Our neighborhood had a visitor recently. In case you missed it, veteran wanderer Anthony Bourdain came to the Hudson Valley for an episode of his show, No Reservations. Among the places he visited: the Quaker Creek Store in Goshen, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. He tried blue crabs pulled straight out of the Hudson in Verplanck, and then ended the day at X20 in Yonkers.
It all sounds pretty idyllic, right?
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It does… sorta. Then again, the show was trying to paint a picture of the Hudson Valley that I only half agree with. My colleague Julia — who would also be a much better commentator on the Hudson Valley treats that Bourdain sampled — noticed a similar treatment given to the area in a GQ article where Alan Richman invites Eric Ripert to experience true suburban dining… and then takes him to Costco. Richman lives in Westchester and Bourdain grew up along the Hudson (albeit in New Jersey), and even with their intimate knowledge of the area, there’s still that little bit of self-loathing that makes them try to paint us as unsophisticated, small-town folk.
Take, for instance, his experience in Verplanck. The bit starts with an extended intro about how the town seems like it’s been unchanged for the past 50 years. To hear him tell it, it’s a wonder we have that new-fangled electricity up here! Then they fish for blue crabs in the Hudson, and all he can talk about is how weird it is that they’re eating something that came from waters so close to Indian Point. (In fact, the bumper they show upon the return from every commercial break featured a little animation of an irradiated crab.) Even though it was explained that those crabs were being shipped down to Maryland because they were bigger and more delicious, you got the sense that Bourdain thought the whole thing was a little backward.
Now, one of the things I like about the Hudson Valley is that it does have a mix of the modern and the timeless. It’s just, at some parts, I think he was tipping the scale towards “old-timey” unnaturally.
Thankfully that all ends for the last segment of the evening — at Peter Kelly’s X20 Xaviar’s on the Hudson. And, hey! Bill Murray is there too! Not only do they show Kelly’s modern digs and his obviously sophisticated cuisine, but in the end Murray brings up the central question about what it means to live here. Take a look: