At Trattoria San Giorgio, The Pizzas Are A Work Of Art
Photo courtesy Rebecca Baldridge.
By Don Rosendale
Until seven years ago, Joe Comizio [right] was a commodities broker on Wall Street, one of those guys you saw on TV in a white jacket waving scraps of paper and shouting orders. And then his skill was replaced by computers. He decided it was time for a career change.
“I come from a big Italian family,” he says, taking a moment from stoking the 900-degree, wood-fired oven in Trattoria San Giorgio in Millbrook. “Big Sunday dinners, the whole family. Traditional Italian cooking.”
And so, mid life, he decided to open his own restaurant. After a detour through a New York City culinary school and then stints as sous chef in well-known Manhattan Italian restaurants, Comizio is wearing a different kind of white jacket, that of a chef; he and his wife, Gordana, opened their trattoria in the heart of Millbrook almost exactly one year ago.
Wall Street’s loss is Millbrook’s gain.
I’ve been dining regularly at San Giorgio since the summer, savoring warm-weather fare such as gazpacho and Salad Caprese, but recently was joined by two Manhattan dwellers whose palate for Italian cuisine has been trained by those Manhattan places where $50 will get you a handful of rigatoni with shaved white truffles.
“Trattoria” is Italian for “little restaurant.” To be clear, while its wood-fired pizza oven is the eye-catcher at San Giorgio, it is a restaurant that just happens to bake special pizzas.
Fig pizza with gorgonzola cheese, speck, balsamic glaze and honey. Photo courtesy Trattoria San Giorgio.
What comes out of the oven, Comizio explains, are not just pizzas, but Neapolitan pizzas, which he says is a recognized dish made to exacting standards. They are, he promised (and delivered), a caliber far superior to what you get in the cardboard box — thinner, crispier and with more taste. Comizio says he views each one as he if were an artist “painting on a blank canvas.”
When I was there most recently, he handed me a pizza topped with pears and gorgonzola cheese. The sweetness of the pears and pungency of the cheese made for something… well, like I’d never had before. I recommend it.
When I arrived late, my guest tasters were at the bar, nibbling on the bar snack — flatbread topped with extra virgin olive oil and a secret blend of spices ($6).
Since Salad Caprese is out of season, I opted for the minestrone laden with fresh vegetables ($7) and then an appetizer as a main course, gamberi fra diavolo (large shrimp “hot as hell”). My guests first devoured spaghetti carbonera ($16) with some discussion of whether the bacon was authentic Italian pancetta or the American kind. (Gordona assured us it was indeed pancetta.) After that, it was pollo parmigiana, chicken in white wine sauce with melted parmesan cheese. For dessert, torta caprese — a traditional flourless chocolate cake with ground almonds and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
Torta Caprese. Photo courtesy Trattoria San Giorgio.
The trattoria has a small but good wine list, mostly Italian and reasonably priced. My guests had started at the bar with a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and stayed with it through dinner. I had a Tuscan blend I’d never seen before, a Centino Bianco, crisp and tasting of — in a happy coincidence — the pears on our pear and gorgonzola torte. The bill for three with tax and tip was $150 and change.
Comizio says he found the site for the restaurant by happenstance. He’d been negotiating for a restaurant in Orange County which fell through, and he needed to “just take a drive.” His path took him into Millbrook, where he spotted a vacant site and immediately knew it was the place for his restaurant. He and Gordana sold their home and moved to the Millbrook village, just a short walk from the trattoria.
With its 46 interior seats (and another two dozen on an outside terrace in cooperative weather), Trattoria San Giorgio is full almost every night. It’ll be a one-year anniversary to celebrate.
Trattoria San Giorgio
3279 Franklin Avenue, Millbrook, NY
Tue—Thu: 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 - 9 p.m.
Fri: 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 - 10 p.m.
Sat: 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
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Serious Comfort: District Kitchen & Bar
By Nichole Dupont
It’s getting hard to keep the toes warm these days. Once the smell of wood smoke pervades the sky, and dry pine needles the ground, it’s time; we all know it’s time. So, I guess our recent jaunt into District Kitchen & Bar, Pittsfield’s latest homage to the gastro pub, couldn’t have come at a better time. A little freezing drizzle outside instantly evaporated off of our coats once we entered the West Street restaurant, which on a Friday night, was just packed enough to feel hopping yet welcoming, like we’d found the cool spot in deserted Gotham. While we waited for our table, my friend B and I ordered specialty drinks and admired the décor of the new digs.
“I never thought gunmetal gray could actually be a warm color,” she said looking at the dark painted walls. “And even the photographs are warm somehow.”
The larger-than-life, vibrantly creepy portraits by local photographer Eric Korenman adorn the long dining/bar area. Exposed copper piping, high ceilings and steel chairs all scream industrial, but decorative incandescent bulbs and non-intrusive overhead lighting give the place a Victorian warmth. The end result is a kind of non-pretentious steampunk that no one would outright call steampunk…perfect.
It’s hard to choose from the list of specialty drinks (all under $10) not only because District boasts a pretty healthy craft beer (from Ommegang to Left Hand Brewing) and wine list (Stag’s Leap, Oh Schist!), but also because all of the cocktails look pretty damn good. And flavorful, as if they too are to be contemplated. I end up with the Leaf Peeper, a bourbon and cider concoction with allspice dram and lemon. Despite the rocks, the drink is warming. B sips at a Door No. 3, an alchemical mix of silver rum and basil syrup. It’s fresh and simple. A palate cleanser for what’s to come.
If you’re familiar with Public eat + drink, District’s sister eatery in North Adams, then the Pittsfield menu will be like an old friend. It’s broken up into sections: smalls, mids, bigs, sides and desserts. It was hard for us to tackle the thing, only because everything looked so good, and like the signature cocktails, so creative. We settled on the cheese board ($16) and the tempura battered mixed mushrooms with chipotle aioli ($10).
Let me say this, I don’t normally order the cheese board because, well, I can do that at home. But this baby was magnificent, mostly thanks to the crisp lemon onions and the garlic jam, which was a surprising mix of sweet with the savory of garlic. The cherry compote was a nice tart touch as well, and we basically ignored the baguette and loaded small slices of creamy local cheeses—some aged, some soft, some potent—with the accompanying condiments until everything was gone. The mushrooms held their own, exploding under the crisp panko. There was a lot of finger-licking and exclamations about the onions and the garlic jam.
“I never thought I could like jam so much,” I said.
Our long focus on the smalls left just enough time for the “bigs” to arrive. I took a chance with the seared duck breast, factoring in the grease and the fact that it is waterfowl season and banking on fresh bird. I’m glad I took the risk, because this duck, while completely rich and Henry VIII-esque, was not greasy. In fact, it was perfect. I had to savor its presentation before I dove in, fork first (although the dish invited fingers, it really did) to the perfect meat, lightly covered with a fragrant apple-pomegranate sauce. Little potato balls mounded the side of the dish and were blended with a bacon (yes, I ate a little bacon for you people) shallot hash that was salty at first but dissolved on the tongue for a mild, crispy finish.
B ordered from what we thought was the mids section of the menu. What she got was a hearty, fall-off-the-bone short rib ($14) glazed with cider and flanked by a squash gratin that neither one of us will soon forget. It was the quintessential seasonal dish. Here was New England in a bite. Her orange hues, her apple tinged flavors, her warmth.
Of course, there was sadly no room for dessert — apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, cider crème brulee — to finish off the experience, but we did just fine in the cold air after that meal.
District Kitchen & Bar
40 West Street, Pittsfield
Open Wednesday - Sunday from 4 p.m.
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Riverview Cafe Reopens With Everything New (Except The View)
By Jamie Larson
With its million-dollar view of the Hudson River and a just-completed total renovation, The Riverview Café at the Stuyvesant landing in the rural northwestern-most corner of Columbia County, is back and better than anyone had a right to expect.
Under new, local management, and with a very affordable farm-to-table menu prepared by one of the Capital District’s best young chefs, the new Riverview Café is well worth the scenic drive just 15 minutes north of Hudson. The original Riverview Café shut its doors more than five years ago after a decade in business, and ever since there’s been a hole in the community that one business or another has tried to fill. But this new version of the café is no fly-by-night affair; in fact, it’s destination dining that doesn’t disappoint.
New owner Roby Whitlock, manager Meghan VanAlstyne and head chef Daniel Cunningham are rightly confident that their menu and mission will attract foodies and casual diners from across the region with their locally sourced, healthier versions of unintimidating American cuisine.
“Dan’s done a great job making a menu that’s approachable, not pretentious,” says VanAlstyne. “We want to show that you can have great fresh food that’s a little healthier, fills you up and doesn’t break the bank.”
Despite the care and effort dedicated to the thoughtful menu, lunch never tops $11 — and even that is for a house-smoked, pulled-brisket sandwich. For dinner service the café becomes slightly more elegant, with an inventive and tightly crafted list of specials that changes weekly and with the season, and highlights the deep range of skill Cunningham crafted working at Yono’s Restaurant, The Albany Pump Station and most recently as head chef at FinnBar’s Pub, in Troy, where he was awarded “Best Pub Menu 2014” by Metroland.
“I’ve been in the industry 15 years but it’s different what I can do here. I’m so close to where I get my ingredients that it helps me put out some really high-quality food,” says Cunningham. “And, when I get a break, I get to look out my window and see the river. No other kitchen has this view.”
The chef sources as much as he can locally, getting produce, meat and dairy from a variety of farms including Monkshood, Kinderhook Farm, Ironwood Farm, Ardith Mae Cheeses and others. Fresh bread comes from Bonfiglio and Bread in Hudson and Pigasso Farms supplies the pork that goes into the addictive house-made sausage.
The quality ingredients show: Even an item as classic as a two-egg breakfast (only $6) is elevated by the “farm freshness” and the attention to detail. If you’re in the mood for something else, try the biscuits and sausage gravy ($7) or sauteed kale and tomato confit with poached eggs ($8). For lunch, in addition to the brisket, there’s a sausage burger with bacon relish, local greens and spicy mustard ($9, or $10 with an egg on it). A superbly crafted massaged kale salad sparkles with fresh herbs, lemon, feta and pickled onions ($7); another choice is a perfectly balanced roast chicken and hand-cut bacon sandwich with garlic aioli on Bonfiglio quinoa bread ($9). Craft beer and wine is served and the renovated bar is an elegant place to elbow up for a chat.
