Tracking down a baker who used to work at Greig Farm in Red Hook, NY


#1

My wife and I were just talking about the perfect muffins we used to get at a shop called (at that time) Tart to Finish that was located at Greig Farm in Hudson. I remember we talked to the baker, who may’ve been running the shop back then, and he had a “secret recipe.”

The shop disappeared, of course, and we heard the baker had moved on to other ventures in the area. This many years later, I was wondering if he’d be willing to share the recipe. It’s surprisingly hard to get a great blueberry muffin in this world.

Probably it’s impossible to track him down, but a friendly poster on Chowhound said HungryOnion is the place where the old food-detective spirit of early 00’s chowhounders persists. So I thought I’d see if anyone here had any clues for me. I think Tart to Finish closed around '03 and was followed in the same space by the Greig Farm Marketplace (run by a woman named Julie Canepa), and then Gigi’s Market?

I know this is an absurd question. But I used to like absurd questions that got asked on the old Chowhound, and the absurd conversations that often followed.


#2

First of all, welcome to Hungry onion!

Unfortunately I can’t help with your quest though I certainly can appreciate the siren song of a good muffin. I’m going to tag @bob_g since he is a Hudson River Valley guru. Perhaps he can help!

Good luck finding your muffin recipe!

Edited to add: when you get a chance, please feel free to introduce yourself on our “getting to know you” thread! Getting to know you...calling all NY/CT/LI folks!


#3

Sorry,can’t help you . years ago their was a company called country epicure, they made great pies and blueberry muffins. I think it was au bon pain that bought them and eventually closed them down. Was one of the best muffins around - still miss them.


(Gwenn) #4

@GDswamp - welcome!!! Now that you have found us, I hope you will hang out here!! As I Eat a Lot of Ice Cream, said, please tell us about yourself and join in!!!


#5

First, great post. Absurdity is underrated.

Second, I agree a great muffin in general is difficult to find, or make at home. And from all muffins, blueberry is probably the hardest. And if you throw out the creaming method – because those are cakes – and define muffins as true quickbreads, it becomes harder still. There are the flavor profiles. How much, if any, lemon? Restrained use of blueberries or chock full? I imagine there are good versions of all of these. Frozen or fresh blueberries, does it make a difference? And if blueberries have been sitting in your freezer a while, they develop a tough skin which can ruin your muffin. Then there’s the methods. Some recipes have you rest the batter overnight. I think that produces an oddly gummy muffin, probably due to gluten development. (Also, the batter is very delicate because of leavening.) Others say crank up the heat to get that bakery style top. In my experience, while that gives you a good rise and great top, I always find the interior lacking (and any blueberries poking out get burned.) There are other concerns. Do you want a dome, or a mushroom-like muffin top? And, some bakers can magically distribute blueberries evenly inside a muffin. No matter how much I coat blueberries in flour before adding, or use techniques like this (that recipe is not a muffin in my book anyway), mine usually sink. I think there must be something about the large quantities of batters at bakeries, as well as their commercial baking pans and ovens (steam?), that is difficult to replicate at home. Like you, I can remember the very few times I’ve eaten great blueberry muffins.

Third, while spending way too much free time on this as usual, I came across a story about a department store in Boston which baked legendary blueberry muffins. I found what I consider the best recipe for those muffins. These muffins do require some creaming. Also, I am biased against shortening. I made them anyway (sugar on top not needed) just to experience a bit of food history. I closed my eyes and imagined a parallel reality where I grew up in Boston: I would be painfully bored all day as my mother shopped, but simultaneously excited about the blueberry muffins that awaited me before we headed home.

Finally, yes, I could talk about blueberry muffins all day. I hope you find that baker.


#6

Equally great post!


#7

Aw, this is lovely.

What is it about muffins? I’m a pretty good cook and a less-experienced but reasonably competent baker. I can’t make a decent muffin to save my life. Mine always end up leathery. I’ve been offered conflicting advice about that - I’m turning them out of the tin (to cool on a rack) too early, too late. I’m over- or under-mixing. I don’t know which is harder - the not being able to make the muffin I want to eat, or the not knowing why I can’t make the muffin I want to eat.

Meanwhile I’d be happy to give up muffin-making altogether if I could pay someone else to make them for me. Here’s a muffin story:

When I was 24 and working my first real (longer than 5-month) job in New York, there was a high-concept shop in a lofty converted-warehouse space around the corner that sold custom Vespas (I think) but also had a little lunch-counter in the corner that sold sandwiches and lattes and muffins. The sandwiches were amazing (Asian-inflected tea sandwiches of salmon salad and crisp seaweed on crustless white bread) and the lattes were amazing and the muffins were uh-MAZE-ing. I felt a lot of things about those muffins, and a few things about myself, the highly refined appreciator of these highly refined sandwiches, lattes and baked goods. I went there almost every day for the entire four months they existed before inevitably closing because they only had about four Vespas for sale - and maybe a few pairs of one-of-a-kind artist-decorated Vespa-riding high-tops - in this vast showroom.

The last time I went, when they told me they were closing, I begged them to give me the muffin recipe. The kid behind the counter pointed to a little plugin metal box on the counter, with six muffin-sized wells in it, and said, “well one thing is they’re pretty fresh because we bake new ones in this thing whenever we run out.” I said that was good to know but still could he please pleeeeeeeeeeease tell me the recipe so I could make them for myself at home now that Eternity had come for the Vespa shop? So then he walked over to the big metal refrigerator against the wall behind the counter, and silently opened the door, and there, on the bottom shelf, were two white 6-gallon plastic tubs with blue block lettering on the sides that said (more or less),

“Acme Quick-Bake Muffin Batter.”

He said, “I think the distributor might be in New Jersey?”


#8

hey, thanks for the kind words icecream. unfortunately, i don’t get out for food as much as i used to, so i’m a bit out of the loop.

i’m not in the northern part of the county, but from memory, gigi’s wasn’t in there too long (it’s pitcher lane in red hook) and then greig went back to having the marketplace there. the nice part of the hudson valley is you can find stores like this not too far - mcenroe’s in millerton does their thing, quattro’s in pleasant valley gets veggies from grieg (i think) and sells their own meats, small dishes either made there or from other small stores, or the small farmer’s markets on saturday/sunday…i think most towns either have a store like that, or are a 10-15 minute drive from a town which has a small store like that.

anyhow, to bring it back around, i have no idea about the tart to finish store, a quick google search didn’t turn up anything additional from the OP’s post. and i was out of the loop on baking goods in '03, outside of the cream cheesecake which i still miss! sorry about that.


#9

No worries bob_g. Thanks to you and all who replied for indulging this very, very longshot question.


#10

I wish I could help! I’ve been to Greig Farm, but probably 10 years too late to have been to Tart to Finish. I have a Moby Dick recipe out there myself, though, so I know how it feels. This little doughnuts shop in my home town made THE BEST “brown crescent” doughnuts and I have never seen anything like them elsewhere. Brown crescent is in quotation marks because if they had an official name I never knew what it was - they were always just brown crescents to me. They closed up shop a long time ago and I have no idea what happened to the owner.


#11

Well, I really feel for you biondanomina