Catch 38: A New Dining Spot From Rhinebeck MVPs
Buffalo-style fried oyster.
By Andrea Pyros
There’s a certain playfulness Dutchess County diners have come to expect from Wesley Dier and Bryn Bahnatka-Dier, the husband-and-wife team behind such popular Rhinebeck eateries as The Shelter, 40 West, and The Local. So when the Rhinebeck born-and-raised duo shuttered The Local this past New Year’s Eve, residents were hopeful that the pair would come back with another fun addition to the dining scene. And, of course they have, with Catch 38, a seafood restaurant housed in the same location as The Local. It features all of the pair’s good-natured charm on full display, with new elements, too, including a lightened-up dining space with whimsical, nautical touches that don’t overwhelm and a more relaxed vibe overall.
Bahnatka-Dier, who handles front-of-house duties for Catch 38, says that diners are responding to the spot’s neighborhood-y, laid-back mood, a conscious decision on the pair’s part. “It’s not just for special occasions or Saturday date nights. You can come by and have oysters and a cocktail, and then come back for a full meal some other time.”
Dier, the restaurant’s CIA-trained chef, once again crafts a menu using fresh and, whenever possible, local ingredients. Catch’s fishmongers head down to the Fulton Fish Market and then deliver seafood to him daily, and he’s been tapping into the Farms2tables time-saving app to source available ingredients from farms in the area. That, along with a generous helping of herbs from the couple’s herb garden, allows him to fully focus on designing his menu with items such as “the first-of-the-year cherries, the best arugula.”
A recent visit started with roasted garlic bread, served with a generous helping of burrata and kale pesto ($8), popcorn rock shrimp ($16) with peanuts and a nicely balanced Thai sweet and sour sauce, and a salad special with Sky Farm baby arugula ($14). We were told they sell a “million” fish-n-chips ($22), which makes sense; they were light and flaky and fresh, as was the tuna poke taco in lettuce cups ($14) and a perfectly cooked trout meunière ($28).
A friend told me that Catch 38’s bartender is “an alchemist,” and it’s true — the drink menu is full of fun, pack-a-wallop, quirky cocktails like an Arnold Palmer in the Rough ($12) with green tea vodka, lemonade and iced tea. There are also plenty of wines by the glass and a good selection of beers and a rosè slushy ($9) that seemed almost required during a recent heat wave.
That “funked-out, heightened sense of preparation” the couple pride themselves on is also in evidence with their desserts, particularly the refreshing Key Lime muffins ($10) that come served with small squirt bottles of strawberry, passion fruit, and white chocolate sauces. Why? Who knows, and frankly, who cares? Order another boozy slushy and dive in. Like the rest of the menu, they’re impossible to resist.
38 W. Market St., Rhinebeck, NY
Dinner Tuesday – Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday
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The New Otto’s: Owners Maintain An Icon And Make It Better
By Jamie Larson
It’s hard to imagine Germantown, New York, without Otto’s Market. Though Otto Leuschel ran the former Central Market location (originally opened 1927) for just eight years, in that time the market became the catalyst for the small town center’s recent revival. So when Otto announced he would be selling the place and going back to life as a VP at Whole Foods, there was a concern that Germantown’s life support was about to be pulled.
Thankfully, in their first year since taking over, new owners Noah Bernamoff and Dana Martin and their wives, Rea and Tracy respectively, have kept the community spirit of Otto’s and the Central Market alive. And while the continuity is genuinely heart warming they’ve also added a multitude of great new offerings we are really excited about.
Dana and Tracy Martin, and Rae and Noah Bernamoff
“It was important for Otto and for us as well to be stewards of this place and the connection it has with the community,” said Bernamoff, who added that while Leuschel ran his market with the intuition and instinct afforded by a lifetime in the grocery business, they knew they really needed to do their research and crunch the numbers before making any changes. “Otto’s was the continuation of the Central Market and now we recognize that we are carrying the torch.”
When Martin, who has a day job in finance and Bernamoff, a restaurateur, took the reins on July 1, 2017, they knew the community needed Otto’s open, so they never closed the doors and ran the market exactly how it was left to them for months. During that time they talked with customers about what new elements they might want and what they absolutely couldn’t do without. The thing they knew had to stay was the loyal staff, who they say are as much a part of Otto’s as the building or the name.
Three months ago they began serious renovations, which took an astonishingly short seven weeks. No one would have blamed them for taking the time off but the new owners and the old staff went above and beyond to open a mini Otto’s “pop-up” in The Central House Inn across the street. The amount of effort and labor put into continuing service in this way proved their commitment to a lot of folks.
