Food: The Swiss Raclette At Gedney Farm
By Lisa Green
I am not a skier. But I can dine like one, and fortunately, the good folks at Gedney Farm in New Marlboro require no ski lift ticket to enjoy the “après ski” Sunday night Swiss raclette. The raclette refers to both the semi-hard cheese and the dish traditionally served in Switzerland. Last Sunday was a blessedly balmy day, but after experiencing the raclette — warm Alpine cheese, baguette, small potatoes, pickled vegetables and a good French wine — I would brave sub-zero temps to share this candlelit repast with my honey. Tucked away in the cozy corner table in the fireside dining room, I felt like a skier in a fine Swiss chalet, and that was good enough for me.
There’s a history to the raclette involving cow herders and campfires high in the Swiss mountains going back hundreds of years, which leads to the meaning of the word itself. Raclette derives from the French racler — to scrape; the melted cheese is supposed to be scraped from the cheese wheel onto the plate. Today there’s a mini-industry of raclette grills for home use, and while it wasn’t clear how our cheese made it to the plate, Gedney Farm does have a more traditional raclette melter, at least on display.
Unsure if the raclette was a full meal or appetizer, we waited for it in suspense, and accepted our server’s recommendation of the Vin de Savoie Jongieux ($8/glass), a light white wine that Gedney Farm has wisely selected as an appropriate pairing with the adventure ahead. The two plates that followed looked and smelled heavenly. The warmed cheese — mild, buttery, slightly salty —merited its own plate, served beside a tableau of baguette, charcuterie, boiled marble potatoes, imported gherkins and house-cured pickled vegetables. Considering that the cheese is really the star of the evening, though, a more generous scraping would have allowed us to top it on more than the two small baguettes or a few potatoes.
But at $10 per person, this raclette is clearly meant to be a very light meal or the starter to one. A dinner menu beckoned, and we bit. Who wanted to move from our comfy, cushioned corner, anyway? Having already had our appetizer, we passed over, among other dishes, the truffled corn chowder with lobster ($10); farm frites with a trio of dips ($5); small plates of roast sweet potatoes with spiced figs ($11); and chimichurri mussels ($14). We went straight for the entrees.
My husband ordered the saffron seafood stew, a generous medley of halibut, shrimp, calamari and mussels in a light tomato broth ($23), which he pronounced velvety and flavorful. In my shrimp with coconut lemongrass sauce — served over rice noodles with carrot, scallion, baby bok choy and sesame ($19) — it was the sauce itself that nearly made me swoon. A delicate fusion of Thai-influenced flavors, it had a slightly creamy quality that had me spooning it up to the last.
We hadn’t meant to, but we came for the raclette and stayed right on through dessert. It’s tough to resist a warm flourless chocolate tart drizzled with salted caramel sauce. And just because our server suggested the Meyer lemon tart (“nice and light after a meal”), and because we really liked her, we ordered that, too (desserts $9 each). With the salted caramel of the former and the tanginess of the latter, the desserts weren’t too, too sweet: just right.
Gedney Farms’ proximity to Butternut Ski Area makes the Sunday Swiss raclette a wonderfully enjoyable way to cap a weekend. (The full dinner menu is served Thursday through Sunday in the winter.) Although the raclette is expected to be a seasonal offering, there are other plans in the works for the handsomely restored Normandy-style barn and lodging complex. This summer, look for a newly constructed wood-fired, Argentine-style grill built into the farm’s original stone foundation wall. Outdoor dining on the patio will offer lovely views of the fields. The Wednesday night music offerings recently introduced may be moved outside as well.
Gedney Farm is a popular spot for weddings and special events, but thankfully, by serving dinners and special fare like the raclette, the rest of us are able to experience the elegant setting and creative cuisine, too.
34 Hartsville-New Marlboro Rd., New Marlboro, MA
Winter season: Swiss Raclette on Sunday nights, dinner Thurs. – Sun.
