Posts By: Nathaniel Gibson

Rock The Bells

Posted on April 18, 2011 by - Fiction

The rain was beating down.  It had been for awhile.  Hunched up against a chain link fence, the boy – he couldn’t have been more than 20 – shivered.  It was actually more than a shiver, incorporating both trembles and slight spasms.  He was wearing a white ‘beater and brown shorts.  The ‘beater was closer to the color of the shorts than its original white.   Mud was abundant at Rock the Bells.  So were substances.  The boy blamed both for his pathetic state.  He staggered to his feet and relieved himself against the fence, still shaking.

Two kids came up to the chain link, looking for a way into the concert.  They were trying to rip apart the chain link, but then they saw him pissing on the fence and lost interest.  He slumped back to the ground – in his own piss, he realized.  “Fuck!”  But he was too out of it to care or move.  At least it was a little warmer than the cold mud.  He remembered getting some fun-looking pills from someone a few hours – or was it more than that?  Days? – ago and taking them.  The only things he really remembered since then were hazy sequences in the mosh pit.  People falling over.   Crowdsurfers.  A boot coming at his head.  He rubbed it, it hurt a lot.  At least it wasn’t bleeding anymore.  Soon he passed out in the mud, still shivering and soaked as the concert went on around him.  He dreamed strange, terrible dreams.

Hours later he woke up coughing.  It had stopped raining.  A bit of blue sky was poking through the steel-grey clouds, streaks of mercury floating on a stormy sea.  Flava Flav was yelling at some girl to show him her titties.  She did.  The late evening sun came out through the clouds.  He felt better.

The River Café – Brooklyn, NY

Posted on April 16, 2011 by - Restaurant Reviews

River Cafe Bar View

The View from the River Café's Bar

The River Café (1 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY) offers some of DUMBO’s finest dining. Boasting a Michelin Star, it is described thus in the Guide: "meander through gorgeous gardens, soak in mind-boggling views of the Manhattan skyline and dig into delicious contemporary fare." It was a gray and rainy day when I visited the River Café so I didn’t meander much in the gardens – although they did look nice from a distance. During my meal I learned that the establishment employs a dedicated team of full-time gardeners.

The view of Manhattan is exceptional. I sat at the bar and was able to see from the Statue of Liberty all the way up past the Empire State Building. If taking in the skyline gets boring, the waterfront location of the Café offers an ideal setting for boat watching. For those who want a closer view, the Café provides a binocular stand on its deck.


Given the River Café’s reputation, my expectations were high when I came in for lunch. I took a seat at the bar and sipped on an excellent Manhattan while I perused the menu. After some consultation with the helpful and attentive bartender, I settled on the tuna tartare appetizer (Yellowfin Tuna tartare with hand-cut avocado, mild wasabi and cucumber salad, chili oil and sea salt, toast points) and the duck entrée (crisp duck breast with truffle honey and fennel pollen glaze, duck leg and potato croquette, organic carrots, julienne bok choy).

The tuna tartare was very good, perhaps a tad bland – although that may have been done intentionally to showcase the quality and freshness of the tuna. The accompanying wasabi was the real deal, not the western wasabi you run into at many sushi restaurants. The avocado was immaculately hand-sliced into strips of baffling thinness. I have no idea how I could ever slice an avocado so perfectly. The cucumber salad complemented the dish quite well. All in all, the tuna tartare was a very well-rounded and fairly light appetizer.

Crisp Duck Breast with Truffle Honey

Crisp Duck Breast

The crisp duck breast was simply delicious, among my personal top three duck dishes of all time. The truffle honey added just the right touch of sweetness to complement the fennel pollen glaze, and the meat itself was very tender and moist. The carrots and bok choy were perfectly cooked: just slightly tender. The very tasty duck leg croquette added novelty to the presentation. The maître d’ recommended an excellent Shiraz that paired perfectly with the flavor of the duck.

Moving on to dessert, I settled on the goat cheese cheesecake (passion fruit gelée, meringue, passion fruit ice cream). I am opinionated about cheesecake, so I was especially curious to experience the River Café’s rendition. It did not disappoint. The goat cheese imparted a pleasant sweetness to the dish, which was lighter than typical cheesecake. This was good, because I was also presented with an assortment of petit fours – excellent as well, with the white chocolate truffle and the macaroon as the pinnacles of my final course.

Assorted Petit Fours

Assorted Petit Fours


The River Café is very well-staffed, and the service was impeccable. The bartender was knowledgeable and friendly. The maître d’s wine suggestion was an excellent accompaniment to the crisb duck breast. The waitstaff bustled about efficiently and unobtrusively. The food was served promptly; my duck arrived the minute I had finished the tuna tartare.


The waterfront location and the big plate-glass windows that overlook the East River imbue the Café with a distinct ambience. The dining room is well-sized but feels ever larger and more open because of the windows. And the view is stunning. I know of no other restaurant where you can take in such a broad swath of the Manhattan skyline. The interior of the River Café is as immaculate as the view is expansive, with plenty of polished wood, brass and starched white cloth.