“Continuity was important to us,” Martin said. “And the time running Otto’s in its old form gave us a chance to understand what was important to people. The pop-up was a lot of work and stress but the Central House was a great host and the customers were behind us.”
The handsome remodel moved the deli front and center, expanded the kitchen, created new dining space and, though it may look smaller, reconfigured the grocery section so they’re selling just as much as Otto’s did before. There’s more fresh produce, a larger freezer and new sections. Though a lot has changed, Martin and Bernamoff did an excellent job of blending old and new. While the new look reflects a slightly more modern sensibility, it doesn’t overshadow the beautiful original floors or the old brick walls.
The most exciting change though, has to be the updated menu. Otto’s always had a busy, top-quality deli but now it’s the expanded focus of the establishment. Bernamoff ran a Jewish deli and now a bagel shop, and has brought his knowledge to the kitchen. The smoker is really making some magic, including lox and seriously perfect brisket.
The case below the counter is filled with prepared deli salads and veggies that constantly rotate and feature seasonal items from nearby farms. Rotisserie chickens slowly spin and beckon to you from the end of the counter. The whole meat program at Otto’s has been remodeled and emphasized with a beautiful display of cuts and fresh fish, all broken down skillfully before you by the very personable chef Bobby Hellen.
“We were really interested in establishing a food service program we could do 12 moths a year with local products,” Bernamoff said.
There is also a new well-sourced selection of breads, including bagels from Bernamoff’s Blackseed Bagel Co. And while Otto’s always had nice pour-over coffee, the new team has introduced a full coffee service.
Though Martin and Bernamoff are back and forth to the city for work, you’re likely to find them behind the counters or manning the new smoker all weekend. Their wives are up full time. They joke that Tracy Martin is the new Otto, in the store all week managing operations and schmoozing.
There are so many little components of the store that the team has spent the extra effort on, in order to do them just right. For example, the reason there’s still a bar table in the window? There was a group of regulars at the old Otto’s who came in almost every morning to have coffee and Bernamoff and Martin didn’t want them to lose their morning spot.
The thing that makes a community hub like Otto’s great and lasting is not just the personality of the place, it’s this type of hard work and attention to detail that results in customers coming to depend on it and identify with it. Otto Leuschel recaptured the legacy of the Central Market at a time when the town really needed it. Judging by their strong first year, the couples behind the new Otto’s Market aren’t just maintaining a Germantown icon, they are, dare we say, making it better than ever.
215 Main St., Germantown, NY
Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
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Field And Cellar: A Food Revelation In Great Barrington
By Nichole Dupont
I have been eating, cooking, and researching Native American cuisine for a good part of my adult life. It lives in my DNA and family culture. So…I was a teensy bit skeptical when I saw the “American meets local and Native” description on the website for Field and Cellar — the newest restaurant incarnation at the Thornewood Inn in Great Barrington, Mass. I’ve gotten my hopes up before — bland corn pudding, dry bison burgers, “wild” rice with canned mushroom soup all harbingers of disappointment.
We were seated at a little table for two right at the big bay window overlooking the gardens and pool of the inn and the farm fields beyond. Feeling summery, I ordered myself a Prosecco. My date got a coffee, which was fresh, even at 7 p.m. And good. While we perused the menu, our server (who was an extremely pleasant young fellow, in fact everyone on staff was pleasant) brought us bread and butter. I am talking about thick, spongey, buttery inch-thick chunks of housemade focaccia served with soft, not hard out of the fridge, basil butter. I am not usually compelled to eat bread, but I didn’t bat an eyelash when I saw that buttery carb monument make its way to the table.
“This is so good,” my date said. I nodded in agreement, not wanting to speak for fear I would lose my precious bite of that big bread. I fully planned on eating both slices (there were four).
After hemming and hawing over the menu, which included grass-fed beef tenderloin ($35), a Garden Mosaic of burrata, nettle pesto, and Tom Rye sourdough croutons ($28), crispy rabbit, and salmon teriyaki, I ordered the fried green tomatoes as a starter, and the rabbit. My companion went for the salmon.
I tried not to get my hopes too high with the fried green tomatoes. I have been let down too often by this dish, my own attempts included. What arrived, in a beautiful Dan Bellow bowl that looked like a sunset, were three healthy tomato slices, fully but not heavily battered. All sitting on a colorful — including flower petals — bed of greens. There was a wildness to the presentation, like, honestly, a field. The tomatoes were crisp at first bite, and the insides exploded in one salty, tart surprise, not mushy, just right. They came with a bright orange puree that tasted almost like romesco, but a little smokier. Fresh, bright, flavorful, familiar.
