I pull up a wooden bar stool. We order a
Garden of Eating
duck confit terrine with dried cherries,
a watercress salad with a locally made
BY LIZ JOHNSON iartisanal blue cheese, grilled leeks with
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVEN VOTE smoked tongue and local fingerling
potato chips, and t wo delicious entrees:
steak made from locally raised Angus
beef and duck with the first-of-the-
We drink a simple local red wine and
finish with a plate of cheese.
This wasn’t some fancy-pants
Manhattan-chic restaurant. Nor was it
a humble hillside café in Europe. I was
eating at S woon Kitchenbar, a neighborhood restaurant in the Hudson Valley
of upstate Ne w York.
to the Hudson
The owners—Jeffrey Gimmel and
Nina Bachinsky-Gimmel—make it a
point to use local, seasonal ingredients.
On the back of the menu you’ll find the
provenance of everything from the beef
(North Wind Farm in Tivoli) to the flow-
ers on the table (Artworks in Saugerties).
It’s almost a given these days that
chefs will cite their sources. But when
chef Peter X. Kelly opened his first Hud-
son Valley restaurant in 1983, the only
way he could get fresh local produce was
to buy it out of the back of a farmer’s sta-
“They used to drive down,” he says.
“They had apples, squashes, herbs. The
fishermen used to bring me shad roe.”
By cooking locally in season, Kelly
—who now owns four restaurants—
began to build his reputation as a Hudson Valley chef. He didn’t know it at
Valley is one of
food regions in
the time, but he was quietly playing a
role that would help give the region a
Today in the Hudson Valley, you’ll
find the most prestigious cooking
school in the country; a culinary and
agricultural policy center; nationally
celebrated artisanal cheese makers and
bread bakers; world-class distilleries
and wineries; organic farms that supply
produce and meat to the best restaurants in New York City; and some of the
best chefs in America.
And, more and more, there are
farmers markets, local wine shops and
neighborhood places like S woon bringing delicious food to everyone. Even
early food pioneers are making changes
to keep up with the new demand. The
Hudson Valley is no longer a region
known just for apples and antiques. It
has become a culinary destination.
A Long Time Coming
It hasn’t happened overnight. Farmers have been working the land since
before the American Revolution. Chefs
have been towing the natural-organic
line since its nascent days in the hippie
1960s. In the ’90s, boutique farms and
food artisans started setting up shop.
But think of a thermometer, and put
Manhattan at the bulb: The Hudson
Valley food scene is reaching its boiling
point. Some would say it’s bubbling over.
“I’m so glad that it’s finally percolated
up,” says Janet Crawshaw, the publisher
of The Valley Table, a magazine that features the food, farms and restaurants