Fish & Game Turns Tasting Into An A La Carte Option
By Jamie Larson
When star chef Zak Pelaccio opened his Hudson restaurant Fish & Game in the spring of 2013, he took the “farm-to-table” ethos and aesthetic to its pinnacle with a seven-course, tasting-menu-only dining experience. It was all about taking one hundred percent local ingredients and presenting them in the most delicious and beautiful way possible. But for some, the menu was — while incredible — limiting.
Now, with a major switch to a full, a la carte menu, Pelaccio is challenging himself, his kitchen and his business model to continue the impressive culinary orthodoxy while opening the restaurant’s doors to a larger audience of palates.
“The reason we did it now is we asked ourselves, ‘Is this the way we want to eat every weekend?’” Pelaccio says. “The answer was ‘no, sometimes I want to sit down to a simple, beautiful, perfectly fire-roasted whole chicken and a bottle of wine.’”
Because every single ingredient at Fish & Game is laboriously sourced from local farmers with whom Pelaccio has cultivated personal relationships — as well as being curated, crafted, cooked and artfully served — offering only a tasting menu (still available with 24 hours notice) made sense. But it did create a barrier of entry.
“I’m not an ideologue and I don’t want to force people to eat a way they don’t want to eat. It’s a product of our time. People want control over every part of their lives.” Pelaccio says. “But one thing I do know is we’ve wanted to do larger format cooking [which the old menu didn’t allow].”
The new menu will rotate about a third of its dishes in and out as ingredients — and the whim of the chefs — change with the season. Its first iteration is, not surprisingly, impressive, including starters that also serve as a great way to build your own tasting menu, like 24-month house-aged prosciutto, seafood sausage ($22), seafood sausage with nasturtium sauce ($18), Malaysian-style fish soup ($16), a soft boiled egg from the restaurant’s own free-range farm chickens, topped with house-cured Northeastern smelt and smoked summer squash ($12) or 20 grams of American sturgeon caviar with the traditional accompaniments ($85).
The mains range from sea urchin tagliolini ($32) and ravioli featuring summer squash and smoked and braised lamb ($25) to smoked and grilled pork belly ($25). There are also sides, a wonderfully collected wine assortment and a cocktail menu featuring ingredients as local and inventive as anything else at Fish & Game.
“We see the results of being adventurous. We are doing things like whole rabbit on the grill,” Pelaccio says. “There are so many amazing options available to us here. Winter was challenging and it will be interesting to see how that affects the new menu.”
There is still a twinge of conflict in the chef’s voice. He’s doing a balancing act familiar to successful artists of all mediums throughout time; staying as devout to your truth as possible while continuing to satisfy your audience. Because Pelaccio has placed such strict ingredient sourcing rules upon himself, deciding what his diners eat also made as much sense business wise as it did creatively.
“I still think it’s the best way to run a restaurant,” Pelaccio says of the fixed menu. “But we’ve gotten to a place where we can manipulate our system. We know our purveyors really well. Now it’s a dance of being able to get the right amount of what we need. Nothing in our kitchen ever goes to waste. Nothing rots unless it’s intentional rot. We are big fans of intentional rot.” (Try the house-made kimchi, used for the wood-oven-roasted oysters with kimchi hollandaise. Two for $12, four for $22).
There’s another aspect of Pelaccio’s thinking about the new menu that resonates back to the core of the restaurant’s mission. He said when he decided to commit to opening this restaurant in Columbia County it was because of the availability of high-quality ingredients. Now that he’s been here and built relationships with his producers, he wants to be able to give back a menu more affordable than one creeping close to $100 per person. Though the food is worth it and the pricier options are still on the menu, Pelaccio wants to be able to still, in his words, “close the circle of sustainability.”
Fish & Game
13 South 3rd Street, Hudson, NY
Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m.—close
Saturday and Sunday, Noon—3 p.m., 5 p.m.—close
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Elixir: Eat, Heal, Repeat in Great Barrington
By Nichole Dupont
“Make your food your medicine and your medicine your food.” The concept is an ancient one, but the carrying out of the creed is still one of the greatest challenges in this country. So many bad choices to make. Obesity rates and disease rates indicate that in our society, food and medicine live in separate houses, on separate lands.
But what a joy to find out that it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a healer in town who promises to be serving the masses once the word is out. Elixir is a tiny café tucked in next to the Triplex Cinema off of Railroad Street in Great Barrington. Its chairs and tables spill out on to the concrete patio of the building, immediately endearing patrons to the casual feel of the place, like a small café in Naples that’s been there for decades. Inside is a museum of mason jars and glass bottles, all filled with wildflowers and herbs and liquids at varying stages of “tincturing” and fermentation. A bowl overflowing with rose petals adorns a large center table.
We order tea. My husband and partner in almost all culinary crimes orders chilled pomegranate; I choose green Moroccan mint. And we wait, making small talk. A table of women is clearly having a girls’ night out. A man in a linen shirt is waiting for a date that is standing him up. Amazing, familiar, but not-from-this-continent smells are coming from the tiny kitchen area.
It’s when the tea arrives, on a silver tray, in a Turkish tea pot, pre-sweetened with honey and perfectly minted; that’s when the healing begins.
“God, this tea is good,” I say, reveling in the refreshing fresh mint and the ornate blue shot glass that I continually pour my tea into. I’m already starting to get that weird feeling of being in another place.
Elixir has only been open for four weeks and for now (and I hope forever), owner/chef/herbalist Nancy Lee is keeping the menu simple and the flavors complex. On this humid summer night, we set our gaze on hummus and vegetables —labelled simply as “snacks” — and potato leek soup. The hummus is a surprise. It’s creamy, and has a heat to it that is authentic. The soup is green, not overrun by the potato starch.
“This soup is different,” says my vegetable-reticent companion. He holds the spoon for me to taste. “Those leeks will not be ignored,” I say. “Not this time.”
We clean our bowl/plate, anticipating the entrees. The server (a really fabulous, kind of shy young woman who is learning the ropes about all the tinctures and herbal ingredients) brings our food…it wafts from the interior out into the street. He dives into his tempeh Reuben, I take a minute to smell my jasmine rice with Thai butternut-curry. There are plenty of crisp vegetables in just the right amount of sauce. The dish is piquant yet light, and colorful. It has not taken on the blandness of color that can sometimes befall anything with zucchini. It is, in essence, perfect. I am not hungry anymore, which is often my chief complaint besides being tired from rigorous physical activity sans meat.
“How’s your Reuben?” I ask. My husband has been more quiet than usual throughout the meatless meal. I assume it’s out of disappointment.
“It’s…amazing. You need to…just try it. The combination is amazing.”
He practically throws a chunk of the sandwich at me. The tempeh is a great texture, not rubbery, it’s got a slight smoky flavor to it. It’s smothered with spicy/sweet mustard and pickled beets (there might be an onion in there, too) and the whole thing is so crisp and tangy it may actually take the sweat away from the summer evening.
The mosquitoes take interest in our revitalized blood so we move the party inside, as there is still dessert to be eaten. Please trust me when I say that this is the kind of café where you do not ask for the check after the main course is eaten. Stick around for the dessert. Seriously.
Strawberry short cake with maple whipped cream — all totally fresh. Fudge made with currants, almonds, coconut sugar and drizzled with a honey lavender sauce. It is dizzying but so good. While lapping up the honey with the textured rich fudge and breathing in the lavender, I realize that there is no other name for that café.
“I feel good,” says my husband.
“I think that’s the point,” I say.
70 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA
Open 10 a.m. -10 p.m. every day but Tuesday.
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Lenox Innkeeper Collaborates On Cookbook For B&B Foodies
By Lisa Green
“It was like giving birth to an elephant,” says Ellen Gutman Chenaux about the process of collaborating and producing Eight Broads in the Kitchen, a cookbook inspired by the friendship and recipes of eight innkeepers from across the United States. Chenaux, who owns and runs the Birchwood Inn in Lenox (voted Best Breakfast in New England by Arrington’s Inn Traveler magazine), will be signing the book as well as offering tastings of one of her recipes at Guido’s in Pittsfield on Saturday, May 30.
It’s not hard to understand why this cookbook would have a long gestation. It started years ago as a friendship between the eight bed-and-breakfast owners, who met at innkeeping conferences and forums. Geographically distant (they hail from Hot Springs, Arkansas; Seattle; Chestertown, Maryland; Danville, Ohio; Ithaca, New York; and Gettsyburg and Lancaster, Pennsylvania), they were drawn together by their love of food. They formed a blog to feature their recipes.
“All of us share a passion for cooking and sharing information,” Chenaux says. “We’re all strong, independent, opinionated women who have different styles of cooking. We’ve developed a deep friendship — we’re like sisters.”
At first it was going to be just a food blog. But eventually the Eight Broads started giving cooking workshops and demos at innkeeping conferences and they’ve become regular contributors to Innkeeping Now magazine. The modest food blog has evolved into an incorporated business they attend to as carefully as they run their inns. The women meet twice a year for intense planning meetings attended by a facilitator and a public relations consultant. Being B&B professionals, the women don’t meet in just any old Holiday Inn. No, they’ve opted for a farmhouse in the south of France, California wine country, Santa Fe and, coming up, Key West.
A former magazine writer and editor, Chenaux has run the pristine-but-comfy Birchwood Inn for 16 years. Originally looking to buy an inn on the Jersey shore, she was visiting a friend in the Berkshires and was charmed when people saw her looking at a map and asked if she needed help. “I decided I wanted to live in a place where the people were like that,” she says.
And now her guests want to stay in a place where she makes breakfasts with menus that include, for instance, sunflower oatmeal bread, blueberry buckle, roasted bosc pears with pomegranate glaze and fondue Florentine soufflé. Her menu is always evolving; after all, she prepares more than 300 breakfasts and afternoon teas at the 249-year-old Birchwood Inn each year.
“Women choose a B&B for its romance, and they convince their husbands to go along with it because of the breakfasts,” Ellen says. The cookbook, with more than 150 recipes contributed by the Eight Broads, brings that romance home.
On Saturday, Chenaux will be signing the Eight Broads cookbook and sampling one of her favorite recipes, County Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler. “Rhubarb is the first happy sign of spring,” she says. “I’m just not sure how many to bake.”
Our advice? A lot.
Ellen Gutman Chenaux Tasting and Eight Broads in the Kitchen Signing
Saturday, May 30, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Guido’s in Pittsfield
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Gracie’s and Savory: CIA Grads’ Trucks Make Old New
By Jamie Larson
One might assume that two food trucks, both run by Culinary Institute of America grads, would be experimenting with cultural fusion or molecular gastronomy. Interestingly, and luckily for us, the Gracie’s and Savory Delicatessen food trucks, both located (most weekends) in the open air food court at 347 Warren Street in Hudson, are applying their considerable skill to the task of elevating American classics, simple in appearance but remarkable in execution.
Gracie’s, helmed by chef Andrew Speilberg and baker/pastry chef Allyson Merritt (they’re partners in business as well as in life), is focusing on preparing perfect fast food-style burgers, fries and doughnuts. Everything is made entirely from scratch with the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients. Mike Freeman, only a few feet away in the bright orange Savory truck, is putting out deli staples like a pastrami on rye with meat cured, brined, smoked and prepared over an 11-day process.
“It’s tedious but it’s worth it,” Freeman says of making the pastrami, which shares the menu with homemade smoked ham and turkey as well as a slow-cooked porchetta that just falls apart. “I sometimes think of it as an Italian pulled pork.”
Freeman said he tossed around a number of ideas before settling on a deli truck. “I think it represents my culinary background,” he says, “and I wanted to bring Hudson something it was missing, a true deli.”
In the jet black Gracie’s truck next door, Merritt says that because they’re making perhaps the most ubiquitous American food items, their challenge is to make them the absolute best, with everything made from scratch, down to the American cheese. Merritt makes the inspired doughnuts, which change for the seasonality of the week, and the pillowy seeded buns that perfectly complement the burgers within.
“We make everything from local ingredients and grind our beef fresh every day,” says Merritt, who makes six different types of doughnuts each week, from classic chocolate to mint julep for Derby weekend. “But we try not to over emphasize that because we want the food to speak for itself. All of our recipes, everything we do, we’ve tested over and over.”
The burgers are magical. Humble in appearance, they look and are packaged like classic drive-thru fare, but due to the quality of the ingredients, including meat from Merritt’s cousin’s farm (Johnnycake Mountain Farm), the flavor in every bite is somehow both balanced and explosive. Even the ketchup (made from scratch) is incredible. Some Hudsonians have expressed relief Gracie’s is open only on weekends because it’s so addictive.
“People tell us they look forward to it,” Merritt says with a humble chuckle. “I think there will always be space for more novelty food trucks but seeing trucks do classic food elevated is really nice.”
