By Don Rosendale
For decades, the rustic Mabbetsville Market on Route 44 outside of Millbrook, New York was where Millbrook residents enjoyed their morning coffee and flank steak takeout. I’d shared a table with the local farrier, a captain of industry and a guy scribbling notebook pages on what later turned out to be a best seller. Then five or six years back, it closed under murky circumstances. The only sign of life was an occasional paragraph in the local paper about the local planning board demand for improvements before it could reopen.
Job Yacubian and Emilie Sommerhoff in the kitchen of The Farmer's Wife — the Ancramdale location.
Then, September midweek, a sign, “The Farmer’s Wife”
sprouted, and when the doors opened on a Saturday with no advance notice, the tennis court-sized parking lot was overflowing onto the highway.
There’s no farmer’s wife here — just the farmer’s son-in-law — and the near-Millbrook location is a satellite of the successful café of the same name in Ancramdale, 20 miles up Route 82. The hand at the range is Job Yacubian, who with his wife. Emilie, runs the café.
Yacubian attended UMass Amherst aiming at a business career. He was lounging on the beach on Martha’s Vineyard when he received an emergency telephone call from a restaurant-owning friend. "He’d fired his entire staff and to get over there immediately,” Yacubian recalls. Though he’d never held a whisk before, he had immersion training as a restaurant chef. That led to his “staging” — he pronounces it with a hard “G” and explains it is French restaurant patois for interning at restaurants to see if they like you — in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud, David Bouley and Rocco DiSpirito in New York City.
And then, a decade ago, he packed his utensils and headed for Ancramdale, where four years earlier Emilie's stepmother Dorcas Sommerhoff had opened the original Farmer’s Wife. Romance blossomed over the carrot and ginger soup and Job and Emilie wed seven years later, eventually taking over the restaurant.
They spotted the vacant café in Mabbetsville in February but it took six months to navigate through the red tape minefield.
Gone is the rustic Cracker Barrel atmosphere of the old Mabbetsville Market, replaced by floor-to-ceiling white tiles, whitewashed walls and a sea of stainless cooking appliances. The one Yacubian is most proud of is a vertical rotisserie, which, he explains, allows him to grill two different meats at once without the juice from the upper dripping onto the one below.
While the Ancramdale café is renowned for its sophisticated soups and sandwiches, the Mabbetsville menu is even more sophisticated than that of the mother ship. On opening day, I savored porchetta, an Italian recipe of pork loin and herbs roasted in a pork belly, served with roasted leeks (under $10) — Boulud quality.
My next two visits were for breakfast and a newspaper. The blueberry muffin ($2.50) was ethereal, but the similarly priced almond croissant had too much croissant and not enough almost for me taste. I took some home, though, and was outvoted.
One of Yacubian’s specialties is Korean-style barbecued salmon (with fried brown rice, $13), a dish he learned from Asian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. He promised that the sauce would not be a cloyingly sweet BBQ sauce and it’s not. At first it has a hint of soy sauce and then a tingle sets in. The verdict: I ate every morsel.
Just as in Ancramdale, the produce is from local farms. The café’s squash, zucchini, beets and radishes are fresh from Rock Steady Farm in Millerton. A few steps outside the front door is the Tomato Shack, with picked-that-day produce from Longfield Farm in Amenia. Right now, it is proud of the 22 kinds of tomatoes it grows, with the county fair blue ribbons earned by them on display. Those tomatoes come fried with the Maine crab salad, ($13).
For now, the the latest the café is open is 6 p.m., but Yacubian thinks there is a market for a dinner menu of the kind of rustic-but-urbane cooking he offers. If we're lucky, those 24 tables will be filled in the evening.
The Farmer's Wife
3809 Route 44, Millbrook, NY
Open Sunday, Monday & Wednesday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.