The leading stars arrived and we were eager to dive in. I mean, after the tomatoes and the bread, who wouldn’t be? I said a quick silent apology to my friends who are rabbit activists, and loaded my fork with the crispy rabbit confit, being sure to spear a fat carrot gnocchi with my fork while running the whole operation through the bright green fava paste underneath. Here was a thoughtful (not forced) homage to the nourishing nature of Native American food.
My date was busy strategizing his first bite of crispy teriyaki salmon that was resting on a healthy, but not gluttonous, mound of udon and stir-fried vegetables. I offered him a bite of my rabbit. He offered me a bite of his salmon. That one bite had the effect of an eight-layer cake from the old country. There was so much to discover in these dishes. So much to take in — color, flavor, textured nuance — it was, for both of us, a food awakening of sorts. I know how cheesy that sounds, and I don’t care. It was remarkable.
There was virtually no room for dessert, which on this particular night was a strawberry cheesecake creation as well as an ice cream, brownie, caramel sea salt confection ($9-$13), both proffered up by Kim Watson, the founder and “sugar queen” of Mountains of Sugar. Watson and Chef James Massey appeared at some point during the meal to greet friends in the dining room. It was more than a nice touch, seeing these two artists make the rounds. And just like that, I had become an ardent admirer.
Field and Cellar at the Thornewood Inn
435 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington, MA
Thursday–Sunday, 5–9 p.m.
Sunday Brunch (reservations requested), 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
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Farm Country Soup Opens In Great Barrington, Mass.
By Lisa Green
For Jackie Bergman, making soup is an act of love. The owner of Farm Country Soup, whose soups have been accessible at farmers’ markets and gourmet stores in the region for years, has brought her wholesale business to the wider community with the opening of her retail store and café in Great Barrington.
A self-taught chef, Bergman has been at the kettle from the 1990s, when she had her restaurant and bakery, Farm Country, in Millerton, New York. After fracturing her shoulder in 1998, she closed that shop, but soup was still calling her name. She opened Farm Country Soup in the Buggy Whip Factory in Southfield in 2002. Recently, the original barn of the White Barn complex became available, and she jumped.
“We needed a place that could house our whole operation, a kitchen to produce our soup and a space for our shipping,” Bergman said. “The retail aspect just came with the territory. Being right in the middle of other retail venues, people were assuming we would be open to the public.”
It seemed natural to have not just soup but a café with sandwiches and salads, farm suppers to take home, and local provisions.
“It’s similar to our original Farm Country but open for breakfast and lunch instead of dinner… at least for now,” she said.
All of the soups and other menu items are made right at the back of the café and Bergman has a team of cooks and servers to maintain this “community love-based effort.” This more central location also makes it easier to deliver to wholesale accounts in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Here, in White House Square on Stockbridge Road heading into Great Barrington’s Main Street, you can pick up your favorite Farm House Soup; among the selections are Tomato Cheddar, Chicken Vegetable Rice, Mulligatawny, and Farmgirl Chili. Gazpacho is a summer favorite, as is Berkshire Borscht.
Or, you can order and sit inside the light-filled, open space, a warm and inviting farmhouse kitchen with an industrial edge, filled with the zen qualities of peace and minimalism. Alternatively, you can sit in a lovely garden designed by Pamela Hardcastle of New Marlborough, filled with organic vegetables and herbs. Hardcastle enlisted Greenagers to build the raised garden beds. Kale, borage and nasturtiums mingle with heirloom tomatoes, grapes, lettuces, and culinary and medicinal herbs. Take your breakfast or lunch outside and pull up a chair at the 12-foot oak and cement farm table crafted by Greenagers director Will Conklin.
“I envision pop-up Friday night farm suppers there,” Bergman said.
Though the shop opened just last week, new customers and those who have traveled with Bergman from Millerton to Southfield have followed her soup trail. The summer menu will be printed and posted next week on the website and social media.
Soup is the ultimate slow food, Bergman said, and it’s not like we didn’t know this. But the intentional way she makes it, and the setting she makes it in, is far from your everyday soup experience. It is made, in her words, with “an overflowing sense of abundance for the food and the gratitude and the grace that accompanies deep nourishment.”
Farm Country Soup
389 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
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New Season, New Praise For Troutbeck’s Menu
Photo courtesy Troutbeck.
