All You Need Is Love and Bagels
Step foot into the Psychedelicatessen on River Street and get transported to another era. A quirky combination of traditional and eccentric, this bagel shop beautifully blends the elusive handmade Jewish bagel with mouthwatering sandwich recipes and then throws in a heaping pile of local goodness on top. Owner Laura Kerrone and her family of bagel slingers serve up their tasty wares from dawn to dusk. The commitment to sustainability and food quality is evident in everything they serve.
The main area is swathed in Caribbean-blue psychedelia that wraps around part of the room, mirrored by another wall covered in local art. A brightly colored chalkboard menu is full of eccentrically named entrées, such as Foxy Loxy, Kahuna Tuna and the Hangover burrito. Around the corner from this relatively more traditional seating area is the lounge. Stepping past a large tie-dye tapestry and into what could have been Janice Joplin’s living room, colorful couches, pillows, beads and piled-up rugs teleport you to another place and time.
This place is just humming with a vibe of laid-back, chill and past hippie times. On the wall next to a hanging egg chair is a collection of old psychedelic concert posters—copies of highly sought-after artwork of ages past. Regulars are nestled into their favorite chairs and couches, feet propped up and coffee in hand. The sweet guitar licks of one of Jerry Garcia’s 15-minute jams float through the air.
A quick peek into the back of the kitchen will show a baker in the back, hand-rolling bagels at lightning speed, a skill and practice that’s almost nonexistent to modern-day automated bagel shops. Using a se- cret and traditional Jewish recipe, the bagels are made with only five ingredients, including King Arthur high-gluten flour. Also hard at work are food prep cooks, making everything on the menu from scratch.
From salted lox to grass-fed roast beef—everything is prepared in- house, not only to eliminate processed foods from the menu but also to provide authenticity to the final product.
When it comes to sourcing ingredients, Kerrone explains that it’s not hard when you have such an abundance of high-quality food around.
“Did you see the map on the wall that shows where all our food is sourced?” Kerrone asks excitedly.
It’s no secret how important food and ingredients are here. The entire staff are trained in local source information and the whys. One of the most satisfying things to witness is when a new customer comes in and, while waiting for their food, looks at the map on the wall and realizes that their entire sandwich is made with ingredients nearby. “Little by little,” Kerrone says, “I can help people becoming more aware of what they’re eating. It can start the ball rolling, because knowing what you are eating, what’s in your food, is one of the most important things we can ever learn.”
It is very clear how serious Kerrone takes this knowledge and the commitment to using the most minimally processed, organic and non-GMO ingredients as possible.
Though Kerrone knew the abundance of farms and suppliers in the area prior to opening, one of the biggest and most satisfying surprises she discovered was just how many of the ingredients she could buy locally. Everything from flour, eggs, milk, meats and cheeses down to the little details, like pickles, soda and salad dressings—all available year round. Over 75% of the ingredients and products used at this bagel shop are sourced locally and year round.
A curious customer can look on the map and find the farm name, the location and what is obtained from that farm before ordering. Some of the menu items even feature the name like the Battenkill Mocha and Battenkill Crack, sourcing the area’s most beloved chocolate milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery.
I had already delighted in the unusual-named specialty drink the Battenkill Crack when I first arrived. When I inquire about it, with a smile Kerrone explains that, like many of the items on the menu, it was originally a fluke. They already used Battenkill Valley Creamery chocolate milk for their mocha drink. The chocolate milk is famous for its rich creaminess, and for the traditional mocha, instead of adding chocolate syrup or cocoa to steamed milk, Psychedelicatessen simply steams the chocolate milk and adds Lucy Jo’s Organic Expresso, another local favorite. The Crack was simply a way to combat the heat—add coffee ice cubes with the Expresso and top with cold chocolate milk, and you have a drink that lives up to its name in more than one way!
It’s not only loaded with caffeine, but its rich, creamy flavor has the locals hooked.
Kerrone laughs as she shares that this drink has become one of the most popular items here. For a customer just looking for iced coffee, another feature is the coffee cubes. A borrowed idea from Lucy Jo’s, the local roasters, freshly brewed coffee is poured over coffee ice cubes, eliminating the inevitable diluted coffee.
The Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market is one of the many highlights in this lively town. During summer months, it’s located right out in front of Psychedelicatessen and was ulti- mately a selling point when Kerrone chose this location. She claims it to be one of the most diverse farmers’ markets she has seen and loves going shopping on Saturdays. Every week, customers and market goers often witness Kerrone pulling carts loaded up with vegetables, milk, yogurt and other ingredients heading back to her shop.
During summer months, almost all produce is sourced from Denison Farm, a recently certified organic farm in Schaghticoke, New York, about half an hour away. Strong and sup- portive relationships with owners of farms and dairies make it easier to go the extra mile and pay the extra dollar. Kerrone was approached early on by Argyle Cheese to use quark—a soft, tart German cheese and more natural alternative to low-fat cream cheese.
It hasn’t always been fun and games in the bagel-slinging business. Kerrone got her feet wet in Idaho Falls, Idaho, when she opened up the smallest of bagel shops also named Psychedelicatessen. With an economic downturn in 2008 leaving her without funding, she converted a basement room in her house into a fully licensed bakery, and an old 1971 silver school bus transformed from a roving hippie haven to a mobile deli. That adventure ended after two and a half years when she accepted an offer in upstate New York, her old profes- sion of radiation monitoring at an old nuclear research facility.
Plans to return to Idaho were thwarted when she fell in love with the area and its abundance of local food. In just a short time since 2014 when Psychedelicatessen opened its doors, Kerrone has created and grown a community of regulars and gets the pleasure of working with amazing people. “They’re my family” she says. We’re very tight knit and support each other.
Her passion, hard work and creative spirit bring throngs of people through the doors, starting at 5am and wrapping up at 10pm. Weekends there are often lines out the door, and the entire place is packed like a beehive. Evenings often offer up movie nights, an occasional clothing swap or other community events. Every Thursday is Open Jam, where total strang- ers can bring instruments and sing along and play with one another, in a true hippie spirit.
A Kentucky native and recent New York transplant, Kerrone has found a loving home in upstate New York. She has brought her passion and dream and turned it into a thriving business and created a community of all types of people who support one another. “My mom always told me I was the hippie she never was.”
I’d say, she’s a hippie of sorts who truly appreciates the importance of good local food!