Restaurants

82BBQ

by Anne Maxfield on November 4, 2019

While great BBQ might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of restaurants in the Hudson Valley, your chances of finding some good ribs and brisket are awfully high here.

82BBQ which opened recently in Verbank (near Millbrook) has raised that BBQ bar a little higher. We went for lunch on a Friday and quickly became fans.

It’s a nicely designed room with your choice of a communal high-top table, or smaller tables for 2 or 4 and there’s a big patio with cheerful orange chairs for outdoor dining.

I started with the smoked wings in hopes that they would match my favorites from Billy Joes in Newburg. They were really good, with crispy well-spiced skin, but being the smoke fiend that I am, I would have liked a bit more smoke flavor coming through. They came with a Sriracha blue cheese dipping sauce that gave them some heat and played well with the spices on the wings. I loved that you could get 6 or 12 as it’s usually a struggle for me to get through more than 6 (and it gives you a chance to nibble on more of the menu).

To go with my wings, how about some smokehouse fries with pulled pork and Monterey Jack cheese?  The fried potatoes were fried half-moons of potatoes which made them great for scooping up the pulled pork and cheese. Think of them as being the fry version of nachos. Great snack food and for once you could really taste the cheese!

My friend went for the pulled pork and 2 sides, this time mac and cheese and green beans. The pulled pork was yummy, with nice crispy bits—like my favorite burnt ends. Mac and cheese was creamy, buttery cheesy and delicious. The green beans were not cooked to death, which may insult some Southerners, but I like my beans to have a little life left in them and these did. The pickled veggies that came on the side were a nice touch that I got to enjoy because my friend is not a fan of anything pickled.

What struck me about the food at 82BBQ, and it may seem strange when you’re talking about BBQ, was that all the dishes tasted fresh. It wasn’t just gloppy BBQ, produced on a large scale. I mentioned it to the chef when we were chatting after the meal and he confirmed it, telling me that he made everything fresh daily and when it was gone, it was gone. I also appreciated that the portions were good-sized, but not overwhelming.

We went back for dinner to try their take on some of the more traditional BBQ items, like ribs, brisket, chicken and their custom-made andouille sausage. Everything was really good, and we’ve eaten through most of the main dishes and sides. So far, my favorites are the ribs and pulled pork, but the brisket and sausages are close contenders. For sides, I’d definitely go for the braised greens—perfectly cooked with a nice vinegar kick — and the mac and cheese. Skip the coleslaw, it’s the only thing on the menu that needs work, and save room for the (I can’t believe I’m writing this) amazing bread pudding. It’s warm and creamy with a good dose of real maple syrup. I’ve never been a bread pudding fan, but 2 bites of 82BBQ’s and I’d go back just for the bread pudding. Yup, that good.

Open for lunch Friday-Sunday and dinner every day but Monday.

82BBQ

3134 Route 82, Verbank NY

845-677-0082

 

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Willow Restaurant at the Mirbeau

by Anne Maxfield on October 21, 2019

Willow is the new Charlie Palmer restaurant at Rhinebeck’s Mirbeau Inn and Spa.

It’s always a bit risky (and some might say unfair) to hit up a restaurant in the first week.

And doubly so on a Friday night (with a chef in the party).

But we were looking forward to trying it–friends had “previewed” it at brunch on the opening weekend and wanted to go for dinner.

Unlike recent, much anticipated openings that were hugely disappointing, Willow came through with delicious food.

The room is much more formal than we’ve gotten used to seeing. No dark grey walls or Edison bulbs to be found. A fireplace at one end, with framed vintage Hermes (I’m assuming) scarves on the other and interesting carpeting to mute noise. It looks very much like what it is—a hotel dining room in an upscale inn.

I started out with the Shelter Island grilled oysters, with pancetta, garlic and parsley oil. They were delicious, plump and juicy and the garlic and parsley made a nice sauce for them.

Other appetizers that were passed around the table were a salad of beets and endive blanketed with a blizzard of ricotta salata. I’ll have to take everyone’s word that they were good. Frank had the tuna tartare Niçoise with olives, haricots vert, potatoes, radishes and a tiny “HV” quail egg. It was good, but someone went a little overboard with the olives—almost overwhelming the tuna. We were all happy when John went for the fois gras (and was willing to share). It was a nice piece of seared fois gras with a couple of brioche slices and a row of apple slices. All good, but as I said to John, almost everything goes with fois gras (and tastes wonderful).

Thinking there might be dessert, I went for the small portion of gnocchi with wild mushrooms. It was a risky move, as good gnocchi are rare, but the risk/reward paid off with delicate, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi. The mushrooms led to one of the funnier moments of the evening. There was a small bunch of (I’m guessing) hen-of-the-woods and somehow my knife had disappeared. When I asked for a knife, the server returned with a huge streak knife, capable of doing serious damage. We will now jokingly refer to any steak knives as “gnocchi knives”.

We all decided that John’s halibut was the best-looking plate of the evening and the fish was perfectly cooked on a bed of risotto with chanterelles.

Frank had the chicken—it’s his new test for restaurants—how well can you do chicken? They passed with flying colors—crispy skin and tasty meat. He wasn’t fond of the sunchokes that accompanied the chicken—they seemed a little overcooked, but the “heirloom” spinach was very tasty. He also ordered the Brussels sprout side dish—roasted with an agrodolce sauce, chipotle aioli and another blizzard of ricotta salata. It was a good combination and once we got the grilled lime that came with it to actually produce juice, it made it even better.

Our other friend had the duck breast with farro and huckleberries. The duck was nice and rosy and tasted good, but I was missing the crunch of duck skin. The combo of farro and huckleberries was a nice change from the usual duck with a fruit sauce.

Having saved room for dessert, I went for the bittersweet chocolate cake with salted caramel and chocolate bourbon ice cream. After being assured by our waiter that the cake was nut free, I was surprised when the base of the cake turned out to be marzipan (almond paste).

Which brings me to the big issue. Service. Our waiter was a great guy, helpful, eager and completely overwhelmed. When asked, he admitted that his training was basically “sink or swim.” If you remember the scene in Ratatouille where Linguini is roller skating through the restaurant you get the idea.

Luckily, that’s something that some training can rectify, but it was a bit surprising in a fine dining restaurant that has Charlie Palmer’s name attached.

What’s more important is that we had a great time that night and the food was terrific. We’ll definitely be back and look forward to being there when the kitchen and staff have had the time to get into their groove.

 

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Cafe Sweet Spot

by Anne Maxfield on July 15, 2019

Cafe Sweet Spot Black BoardWhether you’re a resident, or a worker on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, you’ll welcome Cafe Sweet Spot.

Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe offers owner Ingrid Hernandez’s dream of recreating “those cafes in the West Village, really fresh ingredients put together very nicely, it’s my kind of comfort food.”

The restaurant is a modern cafe with subtle Caribbean infusion or inspiration. We went recently to check out their lunch offerings.

There are lots of interesting options on the menu, but don’t forget to check out the special board (where we found a lot of good stuff).

Cafe Sweet Spot Jerk ChickenWe shared some jerk chicken, which was great. Lots of spice (the blend is done in house) but not killer. The chicken is smoked, and that nice smoky taste went well with the spices.
Dominican chicken was a new entry on the special board. It had a tangy sauce with complex flavor and was good served over rice and beans.

Cafe Sweet Spot Chop Cheese Chop cheese, on the regular menu has become one of my new favorite sandwiches. It’s made with ground beef coated in melted cheese on a toasted bun. Their version has pickled jalapeños and came with a side of golden-brown fries. Yum!

Cafe Sweet Spot Dominican ChickenSince 2 chicken dishes (and the chop cheese) didn’t seem like enough for us, they sent over the chicken curry for us to taste. It was really good and would be tough to choose a favorite of the chicken dishes as we liked them all.

Cafe Sweet Spot Chicken CurryJust to torment us or something, they then send over a slice of their killer apple cake with caramel frosting. That and a great looking lemon meringue pie were the desserts that day. The cake was amazing and the two of us managed to eat most of it (the rest made a wonderful breakfast the next morning).

Cafe Sweet Spot Apple CakeA friend of ours went for brunch and had their chicken and waffles. She thought the chicken was marinated and fried to perfection. “It came with a sriracha and maple syrup combo dipping on the side to it a kick if you dared to. It was good!! Waffles were crisp and delicious”

We haven’t had breakfast there yet, but Ingrid says “for breakfast we have things we love as well. I love the power punch toast, I love a really good pancake.” There are also items like the caprese egg sandwich with mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and eggs on bread or a roll.

Even the classics like bacon, egg and cheese on a roll gets an upgrade with smoked gouda stepping in for the cheese.

Cafe Sweet Spot wants to have the people in the neighborhood think of it as a place they can come all the time, and for businesspeople to find something they’re looking for and a place where they can feel comfortable bringing clients to.
But mostly they just want to have really good food. “It’s a nice place to come in and shake it up, like the song says.”

Cafe Sweet Spot
296 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
845-392-9900
info@cafesweetspot.com

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Lucky Dragon: Chinese Comes to Rhinebeck

by Anne Maxfield on May 20, 2019

Lucky Dragon InteriorI wanted to love Lucky Dragon.

I wanted to be willing to jump in the car and drive for 20 minutes for great Chinese.

I wanted the answer to “where do you go for good Chinese?” to be Rhinebeck, not Queens.

I’m in like not love, but love could be just around the corner.

Lucky Dragon is in the building that used to house Catch 38 and is being run by the folks who brought you the Amsterdam. It’s “farm to chopsticks” cooking.

Lucky Dragon PotstickersMy sense is that it’s a retro-influenced look back at all the classic Chinese restaurants where you would go on Sundays with your family, eat lo mein, and think you were very adventuresome.

If you’re expecting pages and pages of dishes, you’ll be surprised. They’ve edited the choices down to a manageable amount (just enough to fit on a placemat).

We started out with a bunch of appetizers—BBQ spareribs, chicken lettuce wraps, pork and chive potstickers and fresh spring rolls. The spring rolls were hot and crispy and came with a sweet chile dipping sauce and were a hit with everyone at our table.

The spareribs were good with a dark brown glaze and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Close to those lacquered red ones you might remember from days gone by, but nicely updated with what I’m guessing was a hit of hoisin.

Lucky Dragon Spare RibsChicken lettuce wraps had chunks of chicken with scallions, slivers of bamboo shoots, sesame seeds and a light sauce, all of which fit perfectly in the lettuce. They were a bit hit with everyone at my table.

Lucky Dragon Chicken WrapsThe potstickers were pan fried on one side and served with a soy, scallion sauce. I would have preferred the sauce on the side, as it made them a little soggy, but they were still tasty and not too heavy as potstickers can be.

Trying to be a little healthy, we opted for two of the vegetable dishes, a classic bok choy with sesame and soy, which was well prepared and the Szechuan eggplant, which was one of my favorites of the evening. Small slices of eggplant in a spicy (but not killer) sauce with lots of flavor.

Lucky Dragon EggplantFor mains we went with the shrimp in black bean sauce, Szechuan chicken and pork lo mein. The lo mein was everyone’s favorite—it had great flavor and the noodles were well cooked, but sadly the pork in it was really tough.

Lucky Dragon ShrimpThe Szechuan chicken and the shrimp had a lot of the same ingredients, chunks of red and green peppers, beansprouts, water chestnuts and both were in a soy-based sauce. The big difference was that the chicken was a bit spicy and there were some black beans with the shrimp. We all agreed that we might have ordered two very similar dishes, and then mixed them up on our plates, blending them together so they were indistinguishable.

Lucky Dragon ChickenWe all also agreed that we’ll be back. The Peking Duck that needs to be ordered in advance, is tempting, as are some of the other classics like General Tso’s and some of the other appetizers we skipped over.

The manager was truly interested in our comments, and after hearing that we thought the pork in the lo mein was tough, presented us with a box of cookies as we left and said she was going to take it up with the kitchen right away. So, I have faith (and hope) that the menu will continue to evolve, and we’ll end up in love. I’ll keep you posted.

Update: Overheard in another restaurant someone referring to “Yucky Dragon” and after a second meal that echoed the first, I’d have to agree. So disapointing.

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