousands, candles and facial spray from Brooklyn and Wishbone Letterpress cards from the Kingston area. Also with a lot of inspiration from our trip to Japan in the store we are carrying gorgeous brass pens and desk accessories from a Japanese company as well we a slew of aprons, towels and placemats..
You're also a potter..Your ceramics are beautiful! How do you have time for it all? Any tips for work/creative balance (we are all ears!)
I really wish I had all the answers for this one but I'm still learning. I find with all the chaos of a flower business it's good to find some some sort of consistency and for me pottery did that. I know that every Monday I try to get to the studio and just sort of shut my brain off. Keeps me from getting too deep into just flowers, I think it's good to mix it up and learn different skills. I've worn many hats in my life and they all come in handy from time to time.
Your perfect day upstate.
Oh wow, this is hard one. Because there are so many different kinds of days we could have. I love the people we've met upstate and so seeing them is always a delight. I love waking up in our house in Rosendale and wandering down the the street to the Alternative Baker for a coffee, my husband and I love to drive around in the country so we also take advantage of extra time to do that. I try to head over to Downtown Antiques in Accord to see our favorite shop and friend Ron. And maybe top the evening off with a dinner and drink in the area. Maybe stop at Brunette Bar to see friends and have some wine. And if it's fall/winter a fire in our backyard with friends is just the best.
Brushland Eating House
Bovina, New York
Definition of an Eating House:
Eating Houses were some of the earliest iterations of restaurants, and were places that a community would gather after a day's work or a week spent traveling. For us, it conjures images of a warm and welcoming space, not just for consuming delicious food but for loosening buttons and clinking beers, sharing stories and running into friends. Of course, we are crazy about food, we are also looking to foster relationships - to each other and the land.
Best thing about living upstate:
Less cabs, more coyotes.
The balance of hard work and playful exploration is really important to us, and in the city the scales were often tipped significantly to one side. The peace and quiet that the mountains offer really set the tone for structure, and we find there is a seamless integration of grunt work and fun work. It's something we have repeated for a long time, 'I want work and play to feel like the same.' Up here, it does.
It's also really nice to be instantly bound to your 'neighbors,' some of which live thirty miles away, because we have all intentionally chosen this place to land and are a community based on the love of a locale. The Catskills Mountains are an incubator, with such great people settling here and calling them home. That's exciting.
How did you two meet?
It was a little 'When Harry Met Sally' at first. We had worked together at sister restaurants Frankie's & Prime Meats, which comes with a lot of post-shift decompressing at dive bars. A group of us all lived in Red Hook and spent time as a pack. It was clear that we had met our other when we took a trip upstate, where we discovered Bovina. We were equally enamored, and sort of fell in love with each other and a place at the same time.
When was that a-ha moment to open Brushland?
It was a long time coming, whether we knew it was all for Bushland or not. There were about a dozen "a-ha's" over a three year stretch, that lead in the direction of buying this building and opening up shop, starting with the 'I don't want to live in the city anymore, how can I live in the country full time?' That idea led us to Martha's Vineyard, and eventually upstate.
We see that a lot, people itching to spend more time upstate but not knowing how to make it feasible. We both love to entertain and host, we're passionate about food and wine, so at the end of this winding journey it was clear that creating a restaurant of our own was the 'how.'
Three words you want to float into the minds of guests when dining with you:
Where are we? No, but really, we often hear people say "this could be in Brooklyn!" which we get, but we also want our customers to realize how special the experience is, seeing that we are in fact in the mountains. We have limited resources, we are one of the only businesses in our little hamlet, there is an incredible bounty of fresh ingredients at our disposal. It's really unlike Brooklyn, unless you're fixated on Sohail's beard or the Dead playing over the stereo. Bovina, and this corridor of the Catskills in general, is really unlike anywhere else and we believe it deserves some of the credit.
Tell us how to book that incredible upstairs living space:
Stop in, give us a ring, drop a line. The easiest might be by heading to our website, and clicking on the 'stay' tab, which sends you to Air BNB. We've had people come for dinner and realize halfway through that they want to have another bottle of wine and that they should just shack up upstairs, which is a fun ending to a meal.
What to order at your spot on a crisp, cool fall night?
A glass of local cab franc, roasted hen of the woods mushrooms with smoky romesco, buttery pork schnitzel and olive oil cake with parsley and pear, which is both sweet and savory. Autumn really sets the tone for our long winter, so it's about milking the last of fresh herbs, highlighting some of the late summer harvest but also starting to embrace the fatty staples that get us through until spring.