ricotta_squash_pasta_440.jpg"} Nichole Dupont raves about District Kitchen & Bar, Pittsfield, MA's homage to the gastro pub. | Rural Intelligence Mixing It Up: Connecting Farmer And Landowner | Rural Intelligence The Riverview Cafe reopens in Stuyvesant, NY with a slightly more upscale menu and decor, and the same great community vibe. | Rural Intelligence Recipe: Apple Ricotta Tartine | Rural Intelligence Jake and Silka prepare a hearty dish of red cabbage and apples that perfectly feeds your autumn hunger. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila offers a pumpkin muffin recipe with the real deal: roasted and pureed fresh pumpkin. | Rural Intelligence The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is spearheading a | Rural Intelligence Italian Market, an old-school deli around the corner, has been Hudson locals' best-kept secret for three years. | Rural Intelligence Silka and Jake whip up the perfect autumn party dessert: an easy clafouti fit for any fruit. | Rural Intelligence Third Annual Sandwich Summit: A Rye Look Between The Bread | Rural Intelligence Recipe: Any Green Pesto | Rural Intelligence Bimi's Cheese Shop in Chatham, NY sells European cheeses and locally-produced items. | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & The Baker offer a recipe for chicken in 40 cloves. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila comes up with a variation on the Bloody Mary. The recipe created (for a charity event) uses yellow tomatoes. | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & The Baker are obsessed with summer berries, and create a classic raspberry sour cream tart. | Rural Intelligence Housie Market Cafe Is Another Gem In The Heart Of Housatonic | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila roasts tomatoes and adds quinoa, feta and mint for a tasty late-summer dish. | Rural Intelligence Silka and Jake mix local produce with international flavors on taco night. | Rural Intelligence Nichole Dupont raves about Preservation Society, the new Great Barrington restaurant located on the other side of Route 7 Grill. | Rural Intelligence Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Market is a popular a hybrid bar and retail shop in downtown Rhinebeck, NY. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila waxes poetic about a bowl of summer oats and fresh fruit. | Rural Intelligence Jake and Silka show us what to do with a green tomato -- make a delicious pasta sauce. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila shows us how to use the bounty of squash arriving in your garden (it seems) daily. | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & The Baker use the berries of the season to make a currant syrup for cocktails and sauces. | Rural Intelligence currant_cosmo_440.jpg"} Alana Chernila gives us the outline to concoct our own midsummer galette. | Rural Intelligence Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck supplies RI with a luscious summer cocktail, Lavender Crush. | Rural Intelligence lavendar_crush_patio_440.jpg"} Chef Gianni Scappin scores another hit with the Italian restaurant Market St. in Rhinebeck, NY | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & The Baker take advantage of their garden bounty with a summery Cobb salad. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila shares the secret to a perfect summer popsicle with her Berry Herb Pops recipe. | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & The Baker find it difficult to choose their favorite allium, but settle on garlic for a creamy scape pesto. | Rural Intelligence Pera Mediterranean Bistro on Spring Street in Williamstown, MA is the creation of restaurateur Fahri Karakaya. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila shows us how to roast your strawberries up into a delicious puff -- if you haven't eaten them all already. | Rural Intelligence The Butcher & the Baker show how to cook sustainable and local fish on the grill. | Rural Intelligence The Beer, Bourbon & Bacon Festival makes its debut in Rhinebeck, NY on June 21, 2014. | Rural Intelligence Alana Chernila uses the earliest ingredients of the season's bounty to make a tiny frittata. | Rural Intelligence
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Red Devon

Chez Nous Bistro

Nejaime's Wine Cellars

Guido's Marketplace

Bimi cheese shop

Chatham Wine & Liquor

Haven Cafe & Bakery

Baba Louie's

52 Main

Olde Hudson

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Oh Crêpe! Is A Sweet And Savory Addition To Main Street

By Katherine Abbott

There’s a tendency to look askance when a new restaurant opens in a location that’s had a series of eateries come and go. Add in the factor of a town that’s valiantly striving to revitalize itself, and the doubt meter rises. But Oh Crêpe!, the newest incarnation in North Adams, Mass., may have found the ingredients to create a long-lasting fixture within one of the town’s anchors, the Berkshire Emporium, a two-floor, rambling antiques store in the middle of Main Street.

