This may be a tough one to believe, but chocolate really doesn’t do it for me. And neither does ice cream. To get to the core of my most hedonistic epicurean fantasies, all you have to do is crack an egg. And for God’s sake, don’t break the yolk. It’s creamy, cooked-just-till-warm egg yolks that send me into orbit every time. And preferably the deep-orange yolks of the elegant eggs laid at American Masala Farm in Washington County, N.Y.
For reasons that revolve around the ethical treatment of animals and better health, I buy local eggs. It’s the only way to fly. And when I really want to go flying high, I drive 30 miles due east to American Masala Farm, where gentleman farmers Charlie Burd and Suvir Saran preside lovingly over their flock of Heritage chickens.
Consider that Charlie decided years ago that run of the mill chicken feed was, in a word, inadequate. Instead, he offers his flock of Araucanas, Lakenvelders and New Hampshires homemade vegetarian broth brewed at his Viking stove. How’s that for going above and beyond?
“Charlie feeds them soups and stews that we eat ourselves…and so do our friends: Lebanese Lentil Soup, Lettuce and Tomato Soup, Spinach and Cauliflower Soup, Dhaansaak Stew and any other leftover soups from our kitchen,” explained Suvir. “We never add any animal based stock into our soups, and so they are great for the chickens. Charlie also feeds them all vegetarian scraps from the kitchen, both cooked and raw foods. If it is free of meat and eggs, they get it…and they LOVE it.
“These are not production layers; the girls lay eggs every two to four days…some better than others,” Suvir continued. “But when they do lay these eggs, it is totally worth the wait and the feed.”
While Suvir is often pulled away from farm life with duties that involve lecturing around the country, book-signings, and running Devi restaurant in Manhattan, Charlie sees that all runs smoothly at American Masala. If the arias of praise over the eggs are any indication, Charlie has found the perfect formula for feeding and loving the 120 chickens that supply lucky visitors and customers with unparalled delight.
How’s this for an endorsement:
“I’ve a cosmic hunch that the eggs from American Masala don’t really come from chickens—-that their yolks drip from the sun and their creamy, buttery texture flow from the cow that jumped over the moon. I eat a dozen a week.”
— Michael London of Mrs. London’s Bakery & Cafe, Saratoga Springs, New York
And he’s not alone.
New York City resident Vicki Haupt counts the eggs as one of the highlights of a weekend visit to Suvir and Charlie’s farm. “Suvir and Charlie’s eggs are simply beautiful to behold – white, large, curvaceous,” says Haupt. “You know how eggs inspire and inform great art and symbolism? These are surely worthy of the finest visual and minds eye contemplation. Such a shame then to crack, but WOW, one alone is a veritable feast and, in Suvir’s skillet, the best I have ever partaken of.”
Kim Sunee, author of the best-selling memoir “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and The Search for Home” writes in her blog: “Rich, creamy and highly addictive, I would eat one of these gorgeous eggs every day if I lived here…”
Frank Vollkommer and his wife Jessica own The Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls, N.Y. Frank is a certified master pastry chef who grew up raising chickens in rural Saratoga County. When Charlie and Suvir introduced Jessica and Frank to the wonders of the American Masala egg, The Chocolate Mill’s menu was forever transformed.
“Each egg has a different colorful motif with shades of brown, green, white and speckled…the shells are thick and well developed as these birds lay only one egg a day without the pressured existence of commercially raised chickens,” said Frank. “The whites are rich in protein, stay intact when cooked and soufflé beautifully while the yolks are a rich deep yellow-orange with a velvet texture and incredible flavor.”
The Vollkommer’s have added the American Masala eggs to the a la carte menus as well as baking production. Frank was even inspired to create “The Charlie Burd Nest,” a mélange of scrambled American Masala eggs, fresh asparagus, red onion, and Nettle Meadow Goat Cheese in a house-made multi-grain bread nest, served with a roasted shallot-arugula salad. On a recent visit to The Chocolate Mill, I bypassed the pastries and ordered Eggs Boursin, a mound of scrambled American Masala Eggs topped with a velvety Boursin sauce and served with field greens. The kitchen staff was even sweet enough to toast the slice of gluten-free bread I brought with me. With their bright-gold color and sturdy texture, the Eggs Boursin were truly eggs the way they were meant to be enjoyed.
As much as I adore American Masala’s eggs, there’s something produced on the farm that gets my heart racing even faster: goose eggs. Every spring (tragically, this occurs only once a year) Suvir and Charlie’s snow white flock of geese lay white, voluptuous eggs the size of mini-footballs.
I thought I’d experienced every possible form of pleasure involving egg yolks. And then I made my first visit to the farm in 2007 to write a feature story on Suvir, and gasped as he fried me a goose egg. Even the sunny-side up version took nearly 15 minutes to complete and Suvir never broke his vigil over the cast iron skillet. I couldn’t take my eyes off the tangerine-sized yolk as the egg slowly sizzled in olive oil. Then he whipped out a microplane and block of Parmesan cheese and the giant egg was suddenly covered in a snowfall of pungent shavings. It’s no surprise that I report it to be the best egg of my life…leveraging the yolk alone into a single bite (that’s just how I roll with yolks) was worth the price of admission.
So when Goose Egg Season came this year, I called Charlie and Suvir and placed an order for a dozen American Masala Eggs, plus a few coveted goose eggs. True to their generous nature, they filled a Styrofoam box with as many goose eggs as would fit. Good thing. I was leaving for an out-of-state trip in three days and would need some seriously protective packaging.
First stop was a night at the Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania where I shooed the bellhop away from the Styrofoam package, informing him that I would be the only one charged with the task of handling it. After a night in the confines of a hotel room refrigerator, the duck and goose eggs made their way south with me to Richmond, Va., where I regaled my sister Dory with the joys of superior eggs every morning of my visit.
Dory was delighted. Almost enough to consider enduring upstate winters once again…but not quite. She misses American Masala Eggs, but is glad for the experience of them…Doesn’t the look of bliss say it all?