Last weekend, despite overcast skies and slightly chilly temps, a friend and I went to Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY for a Garden Conservancy “open” day. Stonecrop was originally the home of Frank and Anne Cabot (there’s a house marked Cabot on the property so perhaps some family member is still in res); Frank was the founder of the Conservancy.
At a windswept elevation of 1,100 feet in the Hudson Highlands, twelve-acre Stonecrop incorporates woodland and water gardens, a grass garden, raised alpine stone beds, a cliff rock garden, perennial beds, and an enclosed English-style flower garden. There is an eleven-month intern program for serious horticulturists-to-be. This charming flower wasn’t labeled but my go-to naturalist, George Petty, identified it as a white Spanish bluebell.
At the recommendation of several Stonecrop interns we had lunch at nearby Lonestar BBQ to wallow in pulled pork, chicken and beer. The place was an unexpected juxtaposition to the gardens and a perfect spot for my first (and maybe only) brush with deep fried okra.
Today, one of those Woody Allen-esque perfect New York spring days, I spent the morning at the NY Conservancy Gardens at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. By chance I fell in with a group led by a Park Ranger who pointed out different crabapple varieties; Virginia bluebells (these are really blue) and the Asian-inspired windows at the front of the restrooms. The flowers were out in full with lilacs scenting the air.
Finally, this weekend New York ran about 200 “Jane’s Walks,” named for Jane Jacobs, the renowned urban planner who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities and fought Robert Moses on many issues. My thanks to Jane for her foresight and to the Rangers of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island which I’d never been to before. (The shop honors Fala, FDR’s beloved Scottie.) The Park, spare and elegant with winds whipping off the East river on both sides, is a tribute to FDR and the last work of the iconic architect, Louis I. Kahn. On the island, the cherry trees were in full bloom, a treat for everyone including the many Japanese visitors enjoying traditional picnics.
For an impromptu dessert, try Cherry-Pistachio Chocolate Bark. No cooking necessary. If you don’t have dried cherries or pistachios on hand, substitute any other dried fruit and nut combo.
Cherry Pistachio Chocolate Bark
2 (3-ounce) chocolate bars (I’d go for the darkest bars, best quality you can buy)
3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
Unsalted shelled pistachios and dried cherry bits
Chop chocolate bars; place in a glass bowl. Microwave on high for 1-minute increments, stirring with a spatula in between, until the chocolate is completely smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios and 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries. Spread mixture onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, sprinkle on a few more pistachios and cherry bits, and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces and serve.
Store what isn’t consumed in a tin container. Try not to sneak leftovers–but you will.