Category Archives: Culture

Chef and Author Jonathan Dixon on Life in Saugerties

"If Denis Johnson had written A Prairie Home Companion, it would probably be pretty close to how I see Saugerties"


Many of Brooklyn’s creative class repair to the hills for more time to write. For Jonathan Dixon, the move had a culinary bent. He and his girlfriend, the writer Nelly Reifler, kept a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn but decided to spend much of their time in Saugerties, up and over the river from the renowned Culinary Institute of America. Rather than relaxed, Dixon’s new life was busy as he trained as a chef there, his plan to supplement his writing income. Lo and behold, the two worlds merged in the form of a memoir–Beaten, Seared and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America.

We asked Dixon about the pros and cons of Saugerties (“the eccentrics who might have been too edgy for Woodstock settled down the road in Saugerties”); splitting life and time between upstate and down; and a review of the upstate culinary scene–can you really get good pizza due north of The Bronx? His answers are below. Let us all hope we somehow end up at his place for dinner some night!

What prompted you to move upstate, and why Saugerties?

Nelly had been fantasizing about moving upstate for a really long time and then I got into cooking school. The stars just seemed to completely align and we went for it. We wound up in Saugerties pretty much because of Bob Dylan. A while before we moved, we’d been up in Rhinebeck visiting Nelly’s parents. I knew that Big Pink, the house where Dylan and the Band recorded the Basement Tapes was nearby and I wanted to see it. To get there we had to drive through Saugerties and we just immediately liked it.

Give us a review of Saugerties, for those interested in possibly renting or buying there: the pros, the cons, the unexpected drags and delights.

Saugerties is right next to Woodstock and has the same concentration of eccentrics. But the vibe I always feel humming around me is that the eccentrics who might have been too edgy for Woodstock settled down the road in Saugerties. So there’s a working class element to the town, a post-hippie element, an increasing NYC expat element, all set in the midst of some unbelievably gorgeous scenery. If Denis Johnson had written A Prairie Home Companion, it would probably be pretty close to how I see Saugerties. One of my favorite parts of it all is the large number of family-owned businesses, and you get to know those families in the course of shopping and errand-running. You wind up feeling a very personal connection to town that way.

As for the ups and downs: Read the rest of this entry

“The Catskills Is the New Williamsburg,” or So Says Half of They Might Be Giants

I know some of you take umbrage when we compare Upstate towns to NYC neighborhoods, but I’d be a sorry excuse of an Upstate real estate blogger if ignored this one. In an interview with Gothamist, They Might Be Giants co-founder and Catskiller John Flansburgh sang the praises of Upstate living, declaring, “The Catskills is the New Williamsburg.”

Such comparisons clearly have their limitations and can seem parochial to boot, but they’re helpful when you’re explaining Upstate locations to New York City folks who might not know a Phoenicia from a Saugerties—and particularly when you’re trying to address how expensive or discovered an Upstate town might be. (For example, I’m definitely priced out of Rhinebeck, a town I love but I’d probably find a little too polished and touristed for day-to-day living, just like I’d never want to live in, or be able to afford, the West Village. Yet there are surely tons people for whom anything less than the shops, services and reputation of Rhinebeck wouldn’t appeal.)

The price and accessibility question is in fact exactly why the Catskills Read the rest of this entry

Blogging Upstate Wine, Pottery, Antiques and Vintage Clothes

Out of Town Townie's Antique Stop

My friends and I wandered into a High Falls shop called Dead Relatives this weekend–a vintage and antique place selling reasonably priced jadite bowls and such. We found the proprietress (an ex-Brooklynite who grew up on Bergen Street in a house her relatives paid under $20,000 for and is now worth $1.4 mill) being interviewed by a fellow blogger. Her blog, Out of Town Townie, chronicles vintage clothing spots, pottery stores, vineyards and antique shops in upstate New York, but it’s also about her shifting association with downstate versus upstate; the tagline is “Country girl in the city turned city girl in the country.” Seems like a great resource if you like drinking local vino and wearing grammy’s cast-offs.

Culture in the Catskills: Rock City Reading Series

One of the great things about living in or owning a second home in upstate New York–or just visiting regularly–is access to culture: movies, plays and, thanks to the number of writers who have left the City for the upstate New York hills–readings. This Sunday in Woodstock, New York is a literary reading featuring several friends of Upstater, and folks who have left Brooklyn to live in places like Saugerties and Tivoli (profiles of their homes coming soon)–as we aspire to do.

Hosted by the Golden Notebook bookstore, this month’s Rock City reading series–started by Teresa Giordano in 2009 and co-curated with author Jana Martin–features Paul LaFarge, Samantha Hunt, Nelly Reifler and Anna Moschavakis. The readings begin at 3PM on Sunday, June 26th, at the Kleinert Center, 34 Tinker Street, Woodstock.

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