Sara Mae Elbert is a writer. She’s also the mom of the mom and pop restaurant and inn, Brushland Eating House, which she and her fiancé Sohail Zandi established a little over two years ago in the beautiful no-stop-light town of Bovina, NY. Don’t let the funny cow-town name fool you. Bovina’s got juju. In no small way, the power of that juju is growing as a result of this young couple and the locals who love them. Both had experience in the restaurant industry in New York and in Martha’s Vineyard before they dreamt up this food and lodging haven tucked discretely into the rolling hills of the western Catskills.
Sara and Sohail have managed to make Brushland feel simultaneously like the warmest and yummiest of small town eating houses and the hippest and hottest of bustling Brooklyn hotspots. Locals, week-enders and folks from afar frequent its cozy tables and busy kitchen. All praise the food, the service and the comfy, country-chic ambience.
But what many who eat or stay don’t know is that when Sara isn’t charming the guests at their tables with her natural smile, wit and sweetness, or working her tail off with Sohail to run the backend of the eatery and the two-apartment inn above, she’s a contributing writer to the Edible community of magazines, including Martha’s Vineyard, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Having begun as a copywriter and continued into food writing, she’s now writing short stories and non-fiction essays. See her latest piece in Dirt.
We sat down with Sara at Russell’s the general store down the road from Brushland, and when we asked her what she was reading, she showed us the book she’d just devoured: Tina Fey’s BOSSY PANTS (Hachette, 2011). The comedian-writer-producer’s laugh-out-loud, raucous good time of a memoir about being a lady boss was called “a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation” by The New York Times.
And for writerly inspiration along a different vein: before bed every night, Sara has been reading from a stunning, rouge-colored, hardbound copy of NEW YORK CITY FOLKLORE: LEGENDS, TALL TALES, ANECDOTES, STORIES, SAGAS, HEROES AND CHARACTERS, CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS AND SAYINGS edited by B.A. Botkin (Random House, 1956). Sara says the stories hail from a time before NYC developers sliced up and branded the city’s neighborhoods. These tales, she says, were born in moment when the City was as authentic as Bovina and her new life in the Catskills is today.