Nonprofit Goes Green – Rutland Herald Article

Posted on April 5, 2011 by - Montpelier-Barre Times Argus, Rutland Herald

Nonprofit Goes Green

Nathaniel Gibson

A local nonprofit in Plymouth is discovering that being green requires both traditional wisdom and new technologies. Farm and Wilderness Foundation operates six summer camps for children ages 4 to 17 during the summer, as well as a year-round farm on 1,600 acres of land that it owns around Woodward Reservoir and Lake Ninevah. As the foundation moves toward carbon neutrality, it is relying on both old and new approaches. During this process, the campers are learning how to promote sustainability and reduce their own carbon footprints. A carbon audit conducted onsite in 2007 provided baseline data that the organization is using to measure its progress. Cutting back on heating oil – 6,141 gallons in 2007 – was the obvious first step because of the foundation’s abundant timber resources. Farm and Wilderness owns more than 1,600 acres of land with the potential to sustainably generate more than 50 cords of wood per year by removing hazard trees around buildings, trails and roads. Without management, these trees would die and rot, releasing over time the same amount of carbon they would if burned. With funds provided by the Vermont Department of Agriculture though the Renewable Energy for Agriculture Grant Program, F&W undertook an engineering study to evaluate the feasibility of using wood to heat its farmhouse, dairy barn and greenhouses – buildings used year-round to support the organization’s farming operations.

The results of the engineering study indicated that the optimal system could be completed in two phases at a total project cost of $65,000. The first phase was to install a wood gasification furnace and then, as funding allowed, a solar hot water system mounted on the farmhouse roof. The complete system is estimated to reduce fuel use by nearly 80 percent, equivalent to saving 4,000 gallons of heating oil per year. It will also decrease F&W’s propane use by 300 gallons per year and should pay for itself within seven years, based on heating fuel costs of $2.60 per gallon.

Pieter Bohen, F&W’s executive director, reports that sufficient funds have already been raised for the project.

“Farm & Wilderness donors very much understand that sustainability and social justice go hand in hand,” Bohen said. “We have to focus on how we’re going to both respond to climate change and produce enough food for everyone to thrive. F&W has the ability to teach hands-on techniques to create a sustainable world.”

The wood gasification furnace and solar system will heat water in a 2,500-gallon heat exchange tank. Water from this tank will supply heat and hot water to the farmhouse, dairy barn and greenhouses through insulated underground piping systems – an arrangement known as district heating. The warm water piped to the greenhouse will flow through small hoses under growing tables and soil. This root-level heating speeds germination and extends the effective growing season, which means that F&W will be able to grow food nearly year round.

The underground piping from the farmhouse to the greenhouses was installed during the fall of 2010. The remaining elements of the system – wood-fired furnace and solar panels – are currently in the design and permitting phase. F&W hopes to have the complete system installed by the end of 2011.

In moving towards its goal of carbon neutrality, F&W is also focusing on the sustainability of its new buildings. Bohen describes the LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) standards as a “game changer,” because instead of emphasizing only technological fixes for creating green buildings – such as photovoltaic cells or solar water-heating systems – the standards also identify more traditional ways to gain points, such as thoroughly insulated, durable building shells and local materials.

The recently completed resource (maintenance) building exemplifies the benefits of such time-proven techniques. Board member Paul Stone of Orwell, determined to create a well-insulated building, worked in partnership with Robert Owen, F&W’s project manager, and John Berryhill, principal of NBF Architects of Rutland, to ensure that this new building would use minimal fossil fuels throughout its history.

The original plan called for walls to be framed with 2 x 6s; however, this was later changed to 2 x 8s so that additional insulation could be used. “Insulation is the most cost-effective, green way to create a low carbon footprint building, hands down,” Bohen said.

The building also features a radiant heating slab in its floor. The end result, Bohen said, is a building that requires very little propane to heat.

Locally available construction materials were obtained for the resource building. F&W forester Silos Roberts works with local loggers to harvest timber from F&W’s own property and property owned by the Ninevah Foundation (more than 4,000 acres). The timber is transported by local truckers to Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford, less than 30 miles away, to be milled into lumber. By harvesting its sustainable forests plots, F&W is able to use its own timber for 60 percent of camp building projects and create local jobs for loggers, truckers and mill workers.

The camps’ increased reliance on wood for heating provides many teaching opportunities. Campers learn what kind of trees yield good firewood, such as ash or maple, and those to avoid, such as poplar or pine. They are taught how to cut, buck and split firewood.

Bohen says, “Campers have a very tangible sense of how one goes about growing food, milking a cow or cutting wood. What we’re trying to do is make the fundamentals of our communities very hands-on, so they know they have been part of a community that has produced its own food, created its own heat – all that a community needs to thrive.”

Nathaniel Gibson is a freelance writer and former Farm and Wilderness camper who lives in Pawlet. He can be contacted at

The article originally appeared in the Rutland Herald and the Times Argus:
April 3, 2011