You Can Forage and Feast Upstate at the Riverbend

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The Riverbend in the Catskills offers expert craft food workshops and space to recharge from the endless bustle of the city.

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This past May, Riverbend hosted a sourdough breadmaking and ramp-foraging weekend workshop led by Sarah Owens, James Beard Award–winning author and owner of BK17 Bakery in the Rockaways.

Yes, you can always forage in Brooklyn. If you’re looking to get out of the city, though, you can also get your hands dirty at the Riverbend: a Sullivan County retreat where the hosts lead guests through a weekend-long, food-driven return to nature.

Located between the Delaware River and Highway 97 in Cochecton, New York, Riverbend opened its doors earlier this year as a bed and breakfast/weekend urban escape. Owned and run by the DeFalco-Boyle family, the group leads nature retreats by immersing guests in a postcard-worthy landscape, as well as by helping New Yorkers channel their inner locavore through craft food workshops that may teach guests how to make sourdough bread better than a neighborhood artisanal baker, as well as providing the space to recharge from the endless bustle of the city.

“Somebody living in Brooklyn in a small apartment who’s never been out foraging sees that every chef is posting about it and thinks, ‘Now I want to do that,” but doesn’t have means to do it,” owner Alix Boyle says. “We’re offering educational experiences and with people that can show you how to do that.”

Running a family business focused around their weekend property was not a plan any one member had on their agenda. According to Donna DeFalco, the family matriarch, the idea came about after they acquired land that had belonged to their neighbor, which connected the properties that had been in their family with that of their weekend getaway home, including her father’s homestead. Soon after, they called a group meeting centered around potential uses of the land.

“We were talking around the table with wine, and this idea came up that we could do these other things,” DeFalco explained. They began to consider their intersecting interests: cooking, event planning and an appreciation of their local region of upstate New York and the Hudson Valley, which is largely still unfamiliar to many city residents.  

“[People] know Storm King, Storm Ridge, they know Beacon, the Lower Hudson,” DeFalco said. “Very few people know our side of the Catskills, so we did it to promote tourism up here.”

This past May, the DeFalco’s hosted a sourdough breadmaking and ramp-foraging weekend workshop led by Sarah Owens, James Beard Award Winning author and owner of BK17 Bakery in the Rockaways. In addition to teaching the attendees through the process of making their own loaves, Owens, along with the DeFalco-Boyles, led the guests on a ramp foraging expedition just a few hundred yards outside the main house. Guests used them in the bread as well as for making pickled ramps and ramp salt.

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“[People] know Storm King, Storm Ridge, they know Beacon, the Lower Hudson,” DeFalco said. “Very few people know our side of the Catskills, so we did it to promote tourism up here.”

“It’s important to put your inself in environment you’re not familiar with—could be rural, could be cultural,” Owens said. She later added that the Riverbend “is a really nice opportunity for urban enthusiasts or kitchen culinary enthusiasts to have really special experience without going through major travel.”

In addition to immersing themselves in the process of procuring and creating food, the guests were enjoying a wine-paired tasting menu dinner on Saturday night. In line with the overarching philosophy of the Riverbend, Ian Boyle, the chef, explained that the meal is curated to showcase the seasonal and regional tastes in the Catskills.

“If you’re gonna have a locavore focused movement, we’re looking at a community that has lots of small food producers” Boyle said of the region. “It’s outside of the city that you have access to those types of local ingredients and foraged ingredients that, quite frankly, I’m not gonna find in Prospect Park.”

Donna DeFalco explained that while her grandfather’s homestead and the Riverbend House are ongoing listings on AirBnb, they are currently organizing future public and private retreats. In the coming months, they are hosting the wedding of a returning guest, using the location for a film shoot and even hosting a corporate team-building retreat. But they do have potential ideas in the works for weekend experiences later during September and October—maybe a guided Catskills craft beer tour and homebrewing workshop, or if Bill Boyle, the family patriarch and an avid apiarist, gets his way, a weekend involving mead-making and beekeeping.

“We love the land, we like for people to be exposed to some forms of sustainability, we love to cook and we love to entertain,” DeFalco said. “It’s just in our blood.”

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Matthew Sedacca

Matthew Sedacca is a writer living in Manhattan. In addition to Edible, his worked has appeared in The Atlantic, Saveur, and Eater, among others. He is often the subject of his own capsaicin experiments.