Agriturismo: Destination Dining Comes to Pine Plains
Like many hard-driving New Yorkers who escape to the Rural Intelligence region on weekends, chef Mark Strausman comes to Pine Plains to unwind. The one-time enfant terrible of Tuscan cooking—who made his mark some twenty years ago at Sapore de Mare in the Hamptons and at Coco Pazzo on the Upper East Side before opening his own red-hot restaurant Campagna in the Flatiron District—Strausman is kicking back by doing what he loves most: cooking Italian-inspired dishes for people who enjoy eating heartily. Three weeks ago, he opened a weekend-only restaurant called Agriturismo (Italian for “farm holidays”), which is a stone’s throw from the Stissing House (which is owned by Michel Jean, another chef who was a star of the Manhattan culinary scene in the pre-Food Network days.) “You want to know why Pine Plains? That is the question everyone asks,” says Strausman. “Because it is the crossroads of Northern Dutchess County—between Red Hook and Millerton, between Rhinebeck and the Berkshires.”
It’s also conveniently located near many farms. “I can’t believe the protein you can get here,” says Strausman, whose menu features Ronnybrook milk and butter, Feather Ridge Farm eggs, Herondale Farm nitrate-free bacon, Windfall Farms Cornish hen, and Amazing Real Live Food Co. cheese. “And I get the most amazing sausage from Josef Meiller’s slaughter house just up the road.” Straussman was a locavore before the term ever existed. “Chefs have always shopped at farms,” he says. “In France, most of the three-star restaurants are in the country, not the city. When I worked at Sapore de Mare, we were surrounded by farms.” He still turns to Long Island for his fish; the menu says that all the seafood come from Montauk. His local suppliers for vegetables include Sol Flower Farm, Sky Farms, and Paisley Farms. For now, his bread comes from the venerable Orwasher’s bakery in Manhattan, and the warm garlic toasts he serves at brunch are incredibly addictive. The dining room with its simple, worn wooden tables, lavender walls and checkerboard floor is stylish without seeming out of place in this rural community.
Strausman understands that everyone has his or her own Sunday routine, so he is opening from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m, serving pretty much anything you might desire. The hearty breakfast menu includes a farm pizza topped with a fried egg ($14), Suckling Pig Hash ($14) walnut raisin French toast ($14; all prices include coffee or tea); the all-day menu ranges from penne with a cherry tomato sauce ($15) to a roasted loin of lamb ($26). “When I worked in the Hamptons, we had a lot of people who’d stop in for a meal before heading back to the city,” recalls Strausman, who hopes that Agriturismo (which is only a few miles from the Taconic Parkway) will become a default Sunday drop-in spot. He heads back to the city as well during the week to oversee Fred’s, the restaurant at Barneys New York, which he’s operated for more than a decade. He is impressed that the city people who come to Dutchess and Columbia counties demonstrate a genuine appreciation of local agriculture, a commitment to preserving the rural environment and a passion for local food. “They don’t come for the social scene,” he says approvingly. “They come here to relax and to appreciate the land.”
2938 Church Street, Pine Plains; 518.398.1000
Friday & Saturday 5 - 10 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Open Columbus Day for farm breakfast, brunch and early supper