You're Cordially Invited to Ulster County's Ravenwood
Join a community dinner — and conversation — in Olivebridge.
Photographs by Brooke Fitts
Spring is the time we shed our outer layers, fling open the shutters, and dig into fresh dirt. But this particular season signals an additional reception for Olivebridge residents Chris Lanier and Dana McClure, owners of a working field and atelier that they collectively refer to as Ravenwood.
After seven or so years amending what was once mostly arid soil, managing maples and a greenhouse, and — most recently — renovating an 1850s barn on a neighboring property, the husband-and-wife team will be welcoming friends and strangers alike to share in a series of monthly meals. The dinners are part of a larger ambition to engage the surrounding community in the vibrant agriculture, craft, and culinary art histories so present in the Hudson Valley.
Lanier, a food stylist and chef who has worked at such notables as WD-50 and Café Boulud, and McClure, an accomplished visual designer, first became familiar with the area as an escape from city life. “Just like everybody else, we started coming up to visit Woodstock and Mount Tremper,” says McClure, “but yearly visits became seasonal, then turned monthly, and soon the trips became house-hunts.” With the humble idea to “just grow food,” they finally purchased their land back in 2010, and began slowly revitalizing the estate while keeping one foot in the scene just south. “We weren’t able to give it much attention until we gave up Brooklyn,” McClure tells.
The cord was officially cut in 2015, and their “project” picked up full-steam. Farming became a full-time way of life — raising chickens for eggs (sold in an honor-system “eggbox” out front), holding occasional crude farm stands, and selling their goods at the annual Field + Supply modern maker fair — and their upstate attitude cross-pollinated with their past experiences, too. Ravenwood played host to assorted media photo shoots, and Lanier and McClure put on collaborative pop-up dinners at different locations; their appetite for community engagement grew. “That very organic, creative environment is easy in the city; with so many people, you’re always bumping into each other. I was nervous that wouldn’t be possible here, where everyone is hidden away in their studios or kept on the farm,” admits McClure.
But the couple’s fluid and imaginative definitions for Ravenwood have allowed them to champion this pursuit. Last October, their combined growing, cooking, and composition efforts culminated in a first on-site farm dinner. It was an event held specifically to honor Field + Supply — and it went off without a hitch.
Now, their plan is to hold one open dinner at the end of every month throughout the growing season (May through October), with each celebrating the region’s bounty available at that instant. As McClure explains, “what’s on your plate will only be what’s available from ours and area farms.” Everything will be cooked asado style — over an open fire.
Each gathering will begin with a spread of small plates and a signature cocktail; proceed to a more formal table seating, where food will be passed and served family-style; followed by a bonfire and dessert buffet. Lanier and McClure are hoping the dinners will foster quality company and uncomplicated conversation — about food, farms, sustainability, and connectivity in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
With further aspirations for a weekly farm stand and opportunity to showcase local art, the main incentive is to get people excited about coming together in this adaptable and terroir-centric space. “I think we’ve always created friends and community through food; it’s always been about that and the experience of sharing a table,” says McClure. “We’re hoping people will buy tickets, come with a friend or two, and be open.”
39 Raven Wood, Olivebridge; 845.657.4092; www.ravenwoodny.com/gatherings