By CB Wismar
[Editor’s Note: When the storied Troutbeck reopened last winter, CB Wismar reported on its careful renovation of the lodge and event facilities, and reviewed the winter menu. Always up for a great meal, he made a return trip to update us on the current seasonal menu.]
Living up to his allegiance to fresh, local and seasonal, and alluring in his recipes, Chef Marcel Agnez has turned to local farms and purveyors and the expertise of a local forager to offer “Starters,” “Specialties” and desserts that celebrate the season. The menu proudly acknowledges that the food to be prepared is sourced from stellar Hudson Valley farms including Sky Farms, Ronnybrook, Morningstar Farms, Mielli Farm, Yellow Bell Farm, Silo Ridge Farms and Q Farms.
Photo courtesy Troutbeck.
This is the season for asparagus, so beginning with the white and green asparagus salad, Banyuls crème fraiche, pomegranate and hen of the woods is a lovely start. Beets are also plentiful at this time of year, so enjoying roasted baby beets, housemade lemon ricotta, crispy chickpeas and watermelon radish (cut to appear as flowers set atop the creation) is truly elegant. A real treat is the leek and cockle soup — fresh as a lovely summer afternoon.
Summer offerings will appear on the menu as new fruits and vegetables ripen on the local farms. Chef Agnez has been quoted as refusing to serve corn until the corn is native and moments from the field. His resolve assures dinner guests that the flavors they will enjoy are the fullest possible.
The specialties are just that — very special. When the freshest scallops arrive in Amenia, they are paired with king trumpet mushrooms, nettles, fava beans and squash blossoms to present a robust entrée. Another special offering on the menu is the roasted chicken with spring pea puree, tendrils and natural jus. The peas are pleasantly sweet and the locally harvested tendrils add a delightful flavor.
For the heartier eater, both a lamb and pork chop entrée are offered. The lamb is dressed with ramp puree, crispy polenta, fresh garbanzo beans and a mint emulsion. Pork chops are grilled and served with braised mustard greens, confit new potatoes and a rhubarb mustardo.
Photo: Lisa Houlgrave
There are evening specials that are entirely influenced by the most recent appearances in the garden and the most attractive protein offerings. As grand as the menu items may be, it’s worth paying attention to the server’s recitation of the daily specials. Recent evening additions included a perfectly grilled ribeye steak and fresh salmon.
The season dictates the dessert offerings and special attention should be paid to the strawberry Pavlova with fresh-picked berries atop a rosemary meringue. Equal time and attention needs should go to the pistachio and orange nougat with mango sorbet and the crème brulee.
As we have cautioned in the past, reservations at Troutbeck for dinner are a very good idea. Since appearing on the local dining scene a bit over a year ago, the offerings of Chef Agnez in the totally re-done facility have become highly sought after. With wedding season upon us, the beauty of the setting, the understated elegance of the lodgings, the wide variety of recreational offerings and, of course, the restaurant itself attract guests from New York to Boston.
As summer envelops New England, Troutbeck has expanded its attractions for even the most casual guest. Through July and August, every Friday evening will find festivities around the outdoor pool featuring DJ Tim Love Lee playing music from 4 p.m. to sunset, and the poolside bar and grill will open at noon.
Wednesday – Sunday for breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner.
515 Leedsville Rd., Amenia, NY
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Pooky Studio: “Everything Beautiful And Artistic In A Biscuit”
Yes, this is a cookie.
By Lisa Green
Pooky Amsterdam makes cookies that are such works of art, it’s hard to believe anyone would dare eat one. But people do, and they should, says the Hudson-based artist/baker behind Pooky Studio, the art cookie craft bakery whose creations include baked structures, villages, cookie pops, crowns, avatars, stamped cookies and the likenesses of magazine covers. Because as beautiful as they are, they are as enjoyable to eat.
“It’s not just about how they look,” Amsterdam says. “They have to taste amazing.”
Amsterdam’s occupations have varied as much as her cookie lineup. She’s been a standup comic and worked on Wall Street for many years, licensed “to sell everything but God,” she says. When her cookie business took off, she left Wall Street, and over the years created a lot of cookie magazine covers, including the annual Vanity Fair cover for its yearly parties at Morton’s. Her portfolio includes cookie boxes in the shape of the New York Public Library for Brooke Astor, and cookie portraits of the Lauder family. Her specialties have been sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York.
Amsterdam, in apron and pearls.
