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The Convivial Table gets down and dirty

By Brigit Binns

ARRIVING ON MY DOORSTEP over the past month or so have been samples of a grape variety that seems eminently suited to our valley. In Europe, Cabernet Franc doesn't often stand alone, but here in the Hudson Valley the climate seems to coax far more fruit and depth from this grape. An Italian friend tells me that in the cool, northeast Italian wine region of Trentino/Alto Adige, Cab Franc also shines.

Since my weekend efforts over the past few months have focused almost entirely on the recession-busting Four-Family Garden - an exceedingly ambitious undertaking - I have tended to serve my Cab Francs at a sort of laborers lunch table, to reinvigorate we New Millennium farm workers and prime us for several more hours of fence-building, digging, and soil amendment before the traditional late-afternoon nap.

At these al fresco lunches, hands are dirty, faces are a bit red, and muscles are sometimes sore. Sitting at a desk does not prepare today's new agrarians for the kind of work necessary to transform a very large but long-defunct kitchen garden into fertile and productive condition. So as we chew and sip, the talk ranges from couture to manure, Plato to potatoes, actors to tractors, hay to Broadway. To fuel their increased energy requirements, I've tended to focus on pastas and grains at these lunches, and in true Mediterranean tradition, a glass of good, honest red helps the starches go down.

Suddenly, coming home to pasta after years of carb-conscious avoidance feels right, good, secure. In uncertain times there is really nothing quite so comforting. Perhaps it's because I've truly earned it this time around. Returning to the soil brings us all closer to the food we eat, the wine we drink, and the incredibly fortunate luxury of living near the slowly healing river that Henry Hudson traveled 400 years ago, with a dream.

The author, or co-author, of twenty-one cookbooks, many of them for Williams-Sonoma, Brigit has cooked on several continents and in many cities. She likes her present kitchen-with its view of the beautiful Hudson River-better than any of the others. More about Brigit Binns at

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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