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3 Hudson Valley Chefs Reveal Their Favorite Local Restaurants

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From the contents of their fridge to their go-to Friday cocktail, the chefs behind Essie’s Restaurant, Gracie’s Luncheonette, and The Jolly Onion Restaurant share their top picks.

Armand Vanderstigchel

The Jolly Onion Restaurant, Pine Island

Illustration by MFG Studio, mfgstudio.art

What are three items in your fridge at home right now? 

Organic coconut milk, which I use as a foundation for oatmeal or a health shake. Organic Nordic rye from Bread Alone bakery in Kingston. Ronnybrook Farm’s strawberry yogurt. 

What kitchen gadget can’t you live without? 

A good multi-functional Japanese Santuko sushi knife. Its wide blade and chopping abilities make it a knife to be used for cutting/slicing/spreading/tenderizing.

What’s your go-to beverage when you want to relax?

I always make a special relaxing medicinal nighttime tea of: mint, raw organic honey, shaved ginger root, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of raw organic apple cider vinegar; and, of course, boiling water.

Which cookbook taught you almost everything? 

At one time early in my career, I was obsessed about searching used book stores to complete the Time-Life Foods of the World series. This 27-set series, in most amazing detail, encompasses the cuisine and artisanal discovery of almost every country or region in the world that has set a culinary stamp on cuisine as we know it.

What is the most underrated culinary haunt in the Hudson Valley?

Daily Planet Diner in Lagrangeville. Even though they are doing well, I feel they have ingeniously shaken off the diner syndrome of large, mediocre menus with amazing fresh and inventive new takes on diner classics with fresh ingredients and a unique approach. As a chef, I really love it and find it relaxing to enjoy a great breakfast food in a casual setting. These guys know what they are doing! 

Brandon Walker

Essie’s Restaurant, Poughkeepsie

Illustration by MFG Studio, mfgstudio.art

What are three items in your fridge at home right now? 

Beer, wine, lobster.

What kitchen gadget can’t you live without? 

Robot Coupe [food processor] or Vita Mix [blender].

What’s your go-to beverage when you want to relax?

A Manhattan or a whiskey sour.

Which cookbook taught you almost everything? 

On Food And Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.

What is the most underrated culinary haunt in the Hudson Valley? 

One of my all-time favorites is Stockade Tavern in Kingston. They are the pioneers of the crafted cocktail scene in the Hudson Valley, and they don’t get enough credit for it.

Allyson Merritt

Gracie’s Luncheonette, Leeds

Illustration by MFG Studio, mfgstudio.art

What are three items in your fridge at home right now? 

Eggs. I love them for a quick meal or snack, and so does my dog, so it’s a win for everyone.

Pickles, from the garden at Gracie’s. My mom’s garlic dill recipe is everyone’s favorite. We use them at the restaurant to garnish Bloody Marys.

Zhoug. It’s a spicy Yemeni herb sauce made from cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, and cardamom. It’s pretty much good on everything (especially eggs).

What kitchen gadget can’t you live without? 

Microplane. I literally never bother chopping garlic or ginger anymore.

What’s your go-to beverage when you want to relax?

Margarita. Classic. Fresh lime juice, Cointreau, tequila, and a dash of agave nectar. Shaken, obviously. Salt and rocks.

Which cookbook taught you almost everything? 

On Food And Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. This was one of our textbooks at The Culinary Institute of America.

What is the most underrated culinary haunt in the Hudson Valley?

Twisted Soul in Poughkeepsie is one of my favorite places. The combination of ethnic flavors and techniques with familiar comfort foods (chickpea fries! Empanadas! Rice bowls! Noodles! Wings! Mac and cheese!), an extensive list of non-alcoholic beverages, and healthy options like made-in-front-of-you loaded salads, just makes it super-appealing 100 percent of the time.

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