As New Yorkers continue to migrate up the Hudson, leaving the city behind for the greener expanses of land between the Catskills and the Berkshires, towns throughout the Valley are getting livelier every year. The area has long been a destination, with world-famous art collections and the natural scenery to match. Now, the food and drinks scene is heating up, too, drawing top chefs who are making the best of the proximity to farms, and beverage managers taking advantage of the recent distillery boom. You could design a road trip up the Hudson around food and drink alone, and without straying too far from the highway.
Gardiner is about an hour and a half north of the city, and it’s worth the detour off the Thruway to visit Gardiner Liquid Mercantile. Opened in 2015 by Gable Erenzo, formerly of Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, this distillery/bar/restaurant stocks only beverages made in house or within a 20-mile radius. The bar holds a rainbow of shrubs and house-made bitters that flavor drinks like the Atlas Shrubbed, a cocktail of house-distilled brandy with sour-cherry liqueur and cherry-peach shrub. Driving? The Liquid Mercantile also makes some killer homemade sodas for the road, and sells bottles of local spirits to drink when you get to your destination.
In early 2018, chef Alex Burger, formerly of Bar Boulud in NYC, joined the exodus from the city, taking over the kitchen at The Amsterdam. On days and evenings when weather permits, the back patio is open at the Rhinebeck restaurant, and the fire pits are roaring; inside, many tables offer a view into the open kitchen. Start with a cocktail, whether a Negroni or one of their seasonal specials, and a plate of house-smoked ham or arctic char rillettes; then follow up with one of the standout handmade pastas. James Jusseaume presents a concise wine list that leans French, sprinkled with many picks from smaller producers in California. It’s best to call ahead for a reservation, but the town has a lively main drag if you walk in and have to wait for a table.
Opened by the design-savvy team of Jamie and Tracy Kennard, Kingston’s Brunette Wine Bar is as much fun to look at as it is to dine in: the wine bottles and savory snacks served on mismatched china stand out against the white brick walls, marble tables and refurbished wooden floors. Tracy curates a wild selection of natural wines at this waterfront-district hangout, changing the selection frequently. Spotted on a recent visit: Paleokerisio from Domaine Glinavos, a sparkling amber wine from Greece, and Crnko Jarenincan, a Slovenian Muller-Thurgau, as well as a Morgon from Christine et Gilles Paris.
The drinks parallel the bright colors of this space, a coffee shop by day, bar by night, as well as art gallery and performance space. Liam Singer and Laura Davidson, the bartenders who opened HiLo early last summer craft dynamic cocktails, having fun with fruits, spices and herbal liqueurs for drinks that match the time of year. Roots and spices dominate in the colder months while their summer cocktails lean tropical, using fresh juices, and garnishes from local foragers. Try the Piña Picante, a mix of Tequila, Ancho Reyes, pineapple juice and lime served in a glass with a salt rim seasoned with spruce tips, sorrel and oxalis, or the Root Rush, a blend of Root, a birchbark-infused amaro, lime and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.
Sarah Suarez has assembled one of the best wine lists in the Valley at Gaskins, the Germantown gathering spot she runs with her husband, chef Nick Suarez. Inspired by her time working at Diner and Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn, she features natural wines from growers in France and Italy. In the kitchen, Nick gathers ingredients from local farms for simple dishes that let the wines shine. This spring, great matches included the kale salad with pickled shallots and maple vinaigrette—delicious with the Bornard Point Barre Ploussard—and a housemade cavatelli with oyster mushrooms, ramps, chiles and ricotta, a rich dish made even better with the earthy and floral 2009 Olivier Horiot Rosé des Riceys, an aged still rosé from Champagne.
Munich transplant Conny Chase and husband and chef Andrew ran a food truck peddling homemade bratwurst and flammkuchen before opening The Flammerie. They took some time to retrofit an 1850s general store in Kinderhook where their kitchen sports a wood oven. And, since moving out of the truck, they’ve expanded their menu offerings to include dishes like crisp-tender flammkuchen with extravagant toppings like coq au vin, or spaetzle gratin with bacon and onions. To wash it all down, they’ve put together an extensive wine list focused on Germany, Alsace and alpine regions—high-acid wines that complement the rich, hearty food—with most bottles hovering around the $40 mark. Try the Albert Mann Hengst Grand Cru Pinot Gris with the house-made bratwurst, or the Pavese Ermes Blanc de Morgex, a prié blanc from the Valle d’Aosta, with the potato-crusted trout.
This story appears in the print issue of February 2020.
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