Essie’s Restaurant, a new bistro style eatery in Mount Carmel in downtown Poughkeepsie, is the newest addition to the city’s growing list of upscale dining establishments. The space most recently was home to Cafe Bocca, and those of a certain age will remember Sardi’s grocery, which operated there for over seventy years. We started hearing about the new restaurant months before they opened, in part because of the reputation of the proprietor, Brandon Walker.
It’s hard to imagine now, but thirty years ago there were no restaurants serving authentic rustic home style Italian food anywhere in the Hudson Valley. Back then, Italian meant red sauce and pasta and more often than not what you were served were “Italian-American” dishes like garlic bread with veal or chicken parmigiana or lobster fra Diavolo, or shrimp scampi (none of which would be found in Italy). Oh, how times have changed….
In Spain, diners – at least the local diners- do not have dinner at a tapas bar. They are public gathering places to stop after work, before dinner, for a glass of wine and a snack. The theme and setting at 52 Main in Millerton seem to mimic that tradition – a place to stop on the way home to meet some friends for a bite and a glass or two of wine.
The Culinary Institute’s newest venue is the Bocuse Restaurant, an homage to the legendary Lyonnaise chef, Paul Bocuse. In the late 1960’s Chef Bocuse and a few of his colleagues popularized what came to be known as “Nouvelle Cuisine”, a reimagining of traditional classic French haute cuisine with a new emphasis on purity of presentation and a rejection of the laborious and elaborate recipes and sauces of “cuisine classique”. Appropriately, the restaurant is located in the space that once housed L’Escoffier Restaurant, the CIA’s temple of haute cuisine.
On Monday evening, a group of chefs, farmers, dieticians, and other “farm to table” practitioners and devotees gathered to have dinner and to talk about the health benefits of whole foods. John Nelson, the Director of Public and Community Affairs for Health Quest, was the MC for the evening festivities. The affair was held at Le Express Bistro in Wappingers Falls.
Poughkeepsie diners applauded five years ago when Brasserie 292 first opened on Main Street. It was the area’s only legitimate brasserie, and a good one at that. A succession of changes in partners and management over the last three years was noticeable in the dining room, and I for one breathed a sigh of relief last summer when the last standing owner, Alex Serroukas, sold the restaurant to Charlie Fells and his wife, Megan Kulpa Fells, the culinary couple who own the Artist’s Palate across the street.
We were sitting at the bar, perusing the menu, sipping a glass of wine. A gentleman diner sat two stools down the bar from where we were seated. “You have to try this!” he said. I looked at his plate, the contents of which were not immediately apparent. Perhaps a roasted plantain, I thought. The waitress told us it was a parsnip. A parsnip?
At the Haight family farm in Pleasant Valley, John & Kevin Haight are producing the Hudson Valley’s only cold pressed sunflower oil, and the area’s chefs are paying attention.
The Nic-L-Inn Wine Cellar on the Hudson is the latest culinary adventure with the Deluccia family, who have been in and around the Hudson Valley restaurant scene for decades. Their new America Bistro is well worth a visit, especially if you are down near the waterfront in Poughkeepsie, or enjoying a stroll on the area’s premier attraction – the Walkway over the Hudson.
A few weeks ago we were enjoying a conversation at dinner with a couple from the Culinary Institute. They eat out as frequently as we do, and I was most interested in how they were going to respond to the question on the table: who’s doing it right? Who was focusing on local produce? Who was working best with local farmers? And of course, who was doing the best job with all of this stuff in the kitchen. I also asked what their favorite restaurants were. Crew Restaurant, on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie, was their immediate response.