Baby, it’s cold outside, but step into Canterbury Brook Inn when all three fireplaces are going and Chef Hans Baumann is cooking Swiss continental dinners, and you’ll be warmed inside and out.
Baumann grew up on a farm in a small village in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, close to the German border. “Whatever we grew, we ate,” he says. “It was mostly pork. Meat was only for lunch, and it wasn’t every day.”
Baumann says the chalet-like restaurant, which dates back to 1750, was once an inn. It now has three dining rooms and an outdoor patio. It was a labor of love as Kim worked the front and Hans ran the kitchen, building the new business into a thriving restaurant.
Today, Wienerschnitzel, fondue, pan-seared pork tenderloin Zurichoise, and bratwursts are favorites on the menu.
When autumn turns to winter, Baumann adds seasonal dishes to the menu like sauerbraten, venison, and Raclette, a hearty melted Swiss cheese served with roast potatoes, pickled cornichons, carrots, and onions.
Chef Baumann attributes Canterbury Brook Inn’s longevity to local friends. “Cornwall is very good to us. It’s a good town and the people are supportive. Winter can be slow, but they come out and dine with us,” he says.
Many take advantage of a $19.95 dinner special Tuesday–Thursday, which offers inspired, mostly comfort food and is available to take out or eat in the restaurant. Baumann has email lists that he uses to announce certain specials to regulars. “The cow’s liver with bacon and onions was one of the first popular specials. Someone said, ‘Call me the next time it’s on the list,’ and we did,” Baumann says.
Over the years, hundreds have signed up for his cow’s liver, bacon, and onion alert. “Now we email the specials list and post it on our Facebook page,” he laughs.
– McKinney & Doyle Fine Foods Café and Bakery –
Enter the center of Pawling’s quaint New England-style village, and it’s hard not to notice the singular brick building at one end of Charles Colman Boulevard. Hanging outside is a candy cane striped awning and wooden signs for a bakery and “Fine Food” right next to it. A bakery and a classic American pub under the same roof? No way would that work.
The story of McKinney & Doyle starts with its founders, Shannon McKinney and Brian Doyle, who met while working at a wholesale bakery in Katonah. The coworkers became friends, and eventually, business partners. Their journey began on the outskirts of Pawling’s downtown area with The Corner Bakery in 1986. The duo’s popular Irish soda bread, picturesque pies, pecan sticky buns, and old-fashioned cheese Danishes did so well that it was soon time to expand to a café.
After the town brought in a master planner to help revitalize the downtown area — and with a willing seller of the space they’re in now — they moved the bakery and café into a 120-year-old brick building in the village, officially opening Fine Foods Café in 1991.
“People said, ‘You should make food,’” McKinney says. “That turned into ‘You should have tables.’ Then it was breakfast and lunch.” And ultimately, dinner. It was so successful that just a year after opening, M.H. Reed wrote in The New York Times, “every preparation is executed with wit, ingenuity and a brilliant juxtaposition of colors, flavors and textures.”
In 2011, the storefront next door became vacant and McKinney (Doyle left the business in 1999) put a dining room and bar into that space. The latest incarnation has it all covered: breakfast, bakery treats, shakes, and egg creams on one side; lunch, dinner, a bar, and weekend brunch on the other.
On the savory end of the spectrum, they serve battered fried fish tacos, meatloaf sandwiches pressed grilled cheese style, homemade soups, steaks, and other homey comfort dishes. There’s a coulotte steak, a heavily marbled, savory cut from the top sirloin, served with horseradish, mustard demi-glace, and combination white and sweet potato mash, that McKinney says is popular in the evening. Don’t sleep on their craft cocktail program, either.
“What we’ve done over the years is listen to our customers’ wants and needs,” says McKinney, who credits a lot of the restaurant’s success not only to his customers, but to his staff, some of whom have been there since day one. “Most of the kitchen staff has been here for 20 years,” he says. “Our original dishwasher is now head chef; our manager has been here since he was 15. Locals like seeing familiar faces. We want to learn your name and what you like.”
– Milanese –
If it weren’t for a paperwork mix-up, there may not have been a Milanese restaurant in Poughkeepsie — or a Milanese family at all.
