Local Inspiration, How a picnic table turned into a block party…..

My sister in law lives in a very special neighborhood filled with a group of families that have formed a unique bond by coming together weekly to share thoughts, challenges, joys and difficulties of day to day life. A few years ago a tradition started to plan a meal to accompany this weekly gathering at the small picnic table located in the center of the cul de sac. Occasionally during the week if someone has a tough day they would sit and have a cold one being joined quickly by others to swap stories resulting in long conversations sprinkled with music, political views and movie reviews. With each family coming from a broad range of backgrounds, all at different stages in life and many different professions it is amazing how they manage to get along so well, hell it’s like pulling teeth to get a wave out of the people that live across the street from me ! As more families have moved in and children grow this tradition blossomed into a larger meal and a table custom crafted complete with a gazebo, refrigerator and grill. Part of the original table is mounted on the ceiling in memory of all the incredible meals, laughter, strife and people that have come and gone through the years.

Each year a larger more elaborate party is planned with each house making part of the feast to share with extended family and friends closing off the street with the “table” as the center of activity. Everyone chips in a specialty meat or chicken to be grilled by a BBQ professional hired to cook for the day.This has grown to be attended by over 300 people with numbers growing as the  years pass.

I’m planning a pre celebration inspired by local Hudson Valley foods and wines to kick off the event on September 4Th. It’s always a beehive of activity for a few nights before setting up tents, lights, chairs and ironing out the details. The pre party has been just as much fun in years past with everyone geared up for the festivities!

Each dish is easily prepared with farm fresh produce and served with local wines or beer. Starting with an array of local NY state cheese, cured meats and sparkling wine to get the party started! I’ve shared my love of stinky cheese with these peeps sometimes adding to the laughter of the evening hearing them describe the smells including some pretty vile comparisons!

Brotherhood Blanc De Blanc served with a selection of meats and cheeses. I love to arrange meat and cheese displays using different flavors and textures!

Salad Course——

Grilled Corn Salad over Baby Greens with asparagus, red onion, green pepper, cheddar, avocado, scallions and Dijon vinaigrette

2 husked ears corn
2 ripe avocado peeled and pitted
1 bunch scallions
1 sm. red onion
4 oz. white cheddar
1 green pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Brush corn with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and grill 15 min. turning to evenly cook, remove, let cool and cut kernels off cob.

Brush 1 bunch asparagus trimmed of tough ends (about 2 inches) and seeded quartered green pepper lightly with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and grill for 5 min. turning to evenly cook. Remove, cool and chop into 1 inch pieces.

Chop 1 small red onion into small dice, chop 2 avocado and cheddar cheese (I use Hawthorne Valley NY Extra Sharp) into small chunks, mince 1 bunch scallions. Toss corn, asparagus, peppers and all other ingredients together and season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. Mound salad on a bed of washed baby greens. Serve with Dijon dressing.


1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Mix all ingred. and blend well.

Main Course——-

Glazed Chicken Breast with Cumin and Grilled Peaches

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1/4 inch thick
3 ripe peaches pitted and quartered,
1/2 tablespoon cumin seed toasted in fry pan till slightly browned
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon canola oil

glaze- 1/4 cup peach preserves, 1/8 cup orange juice, 2 cloves roasted garlic mashed into paste, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger. Combine all ingred. and blend well.

Brush peach peaches with canola oil and grill turning once till slightly browned and caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Cook chicken breast on medium hot grill for 5 min. each side. Brush 1/2 of glaze (reserving extra) on chicken and grill for an additional 4-5 min. each side. Remove to platter topping with extra glaze, toasted cumin, parsley and grilled peaches.

Serve with crusty bread and potatoes!

Grilled Fingerling Potatoes—

1 lb. fingerling potatoes washed and sliced lengthwise.
1/2 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt and pepper
2 shallots peeled and sliced thin

Arrange potatoes on 2 sheets of 1 1/2 foot square of aluminum foil. Top with shallots, pats of butter, salt and pepper. Make a package folding foil and rolling edges till it forms a tight flat package. Place on grill and cook for 25 min. each side. You will hear butter sizzling! Take off off grill and allow to rest for 10 min. Make a small slit to allow steam to escape first then cut down middle and open to serve. This dish should be made to time with service of chicken.


Grilled Berry Pizza with Ricotta Cheese and Honey

1 prepared pizza dough rolled out 10 inches
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese blended with 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups mixed seasonal berries, I like strawberries and raspberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup local honey

Place prepared pizza dough on hot grill (I like to slightly freeze it to make this easier) Turn to create grill marks cooking 5-8 min making sure to not burn. Flip over, add cheese spreading evenly over crust. Close grill and cook for 4-5 min checking as not to over cook. Remove and top with fresh berries, mint and drizzle of honey.

I like to choose a lighter red or white from Hudson Valley’s Millbrook Winery called Hunt Country and a selection of New York State beers including Kelso of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Brewery  to compliment this menu. Both the beers and wines are extremely food friendly and versatile! Cheers!

Some of these dishes have been served at the “table” again and again. As the years go by and each family adds recipes to the weekly menu they create more great memories and shared empty bottle moments.

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