In 2009, she moved herself and her business to Hudson, and also runs an animation company, Pooky Media LLC. (She declined to reveal her “real” name, saying Pooky was a nickname that stuck.)
Although her degree was in economics, Amsterdam was always connected to her creative side. She graduated high school early to go to the Art Students League, and also studied painting and skeletal structure (it’s helped in the construction of the cookie figures) at Boston University’s School of Fine Arts. The cookie baking started earlier, thanks to her Aunt Lee, whose cookies with sugar paste colors inspired the young Pooky to start experimenting with edible food colorings.
Today, most of the food coloring she uses is natural and she bakes with Hudson eggs and cream. There’s no frosting involved, so there’s a certain earthy quality to the baked surfaces of the cookies.
“I love the alchemy of baking,” she says. “You take sugar, butter, eggs and flour, and create the material that can be made into anything.” Combine the top-quality ingredients and their extraordinary artistry, and you’ve got “inner beauty cookies — they make you beautiful inside.”
Recently, she’s created a collection called Skyscapes, which reflect the colors in Hudson’s sunrises and sunsets. A custom-ordered cookie features a portrait of Ella Fitzgerald. She’s also rendered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in cookie form. Amsterdam loves fashion (she’s on the board of The Second Show, the Hudson thrift shop) and felt called to do a Met Gala figure, either Anna Wintour or Amal Clooney. Amal won. “I feel really happy with it,” Amsterdam says. “I’m always trying to push myself artistically and make the product the best it can be.”
(You, too, can get a likeness of yourself in cookie form; submit a picture and Amsterdam can replicate it at just about any size. They ship really well, she promises.)
Despite the complexity of these cookies, she says making 200 pieces a day is not a problem. She recently finished making a dozen roses on a lollipop stick for Mother’s Day. Some of the figurative cookies (like the Game of Thrones ones — chocolate with black food coloring made from licorice) take longer, 10 or 20 in a day.
Currently Amsterdam rents commercial space, but hopes to get a commercial kitchen of her own. One of her long-term goals is to employ people. “The ability to give somebody a job is one of the best things you can do,” she says. All of the cookies now are custom made and special ordered, but she would like to find a partner or store that would sell them on site.
“Cookies satisfy so many sensory requirements — taste, smell, visual,” Amsterdam says. “I’m happy to be in the business of something so joyous.”
And about that dilemma of whether to eat these works of art or not? Amsterdam has a solution.
“I recommend people order two. One to eat, one to save.”
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Coppola’s Comes Home to Downtown Poughkeepsie
By Jeff Kosmacher
No calamari? No mussels and clams? It’s hard to believe that the standard Italian fare wasn’t known in the mid Hudson Valley until 1961. That’s when the first Italian restaurant came to the area, thanks to the Coppola family. Luigi Coppola proudly points out that when his family’s initial restaurant opened in Poughkeepsie, “We introduced this area to many of the dishes that people have come to know from Southern Neapolitan Italian cooking. No one around here knew what calamari was, mussels and clams, all of that was brought to this area by my father and his brothers.”
It was a hit. That first Coppola’s establishment remained downtown at 187 Main Street until 1980. Regrettably it had to move a few miles to the east because its business had been crippled by ill-fated urban planning: its prime downtown section of Main Street was unsuccessfully turned into an automobile-free pedestrian mall, in an attempt to lure back the shoppers abandoning downtown retail for the proliferating malls.
Flash forward to December 2017 when, in a hopeful sign for downtown Poughkeepsie’s resurgence, the now multifaceted Coppola’s food enterprise opened its newest restaurant at 296 Main, only steps away from the family business’s founding location. The new Coppola’s at Liberty & Main “has a simpler menu than our other places,” says Coppola. “We’re trying to do something more casual, more of a deli style, which we hadn’t done before.”
From the outset, dishes such as veal or chicken parmigiana, chicken Marsala, and zuppa di pesce (a large Italian-style “Fisherman’s Platter” over a bed of linguini) have remained the go-tos at the more formal Coppola’s locations in Poughkeepsie and nearby Hyde Park. By contrast, the biggest sellers at Liberty & Main are new and very un-Italian specialty sandwiches: a grilled turkey reuben and the Main Street Monte Cristo (both $8). “We expected items like these to be nice complements to our classic Italian fare, and it’s turned out to be the opposite,” Coppola says. “What we’re seeing is that people who have enjoyed our signature dishes over the years see something new and think, ‘This has to be good, too, I’ll try it.’”
