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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Vivian Mandala Deisgn Studio

Chatham Wine & Liquor

John Andrews Restaurant


Baba Louie's

Verdigris Tea Shop

Berkshire Coop

Benchmark Real Estate

Chez Nous Bistro

Nejaime's Wine Cellars

Lion's Den

Guido's Marketplace

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Sweets Too Good To Be Gluten Free? Not Anymore.

Madeleine’s gluten-free Berkshire Crunchie cookies, strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and lemon chiffon mini muffins.

By Amy Krzanik

You’ve seen it everywhere lately – “gluten free” – and either grabbed five of the item or rolled your eyes. I admit, I have to laugh at some of the products that advertise themselves as safe for my specific dietary restriction. Yogurt? Salad? Of course these items don’t have gluten in them, but thanks for the reassurance, I guess. On the other hand, I’ve been searching high and low for baked goods like breads and desserts that I can safely eat. When I do find them at stores, they’re mostly dry and tasteless, and I sigh and dream of days past when I could eat a cookie or slice of pie without dissecting its ingredients.

But it looks like those days are over, and I have local bakers to thank for ending my fruitless (and flour-less) search for dessert.

Kelly Spencer started Rhinecliff’s Savvy Girl Baking Company two-and-a-half years ago after a 25-year career in writing and editing, and has since seen her business grow by literal word of mouth. At her “savvy” college-aged daughter’s urging, Spencer was inspired to restart the brownie business she’d once run in her twenties. A friend in the foodie scene urged her to put a gluten-free spin on her secret, made-from-scratch recipe this time around. He actually did more than urge Spencer… he dared her. “He said ‘gluten-free isn’t a fad and it’s not going away,’” she says. Always up for a challenge, Spencer took a month to perfect her recipe, working nonstop until she created a brownie that no one could tell was made with brown rice flour instead of wheat flour.

“The goal is to get my brownie into somebody’s mouth first and then tell them it’s gluten-free. By that time, they can’t believe it and they don’t miss the gluten.” Her signature brownie – moist, chock-full of chocolate chips and the winner of the “Best Dessert” award at 2013’s Taste of Rhinebeck – will have competition next month when she rolls out two new products – a chocolate chip blondie and a chocolate ginger brownie. Even though her brownies are celiac-safe, Spencer stresses that those afraid her sweet treat will be too “healthy” need not worry. “This is not health food,” she says. “This is definitely a dessert because everyone should be able to treat themselves.”

Savvy Girl brownies can be found at Guido’s in the Berkshires, McEnroe Farm and Fix Brothers Farm in Columbia County, many locations in Dutchess County and beyond, and 24/7 on the website.

Madeleine’s Patisserie & Cafe, which opened on Pittsfield’s North Street in October of last year, is a bakery and cafe owned by 26-year-old Ashley Summers. The Lanesboro native left high school early to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT, followed by stints around the world, most recently working at NYC’s famous Tavern on the Green and serving as executive pastry chef for Richard Sandoval Restaurants. When she became pregnant with her daughter Madeleine, Summers realized that, as a single mom, continuing to work 80-hour weeks would mean leaving her child to be looked after by strangers most of the time.

Ashley Summers in the cafe.

She moved back to Berkshire County to be around family and, after searching but not finding work in the area, struck out on her own.

Madeleine’s offers the standard French cafe fare – buttery croissants, cookies, quiches and breakfast and lunch sandwiches – but also carries a gluten-free bread option and at least four pastries a day that are wheat free. In addition, Summers takes special orders for sugar-free and lactose-free baked goods. “The community uses us as a resource now,” she says. “People come in and say ‘We can’t find this anywhere’ or ‘Can you make this?’  I also think about what my dad would want.” Summers’ parents are both gluten free and are the inspiration behind many of her special recipes.

The cafe also has teamed up with local purveyors David’s Biscotti of Pittsfield and No. Six Depot Roastery out of West Stockbridge to offer their products in the cafe.

More Gluten-Free-Friendly Spots In The RI Region:

The Cascades
407 Warren St., Hudson, NY
Their “Uncle Barry’s Gourmet Waffle,” shown right, is made with gluten free flours, walnuts and coconut.

CrossRoads Food Shop
2642 Rt. 23, Hillsdale, NY

For the Love of Pie
786 State Rt. 20, New Lebanon, NY

Our Daily Bread
54 Main St., Chatham, NY

Irving Farm Coffee House
44 Main St., Millerton, NY

Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery
5 Old Farm Rd., Red Hook, NY
Gluten-free raspberry cupcake (shown left) from Rusty’s.

Ruth’s Brownie Kitchen
2517 Rt. 44, Salt Point, NY

Soul Dog
107 Main St., Poughkeepsie, NY ‎

Baba Louie’s
Great Barrington & Pittsfield, MA and Hudson, NY

The Gluten Free Gourmet Cafe
284 Main St. #9, Great Barrington, MA

Great Barrington & Lenox, MA

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/15/14 at 06:57 PM • Permalink

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The Shelter: Underground Wine Bar An Above-Average Hideout

By Andrea Pyros

Stroll Rhinebeck’s crowded E. Market Street on a sunny weekend afternoon and you might walk right past The Shelter, but come nighttime, after the day crowd has packed it in, Rhinebeck’s newest – and coolest – bar-cum-restaurant comes to life. Billing itself as “an underground wine bar,” The Shelter lies subterranean, its entrance tucked in the old Rhinebeck Hardware Company building between FACE Stockholm and Bumble & Hive. Plenty of people are finding it, though; since its opening in December, it’s stayed busy serving up tapas-style plates and excellent drinks to patrons enjoying the elegant, unpretentious vibe.

It’s no surprise that The Shelter already has a fan base. It’s run by Wesley and Bryn Dier, the husband-and-wife team behind The Local, another popular Rhinebeck spot that shares The Shelter’s neighborhood feel and its attention to first-rate cooking and hospitality. The Diers both grew up in Rhinebeck, and after Wesley graduated from the CIA, they opened their first restaurant, the now-shuttered 40 West, back in 1999 and then The Local in 2010.

“We’ve been in the public eye for the last 15 years, and we think we’ve helped develop the culinary landscape of Rhinebeck and the Hudson Valley,” Wesley says. They’d discussed branching out further, and when a space came up for rent a block down the street from The Local, the Diers jumped on it. “We liked the brick interior and speakeasy vibe and we really wanted to grab it before someone else did something cool down there,” he says. 

Walking down the stairs, you’re hit by the aroma of the freshly popped popcorn, which is served warm with a savory, salty seasoning. Sit at the bar for conversation with the knowledgeable and attentive staff, or seat yourself on a couch or one of the larger high-top tables dotted around the room. Order one of their “Lucky 13” cocktails, like the Savage Detective made with Del Maguey ‘Vida’ Mezcal, lemon, absinthe and grapefruit bitters ($12). Although The Local has an entirely domestic wine menu, here the Diers have opted for Spanish wines to complement their menu. Using it as an opportunity to educate themselves on an entirely different region, they’ve uncovered a noteworthy range of affordable choices, including a 2012 Cinco Josés Garnacha ($8 glass) and a 2012 Lima Vinho Verde ($8 glass).

The specials menu on a recent evening included a Camembert cheese from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, rich and buttery, served with truffle honey and perfectly ripened D’anjou pear slices ($8). Some nights might offer individual mini paellas [shown below] or roasted peppers. From the regular menu, a small plate of marinated shitake mushrooms in a 20-year aged sherry vinaigrette with shallot crispies ($6) packed a tart bite and served as a good pairing to The Shelter’s aged meats, clearly important enough on the menu to warrant a meat slicer in the middle of the workspace. There’s a house-made chorizo and a paprika-cured pork tenderloin (each $10). Other dishes elevate the familiar, like deviled eggs made more devilish with wasabi tobikko—flying fish roe—and sriracha ($6). The lovely house-churned saffron ice cream ($6) was creamy and sweet and the prickly pear sorbet ($6) was refreshing after the evening’s rich offerings (the accompanying sweetened condensed milk gelée, thick and lacking in flavor, was the rare misstep in otherwise standout cuisine).

Befitting a neighborhood hangout, weekly promos include $3 drafts on Wednesdays before 8, “Sheltered Sangria” ($8 glass; $18 carafe) on Fridays, $1 Blue Point oysters on Saturdays, and live music during the weekends and some weeknights.

“This is an adult place to have a cocktail,” says Wesley, “Some of the places [in the area] are a bit younger and not as swanky. We consider it like we’re throwing a party every night. We get nervous and excited to show you a good time and do what we’re proud of.”

The Shelter
47 East Market St., Suite #2
Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-1500
Tuesday—Thursday: 5 p.m. - midnight
Friday & Saturday: 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/07/14 at 02:40 PM • Permalink

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Review: Le Gamin Country, A Parisian Post In Hudson

By David McDonald

In his groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain talked about the hardest challenge for a restaurant: maintaining consistency. Sure, many restaurants can come up with a transcendent meal every now and then. But doing it consistently? That’s an entirely different challenge.

It’s a challenge more than ably met by Le Gamin Country on Warren Street in Hudson. I’ve been eating there for four or five years, and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d simply never had a dud meal there. And heaven knows, in all of those years, I’ve tried just about everything on their menu, from omelets to salads to soups. It’s always good, often transcendent, and never less than highly professional.

Le Gamin Country is the brainchild of husband and wife team Patrick and Astrid Jehanno. Patrick was executive chef/partner of the original Le Gamin series of restaurants in New York City, and both he and Astrid are long-time veterans of the business. But this restaurant has a personality very different from the ones in the city, and it all starts with the food.

Food photos courtesy Natasha Kox.

First, though, a caveat: if you’re like many of Le Gamin’s regulars, you may fixate on the first dish you try, ordering it over and over, simply because it’s the best of its kind you’ve ever had.

With me, it started with the classic Quiche Lorraine, its compelling mix of air, cheese, and smokiness from the fresh, thick-cut bacon. It took me about six months before I tried something else. Then I got on the French Onion Soup ($7.50) groove. It’s so densely loaded with fresh chicken stock, onions, gruyere cheese and French bread that it makes other restaurants’ versions seem like watery knockoffs. As an avid soup maker, I’ve tried many times to recreate Le Gamin’s deliciously satisfying recipe. In ten tries, I think I may have succeeded once.

The salads are impeccably fresh (particularly recommended: La Salade Nicoise, a French classic; and Endives Au Roquefort Et Pommes Vinaigrette La Lavande , endive salad with Roquefort cheese, apples, and walnuts; both $12.50 and enough to feed two). The crepes, either sweet or savory (try the salmon fumée crepe, shown right), are always flawlessly made ($5 for simple, up to $8.75). There’s a cliché in the food business about the French and their eggs, but every time I go to Le Gamin, I marvel at the perfection of Patrick’s technique with des oeufs.

There’s usually one dish on their daily menu that could classify as a dinner meal, which might include merguez or mussels. Also very European: their collection of old French advertising signs and their decidedly pet-friendly policy at the tables out front, where well-behaved pets are treated as welcome customers.

The single most unique element of Le Gamin Country has very much to do with the personalities of Patrick and Astrid, who run the restaurant in what I imagine to be a very old-school French manner. To those who are her friends, Astrid is the definition of the archetypal French restaurant owner, treating you like royalty, blessing you by her mere presence at your table. A withering glance of disapproval from Astrid is enough to spur the parents of the occasional unruly child to action and silence quickly any overly demanding customer. She certainly goes to bat for her people and is a beloved presence among regular customers in Hudson.

Hudson may be growing in leaps and bounds, but on its main drag, there is always a perpetual reminder of Paris.

Le Gamin Country
609 Warren Street, between 6th & 7th Streets
Hudson, NY
(518) 828-2885
Open every day except Wednesday.
Le Gamin is a cash-only establishment.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/24/14 at 08:42 PM • Permalink

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A Farm Of Your Own: Membership Has Its Privileges At A CSA

Eating locally grown food is valuable on so many levels—ecologically, economically, nutritionally, sociologically, spiritually—that it’s no wonder many CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms in our region report that new and returning members are signing up earlier every year and that waiting lists to join are inevitable. Now’s the time to lock in the one that suits your needs.

Convenience is key when picking a farm, because you want make sure you can make your weekly pick-up. Many of the farms offer more than one pick-up location, some deliver, and a handful even have pick-up locations in NYC and Brooklyn.

All CSAs offer vegetables, of course, and some offer fruits, flowers, local eggs, meats, cheeses and even herbal remedies. If you’re a serious cook or have a large family, you might consider joining two different CSAs to fully experience the bounty of summer in the Rural Intelligence region. For a list of even more CSAs, farms and restaurants in our area and southern Vermont, see the Berkshire Grown website.

Berkshire County

Farm Girl Farm
Pumpkin Hollow Road
North Egremont, MA
Full share (June—October): $630.00; summer share (June—September): $450.00

Indian Line Farm
7 Jug End Road
South Egremont, MA
Regular share (early June—early November): $625.00; summer share (early June—Labor Day): $475.00; working share: $400.00; supersize flower share: $75.00 (with vegetable share) & $125.00 (w/o vegetable share); fruit share: $200.00

Three Maples Market Garden
98 State Line Road
West Stockbridge, MA
Share (June—December, 18 weeks): $225; family share (same time frame): $375
(Three Maples produce shown)

Wolfe Spring Farm
946 Hewins Street
Sheffield, MA
Share (May 1 through November 1): $600

Woven Roots Farm
12 McCarty Road
Tyringham, MA
Share (June 7 through November 1): $600

Columbia County

The Farm at Miller’s Crossing
81 Roxbury Road
Hudson, NY
Regular share: $535; single share: $285; beef share: $240 (prices if paying by cash or check)

Good Fight Herb Co.
Germantown, NY
Herb share (four times a year, once each season): $330, plus a $100 deposit due by April 16. In total, the share includes 20 herbal products, four self-care surprises, four informational booklets, one consultation, one customized formula, and up to three plant walks.

Hawthorne Valley Farm
327 Route 21C
Ghent (Harlemville), NY
Full vegetable share: $525; half vegetable share: $280; fruit share: $205

Little Seed Gardens
P.O. Box 195
Chatham, NY
Share: $475; Early Bird Special for returning members with payments postmarked by March 15: $450
(Little Seeds beets shown above) 

Red Oak Farm
1921 Route 9
Stuyvesant, NY
518.799. 2052
25-week share (choose every week from a variety of vegetables, fruit, eggs, teas and herbs): $495

Roxbury Farm
2501 Route 9H
P.O. Box 338
Kinderhook, NY
23 weeks of vegetables: $558; 20 weeks of fruit: $80; winter share: $125; beef, lamb, pork, and chicken shares also available: $130—$145
(Roxbury Farm tomatoes shown)

Trusted Roots Farm
402 County Route 34
East Chatham, NY
Full vegetable share: $550; working vegetable share: $450; small vegetable share: $350; half- and full-dozen egg shares also available.

Dutchess County

Fishkill Farms
9 Fishkill Farm Road
Hopewell Junction, NY
Standard share (25 weeks): $950; small share (25 weeks): $550; egg share (25 weeks): $138; milk shares and meat shares also available.

Hearty Roots Farm
1830 Route 9
Germantown, NY
Weekly share (22 weeks): $595 ($600 if you join after March 15)
Every-other-week share (11 weeks): $320 ($325 if you join after March 15)

Paisley Farm
P.O. Box 376
Red Hook (Tivoli), NY
Vegetable share (22 weeks beginning June 4): $550; fruit share (17 weeks beginning June 4): $290; egg shares and pork shares also available.

Sisters Hill Farm
127 Sisters Hill Road
PO Box 22
Standfordville, NY
Weekly share: $650 to $750 (depending on the amount of your initial deposit); every-other-week share: $350 to $400 (depending on deposit)

Sol Flower Farm & CSA
41 Kaye Road
Millerton, NY
Full share (June—November): $650; summer share (June—September): $500; working share (June—November): $425; flower share (late June—mid-September): $200; cheese shares also available.
(Sol Flower farmer and produce shown above)

Litchfield County

Anderson Acres Farm
1 Anderson Acres
Kent, CT
Produce-only share: $680; with eggs: $779
(Anderson Acres Farm shown)

Chubby Bunny Farm
Undermountain & Cobble Roads
Falls Village, CT
Local farm share: $575; box delivery: $675; White Plains box: $665; Whippoorwill Farm (Salisbury) box: $575

Ridgway Farm
142 Town Street
West Cornwall, CT 06796
Half share: $225; full share:$325; super full share (everything in the full share, plus farm specials like flowers and maple syrup): $400

Waldingfield Farm
4 East Street
Washington, CT
Full share: $650; half share: $450

Wright Farm
226 Sharon Turnpike
Goshen, CT
Full share (includes veggie, fruit & bakery from June—October): $610; half share: $375; half share bakery only: $380

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/07/14 at 08:37 AM • Permalink

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Dining: The Bocuse Restaurant at the CIA

By Don Rosendale

Ask of my most memorable meal, and I’ll tell you of a cream of sorrel soup at Restaurant Paul Bocuse, a 10-Euro taxi fare from the Lyon, France train station. Remembering that soup, every year I optimistically sow sorrel in the garden, but give up because I can’t distinguish sorrel from weeds.

But Air France passage, dinner for two at Bocuse in the town of Collonges au Mont d’Or, a bottle of Batard Montrachet and maybe a stop-off at the Ritz in Paris would take a $20,000 bite out of my bank account, so it seemed a good time to check out the eponymous Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

The Culinary Institute version of Chez Bocuse is a $3 million classroom, where students learn what it would be like to cook and serve in a French restaurant with aspirations to Michelin stars. As Dr. Tim Ryan, the college’s president, explains, the idea is not to clone the original (though I spotted one Bocuse classic on the menu—black truffle soup, shown right) but rather to recreate the quality and ambience. The restaurant is named after Paul Bocuse, who has held trois etoile, the highest accolade from the Michelin Guide, without pause since 1965, and in 2011 he was honored as “the chef of the century.” American stars like Daniel Boulud apprenticed there.

There’s no potage germiny (the proper appellation for a cream of sorrel soup) in Hyde Park; the Bocuse at the CIA is not a franchise like those of a Joel Robuchon where the star lends his name, the menu is supposedly that of the flagship, and the chef shows up occasionally. Nor is the fare placed on your table a slavish tribute to classic French recipes. Helped along by contemporary kitchen innovations like sous vide and dry ice machines, it’s more like Star Wars meets Escoffier.

Bocuse at the Culinary does a good job of making you feel as if you’ve been transported to Taillevent in the eighth arondissement. The entryway winds past a wall of French vintages with breathtaking prices. The waitstaff is clad in butcher’s aprons with vests and neckties. The knife and spoon are real silver and of formidable heft, and the oversized napkins are Frette. But there are no tablecloths. (An environmental consideration, says Dr. Ryan, in deference to the gallons of detergent not used). There are extravagant flower arrangements throughout, alongside the fleet of ceramic roosters, traditional icons in French restaurants. The flacon of off-white salt on your table is said to be pre-historic and mined in the Himalayas. The dishes of the main course are delivered flamboyantly under silver domes… quiet a spectacle when four diners are served at once. One dining room wall is a glass storefront displaying stainless steel stoves, copper pots, and student chefs and instructors in towering toque blanche at work.

A bow to modern technology: the leather-encased wine list is not a book, but an iPad offering a hundred or so wines; I tried a $6 glass of a Drouhin Chardonnay that drank as if it were a $20 one.

The meal preface is an amuse bouche, a tidbit to “amuse the mouth”—in this case a postage stamp-sized ravioli in truffle sauce. The main courses are tiny, displayed like origami on hubcap-sized plates.

I started with the Dungeness crab or “Dormeu” ($9) which proved to be a brick of shredded crab with flecks of avocado and orange. Different from what I expected, but as fresh as if we were not far removed from an Alaskan fishing boat. The main course choice was identified as Pintaude a l’Etue — a slow-cooked guinea hen placed on a breathtaking sauce (shown right).

While I indulged in an after-dinner Chocolate and Chocolate dessert, two chocolate pastries accompanied by Grand Marnier and delivered in a frozen thimble ($12 and worth the calories), I noticed the tabletop across from me was covered in a mist. My waitperson, shy but informative Viola, explained that this was an ice cream dessert, and that the “fog” was created when tea and cinnamon are poured over a dry ice bed.

L’addition for lunch, with 17 percent service, was $67 per person. Lunch at a posh French restaurant in Manhattan the next day had less flair and cost $122. But go see for yourself;  the experience cannot be duplicated this side of the English Channel, and we only have to go as far as the Hudson River.

The Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive (Route 9), Hyde Park, NY
(845) 471-6608
Open: Tuesday through Saturday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Dinner: 6–8:30 p.m.
Closed on Sundays, Mondays and major holidays.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/25/14 at 07:39 PM • Permalink

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A Free Range of Egg Sandwiches

Recently, a friend was singing the praises about the latest neighborhood du jour (not in the Rural Intelligence region, but you can probably guess) who said the restaurants are fabulous…except you can’t get an egg sandwich. And what’s a town without a good egg sandwich? Fortunately, our region has dozens to offer, and although we would have been happy to sample several of those dozens, our cholesterol levels demanded we conduct our survey in, as they say, moderation. Here, then, some excellent eggsamples.

