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Rhinecliff Hotel & Restaurant (pssst…it’s open)

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In Rhinebeck, where she lives with her family, Jan Greenberg, author of Hudson Valley Harvest: A Food Lovers Guide to Farms, Restaurants and Open-Air Markets (Countryman Press), was strategically positioned to keep an eye on the venerable-but-gone-to-seed Rhinecliff Hotel as new owner James Chapman pushed it, inch-by-inch, toward re-opening.  A writer for Gastronomica, National Culinary Review, Hudson Valley Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and Food Arts (her story for that publication on the Hudson Valley won the Association of Food Journalists award for Best Food Feature in a Magazine), Jan was invited to one of the several pre-opening test tastings that Chapman held prior to letting the public through the door.  She also has been back since it officially opened.  Here is her report:

Rural Intelligence Road Trips
Perched on the east bank of the Hudson with sweeping river and mountain views, the 200-year-old Rhinecliff Hotel & Restaurant is finally open after a five-year, four-million-dollar plus restoration and renovation. The cozy bar and dining room and an expansive outdoor patio offer some of the Valley’s best river and sunset views. It’s an easy walk from the Amtrak station, accessible to non-drivers, and also an oasis for those waiting for the eternally late New York City bound trains.

Rural Intelligence Road Trips
In its heyday the Rhinecliff was a thriving railroad hotel and winter warm-up spot for ice fishermen and the Hudson Valley Ice Yacht Club. Later, it became a bar and venue for drop-in jazz and rock groups (including such notables as Pete Seeger and Miles Davis), before sinking into such disrepair that it was closed in 2003 because of numerous safety-code and fire violations.  New owner James Chapman restored the building using reclaimed wood and fixtures wherever possible. The original pine and hemlock floors have been refinished and the pressed tin ceilings are now free form sculptures over the beds in the nine riverfront rooms, each of which has a private terrace. Yet, despite its historic bona fides, Chapman has gone contemporary with the interior decor. The place feels spanking new, with large, modern rooms. There is central air conditioning, and each room has a flat screen tv and deep massage tub. Extra insulation insures that noise from the bar and restaurant won’t disturb guests in the upstairs rooms.

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It is the opening of the restaurant and bar, however, which has been most eagerly anticipated by locals and happily, it doesn’t disappoint. In what might be called the softest of soft openings, the restaurant currently only serves dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Sunday brunch will begin on September 29 and within the next month, Chapman plans to start serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Meanwhile though, chef Rei Perezza, who comes to the Rhinecliff via the Microsoft Conference Center, is serving bar snacks and entrees, sourcing ingredients from local producers. The Ploughman’s Board features Rural Intelligence Road Trips generous hunks of cheddar and Stilton, house cured pickles and vegetables and a smooth, rich pate. Richard Bryzinski’s Northwind Farms chicken, butterflied and quickly grilled, is served with tangy preserved lemons, roasted garlic and watercress. There are oysters, a small plate of duck confit accompanied by frisee, local apples and fingerling potatoes and bacon. The Rhinecliff wings are crispy frogs legs with a dipping side of parsley aioli, and the fish and chips are served in a paper bag to preserve heat and crispness. A hamburger ordered rare was rare—not overcooked—a sign that the kitchen pays attention.

Chapman and Perezza are still working on the wine list but reasonably priced and generously poured wines by the glass include a fine Don Olegario Albarino and a nicely balanced Avignonesei, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  —Jan Greenberg

Rhinecliff Hotel and Restaurant
4 Grinnell Street, Rhinecliff; 845.876.0590

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 09/19/08 at 04:46 AM • Permalink