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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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Billy Ledda’s Italian Market Is Hudson’s Hidden Gem
By Jamie Larson
The unambiguously named Italian Market in Hudson just might be the posh little city’s best-kept secret. Unassuming at first glance, this humble market and deli is quietly home to some of the best food in the gastronomically cultured area.
Billy Ledda moved to the Hudson Valley from Long Island and opened up shop on the corner of Park Place and Columbia Street during the summer of 2011. Since then he hasn’t spent a dime on advertising — this article is his first piece of press — yet, by the consistent quality of the perfectly executed sandwiches and Italian staples Ledda puts out every day, The Italian Market has amassed a secret cult following that he says now keeps him busy even in the traditionally slower winter months.
“I don’t cut corners,” said Ledda plainly. “You have to slice the meat thin and fresh for every sandwich. It keeps a sandwich light no matter how much you put on it.”
Ledda didn’t actually glean recipes from his family growing up, but he did learn the Italian way to cook. He was raised on Long Island but his father, who had a bar in Hudson in the 60s, grew up on 100 acres in Green County’s “Enchanted Forest” outside East Durham. Ledda spent time as a kid on the family farm where they produced their own food and slaughtered their own animals. “It made me appreciate where food comes from, where I come from.”
“There’s nothing I’ve had here I didn’t absolutely love,” said loyal customer Nathan Harrelson. “First off, the place is spotlessly clean. And when you get your sandwich, it’s like a piece of art on the plate. Billy treats you like you’re eating in his house.”
The food at The Italian Market is simple, intuitive and driven by the quality of ingredients. Ledda gets his bread shipped up from Manhattan every morning; his meats are imported from Italy and he uses as much local produce as possible. He takes no shortcuts and and he makes everything his way.
Ledda’s way works: take the chicken salad, which people rave about. When was the last time you heard someone rave about chicken salad? Ledda has elevated the most innocuous, frequently bland deli offering to unbelievable heights by roasting the chicken in fresh herbs so that when he mixes it with just a little mayo and celery, all the complex flavors you taste are from the meat.
“People ask me things like, ‘why don’t you put bacon or pancetta in your broccoli rabe?’” he says from behind his inviting counter, peppered with little ‘No Cellphones Please’ signs. “I say, ‘because when I eat broccoli rabe I want to taste broccoli rabe.’ I like the taste. Why would I cover it up? I keep it simple — good olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper — and cook it right.”
That perfect broccoli rabe goes into one of Ledda’s signature sandwiches — the “Grandpa.” The sandwich isn’t named for his grandfather, but rather a quaint attempt at marketing (“Everyone wants a story with their food now,” he says with a smile. “It’s the type of thing my Grandpa would’ve eaten, but no, it’s not like my grandmother snuck the recipe out of Italy hidden from Mussolini.”) is crafted on a pillowy sub roll with perfectly breaded chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, toothsome broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and balsamic.
The Italian Market’s clientele is a melting pot of Hudson old and new. Its classic look and traditional offerings of meatballs, pasta, veggies and sandwiches welcome local old timers and hospital and county workers. The impeccable quality and execution have pulled many a weekender off of restaurant-rich Warren Street to the less polished end of town. The Market is also a shop, supplying the area with a small but well-curated supply of classic pastas, European sweets, dry goods, sauces, oils, pickled goods and Italian sodas.
Ledda might seem a little gruff at first meeting, or if he’s been bristled by a rude customer, but what makes his place so outstanding is that he loves spending time with the people who come into his store, recreating the ambience of the community deli that doesn’t really exist anymore. His eagerness to please is exemplified by the catering menu because, while there is a menu, if you give him the appropriate amount of advance notice, he’ll cook you anything you want — even if he’s never made it before.
“That might scare some people, but if you know me you’ll trust I can make anything,” he says. “If I haven’t cooked it before, I’ll call my mother.”
717 Columbia St., Hudson, NY
Open Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
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Third Annual Sandwich Summit: A Rye Look Between The Bread
Photo: Danny Ghitis
By Andrea Pyros
“Is It Insane To Insist That There Is No Such Thing As Half An Open Faced Sandwich?”
If that query strikes you as irrelevant, ridiculous or just plain nuts, you’re probably not a sandwich aficionado. But if you are, you might actually ponder it for a moment. And if you’re pondering, why not take it a step further and join some like-minded sandwich celebrators on September 27 at the Third Annual Sandwich Summit in Wassaic, NY?
The summit, with this year’s theme of Hopes & Dreams, is the brainchild the Sandwich Club, a society that “fosters an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking sandwich culture by encouraging the discovery and consumption of delicious sandwiches and sandwich components, both in the United States and abroad.”
Trippy Roll Sammy by Josh Burggraf, part of the sandwich themed exhibition at the Sandwich Summit, curated by Maximilian Bode.
Shannon Finnegan, co-founder and executive director of the Sandwich Club explains, “It’s all about being very serious about something very silly.” Finnegan, who by day works for The Wassaic Project, started the club along with her friend Sam Handler, the club’s co-founder and president. Finnegan says, “We both love sandwiches and we started making a point to seek out new ones together. We quickly learned people feel really passionately about them,” adding, “I go to parties now and I don’t even know what I talked about before the Club existed. It’s an instant conversation starter with anyone. I’m amazed how much people have to say about sandwiches.”
During most of the year, Sandwich Club members chew solo, meeting instead on Twitter, Instagram and via the club’s Google doc (available with permission) to share tasting notes. But for one day only, our area’s sandwich-loving community comes together, like a foot-long sub, to rejoice in sandwiches from top to bottom — and everything in between — at the tongue-planted-very-firmly-in-cheek event. And yes, of course there will be sandwich horoscope readings.
Key players in the RI region’s sandwich movement will be on hand, including Finnegan working behind the scenes; Handler, who will give opening remarks; Breanne Trammell, Sandwich Club secretary and co-chair of the Summit Planning Committee; and artist Maximilian Bode, curator of the Sandwich Club Summit Exhibition. Manning the grilled cheese grill will be Jeff Barnett-Winsby, who is one of the directors of the Wassaic Project and the manager of The Lantern, a popular Wassaic eatery.
The lineup is every conference attendee’s dream, with presentations on topics such as, “The Cultural Logic of the Post Modern Sandwich” and “Enjoy Every Sandwich: Honoring The Legacy Of Warren Zevon Through Positive Food Choices,” and, of course, that head-scratching brain teaser about half an open faced sandwich.
“The Summit is the moment where people are talking,” Finnegan says. Expect lively — but respectful — debates to break out. Though the Sandwich Club itself does not have an official policy on the definition of a sandwich (“too controversial,” demurs Finnegan), the topic will certainly be raised, and Finnegan expects the club’s conservative wing to continue their arguments for more a stringent definition.
Though busy preparing for the summit, Finnegan was willing to share her personal POV on the food (opinions expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sandwich Club). She suggests locals check out The Lantern in Wassaic, an all-around “great sandwich spot” as well as Back in the Kitchen in Amenia, which she says offers “one of the best breakfast sandwiches.” A sandwich she’s currently got in heavy rotation is one dished up by a friend. It’s made with sardines, anchovies, ricotta and apple with olive oil on sourdough (“It’s not for everyone,” she admits).
But to truly delve deep into sandwich knowledge and explore a wide range of opinions, Finnegan assures us the summit is the place to chew on that.
The 3rd Annual Sandwich Club Summit: Hopes & Dreams
Saturday, September 27, 5-8 p.m.
Hosted by the Wassaic Project at the Luther Barn Auction Ring
17 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY
Free admission; registration mandatory.
