Home to Ichabod Crane and haunted by Revolutionary War ghosts, New York’s Hudson Valley is a largely bucolic region just two hours north of Broadway. Despite its beautiful scenery, rural delights, and proximity to the City, it has for the most part escaped the trendy chicness of Long Island’s beachfront communities. Yet combine an influx of weekend visitors with the remarkable foodstuffs found in the region and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)—indisputably America’s finest restaurant school—and you have the fertile beginnings of a restaurant boom. Fine dining in the Hudson Valley now means classically trained chefs, the local produce for which the area has long been known, and foie gras, farm-raised venison, and artisanal cheeses.
Traditional crops in the Hudson Valley include apples, cherries, onions, sweet corn and pumpkins, but there has been a growing movement toward rearing high-end and organic produce for sale to restaurants or at New York City’s greenmarkets. Various baby greens are abundant in spring and fall; specialty potatoes like purple Peruvian fingerlings are available nearly year-round.
Despite the recent lifting of a ban on French foie gras, much of what is consumed in the U.S. continues to come from the Hudson Valley. Millbrook venison graces the tables of fine restaurants from coast to coast, and Coach Farms goat cheeses have also received national acclaim. Egg Farm Dairy is another cheese producer of note—the naturally ripened products that emerge from its facility in Peekskill possess character and pungency not often found in cheeses from this country.
These great raw materials make for even better dishes when placed in the hands of talented chefs, as at the Taste of the Hudson Valley International Wine & Epicurean Arts Festival., held at the CIA in Hyde Park. Participating chefs from some of the Hudson Valley’s finest restaurants were each assigned two wines by the organizers and were asked to prepare dishes specifically to accompany the wines. Attendees voted on their favorite dishes, wines, and wine-food pairings.
As wine enthusiasts, we applaud the concept of matching food to wine, rather than vice versa. After all, whether your wine collection is a few bottles in a rack on top of the refrigerator or several hundred resting in a temperature-controlled vault, you probably have a bottle or two set aside for a special occasion. Rather than digging through cookbook after cookbook searching for a recipe that might do your wine justice, try one of these efforts. We’ve reproduced not only the top award-winners from the competition, but other wonderful dishes that match terrific wines from all over. The pairings are organized according to wine type for ease of reference.
AROMATIC WHITE WINES
Lobster Knödel with Herbed Stock
Gadeleto’s Seafood Market and Restaurant, New Paltz
If you’ve chosen an off-dry aromatic white to begin a meal, lobster knödel with herbed aspic broth makes a nice first course. The crisp, fruity flavors of J.J. Prüm’s 1997 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese perfectly complement the rich, nuanced flavors of the knödel, but you could easily match the dish with any other high-acid Riesling, or even a tart Vouvray or Fumé Blanc. The richness of the dish requires a wine with good acidity on the finish.
For the knödel
2 1-pound lobsters
1Â¼ pound bay scallops
2 large baked potatoes, insides only
3 shallots, finely chopped
1Â¼ cup heavy cream
Sea salt or table salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Steam the lobsters and set aside to cool. When cool, remove meat and chop finely. Reserve shells for the broth. Purée raw scallops and eggs in a food processor until smooth. Working in a glass bowl set within an ice-filled container, fold together scallop mousse, lobster meat, and remaining ingredients. Chill in refrigerator for two hours. To cook, form into dumpling shapes with a small scoop or teaspoon and drop into barely simmering water. Try to keep them as round as possible and approximately the size of a walnut. Simmer 10 minutes; remove to plate and cool.
Reserved lobster shells (from above)
2 large leeks, white part only, chopped
1 small can (6 ounces) tomato paste
6 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
10 black peppercorns
3/4 cup dry sherry
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 gallon water
2 carrots, finely chopped
Sea salt to taste
1 bunch fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Add shells, leeks, tomato paste, bay leaves thyme, peppercorns, 1Â¼2 cup sherry, 2 chopped carrots, and celery to 1 gallon of water in a large stockpot, and simmer until reduced by half. Strain into a second stockpot, pressing juices out of lobster shells and vegetables. Add finely chopped carrots to second pot and again reduce by half. Pour stock into a blender and purée until smooth. Stir in salt, 1Â¼4 cup sherry, tarragon and butter. To serve, heat the knödels in a 225°F oven for about 10 minutes; meanwhile, heat the broth just until warm—it should be the consistency of thin pan gravy. Pour sauce over the knödels and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
FULL BODIED RHONE STYLE WINES
Some of these wines, especially those with Mourvèdre in the blend, like Château de Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, exhibit a pronounced smoky gaminess that cries out for similar elements in the food. Fortunately, venison is now widely available in this country, and the favorite food-wine match at Taste of the Hudson Valley was Troutbeck’s venison ragout with the 1996 Beaucastel. According to executive chef Robert Timan, “the cherries and sweet potatoes add sweetness to balance the venison’s gaminess.”
Bounty of the Hudson with Foie Gras Cream
2 pounds venison, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, shaved
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 quarts venison stock (can substitute beef stock)
3 medium sweet potatoes, diced
5 stalks celery, chopped
30 pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound dried cherries
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 Cortland apple
1/2 cup simple syrup (equal amounts sugar and water, heated til sugar dissolves)
1/4 cup walnuts, finely crushed
4 ounces foie gras, in slices
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Season venison with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in oil (about 8 minutes total) in a hot Dutch oven. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Deglaze with wine, add stock, and cook on low heat 45 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, celery and pearl onions. Cook another 15 minutes. Add fresh thyme and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and core apple and slice paper-thin into rings. Brush with simple syrup and walnut dust and bake in low oven until crisp.
For foie gras cream, marinate foie gras in brandy for 2 hours. Remove; pan-sear for 1 minute on each side. Add heavy cream and reduce for 5 minutes. Pour cream and foie gras into blender and purée. Reserve.
Spoon ragout into bowls, garnish with apple rings, and drizzle foie gras cream on top. Serves 6.