The family’s take on broccoli di rabe ($8) exemplifies a longtime favorite that was chosen as a more Italian offering at Liberty & Main. Fresh rabe is sautéed with oil and garlic, then sausage is added to the sauté, with the mix eventually tossed with penne. “It’s very simple, and I just love broccoli rabe because growing up it’s what we ate morning, noon and night,” says Coppola.
No one’s leaving this restaurant hungry. Minestrone and escarole are soup mainstays ($4). Eclectic pasta choices include a mac & cheese with alfredo sauce, diced bacon, onions, peas and chicken ($8). In addition to an extensive salad bar, prepared salads range from an insalata de arugula with fresh plum tomatoes, walnuts, diced red onions and boiled egg, tossed with lemon vinaigrette ($8) to a classic cold antipasto ($11). Choose from Francese, Marsala or cacciatore sauces for your sautéed scaloppini chicken medallions ($10). Satisfy your homemade lasagna craving ($10), or “build your own panini” from an abundant palette of meats, veggies “accents” (Applewood smoked bacon or prosciutto, for example) and spreads (from sriracha aioli to cilantro jalapeno hummus).
The Coppola brothers.
Antonio Coppola (pronounced “cuh-PO-lah”) partnered with his brothers Joseph and Vincent, over from Naples to Poughkeepsie, to start the family’s first restaurant. Now in his 80s, he still butchers for the dynamic company that has grown to include four area locations, an extensive line of jarred marinara sauces (sold online and by roughly 600 retailers in the Northeast such as Hannaford’s, Stop & Shop and Price Chopper), and a catering service. Bringing the family business back to downtown Poughkeepsie after more than 35 years completes a very personal circle for Antonio’s five sons, who succeeded their father heading the family operation – Nick (57), John (55), Anthony (53), Luigi (48), and Vinnie (45).
“For about the first ten years of the restaurant we lived in the apartment right above, and Poughkeepsie was our playground,” Luigi Coppola says. “We would play in the parking lot, we would play stickball, you name it, whatever it was we ended up doing there. We would walk up the street to get our accordion lessons, dragging that big monster accordion with us.”
“And,” he continues, “it was like a neighborhood in the old-fashioned movies, where moms would lean out the window and scream for their kids to come in the house.” (Cue the legendary Prince Spaghetti commercial.)
Coppola’s at Liberty & Main
296 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, NY
Open Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
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Food, Sweat And Cheers: The Green Cafe, Lakeville, CT
By CB Wismar
If the name The Green Café isn’t enough of a clue that the food in Leslie Eckstein’s new eatery in Lakeville, Conn. is going to be healthy, then the four-word slogan will seal the deal. “Wellness…Vitality…Nutrition…Balance.” They could have added the words “Fresh…Appetizing…Delicious” to the logo, but perhaps they ran out of room.
The Green Café is housed jointly with Studio Lakeville, Leslie’s fitness center, in what for years was the abandoned firehouse. With Leslie’s vision and under the skillful hand of builder Seth Churchill, the building was converted to an attractive, welcoming space that is buzzing with spin classes, yoga, Pilates, Zumba and a cafe open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. that is rapidly attracting raves from the wider community.
Leslie has brought Karen Jacobs in to be chef/manager of the café, and the breakfast and lunch offerings are well worth the drive. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Jacobs is keen on sourcing local produce and sustainable, organic, non-GMO proteins.
Leslie Eckstein and Karen Jacobs
Breakfast is an ample offering that features huevos rancheros with avocado, baby heirloom tomatoes, black beans and cage-free eggs ($7.95); multigrain French toast with fresh berries ($7.95); and a breakfast burrito brimming with either scrambled eggs or tofu, cheddar or vegan cheese, salsa, black beans and tomatoes ($7). The appearance of “vegan” and “tofu” as alternatives in menu items underscores Eckstein’s emphasis on healthy eating and Jacobs’s flavorful execution of that vision.
For those who want a lighter breakfast break — or replenishing refreshment after a workout — the smoothies are worth a visit in themselves. What better way to start the day than with a mango-banana smoothie with hemp seeds or a coffee-maple shake?
Lunch offers a two-sided menu. One side invites those who identify themselves as “herbivores.” Flip the sheet over, and “carnivore” invites your attention.
On the herbivore side, a tasty avocado toast on grilled baguette with tomato, balsamic drizzle and micro greens tops the list ($8), followed by several salads with ingredient choices from beets, kale and baby spinach to chickpeas and red onions. Prices range from a simple house salad at $6 to $11 for each of the more sophisticated offerings. If a sandwich is more your midday style, then the “Melty Goodness” offers cheddar, gruyere and mozzarella with spinach, tomato and carmelized onions ($9).
