On the Valley’s Best Burgers and Bard’s Leon Botstein (Editor’s Letter)

A word from Hudson Valley Editor in Chief, Olivia J. Abel



Photograph by Jennifer May

A few years ago I was driving upstate with my sister. We had been chatting about the normal things — family, friends, pets, and politics. As I recall, there had been a lull in the conversation when suddenly she blurted out, “I had a Big Mac last week.” I was driving, but turned to look at her; she stared straight ahead out the windshield. If she had confessed that she had been having an affair with the local plumber I couldn’t have been more shocked. My sister had been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, and often spoke about how red meat “just grosses me out.” So many questions ran through my head: How? Why? And mostly, did she enjoy it? “It was delicious,” was pretty much the only thing she ever said about it, with a bit of a giggle about her indiscretion. As far as I know, she’s never had another burger since.

I did think to myself, if she can’t resist eating a burger every now and again (even if it is only one every 20 years), what hope do the rest of us have?

I’ve never seriously considered being a vegetarian. It’s not that I don’t like vegetables or that I don’t admire people who are committed to eating a healthier diet; I do. It’s just that I so love a good steak every now and again. And the same goes for a big, juicy burger — especially in the summer, when the grill is going all the time. Clearly, I’m not alone. Stand-alone burger joints are popping up all over the place, and established restaurants are also offering a wide variety of burgers these days, too.

When I was growing up, Friday was McDonald’s night. I usually ordered a Big Mac, fries (of course), and a chocolate shake; my sister got a quarter-pounder with cheese. While I only indulge in McDonald’s once or twice a year now (and only when I’m on the road), I do enjoy a variety of other burgers on a regular basis. And of course, now there are so many more options: grass-fed; fancy, fresh-baked rolls, veggie burgers, six-patty sensations, and on and on. After falling out of favor for a while, it seems the hamburger is having its time in the sun once again.

I live right around the corner from Poppy’s in Beacon. There, chef Paul Yeaple makes his one-of-a-kind, grass-fed, hormone-free, downright delicious burgers. I’m not the only one who is raving about his seemingly perfect patties; there is buzz all over the Hudson Valley and beyond. Senior Editor Polly Sparling and I have debated how to describe the taste of the meat, which comes from Kiernan Farm in Gardiner. It is almost impossible to do, but Sparling came pretty darn close by calling it “deep, rich, real.” Click here to read our cover story, Burger Bonanza.

Also in this issue: a profile of Bard College President Leon Botstein, who last year celebrated 35 years at the helm of the renowned liberal arts school in Annandale-on-Hudson. As you might imagine, this impressive intellectual — he is also the principal conductor of two major orchestras — had lots to say on a host of different topics. Click here to find out more.

Happy reading,

Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief

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