There’s something to be said for slow living in the Hudson Valley.
It’s the kind of lifestyle where afternoon walks are de rigueur and communal dinners unite families and friends after long weeks. It’s one in which local relationships with artisans, farmers, and makers figure prominently, both as resources for goods and as connection points between the Hudson Valley community at large.
It’s a lifestyle in which Papa’s Best Batch thrives.
Tucked quietly on the outskirts of Red Hook, Papa’s Best Batch is the passion project of longtime local resident and Bard College alum Jody Apap. Seven years ago, he began smoking nuts, first for kicks and later to sell. Using his signature Applewood and charcoal smoking process, he developed highly addictive snacks like Asian Smoked Almonds, Smoked Dill Pickle Pistachios, Smoked Roasted Garlic Pistachios, and Smoked Chipotle Lime Pistachios. The treats are just as clean as they are savory and are made with non-GMO California nuts with no gluten or artificial ingredients.
Around the time the nuts took off, Apap began looking for a trailer. A vintage Airstream trailer, to be exact. After an extensive search, he found the silver machine of his dreams in Burlington, Vermont.
“It took me about five weeks to gut it completely,” he recalls. A master builder, Apap got to work to transform the rundown interior into one that housed a full kitchen. Once complete, he parked it near his hand-crafted smokers at Greig Farm in Red Hook and declared Papa’s Best Batch open for business.
Set under a billowing willow tree at the entrance of Greig Farm, Papa’s trailer serves up smoked “sammiches,” Apap’s flavorful take on the lunchbox staple. The Asian Smoked Brisket Sammich, made with Papa’s signature sweet and spicy rub and layered with a zesty slaw and homemade Russian dressing, is the hands-down best seller. Close behind, however, is the Smoked Salmon Sammich, Papa’s take on lox that features smoked salmon filets marinated in molasses and spices and topped with a schmear of cream cheese and a hefty portion of capers and red onions. On the lighter side, Papa’s also makes a mean serving of smoked deviled eggs, which are hard-boiled to perfection, then smoked for 20 minutes and filled with a zesty cream with notes of wasabi and horseradish.
During lunchtimes from May to October, locals and visitors take breezy drives through Red Hook to Papa’s. They park their cars in the grass, then stroll up to the Airstream to order whichever sammich strikes their fancy that day. As they wait (not long, mind you) for their meal to be made, they pick their spot at one of the handcrafted picnic tables and take in the views of the Catskills beyond. As a matter of fact, Papa’s site is the only location at Greig’s in which the Catskills horizon is visible.
It’s a point of pride, you know?
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While Papa’s is a standalone location on the farm, it’s also an integral part of Greig’s operations as a whole. It sits right next to the farm’s art gallery, farm market, and artisan marketplace, which means it’s a prime destination when visitors need a break from shopping and berry picking. Last summer, Papa’s even helped to organize a film fest to show Dirty Dancing. It was a hit, and the farm is hoping to plan a repeat performance this year.
Although Papa’s trailer at Greig Farm is and will always be home base, Apap is excited by the brand’s burgeoning presence in the Hudson Valley. Currently, Papa’s Best Batch nuts and, more recently, smoked jerky retail in more than 175 locations throughout the region. If Apap and his distribution manager Jonathan Korzen have their way, it may just reach across the nation in the months to come.
As if that wasn’t enough, Papa’s Best Batch is also a regular presence at Hudson Valley festivals and happenings throughout the summer season. During the week, Apap takes his food truck (not the trailer, which is firmly locked into its home at Greig) to serve finger-licking bites at places like The Chocolate Factory in Red Hook and The Greenhouse Cidery in Chatham. Take a peek at Papa’s website to check where the truck will pop up next.
Of course, the biggest project on the horizon for Papa’s is not in the mid-Hudson Valley at all. Coming in June (fingers crossed), Apap will open his second shop at Troy’s anticipated River Street Market food hall. Notably, this will be the first year-round location for Papa’s, since the Airstream operates seasonally from May to October.
“They found us, and invited us to join from an hour away,” Apap notes. He hopes to create a similar atmosphere to the breezy Red Hook setting inside the market, which will operate a central food hub in Troy’s downtown. As one of the first vendors onboard for the project, he’s excited to get the Rensselaer kitchen up and running this summer. Once open, Papa’s in Troy will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays during the week to cater to the entrepreneurial and office crowd. Apap himself plans to hop between that space and the original location, shifting his mindset from solitary entrepreneur to general manager in the process. Luckily, he admits he has a great team to help him keep up both locations and stay on top of nut production and distribution throughout the Hudson Valley. And yes, he will continue to represent Papa’s at foodie events and pop-ups in the region. After all, those are the places where he connects with locals, who love to share stories about trying his nuts and visiting the Red Hook outpost.
“The response has been really satisfying,” he notes of the public’s feedback, which often ends with “this is the best sandwich I ever had in my life.” Between smoking up good food and building relationships with his customers, he’s happy to do up his part to keep the Hudson Valley happy – and full.
“That’s my aesthetic,” he says. “I love it.”
Papa’s Best Batch
243 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook