Poppy’s photograph by Paul David O’Hanlon, www.pdofoto.com
First, let me explain: The term “foodie” suggests someone who is ardently interested in food, a gourmand, or even a food snob. That’s not me. I’m simply enthusiastic about good food. I’m picky about ingredients, so processed products and fast food joints hold no temptations for me. I admit to a weakness for Nathan’s fries, but I believe those qualify as actual food, unlike, say, Chicken McNuggets, which a friend once convinced me to consume. The aftertaste lingered for days, and the unpleasant memory lives on, years later. (In his wonderful book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan reports that a McNugget is about 44 percent minced chicken plus 37 other ingredients, including a few petroleum derivatives. Not my idea of a happy meal.)
One drawback to being a foodie, accidental or deliberate, is that the good stuff usually costs a little more. The strengthening economy has yet to trickle down to my household, so although we haven’t lowered our standards when it comes to buying ingredients to cook at home, we’ve had fewer dinners in restaurants since the meltdown. To make up for it, we’ve been going out more for lunch and brunch. Perhaps also in response to the iffy financial climate, many of the eateries that opened in the past year or so are affordable cafés, or burger or BBQ places. But (a more encouraging sign of the times), these are “fast food” places run by people who care about quality.
Another Fork in the Road is one welcome new spot (it opened last May on Rte. 99 in Milan, not far from Rhinebeck). Natalie DiBenedetto (known to her friends and fans as Figgy) used to run Mina in Red Hook, and howls of dismay went up when she closed it four years ago to have a baby. Now she’s back at the stove cooking what she calls finer-diner fare in a space that certainly looks like a finer diner, if not actually a cool café — all black and white and grey, with a couple of couches in the middle in case you want to plop down for a post-prandial rest. Just as she did at Mina, DiBenedetto uses as much Hudson Valley produce as possible. Breakfast (served all day) might be egg dishes, pancakes or crêpes (and you’re invited to make requests); at lunch, there are sandwiches, like house-smoked pulled-pork or smoked salmon and goat cheese, as well as burgers made of local, grass-fed beef. Check out the menu at www.anotherforkintheroad.com.
Speaking of using locally raised, grass-fed beef, Poppy Yeaple, of Poppy’s in Beacon, is a burger king on that score, dishing up juicy, lip-smackingly delicious, messy ones with organic toppings (even the vegan version’s getting raves), and fries made from fresh, real spuds. It’s a burger joint, so don’t expect anything fancy like plates and cutlery — your eats come in a paper bag with a wad of napkins and some cool background music to nosh to. (Check out www.poppyburger.com for more.)
Woody’s All Natural in Cornwall is another easy-going burger and sandwich place, “proud to support local farmers” (as they declare on their Web site), and using locally raised beef, free-range chickens, vegetables from nearby farms, and milk from Hudson Valley dairies. (See more at www.woodysallnatural.com.)
All three deliver delicious, wholesome food at affordable rates. And not a speck of petroleum derivative in sight.