Merritt makes it no secret that the truck is a stepping-stone to finance their inevitable brick and mortar restaurant. So enjoy the perfect fast-food burger before the two chefs take off their wheels.
Gracie’s and Savory appeal to their customer’s nostalgia as much as their hunger by offering food Americans gleefully devoured before they began counting calories. Those juicy burgers you ate as a child fresh from the grill on summer nights or the porchetta grandpa made can be relished all over again with a trip to the food trucks.
Both Gracie’s and Savory will occasionally be driving to other locations around the region for events and festivals, so keep an eye on their schedule before heading their way.
347 Warren Street Hudson, NY
(Check website for event dates elsewhere.)
Hours: Thursday - Sunday, Noon - 7 p.m.
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What’s On Tap? Oils And Vinegars At Hudson’s Savor the Taste
By Jamie Larson
There are few ingredients our palates enjoy more and know more thoroughly than the flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. At Savor the Taste, Hudson New York’s new boutique oil and vinegar shop and tasting room, shoppers quickly realizes how little they’ve explored the possible variations of these staple ingredients.
The walls and center tables of Savor the Taste are lined with dozens of natural flavor infused ultra-premium, extra-virgin olive oils and balsamics, as well as varieties of other specialty oils and high-end spices, all ready to be sampled in-store. The plentiful options can at first be overwhelming but with a little guidance from Savor’s warm and knowledgeable owner Christine Donohue, visitors soon realize they can comfortably curate a tasting experience for themselves that might easily last an hour before settling on which varieties to take home.
“I wanted to give people an experience I love,” says Donohue, who gets all of her imported products through Veronica Foods, who are known as sticklers for purity and quality. “Taste is subjective so I wanted to provide something for everyone.”
There is something comforting about olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Maybe that’s why people sometimes bristle at the idea of mixing the pure oils and vinegars — especially ones as high in quality as Savor’s — with flavors, even all natural ones. Donohue says you just can’t know until you try. Certainly not everyone will like every variety but there is undoubtedly something new for everyone’s taste and Savor is eager to help you find it.
Flavors at Savor range dramatically. There is a menu of un-infused oils from across the globe and sampling varieties made from different types of olives grown in regions from Tunisia and Croatia, to Spain and California that give one a sense of the range of flavor evident in the oils alone. But you would be doing yourself a great disservice not to try some of the more adventurous olive oils naturally enhanced with herbs, different types of peppers, citruses, onion, garlic, mushrooms and even butter. Donohue also caries decadent black and white truffle oils, the highest quality almond and coconut oil, as well as a butternut squash oil that she says customers are routinely pleasantly surprised by.
And what goes for her oils extends to the balsamics as well, where the variety of infusions is even more adventurous. There are pure dark balsamics aged up to 18 years and then there are flavored dark and white balsamic mixed with ingredients sweet and savory including blackberry ginger, red apple, fig, dark chocolate, juniper, red apple, espresso, lavender, Vermont Maple, jalapeno, lemongrass mint and more. And you can taste them all right there.
Under the displays, Savor supplies recipe ideas and dressing combinations. In addition, most of the store’s products are OU Kosher.
Because all the oils and vinegars are bottled in house, shoppers can buy in a range of sizes and prices, so it’s easy and more affordable to leave with a variety you can use sparingly on bread or cook with every day. If you can’t get to Hudson, all of Savor’s offerings can bejpurchased online through the website.
“It’s great for a date night, believe it or not,” Donohue says of coming to Savor with a laugh, remembering that just before going to the tasting room that inspired her to get into the business with her partner she, well, wasn’t in the best mood. “I was actually mad at him! But by the time we left I was in love with him all over again.” Perhaps oil and vinegar are the food combinations of love?
Donohue’s enthusiasm for her products and her new business are evident everywhere in the pretty little shop. With the summer shopping season coming to Hudson, Savor The Taste seems a fitting addition to the many specialty food shops that dot Warren Street. A trip inside is a supremely pleasant experience.
Savor the Taste
527 Warren Street
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Methuselah Bar And Lounge Brings Rustic Chic To North Street
Jennifer Galvagni, Yuki Cohen and Gabe Lloyd.
By Amy Krzanik
Most restaurants and bars need a while to get on their feet, a few months to find their niche or to attract a loyal following. Methuselah Bar and Lounge on North Street in Pittsfield never seemed to need that time. The bar’s “soft opening” on February 7 drew a crowd which hasn’t abated, filling the hip nightspot with friends eager to support owner Yuki Cohen’s new venture.
Cohen, who moved to the Berkshires from Manhattan in 2007 with then-husband Josh Cohen to open Moe’s Tavern in Lee, now considers herself a local. After earning an MBA from NYU, Cohen worked at the Bank of NY in stocks research. “The stock market always seemed glamorous to me while I was working in New York,” she says, “and while I was very successful, the rat race got old.”
Photo courtesy of Methuselah.
The atmosphere of the Berkshires appealed to Cohen after her years in New York’s finance sector. “I had a very disciplined upbringing, and it’s the same way in the corporate world,” she says. Cohen’s parents, who emigrated from North Korea — crossing over the border to South Korea smuggled in an American tank — and moved on to Brazil, finally settled in the U.S. in 1980, where they owned a bodega in Brooklyn. “My parents never wanted me to own my own business because they know how much work it is,” she says, laughing.
Cohen, who still works in finance as an advisor at Alexandra Dest Capital Management, loves connecting with people. “What I missed most about Moe’s was the gigantic bar where you have the chance for meaningful conversations.” Cohen tried to recreate the community atmosphere of a hometown tavern with a communal table and large bar in Methuselah’s front space, and a casual lounge area in the back with couches and low tables.
Pork Carnitas and a Jack Rose cocktail.
Adam Medina of Medina Designs helped Cohen reimagine the former Y Bar location with clean and modern lines and colors that allow the more rustic wood elements to add warmth, creating a welcoming rustic chic interior.
Methuselah’s manager, Caitlin Harrison, is a level one sommelier who used to manage Mission and helped open Y Bar. “I call her the Wikipedia of wine and cocktails,” Cohen says. Harrison’s beverage choices highlight organic winemakers that use minimal additives and preservatives in their vintages. The wine selection ($6-$11 by the glass) and 16 beers on tap ($4-$8) change seasonally, and the full bar offers specialty cocktails and surprise concoctions such as a “Love is in the Air” cocktail for Valentine’s Day, springtime sangrias and my favorite, the “Jack Rose,” a medley of Laird’s Applejack Brandy, housemade grenadine, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters.
The bar’s tapas menu was created by Lina Aliberti-Paccaud, owner of the former Spigalina restaurant in Lenox. “I don’t pretend to be a chef, but Lina attended CIA and has a passion for food,” says Cohen. Gabe Lloyd from How We Roll is co-chef, and the bar recently brought chef Amber Hemenway on board.
Methuselah’s Turkish Delight is a winner.
Standout menu items include Turkish Delight, a colorful plate of carrot hummus, beet tzatziki, edamame and feta spread (difficult to pick a favorite among the three, because they’re all so good) arranged around a plate of homemade pita chips ($10); Pigs in a Blanket, which features Red Apple Butchers’ brats and Hosta Hill crimson kraut in a croissant-like puff pastry, served with grainy mustard on the side ($8); and Chicken Tacos or Chile Pork Carnitas ($10 for two/$18 for four).
Cheese and charcuterie plates, salads and sandwiches including the popular Cubano-style Pork with slow-roasted pork loin, prosciutto and gruyere ($10) round out the menu. Desserts include Flourless Chocolate Chambord Cake with raspberries and chantilly cream, or the Goat’s Milk Cheesecake with seasonal fruit salad (both $8), as well as Villa Dolce Gelato and assorted sorbets ($4-$6). Cohen and her chefs hope to introduce oysters to the menu soon.
“This community has so many talented and generous people. It would cost a fortune in New York City to do what I’ve done here,” muses Cohen. “Methuselah is a reflection of who I am, but other people really helped me bring this to life.”
Methuselah Bar and Lounge
391 North Street, Pittsfield, MA
5 p.m. – 1 a.m. daily
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Talbott & Arding Embraces A Piece Of Hudson’s Past And Present
Photos by Annie Schlechter
By Greg Cerio
Customers of the new Hudson, NY food shop Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions might be so busy admiring the shop’s crisp interior details (white tile, dove-gray wainscoting) that they only glance at the pitted marble counter used to display house-made scones, pastries, sausage rolls, and meat pies. But that slice of stone has symbolic value for owners Mona Talbott, a chef and cookbook author, and Kate Arding, a British-born cheesemonger.
When they purchased the Warren Street space last year, the two were pleased to learn that the building has a culinary legacy, of sorts. Built in 1868, it housed fish and oyster vendors for most of its first six decades. Starting in 1961 and for some 37 years thereafter, the building was home to The Pizza Pit, a restaurant so fondly remembered by locals that there is a Facebook page dedicated to its memory. The marble countertop was once used for cleaning and fileting fish, and knowing that their store represents the changing face of Hudson, Talbott and Arding were happy to embrace a small piece of the city’s past.
Arding (left) and Talbott.
“It’s a nice bit of continuity,” says Arding. “One of the reasons we came to Hudson is that it still has working roots — there’s a real feel to it. We may be at the high end of the food world, but we’re down to earth.”
The local earth — and a culinary heritage of a different order — brought Talbott and Arding to the town.
“The farms and dairies of this region are amazing, and here, we’re right in the heart of it all,” Talbott says. “It’s important for us to be near the makers of the things we cook and sell, so we’re not just importing luxury goods.” Both she and Arding were trained in the farm-to-table model. Talbott worked under the legendary Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and later moved to Italy to run the Waters-inspired Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome from 2006 to 2011, preparing food from local markets and revitalizing the menu at an institution whose fare was a bare notch above SpaghettiOs and Spam. Arding started on her path to cheese expertise at Neal’s Yard Dairy, a London franchise that specializes in cheeses from small-scale producers.
In that vein, Arding personally knows all the cheesemakers (and seemingly their animals as well) whose fare she sells in Hudson. Talbott, too, can name the farmers who make each ingredient in the meals she cooks, from the porchetta in a sandwich to the beets in a salad. “We want to be advocates for locals,” Arding says. “The best makers aren’t self-promoters. They’re happiest doing what they do, which is why the foods they produce are so delicious.”
Still, it takes talent to make the most of those flavors. If Arding is an astute, cerebral guide through the arcana of the cheese universe, for her part Talbott says she bases her menus on “emotional decisions — what feels right to me for the day.” Her choices result in an array of salads, sandwiches, and prepared entrees to take home for dinner, as well as a daily soup and a daily “fortifying bullion.” The latter seems, in this winter in particular, certain to gain the shop a faithful following.
“We hope people in town come to have as much affection for us as they had for The Pizza Pit,” Arding says.
Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions
323 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
Closed on Mondays.
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Food: The Swiss Raclette At Gedney Farm
By Lisa Green
I am not a skier. But I can dine like one, and fortunately, the good folks at Gedney Farm in New Marlboro require no ski lift ticket to enjoy the “après ski” Sunday night Swiss raclette. The raclette refers to both the semi-hard cheese and the dish traditionally served in Switzerland. Last Sunday was a blessedly balmy day, but after experiencing the raclette — warm Alpine cheese, baguette, small potatoes, pickled vegetables and a good French wine — I would brave sub-zero temps to share this candlelit repast with my honey. Tucked away in the cozy corner table in the fireside dining room, I felt like a skier in a fine Swiss chalet, and that was good enough for me.
There’s a history to the raclette involving cow herders and campfires high in the Swiss mountains going back hundreds of years, which leads to the meaning of the word itself. Raclette derives from the French racler — to scrape; the melted cheese is supposed to be scraped from the cheese wheel onto the plate. Today there’s a mini-industry of raclette grills for home use, and while it wasn’t clear how our cheese made it to the plate, Gedney Farm does have a more traditional raclette melter, at least on display.
Unsure if the raclette was a full meal or appetizer, we waited for it in suspense, and accepted our server’s recommendation of the Vin de Savoie Jongieux ($8/glass), a light white wine that Gedney Farm has wisely selected as an appropriate pairing with the adventure ahead. The two plates that followed looked and smelled heavenly. The warmed cheese — mild, buttery, slightly salty —merited its own plate, served beside a tableau of baguette, charcuterie, boiled marble potatoes, imported gherkins and house-cured pickled vegetables. Considering that the cheese is really the star of the evening, though, a more generous scraping would have allowed us to top it on more than the two small baguettes or a few potatoes.
But at $10 per person, this raclette is clearly meant to be a very light meal or the starter to one. A dinner menu beckoned, and we bit. Who wanted to move from our comfy, cushioned corner, anyway? Having already had our appetizer, we passed over, among other dishes, the truffled corn chowder with lobster ($10); farm frites with a trio of dips ($5); small plates of roast sweet potatoes with spiced figs ($11); and chimichurri mussels ($14). We went straight for the entrees.
My husband ordered the saffron seafood stew, a generous medley of halibut, shrimp, calamari and mussels in a light tomato broth ($23), which he pronounced velvety and flavorful. In my shrimp with coconut lemongrass sauce — served over rice noodles with carrot, scallion, baby bok choy and sesame ($19) — it was the sauce itself that nearly made me swoon. A delicate fusion of Thai-influenced flavors, it had a slightly creamy quality that had me spooning it up to the last.
We hadn’t meant to, but we came for the raclette and stayed right on through dessert. It’s tough to resist a warm flourless chocolate tart drizzled with salted caramel sauce. And just because our server suggested the Meyer lemon tart (“nice and light after a meal”), and because we really liked her, we ordered that, too (desserts $9 each). With the salted caramel of the former and the tanginess of the latter, the desserts weren’t too, too sweet: just right.
Gedney Farms’ proximity to Butternut Ski Area makes the Sunday Swiss raclette a wonderfully enjoyable way to cap a weekend. (The full dinner menu is served Thursday through Sunday in the winter.) Although the raclette is expected to be a seasonal offering, there are other plans in the works for the handsomely restored Normandy-style barn and lodging complex. This summer, look for a newly constructed wood-fired, Argentine-style grill built into the farm’s original stone foundation wall. Outdoor dining on the patio will offer lovely views of the fields. The Wednesday night music offerings recently introduced may be moved outside as well.
Gedney Farm is a popular spot for weddings and special events, but thankfully, by serving dinners and special fare like the raclette, the rest of us are able to experience the elegant setting and creative cuisine, too.
34 Hartsville-New Marlboro Rd., New Marlboro, MA
Winter season: Swiss Raclette on Sunday nights, dinner Thurs. – Sun.
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The Enchanted Cafe Conjures Up A Vegan Valentine’s Dinner
By Jamie Larson
We’re going vegan for Valentine’s Day at the Enchanted Café in Red Hook. The humble, spiritually minded café in the center of town has become well known for its inclusiveness as a venue for uncommon thought, but owner Joe Moscato is also happy to make his inviting space available to romantics looking to go meatless for the holiday.
Start-up vegan catering company ChickPeace, run by Karen Conlon and Emmie Morgan, will cook dishes the two have been perfecting for months.
“We really put a lot of love into our dishes,” says Conlon, who hosts a vegan dinner at the café at least once a month. “For vegans the options for going out to dinner are limited. It’s basically salad and pasta. It’s still a challenge. No one is doing what we’re doing. We make vegan dishes and then we ‘vegan-ize’ other dishes.”
Reservations are required for the dinner starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The four-course meal is just $32 and includes a polenta cake with “chevre,” pistachio pesto and sundried tomatoes, and lasagne with bosc pear, red onion and kale béchamel.
“We are so grateful to Joe for giving us the opportunity to do what we do,” says Conlon, who started out going to the café’s Laws of Attraction group meetings. “He is very supportive of startups.”
Moscato is admittedly not a vegan or even a vegetarian (there are great meat-filled offerings on the café’s regular menu) but he always offers a number of veg-only options. The daily offerings are prepared each morning by CIA-trained chef Ricki Lazaroff.
“ChickPeace transforms the place. It’s not just the food — they redecorate and set the tables beautifully,” Moscato says. “The food is amazing, whether you’re vegan or not. I don’t even know how they do what they do. They made calamari out of coconut meat. I’m telling you, non-vegans are completely satisfied.”
But the Enchanted Café isn’t just about good food. It’s about openness. Moscato created the space to cultivate a sort of spiritual community center where all are welcome to discuss whatever beliefs are meaningful to them.
“Being a café means serving good food and good coffee, but that’s not my passion,” he says. “I wanted to make a place that’s a spiritual sanctuary. My goal is for people who come here to break away from the nine-to-five, reconnect and experience something.”
The Enchanted Café hosts regular meetings, discussions and dinner parties centered on different spiritual beliefs. There is also live music, dancing, Bigfoot investigators, meditation training and everything in between The café’s biggest draw is its psychic reading night. Guests receive a beautiful dinner prepared by Lazaroff, while local medium Johnny Angel gives “everyone in attendance a message from the other side.” A vegan valentine’s dinner doesn’t sound so out there anymore, does it?
