by Andrew Nelson, photographs by Jen Kiaba
Photo by Jen Kiaba
Two Boots was created by two indie filmmakers who loved pizza, beer and all things New Orleans (the two “boots” refer to the geographical shapes of Italy and Louisiana). Still owned and operated by co-founder Phil Hartman, Two Boots brings its unique Cajun-Italian cooking, funky folk art and deep commitment to the community wherever they go.
Hartman opened the very first Two Boots Pizzeria on Avenue A in New York City back in 1987. As a young filmmaker he only set the goal of using the restaurant to fund his next film project. Little did he know that the idea of blending Cajun and Italian would take off like wildfire. The result is a respectable chain of pizza joints spanning from Hell’s Kitchen to Baltimore to Los Angeles and a 25 year run of serving top shelf pies to an ever-growing fan base.
In the summer of 2012 Hartman unlocked the doors to his latest venture, Two Boots Hudson Valley. Of the nearly 15 restaurants on his roster, this one holds a particular spot in his heart as it sits directly across from his Alma mater, Bard College, from which two of his children are also graduates.
The cuisine at Two Boots Hudson Valley blurs the line between that of easy comfort food and tasteful creative eats for the foodie. The meatball sliders, for example, are just off of what Grandma made as it’s laced with andouille sausage, tucked into a garlic knot and served with a side of tangy sauce.
photo by Jen Kiaba
You can experience the best of both boots’ (Italy and Louisiana) traditions in one-of-a-kind pizzas like the “Tony Clifton” and “The Dude,” which showcase organic and artisanal ingredients from Fleisher’s Meats in Kingston and nearby Newton Farm. Customers can enjoy a “Grandma Bess” pie, with organic San Marzano plum tomato sauce, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and parmigiano blanketing a square sheet of crispy Sicilian crust, at the restaurant or for delivery. Or plunge into a blackened catfish po’boy sandwich with remoulade and homemade Cajun slaw. Or indulge in the “St. Tula,” which is only available at Two Boots Hudson Valley. It’s a white pie with roasted garlic and peppers complimenting Fleisher’s Sausage of the Day and topped with a drizzling of sweet red pepper pesto.
The bar is stocked with local treasures like Keegan Ales and the Mekas Family’s special Limoncello, plus creations like the Beastie Boys-themed “Sure Shot.” (The late Beastie Boy, MCA, attended Bard.)
The fun doesn’t end at the table either. The stage and dance floor are often the setting for live performnces, DJs, films, readings and more.
February marks a special time for Two Boots as a whole, as February ushers in Mardi Gras. Two Boots Hudson Valley is making a month-long celebration of it with a list of the Hudson Valley’s best local talent peppered with guests from NYC and beyond.
Pamelech Klezmer Orkester. Photo by Jen Kiaba.
To learn more, visit http://www.twoboots.com/TW2008/bard, or http://www.facebook.com/TBHudsonValley
February Happenings at Two Boots
Friday, February 1, 7 p.m.:
Author Tony Fletcher reads from his new book “A Light Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths” with Smiths music by Robert Burke Warren and DJ Grasshopper of Mercury Rev.
Saturday, February 2, 9 p.m.:
DJ Dance Party with In The Cut (DJs Effie and MarMar). Cover: $5
Saturday, February 9, 9 p.m.:
Mardi Gras Celebration with DJs Mr Chips and Mikey Palms (SouthPaw Bklyn). Cover: $5
Thursday, February 14, 7 p.m.:
Valentines Day Dinner and a movie night
Friday, February 15, 9 p.m.:
The Grape and the Grain, Nightmares For A Week and Leonard Banks. Cover: $5
Friday, February 22, 8 p.m.:
Alexander Turnquist & Avondale Airforce. Cover: $5
Saturday, February 23, 8 p.m.:
Sweet Clementines & The Argentine (Bklyn). Cover: $5
Plus every Monday night, 8:30 p.m.:
STUMP TRIVIA with trivia jockey Michael Nickerson.
by Laura Pensiero, Chef & Owner, Gigi Market & Gigi Trattoria
Fresh farm turkeys generally roast more quickly than the water-filled agribusiness turkeys. We proudly purchase and prep Tivoli’s Northwind Farm birds during the holiday season. Our customers can purchase them fresh, brined, or cooked to perfect juicy doneness – Gigi Market is open until noon on Thanksgiving Day for customers to pick up turkeys and all the trimmings.
A farm fresh turkey can be stored in a very cold environment – 28° to 34° F – up a week in advance. Have thermometers on hand for refrigeration and for testing the final doneness of the Thanksgiving centerpiece.
To cook your farm fresh turkey, first be sure your bird is completely thawed. A frozen turkey should be thawed in a refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or lower; this can take a couple of days. Rinse the bird and the giblets under cold running water. Preheat the oven to 325° F (a hotter oven can dry out your turkey; a lower temperature risks prolonged time in the “danger zone,” or the temperature range in which bacteria multiply most quickly). Truss the legs together and tuck the wing tips back under the shoulders of the bird. If you plan to stuff the turkey, do so now, immediately before putting the turkey into the oven. Generously season the turkey and place breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a 2 ½ to 3-inch-deep roasting pan. Add ½ cup water to the bottom of the pan.
For turkeys up to 20 pounds, roast for 15 minutes a pound — an 18-pound bird should roast for about 4 ½ hours. Roast larger birds for 12 minutes a pound. A stuffed turkey may require an extra buffer of 30 minutes.
Take the temperature of both the bird and the stuffing. Oven temperatures vary, as do farm fresh turkeys, so begin checking for doneness about 30 minutes before the turkey is expected to be done. If your bird has reached the desired golden brown but is not yet done, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey. This prevents over-browning and drying.
Testing for doneness
• Temperature: Deep in the breast should be 160 to 165° F. The thigh temperature should register at 180 to 185° F.
• Knife test: Insert a paring knife into the breast and thigh. When the juices run clear – not at all pink – the turkey is cooked.
• Leg separation: When the turkey is adequately cooked, the leg will easily separate from the bird with a light tug.
When the turkey is done, cool it at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before carving. This makes for juicier meat and easier and more attractive carving. Farm-fresh turkeys may be lightly pink toward the bone – this is totally normal.
Refrigerate leftovers no more than 2 hours after removing the turkey from the oven. Wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or freezer grade plastic, the roasted meat can be frozen.
How many will your turkey feed?
6 pounds: 4 to 6 people
8 pounds: 6 to 8 people
12 pounds: 8 to10 people
15 pounds: 10 to 15 people
18 pounds: 12 to 15 people
22 pounds: 15+ people
For next day leftover sandwiches, smear 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat cream cheese (it’s easier if it’s softened) on one slice of toasted whole-grain or Pepperidge Farm white bread. Spread 2 tablespoons cranberry chutney, sauce, or relish on another toasted bread slice. Fill the sandwich with thinly sliced leftover turkey (about 2 ounces), a couple of slices of cheddar cheese (about 1 ounce), apple slices, and a handful of trimmed watercress or baby spinach.
by Edna Welthorpe
Jill and Rob showed up bright and early on Monday morning at Culinary Boot Camp: Basic Training at the Culinary Institute of America. “We were just married,” Jill explained to fellow foodies in class, to a hearty chorus of congratulations.
“Just married” was not an exaggeration. In fact, 36 hours earlier, Jill and Rob were walking down the aisle in an elaborate wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia. After the reception and a good night’s sleep, they hopped in the car and drove north to Hyde Park, New York. Culinary Boot Camp, Rob explained, was their honeymoon.
Currently, the institution of marriage is quite fragile as the divorce rate holds at 50%. There are numerous ways in which incompatibility separates America’s couples. But for Jill and Rob, their love of food was a shared joy. They decided, if they hone their cooking skills at the CIA, it can only improve their relationship, as they cheerfully share meal duties in the kitchen.
If you’re looking to feel the love in a special way, Culinary Boot Camp is the ideal shared experience. The CIA offers gift certificates for Culinary Boot Camp that are a unique and inventive Valentine’s Day gift for your special sweetheart.
CIA’s Culinary Boot Camp classes attract couples of all ages. It makes sense: Communication is the most important skill to keep a couple together. In Boot Camp, a couple collaborates on a complete meal and must instruct each other to broil the meat, dice the onions, sauté the vegetables and whip the eggs. Communication is key.
One couple from Texas, married for more than two decades, came to Boot Camp last year to correct a dilemma. Lyle and Tippy Hendrickson were successful businesspeople, she in marketing and he in oil ventures. But their opposing schedules prevented downtime together, and the romance was seeping out of their union. They needed a second honeymoon, so they came to Italian Cuisine Boot Camp. Joining forces in the kitchen and dining at the CIA’s on-campus restaurants at night was the double-boost needed to jump-start their relationship again.
They went home as newlyweds.
Choose from Culinary Boot Camp classes such as Dessert, American Regional Cuisine, Bistro, The Art and Science of Cooking, French Cuisine, Grilling, Comfort Foods, BBQ and Mexican Cuisine. Classes run two, three, four or five days long. Or consider a Saturday class, like Italian Cooking at Home, An Indian Feast, Gourmet Meals in Minutes, One Dish Meals, Sharpening Your Knife Skills and Gluten-Free Cooking. There are so many classes offered, foodies are guaranteed to find their favorite.
Culinary Boot Camp classes are ideal for all skill levels. Enrollees will participate in hands-on cooking, watch chef demonstrations, create their own lunch and savor it with fellow foodies. All that and lectures that teach you the history of world cuisines and a little culinary science thrown in. Best of all, people will receive an official CIA toque and apron to take home. Evening meals at the on-campus restaurants will simply deepen that feeling of romance.
Before you walk down the aisle, consider CIA Culinary Boot Camp the ideal romantic therapy. Tuition fees range from $895 to $2,195. A list of the wide array of wonderful 2012 classes can be found at www.ciachef.edu/enthusiasts/
To order your gift certificate in time for Valentine’s Day, call 800-888-7850.
Edna Welthorpe is a Dutchess County-based veteran freelance journalist who writes passionately about antiques, nature and food.
by Jen Kiaba, photos by Jen Kiaba
Entrance to Tousey Winery Tasting Room photo by Jen Kiaba
Tousey Winery, in Germantown, began in 2006 with a dream. Founder and beekeeper Ray Tousey longed to make his own cassis, a liqueur that has a long and complicated history in the Hudson Valley. Intrinsic to his dream, was Tousey’s desire to create a crème de cassis with all local ingredients, including his own honey.
Cassis is a sweet, dark-red liqueur made from black currants. Up until 2003, to find a local cassis was impossible. Beginning in 1911, black currants became a sort of “forbidden fruit” because a disease the berries shared with white pines. White pine blister rust was a fungus that was thought to easily pass from the currents to the pines. With a burgeoning lumber industry in the region, the logging industry put pressure on lawmakers to eliminate the currants; eventually both the federal and several state governments passed bans on growing black currants. New, disease-resistant, varieties of currants were later developed and in 1966 the government left it up to the states to lift the ban. The campaign to repeal the ban in New York State was spearheaded by Hudson Valley fruit grower Greg Quinn, who was able to persuade the state to lift the ban in 2003.
Previous to the ban, New York State was a leader in the production of currants, but today few Americans are familiar with the berries. Now wineries across the state, especially in the Hudson Valley, are moving to change that. The first local winery to begin producing cassis after the ban was lifted was Clinton Vineyards, in Clinton Corners. Since then the Hudson Valley has become increasingly known for the quality cassis that is produced by local wineries and vineyards. And for Tousey Winery, it was the cassis that started it all.
Tousey Winery's Creme de Cassis. Photo by Jen Kiaba
“Ray wanted to make a cassis with his own berries and his own honey,” said son-in-law and winemaker Ben Peacock. “In order to do this, he had to open his own winery. And with 200 hives he realized that a winery was a business in and of itself.” At that time Peacock and his wife Kimberly, Tousey’s daughter, were living in Europe and decided to come to the Hudson Valley to help Tousey refine and run his winery.
