There are plenty of places in Gardiner where we can buy certified, organic, pastured beef, free-range chickens and other good, wholesome things to bring home and cook. Now we have—in the recently opened Side Shack at Brookside Farm—a place where someone will take that wonderful, organic beef and flip us a burger, make us some fries or hand us a hot dog (also Brooksides’ own organic beef, turned into hot dogs by a certified organic butcher). The Side Shack is the brain child of Brookside’s owners, Sharon and Drew Sycoff, and soon after Sharon started handing me tastes I realized I wouldn’t be able to pick just one “bite” to write about.
First came a subtly and deliciously dill-flavored egg salad sandwich made from some of the 700 eggs their chickens produce daily. Then there was the barbecued chicken sandwich with The Side Shack’s barbecue sauce. I have had pulled chicken before and usually find it dry and tasteless. That was not a problem at the Side Shack. The pulled chicken was every bit as moist and flavorful as pulled pork. And the secret to why the barbecue sauce is so good is apparently Sharon’s father; Sharon is originally from South Carolina and her dad is an expert at making Carolina-style barbecue sauce. (He’s arriving shortly to make more gallons of it before the Side Shack runs out of their current batch.)
I was convinced that the barbecued chicken sandwich was going to be “the bite,” when Sharon slid my burger onto a bun and added some special “Shack Sauce”—that great barbecue sauce mixed with a little mayonnaise and other flavorings. The hamburger, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and full of robust beefy flavor, quickly started inching up on the pulled chicken for first place. (I am going to pause here to say that I was not actually finishing all of these things I was being handed, OK?) I thought we were done and that my battle would be between these two contenders when Sharon said, “Oh! The brisket.” How could I say no to brisket? It cooks in their ovens at 250 degrees for a very long time and is then shredded and served with the Carolina barbecue sauce. One heaped forkful of that moist, succulent beef and I gave up on trying to pick one thing.
Finally, we moved on to the organic soft serve ice cream. That’s right—a wonderful swirling cone of vanilla ice cream by Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn. They have vanilla and chocolate—and vanilla soft serve doesn’t get better …
Organic meats are never cheap but the Side Shack’s prices are not out of line: burgers are $8; the barbecued chicken sandwich is $7; the Shack Burger (Monterrey Jack cheese and that wonderful barbecue sauce) is $8.50; and adding a fried egg to any of these adds a dollar. Fries are $3. The Side Shack, at 1278 Albany Post Road (845 895-7433), has picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy and is open Thursday and Friday from 3:00 to 8:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 8:00. They will close for the season some time in October and reopen in April. The Sycoff’s next project is a playground for children, “from young children to old,” so between the good food, the entertainment for the kids and the lovely people, Brookside Farm should become a destination in Gardiner.