Like the Hudson estuary, trends in dining seem to flow both ways between New York City and the Hudson Valley. Whether it’s the Valley’s farm-raised meat and produce being plated in Brooklyn, or a beloved Manhattan chef making the move north, the regions are undeniably linked. But talk to any restaurateur, chef, or brewer in either locale, and you’ll find that whether they’re introducing a farmhouse sour ale, or serving Foie Gras Torchon at a Michelin-rated restaurant in Midtown, these culinary and beverage devotees are each focused on one thing: providing their guests with something distinctive.
Jason Synan, one of the brewers at Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon, believes that the increased availability of time and space the Hudson Valley affords encourages more imagination in techniques and production. “There’s room to breathe,” he says. “It’s a relaxed environment that allows you to be creative.” He and his brewing partners, John Anthony Gargiulo and Mike Renganeschi, have combined traditional methods with experimental practices, bringing their production to a warehouse they’ve been renovating, and distributing throughout the state. Still, “New York City was our first market,” explains Synan, “and the current trend in brewing is moving toward smaller, locally focused breweries that aren’t distributing too far out of their immediate region.”
Nick and Sarah Suarez, meanwhile, are alumni of New York City hotspots like Marlow & Sons, Gramercy Tavern, and The Modern. A few years ago, the couple ventured up the Hudson in search of a simpler life, and a small town in need of a gathering place. They settled in Germantown, and their restaurant, Gaskins, opened its doors in June 2015. They say they wanted to be near the farms they work with, while providing a spot for the people of their community to enjoy updated, classic plates. “New York City chefs don’t get that closeness to the land and the farm,” says Nick. “We get to become friends with the farmers; we buy their produce, then they come into our restaurant and eat our food.”
This is something patrons are willing to pay for: Nick feels that the guests at Gaskins are prepared for the higher price point because they know it directly supports local farms and businesses. The same is true for laborious beer production, explains Synan. “Now you see a consumer ready to pay for this product, and this has a lot to do with bars in New York City being the tastemakers and pioneering interest.” Cory Bonfiglio of Beer Street, a highly revered beer bar in Brooklyn, affirms this sentiment, noting how “people are compelled more than ever by those beverages and combinations they’ve yet to try…I am so happy to see hometown pride taking precedence.”
At Aureole courtesy of Maggie Marguerite Studio
“New York City is our biggest market,” explains Marcus Henley of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG) in the Catskills. According to Henley, foie gras, a high-end food made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened, is primarily a New York product in the US. The movement toward local ingredients and increased support of smaller communities works in HVFG’s favor because their transparency attracts customers from out of the area. “We sell our foie gras to restaurants throughout the country,” he tells. “Many chefs from around the nation come to Hudson Valley Foie Gras each year, and gain confidence from their visits that we are a good farm.”
Henley sees the popularity of updated classics in the evolution of this distribution. “Foie gras is more accessible now. It has moved far beyond the limits of French and fine dining; we see it implemented in cuisines from Asian Fusion to Cajun, along with dishes like burgers topped with foie gras.” Gabriele Carpentieri, Executive Chef of Aureole in midtown Manhattan, buys directly from HVFG. “Chefs are always looking for something new and different,” says Carpentieri. “We want to elevate what people like to experience with a creation based on new flavor. The fun part of cooking is incorporating that into your menu.”
Back upstream in Orange County, Chris Basso — CEO and Brewmaster of Newburgh Brewing Company — sees the same forces shaping his city and brewery. The taproom serves traditional, homemade fare that has been refined by locally sourced ingredients, and when it comes to beer, he, like Nick and Sarah Suarez, believes in focusing on creating improved classics. “Trends aren’t necessarily started here or there. Maybe the city drinkers are looking for the newer, brighter, wilder, but the favorites will always be reliable,” Basso notes. Or as Nick Suarez puts it, “Eventually you turn back to the classics; they’ll never be trendy, and they’ll never get old.”
The common thread coming from these chefs, restaurateurs, and brewers then, is that today’s consumer — whether in New York City or the Hudson Valley — is looking for a superior take on what they already know and love. It’s their enduring sense of place that plays directly into their tastes, and ultimately catapults these trends into each community.