Swoon Kitchenbar: A Rapturous Experience in Hudson
Scallops crudePhoto credit: Nina Bachinsky Gimmel
Chanterelles summer squash risottoPhoto credit: Nina Bachinsky Gimmel
Summer vegetable terrinePhoto credit: Nina Bachinsky Gimmel
Beet crudoPhoto credit: Nina Bachinsky Gimmel
It was just above 15 degrees out when we came upon a silver sign with just the letter “S” hovering over foggy windows. Inside, the bar scene was a wooly one. Patrons ordered with urgency, throwing off their scarves, gloves and hats. It was a Friday night at Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, New York.
We paused briefly for a bit of champagne with St. Germaine and lemon to whet our appetite (Swoon offers full bar service). A bouquet of lilies greeted us with their scent en route to a small table with a white tablecloth and tiny lamp. The room was peaceful with only one other party, a family of five, dressed in formal attire.
We vacillated between cheeses from New York and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and the scallops crude (raw), then decided on both, enjoying them along with a crisp baguette with sweet, cold butter. When the family broke camp, the dining room filled up with Friday night regulars perusing the innovative menu.
In a radical departure from the appetizer-main course-dessert formula, three main categories allow for freedom of choice without having to resort to “side” dishes.
The menu changes daily, but on the night we visited we selected from the “grain” section of the menu spaghetti carbonara, with parmesan shavings and hints of salt and fat from the bacon, so very satisfying on a cold night. From the “vegetable” section, a lovely little broccoli rabe dish with thinly sliced garlic and red pepper flakes acted as foil to the richness of the pasta.
From the “fish/meat” section there was a Maine scallop crudo dish with chili oil, thinly sliced radish and tiny bits of smoked shiitake, a good preparation for a dessert of chocolate and ricotta crémeux and espresso.
At another visit, on Meatless Monday where three courses without meat or fish are offered for a set price including dessert, a simple radish included purple turnip top prepared with fresh mint and black olive. The second course was a perfect and filling braised endive dish followed by a pasta that took our breath away.
The Strozzapreti, Italian for “priest strangler,” is an ancient pasta from Italy of strands, long and dense as a shoelace and historically favored by enemies of the church. In this case, the pasta was bright green and curly, infused with basil, creating a brilliant flavor enhanced by shaved parmesan with a handful of hazelnuts for ballast. The only thing getting strangled was my wish to make the dish myself at home. For those interested in trying to reverse engineer the dishes of Swoon’s chef Jamie Parry, get ready for a challenge.
After cooking in New York during the heady days of Montrachet and Tribeca Grill, Parry brings seasonal food to a whole new level of nuance. A seemingly simple dish such as roasted endive has pickled apple, walnuts, mushrooms and apple-miso puree, as well as a foraged hen-of-the-woods mushroom that was either slightly pickled or sautéed in butter or fried in coconut oil, impossible to say, and brilliant.
Every day the menu at Swoon Kitchenbar reflects what Chef Parry is putting together from his larder and whatever has shown up from purveyors. A kitchen team of superheroes works with him to pickle, to smoke, and to create three housemade pastas for each menu.
Parry’s appreciation for working with farm fresh produce has made him hungry for more. A current wish list includes local winter greens, Belgian endive, salsify and a cute little orb of a squash from New Zealand called kamo kamo.
“So many roots!” said Parry in exasperation of winter’s limited offerings, but springtime is around the corner. We have Parry’s take on ramps, fava beans and morels to look forward to and, due to last summer’s rain, mushrooms are in great supply.
“We got a motherlode of morels, porcini, wild oysters, lion manes, even an explosion of chanterelles in my realtor’s backyard,” said owner Jeff Gimmel of the offerings brought to the restaurant by foragers.
Access to exotic local fare is one of the joys of living in the Hudson River Valley. To emulate Swoon’s fare at home, diners can purchase the restaurant’s sourdough loaf or French-style baguette right down the street. Last summer Swoon acquired the restaurant Le Perche, now serving three meals a day, in a renovated interior with a baked goods counter in front.
Jeff Gimmel and his wife, pastry chef Nina Bachinsky Gimmel, were among the trailblazers of Hudson’s culinary resurgence when they opened in 2004. Rural Intelligence’s first review called it, back in 2008: “Is there another restaurant in Columbia County as New Yorky (in a good way) as this smashing place?” We’re amending the “New Yorky” part. There’s now Hudson Valley style, and Swoon Kitchenbar led (and still leads) the way.
350 Warren St., Hudson, NY
Lunch: Sat. & Sun. 12-3:30 p.m.
Dinner: 5-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5-11 p.m.
Reservations by phone only: (518) 822-8938
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