On The Run, Lakeville
For taste, texture, form and value, nothin’ beats On The Run’s made-to-order egg sandwich, with sausage and cheese on a bagel. A large slab of scrambled eggs (at least two per serving) is the bottom layer to a smoke-flavored sausage patty and cheese (sharp cheddar, my personal favorite), which is then placed between a sliced bagel (everything or poppy-seed, here, thank you), individually toasted and buttered. The melted cheese, firm but light eggs, fatty sausage and seasoned bagel stay structured in textural balance all the way to the money bite. Delicious, and only $3.95 at that.    —Mort Pesce
On The Run
4 Eathan Allen Street, Lakeville, CT
(860) 435-2007

Bonfiglio & Bread Ltd., Hudson
The egg sandwich at Bonfiglio & Bread is simultaneously quintessential and gourmet. To start with, the breads at this Hudson bakery are all unique and delicious, so when I say the quinoa toast this sandwich made its home in was good, it’s an understatement. The other ingredient they put their signature on is the bacon, which originates from Raven & Boar farm in Chatham, but subsequently sits in all its pork belly glory in a brine for ten days before it is deemed worthy. The menu says bacon or greens, but I am told that it really is an and/or situation, so I choose and. Cheddar cheese melted against grilled bread, bacon, two fried eggs over easy, mesclun salad that begins its graceful wilt as soon as it joins the party, and this breakfast sandwich is like no other. It’s $5 for the sandwich, $1.50 for the greens, $1.50 for bacon… an $8 breakfast sandwich that’s worth every penny.    —Mary Vaughn Williams

Bonfiglio & Bread Ltd.
748 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
(518) 822-0277

CrossRoads Food Shop, Hillsdale
You can’t really beat a classic egg and cheese breakfast sandwich…except at CrossRoads, where Chef David Wurth breaks the mold by adding sautéed onion and a homemade tomato jam to elevate the classic. For $5 you can customize it however you want, get the egg scrambled or fried, pick your cheese, replace the brioche roll with buckwheat (for gluten-free foodies) or for an additional $2.50 add locally sourced sausage and bacon. Whatever you choose, you can not go wrong with breakfast at CrossRoads.  —Rachel Louchen

CrossRoads Food Shop
2642 Route 23, Hillsdale, NY
(518) 325-1461

Rubi’s, Great Barrington
Here we quote from Rural Intelligence cofounder Dan Shaw, who regaled us with his experience as a barista at Rubi’s: “A dastardly piece of culinary engineering, [the egg sandwich is] basically a grilled cheese-and-ham sandwich with a medium-cooked runny egg in the center. How do you manage to put a raw egg between two slices of Pullman bread and into a panini press without breaking the yolk or having the white slither out? You take one slice of bread and make a depression in it with a rubber-gloved fist and then use your fingers to massage the cavity to make it as wide as possible without cracking the crust, which contains the raw, local farm-fresh egg like a seawall.” Inside there’s also Ranch ham and Petite Compte. “It’s entirely our own invention and we’ve never seen it copied. Took months to figure out,” says Matt Rubiner, the owner of Rubiner’s Cheesemongers and Rubi’s. “It’s unique, strange and defines physics.” Yes, indeed. An egg sandwich and physics lesson all in one tasty, toasty package, just $6.99.

Rubi’s Coffee & Sandwiches
264 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 528-0488

Back in the Kitchen, Amenia
Back in the Kitchen gets all the stars. The sandwich I ate for this review was one of the best I’ve ever eaten there, and I’ve eaten a LOT of them. The fried egg was slightly runny, but not too much that I couldn’t eat it on the go, and the bacon was perfectly crisp (soggy bacon is the worst). I always add hot sauce, avocado if it’s available, and a little salt and pepper. The ciabatta roll is best because it doesn’t limp if I decide to save half for later. The fontina holds it all together and won’t overpower the other ingredients like a sharp cheddar. The sandwich is $4.39 plus $1.50 for the avocado. (Hint from a regular: If it’s lunchtime, sub roasted tomatoes for the egg, ask for chips and a pickle, and order a cup of Kieran’s tomato soup. The soup is a sublime vegan surprise — he uses coconut milk instead of cream!)  —Breanne Trammell

Back in the Kitchen
3312 New York 343, Amenia, NY
(845) 789-1444

Bob’s Country Kitchen, Lanesboro
You all can have your fancy cheeses, cured ham, ciabattas and tomato jams (not that there’s anything wrong with it). When I want an egg sandwich, I want one like my mom used to make when I didn’t feel well: egg fried hard between white bread toasted with lots and lots of butter.  I went in search of one, and found a close match at Bob’s Country Kitchen, which is also your go-to place for Polish specialties (pierogi, kapusta, and a golomki dinner). Sure, you can order it with bacon, sausage or ham, on a hard roll or English muffin, but that’s not how Mom did it. Sweet, simple, and filled with memories of a time and person who no longer exist. That’s the ultimate comfort food, and only $2.99.  —Lisa Green

Bob’s Country Kitchen
42 South Main Street, Lanesboro, MA
(413) 499-3934

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/09/14 at 04:43 PM • Permalink

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Dining: At Pizzeria Posto, The Pie’s The Thing

By Alice McGowan

It takes a certain amount of guts for a restaurant to offer a limited menu, even if it’s a pizzeria. Especially when it’s a pizzeria located in a region that’s nothing if not rich with New York pizza experts hungry for a pie that can at least come close to a favorite from the old neighborhood. But Pizzeria Posto in Rhinebeck ably brings its culinary confidence to the plate. This is pizza as good as it is in the city. But it’s different, too — more like what you might find on a lucky day in Italy.

Owner Patrick Amedeo opened his restaurant just one year ago, in the charming but easily missed courtyard off East Market Street. Amedeo, who formerly owned Amedeo’s Pizzeria in Lagrangeville, was an architectural designer, studied at the CIA in Hyde Park, and has been perfecting his artisanal pizza technique for more than 20 years. “I always wanted to raise the bar with pizza and offer something customers would really enjoy, so they’d leave my restaurant feeling like I took them on a journey they’d always remember,” he says. “Our menu is very small, so we can offer more precision in what we do.”

