No Yawns at Yianni’s in Chatham
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
There are just some times when a restaurant brings out emotions that a mere dining experience shouldn’t necessarily bring forth. Edgar and I felt all sorts of things during — and after — dining at Lippera’s, located in a rather grand complex carved out of a once dilapidated and then quite nicely restored former hotel called the Chatham House in, you guessed it, Chatham. It’s a spot that created great expectations. Frankly, I’ve always found that grand spaces such as these, whether commercial or domestic, pose a serious probem (my own tends toward the cozily chic, half Bunny Williams, half Judendstil, with a tad of midcentury modern thrown in); people always expect something wonderful to happen in them, and heaven help you if you don’t provide. Meeting those expectations is a tall order and seemed to be the goal of Lippera’s, now closed after the sad passing of the owner, but also sad to say, the food itself did not always rise to the heights of the main dining room’s ceilings.
So Edgar and I would often feel a tad dispirited after dining there. The building looked so nice, the space had so much potential, and Chatham could use as many good places to eat as possible. But now, in comes Yianni’s Restaurant, just opened this month in the same location but newly reconfigured with a large centralized bar for drinks and sushi. Owned by Peter Stefanopoulos of the Four Brothers family (which also includes George, Christo, William) and fashioned after their fine Boathouse Restaurant in Lakeville, the admittedly impressive-looking spot is now serving, both for lunch and dinner, something worth climbing the rafters for. The answer to making these fine historic rooms come to life, it turns out, is being a little fresh, sassy, and culinarily all mixed up. But in a good way.
Contrary to whatever impression you might have gained when driving past one of their chain of mega restaurant/pizzerias spread throughout the region, The Four Brothers are also true cognoscenti about food, known for their delicious imported bottled olive oil from their own groves in Greece. They also use and sell their own salad dressings, goat cheese, yogurt, lamb, beef, and vegetables from (their own) Hudson Valley farm — using other locally grown veggies as well for the restaurants. This lends itself to a mix of influences that come together in a refreshingly spunky and tasty way at Yianni’s. There’s no hint of the chain restaurant here.
As it was in its former incarnation, one can choose to sit in the large elegant main dining room with tall brick walls, windows, and balconies reaching up to the 3rd floor, or in the more intimate tavern side of the bar. But this time, an extensive menu plus nightly specials showcase a great deal of variety and dextrous cooking experience, with seafood playing a star role. There’s an American/fine Greek/Japanese air to it all (talk about fusion!), with an abundance of choices from appetizer specialties such as escargot ($9) and Maryland crab cakes ($12) to a variety of seafood, NY strip steak, roasted duck or rack of lamb ($22-$32) in the main course section. Pastas include cioppino ($30) and shrimp and scallop risotto ($28), and, a rarity for the area, a raw bar (with oysters, clambs, shrimp, and a wonderful lump-crab cocktail, from $12-$20). Large salads are offered with various meat options. I chose the sushi; spicy tuna and Housatonic rolls (smoked fresh salmon, roe, and cream cheese; $8 each), which were fresh and delicious. Edgar, once again, opted for the burger, which comes with excellent steak fries ($12). Prosecco is on the wine list along with an excellent organic wine from Estate Brintzkiki, imported from Greece and distributed by a local Chatham resident, Greco Trading. There are many desserts to choose from, including cheese cake and an old-fashioned root beer float. The new waitstaff is still in training but seasoned members from the Boat House are there to oversee, and service ran smoothly throughout the meal.
This time, when Edgar and I got back in our car to drive home, both of us had smiles on our faces — and no mixed feelings in our minds or stomachs.
29 Hudson Avenue (Rt. 66)
Chatham, NY 12037
Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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Out of the Blue and Into the Mouth of The Red Lion
Jane, an old anthropologist friend who has been living overseas for many years, suddenly announced she was coming on a visit to the Berkshires and wanted to take a day to revisit a number of her favorite places here. “Could we get together for lunch?” she asked. Expecting her to want to go to some terribly exotic new place, she surprises me by adding, “I want to go back to The Red Lion. I hear that the chef is a locavore.” You’d have thought that after spending time in the wilds of Madagascar and the rain forests of Brazil, Jane might have preferred something other than was caught in the jungle the night before. But, I guess, we both have always liked fresh things.
And so I found myself sitting down in the more intimate and relaxed Widow Bingham’s Tavern, a space that adjoins the Red Lion’s main dining room but is more cozy and informal. The ceiling is low and the tables smaller, but it makes for a chance to chat quietly, just what we needed to do after not seeing each other for so many years. Jane had many Margraret Mead-like tales of cavorting with the Yananami and adventures in places you or I wouldn’t be caught dead in, while I just talked about Edgar and, of course, the blossoming food scene in the region.
I tend to enjoy a light lunch, but Jane is a big eater, and I knew from past experience that the extensive lunch menu would allow us both to do well. Moments later Kathy, our waitress, bustled over with water and a list of specials. I knew Jane would be pleased that they had hearty specials such as spaghetti and meatballs or the irresistible-sounding pizza with roasted yellow and red tomatoes, olives, and white sauce ((daily specials are priced between $10 and $22). Tentatively I say that I would like to take some time to review the long menu, while at the same time Jane states — quite firmly — that she knows what she wants.
Turning to Kathy she asks if the chicken pot pie ($17) is still on the menu, and if it was good as it was the last time she had it ten years ago. Now, my friend can be quite formidable, especially when dealing with lunch, but Kathy looked her squarely in the eye and, without missing a beat, said that it was as good as it had ever been. Whilst Jane was having her tête-à-tête with Kathy I had had a chance to pick one of my old time favorites for lunch: half a turkey sandwich and a cup of the vegan tomato soup ($12.00). Within minutes Bob, the ever efficient bartender, came over with our glasses of red wine.
My soup came, fresh and zesty with a sprinkle of herbs on top. My sandwich came on a large bed of fresh salad and the slices of turkey and stuffing were thick, moist, and full of flavor. One lovely touch was the smidgen of mayonnaise and cranberry sauce on the bread. Not too much or too little.
Now to the chicken pot pie, which comes in a bowl with a very light puff pastry on top. Kathy offered to help serve it and delicately placed the pastry down on a plate, covering it with thick chunks of chicken and vegetables. (The recipe is on the Red Lion web site). “Excellent,” Jane murmured, finally quieted.
Well, suffice it to say, that executive chef Brian J. Alberg really knows his stuff. The restaurants and bars at the Red Lion have not just kept their old standards up but have seen substantial improvements under his leadership. The ingredients are local and top quality. This is not so much a case of upholding strong traditions but building on them, setting high standards to which future generations will have to aspire. An hour later we had caught up with our news and started to think about more pressing matters: dessert, for instance. The choices were a lemon tart or Indian pudding ($9.00 each). But this was overkill for Jane, who was more than satiated and ready to go and run off to do more exploring. “Let’s see what they have done to the Norman Rockwell Museum!” —Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson(0) Comments
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The Greens Restaurant at Copake Country Club
I’m not a golfer myself but happen to be particularly fond of that breed of sportsperson. (For example, husband Edgar, dear man, is one.) At the very least, they certainly know how and where to dine. Take The Greens restaurant at the Copake Country Club for example. It is always a good sign (and quite a relief), when walking into a new dining place for the first time, to see someone you know and have them rush over to give you a big welcome, immediately singing the praises of the food.
There is no disguising the fact that The Greens is part of a golf club. This turns out to be a tremendous strength, atmospherically speaking: The restaurant is packed with a mix of golfers and families enjoying the quite extensive menu selections, and the bar is buzzing with linksmen discussing their last round (on the course, of course), keeping the barman on the move mixing and serving. In warmer weather, just around the corner we hope, the restaurant has a terrace that overlooks the golf course and Copake Lake; one can only imagine the gorgeous experience that will be when it opens. In the main restaurant, things are a bit more formal. At the center of the room is a wonderful free-standing, Swedish style fireplace that spreads its glow throughout the room. The chandeliers are made from deer antlers, and one side of the room is dominated by a handsome floor-to-ceiling wine rack, on its very own an impressive display. The staff are welcoming and bustle about efficiently.
The first thing my companion and I ponder over (Edgar is away for the weekend) is the wine list, a solid selection at great prices; $28 for a bottle of very nice chardonnay, for example, with similar prices for the reds. The bread arrives, an excellent crusty sourdough, and, joy of joys, the olive oil is already on the table — no need to ask.
Now to the menu. The shrimp and scallion tempura starter sounds delicious ($15), but we want to leave room for dessert and decide on the Equinox Farm baby greens with blue cheese phyllo turnovers ($11, pictured above) and the Equinox Farm baby arugula salad ($10) instead. My blue cheese phyllo is just excellent, full of rich and creamy melted cheese.
We had arrived a bit late and missed out on the swordfish special so chose instead the pan-roasted cod ($24, at left) and the unusual sounding “organic cumin and chili-roasted chicken” ($23) from the regular menu. The chicken is lightly spiced, tender and moist. The cod is a heady mix of flavors, a plate filled with red Himalayan rice, cipollini onions, spinach, and micro greens with a tomato caper vinaigrette. By now we are really relaxed and even though people are beginning to leave, the chatting and laughter from the bar next door makes us feel we are part of “the collective.” The service never waivers — keeping its eyes on us for whatever we might need.
Contrary to what we might have expected, portion sizes were more than generous, and we decide to skip dessert. We ask for our check, which turns out to be surprisingly reasonable, pack up the remnants of a bottle of unfinished wine, and make our way home. “Well,” I say to my partner in crime, “it looks as if we have found another great place for dinner.” — Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
The Greens Restaurant
Copake Country Club
44 Golf Course Road
Copake Lake, NY 12521
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Gallic Goings On: The Newly Reopened Café Adam and Chez Nous
I haven’t been to Paris this spring and, what with husband Edgar always going off on business trips and my increasingly busy schedule as a freelance journalist and fundraiser, it doesn’t look as if we will be able to any time soon. All the more reason I’m pleased to be able to get our fix of French nearby, which we usually do at two of the region’s best local restaurants—places that have been noticeably absent the last few months due to either refurbishment or relocation to bigger and better premises across the “rue.”
Through the handiwork of chef/owner Adam Zieminski, Café Adam has long been a Great Barrington staple for French and Continental style dining. It’s always been one of my favorites, with a reliably Gallic menu of items such as Parisian-style hangar steak and fresh seafood bouillabaisse. Edgar particularly likes the “Burger à la Française,” Northeast Family Farms pasture-raised beef served with Gruyère, homemade fries, and garlic aioli, on a Berkshire Mt. Bakery bun, while I myself always look forward to inventive specials such as grilled sea perch with hummus fritters. Until this week, Café Adam had been located on Route 7 between Hammertown and The Meat Market. In the past, the L-shaped room could be a bit, shall we say, “cozy” on a busy night. But this is no longer a concern now that they’ve moved across Rte. 7 to an elegant and beautifully decorated space in the Jennifer Commons complex. The new space is relaxingly roomy and far less crammed when crowded, which it often is. Another addition, which is really going to make a difference, is the spacious and relaxing bar area, likely to become a destination in its own right. (Above.)
This is all good news. But has it affected the food and service? As always, we were greeted by Sylwia Orczykowska, Adam’s wife, and although we saw some new faces amongst the staff, much of the old team was there working as hard as ever. A large portion of the menu is new, but has been built on their tried and true staples. (My only disappointment was the absence of artisanal sausage, one of my consistent favorites over the years.) We tried the light and moist black cod, which came with a sauce that had a subtle hint of lemon. The chicken breast was stuffed with a delicate mix of herbs and came with a mix of fresh al dente peas and vegetables.
Meanwhile, just ten miles up the road in Lee, Chez Nous Bistro has taken advantage of its traditional winter break to refurbish and rebuild its bar area. Before the renovation, it was very traditional and had room for only three small tables. Now the room is more open and the wood paneling lighter. The bar itself is lower and more inviting. This is a great place to have a drink while waiting for friends to join you for dinner or even to take a relaxing and less formal meal.
Owned by two chefs, Franck Tessier and Rachel Portnoy, Chez Nous may be located in Lee but once inside definitely has enough of a Francophile vibe to feel transporting. This chilly week, I particularly enjoyed their cassoulet with crispy duck leg and the braised lamb prepared “Basque” style—dishes I certainly would never have the time and patience to prepare at home. And save room for dessert: Portnoy, a pastry chef who learned her profession in London and at “The Point” up on Saranac Lake, NY, offers goodies such as French almond macaroon strawberry shortcake with macerated fresh berries and lemon curd cream, and a warm apple and raspberry crumble with vanilla gelato. I dare you to resist.
All in all, with both of these refurbished and renewed dining spots, I am now able to put Paris out of my mind and look forward to summer, chez ici. —Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
420 Stockbridge Rd Ste 3
Great Barrington MA, 01230
150 Main St.
Lee, MA 01238
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A Culinary Exchange Between the Berkshires & Hudson Valley
On Sundays and Mondays when his restaurant is dark, Bjorn Somlo (near left), the celebrated chef/owner of Nudel in Lenox, hits the road to see what’s cooking in neighboring towns and counties. He’s become friends with many competitors and a champion of contemporary regional cuisine, which led him to dream up ChefX, a culinary exchange program in which a group of Berkshire chefs will cook for one night in Hudson (at The Crimson Sparrow on Sunday, April 7) followed by a group of Hudson chefs—including Benjamin Freemole and John McCarthy III (above left)— who will cook in Great Barrington (at Allium on Monday, April 29. ) “My staff and friends go to Hudson all the time, but the community at large does not follow our lead so we are trying to make it easy for people to broaden their horizons,” says Somlo. “I thought it would be great to share our clienteles and offer our customers special one-night-only food experiences.”
Somlo has micro-tested the concept by inviting other regional chefs to cook in his kitchen, introducing his patrons to the pleasures of different restaurants’ dishes. In January, Joel Viehland of Community Table in Washington, CT, prepared a special tasting menu one night at Nudel and DA|BA’s Daniel Nilsson created a “pop-up” version of his Hudson restaurant at Somlo’s establishment for a single winter’s evening. “For a long time, people acted as if Hudson and the Berskhires were different worlds,” says Somlo, who recently spent a night behind the stove at DA|BA to help celebrate Nilsson’s birthday. “I want to bridge that gap.”
For the Berkshires’ traveling team, Somlo recruited Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn, Jamie Paxton of The Meat Market (who will soon be cooking at David Wurth’s Cross Roads Food Shop), Stephen Browning of Bell & Anchor and cheesemonger Matt Rubiner. The Hudson Valley chefs who will be cooking in Great Barrington on April 29 include Benjamin Freemole and John McCarthy III from The Crimson Sparrow, Hugh Horner of Helsinki Hudson, Jon Spoto and Chip Chiappinelli of Grazin’ Diner, Jeff Gimmel of Swoon Kitchenbar, and Josephine Proul of Local 111.
Alberg, who lives and farms in Columbia County and works in the Berkshires, believes that collaboration is a necessity in a rural area that is trying to establish itself as a farm-to-table food destination. “One of the things that I feel sets us apart from other regions is that we look past our individual goals and and focus more importantly on community goals,” he says. “It helps us accomplish our personal goals by strengthening our culinary stance in the region and beyond.”
Somlo, who is 33, notes that a younger generation of chefs and restaurateurs understand the importance of working together to develop a local food culture that is both environmentally and economically sound. “I am always encouraging my clientele to try other restaurants,” he says. “I firmly believe that if the guests have a good night out—whether it’s at Nudel or Bell & Anchor or Crimson Sparrow—they will go out more often. I believe in the rising tide.”
Jamie Paxton, who has worked in both the Berkshires and Hudson Valley, agrees. “I think there’s opportunity to expand and merge our customer bases, offering more options and variety to the people of the Berkshires and Hudson Valley, providing a larger market for the businesses in these two regions, helping to sustain and grow local farm and food businesses,” says Paxton, who will be making confit rabbit (from Wannabea Farm in southern Vermont) with local lettuces (from the greenhouses at the Berry Patch in Stephentown, NY) for the April 7 dinner. “We face similar challenges of running businesses within areas with limited populations with great seasonal fluctuations, which offers us the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and solutions to these challenges.”
Somlo hopes that diners will respond as enthusiastically to the concept as the participating chefs and discover a newfound appreciation for the region’s culinary creativity and, perhaps, a willingness to drive an extra 20 or 30 minutes for an interesting meal in the future. “We designed ChefX to give the guests an experience they cannot have elsewhere or exactly the same way ever again,” he says. “It was designed so everyone involved comes out a winner.”— Dan Shaw
$100 per person, not including tax, tip and beverages.(0) Comments
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Where to Dine on Easter Sunday
How do we feel about Easter brunch or dinner in a restaurant? Well, it depends on the restaurant. The holiday calls for someplace with a sense of occasion, someplace pretty or festive that is serving spring lamb or ham. More than a few restaurants in our region fit the bill (such as the Red Lion Inn, left), and they were were still taking Easter reservations when we checked in with them this week. Easter is one of the last holidays where most stores don’t open, so it’s a wonderful day to take a drive and enjoy a leisurely meal that someone else has prepared. If you’re looking for another type of dining experience on Easter, check our Restaurant Listings (which are based on anonymous visits by the staff of Rural Intelligence, which does not accept free meals.)
Castle Street Cafe
Great Barrington, MA
After twenty years in the Berkshires, chef Michael Ballon knows how to serve up holiday meals with flair but no pretension. His family-friendly restaurant will be featuring a $33.00 prix fixe menu for adults and a $12.50 menu for children under 12. Noon - 6 p.m.
As you drive through horse country on your way to this traditional country restaurant, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the days when Bing Crosby’s “Easter Parade” was a pop song. The $39.95 buffet (half price for children under 10; under 2 free) includes eggs to smoked salmon, roast beef, vanilla French toast, assorted desserts, and more. 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
The grand old resort will be serving a lavish buffet brunch (including a waffle station, an omelette station, chef-attended pasta station, and a carving station with ham and loin of beef) in the mansion ballroom from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Adults: $45; children under 12: $24.95.
The Dream Away Lodge
The former bordello boasts an ecumenical life (and table) that mixes traditional fare – ham and lamb – spiced with international influences (think couscous and Greek yogurt) and rounds it all off with chef Amy’s amazing desserts.
Reservations: (413) 623-8725
The Greens at the Club
This home-away-from-home offers up brunch and dinner every Sunday, and has added a special menu to each in honor of Easter. Enjoy potato pancakes, braised cabbage, Scottish salmon, and, of course, the traditional lamb leg and local, roasted ham.
John Andrews has long been known as a restaurant that sources as much as possible from local growers and purveyors. Chef Dan Smith will be serving his always delectable regular menu on Easter from 5 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Reservations: 413 528-3469
Mezze Bistro + Bar
The weekly “comfort Sunday” menu ($20 for two courses and $25 for three courses) featuring dishes such as Mighty Food Farm eggs with ramp greens and East Mountain Farm bacon lardon and bacon brioche toast, will be served from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
The Old Inn on the Green
New Marlborough, MA
With intimate dining rooms illuminated only by candlelight, the Old Inn has a romantic Masterpiece Theatre ambiance. Thankfully, chef/owner Peter Platt serves audacious contemporary food, but in deference to tradition his Easter menu will include leg of lamb and smoked ham. Dinner: 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. $45.
South Egremont, MA
The Old Mill treats its customers like extended family, and the handsome dining room is homey in an elegant way. If you are putting together a group that includes friends from the Berkshires, Connecticut, and Columbia County, it’s perfectly situated for everyone, and on Easter Sunday you can dine early or late, from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
You can have anything you want—from challah French toast to roasted lamb—at this luxe locavore spot in a pastorale setting. Easter brunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Red Lion Inn
You certainly wouldn’t feel out of place wearing a flowery Easter bonnet in the landmark hotel’s Victorian dining room, while gorging on a four-course meal that might start with chilled asparagus-and-king-crab soup and end with lemon pound cake with strawberries & fresh cream
Noon - 4 p.m. Adults: $55; children under 12: $27.50. The regular dinner menu will be served from 5:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. There is a $109 room rate for anyone having Easter dinner or dining that evening.
If it’s warm on Sunday, you can have brunch between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the Riverside Patio at this hotel overlooking the Hudson River. The Easter Brunch buffet features carved beef, French toast, quiche, and a grand dessert table. There will even be an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids and live music by The Bernstein Bard Trio. $35 for adults; $16.95 for children ages 6 to 12.
Route 7 Grill
Great Barrington, MA
If you and your kids are not shirts-tucked-in and tablecloth kind of people, then Route 7 Grill is more a down-on-the-farm way to spend Easter Sunday. With its emphasis on locally raised food, this upscale BBQ joint is offering (in addition to its regular menu) a special three-course menu ($25 to $35) by executive chef Chris Pratt. 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Chef Serge Madikian will be serving his usual exotic fare such as katafi crusted halibut and chicken bastillia with orange-curry emulsion from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. on Easter Sunday.
The historic tavern will be serving locally sourced deviled eggs with jalapeno, honey-pineapple glazed baked ham, homemade desserts, and more in its warm, rich ambiance. Surprise menu additions and revisions possible. They will be serving from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Pine Plains, NY
The only time I ever had Easter lunch in a restaurant was at Provence, the pioneering bistro in SoHo, which was owned by Michel and Patricia Jean, who own Stissing House in Pine Plains. Everything tasted like the essence of spring in the French countryside, and it is sure to taste that way this Sunday. They will be serving their regular menu from 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. and several seasonal specials.
It always feels like spring at Swoon, which be open from noon until 9 p.m. on Easter, serving its regular dinner menu the entire day as well as brunch specials from noon until 3:30 p.m.
What could be more appropriate for Easter than dining in a renovated 1825 church? Chef/owner Josh Kroner plans to serve his usual multi-culti fare—such as barbecued duck quesadillas and pork tenderloin with Thai coconut-orange curry—and Easter specials beneath the soaring ceilings of the former First Baptist Church [left]. Dinner: 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.
West Stockbridge, MA
Touted as the “Taste of Germany” in the Berkshires, this historic, plank floor inn offers a savory array of luncheon treats, from warm shallot marmalade to leg of lamb with rosemary-sweet garlic jus (and, of course, apple strudel!). Serving luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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Via Route 9: A Passage to India
It’s an incongruous, eye-catching sight — a ranch house painted gold and orange along Route 9, just south of Rhinebeck. This exterior is the first of many warming surprises people will notice when they stop to encounter what lies inside the fragrant Cinnamon, Dutchess County’s new South Indian restaurant.
It was only a year and a half ago when Shiwanti and Chaminda Widyarathna first opened their restaurant (Chaminda is the chef, Shiwanti the fashionable mood provider). The young couple first came to Rhinebeck from Sri Lanka, the island we once called Ceylon, located off the southern tip of India proper. This explains why their menu offers a generous serving of South Indian specialties, including several from both Kerala and Goa. Genuine South Indian food is rarely encountered in restaurants of our region — dishes like Lamb Ularthiyathu, simmered in a spicy coconut milk sauce typical of the southern state of Kerala, and the lovely okra based Bandakka Beduma, stir fried with fresh spices typical of Ceylon. Not surprisingly for island inhabitants, Sri Lankans are experts with seafood; this is evident in the many delicious presentations offered here. Three different curries feature halibut — the Chef’s Special Fish Curry ($18.25) is a particularly fine one, redolent with tamarind juice and green chili. There is also sea bass and oodles of shrimp; five different shrimp dishes are listed on the current menu.
That is not to say that the kitchen neglects the North Indian specialties American diners have come to expect. Cinnamon offers eight different tandoori possibilities, ranging from New Zealand lamb chops to sea bass. The Uttar Kakori Kebab ($18.50) is a delicious kebab of ground lamb and spices grilled in the tandoor. A range of Indian bread ($3.50-$3.95) arrives piping hot from the kitchen — puri, paratha, many types of delicious nan, as well as chapati, the large, whole wheat flatbread that is a staple across the entire subcontinent of India. Appetizers range from a South Indian take on calamari ($9.00)— exceptionally good and unusually spicy with peppers and onions — to the wonderful veggie Samosa Chat ($6.95), a salad of samosa pieces and chick peas dressed in a scrumptious yogurt dressing. Not to be missed is the Lasuni Gobi ($7.00), a semi-miraculous transformation of cauliflower that has delighted every guest I’ve shared it with.
Vegetarians have many options, either as main courses — Wambatu Moju, an unusual and delicious Sri Lankan eggplant dish made with whole baby eggplant — or among the numerous appetizers and soups. For carnivores, the various lamb curries ($17.00) are highly recommended. These can range from quite hot to not at all; just express your preference. A lunch buffet is served throughout the week, with a special buffet on Sunday nights. Offerings often include seafood and multiple vegetarian options.
Quite apart from wonderful flavors, fragrances, and freshness of ingredients, artful visual presentation characterizes every dish at Cinnamon, and clearly matters to the kitchen. Out front, the service is uniformly thoughtful and professional. Shiwanti’s background in fashion is evident in sophisticated details of the charming dining room. Unique orange fixtures cast a soft pool of light over each table, and interesting art hangs on walls of saturated color, creating a warm cozy ambiance, even when it’s cold outside.
For those partial to Indian desserts, there is Gulab Jaman, the classic over-the-top rich and sweet dumplings in sweet cardamom syrup, and a very good Garam (carrot) Halwa — popular even with my husband, who would otherwise stick to the Madras (spiced) coffee. Also excellent are Kulfis (Indian sorbet), mango ice cream and rice pudding (all between $3 and $5).
