Two revolutions ago I wrote that Hudson Valley Restaurant Week was the most magical time of the year, because a three-course lunch was $20, a three-course dinner was $28 and a week was 14 days. And I can do no better than that to convey my enthusiasm that Hudson Valley Restaurant Week will, like the sun, soon return, thawing the apathy and appetites of saveurs and savers alike.
This year, the fortnight roars in like a lion on March 11. Dine out on the lamb (salmon, pork confit…) until March 24. Choose from 175 restaurants across seven counties, from Yonkers to Poughquag. (What sound like offenses perpetrated by the Three Stooges are confirmed towns.) The prix, as usual, is fixe, and updated to pace with rising costs: $20.95 for a three-course lunch; $29.95 for a three-course dinner.
Hudson Valley Restaurant Week emerged in fall 2006 with just 70 restaurants. It was founded by Janet Crawshaw and Jerry Novesky of The Valley Table magazine, conceived as a celebration of local growers, suppliers and chefs – and as an engine of economic stimulus. Today’s behemoth is supported by a cornucopia of collaborators: farmers, winemakers, tastemakers, cooks and restaurateurs. The event is co-chaired by chef Peter X. Kelly of the Xavier Restaurant Group and Culinary Institute of America president Tim Ryan, who noted, at the Restaurant Week preview party, that the food industry is the second-largest in the country (behind health care) and, were it to be separated from the rest, would exist as the tenth-largest economy in the world.
“Events like Hudson Valley Restaurant Week drive consumers into everyone’s restaurants, and that’s a very, very good thing,” said Ryan. With 65 million eaters within a five-hour drive, $423 million is spent on food and beverage in the Hudson Valley each year, said Crawshaw. “The Hudson Valley has indeed become a food capital,” she said. The Valley made Lonely Planet’s 2012 list of Top Ten Travel Destinations, and recently received a similar honor from National Geographic.
At this time of year, expect chefs to rise to the climatic challenge by paying homage to local meats, cheeses, wines and spirits. Expect apples. Cuisines include American, Argentine, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latino, Mediterranean, Mexican, Moroccan and Swiss. No matter what you choose, there is something magical about any well-done restaurant meal: being served a plateful of something fragrant and beautiful that you couldn’t or wouldn’t make at home – something different, something special. That’s why I dine out, anyway, Restaurant Week or any other week.
If it’s new that you’re looking for, here are the new names on the restaurant roster: Barnaby’s, New Paltz; Brother’s Trattoria, Poughquag; Carlo’s Trattoria, Lagrangeville; Clock Tower Grill, Brewster; Don Coquí, White Plains; Elaine’s Tap & Table, Poughkeepsie; Esposito’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, White Plains; Guapo Cocina Mexicana, Yonkers; La Cremaillere, Bedford; Mary Kelly’s, Beacon; MP Taverna, Irvington; North Plank Road Tavern, Newburgh; Primavera, Croton Falls; and Trattoria Locanda, Fishkill.
In Dutchess County, there are 31 restaurants participating including Brasserie 292, Artist’s Palette, Gigi Trattoria, Terrapin, Crave and Shadows on the Hudson. In Ulster County, only six restaurants besides Barnaby’s will participate, down from nine in 2011. A Tavola in New Paltz, Bonnie and Nathan Snow’s beautiful, young, rustic pan-Italian restaurant is my number-one recommendation for anyone. The Ship Lantern Inn in Milton – that venerable old institution where waiters work for five decades and sauce your side dish tableside – is for the classy classic set. Vigneto Café in Highland is a solid Italian-American place at the heart of a small downtown. The Village Tearoom in New Paltz offers Irish comfort food in a cozy setting. The Would in Highland is quite good: excellent short ribs, great bread; the s’mores bomb is the bomb.
And I guess I’ll be making a reservation for the Tavern at Diamond Mills in Saugerties. Going by the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week menu on its website, I’ll have the Sweet Pea & Watercress Soup with potato, poached egg and yellow pea shoots; Wood-Roasted Snapper with asparagus, sugar snap peas, fava beans, morel mushrooms and roasted spring garlic broth; and Deconstructed Carrot Cake for lunch.
Hudson Valley Restaurant Week runs March 11-24. Lunch costs $20.95; dinner costs $29.95. Prices exclude beverage, tax and tip. A full list of participating restaurants is available at http://hudsonvalleyrestaurantweek.com. Some restaurants do not serve lunch; some exclude Fridays and Saturdays; some add surcharges for certain dishes. Many strongly encourage reservations. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s dinehudsonvalley.com or hudsonvalleyalmanacweekly.com.