Long overdue. In the immortal words of General Douglas MacCaesar: “We went, we ate, we shall return.” We had two lunches and two dinners there and, I gotta say, for a town of about 7,500 people, we ate extremely well. Hudson, which sits pretty much on the east bank of the Hudson River about an hour south of Albany, turns out to be a weekend getaway spot for folks for Manhattan. Who knew? Hudson’s main street—and yes, there’s really only one—is lined with antique shops (though more than a few have been shuttered owing to the economic downturn). Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, you get the idea. The street (Warren Street) is about ten blocks long and that’s Hudson. But we had a couple excellent meals and even more surprising, had a hard time choosing where to eat, based on the appeal of a number of menus and posts on other boards.
We drove straight from the Albany airport into Hudson and, though we got astonishingly lost, we finally found our way to lunch on our first day, a Thursday. We chose Baba Louie’s, a low-key hang-out kinda place whose logo includes two heads of garlic and the words “woodfired organic sourdough pizza.” Hand-crafted fresh. Indeed. We ordered two:
The Lovely Dining Companion ordered a special with tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, and goat cheese:
I had a simple pepperoni and mushroom:
Very good pizzas, though neither Great Lake nor Spacca Napoli are in any danger. I found that although I enjoy goat cheese, pizza isn’t the place where I care for it. LDC’s ingredients were nevertheless quite fresh and, if the toppings would be your choice, you’d like the pizza. Thin, but not cracker, crust; nicely cooked, bit o’ char on the crust. My pepperoni were fine, though nothing I’d kill to have again. On the other hand, considering how much lousy pepperoni I’ve had in my day, I was pleased. We would happily return but for the number
Swoon Kitchenbar, our Thursday evening restaurant of choice was reviewed in that fine east coast newspaper of record. (October 2007, if you’re interested: “startlingly fresh, beautifully presented and despite its sophistication, tastes close to the earth…and the desserts—all outstanding.”) It lives up to the billing.
The front of the house is a comfy welcoming bar with a few tables and the back is the restaurant—can’t hold more than fifty or sixty, I’d guess. Because we’d had a very late lunch, we couldn’t envision a full-on dinner and so picked and chose from the menu. We had an ace server—knew the dishes, their ingredients, the preps and was likeable as well. (Heck, I had a Dark and Stormy with home-made ginger beer and he gave the step-by-step, with ingredients, for how they made the ginger beer.) An ideal situation.
Our plates—Lovely Dining Companion
Mushroom salad with sesame seeds and watercress:
Maine Day Boat scallops on a bed of grilled ramps with jalapeno relish:Your erstwhile correspondent
Wild ramp and braised lamb terrine topped with a carrot and pickled mustard seed relish
Asparagus risotto with grilled ramps
Yes, we had a lot of ramps. But since you don’t see them often or for long and we had what sure looked like intriguing (and delicious) uses. I should also note that their menu had (has) a charcuterie section and it made for some tough decisions. I had to bypass the truffled rabbit and sweetbread terrine with ginger mostarda, not to mention the guanciale terrine (!) (with fennel horseradish pickle), the country pate, and the coppa with pickled cherries. After soliciting our server’s help, I went with the ramps and lamb. Great choice. Although the chunks of lamb were larger than I anticipated, they were cooked absolutely spot-on. And the mustard seed relish turned out to work even better than I had hoped or expected. The bread-y looking things in the picture were, in fact, bread. Actually, they were hard shells filled with air. Very crisp, flavorful, and a wonderful textural combination with the lamb.
The risotto wasn’t large but it was excellent. Cooked perfectly, almost too rich. A generous portion of parmigiano reggiano made it fairly cheesy (you should excuse my language). And, wonderfully (and too rare in my book), it was served hot, not lukewarm. The asparagus and ramps were a wonderful spring pair on that cool, rainy April day and by the time I finished, I was exactly full enough without being stuffed.
Dinner number two worked out perfectly as well because our nights in Hudson coincided nearly exactly with a special “Spring Wine Dinner” at Vico. Ooooh la la. Or whatever the Italian equivalent would be. Our five course dinners were outstanding. The menu and wine selections follow:anteprimo
– a “napoleon” with smoked salmon, arugula and potato crisps (Bortolomiol Vilanda Sparkling Rose NV)
An auspicious start. The homemade potato chips worked perfectly with the salmon, the arugula adding a bit of spice and snap to the dish. The rose was a perfect complement, as well, to the richness of the salmon and I was surprised at how nicely a sparking wine goes with potato chips!insalata
– mixed baby field greens, house balsamic vinaigrette (Soave Classico Inama 2006)primo piatto
– ravioli of wild mushrooms in saffron-sage butter topped with local shiitakes and white truffle oil (Chianti Badia a Coltibuono Cetamura 2006)
The single highlight of the entire trip. Outstanding dish, out of this world. The mushrooms and the earthy tones of the saffron—present in generous portion—worked together majestically. Every ingredient was incredibly rich, so much so that I was a bit fearful that, in combination, everything would be lost or be too overwhelming. While certainly a rich dish, the portion size was perfect (if a tad generous) and the saffron-sage butter present in sufficient quantity to allow me to mop up a little with each swipe of ravioli. Ah, the memory…I’d go back for this dish alone.secondo piatto
– a choice of three, I went with the grilled duck breast with Grand Marnier- glazed apricots and veggies (Barbera d’Alba Boroli 2006) (other choices included lamb chops and pan-roasted red snapper in a tomato-grappa sauce)
The duck was a bit too underdone for my taste, although the kitchen accepted my return graciously. Upon its re-entry, it was nearly perfect and it tasted great. I might have looked for a little more acid inasmuch as the duck, too, was a pretty rich course. The complements were well-chosen and though the dish worked very well, it somehow didn’t manage to achieve blast-off the way the prior course had done.dolce
– four bites: peach mousse tartlet, pomegranate shortbread, chocolate espresso torte, and liqueur-infused cheesecake (Vin Santo Villa Puccini)
Great idea, beautifully executed. Each bite was probably two bites and though nothing was extraordinarily inventive, each item was excellent. Again, except for the tartlet, we had a lot of richness here. Still, a beautiful presentation—I hope that my pictures convey, in general, the kitchen’s ability of setting up beautiful plates—and a great finish to a knockout dinner.
All this for $55. It would have been a pretty good deal even if the food were just good. In the event, it was much better than good and a couple dishes were simply stellar. The anteprimo
was a kick because of the great combination of flavors and textures. The Lovely Dining Companion was highly dubious about the potato chips—sorry, “crisps”—but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the tasting and it worked perfectly. Though there were a few disappointments, the five courses, considered as a whole, were a great treat.
LDC ordered off the regular menu and decided on a simple torta di verdura
—described as a “light savory custard tart starring tonight’s seasonal local vegetable.” LDC pronounced the dish a great success: rich (there’s that word, again) and light at the same time. The freshness of the vegetables came through and, given her small appetite, was perfectly portioned (if, again, a tad on the generous side). Once again, nothing extraordinarily inventive, but a classic dish, beautifully executed.
In the event, we ate far better than we had anticipated and the best surprise was that there were a number of places we simply couldn't squeeze in. Since it was a Thursday and Friday and still a cool and rainy April, we were fortunate that the town wasn't overrun with weekend vacationers. We don't know when we'll return, but we're already looking forward.
517 Warren Street
(they’ve got a branch in Great Barrington, MA—or maybe the Hudson one is the branch…)
340 Warren Street
Vico Restaurant & Bar
136 Warren Street