When asked what surprised her most about opening a restaurant here, Shiwanti mentioned that everyone had warned them against their current location. By the end of their first year, however, Cinnamon had gained a loyal following — no surprise for those who have experienced this happy addition to the area’s dining landscape. —Alice McGowan
Cinnamon Indian Cuisine
5856, Route 9
Open Wednesday through Monday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays
Dinner: 5 p.m to 9 p.m.; 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
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Raise Your Forks: It’s Hudson Valley Restaurant Week(s)
If — in deference to budgetary discipline or stormy conditions — you’ve foregone dining out this winter, get ready to pull on your Wellies and head out: Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2013 is here!
Actually, HVRW lasts a fortnight—from March 11 to 24—and includes 185 participating restaurants in seven New York counties, including Dutchess, Columbia, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Ulster. On offer: $20.95 three-course prix fixe lunches and $29.95 three-course dinners (excluding tax, tip, and beverages).
Participants include RI-reviewed or featured restaurants, like The Greens at Copake Country Club, Stissing House, La Puerta Azul, Crave, Artist’s Palate, and Cafe Le Perche. It’s a gentle splurge to enjoy local bounty, such as Terrapin’s Hudson Valley Cattle Company sirloin steak and The Greens’ Split Pea Soup with Willow Brook Farm Kielbasa.
Now in its seventh year, “Hudson Valley Restaurant Week has established itself as an annual tradition that everyone anticipates—in a good way,” says Janet Crawshaw, publisher of The Valley Table Magazine and a founder of the event.
The idea for HVRW came to Crawshaw in 2005 during New York City’s Restaurant Week. She was dining in midtown Manhattan at Beacon, owned by chef and restaurateur Waldy Malouf, whose menu has always highlighted Hudson Valley growers and producers. Suddenly, Crawshaw had a brainstorm: Why not promote the Hudson Valley dining experience, where many restaurants are that much closer to local food sources?
Between getting restaurants, sponsors, and local tourism on board, the event took a year to launch. “Doing Restaurant Week for a region is a much different proposition than for a single city,” explains Crawshaw. The first HVRW took place in November 2006 with 70 participating restaurants across seven counties. Since then, the number of participating restaurants has more than doubled and some report that the annual event results in a 30-50% increase in their business.
For Hudson Valley-based chefs, like Josh Kroner of Terrapin, HVRW is a harbinger of spring. “In our business, winter is a hard, often bleak, season—if a restaurant is going to close, it will be during the winter.” HVRW, he notes, helps restaurants transition from a slow period to a busier season. “HVRW creates excitement and enthusiasm for restaurants in the region—it attracts city people upstate, and locals love the special deals that give them a chance to try different things,” says Kroner, who has participated in HVRW five years running.
The exposure that the event gives restaurants, such as Stissing House, located in Pine Plains in Eastern Dutchess County, is well worth the marketing investment, says Patricia Jean, who co-owns the restaurant with her chef-husband Michel Jean. “The HVRW buzz puts us on the go-to restaurant dining radar,” she says.
After gaining new customers from HVRW over the years, The Greens at Copake Country Club is participating again this month. Executive chef Glenn Strickling sees HVRW as an opportunity to strut his culinary stuff. “We’re not serving up just basic ‘country club’ fare—and we want people to know this,” he says. Their commitment to area producers translates into a sophisticated local-leaning menu with dishes such as Herondale Farm beef carpaccio with fried capers and Equinox Farm Baby Arugula with shaved Parmesan and white truffle oil.
Participating chefs, especially in the upper Hudson Valley, face challenges. One is creating a menu that highlights local ingredients—but at a reasonable cost. Logistics, as in the case of The Greens, are another. “We’re as far north as you’re going to get—and we’re one of only two participants in Columbia County!” says Strickling. (The other being Cafe Le Perche in Hudson.)
Patricia Jean agrees: “We don’t see the same volume of traffic that the lower Hudson Valley does.” What makes the event worthwhile for Stissing House, however, is being discovered by “new customers with a real interest in food.” And for their regular customers, she says: “the value-driven menus are our way of rewarding them for their patronage.” —Kathryn Matthews(0) Comments
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Four Hot Tamales: Women Who Belong in the Kitchen
Daire Rooney, executive chef of Allium Restaurant + Bar, is a New Englander plain and simple. She doesn’t identify with a specific state, born in Vermont and raised all around the region. “This is where I belong. I’ve built strong relationships with farmers, chefs, and the community here.” Chef Rooney has cooking in her blood; her mother was a chef and her Swiss grandfather was a restaurateur. “I just couldn’t stay out of the kitchen. I got my first real restaurant job when I was twelve and I worked my way up from there. I have a pretty calm sentiment. I’m not one of those yelling egotistical man-chefs.” That centered sense has propelled Rooney to some of the best positions in the region, from personal chef to Meryl Streep and her family to executive chef at the now defunct, but much-raved De La Vergne Restaurant, and Pittsfield’s beloved Brix Wine Bar. She’s no stranger to the Mezze Restaurant Group, having been their catering chef for Mezze Catering + Events in the high season.
Rooney is just a few months into her new gig. and she’s fine tuning the menu with a wink towards small plates selections, always with seasonal ingredients, and a series of burger options including short ribs ($13) and brisket burgers ($12), accompanied by bacon jam from local pork belly. “Food is always changing. It takes a lot to keep up to date on what’s trendy and what’s new. I’ll always enjoy gastro-pub style food. Farm-to-table is really the way it always should have been, how it should be. They don’t call it that in Europe. It’s just how they do it. I expect people to treat all food with respect and don’t take short cuts. Also, to create great relationships with your farmers and food purveyors and really put love in it.”