Since opening in early October the café has been packed for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday, dinner Friday and Saturday, and Sunday brunch. Reservations are suggested for dinner and brunch service which offer specials like the unexpectedly delicious beet fritters pictured below.
“We’ve been getting a lot of people who stay and hang out after they’re done eating or go for a walk by the water,” says VanAlstyne. “There’s a different pace here, set by the river, than any other restaurant. If people come here once they’ll see it’s worth the drive — and it’s a beautiful drive down 9J.”
But it’s not important just to the Riverview Café’s crew that they draw visitors; it’s as important (if not more so) to the locals of Stuyvesant that the café recaptures its place as a town hub. So while the aesthetic, and Cunningham’s culinary nuances, have added an upscale feel, the café is as approachable as ever, with takeout sandwiches and to-go coffees for those running in on their way to work or after stopping by the post office next door. This down-to-earth approach already has locals pleased and translates to a warm atmosphere for visitors no matter from where they hail.
The flow of the river, which dominates the view out the wall-to-wall front windows, seems to slow time and adds a calm ambiance to the café. As momentum builds, VanAlstyne intends to curate a schedule of community and art events. The goal is to be as available as possible for a community with no other restaurant in their rural, spread-out town.
“I give Terry (the café’s previous owner) a lot of credit for creating a community around this place,” says Whitlock, who lives just up the street. “The community is still here and we wanted to bring it back for them.”
48 Riverview Street, Stuyvesant NY
Wednesday & Thursday
Breakfast 7 – 10:30 a.m.
Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday & Saturday
Breakfast 7 – 10:30 a.m.
Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Dinner 5 – 9 p.m.
10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Closed Monday & Tuesday.
Dinner and brunch reservations recommended.
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Billy Ledda’s Italian Market Is Hudson’s Hidden Gem
By Jamie Larson
The unambiguously named Italian Market in Hudson just might be the posh little city’s best-kept secret. Unassuming at first glance, this humble market and deli is quietly home to some of the best food in the gastronomically cultured area.
Billy Ledda moved to the Hudson Valley from Long Island and opened up shop on the corner of Park Place and Columbia Street during the summer of 2011. Since then he hasn’t spent a dime on advertising — this article is his first piece of press — yet, by the consistent quality of the perfectly executed sandwiches and Italian staples Ledda puts out every day, The Italian Market has amassed a secret cult following that he says now keeps him busy even in the traditionally slower winter months.
“I don’t cut corners,” said Ledda plainly. “You have to slice the meat thin and fresh for every sandwich. It keeps a sandwich light no matter how much you put on it.”
Ledda didn’t actually glean recipes from his family growing up, but he did learn the Italian way to cook. He was raised on Long Island but his father, who had a bar in Hudson in the 60s, grew up on 100 acres in Green County’s “Enchanted Forest” outside East Durham. Ledda spent time as a kid on the family farm where they produced their own food and slaughtered their own animals. “It made me appreciate where food comes from, where I come from.”
“There’s nothing I’ve had here I didn’t absolutely love,” said loyal customer Nathan Harrelson. “First off, the place is spotlessly clean. And when you get your sandwich, it’s like a piece of art on the plate. Billy treats you like you’re eating in his house.”
The food at The Italian Market is simple, intuitive and driven by the quality of ingredients. Ledda gets his bread shipped up from Manhattan every morning; his meats are imported from Italy and he uses as much local produce as possible. He takes no shortcuts and and he makes everything his way.
Ledda’s way works: take the chicken salad, which people rave about. When was the last time you heard someone rave about chicken salad? Ledda has elevated the most innocuous, frequently bland deli offering to unbelievable heights by roasting the chicken in fresh herbs so that when he mixes it with just a little mayo and celery, all the complex flavors you taste are from the meat.
“People ask me things like, ‘why don’t you put bacon or pancetta in your broccoli rabe?’” he says from behind his inviting counter, peppered with little ‘No Cellphones Please’ signs. “I say, ‘because when I eat broccoli rabe I want to taste broccoli rabe.’ I like the taste. Why would I cover it up? I keep it simple — good olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper — and cook it right.”
That perfect broccoli rabe goes into one of Ledda’s signature sandwiches — the “Grandpa.” The sandwich isn’t named for his grandfather, but rather a quaint attempt at marketing (“Everyone wants a story with their food now,” he says with a smile. “It’s the type of thing my Grandpa would’ve eaten, but no, it’s not like my grandmother snuck the recipe out of Italy hidden from Mussolini.”) is crafted on a pillowy sub roll with perfectly breaded chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, toothsome broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and balsamic.