Moscato knows that Bigfoot, psychics and spirituality aren’t for everyone, but for those who appreciate it, having the café as a resource and a sanctuary has been meaningful. Bigfoot Researchers of the Hudson Valley Lead Investigator Gayle Beatty says interest in her group has grown exponentially since they began holding meetings at the café, and she has Moscato to thank.
“Joe is a great resource for us and others who do things like we do,” Beatty says.
You may not be ready to meet Bigfoot or the spirit of a departed relative, but this Saturday at the Enchanted Café is a delicious opportunity meet up with the vegan you love.
The Enchanted Café
7484 S. Broadway, Red Hook, NY
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A Family Tradition: Monte’s Kitchen & Tap Room
By Don Rosendale
Ann Marie Pallan thinks maybe it was the flat roof, or perhaps the corner location. Or maybe the ugly pistachio paint job that made her fall for the building on Mechanic Street in Amenia. Whatever it was, it reminded her of Monte’s, her family’s iconic Brooklyn restaurant.
Anne Marie is, after all, a Monte, and the Monte family is synonymous with hospitality. At the drop of a table napkin, she will tell you that the original Monte’s was Brooklyn’s oldest Italian restaurant — its first pasta served in 1906, that it survived Prohibition as a speakeasy, and that Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. used to eat and sing there. In the 1950s, the Monte family also took over a sleepy motel in Montauk and turned it into Gurney’s Inn, which they ran for 50 years.
Though the family has been out of the restaurant business for a couple of years, extra virgin olive oil still flows in their blood. So now, because the building reminded Ann Marie of the family’s place near the Gowanus Canal, there is a Monte’s in Amenia, its décor a wall of family photos with rarely one of its 50 seats unoccupied even during the January restaurant doldrums. Only this Monte’s doesn’t serve red sauce over spaghetti with a side of garlic bread, but what Ann Marie and her crew term “Hudson Valley farm to table.”
The Mechanic Street building has been a restaurant for as long as anyone can remember — a cafe with rickety tables called the Cozy Corner, whose 15 minutes of fame came when Town and Country told the world that it was a quaint country nook worth a journey. Then a local contractor bought it, gutted it and proved that hardhat to toque blanche is a difficult transition.
Enter Ann Marie, who was looking for something to do after moving to Millbrook with her significant other, Robert Trump (brother of “The Donald”).
While Robert Trump, nearly tall enough to play for the Knicks, towers over the pub area on Friday nights, Ann Marie is quick to point out that there’s no Trump money in the restaurant — the owners are five Monte siblings and an “adopted” Monte, Dafna Mizrahi.
Manager Dafa Mizrahi and Executive Chef Licia Kassin.
This Monte’s is the embodiment of what Dafna, a Culinary Institute graduate, says is a concept she’s been developing for years, what she calls “farm to table, chic and rustic.” The feta, she says, comes from the owners of the Four Brothers pizza parlor a block away, the “toussaint,” a cow’s milk pecorino, from Sprout Creek in Poughkeepsie. The chicken, she says, rattling off a list of local purveyors, is from North Wind Farm in Tivoli and the strip steak from Sugar Hill in Pine Plains.
Not surprisingly, with Monte family roots in Montauk, the restaurant offers fresh seafood. Licia Kassin, the executive chef and like Dafna a CIA graduate, explains that the grilled swordfish comes with a fennel gratin, fennel orange salad and blood orange beurre blanc ($26). For carnivores, there’s a 10-ounce rib eye steak ($32) that comes with a potato pancake-like dish that Licia explains is a smashed fingerling potato fried in truffle oil. I never had the steak, but on one occasion, Licia prepared the pancake dish for me and it was well worth the calories.
For a restaurant that serves such substantial fare, Dafna says that two of its most frequently ordered dishes are the roast beet salad with a beet sorbet, feta and pistachio vinaigrette ($12.50) and the Hudson Valley kale salad with autumn squash and candied pepitas ($12).
I’ve been eating at Monte’s once or twice a week, as a customer and not intentionally researching this piece, after accidentally becoming its very first patron (I showed up an hour before the official opening). They’ve only let me down once, with a squishy hamburger at the bar.
But how can you not adore a place where the staff remembers what you drink, and if there is still food on your plate at the end of your meal, it goes into a doggie bag marked “take home for Sadie,” my Australian cattle dog?
Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room
3330 Route 343, Amenia, NY
Wednesday—Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Sunday, 12-5 p.m.