One not-so-secret factor in his success: the authentic Italian wood-fired oven that radiates warmth from a corner of the one-room restaurant. The oven was shipped from Modena, Italy, and constructed on site. Amedeo says that—even in recent weeks—he doesn’t have to dial up the thermostat; the oven provides plenty of heat and adds to the cozy, casual atmosphere of the compact space, which is lined with red banquettes against an ochre wall.

With a list of just six 12-inch pizzas ($10-$16), Pizzeria Posto’s menu seems to offer an easy choice, but every one that my husband and I have tried has been incredibly good, so picking isn’t as easy as you might think. Although you can add additional ingredients, I strongly suggest you try one of the listed pizzas first; why tamper with success? Every ingredient is exceptional and the combinations are masterful. The sensational Mama Mia, a combination of fennel sausage with wood-fired onions and smoked mozzarella, was the first one we ordered and we absolutely loved it. But the Morandi, with pistachios, red onions, rosemary and Grana Padano (an Italian cheese similar to Parmesan), was equally wonderful. We finally tried a simple Margherita just to see if that too would be memorable. It was.

Part of what makes Amedeo’s pizza so extraordinary is the delicious crust, possibly the best I’ve ever eaten. “I’ve been inspired by the way that Italians in Italy make their pizza, not just in Naples, but in Rome as well,” he says. “We like to bake our pies not two minutes, but four to six minutes to caramelize the crust in the wood-fired oven. We want the crust thin, but with some puffiness near the edges.”

Then there are the salads, ($7.50-$12) and, like the pizzas, you cannot go wrong. The Mista [shown left], with fresh greens and finely diced tomato, comes with an inspired red wine vinaigrette. The Spinaci contains tender spinach with bits of mild goat cheese, bacon, mushrooms and a lovely sherry vinegar dressing. There is a brief list of antipasti, but we’ve found the complimentary fresh bread with olive oil is plenty—after all, you want to save room for the pizza!

Pizzeria Posto has a generous wine list, with many choices offered by the glass, including a tasty Chianti. The beer selection includes both Italian and American options.

Pizzeria Posto
43 E. Market Street, Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-3500
Open Wednesday through Saturday 12 to 10, Sunday and Monday 12 to 9. Closed Tuesday.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/04/14 at 08:57 AM • Permalink

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Cheddar Making 101: Sharpen Your Artisanal Skills

By Betsy Miller

Peter Kindel demonstrates cheese-making techniques in a class on Burratta cheese held earlier this year.

Why, when every market, every artisanal shop and nearly every farm stand offers a variety of cheeses, would anyone want to make cheese from scratch? Nobody could argue with the fine cheeses available in so many locations, many of which are locally produced. But they don’t come with bragging rights. Or the cheesemaker’s own taste preferences.

Believe it or not, homemade cheese is easy to make. It’s healthier (no need for artificial coloring or milk with hormone additives) and relatively inexpensive to produce. It also fosters a discerning palate, because there are inevitably taste differences from batch to batch, wheel to wheel. Is this sharper? More earthy? Does it need more salt? 

Peter Kindel is Hawthorne Valley Farm’s resident cheese maker. He says the variations in tastes are just beginning to be recognized as desirable in the United States. “It’s much harder to create a cheese that tastes the same from batch to batch like Cabot does,” the Chatham resident explains. There are different cows, different milks, different vats, different temperatures and different cultures. “And, on a small scale you have seasonality and more traditional methods, too. Those makers don’t alter the milk to fit the product,” he says. Instead, the variations are embraced.

For the cheddar cheese making class Kindel will be teaching at Hawthorne Valley in Ghent on Saturday, February 8, he’ll start making a preliminary batch at 8 a.m., four hours before the arrival of his students. “We’ll do the same thing again when the class convenes,” he says. “This way everyone can compare the progress of the curds side by side. In between, when the milk is cooking, settling or acidifying, we’ll taste several different cheddars so participants can decide which characteristics are appealing and which are less important.”

For Kindel, taste is everything. On a typical day at Hawthorne Valley, 8 a.m. is usually about the time he breaks for lunch; his day actually starts at 4:00 in the morning.  “The raw milk is only an hour old then,” he explains. “The sooner it gets processed after milking, the better the taste of the cheese.”

Peter Kindel has been learning about cheese for 18 years. He’s studied in France, the U.K. and the states. He has worked at cheese outlets in N.Y.C. including Picholine, Artisanal, and Murray’s Cheese and is an alumna of the Vermont Institute for Artisanal Cheese, a blue-ribbon school that brought in cheese makers from all over the world to head up classes. But it was his time in Great Britain that sparked his love of cheddar. 

“My wife and I could visit every single cheese maker in the entire country within a six-hour drive from London,” he says, “and each cheddar tasted differently.” It’s that individuality, resulting from variations in milk, in alchemy, in terroir, that fascinated him – and won him over. “Now, there are artisans everywhere,” he adds. “Each farm puts just a slightly different spin on its cheese.”

Hawthorne Valley wheel of wheel of cheddar in its cloth wrapping. (Photos courtesy of Hawthorne Valley.)

Artisan wannabes can learn how to make cheddar on their own in his three-hour, hands-on class. Kindel will cover the basics as well as pressing cheese, smoking, bandaging and discussing the variables of aging. “You can adjust your recipe so that it’s perfectly edible in three months,” he explains. “But it’s not illegal to eat it prior to 60 days if you want.” There is also the opportunity to eat squeakers – cheese curds that taste like popcorn and squeak when you bite into them. 

