A treasure tucked away in Sullivan County

Rolling River Cafe

Author: Mary Zak
Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008
I love volunteering to do restaurant reviews in Sullivan County – it gives me an excuse to visit Shannon and treat her to dinner. I consulted the Sullivan County Visitors Association website for a list of restaurants and picked Rolling River Cafe because the description hit three of my hot buttons: organic & local ingredients, music and art.

We hadn’t heard of Parksville before, but discovered it was only half an hour’s drive from Wurtsboro. We jumped into my car ready for adventure, and headed west on Route 17. The cafe was easy to find, just one turn off the highway with a gorgeous wooden sign at the driveway. We pulled into the small gravel parking lot, delighted with the atmosphere of the white house with blue trim before we got out of the car.

There was a chicken – or some kind of poultry – roasting over a smoldering fire in front of the porch, which offered a single table. Inside, the little cafe was filled with small, artfully mismatched tables and chairs. One wall was covered with blackboards filled from top to bottom with descriptions of special treats.

The other available wall space was filled with framed prints, which we learned were available for sale. We chose a table alongside the blackboard and a small rack of postcards and community flyers.
We learned from Kim, our hostess, that the cafe had just opened on August 15, so I was elated to have the scoop on something new.

She brought us tiny slices of bread and spiced olive oil in a little pot over a tea light. I had visions of dunking the whole piece in the oil at once and licking my fingers. The textured paper menu was so pretty, however, that I decided not to endanger it. Shannon and I both chose to start with a house salad of mixed greens, cranberries and nuts with melted brie.

The sliced brie was just barely melted; I swooned over the contrasting rich flavor with the crisp taste of fresh greens and the tangy dried cranberries. I would drive the hour and a half from where I live just to have that salad again. It was sweet, salty, oily, crunchy and tender, all in one dish. Shannon ordered the Turkey Breast Panini with cheese, dijon, mayo, lettuce and avocado. It was lovely to look at but I didn’t get much of a description from Shannon. While she ate she said nothing more than “mmmmm”.

I decided to try something completely out of character and ordered Kinkai: Georgian lamb dumplings.
The dumplings arrived in a big bowl of broth. They were shaped like giant garlic cloves! The dough was thick and chewy, the lamb tender and gently seasoned. Comfort food par excellence! With our meal we were served cool water (no ice) lightly flavored with lemon (no lemon slice in or on the glass).

Their liquor license was pending when we visited, so call ahead to find out if you still need to bring your own bottle. Coffee lovers can have a ball here. After dinner, Shannon asked for double espresso and I followed suit. It was a nutty brew, a bold but not overwhelming complement to our dessert.

I chose the chocolate ganache and she the tiramisu, which she described as “super light”. We said we would share but we forgot all about that and got lost in our own sweet sensations. I’d recommend the ganache to any chocolate lover! After the meal we learned that Kim’s husband, Rob, is the chef. He’s cooked for friends and family for many years, usually starting with traditional recipes. He laughed as he told me, “but I never follow a recipe” and described their offerings as “mishmash cuisine”.

He’d had a dream of opening a cafe, but thought the space was too small for that. A trip to Spain opened his eyes; they experienced lots of neighborhood places that served tapas and came home determined to create one for their community.

By the way, the music was great all night. We heard everything from folk and jazz to chamber music and choral arrangements, played at a volume just loud enough not to disturb our conversation. There is one small flatscreen TV in the corner by the door up near the ceiling; a classic black and white film played silently there while we ate.

If you think Parksville is a bit far for you to travel to for a single meal, consider an overnight or weekend at the Rolling River Inn, which Kim and Rob operate on the premises. You can stay in the historic house by the river, and whether you are one guest or more, you will have the entire house to yourself. You’ll be only
20 minutes from Bethel Woods, 10 minutes from the Monticello Casino & Raceway, and close to lots of outdoor activities in the Catskills. It’s worth the trip from anywhere.
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