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The Enchanted Cafe Conjures Up A Vegan Valentine’s Dinner
By Jamie Larson
We’re going vegan for Valentine’s Day at the Enchanted Café in Red Hook. The humble, spiritually minded café in the center of town has become well known for its inclusiveness as a venue for uncommon thought, but owner Joe Moscato is also happy to make his inviting space available to romantics looking to go meatless for the holiday.
Start-up vegan catering company ChickPeace, run by Karen Conlon and Emmie Morgan, will cook dishes the two have been perfecting for months.
“We really put a lot of love into our dishes,” says Conlon, who hosts a vegan dinner at the café at least once a month. “For vegans the options for going out to dinner are limited. It’s basically salad and pasta. It’s still a challenge. No one is doing what we’re doing. We make vegan dishes and then we ‘vegan-ize’ other dishes.”
Reservations are required for the dinner starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The four-course meal is just $32 and includes a polenta cake with “chevre,” pistachio pesto and sundried tomatoes, and lasagne with bosc pear, red onion and kale béchamel.
“We are so grateful to Joe for giving us the opportunity to do what we do,” says Conlon, who started out going to the café’s Laws of Attraction group meetings. “He is very supportive of startups.”
Moscato is admittedly not a vegan or even a vegetarian (there are great meat-filled offerings on the café’s regular menu) but he always offers a number of veg-only options. The daily offerings are prepared each morning by CIA-trained chef Ricki Lazaroff.
“ChickPeace transforms the place. It’s not just the food — they redecorate and set the tables beautifully,” Moscato says. “The food is amazing, whether you’re vegan or not. I don’t even know how they do what they do. They made calamari out of coconut meat. I’m telling you, non-vegans are completely satisfied.”
But the Enchanted Café isn’t just about good food. It’s about openness. Moscato created the space to cultivate a sort of spiritual community center where all are welcome to discuss whatever beliefs are meaningful to them.
“Being a café means serving good food and good coffee, but that’s not my passion,” he says. “I wanted to make a place that’s a spiritual sanctuary. My goal is for people who come here to break away from the nine-to-five, reconnect and experience something.”
The Enchanted Café hosts regular meetings, discussions and dinner parties centered on different spiritual beliefs. There is also live music, dancing, Bigfoot investigators, meditation training and everything in between The café’s biggest draw is its psychic reading night. Guests receive a beautiful dinner prepared by Lazaroff, while local medium Johnny Angel gives “everyone in attendance a message from the other side.” A vegan valentine’s dinner doesn’t sound so out there anymore, does it?
Moscato knows that Bigfoot, psychics and spirituality aren’t for everyone, but for those who appreciate it, having the café as a resource and a sanctuary has been meaningful. Bigfoot Researchers of the Hudson Valley Lead Investigator Gayle Beatty says interest in her group has grown exponentially since they began holding meetings at the café, and she has Moscato to thank.
“Joe is a great resource for us and others who do things like we do,” Beatty says.
You may not be ready to meet Bigfoot or the spirit of a departed relative, but this Saturday at the Enchanted Café is a delicious opportunity meet up with the vegan you love.
The Enchanted Café
7484 S. Broadway, Red Hook, NY
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A Family Tradition: Monte’s Kitchen & Tap Room
By Don Rosendale
Ann Marie Pallan thinks maybe it was the flat roof, or perhaps the corner location. Or maybe the ugly pistachio paint job that made her fall for the building on Mechanic Street in Amenia. Whatever it was, it reminded her of Monte’s, her family’s iconic Brooklyn restaurant.
Anne Marie is, after all, a Monte, and the Monte family is synonymous with hospitality. At the drop of a table napkin, she will tell you that the original Monte’s was Brooklyn’s oldest Italian restaurant — its first pasta served in 1906, that it survived Prohibition as a speakeasy, and that Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. used to eat and sing there. In the 1950s, the Monte family also took over a sleepy motel in Montauk and turned it into Gurney’s Inn, which they ran for 50 years.
Though the family has been out of the restaurant business for a couple of years, extra virgin olive oil still flows in their blood. So now, because the building reminded Ann Marie of the family’s place near the Gowanus Canal, there is a Monte’s in Amenia, its décor a wall of family photos with rarely one of its 50 seats unoccupied even during the January restaurant doldrums. Only this Monte’s doesn’t serve red sauce over spaghetti with a side of garlic bread, but what Ann Marie and her crew term “Hudson Valley farm to table.”
The Mechanic Street building has been a restaurant for as long as anyone can remember — a cafe with rickety tables called the Cozy Corner, whose 15 minutes of fame came when Town and Country told the world that it was a quaint country nook worth a journey. Then a local contractor bought it, gutted it and proved that hardhat to toque blanche is a difficult transition.
Enter Ann Marie, who was looking for something to do after moving to Millbrook with her significant other, Robert Trump (brother of “The Donald”).
While Robert Trump, nearly tall enough to play for the Knicks, towers over the pub area on Friday nights, Ann Marie is quick to point out that there’s no Trump money in the restaurant — the owners are five Monte siblings and an “adopted” Monte, Dafna Mizrahi.
Manager Dafa Mizrahi and Executive Chef Licia Kassin.
This Monte’s is the embodiment of what Dafna, a Culinary Institute graduate, says is a concept she’s been developing for years, what she calls “farm to table, chic and rustic.” The feta, she says, comes from the owners of the Four Brothers pizza parlor a block away, the “toussaint,” a cow’s milk pecorino, from Sprout Creek in Poughkeepsie. The chicken, she says, rattling off a list of local purveyors, is from North Wind Farm in Tivoli and the strip steak from Sugar Hill in Pine Plains.
Not surprisingly, with Monte family roots in Montauk, the restaurant offers fresh seafood. Licia Kassin, the executive chef and like Dafna a CIA graduate, explains that the grilled swordfish comes with a fennel gratin, fennel orange salad and blood orange beurre blanc ($26). For carnivores, there’s a 10-ounce rib eye steak ($32) that comes with a potato pancake-like dish that Licia explains is a smashed fingerling potato fried in truffle oil. I never had the steak, but on one occasion, Licia prepared the pancake dish for me and it was well worth the calories.
For a restaurant that serves such substantial fare, Dafna says that two of its most frequently ordered dishes are the roast beet salad with a beet sorbet, feta and pistachio vinaigrette ($12.50) and the Hudson Valley kale salad with autumn squash and candied pepitas ($12).
I’ve been eating at Monte’s once or twice a week, as a customer and not intentionally researching this piece, after accidentally becoming its very first patron (I showed up an hour before the official opening). They’ve only let me down once, with a squishy hamburger at the bar.
But how can you not adore a place where the staff remembers what you drink, and if there is still food on your plate at the end of your meal, it goes into a doggie bag marked “take home for Sadie,” my Australian cattle dog?
Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room
3330 Route 343, Amenia, NY
Wednesday—Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
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Bruno’s In Hudson: A Cafe Market Becomes A Community Hub
By Jamie Larson
It’s hard to quantify the unmistakable appeal of Bruno’s in Hudson, a small café and grocery tucked into a discreet downtown storefront at 227 Warren Street. Like the people we love most, it’s a combination of a million little things that make Bruno’s so special.
First and foremost, the food is spectacular. Run by sisters Shannon and Wendy Kenneally, Bruno’s offers a menu that’s deceptively simple, hiding a stacked lineup of expertly executed sandwiches, soups and sides. There’s also the specials board, often a full menu on its own, including the café’s best-selling bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich (which, if removed from the board, would quickly cause a riot), Cuban sandwiches, hotdogs and sliders to falafel and burritos. Everything is made with the best local ingredients and put together with care and a knowledgeable and sophisticated understanding of developed flavor.
“We’re just making what we like to eat,” says Shannon, who does the lion’s share of the cooking and once worked at Swoon Kitchen Bar. “I learned to cook from watching our grandmother.”
Bruno’s opened quietly in June of 2011, on the same day Café Le Perche opened with fanfare right across the street. While Le Perche has seen more tourist traffic than the locally loved Bruno’s, Wendy says, they have recently been discovered.
“For a long time, Saturdays were our slowest day,” Wendy says, “but someone got the word out because we’re seeing a lot of new people.”
Bruno’s is also a small but well-curated grocery store, supplying high-quality produce, local meats and cheeses and dry goods. Like the menu, the shelves are stocked with the stuff the Kenneallys like. Thankfully, they happen to have good taste.
“We always wanted to do a café market but we were on a budget,” says Wendy at left [in photo below], who bought the building with Shannon; the two have been expanding the business a little bit every year. “Eventually we’ll take over the whole first floor but we grow at our own pace. That’s life.”
More than a café and grocery, Bruno’s has become a funny little community hub on lower Warren Street. Regulars will hang out in the shop for hours shooting the breeze, talking about anything and everything. You’re welcome to join in — there’s no exclusivity here. Bruno’s isn’t flashy but you can’t help but feel like you’ve been invited into an eccentric friend’s kitchen here. There’s local art on the walls, memorabilia on sale to support the Hudson Sloop Club (the sisters’ favorite cause) as well as a prominently placed cutout of Wendy’s beloved Morrissey, who’s become the place’s rock and roll deity.
“Aside from the entertainment, the food is beyond compare,” says regular and friend Peter Wurster. “But the entertainment, the conversation, the personalities — it’s the best. It really is a community. I love it.”
Bruno’s, named for the Kenneally family’s rescue dog, also serves Hudson’s four-legged community and has become a must-stop on dog-walking loops. “He rejects snacks everywhere else but here,” says local blogger Carole Osterink of her handsome new dog, Joey. Why? “It’s bacon.”
“We’ve actually been yelled at by other businesses to stop giving out bacon,” Wendy says, laughing. “They won’t take treats anywhere else after they’ve been here.”
It is all too rare in our frantic unyielding lives to find a place as warm and inviting and genuinely fun as Bruno’s. “I’m not sure why it’s so comfortable in here,” Wendy muses. “We come from a big family, so we’re used to being around a lot of people. And we’re doing exactly what we want to do.”
When we find ourselves, like Morrissey, shouting out, “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does,” Bruno’s, a humble café, reminds us that sometimes a simple tonic of genuine, friendly, unvarnished hospitality is just what we need to feel reconnected with those around us. And a really good bánh mì. We are human and we need that bánh mì.
227 Warren Street
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Nancy Fuller Of ‘Farmhouse Rules’ Is At Home in the Spotlight
By Jamie Larson
When we first interviewed Nancy Fuller, just days before the premiere of her show “Farmhouse Rules” on the Food Network in November 2013, she was filled with nervous excitement, concerned about saying all the right things, still finding her show’s voice.
What a difference a year makes. When we sat down with Fuller this past December as she prepared to shoot an episode in her home kitchen, she was loose, laughing and channeling the Columbia County farm girl that attracted the show’s producers when they first met her at a local farmers’ market. The butterflies have long flown and her voice was clear and sing-songy with laughter. Despite the hustle of the prepping film crew around her, she was a calm, happy pro a year into a crazy new project, enjoying life and cooking good, accessible food.
“I always worried, as I got older, what would I do?” Fuller says, relaxing in her bedroom as her makeup is applied, her wardrobe carefully protected from the breakfast being rushed in to her. “And this just came along, so, like, there is a god. I was 63 when New Market Media asked me if I had ever been on television. And I said NOOOO! I’m too old!”
Now “Farmhouse Rules” is a morning staple on the Food Network and already filming its fourth season, which will air in February, and (you heard it here first) a cookbook is on the way. The goal is to have the book on the shelves in time for the 2015 holiday season. In addition to all that, Fuller spent time this past year jetting back and forth from filming the show at her home in Ghent to Los Angeles to film a stint as a judge on the Food Network baking competition show “Holiday Baking Championship,” where her banter with fellow judge and network star Duff Goldman became social media buzz. Just more fun for Fuller.