And what’s not to like being surrounded by this wild and whimsical treasure trove? A wooden counter runs the length of the compact space. Books line the yellow walls so that, sitting at a table, I am eye-level with Jessamyn West’s “Leafy Rivers” and Mark Hadden’s “A Pot of Bother.” On one end of the counter an old metal milk can has been turned into a water cooler, and on the other, filling me with admiring glee, there are three flavors of Assembly Coffee roasted locally in the central Berkshires. They also have a gluten-free cooking space. 

Oh Crêpe! has a playful inventiveness to it. It’s a sunny space with colors that could have come from the crêpe of the month listed on the wall — lemon curd and whipped cream, garnished with raspberries and mint.

The crêpe in front of me is sunny, too: Mountain Girl Farm eggs, Cricket Creek Farm cheese, fresh spinach and bacon. This is the kind of place that relies on fresh ingredients and presents them simply. The eggs are rich and buttery, the cheese sharp, the spinach plentiful, the bacon lean and the crêpe itself soft, light, faintly sweet and faintly tangy. Together they are splendid comfort food. Prices for the crêpes range from $5-$10.

Finding new local ingredients has become a summer quest, co-owner Benjamin Lamb told me later. Well after I sampled his fare we met near his office in the Paresky Center at Williams College, where he is assistant director for Student Organizations and Involvement at Williams College. He and his wife, Emily Schiavoni, director of Residence Life at Southern Vermont College, live in North Adams and opened Oh Crêpe! together at the end of April.

Lamb and Schiavoni have wandered farmers markets and talked with friends looking for local sources — Skyr and butter from Gammelgården Creamery, muffins from Cakes by Reba, native blueberries.

“One of our main objectives is to leave as many dollars as possible in the local radius,” he said. And, he continued, to foster community between high school and college students, and the people in town. It helps that the two shops have developed a symbiotic relationship: people coming into one will often end up in the other. Oh Crêpe! has already grown a regular crowd coming in for their morning coffee.

“We’re on Main Street,” Lamb said. “We’re a place where people will stop in. The staff have to be cheerleaders for the city.”

Later, I tried the lemonberry crêpe of the month that won the last contest. The tang of lemon, blandness of cream, tart-sweet berries and sharp mint blend together into something rich and suave and unexpected. I’ll go back for more.

Oh Crêpe!
57 Main Street, North Adams, MA
(413) 664-6702
Mon. - Fri., 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sun., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/26/15 at 10:03 AM • Permalink

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The Taste Of Southern India At Home: Maya Kaimal Sauces And Snacks

Photo by Michael Kraus.

By Amy Krzanik

Indian food: a cuisine so delicious when served in a restaurant, yet so difficult to duplicate at home. No matter how many spices and sauces you buy or recipes you attempt to follow, your chicken tikka masala or saag paneer just never has that authentic taste. But that changes once you know about Rhinebeck resident Maya Kaimal and her brand of eponymous sauces and snacks which are here to help you recreate those flavorful Indian meals in your own kitchen.

Kaimal grew up in Boston with an American mother and a physicist father whose experiments carried on into the home with his take on the Indian dishes of his youth. As a child, Kaimal experienced the smells and tastes of homemade curries and kormas on frequent visits to her father’s relatives in southern India.

Kaimal poses in front of her billboard.

An art major at Pomona College, Kaimal worked in magazine publishing as a photo editor in New York City for 15 years, and during that time published two cookbooks inspired by her trips to India. Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India, which won the Julia Child Award for best first book, came out in 1996 and Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala in 2000. Kaimal felt an urge to publish these recipes because most Indian restaurants tend to be North Indian.

