Small Bites

Riverfront refreshments, smokehouse specialties, and favorites from local farms.

Small Bites


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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…


Unless you’re a bartender at Torches on the Hudson on Newburgh’s waterfront. “It gets pretty crazy,” says Jim Banker, who has been tending to the thirsty masses of summer revelers for seven years. “It really kicks in after Memorial Day. During the week it’s not that nuts, but it is still pretty busy. From Sunday to Thursday we get a big dinner crowd. People in their 30s, 40s, 50s want to come and have a few cocktails, sit by the river.” But the weekends are another story: while two or three bartenders suffice during the week, 12 bartenders come on board to handle the weekend hoopla. “The kids roll in on Friday and Saturday nights after 11 p.m., and Torches becomes a club,” says Banker. “We easily pack in 1,000 people a night on the weekends.”


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What’s the main draw? Well, there’s the stunning riverfront setting. And a huge 6,000-gallon salt water aquarium — home to 30 varieties of fish — serves as a dramatic backdrop to the mahogany woodwork and hand-crafted, sea-themed lighting fixtures. Add in the fact that boatloads of partyers can dock right at the restaurant to mingle at the outdoor bar. “Our crowd is primarily local, mainly Dutchess and Orange counties, but a lot of people come up by boat from Rockland and Jersey for the night,” says Banker. “That’s quite a scene down on the docks, everyone hanging on their boats.”


So will Banker share some secrets of those summer nights? “There is a lot of goofy stuff that goes on. Girls are out strutting their stuff,” he says. “I won’t say much more than that. But no, no one has fallen in the river or anything like that.”


Naturally, the cocktails do their part to draw in the crowd. “Each summer we roll out 10 or 12 specialty drinks,” confides Banker. “All of us get together and collaborate to come up with some intriguing options.” But don’t take his word for it; try one at home. The recipe for one of 2007’s specialty drinks, the Tangerine Dream, is below. Or stop by Torches and let Banker do the honors. 

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Torches on the Hudson

120 Front St., Newburgh




Special Deliveries


Can’t get to the farmer’s market? Then ask the farmer’s market to come to you. Westchester County residents now have that option: a new on-line venture allows them to pre-order from more than a dozen Hudson Valley farms (including Hepworth Farm in Milton and Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie) and food vendors, then have their order delivered right to the front door.


The Web site,, is the brainchild of Maryanne Hedrick. A food marketer for more than 20 years, Hedrick moved from Hoboken to Peekskill two years ago. “For the first time, I experienced farmer’s markets,” she says. “Being a marketer and so in love with the food that comes from the Hudson Valley, I thought, ‘There’s a great, delicious resource right in our back yard.’ ”


Hedrick is looking to fill a gap. “There is a big trend of eating locally grown products, but you can’t get this food outside the markets. The farmers need help selling more — they are not marketers — and I am sure there are people like me who need a way to get this food.”


Westchester residents (she hopes to expand to other counties eventually) can subscribe to a weekly shopping guide which lists everything available that week. The minimum order is $25, plus $15 for the delivery, and payment is arranged through PayPal. Deliveries are made on Fridays and Saturdays to any home, office, or business in the county.


“The convenience is important,” Hedrick says, “but the story is the food. The food is so fantastic. I went to all the markets and tasted cheeses, honey, bread, dairy products — I tasted a granola at a food fair, it was oh-my-God delicious.”

— David Levine



Getcha Red Hot Cyber-Meat Here


Tom and Katherine Gray began wholesaling smoked meats 26 years ago the old-fashioned way: they carved a small retail space out of their Patterson (Putnam County) home. How quaint. How 20th century. How pre-Internet.


Last October, Paul Rashba and three other partners created to peddle the Gray’s meats and other distinctly Hudson Valley food products. Today, customers from as far away as California and Florida are buying Valley-smoked ham, turkey, salmon and other items from the comfort of their computer screens.


“We are trying to keep the site all artisanal products produced in the Hudson Valley,” Rashba says. “There are so many great foods produced here in small batches, and that’s our focus. My sense is that people who order from us all have connections to the Hudson Valley.”


The site also offers a line of certified organic smoked meats. “I haven’t found another site out there that does that, certainly not in the Northeast,” Rashba claims. Even the nonorganic products are created without liquid smoke or artificial colors. “The taste is really there,” Rashba says.


The site currently stocks about 40 items. Smoked turkeys start at $51.95 for a 10-pound bird. Smoked hams (boneless or bone-in) start at $47.95. A pound and a half of organic bacon goes for $12.95. A tasty sausage sampler — kielbasa, chicken sun-dried tomato, Andouille Cajun, chorizo, and bratwurst, plus specialty mustard — sells for $44.95.

“We add new products all the time,” Rashba says, “like baby back ribs” (two one-pound racks for $24.95). “We’re looking to add things like venison, duck and cheeses. And we always offer specials. We’re building a site where people can order complete meals, from soup to dessert.”


They’ve even hooked up with Master Chef Fritz Sonnenschmidt, formerly of the Culinary Institute of America, to create recipes, answer questions, and lend his expertise to help customers prepare and serve these tasty Valley treats — wherever they may be.

— David Levine



Caption: Party pleaser: Banker with some of Torches’ summer specialties.

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