My first real experience with farm-to-table dining occurred many years ago in Tuscany. I was in my 20s when a friend and I took off on a spontaneous two-week jaunt to Italy. While I had been to several other European countries previously, Italy immediately enchanted me in a whole new way. It was almost overwhelming: the ancient history on every corner, the stunning architecture, the beauty of both the people and the places, and of course, the food.
I had grown up with great Italian cooking. My mother was half British and half Italian; she often told me stories of how, when she was a young adult, she would visit her mother, who lived in a small Tuscan seaside village. They would while away the days walking the rocky beaches and cooking sauces and fresh fish.
At that point, I was living in Manhattan and certainly took advantage of all the culinary wonders that the city has to offer (at least as far as my budget would allow). But the truth was I gave very little thought to where my food was coming from. In Italy, I was bowled over by all the restaurant recommendations; there was just not enough time, not enough meals, not enough room in my stomach to indulge in it all. (Although I think it is fair to say that I tried every flavor of gelato known to mankind in those two weeks.)
But one meal stood out above all the rest. After several days in Florence, I joined a group of about a dozen people to go bicycling into the countryside for the entire day. We stopped at a vineyard for lunch. While there, I started chatting with the proprietor and before I knew it, we had wandered out into the fields. I helped him pick vegetables, saw where the chickens were raised and where the grapes ripened. When we all sat down around the long farm table, it felt like we had all been friends forever; the food was fresher and tasted better than anything I had ever enjoyed in Manhattan.
The farm-to-table movement has long been de rigueur in Europe. Now, it is a part of life here in the Hudson Valley, too. We are lucky to live in a region where so many top-notch chefs are embracing this philosophy. In our cover story, Where to Eat Now, we introduce you to eight one-of-a-kind spots where local produce is just the beginning. Whatever your mood, whatever you are looking for — from the most hearty breakfasts to the hippest city scene around — we’ve got the scoop on where to find it. Also in this issue, we let you know what is brewing at our local coffeehouses. Often the center of life in our towns and villages, these hip hangouts offer not just world-class coffee (much of it locally roasted, of course) but serve as art galleries, music venues, and much more. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, happening this year between March 14-27. Just like eating in Italy, it’s a bit overwhelming… but worth every bite.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief