Ben Gable Savories, Chatham’s New Hotspot
By Marilyn Bethany
“People kept telling us we were moving to the wrong end of town,” says Ben Gable, co-proprietor with Michael Gray of Chatham’s new eat-in, take-out specialty food boutique, Ben Gable Savories. Upon closer examination, it seems fair to say that whichever end of town Ben Gable Savories occupies ipso facto becomes the right place to be.
A year ago, when they bought the then derelict building in anticipation of a move from the heart of hippest Brooklyn, the couple no doubt observed that the location on the recently reconfigured Central Square was amidst some of the village’s best old buildings (including the eccentric charmer occupied by the Blue Plate Restaurant). They also may have noted that the municipal plantings in the square out front (then the handiwork of landscaper Wendy Carroll who, alas, has since departed to ply her trade full time at Steepletop, the Edna St. Vincent Millay historic property in Austerlitz) were terrific—a cut-far-above-the-norm. But to hear Ben and Michael tell it, it was the building itself, a two-story board-and-batten late-19th-century vernacular, that stole their hearts.
Now, after a top-to-bottom rehab, it is stealing ours too, though it’s the wares served therein that are the real draw—tarts, salads, soups, baked goods, and (hallelujah!) world-class coffee—Stumptown’s Hair Bender, either brewed or put through the paces of a dazzling La Marzocco espresso machine.
“We opened the week of the Chatham Film Festival,” says Ben, “It got kind of crazy but it was a good introduction.” With the paint on the wainscoting barely dry, the place suddenly was packed with the very sort who most enjoy the bragging rights that go with being the first to know. Drawn by the festival from near and far, they stood five deep at the counter, demanding sustenance, and fast, lest they miss a frame of the next film. Like the proverbial unknown suddenly thrust into the spotlight, Ben Gable Savories became a star overnight.
Fortunately, nearly a decade of practice, practice, practice preceded that fateful October 2013 debut. Back in 2005, Ben, fed up with selling fabric to a dwindling Manhattan-based garment-manufacturing industry, was eager to plot a new course.
“I’d always loved cooking and entertaining,” he recalls, “so I looked for an item that I could make in the kitchen of our garden apartment in Carroll Gardens [Brooklyn] and sell to restaurants and specialty food shops in the neighborhood.” A self-described “not a sweet person,” Ben settled on savory tarts, pairing Julia Child-inspired fillings with an Alice Waters-influenced crust. The results were outstanding and word quickly spread through artisanal-anything-obsessed Brooklyn. “Eventually, I was making and delivering 120-dozen tarts per week, all out of our home kitchen,” he says. “That situation had maxed out. I could not do any more than that from home.”
Meanwhile, Michael Gray, who at least in theory shared that “home” kitchen, watched his own world at Rizzoli (“I opened their Soho store in 1984”) falter, along with that of the entire book-publishing and -selling industry. The time was ripe for a co-adventure. But what and where? They had often visited Chatham to see old friends, Bob and Kaarin Lemstrom-Sheedy, both of whom have shops there (Bob, a former colleague of Michael’s at Rizzolli, owns Berkshire Books, while Kaarin is the eye behind PookStyle, an exceptionally gifted gift shop). In the almost random way that momentous decisions often get made, they spun the arrow and when it stopped, it pointed toward Chatham.
How lucky for Chatham and, it would appear, for Michael and Ben as well. The film festival crowd has long-since dispersed, yet the couple are pleasantly surprised by how busy they still are and, even more so, by the community they find themselves serving. “These hip young people come in,” marvels Ben, “and I ask, ‘are you just visiting or are you, like, here?’ And they reply, ‘Oh, we’re here. We’re definitely here.’” For upstate hipsters and many of their elders, the easy sophistication of the food and ambiance at Ben Gable Savories hits just the right note. A sandwich of fennel salami on an excellent baguette is topped with roasted fennel, slivers of parmagiano and a smear of orange aioli ($7.50). Tomato soup comes with a dollop of mascarpone and a swirl of basil pesto ($6.50); a delectable, butter-crusted broccoli tart is accompanied by a mixed green salad ($9.50) whose dressing (wonder of wonders) has first-rate olive oil as its principal flavor note. As with many other dishes on the menu here, this last is served with a side of “couture ketchup”—one of the sweet/savory jams by “Three Little Figs” that they also sell by the jar ($14 - $16).
“Some dreams just stay inside the head,” says Ben. “Or you think, ‘maybe we should have done it when we were younger.’” Lucky for us, Michael and Ben took a leap and landed in Chatham, in what now turns out to be the most savory part of town.
Ben Gable Savories
17 Central Square
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Friday
8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday
Closed Monday & Tuesday
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“Farmhouse Rules” Brings Local HV To National TV
By Jamie Larson
Nancy Fuller has been a part of the Hudson Valley food community for, essentially, her entire life. From growing up on her family’s farm in Columbia County to running the multi-million-dollar Ginsberg’s Foods alongside her husband David Ginsberg, Fuller has also become one of the most effective advocates for the region’s hard-working farmers and the fresh food movement.
Now, with the launch of her new show on the Food Network, Farmhouse Rules, her message and the Valley’s farms will be showcased in a way they never have before. Although Food Network seems to be carving out her niche as the “warm, loving mother of six and grandmother to 13” who offers delicious, simple meals from the heart, Fuller views the show as an exciting opportunity for the Food Network’s vast audience to see what Hudson Valley farmers have to offer. While those of us who live here and in surrounding areas are already familiar with the concept, the show, says Nancy, will help people appreciate the connection between the food we make and the land it comes from.
During the program, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m., Fuller collects ingredients straight from the source and then cooks classic comfort dishes that highlight the quality of their parts.
“I have a responsibility to the Hudson Valley, the people we live with, and the local farmers,” Fuller tells RI. “I’m absolutely blessed to have this opportunity.”
An opportunity that Fuller fell into almost by accident. A producer filming a segment at a local market loved the casual way she was explaining local produce to a friend. And so Fuller went from candidly explaining how to tell the freshness of a head of lettuce by weighing it in her hand, to having her own show.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” she admits. “I just think I have a story to tell.”
That story, Fuller says, is encapsulated in the three meanings of Farmhouse Rules. The first meaning, she says, is that rules used to be the term used by her grandmother for recipes. The second is, of course, that farms and farmhouses “rule.” And the third “rule,” perhaps most important to the family-oriented Fuller, is passing along the rules and traditions of proper country family living to future generations.
“It’s important that you and your children eat healthy,” Fuller says, “and that you sit down at the table with a napkin on your lap and turn off the electronics. If you sit down at the table with each other, you’re relating and conversing and showing love.”
She believes this attitude fosters respect for one another and translates into respect for the food being served. Fuller’s family is featured prominently in the show. She takes her grandchildren to the field to gather potatoes, then brings them right into the kitchen to see how the fruits of their labor become the meal.
“To be a farmer is a passion. They need the exposure,” Fuller says. “I want to give credit where credit is due. I want to include anyone who’s out there working so hard in farming.”
Having grown up on a dairy farm, she’s passionate about farming that’s both sustainable for the land, as well as for farmers and their families.
“I want to promote that, and show that farmers are so important,” she said. “In our [second] episode we went to a sheep farm and then went back to the kitchen to make lamb stew. I’m not just telling people where the food comes from, I’m showing them the farms.”
It’s her fervor for this idea that has driven her to work with farming support organizations in the region. She praised the work of the Hudson-based Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation and is a major supporter of its Hudson Valley Bounty organization. Fuller has been involved as either an organizer or advocate for countless local events including the yearly Taste of Chatham and the Hudson Valley Chili Cook-Off.
Though she takes all these local food issues very seriously, Fuller is also known for her recognizable laugh and the lighthearted attitude she brings to her work. She hopes that also will be transmitted to the viewers of Farmhouse Rules on Sunday mornings.
“It’s about making everyone smile,” Fuller says. “That’s one thing I hope people take away from the show.”
(All photos courtesy of Food Network.)(0) Comments
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Provence In Pine Plains: Stissing House
By Don Rosendale
To see Michel Jean perched at a table in his Pine Plains restaurant, Stissing House, evokes thoughts of a French Impressionist self-portrait. Except that Jean is an artiste of a different sort, his brush a whisk at what many will say is the best French restaurant north of Yankee Stadium.
But he leaps to correct the notion, with his thick-as-bouillabaisse accent, that Stissing House even is a “French” restaurant. Jean was born in a small town above Nice, in the Provencal district of France, and he gestures to his right as if he were standing on the Boulevard de Anglais in Nice, with the Mediterranean at his back. “Over here, we have Italy,” and then to his left, “Over there is Spain, and then Morocco is right across the Med. And my cuisine is Provencal, which is a blend of all of them.”
As a boy, Jean says, he wanted to cook and travel, and he figured that as a chef he’d satisfy both of these yearnings, so he enrolled in the French equivalent of the Culinary Institute, the Ecole Hoteliere in Avignon. After he graduated in 1968, he began a journey that took him from cruise ships which traveled half the world, working apron-to-apron with chefs who had three Michelin stars (the highest possible rating from that guide), to the kitchen of the king of Morocco, to Aspen, Colorado where he skied by day and cooked by night, and finally to New York where he was the dashing tuxedo-clad maître’d at Regine’s in New York City, a boite where you dined on Michelin-caliber French cuisine and then discoed until dawn.
It was there that Jean met his wife, Patricia, who minds the front of the house at the Pine Plains restaurant, and who, because of her striking looks, is sometimes identified as a “former model.” Jean corrects that—she was an artist studying in New York. At this point, he decided with his new bride that it was time they owned a restaurant, and they found “this lovely little place in SoHo with a garden out back” and in 1986 opened a restaurant called, perhaps predictably, Provence, which won plaudits and multiple stars from The New York Times.
But Jean longed for a life in the country, like his boyhood in Provence. “I like to hunt,” he says, once again expressively holding an invisible shotgun to show what kind of hunting he means, “and ride horses. I wanted a house on a hill that I could restore.” In 1989, he found them both in Pine Plains, two miles from Stissing House.
What is now Jean’s Dutchess County restaurant began life in 1782, and over the centuries served as inn, tavern, restaurant, bawdy house, and sometimes hotel; one of its 18th Century guests was, appropriately enough, the Marquis de Lafayette. In the 1990s, it underwent a total renovation that left its Revolutionary era beams, bar, and fireplaces intact but added a wood-fired pizza grill facing the tap room and a new open kitchen. Despite the renovations, the dining spot didn’t take off until 2006, when the Jeans closed Provence, moved to Pine Plains full time, and stepped up to the Pine Plains plate. (The Jeans actually don’t own the building, but rent the space.)
Jean, who tends to measure stars by the Michelin standard, says, referring to a publication he doesn’t recall the name of, “There is this newspaper. I don’t know how many stars they give, maybe five, but they never give anybody five, but they gave me five.” Since then, a crowd with a taste for a better quality French—sorry, Provençal—dining has worn a path to his door.
Stissing House is only open for dinner Thursday through Sunday, with brunch on the weekend. The menu changes every week, depending on what is fresh from the market; the Stissing House menu lists its local farm-to-table sources. Last week the specialties were Dover Sole meuniere ($36), pot a feu ($32), and a yellow beet and gorgonzola pizza. On the regular menu, popular entrees are organic chicken ($26) or a trout Grenoblaise ($24). With the emphasis on fresh produce, the locavore-oriented Jean defends one of his exceptions, the Dover Sole, which comes from France: “It is not frozen; it’s shipped by air fresh from France, and I can only do this because the supplier is a friend of mine.” Jean says that he likes to work with “classic” dishes such a rabbit and ox tail, although they’re not always popular because “people aren’t familiar with them, or they are counting calories.”
What distinguishes the Stissing House from other white tablecloth restaurants in the region is the breadth of its wine list—with New York, California, French, Italian, Argentine, and New Zealand wines, priced at only a slight markup over wine-store prices. (There’s my favorite Bordeaux, Chateau Priure Lichine, at $85, and a Pouilly Fume, at $45). Get a table in one of the small dining rooms off the main taproom, pair the Lichine with the $29 braised short ribs or the duck. Reserve early, and tell Jean how many stars you think his cuisine rates. And don’t go to Stissing House to count your calories.
7801 South Main Street
Pine Plains, NY
Thursday: 5:30 - 9 p.m.
Friday: 5:30 - 10:30 p.m.
Saturday: 12 - 3 p.m.; 5:30 - 10:30 p.m.
Sunday: 12 - 9 p.m.
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Hidden in Plain Sight: Jivey Places for a Drink and Snack in the Southern Berkshires
By Jamie Larson
It’s always nice to be in on a secret, or two, or five. Southern Berkshire County is filled with amazing attractions, shopping, inns and restaurants, all classy places of deserved renown. But just around back, the region is hiding another of its virtues; some awesome classic taverns.
There’s a decidedly New England feel to these pubs, which are inconspicuous on the outside yet absolutely charming within. During a long fun day enjoying the area’s offerings, these watering holes are great places to duck into between engagements or in which to spend your evening. Each unique in its own way, these spots offer great drinks, top-notch grub, live music, and a whole lot of fun, right up until last call. If you like, you can hit them all in an evening—with some friends and a designated driver. They aren’t very far apart, and we’ve listed a lot of them here for those moments when you just want to hang.
Lenox is about as picturesque as a New England town gets and The Village Inn is an immaculate and sophisticated example of the region’s highest quality bed and breakfasts. But what if you want to let your hair down, put your elbows up, and throw back a few?
Well, head around back, down the snaking brick path to the small discrete red door of Rumpy’s Tavern. The passage is like a rabbit hole into an unpretentious dimension were the drinks are great and the atmosphere is light, even when the lights are low. With events almost every night, including DJs, comedians, live music Bingo, trivia and more, it’s the place locals and tourists alike go to unwind. And there’s food; they offer a surprising assortment of traditional Spanish tapas. Sure, they have a great burger, but there’s also the Spanish tortilla: a delicious egg, potato and onion dish that hasn’t caught on in the U.S. for some baffling reason. You can get a Catalan pizza on naan bread or a charcuterie board, too, and it’s all $10 or less. The Catskills can keep its Rip, the Berkshires has Rumpy’s.
16 Church Street, Lenox, MA
(413) 637-0020, ext. 385
Open every day, 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
The Lion’s Den
The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, established in the late 1700s, is one of the most storied and venerated locations in the Berkshires. So it should come as no surprise that the Inn, with its classic rooms and beautiful restaurant also has a really cool historic bar in its basement. The Lion’s Den was built into the stone foundation of the Inn in 1937, and both the bar and booths are made of old dark wood, situated underneath a low red tin ceiling. It still feels like the 1930s down there: classic, tough, and sophisticated all at once. A visit to town wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail at the bar, backed by a mural of the red lion himself, holding court over his more common kin. The bar shares the Inn’s extensive wine cellar and kitchen, so you won’t feel left out just because you’re in the basement. The menu includes signature sandwiches such as the house roast beef with horseradish mayo, and smoked house-made hot dogs. There are also stellar specials, from pasta with Berkshire pork bolognese on Mondays to Lila’s Mt. Lamb shepherd’s pie on Saturday.
30 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA
Open Monday – Thursday, 4 – 10 p.m.
Friday, 4 – 11 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, Noon – 11 p.m.
The Brick House
The Brick House in Housatonic is the only bar on this list that isn’t off the side of another business, but it is just off to the side of the normal route between Lenox and Great Barrington. Housatonic has a rough, industrial look, full of boarded-up buildings and ancient factories, and The Brick House had been the town’s no-frills local bar for a long time until it shut its doors in 2010. Now owned, reopened, and superbly renovated by a couple of former employees, The Brick House has gone from dive to gastro-pub for “beer geeks,” offering craft beers from the Berkshires, Brooklyn, and around the world.
This pub is the definition of a hidden gem. The large, rectangular island bar in the center of the place is intimate and encourages conversations between strangers. It’s a great place to watch a game, listen to a live local band, and eat food that is no less than a revelation. They have inventive burgers, an ethereal Philly cheese steak, homemade thin-crust pizza, bar snacks, a list of fries (including an order with truffle oil), and great lunch and dinner specials.
It just feels right at The Brick House, relaxing and friendly. Get off the main road and onto a bar stool that you’ll find yourself hesitant to leave.
425 Park Street, Housatonic, MA
Open Monday – Thursday, 4 – 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
There’s a strange, beautiful harmony between the sound of ice clinking in a glass and the clatter of a bowling ball scattering pins. A bar in a bowling alley is an amazing place to be, completely out of the way as the world goes on around you. At Cove Lanes in Great Barrington, you can take a break from a game at the bar or make the bar your destination.
Cove has a real understanding of what you want in a bowling alley: distraction, games and family fun, but also ambiance. From its vintage, iconic roadside signage to the sweeping mural of the mountains above the lanes, Cove is a caught-in-a-moment real-time experience, especially from the bar stool.
It might not be your first thought when it comes to grabbing a beer and some quick food, but that’s what makes it great. Getting off the beaten path and out of the routine is therapeutic. So grab a burger, sandwich, or hot dog at the bowling alley and pretend you’re Zen like “The Dude.” The Cove feels like a portal into the The Big Lebowski, and if you’re on a budget it’s the place to be, with $1 PBRs. Try it, and heck, bowl a frame while you’re at it.
109 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA
Open daily, 9 a.m. – Midnight
Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Cosmic Bowling, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Down County Social Club
Only open on Thursday nights, the DCSC is tucked into the basement of the elegant and highly praised Stage Coach Tavern in Sheffield. The Club offers live music and other performances in the little hideaway to the 20 or 30 people that can cram themselves in. There’s a timeless speakeasy feel to the joint and, with everyone so close, there’s an energy unmatched by larger venues (which is pretty much any venue).
Enter through an old wooden door on of the side of the tavern and descend into a little pocket of artistic heaven. They serve wine and beer down in the Social Club, but there’s also the full Tavern bar upstairs alongside some phenomenal food. Grab a bite upstairs in a calm moment before descending into the magic den hidden beneath your feet. Upstairs they serve steaks, seafood, pasta, incredible salads, and much more, all with a moral compass pointed towards the local food movement and farm-to-table dining.
Downstairs in The Social Club it’s just that, social, friendly, and open to everyone from regulars to upstairs guests who didn’t know the club existed until they happened by on a Thursday. And how lucky they were to come for dinner and stay for an unexpected dream sequence.
864 S. Undermountain Road, Sheffield, MA
Open Thursdays, 8 – 11 p.m.
No cover; suggested donation.
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Dining: Applause for Allium
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
I do so love going to the theater, and, as we all know, our area is chockablock with performing-arts events that take place in venues of every size and shape. None is grander looking to me than the Mahaiwe, the beautifully restored former movie palace in Great Barrington. I get so uplifted every time I walk into its main auditorium, that one time, when its restoration architect Hugh Hardy happened to be present there, I nearly jumped on him with praise and admiration. (He hardly knew what hit him, and frankly was at a loss for words. This also happened when I met Frank Gehry at Bard; I guess architects are a shy lot.)
Well, the last time I was able to pull Edgar away from “Beauty Queen Murders” on television to go out to see a show, we were part of a large, fussy (and just darling) group of Edgar’s English relatives (of whom I’ve spoken of fondly before). The problem: everyone was “simply famished” after the show (the Pilobolus dance troupe in all their nearly naked beauty, so who wouldn’t be?) which ended at 10:15 p.m. We had reservations at Allium just around the corner, but we were late (having assumed everything would be over at 9:45). How was the restaurant going to handle this invasion, especially as we assumed the kitchen and waitstaff were probably eager to get home after a long day’s work?
Well, it turned out that Allium was more than prepared. I actually received a message at 10 p.m. on my phone (luckily in “off” mode) “checking to confirm that we will be seeing you…” When I was able to respond after the show ended, I called to confirm that we would be there later than we had planned—and here came the extra rub—now we would be 7 instead of 6. Would that be a problem? “Not at all,” said that maître d’. “We will prepare the table now,” and sure enough, we walked in a few moments later to an efficient bustle as staff prepared for our onslaught.
Once settled, with wine and cocktails ordered, Allium and its menu, a lively locavore compilation of chef Daire Rooney’s creations, came to the fore. There was the “small plates/shared plates” section that seemed tailor made just for us, perfect for that late night nibble: not too much, not too little. Several of us opted for the excellent and ever popular raw kale salad with apples, croutons, and pecorino in a zesty lemon vinaigrette ($9, pictured above). The lemon heightened the sweetness of the apples and the young and tender kale had much more flavor and texture than most salads we’ve been accustomed to, although there were also plaudits for the Farm Girl Farm head lettuce salad, an amazement of size and color (coming from the accompanying radishes) and admired by everyone around the table ($8).
In short order came the Berry Patch cauliflower soup, creamy with truffled Rawson Brook chevre ($10), followed by lemon-grass pork sausage skewers (above), delicately flavored with cilantro and mint ($12); PEI mussels in a tasty broth made with Indian Line Farm leeks, tomatoes, and red verjus, topped off with herb butter ($14); and red-wine-braised short ribs, which fell off the bone onto a bed of Earthborn Garden braised carrots ($26), the rich red meat complemented by the bold sweetness of the carrots.
By now it was getting late, but there was no sign from the staff that they needed to get home. We chose a small selection of desserts (all at $8.50): an apple and berry crisp; a rich Blue Marble ice cream, and a chocolate hazelnut budino with olive oil and sea salt (at right). “Lovely” was the conclusion from all. By now it was past midnight and it was us, and not the staff, who were beginning to flag—time to hit the road after a warm and friendly visit, with definite plans to be back soon (before or after a show and with or without family).
Allium Restaurant and Bar
44 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA
Dinner: Sunday – Thursday: 5 – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5 – 10 p.m.
Bar is open until 2 a.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
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How ‘Green’ Was My Valley Greenhouse: McEnroe Farm Keeps It Growing Au Naturel All Year Round
By Don Rosendale
Talking to Ray McEnroe is a little bit like talking to a Burgundy vineyard owner about his latest vintage. The difference perhaps is that, while the French grape grower would enthuse about terroir—the difference a few hundred yards’ distance can make in what is grown in one plot from what is grown in a neighboring one—McEnroe just calls it all “dirt.”
“Last year I had a field that grew asparagus that people went wild over,” he explains, “but in the field a hundred feet away across Route 22, nothing grew.”
Ray is the McEnroe behind McEnroe Organic Farm, the most visible part of which is a 3,200-square-foot market on Route 22 as it blends from Amenia into Millerton. But the retail part is only the tip of the iceberg; McEnroe reigns over about 1,000 acres in the northeast corner of Dutchess County, doing it all “by the book”—an eight-inch-thick stack of government rules governing what you can do with a plot of land and still call its vegetables “organic.” In an era when the asparagus in your supermarket likely was harvested from a finca in Peru 10 days ago, McEnroe Organic is a real family-run farm, with McEnroe, his wife, and a quartet of sons actively involved. Scattered around, there are also ten heated greenhouses for growing hothouse vegetables, seedlings, and transplants, and seven cold frames to grow fresh, leafy vegetables and herbs during cold weather: enough to keep locavore veggies going au naturel with only a slight reduction for a few months during winter’s worst (when the daylight is at its shortest). “Unfortunately, when I started building greenhouses I didn’t expect to grow as much as we have, so they’re in a few different locations.”
Ray, now 62 with graying hair and a brigadier’s moustache, reminds some of the Geico TV commercial farmer who says “cow” is spelled “C-O-W-E-I-E-I-O.” His son Erich is a contemporary version, with a degree in agriculture business from SUNY Cobleskill. He backs up his father in running the farm, while Wade is chef de cuisine in the farmer’s market. Ray’s wife, Sharon, makes the jellies and jams.
The McEnroes are one of the oldest families in Amenia, emigrating here in the 1800s to toil in the tin mine. When tin petered out, they became cow farmers and bought up vast tracts of local land. (Personal note: The plot where I live today is marked on 19th Century maps as the “McEnroe Estate.”) Ray McEnroe’s father and uncles were Amenia farmers before him, and his family moved to the fields he now tills in 1953; he inherited it when his father died in 1983. But the Dutchess dairy business was dying, the antiquated milking machines kept breaking, nobody made the parts to fix them, and he couldn’t compete on price with huge factory farms. So in the 1980s he sold 220 acres, half of his birthright, to Douglas Durst (pictured to the right of Ray at left), a New York City property tycoon. Durst brought in a farmer from Vermont to grow organics, and McEnroe said, “Hey, I can do that” and took the keys to the tractor. He started with a roadside stand in 1989, converted a two-car garage into a farm stand a year later, and in 1995 built his Route 22 flagship, easily spotted from a half-mile away by the car dealership-sized American flag.
The drive on a late October day to one of the McEnroe greenhouses a mile from the farm stand, in what is identified as the Coleman Station Historic District, passes by fields of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. McEnroe explains these are “Fall brassica” vegetables that grow well in autumn. “We’ll still be picking… hopefully ‘til Thanksgiving,” he says. He’s had bad luck with the new chef’s favorite toy, broccoli raab, but was surprised at how well celery has acclimated to the local climes. “I don’t know anything about celery, but people are wild about it.”
Back in the market, a chart advertises that 39 kinds of vegetables are available here, but McEnroe says the sign is out of date and “we’ll have to re-do it over the winter.” That’s the same thing he said to me when I asked him about it five years ago, but maybe this is the winter that it’ll get done, and since then he’s added lamb, beef, chicken and turkey, all fed from the same organics grown in his fields. But above all, McEnroe is famous for his tomatoes, part of the image on his signs, growing 5 or 6 feet tall on stakes in his greenhouses.
But McEnroe doesn’t just sell organics. He has a new section off the farm stand where school kids come to see how their food is grown, and learn that dinner doesn’t come from a frozen food tray. In the spring, he conducts weekend seminars for people who want to grow basil in their backyard, and sells them six different kinds of organic compost, potting soil, and top soil. I don’t know the answer to the oft-debated question of whether “organics” are healthier for you, or if they’re worth the extra price. I only know that I’d forgotten what a real tomato tasted like until I took a bite of one from McEnroe’s greenhouses.
Their food tastes like food, and it’s worth a ride on Route 22 to taste it for yourself.
McEnroe Organic Farm
Route 22 between Millerton & Amenia, NY
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Love In A Truck: Philmont’s Communal Curbside Café
By Jamie Larson
You may recall that rare, contented feeling you get when noticing a group of people working towards an altruistic goal, indviduals who not only mean what they say but are actually capable and talented enough to succeed at it. True, this happens often enough in our region, but the sensation remains indelible; for a moment you breathe a little easier and recognize that the dark unknowable weight of the universe is not on your shoulders alone.
In Philmont, NY, you can get that feeling from a breakfast sandwich, served out the side of a vintage, grass-green trailer.
The Philmont Market and Café Co-op, at 116 Main Street, is still under construction and in need of support, but the Co-op’s Curbside Café, launched at the end of the summer, is already putting the organization’s mission where your mouth is. The sandwiches, made by café managers Matt Greene and Kimberly DeLanghe, are as local, sustainable, and responsible as they can possibly be. Simply crafted out of the best local eggs, breads, meats, and cheeses, the sandwiches are knee-weakeningly delicious, as are the crepes, slung by mysterious European crepe master Georg Freese.
“The food is so good,” says Co-op board president and owner of the Main Street Public House, Elizabeth Angello, “but our whole purpose here is to enhance all the businesses on Main Street. So it’s been nice having it simple with just sandwiches and coffee, so we can focus on the ingredients and getting the message out about the Co-op and what we’re trying to do. ”
Like so many little towns in the region that lie just off the beaten path, Philmont has suffered economically for a long time. There isn’t a grocery store, and when the Stewart’s convenience store left town it was a much bigger blow to the community than an outsider might at first believe. People used to buy a few groceries there, get a sandwich, and catch up with their neighbors. When the company decided to abandon the town, it was a blow.
Over the past few years, however, something’s changed. The people of Philmont decided they weren’t going to give up on the town. The nonprofit 501c3, Philmont Beautification, Inc., has been at the forefront of the revitalization efforts, running the farmers market, helping businesses with funding and grants, and partnering with the forthcoming Co-op, which will be located in (where else?) the old Stewart’s. There’s a satisfying symmetry to that.
This dedicated, ongoing effort has turned the sleepy town into a sort of model of how a community can reclaim its legacy through a sincere commitment to thinking local and living the farm-to-table lifestyle. The restaurant across the street from the Curbside Café, the highly praised Local 111, also has become one of the town’s biggest draws for foodies from around the region.
Co-op Board President Elizabeth Angello, Cafe Managers Matt Greene and Kimberly DeLanghe, and Crepe Master Georg Freese.
Inside the warmth of the truck on a brisk autumn morning, Greene is cooking away. He says he still can’t believe how all the pieces have fallen into place, from happening upon the job after meeting Angello by chance at the farmers market, to literally leaning over the back fence of his neighbors at Lineage Farm to order the mustard greens for their sandwiches. Heck, the incredible Oliva kale and walnut pesto you can add on to your sandwich is made by the micro-company in Angello’s kitchen.
The deliciousness of the sandwich itself is a symbol of the quality of the local artisans that will benefit from the Co-op. Made with fresh Feather Ridge Farm eggs, Diamond Hills Farm sausage or North Country Smokehouse bacon and Cabot cheddar, between bread from Our Daily Bread, the combinations surpass the sum of their parts. In addition, the coffee is from Tierra Farm, the teas are from Harney & Sons, and the apples and cider are from Threshold Farm. It’s all hyper-local, of supreme quality, and handled in the trailer with love and reverence. When you eat it you just feel better, both inside and about the community you’re supporting.
“It feels like it’s all coming together,” Greene says. “It’s truly a cooperative.”
Coop Curbside Cafe
116 Main St
Philmont, NY 12565
Mon-Fri 7 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sat-Sun 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
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A New Haven in Great Barrington As Good As The Old
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
Face it – it isn’t just Florida retirees and visitors to Las Vegas that are devotees of the early-bird special (all you can eat or otherwise). The older we get, the earlier we want to have dinner. I’m starting to see evidence of this in my own life here in the Northeast, at least through the needs of dear husband Edgar. Increasingly, plans to dine at some lovely spot in the area have been scuttled because the restaurant isn’t open til six p.m., at which point Edgar tends to be settling down to watch true-life murder shows on the Investigation Discover Channel, content with a ham sandwich and package of Funyuns til slumber hits at nine or so. (Dreaming of hatchets, guns, garottes, kitchen knives, and moi, no doubt, though he denies it.)
So the challenge nowadays, to satiate both our epicurean predilections and circadian rhythms, is finding breakfast and lunch places that are culinary experiences as satisfying as nighttime ones can be. We’ve always depended on the cafe/bakery Haven in Lenox for this, and were certainly curious when owner Shelly Williams announced plans to open a second branch in Great Barrington. At the Lenox destination, the style is deceptively simple yet effective: customers walk in, review the menu, order, and pay at the counter, and then find a table. Soon enough, the food—delicious dishes such as grilled polenta (three triangles topped with basil pesto, roasted shiitake mushrooms, onion confit and goat cheese, $14.50) or Edgar’s favorite, a Croque Monsieur on farm bread with the special twist of pears ($12.50)—are brought to the table by someone invariably young and/or upbeat.
The question we kept asking ourselves was “could Shelly do it again at her new location?”—a space formerly occupied by Café Adam, which had moved across the street. Located opposite Hammertown and around the corner from The Meat Market, with plenty of parking and a definite increase in passing traffic, we could see why Williams picked this spot for business reasons. But there’s a dramatic difference in the eating experience as well, despite the fact that the mode of service remains the same. While the Lenox space tends to be, shall we say, cozy on crowded days, the main dining room in GB is light and feels more spacious (even though it’s actually the same size), with boldly colored walls and large and amusing paintings by Marilyn Kalish; on warmer days, for as long as they will last this year, there is a large outside deck filled with tables and jaunty red umbrellas. You still order, pay and get served in the same DIY way, but the overall feeling is more festive—almost dramatic.
None of this would count for much if the quality of the menu, the same as it is in Lenox, suffered somehow in the transition, perhaps out of stage fright. Well, here, the news is good. In addition to the regular reliable menu items, daily specials seemed to have read our minds on the days we dropped in: two pumpkin pancakes with toasted pepitas ($10) and a scrambled burrito with turkey sausage, cheddar cheese, and tomatillo ($12) were both the combo of comfy and challenging we were hankering for. A baby arugula and faro salad ($10.75) with heirloom tomatoes was a delicate mix of the slightly bitter spring flavors complementing the nutty faro and sweetness of the tomatoes. A breakfast burrito of scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and spinach, all wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla ($9.50), were just as memory served: the eggs moist but not soggy and all spiced up with layers of baby spinach and a zingy puree of avocado and tomatillo.
All of these are also served in Lenox, but there was just something about the feeling of the place that made eating at Haven Great Barrington an even tastier experience. Tonight… perhaps we could switch the channel and watch Long Island Medium instead?
Haven Cafe and Bakery
8 Franklin Street, Lenox, MA
325 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA
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Serevan: A Taste of Armenia in Amenia
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
Back in the old days (the 80’s), the humor magazine Spy had a column called “Not to Be Confused.” Amenia and Armenia could have been included in this always amusing section of the magazine. Just to clarify, if need be: The former is a pretty little town in Dutchess County, and the latter is a formerly Soviet-controlled nation in the Caucasus that had, in the distant but not forgotten past, some horrible relations with its neighbor Turkey. Also it’s doubtful that Armenia, free as it is from repressive communist control, currently has a restaurant up to the sophisticated standards of Serevan, a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dining spot with a sophisticated French twist, situated half a mile from the center of… Amenia.
Serevan is a place where the chef’s attention to detail truly shows, both in the restaurant itself, its vegetable gardens outside, and in the dishes that chef/owner Serge Madikians creates. You enter into an old New England farmhouse set high above the road and surrounded by quiet gardens in which the chef has planted herbs and vegetables, used extensively in the kitchens. Now, while the weather remains warmer than usual, you can still linger and inhale the scents in the garden while enjoying a quiet drink around tables set in gardens surrounded by high hedges. In winter, the beautifully decorated dining area is best described as “country farmhouse chic,” with low ceilings, soft lighting playing off of the pastel-colored walls and gourd-covered fireplace—a welcoming place to harbor you.
As it turns out, Madikians and his family actually do come from Armenia (the country) and the dishes he serves are riffs on all of the home-country connections, with little flourishes of foods that are common in Armenia households, such as his use of Labne, a type of soft yogurt cheese, and lots of other Middle Eastern dishes such as “Salad Shriza,” a falafel plate with hummus Labne, marinated red cabbage, and carrots ($15); organic roasted beets, oranges, pistachios, arugula from Sky Farm, and Greek Feta ($12), and a tart of ground lamb (from Hudson Valley Harvest) with spinach (from Sky Farm), olives, hummus and harissa, which had an excellently full lamb flavor and a delightful mix of spices ($14).
Madikians’ pride in his handiwork comes through as he bustles around, going from table to table in a calm and efficient way: a small touch here, a quiet gesture there, coming around to greet and meet diners, checking on their meal and their experience. He tells us he’s also often out and about at the area’s farms buying ingredients for the night’s meals.
This is a restaurant in which the specials of the day display the chef’s creativity and attention to detail. A lamb shoulder stew with Persian limes, spinach, and pink pearl apples from Montgomery Place Orchards ($29) made it quite obvious that he had found some great ingredients from the aforementioned local farms; but there were also other delectable pan-European dishes, such as diver scallops with Merguez sausage and fingerling potatoes ($29); a hanger steak with potato puree and sumac reduction ($26); and Pigasso Farm chicken with house marinated olives, cucumbers, preserved lemons, and couscous ($26). A peach cobbler made with local peaches from Montgomery Place Orchards ($9) was a fantastic conclusion to the meal, and brought us all back home… to Amenia.
6 Autumn Lane on Route 44, West of Route 22
Amenia, NY 12501
Hours: Thursday - Monday
5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
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Dining: Caught In Charlotte’s Web
By Don Rosendale
Charlotte’s Restaurant is my “local.” It’s two miles up the road from my Millbrook farm, and I’ve eaten at the site (including three prior restaurants with different names) at least once a week for the last 30 years. That comes to, give or take, 1,560 meals. The site of the present-day Charlotte’s has a storied history. It began in the 19th Century as a church, then it was, briefly, a theater. In the Seventies, it was the Silver Horn, where steak and pasta could be had for what you’d pay for a quarter pounder with fries today. In the Eighties, it was El Borracho, which dished up tacos, chili relleno, and folk music. Next, it was Allyn’s, owned by a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Mikael (at right) and Alicia Moller stepped in seven years ago, giving it its current name, which means I’ve enjoyed around 400 of Charlotte’s meals. Mikael is the chef, and he’s as Swedish as the spiced-wine glogg whose incense wafts across the restaurant once the weather turns brisk. Alicia, who makes you think of Locust Valley and Lily Pulitzer dresses, tends the gardens that provide Charlotte’s fresh flowers, minds the front of the house, and is especially proud at the moment of her dinner plate dahlias, which are… as big as a dinner plate. Mikael started as a restaurant apprentice in Sweden at the age of 13, had his own place called “New York, New York,” which led in 1981 to his crossing the Atlantic to the actual New York, New York. After stops at high-profile Manhattan restaurants, he wound up being a chef for Charlotte’s Catering, where he met Alicia, who was also working at the NYC based operation. They married, and, in 1989, bought the business from the Charlotte whose name was on the menus.
On their first trip to Millbrook, they “just fell in love with the area and knew we had to have a restaurant here,” Alicia says. They bought Allyn’s in 2006, renamed it Charlotte’s, and closed the catering business’ New York City kitchens to prepare the food in Millbrook.
The restaurant today sprawls over three zones. The place to be on a Saturday night, if you can get a reservation, is the eight-seat bar area where pine fragrance from a wood fire competes with the simmering glogg atop the bar. No two tables have identical salt and pepper shakers; each is unique and they’ve been collected from all around the world. In the bar area, you’ll rub suede elbow patches with the polo and fox-hunting crowd, sometimes still in their riding boots.
The adjacent main dining room has flagstone floors and a wall-length mural depicting the Millbrook countryside in its four seasons. Like the bar area, it has a fireplace that is lit as soon as the leaves outside turn gold vermillion. Then there’s the old chapel, now used mainly for catering, which has a fireplace big enough to park a Mini and a metal horse sculpture to match the 19th Century English foxhunting prints on the wall. In the summer, you can be seated at a table in Alicia’s gardens while Mikael grills corn and beef over an open, oak fire.
But while it’s the antique beams, the four-season mural, and Alicia’s flower arranging that gets the Zagat “25” rating for décor, it’s the food that brings people back again and again. The fish (rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon) is so fresh you can almost smell the sea, and the kitchen is lucky enough to have local Dutchess farmers bring in vegetables and cheeses fresh each morning. (Alicia’s gardens also produce the restaurant’s tomatoes, lemon thyme, and mint). They cure their own gravlax, sun-dry their own tomatoes, and freeze their own ice cream. Alicia points with some pride to the piece de resistance of the Fall 2013 menu, osso buco, on the menu for $27. (Picture at right (c) 2013 Kathy Landman.) Normally a veal shank, at Charlotte’s it’s a pork shank braised in wine stock with farm fresh vegetables. The visual presentation would rival the photos in any $50 coffee table cookbook. For cholesterol counters, there’s oat-crusted rainbow trout for $23, and for the budget conscious, a black Angus cheddar burger with fries for $18.
There are some generous items on the appetizer menu, which I’ve been known to order as a main course, such as the tomato and mozzarella salad with mache (pic at left (c) 2013 Kathy Landman) instead of the customary basil ($12), and sautéed Maryland crab cakes in a Dijon bearnaise ($12). A holdover from the Allyn’s menu is something called “Ajax fries,” adapted from a restaurant on the Aspen ski slope of the same name, which are the traditional French fries tossed in truffle oil.
You can easily spot Charlotte’s on Route 44—it’s the place with the church steeple and the Range Rovers and dual-wheel pickups favored by the polo crowd parked outside. And it’s worth the trip, even if you have to go further than my two miles.
Don Rosendale wrote his first restaurant review for a major NYC daily while he was still in college, when he became the paper’s “Louis James” columnist. Since then he has written on food and wine for Town & Country, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair and was the restaurant reviewer for Westchester Magazine. He grows herbs for New York City restaurants at his farm outside Millbrook.
Charlotte’s Restaurant and Catering
4258 Route 44, Millbrook, NY
Wed. & Thurs. 5 p.m.- 9 p.m.
Fri. 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Sat. 11:30 a.m.- 10:30 p.m.
Sun. 11:30 a.m.- 8:30 p.m.