The Italian Market’s clientele is a melting pot of Hudson old and new. Its classic look and traditional offerings of meatballs, pasta, veggies and sandwiches welcome local old timers and hospital and county workers. The impeccable quality and execution have pulled many a weekender off of restaurant-rich Warren Street to the less polished end of town. The Market is also a shop, supplying the area with a small but well-curated supply of classic pastas, European sweets, dry goods, sauces, oils, pickled goods and Italian sodas.
Ledda might seem a little gruff at first meeting, or if he’s been bristled by a rude customer, but what makes his place so outstanding is that he loves spending time with the people who come into his store, recreating the ambience of the community deli that doesn’t really exist anymore. His eagerness to please is exemplified by the catering menu because, while there is a menu, if you give him the appropriate amount of advance notice, he’ll cook you anything you want — even if he’s never made it before.
“That might scare some people, but if you know me you’ll trust I can make anything,” he says. “If I haven’t cooked it before, I’ll call my mother.”
717 Columbia St., Hudson, NY
Open Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
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Third Annual Sandwich Summit: A Rye Look Between The Bread
Photo: Danny Ghitis
By Andrea Pyros
“Is It Insane To Insist That There Is No Such Thing As Half An Open Faced Sandwich?”
If that query strikes you as irrelevant, ridiculous or just plain nuts, you’re probably not a sandwich aficionado. But if you are, you might actually ponder it for a moment. And if you’re pondering, why not take it a step further and join some like-minded sandwich celebrators on September 27 at the Third Annual Sandwich Summit in Wassaic, NY?
The summit, with this year’s theme of Hopes & Dreams, is the brainchild the Sandwich Club, a society that “fosters an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking sandwich culture by encouraging the discovery and consumption of delicious sandwiches and sandwich components, both in the United States and abroad.”
Trippy Roll Sammy by Josh Burggraf, part of the sandwich themed exhibition at the Sandwich Summit, curated by Maximilian Bode.
Shannon Finnegan, co-founder and executive director of the Sandwich Club explains, “It’s all about being very serious about something very silly.” Finnegan, who by day works for The Wassaic Project, started the club along with her friend Sam Handler, the club’s co-founder and president. Finnegan says, “We both love sandwiches and we started making a point to seek out new ones together. We quickly learned people feel really passionately about them,” adding, “I go to parties now and I don’t even know what I talked about before the Club existed. It’s an instant conversation starter with anyone. I’m amazed how much people have to say about sandwiches.”
During most of the year, Sandwich Club members chew solo, meeting instead on Twitter, Instagram and via the club’s Google doc (available with permission) to share tasting notes. But for one day only, our area’s sandwich-loving community comes together, like a foot-long sub, to rejoice in sandwiches from top to bottom — and everything in between — at the tongue-planted-very-firmly-in-cheek event. And yes, of course there will be sandwich horoscope readings.
Key players in the RI region’s sandwich movement will be on hand, including Finnegan working behind the scenes; Handler, who will give opening remarks; Breanne Trammell, Sandwich Club secretary and co-chair of the Summit Planning Committee; and artist Maximilian Bode, curator of the Sandwich Club Summit Exhibition. Manning the grilled cheese grill will be Jeff Barnett-Winsby, who is one of the directors of the Wassaic Project and the manager of The Lantern, a popular Wassaic eatery.
The lineup is every conference attendee’s dream, with presentations on topics such as, “The Cultural Logic of the Post Modern Sandwich” and “Enjoy Every Sandwich: Honoring The Legacy Of Warren Zevon Through Positive Food Choices,” and, of course, that head-scratching brain teaser about half an open faced sandwich.
“The Summit is the moment where people are talking,” Finnegan says. Expect lively — but respectful — debates to break out. Though the Sandwich Club itself does not have an official policy on the definition of a sandwich (“too controversial,” demurs Finnegan), the topic will certainly be raised, and Finnegan expects the club’s conservative wing to continue their arguments for more a stringent definition.
Though busy preparing for the summit, Finnegan was willing to share her personal POV on the food (opinions expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sandwich Club). She suggests locals check out The Lantern in Wassaic, an all-around “great sandwich spot” as well as Back in the Kitchen in Amenia, which she says offers “one of the best breakfast sandwiches.” A sandwich she’s currently got in heavy rotation is one dished up by a friend. It’s made with sardines, anchovies, ricotta and apple with olive oil on sourdough (“It’s not for everyone,” she admits).
But to truly delve deep into sandwich knowledge and explore a wide range of opinions, Finnegan assures us the summit is the place to chew on that.
The 3rd Annual Sandwich Club Summit: Hopes & Dreams
Saturday, September 27, 5-8 p.m.
Hosted by the Wassaic Project at the Luther Barn Auction Ring
17 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY
Free admission; registration mandatory.
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In Chatham, Bimi’s Cheese Shop Opens Not A Moment Too Soon
By Pamela Dreyfus Smith
Going from zero to open in three months isn’t much time to launch a new retail establishment. But for Bimi’s Cheese Shop in Chatham, which opened over Labor Day weekend, that construction period over the summer created an anticipation among passersby as they watched the owners turn the empty storefront on Main Street into a rustic market. Anticipation spawned excitement. And the crowds in the store since day one tell the story: the shop has not disappointed.
“We wanted to give something happy to Chatham,” says Ellen Waggett, one of Bimi’s four owners. The new cheesemongers are actually two couples, each of which comes with a skill set that contributes to the making of a specialty market. Waggett is a production designer for TV; her husband, Chris Landy, is a lighting designer; they created the welcoming décor with repurposed local barn wood and cabinetry, tall ceilings with a pressed tin pattern, stone countertops and large glass cases.
The owners: Chris Landy, David Shea, Ellen Waggett and Laura Shea.
David and Laura Shea had a weekend garden and kitchen internship at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Inn Restaurant in 1998, prior to opening applewood restaurant in Park Slope, where they were among the first to serve locally-sourced, sustainably-grown foods. After eight years, they left the daily management of the restaurant in excellent hands and moved to East Chatham to run applewood farm. They’re here full time; Ellen and Chris still do the back-and-forthing from the city to their country house.
Although all four are committed to local sourcing, they do sell an impressive selection of European cheeses to add to the mix. The couples vowed to take the intimidation factor out of the cheese-shopping, so each cheese in the case is accompanied by a sign detailing its company’s origins, if it’s produced from pasteurized or raw milk, and whether the cheese has a vegetable or animal rennet. A lighthearted cheat sheet offers phonetic pronunciations for the foreign varieties.
Even better, the proof is in the tasting: Bimi’s is generous with sample plates so shoppers can try, for example, a traditional aged Parmigiano or a savory cheesecake made with blue cheese (no sugar added).
Grilled cheese lovers will rejoice: Every day, Bimi’s offers a revolving selection of three mean grilled cheese sandwiches ($5-$7) to go. The menu might include a grilled Mortadella, Sopresatta and Mozzarella, or duck liver pate with Pecorino and mustard on rye. There are also grab-and-go cold plates ($12-$15), each one named after the Columbia County Land Conservancy areas, such as The Ooms Pond Plate, with Blue cheesecake, aged Gouda, crostini, chutney and Seth’s Sauerkraut. Big fans of the CLC, the owners reached out to the conservancy with their idea of creating tote-friendly plates for people to take on a CLC walk, with a portion of the plate sales going to the organization. The picnic-motivating packages come with a trail guide and map, courtesy of the CLC, a nice local touch.
While cheese gets star billing at Bimi’s, there are a host of supporting products on the shelves that will keep customers coming back for an adventure in regionally produced quality food. Mindful of the other businesses in town, the owners have carefully curated their products so that there is no crossover of inventory with any other nearby retailer. There are homemade crostini and crackers, as well as other regional brands, duck liver pate (made in Laura and David’s applewood restaurant), Vermont Quince (localized version of Italian Membrillo,) Big Spoon flavored nut butters, dry fig salami (the vegetarian answer to charcuterie), The Gracious Gourmet chutneys, tapenades and pestos. From Hudson there is Seth’s Sauerkraut, Puckers Gourmet pickles and breads from Bonfiglio & Bread.
There are also unusual items such as goat milk caramels, grilled cheese earrings, folding Opinel knives for picnics and backpacking, many kinds of cheese slicers, artisan crafted wood cutting boards — those fun “hostess gifts” that you’d rather buy for yourself.
Bimi’s shoppers might even find evidence of the store in other places in the neighborhood. The owners are partnering with the Chatham Bookstore, Chatham Brewing and Thompson-Giroux Gallery to provide food for receptions and other events. For Bimi’s, it’s really all about the town — and people — of Chatham.
“The response of the community has been wonderful,” says Waggett. “It’s such a joyous place.”
The wait, after all, was worth it.
Bimi’s Cheese Shop
21 Main Street
Closed Monday and Tuesday
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Housie Market Cafe Is Another Gem In The Heart Of Housatonic
By Nichole Dupont
Shea is a rough and tumble 11-year-old with the kind of tan that belies an entire summer spent outside. He glides in on his bicycle which is beat up and laden with fishing gear. He is a man on a mission when he walks into the Housie Market Cafe on a Saturday afternoon.
“Peanut butter and bacon sandwich on sourdough, that’s what I always get,” he says. “And a Snapple.”
I ask him if he comes in here a lot and he grins and looks at owner Amy Hagerty, who opened the market—formerly the Corner Market—in late June.
“Yeah, when I have the cash. Even when I don’t have the cash.” He gets his sandwich and rides off to find more friends and presumably, throw in a few more lines before the school year whisks him away forever.
Shea is just one of the rapidly growing crowd of regulars infiltrating the Housie Market Cafe, located at the corner of Pleasant and Highland.
“We get a lot of kids in here,” says Hagerty [in photo, right], who was one of the original masterminds of the Baba Louie’s empire. “They come in and they each have their ‘usual’. We have moms and dads in getting coffee and breakfast—actually this place is like a baby festival every morning. People on their way to work. Tree guys on their lunch break.”
The Housie Market feeds them all. People have been waiting anxiously for a neighborhood take out/sit down/coffee spot since the former Corner Market closed its doors last year. Patrons were practically banging down the door to get at the new café’s homey menu of breakfast goodies, thick deli-style sandwiches, baked goods and on-the-go shelf stock (chips, snacks, bottled drinks and other market fare). Hagerty says that when she was envisioning the menu in the 11th hour, something was still missing from the chalkboard of specials that includes the standard eats but also more unique creations like the peanut butter kimchi sandwich ($5.50), the polenta egg bowl ($8) and the roast ‘beast’ sandwich (with braised kale and horseradish mayo, $8) to name a few.
“It was the week we were going to open and I was driving with my friend Tess Diamond and telling her we need that one thing, that signature thing that no one else has,” Hagerty recalls. “She told me she once had a muffin when she was traveling in Brazil that had a soft-boiled egg inside. I told her we needed to find that muffin. We looked up recipes, one was three pages long! I kept modifying the recipe, changing it up, simplifying. We finally got it.”
The Diamond in the Rough muffin ($6.25, presumably named after Amy’s right hand gal) made its debut on opening day, and has been a hit at the café ever since. How could it not, there is an entire hard-boiled egg in the middle of the thing? Made with buttermilk, it eats more like a meal than a snack, laden with asiago, cheddar and parmesan as well as chives and salty bits of bacon, served with a side of smooth house-made salsa for dipping. While we were chatting one patron approached Hagerty about her signature “dish.”
“So, I think I’ve figured out how you cook egg, or the muffin around the egg,” the patron says, sipping his coffee brushing the sawdust off his shirt. “You parbroil it, right? I mean, that the only way you can cook it around the egg…”
Hagerty just smiles and shakes her head. “Nope.”
The muffin is a savory symbol of what Hagerty and her staff prepare every day for their hungry patrons: home cooking with a twist. Instead of lettuce, there is arugula, instead of bologna there is olive tapenade, instead of blueberry muffins there is the diamond.
“I’m not a chef,” Hagerty insists. “I’ve been cooking all my life, but I’m not a chef. This is the stuff I make at home. You can’t get this stuff at a restaurant. Not that I’ve seen.”
If not a chef, then a damn creative cook and a never-sit-still community organizer. The Housie Market Café is part of a petit renaissance happening in the little hamlet along the river, which arguably began with the Brick House Pub, followed by Pleasant & Main, not to mention the treasure trove of hidden art galleries and other creative spaces that have popped up in the last decade. Hagerty is thrilled to watch it happen keeping her fingers crossed that all this good food will attract more full-time residents and inspire a renovation of the old school building that sits vacant just down the street.
“That would be a great space for a commercial kitchen. And those old classrooms would make great apartments. It’d be a fantastic community hub,” she says, eying the space from the café window.
Housie Market Cafe
226 Pleasant Street, Housatonic, MA
Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m - 6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
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Preservation Society Pays Homage to Simple, Sublime Food
By Nichole Dupont
The relaxed, library-esque quiet is almost inconceivable, especially knowing what’s going on on the other side of the wall. But that’s just part of the magic of Preservation Society, located on the south side of the bustling Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington, MA. I’m sure there were large parties of five or more, I’m sure that the bar was pretty packed with folks just getting off work, but I heard none of it in the wood-walled seclusion of the reservations-only, cozy 12-seat dining room and raw bar. The space is the brainchild of the Grill’s head chef Christophe Jalbert, who had a hand in building the tastefully sparse space, including the highly lacquered bar/expo kitchen area complete with a built-in, repurposed copper kettle drum used to house oysters on ice.
Chef Jalbert also builds the menu every week—Preservation Society is open Thursday-Monday with seatings at 5, 7 and 9 p.m.—which includes a raw bar, rich charcuterie options and a menu of either five ($100) or three courses ($65) as well as an extensive wine list heavy with higher-end options like Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc and Catena Malbec and several dozen in between.
The atmosphere is elemental—white tablecloths, bulbous wine glasses, sturdy flatware—and deliberately allows for the focus to be on the eats. On this particular night, the raw bar/charcuterie included Wellfleet oysters ($3), ceviche, salmon tartare, gaufrettes with greens and bresaola served with orange, fennel and frisee ($12). I chose the latter, intrigued by the combination of citrus and crisp fennel and thin strips of salted beef, which was surprisingly mellow when they all hit the palate in unison.
Throughout the two-hour meal (be prepared to languish, and for god’s sake bring something to talk about and someone who likes to talk), the motif of unlikely pairings and textures was a delight. Part of the fun of languishing and taking your time with the five courses is watching the chef prepare each course at the expo kitchen behind the varnished bar. With just two small burners and a narrow counter space, Jalbert carefully curates each dish, swirling olive oil over sweet tomatoes, shaving Parmigiano so that it drops into the right spaces. Nothing he does is without purpose, and every ingredient he uses is at the prime of its season somewhere on land or at sea.
Our entrée arrived and at one point, after his first bite of the spit-roasted beef tenderloin, my date was, in fact, speechless.
“It’s like it’s been wrapped in bacon,” he whispered between chews of the buttery beef, surrounded by crisp Japanese turnips, a potent garlic puree and a hint of preserved lemons, which cut through the natural sweetness of the dish at just the right moments.
