Hudson Valley restaurants worth the trip
GalleriesHudson Valley getaways
Twenty years ago, most fine dining in the Hudson Valley was found in well-populated areas or affluent weekender towns. Today, however, you can find memorable experiences in most remote places. These five out-of-the-way gems -- three in Dutchess County, one in Orange County and one in Connecticut -- are well worth a leisurely country drive.
This historic former hostelry from 1782 exudes history, with a fine old tavern, period touches and terrific food (7801 S. Main St., Pine Plains; 518-398-8800; stissinghouse.com). The Provence-born owner, Michel Jean, and his wife, Patricia, revitalized the once thriving hotel and opened the restaurant in 2005. The period dining rooms now have wide-plank floors, hand-hewn beams and brick fireplaces.
The large tavern is a haunt for locals, which around here can mean those living within 20 miles. The menu is authentically Provençale -- for years they owned the Greenwich Village restaurant Provence -- with much of the food cooked in a wood-burning oven. Among the specialties: leek terrine with black truffle vinaigrette, sauteed Hudson Valley foie gras with a balsamic reduction, steak frites, and organic chicken roasted in the wood oven. Explore the selection of fragrant, light-bodied Provençale wines. Cocktails are taken seriously, too. Dinner is served Thursday through Sunday; lunch is served Saturday and Sunday.
This extravagantly restored 35-room Tuscan villa in rural Orange County is a rose among ragweed (635 Pine Hill Rd., Chester; 845-469-1900; glenmeremansion.com). A posh hotel and spa, it boasts a dining room out of the Vanderbilt era called The Supper Room, and a casual lounge, Frogs End. The former is all antiques, candlelight and hand-painted panels depicting the Tuscan countryside. The room opens to a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Hudson Valley. As one would expect, the food is highly sophisticated and eclectic with a rustic sensibility. The prix fix dinner is $85 per person; there is no a la carte option.
Among the dishes on the current Supper Room menu are seared scallops with snap peas, garlic, chilies and carrot butter; veal osso buco with toasted couscous, chanterelle mushrooms and crispy sweetbreads; wild striped bass with ndujo (a spicy, spreadable sausage from Italy) clams, chilies, fennel sausage and fava beans; and grilled filet mignon with Maytag blue cheese, watercress and potato croquettes.
Service is meticulous and genial. The vast wine list traffics international selections on the high end of the price scale. Dinner is served in two seatings Thursday through Saturday; a $65 prix fix Champagne brunch is served Sunday. A more modest menu is available in Frogs End.
How's this for fusion: Chef-owner Serge Madikians of Serevan is of Armenian descent, grew up in Tehran, and studied classical French cooking, subsequently working in top Manhattan restaurants including Bouley (6 Autumn Lane, Amenia; 845-373-9800; www.serevan.com). The result is food with wonderfully stratified flavors that is both exotic and heady.
Occupying a 1800s farmhouse, Seravan is cozy and romantic, with a giant hearth, dark wood floors and flattering lighting. A leafy outdoor patio is enchanting in summer. Some of the dishes: Prince Edward Island mussels galvanized with burnt orange oil and fresh thyme; black sea bass with basmati rice, mint, and a sour cherry reduction; a chicken bastila (a Middle Eastern pie topped with sweetened phyllo dough), and falafel-crusted cod with a cucumber and heirloom tomato salad. Servers are well schooled in the exotica of the menu and are extremely nice about translating them. The sophisticated wine selection focuses on European producers. Dinner is served Thursday through Monday.
To create a restaurant that's more sustainable and green than Red Devon, situated in the wilds of Dutchess County, you'd have to build it in a tree house (108 Hunns Lake Rd., Bangall; 845-868-3175; www.reddevonrestaurant.com). Locavore is taken to the limit at this delightful market-bar-restaurant. The spacious dining room could be called stylish country: muted earth tones, a polished wood floor, a stone hearth, and a large farm table in the center.
The young chef, Sara Lukasiewicz, is a trained butcher, and one of those "nose to tail" advocates, so you may encounter cuts of meat heretofore unknown. Typical offerings on the main menu are crispy smoked salmon cakes; southern fried buttermilk-brined chicken; beer-battered line-caught haddock; and parsnip-and-ramps-filled ravioli with wild mushrooms and a lemon butter sauce. Don't miss the extraordinary selection of local cheeses.
The short wine list carries a good number of selections in the $30 range. Even cocktails are organic, made with locally distilled spirits, presumably legal. Dinner is served Thursday through Sunday.
MAYFLOWER INN & SPA IN WASHINGTON, CONN.
Nestled in the manicured environs of an affluent Connecticut town -- about 60 miles northeast of White Plains -- this jaw-dropping Relais & Chateaux manor house sits on 28 acres and serves as a hotel, a luxury restaurant and a spa (118 Woodbury Rd., Washington, Conn.; 860-868-9466; www.mayflowerinn.com).
The regal main dining room has a dreamy quality, dominated by an oversized bucolic painting. An adjacent terrace affords wide views of the property. Everything speaks luxury, from the handsome banquettes to the fine linen tablecloths, crystal wineglasses and fresh flowers. Some items from the changing late summer menu: Halibut with tangelo juice and fava bean risotto with bouillabaisse jus; lamb chops with lavender, potato puree, a vegetable tian; and an almond-goat cheese bouche (a puff pastry). For the health minded, there is vegetable fricassee with new potatoes, leeks and a wild mushroom omelet. On the other end of the scale you can savor a strip steak for $49.
Servers in the dining are vigilant and discreet. Dinner is served nightly; breakfast, brunch and lunch are served, too. Downstairs is a more casual taproom.