Imagine an intimate space filled with friends, some new and some old. All visitors are welcome here. Each table is adorned with a colorful display of pickled vegetables served in rustic, hand-shaped pottery, perfect for the peak of an Adirondack winter. This is what I entered into when I attended a Cookee Boy pop-up supper at Bliss & Vinegar in mid-February. Cookee Boy Brand pop-up suppers are a collaboration between chef Zach Clemans and cheesemaker Casey Galligan (of Sugar House Creamery). Their collaborative effort also extends to local farmers whose products are featured at these family-style pop-up suppers.
The suppers are designed to promote conviviality amongst diners and to encourage people to share a meal made with all local ingredients (with exceptions being salt, olive oil, and black pepper). Every aspect of these suppers, from the menu to the tableware, is intentional, with a nod to zero-waste. Zach Clemans, who grew up in the Adirondacks, has made much of the pottery that the courses are served upon; his art includes the creative courses as well as the vessels that hold them. Inspiration for the prime ingredients of these suppers comes from Sugar House Creamery, a micro-dairy producing well-known, well-loved Adirondack cheeses, as Zach strives to use the lesser-known products of their farm: whey, veal, and fresh cheese.
Bringing fire into each pop-up supper meal is important to Zach. He remembers his favorite meals as those shared around a campfire, tucked into the deep woods of the Adirondacks, where he connected with both the people and the place. Drawing on that tradition, the main course at Bliss & Vinegar was served on wooden boards, once used to age cheese at Sugar House Creamery, that Zach finished and scorched adding “campfire” to an otherwise indoor dinner. During warmer months, at the supper series which will be located at Sugar House Creamery, Zach will cook over an open fire. He creates a sort of theatre around the food he makes, with his audience of dinner guests in mind.
The farmers in the Adirondacks are special. The winter season in this rough, yet breathtakingly scenic terrain, is long and cold, making it great for skiing but challenging for growing food. But, the farmers here are hearty. They are cooperative and collaborative, promote one another’s work, and invest in building community. Cookee Boy suppers share in this collaborative spirit by buying direct from farmers and by designing menus that feed diners a North Country-grown diet.
The February pop-up at Bliss & Vinegar featured vegetables from Wild Work Farm in Keene, Greens from Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams, and a slew of products from Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay. The meal is vegetable-forward, bulking plates up with smashed, crispy beets, a well-cooked potato dipped in a lip-smacking mayo, and cabbage grilled on an open flame then preserved with a bright vinaigrette. Though Cookee Boy Brand meals are often heavy on the veggie side, Casey and Zach make it a point to serve animal protein, and in this case it was a well-seasoned, wildly succulent veal meatball. The intention behind serving veal was for two reasons: veal is an often misunderstood part of the dairy process, and if we are being true to a North Country diet in the winter, and the region's history, the abundance of animal protein is there. Vegetarians can skip the meatball because there’s still plenty to fill them up. We finished the night with a dulce de leche shortbread; a caramel made entirely of slow-simmered Sugar House Creamery milk set upon a pastry crust.
With no brick-and-mortar, Cookee Boy is free to roam. Zach started these suppers with Casey’s help in the summer of 2018 to showcase the local food he’s so excited about, and to do what he’s most inspired to do with that food: feed people outdoors. He is humble and soft-spoken, shy to admit his inimitable talents. Casey is affable and the bolder of the two, she’s the “front of house.” Casey heralds in guests, making them feel welcome. Her engagement in these suppers comes from her desire to build strong community.
The Cookee Boy Brand pop-up suppers proves that the local food movement in the Adirondacks is soaring. Many food-producers in the area are dedicated to small farming, which has always been vital and special to this region. The Adirondacks, despite its mountainous landscape, has relied on agriculture as an economic engine, so at the end of the day an artistically delicious dinner is more than just about food. It’s about our livelihoods. Unlike other pop-ups, though, Cookee Boy Brand suppers are intentionally casual and priced to be accessible.
Pop-up suppers all across the U.S. are notably a food trend because they provide a totally unique culinary experience. This trend speaks to our desire to connect over good and thoughtfully crafted meals in a communal space. I would argue that these meals are larger than a trend, though. In the Adirondacks, they are a commitment to a growing movement of rural farmers and makers that work to see their communities thrive. Our local farmers are creating delicious and healthy food and positive, viable economies. Cookee Boy Brand pop-up suppers offer a way to get together and share that food.
From May - October, Cookee Boy Brand Pop-Up Suppers will be hosted at Sugar House Creamery, a farmstead creamery nestled in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, where the milk from a small herd of Brown Swiss cows is turned into cheese.
Make sure to put this pop-up supper series on your to-do list and experience the collaborative spirit of the Adirondack local-food scene while you’re visiting this summer. You will see why eating local is such a delicious alternative.
*This blog post was written in collaboration with Casey Galligan.
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