My definition of what constitutes a good restaurant has changed over the years. When I was a kid, growing up in Westchester, my first favorite was IHOP; all those different flavored syrups, the smiley-face pancakes, and that mysterious whipped topping kept me happy for years. As a teenager, I became enthralled with salad bars. Later, when I moved to New York City after college, I slowly began to develop a more sophisticated palate as I was able to partake in such an amazing smorgasbord of dining options. And I soon learned that half the fun of traveling to countries like Argentina, Italy, and Spain was tracking down the best restaurants and sampling the local fare.
Now that I have a toddler my standards have changed yet again. I love pretty much any establishment where I can sit in peace for longer than three minutes and food is not flying through the air. In other words, I enjoy any restaurant — as long as my little sweetie is at home with a sitter.
The good news for all of us is that the dining options in the Hudson Valley remain second to none. Our region has long been a national leader in the farm-to-table movement; and the Culinary Institute of America continues to churn out top-notch chefs who, luckily for us, often choose to keep their expertise and passion here in the Valley. And — despite the still sluggish economy — an impressive array of new restaurants have opened their doors in the past 18 months. In this issue, we profile eight of the best ones (page 34). (I admit that, so far, I’ve only made it to one of these establishments, but if the rest are as good as Brasserie 292 then local foodies are in for a treat.)
There is great variety among this bumper crop of restaurants. We’ve got a hip Latin bistro; a cozy tavern offering upscale comfort food and cask beer (and those of you who are into beer know exactly what this means); an Italian newbie where the pastries, pasta, and the poached octopus are grabbing everyone’s attention; and a Spanish tapas joint that offers, among other things, a lot of pig-centric fare. I’m particularly intrigued by this last one, as Spain is my favorite European country. I recall a memorable night in Barcelona when we headed out to a tiny little eatery that was famous for its grilled meats. While I was wary about trying rabbit, everyone insisted that I would think that I was eating chicken. Well, when the plate came to the table, there was that poor little bunny as though it had just jumped onto my plate and fallen over — ears, eyes, the whole nine yards. While I was temporarily horrified, all the food was outstanding. So while I can’t promise that I’ll order the spotted pig head at Panzur in Tivoli, I certainly want to sneak a look at it.
Also in this issue, starting on page 61, is our roundup of the many delightful holiday happenings — from historic house tours to caroling concerts — which are sure to get you in the spirit this season.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief