Here’s a recipe for becoming a food mecca second to none: Start with some very smart people paying attention to farmland preservation back in the last quarter of the 20th century, seeding a movement perfectly positioned to ripen in the sunlight of national eat-local awareness. Season with millions of hungry mouths to feed. Top generously with the secret sauce: the flair that drives creative people, both newcomers and old-timers, to put art, heart, and soul into everything they do. Shake, stir, and simmer gently. It’s no wonder Restaurant Week in the Hudson Valley lasts two weeks. Here, farm-to-fork isn’t just a catchphrase, it’s a culture.
In this bubbling cauldron of a culinary climate, you have to excel if you want to stay around for long. And excelling in the Hudson Valley virtually requires local ingredients. But while Manhattan restaurateurs prowl the Union Square Greenmarket for ingredients, Hudson Valley restaurateurs get to choose from an even wider cornucopia of even fresher produce, then apply fine-tuned passion.
The Hudson Valley harvest season is a peak experience. That’s when the orchestra performance that is local farming reaches its a crescendo, absolutely rocking the house, offering the chance for chefs to get wildly creative. And get wild, they do. So, what do local chefs love most about harvest season? We talked to five renowned culinary masters to find out.
Housed in a renovated church the staff calls their Sanctuary, Murray’s, on Tivoli’s main drag, is a breakfast-and-lunch spot that takes seriously its offerings of fine food—and coffee (La Colombe brand)—and offers hospitality joyfully. Chef Amy Lawton, an avid forager and food preservation whiz, moved from Rhode Island to the Hudson Valley after seeing a friend’s favorite upstate swimming hole; she’s currently refurbishing a food truck to “hit some events and get even crazier.” Lawton’s pastries and an espresso shot are the perfect finale to a wander around Tivoli bays.
When September rolls around, says Lawton, “I love sautéed kale with garlic browned just right, steamed until it’s just bright green and tender and topped with an over-easy egg. The hot peppers start coming in, the turnips and winter squash… I love the bright colors and flavors. When it starts to cool off, the herbs get really happy. And I so look forward to chicken and hen of the woods [mushrooms]. If people are lucky, we’ll have mushrooms and cream… and nice crisp apples. And I’ll poach some pears if I can get them. I love serving and preserving the harvest. Homemade hot sauce, homemade sauerkraut—I love to ferment and pickle and freeze and dry all the good stuff.”
73 Broadway, Tivoli / (845) 757-6003