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In Chatham, Bimi’s Cheese Shop Opens Not A Moment Too Soon
By Pamela Dreyfus Smith
Going from zero to open in three months isn’t much time to launch a new retail establishment. But for Bimi’s Cheese Shop in Chatham, which opened over Labor Day weekend, that construction period over the summer created an anticipation among passersby as they watched the owners turn the empty storefront on Main Street into a rustic market. Anticipation spawned excitement. And the crowds in the store since day one tell the story: the shop has not disappointed.
“We wanted to give something happy to Chatham,” says Ellen Waggett, one of Bimi’s four owners. The new cheesemongers are actually two couples, each of which comes with a skill set that contributes to the making of a specialty market. Waggett is a production designer for TV; her husband, Chris Landy, is a lighting designer; they created the welcoming décor with repurposed local barn wood and cabinetry, tall ceilings with a pressed tin pattern, stone countertops and large glass cases.
The owners: Chris Landy, David Shea, Ellen Waggett and Laura Shea.
David and Laura Shea had a weekend garden and kitchen internship at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Inn Restaurant in 1998, prior to opening applewood restaurant in Park Slope, where they were among the first to serve locally-sourced, sustainably-grown foods. After eight years, they left the daily management of the restaurant in excellent hands and moved to East Chatham to run applewood farm. They’re here full time; Ellen and Chris still do the back-and-forthing from the city to their country house.
Although all four are committed to local sourcing, they do sell an impressive selection of European cheeses to add to the mix. The couples vowed to take the intimidation factor out of the cheese-shopping, so each cheese in the case is accompanied by a sign detailing its company’s origins, if it’s produced from pasteurized or raw milk, and whether the cheese has a vegetable or animal rennet. A lighthearted cheat sheet offers phonetic pronunciations for the foreign varieties.
Even better, the proof is in the tasting: Bimi’s is generous with sample plates so shoppers can try, for example, a traditional aged Parmigiano or a savory cheesecake made with blue cheese (no sugar added).
Grilled cheese lovers will rejoice: Every day, Bimi’s offers a revolving selection of three mean grilled cheese sandwiches ($5-$7) to go. The menu might include a grilled Mortadella, Sopresatta and Mozzarella, or duck liver pate with Pecorino and mustard on rye. There are also grab-and-go cold plates ($12-$15), each one named after the Columbia County Land Conservancy areas, such as The Ooms Pond Plate, with Blue cheesecake, aged Gouda, crostini, chutney and Seth’s Sauerkraut. Big fans of the CLC, the owners reached out to the conservancy with their idea of creating tote-friendly plates for people to take on a CLC walk, with a portion of the plate sales going to the organization. The picnic-motivating packages come with a trail guide and map, courtesy of the CLC, a nice local touch.
While cheese gets star billing at Bimi’s, there are a host of supporting products on the shelves that will keep customers coming back for an adventure in regionally produced quality food. Mindful of the other businesses in town, the owners have carefully curated their products so that there is no crossover of inventory with any other nearby retailer. There are homemade crostini and crackers, as well as other regional brands, duck liver pate (made in Laura and David’s applewood restaurant), Vermont Quince (localized version of Italian Membrillo,) Big Spoon flavored nut butters, dry fig salami (the vegetarian answer to charcuterie), The Gracious Gourmet chutneys, tapenades and pestos. From Hudson there is Seth’s Sauerkraut, Puckers Gourmet pickles and breads from Bonfiglio & Bread.
There are also unusual items such as goat milk caramels, grilled cheese earrings, folding Opinel knives for picnics and backpacking, many kinds of cheese slicers, artisan crafted wood cutting boards — those fun “hostess gifts” that you’d rather buy for yourself.
Bimi’s shoppers might even find evidence of the store in other places in the neighborhood. The owners are partnering with the Chatham Bookstore, Chatham Brewing and Thompson-Giroux Gallery to provide food for receptions and other events. For Bimi’s, it’s really all about the town — and people — of Chatham.
“The response of the community has been wonderful,” says Waggett. “It’s such a joyous place.”
The wait, after all, was worth it.
Bimi’s Cheese Shop
21 Main Street
Closed Monday and Tuesday