There are endless reasons to love living in the Hudson Valley. The spectacular scenery (living in a town that is nestled between the Hudson River and its own mountain still gives me a little thrill), the historic homes and sites, world-class cultural opportunities, and easy access to New York City are just some of the high points of life in the Valley.
And then there is the food scene.
From the explosion of farm-to-table eateries to the ever-expanding craft beer and distillery options, the Hudson Valley has arrived as an international foodie destination. All year long we keep you up-to-date on the latest: restaurant (and food truck) openings, the hottest trends, and can’t-miss specials. But this month’s cover story focuses on where to get the good stuff if you want to prepare some fabulous fare at home. More and more of us are becoming interested in where our food comes from and in preparing high-quality and healthy — yet tasty — meals.
I am one of these people. This comes as a shock to my family, considering that when I was well into my 20s and living on my own, I famously called my sister to ask how to hard-boil an egg. Was it three minutes? Ten minutes? Should the water be boiling first? I’ve come a long way since then. Like many others, I now enjoy experimenting with different ingredients and testing out new recipes.
I’ve also learned a lot about the importance of individual ingredients. For years, I kept a bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my cabinet, but I really never gave it any thought. I picked it up much the way I bought toilet paper: as needed. Well I certainly had a lot to learn. Luckily, olive-oil tasting spots are popping up all around the region, and I live near one of them, Beacon’s Scarborough Fare. Owner Donna Wirthmann says that on weekends at the shop, “It’s like a party.” Wirthmann went into business five years ago with her son, Cory, first opening a still-thriving shop in New Paltz, then adding the Beacon taproom a year later.
But it’s a party with a purpose, as Wirthmann teaches curious customers how to taste olive oil: Hold a tiny paper cup of it in your palms to warm it up; put your whole nose in the cup to get a good whiff; roll the liquid around in the front of your mouth, and then swallow. If it’s good stuff (as are all 20 or so international offerings priced by the ounce and dispensed from Italian-made stainless-steel fusti), expect to feel a “bite.”
“That is the common denominator of all good olive oil,” says Wirthmann. “Bitter is better. The more bitter the olive oil, the fresher it is. Taste olive oil from the supermarket shelf and see if you get that bite.”
There is much more to discover about the local food scene; our Food Lover’s Guide is a good place to start.
Olivia J. Abel