“Generally speaking, the class draws budding cheese people who want a little more information and others who are into sustainable farming,” he says. “But I make sure that everyone gets all their questions answered. I want people to go home and make cheddar in their own kitchens.” After all, he concludes, “Cheddar is it. It’s the Holy Grail. When you get it right, it’s amazing.”

Say Cheese: Making Cheddar
Saturday, February 8 from Noon - 3 p.m.
Hawthorne Valley Farm Creamery
327 County Route 21C, Ghent, NY
(518) 672-7500, ext. 232
Class: $65.00 per person. Advance registration required with $20.00 deposit.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/27/14 at 02:47 PM • Permalink

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Shunpike Dairy: Milk So Fresh, You Pour It Yourself

By Don Rosendale

Every day or so, Kelly Fierrevante drives to the Shunpike Dairy in Millbrook to fill a container of raw milk for her three sons. She says she makes the trip, and pays more than what she might for a quart of milk in the supermarket, not only because this milk is “creamier and more full of flavor” than the store-bought kind, but also because she is convinced it’s healthier.

Liz Baldwin [photo, right], who runs the dairy solely with the help of her son, Timothy, says there are around 500 other local people who visit the dairy regularly to pour their own milk for the price of $2 a quart or $6 a gallon.

The dairy, which straddles the country road that gives it its name, has 50 cows grazing on its 188 acres. Even a bovine novice would notice the different breeds calling the dairy home — five, in fact, and Baldwin proudly ticks off their breeds: Guernsey, Jersey, Holstein, Ayshire, Brown Swiss and Lineback. The milk of all these breeds is co-mingled because, Baldwin believes, it adds more flavor to the end product.

While the farm has been in the Baldwin family for almost 50 years — at one time it was known as Tonelwin Farm, an acronym derived from the family names of a former handyman — Baldwin ended her conventional dairying and started selling raw milk in 2010, when she received her New York State certification. It was economics, as well as the desire to produce a healthier product, that drove her into selling raw milk. The dairy, in the hamlet of Lithgow midway between Millbrook and Amenia, is situated in an area which was a major dairy farm center a hundred years ago. Today the farm is one of the few survivors, and by selling raw milk Baldwin can make a living from fewer cows.

Selling (and buying) raw milk isn’t all that simple. Once a month, inspectors from New York State Agriculture and Markets visit the dairy to test samples for bacteria and antibiotics. (While Baldwin’s cows are not fed hormones or antibiotics, the milk is not “certified organic,” which, she says, is a “whole different game.”) All of the milk goes into a 100-gallon tank with a spigot at the bottom. By law, Baldwin explains, customers have to open the spigot themselves, she can’t do it for them, and it can’t be re-sold in supermarkets. The milk drawn from that spigot is fresh within a day or so. With the “sell by” date for grocery store milk lasting a week or more, the question becomes, how can anything that far removed from the cow’s udder be nutritious?

t’s not just the “pour your own” aspect that makes the Shunpike Dairy’s milk different from grocery store versions. The big (and somewhat controversial) distinction: “It’s not pasteurized,” says Baldwin, as she gives a tour of the milking shed, dressed in a sweatshirt and muck boots. Pasteurized milk has been heated to 180 degrees, which many people believe destroys a lot of its nutrients. The milk also is not homogenized, which Baldwin says means spun in a centrifuge until the cream is disbursed through the milk. “If you let our milk sit in the bottle for a couple of days, the cream will rise to the top,” she explains, just like in the old-fashioned milk bottles with a bulge at the neck to accommodate the cream.

Whether or not raw milk is better for you than the pasteurized kind is the subject of considerable debate. On the one hand, many medical associations urge consumers to drink only pasteurized milk, while there is an equal body of professional studies which say children who are given raw milk have fewer allergies and a lower rate of asthma, due to pasteurization’s destruction of milk’s enzymes and half of its Vitamin C. And then there are those who don’t believe in consuming any milk at all — but that’s a whole other issue.

While raw milk is currently the bulk of her business, Baldwin is diversifying her farming operations. She sells free-range eggs and home-raised vegetables from an “honor system” roadside table and, this coming summer, visitors can expect to find a shed selling local cheeses made from the raw milk. But you’ll still have to get out of the car and visit the cow barn to pour your own milk from the spigot.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/14/14 at 06:43 PM • Permalink

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Fireside Food

Breaking bread by the snap-crackle-pop of a roaring fire has the power to transport diners to new levels of Dickensian bliss. So get stoked about these eight restaurants, each of which features a working fireplace. Whether you’re sipping a bowl of Thai chicken soup at Great Barrington’s Prairie Whale or splitting a pot of fondue at the historic Stissing House in Pine Plains, the hearths and hearty fare at these eateries will keep you aglow all winter long.

Prairie Whale
The centerpiece of Prairie Whale (formerly Bell & Anchor), a farm-to-table restaurant in Great Barrington, is the cast-iron stove in its rustic dining room. If it’s your lucky day, a pot of mulled cider may even be simmering on the stovetop. Proprietor Mark Firth, a former co-owner of Williamsburg eateries Diner and Marlow & Sons, chopped down a cherry tree on his Monterey farm to provide fuel for the fire as well as wood for the restaurant’s bar and beams. The food is as local as the timber; winter favorites include duck confit with roasted potato, cauliflower and saffron aioli, and lamb gyro with flatbread, cucumber, yogurt and fries. Open on New Year’s Eve, the restaurant will offer a festive menu and a champagne toast at midnight. 178 Main St., Great Barrington, MA; (413) 528-5050.

Rural Intelligence Food Cafe le Perche
Curl up on a couch by the fire at Hudson’s Café le Perche with a petit brioche and a bissou—hot sipping chocolate with a shot of espresso and Grand Marnier—and you could swear you’d been whisked away to a French chateau. The restaurant, bar, and boulangerie is housed in a former bank built in 1842. The original dark wood wainscoting remains, but today Café le Perche offers farm-fresh Gallic food that’s as toothsome as it is unintimidating. Dishes range from traditional (coq au vin) to French twist (wild mushroom risotto, which highlights the best of the area’s cremini, shitake, oyster, and portabello fungi). Chef Robert Pecorino says the restaurant uses an exclusive Wild Hive flour blend, modeled after the grains found in France’s le Perche region, to keep its renowned baguettes and pastries both authentic and local. Join them for New Year’s Eve dinner; they have a few reservations left! 230 Warren Street, Hudson, NY; (518) 822-1850.

Rural Intelligence Food Falls Village Inn
At Falls Village Inn, an original 1834 tin roof and a brick fireplace face off for top showstopper status. The “Tap Room” and restaurant specialize in sophisticated comfort food like lobster macaroni and cheese and a burger topped with pecan wood-smoked bacon. For an elegant and mellow start to 2014, owner Colin Chambers invites all to reserve a spot at the inn’s New Year’s Eve dinner, which offers beef Wellington, Atlantic halibut, slow-braised lamb shank, coquilles St. Jacques, and homemade tiramisu for dessert. If you can’t make NYE, stop by for brunch on the first day of 2014. 33 Railroad St., Falls Village, CT; (860) 824-0033 .

Rural Intelligence Food John Andrews
John Andrews’ chef-owner Dan Smith grew up on a farm, so it’s only natural that his famed Egremont restaurant has been at the forefront of the local-foods movement since opening in 1990. Current seasonal favorites include steak with potato and red onion gratin, scallop risotto with braised leeks and parmesan, and delicate ricotta gnocchi with roasted pumpkin, floating in a pool of sage brown butter. A fireplace in the intimate dining room keeps guests warm on frosty nights, while bartender Eric Rudgunas makes Massachusetts history come to life with an apple brandy drink called Shay’s Rebellion. 224 Hillsdale Rd., South Egremont, MA; (413) 528-3469.

Rural Intelligence Food Red Lion Inn
From bowls of sugar-dusted gumdrops to a crackling fireplace to live harp music, Red Lion Inn’s lobby does cozy right. Dining options at the colonial-era lodge include the formal main dining room, which offers locally sourced American cuisine; the Widow Bingham’s Tavern, where antique pitchers and lanterns hang from low wooden beams; and the Lion’s Den pub, where diners can warm themselves by yet another fireplace and chow down on daily specials like Sunday’s $10 turkey dinner. Be sure to scope out the 200-pound gingerbread castle in the main dining room, but resist the urge to break off a peppermint — the confectionary mammoth was built in the 1970s. If you’re in the party mood, the Lion’s Den offers live music on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 30 Main St., Stockbridge, MA; (413) 298-5545.

Rural Intelligence Food Route 7 Grill
With stick-to-your-ribs fare like pulled pork and house-made salami, Route 7 Grill offers food fit for winter hibernation. But thanks to the BBQ joint’s lively atmosphere, there’s no danger of sleeping until spring. On a recent Thursday evening, owner Lester Blumenthal held court at the horseshoe-shaped bar, proffering samples of cabernet franc and Big Elm’s bourbon-barrel stout. The restaurant was decked out for the holidays with a twinkling fir, pine wreaths, and best of all, a geometric, 1950s-style fireplace commissioned from Monterey Masonry. Wine and dine at Route 7 on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for fun specials. 999 Main St., Great Barrington, MA; (413) 528-3235.

Rural Intelligence Food Stissing House
The Stissing House in Pine Plains has hosted its share of historical dignitaries since it was built in 1782, including the Marquis de Lafayette. Were he alive today, the major-general would surely be pleased with Provence chef Michel Jean’s French-inspired menu. Fondue with Gruyere emmental cheese, white wine, and kirsch is the perfect dish to share fireside. The restaurant’s wood oven produces roasted clams and pizzas charred to perfection; try the Stissing House, topped with translucent purple potato slices. Make plans to visit Stissing House for New Year’s Eve and enjoy a special dinner menu, and dancing until 1 a.m. 7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, NY; (518) 398-8800.

Rural Intelligence Food Vico Restaurant & Bar
Vico chef-owner Mark Ganem spent five years living in Tuscany, learning to craft Italian delicacies like linguini with clams and garlic butter sauce. Now Vico brings the region’s sunny, simple flavors to Hudson’s Warren Street. With 1960’s jazz on the speakers, leather banquettes, and a stand-alone fireplace, the space has a slightly retro vibe, though bright paintings by local artists are modern as can be. The family-friendly menu has something for everyone. Pappardelle al Telefono, a pasta dish with tomatoes and mozzarella that stretches into cheesy “telephone cords,” gives kids the perfect excuse to play with their food. Adults can dig into crab cakes and get into a bubbly spirit by sipping prosecco with a splash of St. Germain. Celebrate “Capodanno” (Italian New Year’s Eve) here for a night complete with a four-course meal, bubbly, and good cheer. 136 Warren Street, Hudson, NY; (518) 828-6529.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/29/13 at 11:59 AM • Permalink