While he mowed shamelessly and silently on the tenderloin, I attacked the monkfish cheeks. Perhaps this needs some explanation, as you might be envisioning two sad little slivers of fish face on a giant charger. The monkfish is a monstrous creature, known for its freakishly large head which is so big that the rest of its body is referred to simply as ‘the tail.’
The dish that sat before me was a near-softball sized mound of tender, smoky fish. Chef explained that much of what is prepared at Preservation Society is first wood grilled or spit-roasted out back then brought into the small exposition space for final preparation. I watched him simmer the fish in a citrus broth laced with cardamom and coriander, the smell alone transforming the entire dining room into a spice market in a far-off land. Because of this voyeuristic opportunity, the first bite was met with anticipation. And it was savory, tangy and devoid of the fishy taste we all brace ourselves for on these seafood adventures, thanks to the simple science of the grill.
I know that the entrée should be the superstar of the meal. But as dessert made its way to us, looking like something out of a magical Dr. Seuss tale, it was difficult to really name the course that shone brightest. The swirly, melt-on-your-breath lemon tuiles, held together by a rich (not runny, hallelujah) vanilla custard and topped with fresh blueberries, rendered us silent. The flavors capture what is left of the summer, and honor a way of eating that we’ve missed in the hustle and flow of, I’m gonna say it, modern America. Preservation Society is gracefully twisting our arm to sit down, and taste everything that we think we’ve tasted before, but didn’t have the time to notice.
999 Main Street (South side of the Route 7 Grill)
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Thursday-Monday, seatings at 5, 7 and 9 p.m.
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Grand Cru: A Place For Tasting Craft Beer And Artisanal Cheese
All photos courtesy of Grand Cru.
By Andrea Pyros
Rod Johnson often hears from people who claim not to like beer. His response? “You just haven’t had the right one!” Johnson, along with his wife Alicia Lenhart, is the owner of Grand Cru, a popular hybrid bar and retail shop in Rhinebeck that features beer — and plenty of it — along with artisanal cheese, wines by the glass and tasty local snacks. “If you don’t like star fruit, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to like an apple,” he adds. “There are so many kinds of beers out there today. There’s something for everyone.” Johnson gets customers who think they’d never like beer or who drink wine exclusively, and he’s able to find them a beer that absolutely “blows them away.”
Johnson and Lenhart have been ambassadors for craft beer in the Hudson Valley ever since they bought Grand Cru in 2012 from the original owners. The couple divides and conquers the store’s workload, with Lenhart helping behind the scenes on marketing, scheduling artists who showcase their work in the store and selecting the wine list. “She’s been drinking good wine longer than I have,” laughs Johnson. Together the pair picks the musical acts that perform, with Steven Spost, Cathy Young, and The Gold Hope Duo on tap for the coming months.
When it comes to finding new and exciting craft beer, the responsibility falls to Johnson, who works in the shop full time. Johnson [in photo, left] strives to locate beers no one else nearby stocks. Unlike wine, where a sales rep will come in and do a tasting for bar and shop owners, there are rarely samples for beer. Instead, Johnson seeks out craft beers whenever he’s traveling, talks to other beer lovers, uses a variety of resources on the Internet and scours the massive lists from distributors that arrive each week.
“It’s tough,” he says. “There is a brewery opening every day, so it’s hard to keep up. I can only have 300 beers and there are tens of thousands of options.” Johnson won’t carry the big brands, saying, “That’s not what we’re here for,” but he does offer affordable beers starting in the $3 range (and as low as $1.40 to go).
The bar has six taps (Johnson plans to double that in the near future), and almost every day there are changes to at least one of the beers listed. Every few weeks Grand Cru hosts a Tasting Team Event, featuring one brewery on all taps with free samples and reduced prices on growler fills or glasses in-house. Most recently Grand Cru welcomed Stone Brewing, one of the store’s top-selling brands, and Troegs Brewing Company is scheduled next.
Stop in to the casual and relaxed space and Johnson or his helpful staff will give you suggestions and allow you to sample the beers on draft. Recently, we tried the Chimay Premiere ($11), a very fine — and very rare Stateside — Belgian red, and Victory Brewery’s Summer Love ($6), a light, refreshing blond beer. Friends took advantage of the recent Stone Brewing tap takeover, enjoying the wine-like notes of the Stone Cali-Belgique ($8) and the popular Stone Go-To IPA ($6.50).
Don’t skip the cheese plate. There are typically five to choose from (one for $8, two for $12 or three for $16). Johnson tries to purchase cheese within a 100-mile radius. “I do believe in trying to consume locally. I know the farms and have visited a lot of them. I’m an ex farm boy and I want the animals treated well, the staff treated well. We’re lucky to have really great cheese makers in the Northeast and New York.”
Rich, creamy and flavorful cheeses hail from Sprout Creek (Poughkeepsie), Nettle Meadows (Warrensburgh), Chaseholm Farm Creamery (Pine Plains) and Berkshire Blue (Great Barrington) among others, and it’s why Johnson has plenty of customers who trek in for the Cru’s cheese offerings alone.