“My family’s recipes have a South Indian bent,” she says, “and there’s a lack of understanding of that cuisine.” But it wasn’t until September 11, 2001, when Kaimal and many others around the country were laid off from their jobs, that she moved upstate (first to Woodstock and then to Rhinebeck, NY in 2006) and decided to change careers.

Toward the end of 2003, she and her husband, bestselling author and Rolling Stone contributor Guy Lawson, officially launched the Maya Kaimal product line. “I took what I learned from the books, and made the food more accessible to people,” she says. “It can be difficult to cook this food from scratch.”

Photo by Michael Kraus.

What really distinguishes the Maya Kaimal line from other Indian foods is their refrigerated sauces. The recipes have a fair amount of acidity as part of the flavor balance – mango, lemon, vinegar and similar ingredients — which helps give them a good shelf life. This allows the company to keep the sauces natural, without preservatives, and without having to adjust the recipes much.

What began with three flavors of refrigerated sauces that Kaimal shopped around herself from store to store in NYC, has grown to six refrigerated sauces including curries, masala, korma, vindaloo and saag; six shelf-stable sauces including spicy ketchup, and two varieties of snack chips.

The brand’s chickpea chips launched last year and one of the flavors, Sweet Chili, won gold in the “Outstanding Savory Snack” competition this past June at the Fancy Food Show. The annual event is held by the Specialty Food Association, which also chose the Kaimal brand as one of only four makers to advertise on subway posters and a billboard by the Lincoln Tunnel.

Photo by Jessica Bard.

“It’s nice to get this recognition,” Kaimal says. “We’ve managed to be successful while also staying true to our values — making high-quality food without taking shortcuts or trying to cut costs with lesser ingredients.”
And people are noticing. The products have earned nods in publications that cover cuisine (Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Saveur) as well as lifestyle magazines GQ, Men’s Journal, InStyle, Newsweek and others. A brand-new line of naan chips (in three flavors: sea salt, rosemary, and almost everything) has launched to a great reception and, no doubt, will be on the shortlist at next year’s Fancy Food Show.

You can find Maya Kaimal simmer sauces and snacks at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Olde Hudson, Sunflower Natural Foods in Rhinebeck, Otto’s Market in Germantown, Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, and selected national supermarkets. Or go online, where you can shop and also find Kaimal’s own recipes for traditional dishes, as well as inspiring ways to add Indian flavors to wraps, burgers, grilled vegetables, fish, meatloaf and even sweet potato chips.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 08/17/15 at 04:47 PM • Permalink

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Kiln to Table: Local Ceramics in the Dining Room

Davis Ceramics dinner party

A dinner party with dishes by Mary Anne Davis

By Jamie Larson

Being able to locally source just about any conceivable ingredient is a gift from our region to the restaurant chefs who cook here and we spoiled diners who eat here. But a number of area restaurants are not only locally sourcing the food on the plates, but the plates themselves. This emerging culinary trend is not just a convenient way to further enhance the beauty of a dish. It is also a way to more holistically support our local, sustainable economies and showcase the stunning work of highly skilled regional ceramicists who deserve our attention.

Fish and Game plating

Pasta and plate at Fish and Game

“You want to know who’s growing your food and who’s making your plate,” says Zak Pelaccio, chef-owner of the hyper-local restaurant Fish and Game in Hudson, New York. “(Fish and Game) has a very personal feel. It becomes this family thing.”

All the dinnerware at Fish and Game comes from artisans Pelaccio personally knows, all within a three-hour drive from the restaurant, including Tivoli Tile Works. A marriage of clean elegance and natural shape and edging, Caroline Wallner’s vessels become a piece of the restaurant experience. “The two inform each other,” Pelaccio says of dish and food.

Davis Ceramics setting the table

Setting the table with Davis dishware.

