Folks from the metro area are re discovering the beauty and simplicity of the Catskills, whether as a way to embrace an entirely new life, or to nab a weekend cottage that’s about one fifteenth of what a Hamptons getaway will run. I elected to make the leap whole hog, jettisoning my urban existence in Brooklyn for a full time life in Margaretville, on the western edge of the 700,000 acre Catskill Park, and about four hours from the city (average home prices in and around the town are $227,000, according to Zillow). The area offers wonderfully fresh artisan products to cook with, and natural beauty and diversity in stunning abundance. I recently opened a mountain restaurant there, Binnekill Tavern, named after the Binnekill waterway it’s built over.


In and around this community of 276 homes and 596 people (and hometown of Dr. Orvan Hess, who invented the fetal heart monitor in 1957 and who was among the very first M.D.s to successfully treat a patient with penicillin), I’m finding an abundance of ingredients to play with. Margaretville used to be the cauliflower capital of the Northeast, providing an abundance of the vegetable to the greater New York area, and with its veggie boom period from the 1910s to the ’40s. Times have changed, and the area is now focused more on tourism than growing, but there is still a good local supply. The Catskills are also known for ample fresh water trout and bass. (After all, this is where U.S. fly fishing was invented.) So, I paired the two together to create a hearty rustic dish one that can be served around the campfire or at an upscale dinner party. (Good food crosses all boundaries.)

I paired the dish with a beautiful upstate New York Pinot Noir (don’t let anyone tell you fish can only be served with white wine, because it just ain’t true).

Your fishmonger does most of the heavy lifting here, so this is actually quite simple. The best part is the insanely flavorful stuffing that lends a crunch and brightness to the tender, white fish. If you don’t have a fish grill basket, tie each fish with wet kitchen twine in three places and either cook on the grill or in a sauté pan. Serves 4. Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes

Stuffed Brook Trout with Pine Nuts and Roasted CauliflowerOPTION2


• 4 fresh brook trout, scaled and butterflied, and with heads, tails, and fins removed
• ¼ cup sliced fresh flat leaf parsley
• 1 bunch spring onions or scallions or 2 whole ramps, sliced (about 1 cup)
• 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
• 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
• ½ cup chopped pine nuts
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat a grill to high heat. In a large bowl, toss together the parsley, onions, bread crumbs, lemon zest, hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Rinse the trout and pat dry. Rub 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the outside of each trout and season with salt and pepper. Place a quarter of the onion stuffing in the cavity of each trout, spreading evenly from head to tail.
Grill the trout in a fish grill for about 7 minutes on each side, or until the stuffing is hot and the fish is opaque in the center. basket
Roasted Cauliflower
• One head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ¼ teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss cauliflower florets in a bowl with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast in a baking pan in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Toss in the sage, chives, and lemon zest, and adjust seasoning. Serve with the stuffed trout.

WINE PAIRING Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir (retails for $26)
Grown in the cool Finger Lakes climate, where grapes ripen slowly (and so gather complexity, while preserving acids required for a fine wine), this has enough structure to stand up to the roasted cauliflower and richness of the trout, without overpowering either. Aged 10 months in older French Oak barrels, plus another two years of bottle aging. Cherries, plums, and earthy spices…lovely, and winter perfect.

Wine Pairing

Binnekill Tavern
746 Main Street, Margaretville, NY