One evening, we sampled the rich, complex Truffle Falls cow’s milk cheese, and the sheep’s milk El Trigal Mantangeo, an excellent, not overly sharp selection. We added charcuterie ($2/$4), so our plate also included macadamia nuts, almonds, dates and bread from Design’s Bakery in Kingston. Grand Cru also sells other tasty vittles, like Deising’s soft pretzels, venison from Highland Farm, snack jars from The Local and Spacey Tracy’s pickles.
Though they welcome plenty of visitors who travel to seek out their craft beer, Johnson says at its heart Grand Cru is a locally driven business. “That’s important in Rhinebeck. You can’t rely on the tourists. Even with the winter we had, we still had double-digit growth from last year. Our locals and regulars really drive the heartbeat of Grand Cru.”
Grand Cru Beer & Cheese Market
6384 Mill St., Rhinebeck, NY
Tuesday & Wednesday: Noon—8:30 p.m.
Thursday: Noon—9:30 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: Noon—11 p.m.
Sunday: Noon—7 p.m.
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Market St. — Italian ‘Fusion Without Confusion’ In Rhinebeck
Photo by Matt Petricone for Roll Magazine.
By Andrea Pyros
You might think that after opening “30, 35” restaurants (he’s lost count), Chef Gianni Scappin wouldn’t bat an eye over launching a new eatery. When Rural Intelligence talked to the charming pro, he was deep in preparations for his latest launch, Gusto, in Poughkeepsie. We met up with him at Market St., his two-year-old homestyle Italian restaurant in the heart of Rhinebeck, where Scappin admitted that he’s “never comfortable” about starting another venture.
But at this point he’s earned the right to more confidence than just about anyone on Hudson Valley’s dining scene. After all, the Italian-born and trained chef has cooked at top restaurants in major cities throughout the world; served as a guest chef at the James Beard House; helped develop an advanced Italian cooking class for the Culinary Institute of America where he continues to teach today; co-authored four cookbooks, including one with friend Stanley Tucci; and is currently feeding happy diners at Cucina (Woodstock), Gusto and Market St.
Food photos by Keith Ferris.
Though it entered into a town with other excellent dining options, Market St. has managed to make a name for itself, and it’s become a popular spot for locals as well as weekend tourists who appreciate Scappin and his team’s fresh, vibrant menu and emphasis on hospitality. “It’s a little bit fusion, but without confusion,” Scappin laughs, adding that Market stays within his Italian/Mediterranean roots, for example by using extra virgin olive oil in the place of butter or cream to provide that “green freshness,” and updating the menu four to five times a year to work with the season’s ingredients.
During a recent visit, we started with rich, flavorful grass-fed beef meatballs with tomato and organic polenta ($8.50), a perfectly balanced bruschetta Parma with mozzarella, prosciutto, olive oil and aged balsamic ($9.50), and a simple salad of roasted beets, Coach Farm goat cheese and arugula ($11.50) dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. The wood oven pizzas and breads are a major presence on the menu (not surprising, considering Scappin made the wood-burning oven Market St.’s focal point). Try the Caprina (fig-herb spread, Coach Farm goat cheese, pear, arugula and truffle oil, $17) or Boscaiola (mixed mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato and herbs, $16.50). They’re cooked perfectly, with crispy, thin crusts and complementary flavors that provide maximum impact. Pastas and risottos are hard to resist — they’re bursting with top-quality ingredients, and gluten-free and whole-wheat options are available. But save room; Satisfying main dishes like a slowly baked salmon with snap peas, potato puree, and black truffle vinaigrette ($26) and a local aged ribeye steak with crispy fingerling potatoes, chickpeas, sage and spicy aioli ($32) are waiting for your enjoyment, too.
If you feel like exploring, try one of the specialty cocktails, such as the ginger margarita ($11) or a “Burnt Venetian,” made with vodka, aperol, lemon syrup, and prosecco ($12). Italian wines dominate the wine list, but there are a few French and California choices as well. Our party’s non-drinker had a mint iced tea special that provided enough kick to beat back the early evening’s heat, and there are also non-alcoholic house made sodas ($6).
Ingredients, whenever possible, are sourced locally from spots like Sky Farms, Hudson Valley Cattle Company, Wild Hive Farm, Heermance and others. Scappin has been in the Hudson Valley for close to 13 years, so he’s learned firsthand the difficulties of dealing with winter, and is as appreciative as anyone of the beautiful, bountiful spring, summer and fall seasons. The Rural Intelligence area is a “great melting pot,” he enthuses. His only wish is that there were more industries to bring work and money to the local population. “You want your children to stay in the area, not have to move to California or Boston.”
Scappin does his part, employing a good number of locals in his restaurants. At Market St., the staff — friendly, cheerful and uniformly gorgeous — will answer questions and steer you towards their favorites. Scappin believes strongly in the true meaning of hospitality: making people feel good and building a relationship. “If you’re abusive, you’re doomed,” he warns. “We concentrate on small details, and it’s always continuous work. We never give up. There is always something better we can do.”
19 West Market Street, Rhinebeck
Monday through Thursday 5-10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 5-11 p.m.
Sunday 4-10 p.m.
Brunch served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays & Sundays.