Monday, June 16, 2014 / by Vanessa Saunders
One of the biggest challenges (aside from the parking tickets) for chefs at even the hoitsy-toitsiest of Manhattan's fine restaurants is procuring fresh meats, dairy and produce. Shipping, processing and the sheer logistics involved in getting foodstuffs from the farm through middlemen to the markets and finally to the dinner plate takes time, and the price is always lost freshness.
On the other hand, things are quite the opposite for restaurateurs in the Lower Hudson Valley who practice "farm-to-table" sourcing from local growers and dairies in upstate New York's farm country. And the list of restaurants is growing each season. Hudson Valley Bounty, an online promoter of farm to market agriculture currently lists more than two hundred seventy five restaurants in the Lower Hudson River Valley which source the freshest of the fresh from local producers. Not all are simply restaurants. Red Devon in Bangall, a hamlet north of Stanfordville, NY is practically is own ecosystem, with a 70 seat restaurant, cafe, market and bakery. The restaurant sources from twenty local area farms, buying beef, pork, chicken and lamb, eggs, milk and produce daily. The cuisine is focused on fresh, sustainable and unique, with unusual selections like Pork Cheek with Chili Syrup, Cashews and Upland Cress appetizer. Seasonal menus are designed by recently nominated James Beard Rising Star Chef Sara Lukasiewicz. All include a weekly appetizer, main course and dessert specials as well as local favorites.
The restaurant is equally focused on green sustainability. Says owner Julia Widdowson, "Supporting local farmers, especially those who practice sustainable agriculture, is, bottom-line, the mission of the Red Devon. We believe the best food in the neighborhood is also grown in the neighborhood" It uses a rooftop solar water heating system, a variable volume kitchen exhaust, and even uses bio-degradable cutlery made from potato starch.
The key to all this fresh goodness is the many area farms raising meat, dairy and produce. Some of the greens are so fresh and perfect they almost look fake. Big Rock Farms, which produces a wide variety of fresh vegetables in season as well as its own maple syrup is just a mile down Rt. 82 from Red Devon. It's close enough that a chef could literally get, for example, spinach from farm to table in a matter of minutes. It's this kind of proximity to fresh perishables that makes Farm to Table sourcing so attractive to gourmet chefs. Almost as close is Hammond Dairy in nearby Amenia, N.Y. It specializes in yogurt that can be enjoyed from breakfast to dinner dessert. They use unhomogenized whole milk, which produces yogurt with a mild flavor, even though it’s made with five kinds of active cultures. Five flavors including a variety of fresh fruit, vanilla, plain and the not to be missed chocolate, with a deliciously gooey layer of chocolate sauce at the bottom of each cup.
With all this freshness so close at hand, it's no wonder then that many of the new farm to table restaurants upstate are being started by former New York City chefs. Paul Nanni, who worked for Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit for two years opened the Heron in 2012 with wife Marla Puccetti, near the Delaware River in Narrowsburg, N.Y. Likewise John McCarthy, a chef and co-owner who opened the Crimson Sparrow, in Hudson, NY in 2011. Both he and his business partner, Ben Freemole, cooked at WD-50 on the Lower East Side, learning from respected chef Wylie Dufresne.
Planning a trip upstate to visit one or more of the hundreds of Farm to Table-style restaurants? Your best bet is to visit the Hudson Valley Bounty website and click around a little. If you are interested in researching properties in the Lower Hudson Valley, both residential and agricultural, please feel free to use our search engine at www.gpshousehunt.com. It features hundreds of listings for sale right now in the Lower Hudson Valley.