“There really aren’t any ‘rules,’’” she says, walking through her kitchen, saying hi to the busy crew setting up lights and camera panning tracks. “It’s my farmhouse so it’s my rules.”
Her formula for good food and good television is to keep it simple, using quality ingredients straight from area farms and not messing with them too much. “That’s what makes the show so good. It’s all natural,” Fuller says, now in her large living room, its spaciousness diminished by a jungle of camera and lighting equipment. “Today’s trend of farm to table has been my life.”
Fuller has always been a fixture in the regional food scene, starting her career in catering, then later moving up to help run Ginsberg’s Foods with her husband David Ginsberg. She has become an expert in area farms, producers and restaurants. Along with showcasing her recipes (called “rules” on the show, as is tradition in her family), the national success of “Farmhouse Rules” has allowed Fuller to draw wide attention to the food of our region in a way nothing has before. While she says she feels a real calling to promote local farms through the show, she’s also just having a blast.
“I think the success of the show comes from my realism,” she says. “I grew up on a dairy farm. When it’s in your blood, you just live it. I have the work ethic of a farmer no matter what I’m doing.”
Fuller says the best part is that her producers wanted her to be herself. They’ve allowed her to highlight things that are important to her and to incorporate her family (though her husband usually takes off to the office or the golf course on film days to avoid the controlled chaos). “The whole family has been extremely supportive, and David has been so resilient… he spends a lot of time in the office,” she says, laughing with a crescendo. “The grandkids love it, too. They don’t totally understand everything that’s going on but then they get a chance to see themselves on TV and see their whole family together, and that’s special.”
On the day we visited Fuller’s beautiful historic home with its large modern barn-style addition, the crew had taken over every inch of the place, setting up cameras in the big kitchen, prepping food downstairs, manning electronics in the older part of the house and generally running around on one of a million tasks integral to running the show. As the star, however, Fuller takes her time and enjoys the pampered role of the “talent.” “I love it!” she says of the fame that came and found her. “I wear it well, don’t I? I’ve been practicing my whole life.”
Cue the uproarious laughter.
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The Flammerie Brings Flammkuchen To Kinderhook
By Katharine Millonzi
Approaching The Flammerie, a new bistro in Kinderhook, NY, was a bit like peering into Mr. Fezziwig’s Christmas party: a warm, illuminated scene that beckoned bright and welcoming against the dark, snowy evening outside. A jolly crowd filled the front bar area, some waiting to be seated, most enjoying both a view into the kitchen and a draft from the well-curated beer list, which includes a flight sampler of six local beers. The circa 1850 space, formerly the home of Blackwood & Brouwer Booksellers, is split between the bar and a simply furnished, 26-seater back dining room.
The restaurant, which opened last month, is a brick-and-mortar incarnation of the Black Forest Flammkuchen food truck that allows the owners to offer a full menu of what our waitress described as a take on French-German comfort food. “Flammerie” means ‘the place for ‘flammkuchen’, the proprietors’ signature paper-thin crusted wood-fired flatbread.
Fans of the Flammkuchen food truck know that owners Andrew Chase, a CIA graduate, and Conny Chase, from Munich, have Flammkuchen bona fides. A CIA graduate, Andrew spent a year in Germany honing his craft, and worked at the Alsatian bistro Picnic Market & Café in New York. Conny has a master’s degree in cultural studies but more importantly grew up with the crispy traditional snack (often served at wine tastings) and has found that flammkuchen translates surprisingly well to the region. “Our menu is internationally inspired but also focuses on the artisanal food products abundantly available right here,” Conny says.
