Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NYC Chefs head up the Hudson to colonize "rural reaches"

The headline in today's NYT is "Upriver Current: City Chefs Head to the Hudson Valley, Lured by Fresh Ingredients." The dateline is Hudson, New York, population 6,713, and Julia Moskin writes of urban chefs relocation to these "rural reaches":
There has been good cuisine here for a long time: Great Barrington was a summer hub for New Yorkers as far back as the 19th century, and Hudson already has estimable restaurants, bakeries and even food trucks. But places like Fish and Game are the first to bring urban chefs’ ideas of farm-to-table back to the land. Tasting menus with pig cheeks, green strawberries and goat yogurt are surely farm-based, but in farm country they are also revolutionary.
At several points, including that last clause about these menus being "revolutionary" in "farm country," Moskin emphasizes rural-urban difference--in particular the different tastes of farmers and other local rustics.

I found her description of the decor at Fish and Game, the restaurant owned by Zak Pelaccio and his wife, Jori Jayne Emde, well, intriguing
a fever dream of luxury and rural kitsch, blending elements of Chez Panisse, Trader Vic’s, Dwell magazine and a yard sale at an Italian hunting lodge.
It reminded me of earlier posts here and here.

Moskin's quote from Pelaccio, who founded the gastro pub Chickenbone Cafe in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2003, also accentuates the rural-urban divide: 
We are feeling our way and taking our time.  This is new for us, new for them, and we can’t do it overnight. 
Note the "us and them" language.  Moskin notes that Pelaccio's multi course set menu at Fish and Game is $68, which includes dishes like corn with tumeric and marigold, as well as whole ducks roasted in an open fireplace.  Maybe the "them" is as much about (some?) locals' inability to afford what the new dining establishments have on offer.  (I'm thinking of how the material/economic and the cultural are inextricably linked in conceptions of class.) 

Moskin also quotes Mark Firth, whose restaurant career began as a bartender at the Odeon in TriBeCa. Firth, who grew up in Zambia and also has a farm 30 miles east of Hudson where he raises pigs and sheep, describes the decision to be two hours north of "the city" as a lifestyle one:  
In the city I was tied not just to the restaurant but to the computer screen.  Here, I am always moving: I work in the dining room. I pull weeds on the farm. I fix the loos. I see my friends.
I wonder what all of this says about rural-urban difference--and urban use of the rural. This restaurant scene may be somewhat new for those in the area--the "farmers," but the area is hardly hick-type rustic.

And what does it say that, as I post this, Moskin's story is the seventh most emailed on  I guess, among other things, it says something about who is reading the NYT:  posh urbanites with a rural fetish.

P.S.  One commenter on the story writes:  "there hasn't been anything meaningfully 'rural' about Great Barrington since 1970."  These leads me to wonder if there are, in fact, any "local rustics" in the Hudson/Great Barrington area.  

1 comment:

Fyood New York said...

There is definitely a big difference in perceptions between rural and urban, and that is what I think the NYC was trying to go beyond by going up the Hudson. When the food being served is beyond the financial means of the people from which the food style originates, it has to separate. Good analysis of the food trends in this region of NYC.