In March she’ll be heading to New York City, returning to the James Beard house as part of The Berkshire Cure-All. She’s participated in dinners there in the past as well as teaching cooking classes for the Railroad Street Youth Project and Different Drummer’s Kitchen.
To hear Josephine Proul of Local 111 tell it, she is compelled to be in the kitchen. “I started cooking almost thirteen years ago,” says the twenty-seven-year-old executive chef at the uber locavore restaurant, located in the rough-around-the-edges village of Philmont. “It was meant to be for me. I don’t think I can think of anything else in the world I would be if I wasn’t a chef.”
As you’d expect from the restaurant’s name, Proul is all about local. She combs winter and summer farmers markets in the morning and cooks up her bounty that same night. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute prior to quickly working her way up the ranks at Local 111, Proul put her time in at a classic French charcuterie in Seattle and summers in the Hamptons, working some 500 covers a night. “I bust my ass so hard to be at this level. Sometimes I think men can almost just walk right into it. It’s hard, but I am headstrong and ambitious.”
“We make the bread, we make the pasta, the ice cream, we make it all in house, so when you come here you are coming here for our food, not parts of someone else’s,” she says. “It’s not just about the food and the product, it’s about sustainability and providing jobs in a small economy. I feel like we are off the beaten path, so that just makes us work harder.” Besides the chef hat, Proul wears a few others in the repurposed space, a sophisticated twist on a former two-bay service station. She’s the sommelier, frequently asked by staff and patrons about wine parings and thoughts on local wine — about half their list includes local vineyards. She also runs the front and the back of the house, and sometimes dishwashes and busses. “I only have two people in my kitchen, me and my sous chef Michele. We do everything from dishes to cooking. We’re pretty badass.”
Austin, Texas, born and bred Jori Jayne Emde first saw the world of professional cooking as an escape. “My mom pushed me to go to culinary school,” she remembers. “I went in almost as an act of desperation. But I totally fell in love with it; I felt I had found my niche.” As an adult looking for work in New York City, Emde quickly fell in with a good crowd: Her first gig was at Mario Batali’s Lupa, where she was the ﬁrst female to ever work the pasta station (the first in any of his restaurants). This was followed by a stint at Esca and then Fatty Crab, which is where she met her now-husband, Zak Pelaccio — “on the line.”
Emde is Rosie the Riveter strong, able to get in the culinary trenches and work on a pig for a roast without batting an eyelash. The goal is to “Work with a whole animal and break it down and cook it and spend time with it, but not breaking it down to the point where it’s just a little molecule. I’m definitely someone who focuses on simplicity, and although I can totally appreciate these modern techniques with food, I have a hard time relating to them. I give in to just a great bowl of pasta with a perfect ragu.”
Recently, the much-anticipated spring opening of Fish and Game in Hudson has kept Emde on the regional radar. An avid gardener, fermenter, and aspiring local medicine woman, she planted a garden for Fish and Game’s use, and assisted in writing of a cookbook, Eat With Your Hands, with Pelaccio.
When she was still in the city, Emde spent her days off on the Pelaccios’ family farm in Columbia County, and graduated to full-time farm life last December. “Zak and I live on a 30-acre family farm. We’ve had a garden for five seasons, and we are working on getting set up with bees, chickens, and dairy cows, and eventually we’ll have sheep as well. For me, it’s about spending time with the product you’re working with, and farming. I don’t try to overproduce to prove a point. I just try to make really great food.”
“I love the stress and the heat of the kitchen,” says Rachel Hunt, the new executive chef at Italian hotspot Fiori in Great Barrington. “I decided when I was twelve years old that I wanted to own a restaurant. Later, I went over to Paris with my mother and we just ate our way through. It was amazing to walk through the kitchens and watch everyone cook. They used such fresh simple ingredients.
“I think you have to be strong and tempered to handle a kitchen and a staff,” says Hunt, who is still feeling out her new post. She has enjoyed the proximity to the other Railroad Street hotspot Allium (they’re kitty corner) because “I appreciate the female collaboration, the sharing of information and ideas.” That’s come in handy; Hunt has had some close calls. “I was grilling a chicken in our wood-fire grill. I was down to the last chicken and someone moved my logs, and when I looked over my chicken was fully engulfed in flame. I literally ran across the street and ran into [chef Rooney’s] kitchen and ‘borrowed’ a chicken from her. I got it out to our customer in time. It’s nice to borrow a gallon of milk and to know that I have support right across the street.”
As of January, in her new position, Hunt will push out eight seasonal menus along with weekly specials. Not bad for someone who has little formal training, which is not to say she’s come by it easily. Hunt began as a dishwasher and watched what was happening around her. “When I was young, I worked with a chef in Saratoga, and he taught me everything I know. He took me from a crying teenager and trained me to be a good cook.” From there she attended the Culinary Institute of America, and took a long spell running the front of the house at the Red Devon Restaurant Market & Bar in Millbrook, NY.
Hunt loves what’s happening in food right now. “I love that everyone is butchering again, and sticking with the seasons. Ten years ago it was all about meat, and now people are appreciating vegetables again and cooking with them creatively.” — Dale Stewart
Allium Restaurant + Bar
42 Railroad Street
Great Barrington, MA
Dinner Thursday through Tuesday beginning at 5 p.m.
The bar is open on Wednesday evenings for cocktails.
111 Main Street
Dinner: Wednesday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 10a.m. to 2 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Fish and Game
13 South 3rd Street
Hudson, New York
47 Railroad Street
Great Barrington, MA
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Our Daily Bread (South): The Power & The Glory of Pastrami
Sometimes a sandwich is more than just a sandwich. Take the pastrami on rye at the new Our Daily Bread Bakery & Café in Chatham, NY (not to be confused with its elder, gluten-free, vegetarian sibling at the north end of town that confusingly goes by the very same name). Lean, deeply smoked, and peppery, it’s served warm with a pickle and slaw — pastrami in its Platonic form. One is tempted to ask: What’s a knockout like you doing in a town like this?
Not that there’s anything wrong with Chatham, with its charming commercial district filled with unsullied turn-of-the-last-century storefronts, including a propitiously sited flatiron building with a clock tower. Yet, despite this great infrastructure and several shops well worth traveling to, Chatham hasn’t become a big draw for vacationers and weekenders, the way Hudson, Rhinebeck, Great Barrington, and some others towns in the four-county region are. A once lively and raffish railroad town where the train has long since just passed through, Chatham seems perpetually on the brink of a renaissance. Yet, much to the satisfaction of some people, who like it as is, humble and unpretentious, the town remains stuck midway to tourist glory. For every promising new shop, business, or restaurant that opens, another shuts down.
For those stalwarts that do make it, at least among the restaurateurs, ambition seems to be in modest supply. (A notable exception is the Old Chatham Country Store & Café, but that’s in the countryside 15 minutes north of town.) Although one can stave off hunger, even have a good meal, in several of the local eateries, there’s little evidence of kitchen crews reaching for the stars, striving to make food that could be described as “memorable,” let alone “world class;” the sort of food, in short, worth going out of your way for. Until, that is, ODB’s pastrami swaggered into town.
All the more telling that it arrived as raw brisket. “You’re looking at the guy who brined it and smoked it,” says ODB’s owner Zvi Cohen, a Brooklyn-ite, transplanted to Chatham some thirty years ago, who took root and thrived, first as a school teacher, then as a wholesale baker, and finally as the owner of a burgeoning restaurant-and-baking empire that he now runs with the aid of his sons Gavriel, 30, and Yonatan, 29. The boys, along with their sister, Simona, 32, grew up here, attending Hawthorne Valley School K-12, where their mother Beatrice taught for many years. According to Zvi, his wife has donated all proceeds from that and other labors to his growing enterprise, most recently helping to purchase two French bread ovens, each dangling a price tag of more than $100 grand, as well as a Swiss oven for pastry, a contraption for boiling bagels, and assorted accoutrements, including the very baskets French bakers use. “She handed over every dime,” he says, mock ruefully.
If only our own investments were as promising. Cohen figures that about 80% of his baked goods leave town on a fleet of trucks destined for such tony outlets as Dean & DeLuca and the restaurant Jean Georges in New York City. The loaves and pastries that stay behind in Chatham supply the two Our Daily Bread bakeries and their adjacent breakfast and lunch cafés, as well as Destino Cocina Mexicana, the Cohen-owned bar and restaurant next door to the new café at the corner of Routes 66 and 203. Together, this once-dilapidated, now-cheerful yellow-and-white complex (designed by the New York architect Joel Merker, a specialist in restaurants, detail above with general manager Brian Kaywork), gives the intersection a much-needed lift.
The other uplifting enterprise at that same crossroad is St. John’s Lutheran Church. It is a well-known fact of American life that houses of worship and purveyors of alcoholic beverages (Destino has a full bar and the Café serves beer and wine) do not keep company. “The rule is they have to be 300 feet apart,” says Cohen. “I measured and it turned out to be 280 feet. So, with Father Gary’s blessing, I moved the church back 20 feet.” (Perhaps this suggests why, when other churches are failing, St. Thomas’s still does two SRO masses every Sunday morning. But that’s another story.)
What it certainly indicates is how thoroughly one outsider, a Yeshiva-educated Brooklyn boy with a funny first name, has ingratiated himself to a white-bread community. Now, thirty years hence, Cohen dares to introduce the town to classic Jewish deli fare — warm brisket, corned beef ($8.99), and pastrami ($9.99) sandwiches, a Reuben ($11.99), white fish salad sandwich (a special, $9.99) on a menu alongside Middle Eastern (Sabih, above right, $6.99) and all-American fare— a cheeseburger special made from locally sourced, grass-fed beef ($9.49). There’s even matzoh ball soup ($3.50 cup/$4.50 bowl). If the crowded dining room one recent Wednesday in February is any indication, the locals (who else would be around at a time like that?) are lapping it up. But the question remains: Will Zvi Cohen’s world-class pastrami, et al, serve as Chatham’s tipping point?
Eh? Couldn’t hurt. —Marilyn Bethany
Our Daily Bread Bakery & Café
54 Main Street, Chatham; 518.392.2233
Wednesday - Friday 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.