I’m not the type to find stuff in books. I go more by feel,” says Jim Haurey, the chef and owner of the Grange Restaurant & Local Market.
His intuitive approach to cooking has the feel of a masterful improv act where fresh, locally grown ingredients provide the framework for the next riff. “Every Friday, I find out what we’ll be getting in, and then I start creating the dishes,” he says.
Although he has a degree in culinary arts from Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, and has spent 25-plus years cooking in fine dining establishments, Haurey refuses to bow to the strictures of any one cuisine — pairing a reverence for good food with an irreverent attitude towards culinary conventions. “I don’t usually serve things with a sauce. I don’t do any beurre blanc or maple glazed sh*t. I just kind of let the food do what it wants to do.”
Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels (left) dressed with red onion, scallions, lemon, and white wine; at right, lemon curd parfait with fresh meringue
The result is vibrant, seasonal fare — like a plate piled high with spiky, tempura-fried garlic scapes served with pickled ginger and soy sauce; or the perfectly seasoned New York strip steak that comes with a deliciously crisp potato pancake; sweet, mellow, almost nutty local cabbage; and a medley of red and gold beets. Although vegetables are featured prominently in almost every dish, humanely raised local meats from Lowland Farm and the Hudson Valley Cattle Company and sustainable, line-caught seafood (Haurey can usually tell you exactly where it’s from) also star in many of the appetizers and entrées.
Haurey credits longtime girlfriend Dominique Herman — whose farm, the Kitchen Garden, is certified by the Northeast Organic Farming Association and one of the Grange’s main suppliers — with giving him the push he needed to open his own place. “It was kind of kismet. This beautiful, old brick building has been around in the community forever — it’s been a post office, a candy shop, a deli — but the previous owners had pretty much packed up and walked away from the place. I’d just lost my position over at the Crystal Inn and couldn’t imagine ever working for someone else again. Dominique got a family friend to step in and help me buy the building and turn it into this beautiful restaurant.”
The historic building has a charmingly informal and slightly rustic interior with exposed brick and old-fashioned, white wainscoted walls. A large chalkboard that lists the day’s menu in brightly colored chalks hangs underneath an old, peeling, black-and-white “New Milford, NY” sign. Haurey built the large walnut-topped bar with wood he got from a friend; its refined bulk hearkens back to the building’s past as a post office.
Owner and chef Jim Haurey, and the exterior of the restaurant
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A spacious outdoor patio doubles as the site of a small but growing Saturday afternoon market where — in season — Haurey sells many of the fresh, local products and produce that he uses in the restaurant. “This whole place is about supporting the community. It also helps us offset the cost of these great ingredients so I can keep the prices reasonable,” he says.
Securing a liquor license has been an ongoing challenge, but the chef has big plans after he has the elusive license in hand. “We’re going to be doing beer and wine-tasting menus,” he says. In addition to a selection of New York State beers, Haurey is excited about both the taste and environmental impact of the wines he plans to offer through a company called the Gotham Project. “This company goes around the world to different vineyards that are trying to do eco-friendly things. Instead of bottling the wine on-site, they ship it in 50-gallon barrels, then put it in kegs. So it’s all on tap and it’s got a much smaller environmental footprint.”
Locals and visitors have been lining up for one of the restaurant’s 19 seats ever since it opened in August 2013. “On our busiest day we do 149 covers. It’s way more than I ever expected us to do, quite frankly,” Haurey admits.
The Crowd: Core patrons are locals mixed in with city folk — especially during fall leaf-peeping season.
Don’t Miss: The $11 sandwich menu offers some constants, including the very popular “ham pocket” — a mixture of smoked and fresh ham and cheese, which is wrapped in pizza dough and baked.
The Basics: Lunch and dinner Thurdsay-Monday. Appetizers $7-$12, entrées $18-$24; sandwiches are $11
If you go…
The Grange Restaurant & Local Market
1 Ryerson Rd., Warwick