Combining Alpine cuisine with a NY State farm-to-table mandate is just as ambitious as any restaurant seeking to combine seemingly disparate culinary points of view. The Flammerie, however, is a well-executed blend of rooted tradition and new world twist, as demonstrated by the ‘Puerco’ flammkuchen, topped with chipotle fromage blanc, guajillo-braised pork shoulder and cilantro ($10). Indeed, the emphasis on Columbia County’s bright seasonal vegetables, such as the delicate and beautifully plated beet and watermelon radish salad ($9), lightens a potentially stodgy Germanic palate, and saves The Flammerie from a muddled mission.
Andrew and Conny Chase.
“The Village needed a gathering place, and we wanted to provide one through encouraging a communal dining experience, a place to come have a friendly drink,” says Andrew. Clients throughout the animated dining room were audibly enjoying their plates, intentionally designed to be shared, and served by a young yet well-versed waitstaff.
After sharing a flammkuchen and salad, we ordered several Brotzeit, the small plates. Priced between $8-10 apiece, these dishes were the jewels of The Flammerie. The sumptuously cooked, locally sourced Lover’s Leap pork belly was perfectly paired with the bed of pickled sauerkraut it rested upon. We then moved on to an earthy, silky house-made bourbon duck liver mousse, and the Fleischpflanzerl—Bavarian meatloaf sliders—that were both savory and filling. They were so satisfying that, indeed, a meal for two would’ve been complete there, but we pushed on to generous entrées of pork loin schnitzel ($21) and coq au vin ($22), both well-done versions of these classics.
No alcohol-friendly menu would be complete without pork and cheese-laden dishes, indeed ample at The Flammerie, but vegetarians will certainly not go hungry. For Spätzle enthusiasts, we also enjoyed the Forestiere, served piping hot in a gratin dish, the wood-fired mushrooms and braised greens hidden within glistening, melted raclette ($7 small/$11 large). We could barely imagine ordering a dessert, but couldn’t resist the butternut squash crème brulee.
The primarily local wine list is a bold choice, but one that further demonstrates the establishment’s commitment to local procurement. While the Hudson Valley’s Rieslings may pale still to their Old World Rhine cousins, the offerings from Brotherhood Winery and Tousey Winery, for example, hold their own alongside the straightforward and clean bill of fare. The excellent local ingredients make The Flammerie’s offerings distinctive amongst the region’s refined pub food.
7 Hudson St., Kinderhook, NY
Wednesday—Sunday 5-10 p.m.
Reservations highly recommended.
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Hostess Delight: Holiday Sweets The Easy (But Impressive) Way
There’s no shame in admitting you don’t have the baking gene (or the time, or the inclination to punch out a few dozen Spritzen). Not when the Rural Intelligence region has so many stellar bakeries keeping their ovens going 24/7 until January rolls around. Here we highlight a few, but we know there are many, many more, so if you’d like to add your favorite to the list, well, that’s what our Facebook page is for, and we invite you to join in.
Bake Me Pretty (inside Berkshire Organics)
The name of this shop is an understatement; it should more appropriately be called Bake Me Beautiful or Astounding or Mesmerizing, because whatever you order will look exceptional. You’ll be proud to bring an adorable sugar cookie gift box, one or two of their selection of pies (regular or gluten free), some spicy caramel corn or their signature whoopie pies which come in Chocolate Peppermint, Gingerbread Eggnog, and Spiced Cranberry Grand Marnier (6 individually wrapped pies for $24). That’s just the tip of the tasty iceberg, stop by to see the beauty for yourself. Pre-order by emailing email@example.com.
813 Dalton Division Road
Gluten Free Gourmet Café
This is the bakery you come to when you want to make everyone happy. Although their mantra is “You wouldn’t know it’s gluten free if we didn’t tell you,” GFG Café also offers delicious goodies for those who can’t have dairy, sugar, nuts, yeast and other food items – just ask and they’ll probably be able to accommodate you. Holiday cookie platters range from $20-$35, glazed lebkuchen can be had for $35, and rugalach platters (three flavors are available) are $14/lb. Place your rugalach orders 48 hours prior to pickup; your Christmas orders by December 19 at 9 p.m. and pick up all orders by 2 p.m. on December 24. Call for pricing on orders you wish to be delivered locally or shipped.
