in Cortlandt Manor. Eric Gabrynowicz,
a Hudson Valley native, recently moved
from sous chef at Union Square Cafe in
Manhattan to chef at Tavern in Garrison,
where he serves gutsy comfort food.
David Wurth, formerly chef de cuisine at
Savoy, a farm-to-table pioneer in Manhattan, now cooks simple, rustic dishes
at Local 111 in Philmont.
But perhaps the best-known chef—
and an outspoken proponent of farm-to-fork eating—is Dan Barber, who with
his brother and sister-in-law owns Blue
Hill at Stone Barns. He gets many of his
ingredients from Stone Barns Center for
Food & Agriculture, and his deceptively
simple cooking can both surprise you
(e.g., radishes on a fence is a dish of just
radishes and salt, served on double-pronged tines on a board) and make
your heart skip a beat (e.g., a soft farm
egg over delicate greens with pork belly).
Stone Barns Center is an organic
farm and education center that celebrates local food and farms and teaches
visitors the advantages of learning
where your food comes from. Three
stately stone barns—formerly the Rockefellers’—are home to the center and
the restaurant. Both the provenance of
the land and the talent of the chef have
been drawing national attention since
the center’s opening in 2004. A trip to
explore Stone Barns led The Washington
Post to call the Hudson Valley “the salad
bowl of Ne w York.” And the restaurant
and farm have been featured in every
glossy food and lifestyle magazine,
from Martha Ste wart Living to Town &
Country. Since then, Barber has become
a hero to the locavore movement, sharing his knowledge through his pots and
pans and his pen. (He writes on everything from how to cook cauliflower to
op-ed pieces on the politics of food.)
“This region was carved out by farmers,” Barber says, “the open space preserved through animal husbandry and
agriculture. Which means the places that
have grown out of the landscape—farms,
vineyards, restaurants—also support the
landscape. Great gastronomy, entertainment and responsibility are all intertwined. What’s tastier than that?”
But the big and flashy institutions
aren’t the only reason to celebrate the
Hudson Valley as a food destination.
Up and down the river, mom-and-pop
cafés serve terrific local food, and my
meal at Swoon could have been mistaken for a Michelin one-star in France.
A bartender in a chambray shirt and red
suspenders cheerfully served my meal,
offering the same kind of laid-back and
satisfying experience you might discover at a table for t wo in the window at
Cafe Tamayo in Saugerties, or chatting
with owner Michael Gross about dessert
wines at Relish in Sparkill.
“I think it’s the number of choices we
have now ... the number of restaurants
and markets,” says Crawshaw of The Valley Table. “We’ve reached critical mass.”
Farmers markets have grown exponentially, too. ( There are now more than
70 in the region.) Distilleries like Tuthill-town Spirits, known for its bourbon and
rum, and American Fruits from Warwick Valley Winery, known for its eau
de vie, are taking their place on cocktail
menus throughout the country.
And early pioneers are keeping up
with the change in tastes. Artisanal
AJ Maxwell’s proprietor Lenny Passerelli was
told when he was a young boy to not go into the
family business of restaurant ownership. His
father wanted him to be a doctor, a lawyer or
an accountant. Lenny feels he knows more than
any established professional when it comes to
life’s unimportant facets, so he decided to steer
clear of his dad’s advice and become a restaurateur. Visit him at AJ Maxwell’s Steakhouse,
where the proprietor is happily solving guest’s
problems while spewing his daily sermon on
the little things in life that matter most.
Q: I am celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary
and will be planning a party at my house. Is there
a special dish that I can cook my wife for breakfast
the next morning?
Lenny: John, AJ Maxwell’s has a dish on their new
breakfast menu called “The Hangover”. It’s designed to be enjoyed after getting too toasted the
prior evening! You take 2 eggs per person, separate
the yolks and whites, and fry the whites in a pan.
Cook some home fries and make sure they are piping hot so you can pile them on the whites when
they are nished cooking. Then, smear the raw
yolks into the hash browns. Top it off with bacon,
sausage or roast beef hash, then a side of toast. If
you want, you can view the video on our website,
which will show you exactly how to make this hangover cure. Just visit ajmaxwells.com.
Q: Lenny- What do you like to do on a day off
Maggie, New York, NY
L: That’s easy - hang out with my kids on the couch,
relax and tell them not to be a restaurateur!
Q: Len, my wife has been nagging me to junk my
boxers and get briefs. I won’t do a thing until I ask
Jim, Baltimore, MD
L: Jim, this depends on the situation. Why don’t
you add briefs to your repertoire while keeping the
boxers? Call it a compromise. Wear the boxers for
black tie affairs and save the briefs for casual nights.
Have a question for Lenny?
Send them to email@example.com
The best question will receive a
100 dollar gift certificate.
AJ Maxwell’s is now opened for breakfast.
57 West 48th Street (bet 5th and 6th Avenue)
212-262-6200 • ajmaxwells.com