In 1956, Santino Milanese, along with his parents and siblings, were set to board the doomed ocean liner, the Andrea Doria, bound from Genoa to New York. But due to their paperwork not being in order, the family literally missed the boat.
They did eventually make it to New York City and then to Poughkeepsie, where Santino worked in a pocketbook factory before switching to a bus boy and bartender, when the factory workers went on strike.
In 1971, he and his wife Rita opened Milanese on the slope of Main Street leading down towards the Hudson.
Santino waited and bussed tables, served as bartender and did sleight-of- hand tricks, bringing neighbors back over and over again to eat in this warm, family restaurant. Rita was the first cook in their kitchen, making what she knew and what she fed her family, who lived above the restaurant.
Today, the second generation has taken over running the kitchen and the front of the house. Sons, daughters, and daughters-in-law wait tables, work in the bar and kitchen, and greet regulars like the family has done for years. Brothers Aldo, Roberto, and Alessandro work side by side, in the same place they grew up.
Santino, 81, comes in every day around 10:30 or 11 a.m. and still smiles the graceful grin of someone who has welcomed friends new and old to his restaurant for decades.
In front of the house, he can’t resist turning a nickel into a half dollar, impressing visitors with his magic tricks. And he still plays a role behind the scenes. “My father still comes in and butchers the veal and the chicken himself, and he makes the minestrone soup from scratch,” says his son Aldo.
Regulars can tell when Santino is vacationing in Italy. “When dad’s not here, there’s no minestrone soup on the menu,” explains Aldo.
According to Aldo, the stuffed shrimp is a favorite along with the chicken Parmigiana, veal dishes, and the lasagna, for which they cook the meat before grinding it themselves.
The cheese is beautifully baked under the broiler and goes perfectly with a serving of garlic bread and a glass of house red wine.
Much of the menu is similar to when they opened in the 1970s. Aldo, who alternates between the front of the house and cooking in the kitchen, says “I have a philosophy of trying to keep things the same, consistent.”
Amen to that.
– Mt. Fuji Steakhouse –
On a mountaintop high over the New York State Thruway, you can time travel 50 years into the past and 50 into the future, all on the same 40 acres.
Welcome to Mt. Fuji Steakhouse, an iconic hibachi-style restaurant that marks birthdays, confirmations, engagements, and family gatherings over flaming onion volcanoes, flying shrimp tails, and the metallic drum beat of chefs making memorable dinners on flat top grills.
But on the other side of the restaurant sits Y’s Lounge (the “Y” stands for Yama, which means mountain) a new concept in drinking and dining where unique Asian-influenced bites and cocktails are the key to merging the gastronomic history and future of food.
Through giant red torii Gates — most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine — and past statues of two warrior gods, which symbolize the circle of life, guests check in at the front desk with the golden glow and art of Mt. Fuji on the wall.
In the dining room, Chef Adi arrives, pushing a cart with filet mignon, strip steak, lobster, shrimp, and chicken. “Move it, move it,” he chants as he makes his way through the diners and celebrants.
Dinner and a show has begun. By the time your meal has reached your plate, Chef Adi has tossed shrimp tails into his hat, broccoli into your mouth, made an “I heart you” out of rice and vegetables, and added “coca cola,” which is soy sauce, onto your food.
After the two-hour dining experience, guests leave amused, entertained, well fed, and happy, which has been Mt. Fuji’s legacy for 50 years.
In 1969, Tokuaki and Kazue Fujita opened their first Mt. Fuji, in Fairview, NJ. More locations, in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut followed.
The Hillburn restaurant — one of the two remaining— opened in 1985, after Japanese carpenters spent almost three years building the restaurant. Much of the original material was flown in from Japan.
The hibachi side of the restaurant is recently renovated, with new floors and expanded rooms that have been opened up to allow more light in. The addition of Y’s Lounge offers an upscale atmosphere with great cocktails and shared plates of more contemporary cuisine.
The big hits here are a crispy asparagus and Japanese rice cracker skewer, the Japanese beer battered crispy shrimp with spicy red chili cream sauce, and the Japanese mushroom flatbread.
But the must-have is the premium skirt steak with Remy Martin cognac grilled on a Yogan Lava Stone from Mount Fuji in Japan. It’s a beautiful piece of prime beef which you cook to personal perfection on the hot stone.
More importantly, this dish goes full circle and merges the sizzling steak of the old Mt. Fuji hibachi grill with the young, hip flavor of Y’s Lounge.
– Raccoon Saloon –
Walk into Raccoon Saloon and you can almost imagine walking into a frontier bar in the early 1800s. Swinging doors, the keys of a piano being played as patrons sipped whisky or sarsaparilla and waited for the next gunfight.
The restaurant’s home is, in fact, a relic of that time. Built in 1827, it has been known as Farmer’s Hotel, Pleasant View Hotel, the Riverview Hotel, and for more than 40 years has been serving up food and drinks as Raccoon Saloon.
Current owners Ronan and Angela O’Neill — who moved north from New Jersey — purchased it from longtime owner Rita Truesdale 15 years ago, and quickly gained a reputation for their great food and hamburgers.
The restaurant is also known for something less earthly. According to Angela, it is haunted “In a good and friendly way. I heard my name called when I was the only one in the building. People see a little girl, about 12 years old in a long, flowing dress. Maybe it was the alcohol, but people have said she’s here and very friendly. Everyone has a little ghost story.”
Today, the three-story building boasts wonderful Hudson Valley views, an ornate, waist-high wooden railing around the second floor, and a mansard-style slate roof on top of the third floor.
“Keeping the building going has its challenges,” Angela says. “Luckily, Ronan was in construction for many years and is able to fix anything himself.”
Their greatest challenge as a restaurant, she explains, is the recent influx of big chain restaurants. “We’re just a small family restaurant with a great staff, and we’d be nowhere without them and our loyal, regular customers.” Plus, “Our food is good, the quality is always consistent, and our service is always exceptional.”
On a recent weekday, the wait staff was smiling and hustling, racing to the kitchen for burgers and lunch and bouncing back to the bar to chat with “Thunder Eddie” who seems to be occupying his regular seat, sunglasses on his head and a Bud in his hand.
Eddie is a lover of the arts — or at least the art in this building. Over his left shoulder hangs a painting of three playful raccoons, just one of the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of furry friends that adorn the Saloon.
– The Ship Lantern Inn –
The Ship Lantern Inn is a mainstay of the Hudson Valley restaurant community, with an antique neon sign commanding attention from those driving by on Route 9W in Milton.
Recently, Rolando Pujol, who runs www.retrologist.com, a website devoted to 20th century roadside Americana, stood with smartphone in hand, waiting to snap a photo at that time of day when the sun is down, the sky is a deep blue, and the neon sign is shining.
“It’s breathtaking! The mix of fonts, the use of red and green. It’s fabulous,” says Pujol. “They’ve done a great job maintaining this sign, which I’d guess is 50 or 60 years old. I’m sure it’s tempting to replace it with a plastic, fluorescent lit box.”
As it happens, Pujol is right. “It costs a fortune to keep that sign going,” says third-generation owner/operator Michael Foglia. “A little bit of wind or hail and it’s thousands of dollars to repair every year.”
“Every once in a while I get an urge to take it down,” he continues, “but everyone tells me that I can’t, it’s an iconic sign in the Hudson Valley.”
The neon sign has been there for as long as Foglia can remember. The Ship Lantern was opened in 1925 by his grandfather John, one of the four founders of Chef Boyardee. He follows his dad, Angelo, and his Uncle John at the helm.
“I love this place. I love this building,” says Foglia. “It’s a great old place, and it’s really wonderful in the winter, with the wood-burning fireplaces going.”
His high-end style and his family’s reputation for great food and service are still important guiding principles of the Ship Lantern.
“You can’t do that with smoke and mirrors,” Foglia says. “It has to be a vocation, not an occupation. You have to have a desire to please people.” The Ship Lantern is a draw for day-trippers who enjoy the Hudson Valley on weekends and regulars from a 35- or 40-mile radius who return year after year.
Foglia sees “a whole new generation of customers who had been coming in with their parents.”
Many take advantage of the twilight prix fixe menu, which includes an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
There are many highlights on Chef Dana Calabrese’s menu, most notably the oysters topped with ground shrimp and mushroom duxelles.
The majority of the vegetables and herbs that Calabrese uses in his kitchen come from the 15-acre farm behind the restaurant.
The Maine lobster and Maryland crab risotto is outstanding, as is the bone-in filet mignon with a bone marrow compound butter which Salvatore Saccoccio, who runs the dining room, carves and plates in front of you.
Save room for dessert, like the cinnamon and caramel crêpe with vanilla ice cream, which is made in house.
In keeping with the times, all the items on the menu are marked if they’re vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free, and the Ship Lantern will gladly accommodate food allergies or cravings — except on Mondays, when they’re closed.
– Terrapin –
Josh Kroner’s chill demeanor makes him seem like a Hudson Valley lifer, but the chef-owner of Terrapin is familiar with the hustle of New York City, where he attended the French Culinary Institute and had stops at Food Network and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill.
Kroner’s engineering degree tells you he didn’t always want to be a chef, but some things are destiny. His parents were in the restaurant business, and his uncle Vinny owned an Italian restaurant where Kroner worked as a young adult. In 1998, Kroner left NYC, and purchased an old restaurant with an attached apartment in West Hurley. “At least I’d have a big kitchen if the whole thing goes down,” he jokes.
Five years later he relocated Terrapin to a nearly 200-year-old church in Rhinebeck where he and his attentive staff have been satisfying customers with a cuisine he describes as, “Food that I like to eat. ‘New American?’ What does that mean?”
A few Kroner originals are a horseradish crusted Ahi tuna with miso aioli and a barbeque duck quesadilla with mango-avocado salsa. There’s even a nod to his uncle in a heaping plate of rigatoni with chicken and spinach in a marinara-sherry sauce. Their tapas — a Best of Hudson Valley Readers’ Pick — are a highlight if you’re eating lighter.
Behind his hearty menu of classics with a twist, there’s a dedication to freshness. “My appreciation for fresh ingredients began at Union Square Greenmarket in the late ’90s when farm-to-table started,” he says. “No one did farm-to-table in the Hudson Valley then. I hated that those ingredients weren’t easy to get, so I made relationships with farmers, not to hop on a trend, because it made sense.”
– Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar –
Chef Peter Kelly is another supporter of Hudson Valley farming and dining, going back to when he opened Xavier’s in Garrison in 1983. “The Hudson Valley is a very special place,” he says. “While I had many opportunities to open restaurants in Manhattan or across the country, I wanted to be a part of what the Hudson Valley is achieving.”
His longest-running establishment, currently in operation, is Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar, which he added to his resume in 1997.
“Bully Boy was a popular venue for people going to West Point or the Catskills,” he says. “This was a place they visited. In ’97, it was in its decline, and we tried to resurrect it. It was there for 40 years before I purchased it. Tom McQuade opened it as an English chophouse.”
Taking over an existing “institution” was “a real challenge,” says Kelly. He spent a long time pondering what to keep and what to throw out. In the redesign, he merged old and new. “We kept the lounge and updated the interiors, menu, and service. We decided on a theme of Old World/New World which allowed us to keep some classics and to add more contemporary dishes.”
Today, one of the most requested dishes is Beef Wellington, a dish that was on the menu at the old chophouse, but Kelly prepares quite differently. “We use a necklace of Hudson Valley vegetables and add a duxelles of mushrooms and foie gras and it’s all from here,” he notes. “It’s a classic dish that all of a sudden has a very Hudson Valley feel.” Other additions include Hudson Valley duck breast served rare with Japanese turnip, and olive-oil-poached Atlantic halibut.
Kelly likens the Hudson Valley dining scene today to that in California. “Like a visitor to San Francisco needs to visit Napa Valley, a visitor to New York needs to visit the Hudson Valley. It’s finally becoming that type of destination.”
“Clearly the word is getting out that we’re at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement,” he says. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”