Mary Anne Davis sells her beautiful wares from Los Angeles to Manhattan but she says there’s something fitting about seeing work made at her studio in Spencertown, New York used as intended by her neighbors. You’ve probably held one of Davis’ pieces without knowing it, like when you reached into the beautiful little bowls at The Flammerie in Kinderhook for some of their red beet died salt. She also just finished making her annual 50 mugs for the FilmColumbia Festival. As an ardent supporter of active local-centric economies, Davis sees restaurants supporting craftspeople as well as farms as the future of sustainability.

“It’s the next level, for the consumer to support local artisans as well as local farms,” says Davis, who will be participating at NY Now at the Javits Center this weekend (August 15-16). “I’ve tried to establish a way of making that’s responsible and friendly.”

Other local restaurants that are using more unconventional, regional ceramics as well as other kinds of locally made goods, from furnishings to fabrics, include Community Table in Washington, Connecticut, Crimson Sparrow in Hudson and The Corner at Hotel Tivoli in Tivoli, New York.

tivoli hotel dish

Plate or painting? Dinner at The Corner.

Throughout both restaurant and rooms, Hotel Tivoli uses an extensive and gorgeous trove of ceramics from the Tivoli Tile Works. While Wallner just recently moved her studio across the river to Bearsville, New York, the business still has strong ties to the area and the aesthetic remains as always, quintessentially rural Hudson Valley. Hotel Tivoli’s well-known artist-owners, Brice and Helen Marden, were collecting pieces from the Tile Works well before they opened the hotel, and infusing the eclectic hotel with the handmade ceramics adds much to the character of the restaurant and establishment at large.

“The Tivoli Hotel is a very personal experience in a lot of aspects,” says Hotel Assistant General Manager Janett Pabon. “(We) like things that are hand made. There’s a certain sensibility to the way (Wallner’s pieces) feel; no two dishes are the same. They don’t stack perfectly; you have to sort of cradle them. It adds to the uniqueness of every visit.”

One thing this new trend is not is an indictment of the white plate. There’s a time and a place in all art forms for a blank canvas, and local artisans make those, too. The increased use of natural forms in plating also doesn’t mean the kiln-to-table relationship doesn’t take place in more classic fine dining restaurants. The ornate gold and platinum rimmed plates at The Old Inn on The Green in New Marlborough, Massachusetts are made just down the road in Great Barrington, in the world-renowned studio of Michael Wainwright.

A mesmerizing dish by Michael Wainwright.

No matter how elaborate Wainwright’s art may be, it isn’t meant for a wall, it’s meant to be touched with knife and fork.

“I’m making functional wares. I want my pieces to be the frame for the artwork. I want to assist,” Wainwright says humbly. “It’s wonderful to have the Old Inn serve on my dishes; so many people come into my store because they ate there.”

Perhaps the best thing about local restaurants supporting local artisans (of all stripes) is that it just feels better and a bit prettier. It makes for a more uniquely regional experience. Plates made here feel like here. This approach, being adopted by more and more restaurants, gives a diner an even fuller sense that, just by eating out, they are a present part of a cultural and economic ecosystem that is sustainable and profoundly beautiful.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 08/10/15 at 01:59 PM • Permalink

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Green Goats: The Coolest Vegetation Removal Business Ever

Munching on poison ivy.

By Andrea Pyros

If you think about it, it’s extremely rare to have an idea that taps into the Hudson Valley’s local/eco-friendly/farm-based economy and also happens to be so ridiculously cute as to sound like the plot of the best kid’s film you never saw (working title: Goats That Garden). But with Green Goats, a Rhinebeck-based business where the adorable and the brilliant combine, that’s the case.

It’s the brainchild of Ann and Larry Cihanek, the married couple who run the environmentally-friendly goat vegetation removal service, renting out goats to a variety of sites in the Northeast that need weed and vegetation removal, particularly large sites on hills or with overgrown areas where it’s too challenging for humans and their machines to work.

Cihanek drops off the goat to work on Staten Island.

The Manhattan-born Larry didn’t grow up farming. Instead, he spent 40 years in advertising. When he was ready to leave the industry, he relocated to Dutchess County where he’d spent weekends as a child.

“This is the prettiest area in the country,” he says. “It has a wonderful mix of sophistication and a sufficient amount of rural to keep me going.” He decided to keep a few goats as a hobby.

“I thought I’d make goat cheese,” he admits, but it turns out his goats were destined for greener pastures. Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island sent an email to 400 New York-area goat owners explaining that the site’s tree roots were splitting the rocks in the fort and could anyone — and their goats — help. “Eight of us responded, and the other seven said it could not be done,” Larry says, “but we tried it. And did it.” That was nine years ago, and Larry’s doubled the number of clients and the number of goats he owns every year since then.

Tragically, this past February a fire raged in the Red Hook barn where the Cihanek’s housed their 100 goats, and the entire herd perished. These were beloved animals. “They all had names and we knew them and they knew us. You’d call and say, ‘Sally it’s your turn,’ and she’d come. They could be 200 yards away and I’d say ‘Hey, ladies,’ and they’d come flying.”

“After the fire, people were so amazingly generous,” Cihanek says about those dark days. He and his wife assumed they’d need to go out and buy goats to replace the loss, but instead they received not only money, but also goats as donations from far and wide.

Clearing the brush at Pelham Park in the Bronx.

“The average goat herd in the country is seven goats,” he explains, “And they’re your friends; you can’t just send them off to the auction, but all of a sudden you have 11 goats and only have space for seven, so people are thanking us for taking their goats and we’re thanking them for giving them to us!” Goats past a certain age can no longer make cheese or win shows, “but for our purposes, they all eat bushes and they are all friendly and we’ll keep them.”

If you’re wondering what makes goats superior to that pricey new Toro mower you bought, it’s not just their charm and sweet disposition, it’s also their ability to eat… and eat; to happily munch on poison ivy without breaking into a rash; and to reach those tricky spots (never seen a goat on a cliff? Check ‘em out!).

“Goats don’t recognize hills as being hills,” says Cihanek. “Like at Vanderbilt Mansion where I have to put my hands on the ground to walk, they don’t care. They think it’s level.” Jobs vary depending on the needs of the client, taking into consideration the size of the spot, how hard it will be to build the fence necessary to keep the goats safe, how often the Cihaneks will need to revisit the site, and the status of the vegetation. As few as four or as many as 20 to 25 goats will be sent to work. Cihanek says, “The whole business is goats du jour — what are you trying to accomplish and how many goats do you need?”

The goats help maintain the lawn at Wilderstein Historic Site.

This season, the goats’ first job was at a cemetery in Staten Island where the staff wanted to go in and cut trees and vines, but the poison ivy made that prohibitive, so Cihanek brought 28 goats for about five days, which he refers to as a “flash mob.” In most cases, though, the goats stay for the entire growing season.

Before you get excited about the idea of having the hungry crew show up to help out with your yard (I know I was), Cihanek says it’s not practical for either him or the homeowner.

“If it’s green, the goats will eat all of your plants,” without discerning the weeds from the prize flowers, although he admits that there’s a goat owner in Paris who rolls five goats around and hires them out to whoever needs a quick mow (or should we say chew?). “There are no limits to this business. The only limit is your imagination.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/30/15 at 02:30 PM • Permalink

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Fish & Game Turns Tasting Into An A La Carte Option

fish and game oystersBy 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.

fish and game sea urchin pasta“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.”

Related story: Fish & Game: An Ode To Hudson’s Tasty Past

Fish & Game
13 South 3rd Street, Hudson, NY
(518) 822-1500
Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m.—close
Saturday and Sunday, Noon—3 p.m., 5 p.m.—close

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 07/13/15 at 12:20 PM • Permalink

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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
(413) 644-8999
Open 10 a.m. -10 p.m. every day but Tuesday.

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Posted by Nichole on 07/13/15 at 10:30 AM • Permalink

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Review: The Bistro Box Is A Roadside Classic

bistro box full frontal [Editor’s note: We’re bringing back one of the most visited stories of last year because The Bistro Box continues to draw rapturous fans. Go and enjoy.]

By Nichole Dupont

There are those places that are just cursed. You know the kind. Switches hands every 1 to 3 years, nobody really knows what kind of food they serve anymore. You tentatively step into each new rendition only to leave disappointed or gripping your stomach with regret. There are a few “cursed” eatery locations here, so when I saw the new sign along Route 7 in Great Barrington I groaned. The perpetually red summer hot dog shack was now freshly painted and the new sign was up. The Bistro Box. I was skeptical.

But I should not have been. The Bistro Box, true to its name, is a roadside eatery that offers up fresh, homemade, hard-working picnic food. It’s a place you can take a lunch break or where you can proudly take a date for a vintage-inspired evening sitting under a pine grove enjoying the company of true love and damn tasty onion rings. On a beautiful day (which we’ve had several of), the parking lot is indiscriminately packed with vehicles and people – Ford F150s, Audis, minivans, grandparents with their grandkids, golfers, contractors taking a break. This is a place for everyone to enjoy the fleeting months of summer and the nostalgia of a perfect ice cream float.

Do not mistake roadside shack fare for “options limited: just deal with it.” The Bistro Box has all the basics but they’re the kind of “basic” that harkens back to a time when toys didn’t break on the first go-round: Wholesome, actual good food made from real ingredients (not pre-frozen, pre-packaged imposters). Take the onion rings for example. Fresh, dipped in a golden batter with a hint of cornmeal, lightly fried and served with a ketchup aioli (they call it box sauce) that we couldn’t get enough of. Fried dill pickles, same signature batter with a homemade buttermilk ranch dip. The menu also includes burgers and dogs, paninis, hand-cut fries (lots of choices like garlic and fresh herbs, parmesan and truffle oil, chili cheese), cold-brewed coffee, savory salads, and for starving, newly minted vegetarians, the falafel burger: a homemade chickpea patty topped with crispy “quick” pickles and red pepper feta spread.

Because we are talking essentially about a roadside stand, I have to mention that nothing that emerged from The Bistro Box was drowning in grease (which is the expectation for these little places). The food is crisp, the portions are perfect, and everything is reasonably priced (only the BOX Burger is more than $8). Obviously a lot of love has gone into making the little Bistro Box a place to come back to. Owners Nick and Birdie Joseph opened The Bistro Box in 2010 as a mobile food business. Their adventures have taken them from Nantucket to Florida to the Caribbean but they’ve always had an eye toward the Berkshires (Nick grew up in the area). When the little red shack went up for sale this past winter – they’ve been eying the place for awhile – the couple scooped it up immediately and so far everyone has pulled out of there with a faraway smile and maybe a little chocolate on their lips.

In a busy world, The Bistro Box is the perfect oasis of milkshakes (made with local ice cream) and memories. Get out of your car, stay and enjoy an impromptu picnic. No T.V., no iPhone, just you, your honey, and some damn fine food.

The Bistro Box
Rt. 7—937 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 717-5958
Monday and Tuesday 11 a.m. - 4p.m.
& Thursday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m.—4 p.m., Closed Wednesdays.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/24/15 at 09:51 PM • Permalink

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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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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/23/15 at 02:46 PM • Permalink

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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.

Savory Delicatessen
347 Warren Street Hudson, NY
(Check website for event dates elsewhere.)
(845) 430-2588
Hours: Thursday - Sunday, Noon - 7 p.m.

347 Warren Street Hudson, NY
(Check website for event dates elsewhere.)
Hours: Weekends; check schedule.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 05/11/15 at 12:45 PM • Permalink

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What’s On Tap? Oils And Vinegars At Hudson’s Savor the Taste

stt1By 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.

stt2“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.

stt3Flavors 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.

stt4And 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.

stt5“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
(845) 416-8209
527 Warren Street
Hudson, NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 04/27/15 at 11:46 AM • Permalink