For carnivores, you’ll find the “Bangin’ Burger” of grass-fed beef, cheddar, avocado, pickled red onion and local greens on a fresh bun ($14) or a blackened salmon sandwich, yogurt sauce, pickled onions and arugula ($15). The “Lakeville Cubano” is a delightful blend of flavors, combining roasted turkey, citrus-marinated pork loin, pickled red onions, Swiss cheese, pickles and Dijon mustard. At $13, this sandwich is spectacular, as is the “Gobbler,” a cold combination of turkey, avocado and cranberry mayo served on pecan cranberry house-made bread ($13).
The “house-made” distinction is most important for the baked goods at The Green Cafe. One of Leslie Eckstein’s career stops was as pastry chef at the former Harvest Bakery in Salisbury. She demonstrates both her expertise and her love of baking by creating breads, muffins, scones, biscotti and other baked delights which are treasures worth taking to go if you’ve already enjoyed breakfast or lunch and just can’t find the room for something more.
Sign up for the daily menu feed via email and discover specials that are very special, indeed. (Perhaps the announcement of a carrot-coconut soup or a salad Nicoise with salmon will appear in your inbox.)
Plans call for expanding the current hours to include dinner when spring turns to summer and the outdoor patio can be opened for patrons.
The Green Café
9 Sharon Rd., Lakeville, CT
Open 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. daily.
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The New Copake General Store Awakens A Town
By Nichole Dupont
Despite the fact that it’s not that far away, my only visits to Copake, New York have been to see my mother-in-law in her little house on the lake. It’s always a nice drive through farm country, where we would meet at Dad’s Diner for, well, diner food. But on a deadly quiet gray day in Copake, there is one place, among the corner gas station and pizzeria, that is hopping like a gold rush saloon in its heyday. The Copake General Store (formerly Copake Front Porch) is packed to the rafters on a Saturday. The line reaches almost to the door on the first day of their live music jazz brunch. People are seated everywhere, while couples, whole families, and solo sojourners are throwing back turkey meatball sliders. They are flying out of the kitchen like seagulls.
While I wait, I have time to take the place in. The music is an amalgam of high lonesome guitar and bass (Luke Franco of Tiny Hearts Farm, and Nick Edwards) and the atmosphere, while anticipatory, is pleasant. Everyone is smiling. Those waiting in line are treated to shortbread cookies, and then a round of spongey apple cake while we make up our minds about what to choose from the specials board, which on this day includes braised pork butt, roast beef banh mi (both $11), a charcuterie sampling, and a turkey bacon sandwich with herbed mayo and pea shoots, along with breakfast staples like bagels and cream cheese, and a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich.
The congenial atmosphere and creative menu items have been carefully curated by the new owners, Seung Suh and her husband Bob Caccamise, who left New York and moved to Ancramdale in 2016. A former writer/producer for WABC-TV, Suh’s long-term ambition was to move to the country and open a general store. In her mind, it would resemble a Norman Rockwell vignette, all neighborly people and good will and a welcoming light. “I want to create that,” she says.
It seems she has. It’s not just a take-away eatery. It is actually a general store — complete with a creaky wooden floor, a wide elevated porch and, of course, the staples of rural life. Refrigerators and coolers are loaded with local meats, cheeses and eggs from Jacuterie, Pigasso Farms and Chaseholm Farm. Of course, there is the obligatory produce section with fresh veggies and fruits, and low shelves holding potato chips, canned goods, specialty cooking oils, honey and a gem-colored array of Les Collines preserves and Grannie Fannie’s jellies. Tay Tea, a New Delhi, NY artisan blender, is well represented with several of its products, including “Better Than Sex,” available for purchase. On the gift-y end of things, the CSG offers up carved L’ouvriere candles from the Catskills, beauty products and candles from Beacon Bee, and SallyeAnder soaps.
You could definitely stop here and create a meal to take home, or just grab one of the fresh pastries or heartier fare. When it’s my turn to order, despite wanting to pack my face with a bagel and lox situation, I ask simply for a croissant the size of a cat’s head and coffee (Irving Farm). I find a tiny spot on the edge of a bench in the middle of the store and listen to a raspy, live rendition of “Summertime” and wonder if I’m the only one who hears the irony. Leaving the place, and the warmth of people in the middle of their lives, is a melancholy affair. The wind nearly slams the door shut when I go outside to face the gray.
The windows are foggy from the warmth inside and yet I can almost taste lemonade.
Copake General Store
171 County Rte. 7A, Copake, NY
Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Closed on Wednesday
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Omelettes Meet Duets: 5 Musical Brunches In The RI Region
Bobby Sweet & Lara Tupper at The Starving Artist
By Jeff Kosmacher
“Let’s meet for brunch.” Who doesn’t love that suggestion? It evokes such a great vibe of hanging out around food and conversation, along with, if you like, permission to start drinking early. As if brunch wasn’t already a sublime creation, we must also celebrate whomever was inspired to add live music to the menu. Honestly, you can drop me into the sensory pleasures of a musical brunch and I will soon lose all track of time.
Lucky for us, the glorious alliance of brunch and live music is alive and well in our region, with inspired culinary and melodic offerings.
Musical brunch began the very Sunday this downtown eatery opened in 2011. “I still remember it like it was yesterday,” recounts manager Emmy Davis. “We had The Easy Ridin’ Papas play.” The laid-back place favors acoustic guitarists, with small jazz combos mixed in, all locally sourced (as is their art gallery). Brunch includes more breakfast items than their primary menu. A favorite is the Beet Sweet Hash crepe — sautéed local roasted beets, caramelized onions, uncured organic bacon, sweet potatoes and red potatoes, and local goat cheese, topped with two local sunny side eggs. Or go sweeter, with the crunchy breakfast crepe made with organic sliced bananas and strawberries, and topped with homemade granola, Greek yogurt and local maple syrup.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., music 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
40 Main St., Lee, MA
It’s no coincidence that music (bluegrass, blues, jazz or gospel) is on the brunch menu here every Saturday and Sunday, considering the owner is Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame. Top touring and regional acts are on stage while you dine, such as on a recent snowy Saturday when I had the great fortune to hear two sets by the banjoist Hubby Jenkins from the Carolina Chocolate Drops. This club, with its rustic and open feel, also takes good care of your tastebuds. Fried chicken and waffles, brioche French toast, and the crabmeat and avocado omelette are fan favorites. Or you can sink your teeth into a burger or fish and chips.
Brunch hours: Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., music noon-2:30 p.m.
130 Route 22, Pawling, NY
Sunday jazz brunch here goes back to 2008, when this haven alongside the Hudson (and an Amtrak station) re-opened after a thorough restoration. Look forward to a casual and fun atmosphere. The full English breakfast is hard to find anywhere else in the area — sausages, bacon, blood pudding and all — and is a testament to owners James and David Chapman, brothers from across The Pond. Or try the Timbuktu, a simple cheesy hash with onion and tomato topped with a fried egg. Their prix fixe includes juice; choice of mimosa, Bloody Mary or Prosecco; any brunch dish; and coffee or tea. You’ll hear straight-ahead jazz, often from small groups led by Bard professors or a vocalist like Elaine Rachlin.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., music 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
4 Grinnell St., Rhinecliff, NY
Two newcomers to musical brunching are also worth mentioning. Both present music on a more seasonal schedule:
Julianne Homola is proud that since she took over this cozy village spot in 2017, every dish has been made fresh daily in-house with local ingredients. She describes building her brunch with an “artistically plated menu.” For your appetite and eyes there’s the Rainbow Sandwich with beet hummus, red cabbage, baby spinach, cucumber, pepper, tomato and a slice of beet on local artisan brioche. The Brunch Bowl became so popular it’s now a weeklong offering — a large mixed baby green salad with sprouts, carrots and tomatoes, topped with edible flowers when they’re in season. J&J’s keeps the music light, mostly with guitarists and vocalists.
Brunch Hours: Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., music 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (March-Sept.)
1 East Market St., Red Hook, NY
Duke, Billie, Thelonious and Miles are smiling down from jazz heaven on the setting of this “cozy fireside Sunday brunch,” held in a beautifully maintained space from the 1760s. Sundays featuring area jazz musicians kicked off this January for a limited annual run through April (brunch is served year-round). Chef Laurel Barkan’s inventive menu is divided among savory, sweet, and side dishes, ranging from smoked salmon with potatoes to mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits with eggs. And prepare yourself for her grilled chocolate bread sourced from the nearby Berkshire Mountain Bakery. Talk about orchestration!
Brunch Hours: Sunday 11:00-3:00, music noon-3 p.m. (Jan.-April)
864 Undermountain Rd., Sheffield, MA
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