284 Main Street (Inside the Atrium Shoppes)
Great Barrington, MA
For the Love of Pie and Mighty Brittle
Made with local and organic ingredients, and using no corn syrup – pies are sweetened with maple syrup or honey – these LOVE-ly pies really put their superior ingredients on display. Choose from Maple Pecan, Pecan with Dark Chocolate, Honey Apple Cranberry, and Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Swirl (which, with a crust of crushed pecans, shredded coconut and dates topped with a layer of dark chocolate ganache, is both vegan and grain free). Pies are $20 each; $25 for gluten free. Order by December 22 and pick up on December 23 at the bakery, or in Pittsfield or Great Barrington. Or meet the makers at the Shire City Shindy, GB Arts Delightful & Delectable Market, and Berkshire Grown’s holiday farmers markets, where they’ll have mini pies for sale along with their Mighty Brittle. The perfect host or hostess gift is their variety pack ($30) which includes all five brittle flavors: Maple, Orange Blossom, Cayenne, Chai and Espresso-Cacao.
786 US Route 20
New Lebanon, NY
This holiday season, proprietor Madeline Delosh will offer two types of Buche de Noels: chocolate buttercream with chocolate ganache and Grand Marnier buttercream with candied orange peel ($45 each); Stollen, a traditional German cake containing dried fruit and marzipan and covered with sugar ($25); and ginger cookies until they’re gone! The cut-off date for ordering the classic desserts is December 19.
10 Main Street
Skip the traditional fruit cake this year and give the gift of a delicious gift basket. Breakfast with Bread Alone features a mix of their cranberry scone recipe and peach jam and comes with coffee beans and a honey jar, all tucked into a sweet burlap bag $26.95. They also have a huge selection of cakes, pies, tarts and pastries. This time of year brings the return of their popular Yule Log ($24.95), vanilla cake rolled with espresso buttercream with “bark” made of chocolate ganache and silvered almonds. Pistachio “moss” and meringue “mushrooms” complete the look of this special treat that can be picked up just two days after the order date.
45 E. Market Street
It’s a season filled with pies, fruit cake, and sugar cookies…and handmade chocolates from Taste Budd’s in Red Hook. The American and French chocolates are made from African beans, which provide a strong and rich flavor. There are traditional peanut butter cups, truffles, and pralines, of course, but there are also pieces in unique flavors such as sour cherry, ruby raspberry, strawberry balsamic and mango. They can be packaged in a 15-piece gift box for $24.99 or a supersized 50 dark chocolate truffles for $75, which would be a wow hostess gift.
40 West Market Street
Red Hook, NY
Blackberry River Baking Co.
The macarons from Blackberry River Baking Co. make a gorgeous centerpiece to any dessert table, though they may just be too pretty to eat. The classic French sweet is handmade in a variety of flavors and colors and are $2 each. Our favorites are hot chocolate and lemon meringue. This time of year they are especially popular; owner Audrey Leary says they sell out faster than she can make them, so call ahead to order. The large cake menu is something else, too, with flavors such as carrot cake, chocolate salted caramel and everyone’s favorite, funfetti. Prices range from $36 for an eight-inch to $135 to a full sheet.
18 East Main Street
Sweet William’s Bakery
Sweet William’s is a one-stop bakery for all dessert-related needs. Owner Jason Young notes that this year the praline pumpkin pie ($18) has been very popular and they can hardly keep the gingerbread men on the shelf right now. They also have classic fruit, pecan, and pumpkin pies ($18-$24) and cheesecakes in flavors that include orange zest, caramel pecan, lemon zest and vanilla ($20.50). While you’re in there, make sure to check the glass cases for some of their year-round mainstay treats, especially the cookies of many varieties.
19 Main Street
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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.