2010 saw the opening of Tousey’s Tasting Room, and this fall the Winery celebrated the opening of a new tank and barrel room. Since coming over from Europe, Peacock’s focus has been on positioning the winery as an integral part of both the local movement and as a draw for local tourism. “Now, we have a 15-acre vineyard,” he said, which puts the winery in the fortunate position of being able to produce estate products, entirely from their own fruits. (Currently about 50 percent of Tousey’s fruits are grown in their own vineyards, with much of the remaining grapes coming from the Finger Lakes region, specifically from Miles Wine Cellars on the western shores of Seneca Lake.)
Peacock acknowledges Clinton Vineyard’s pioneering of local cassis as an inspiration for their own production, however by using estate-grown currants and their own honey in the process, Tousey takes a different angle. Tousey Winery has also begun making a name for itself across the state, earning positive reviews for their Pinot Noir in both Wine Enthusiast and the New York Cork Report.
One of their more popular wines – the pinot noir – is described by the New York Cork Report as having “aromas of red raspberries, strawberries and cranberries mingle with slightly earthy, woodsy notes on a classic pinot noir nose,” Peacock suggests the Pinot Noir as a very food-friendly wine. “It pairs very well with most foods,” he said. “It will compliment ham, turkey and most pasta dishes. It’s a good all-arounder.”
Another of their wines that received a very positive review by the New York Cork Report is their oak-barrel aged Cabernet Franc. Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor of the popular blog, wrote that after tasting Tousey’s Cabernet Franc, it is “hard not to consider Tousey Winery a major player in the resurgence of quality wine in Hudson Valley.” The wine is described by Thompson as plummy, medium-bodied with hints of chocolate and spice. Peacock describes it as having a blueberry nose, with a softness to the palate, making it perfect for wintry, February-style foods to get locals through an increasingly frigid winter. “It pairs well with heavier meats,” he said. “It lends itself to something like pork or lamb.”
For the white wine enthusiast, Tousey’s Queen of Clermont blend is also popular. It is citrusy, with a hint of sweetness, making it a refreshing pairing for fare on the spicier side. Peacock recommends the Queen of Clermont as a compliment to Asian Cuisine that has heat to it, but also suggests it for salad and pastas. “It is crisp and refreshing,” he said. “It cleanses the palate with just a hint of sweetness. We generally recommend it to people who like their wines on the sweeter side. It’s a nice blend that’s not too dry.”
Tousey Winery's Rose, "Rebellion" photo by Jen Kiaba
Looking forward to warmer months, or perhaps another string of days in the mid-50’s, Peacock recommends Tousey’s Riesling (which has already sold out this season!), their Pinot Noir, as well as their Rosé. “Rosé is generally misunderstood,” said Peacock. “Many people turn their nose up at it, but it is actually one of the trickiest wines to make.” Cheekily called “Rebellion Rose,” Tousey’s rosé is a food-friendly wine with a floral freshness, making it perfect for lighter fare as the temperature rises.
As the weather warms, Tousey and Hudson Valley residents both can look forward to their first estate Reisling. An addition to the house red is also expected to be forthcoming, with a King of Clermont being bottled as a compliment to their already popular Queen of Clermont. With about 3000 gallons of their own fruit, Tousey is looking to bottle their whites in the spring, and their reds and rosé in the summertime.
In the meantime, all of their wines can be sampled in their Germantown tasting room, along with other products grown and made right on the estate. Located in the Blue Roof building, on the northbound side of Route 9, the Tousey Winery Tasting Room is open Friday, noon to 7-p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5p.m. Tousey also has a table at the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market on Sundays, where tastings are available. And, on Valentine’s weekend, the Tasting Room will host a special “Art, Love & Wine” event pairing the work of Rhinebeck artist Tom Cale with Tousey’s wines and festive nibbles. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information visit their website, http://touseywinery.com, visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TouseyWinery, or call 515.567.5462.
Jen Kiaba is a photographer and writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. Her photography has been published in both regional and national magazines, and has recently been used for several international book covers. To see more of her work, visit http://photos.jenkiaba.com/
by Laura Pensiero, Chef/Owner Gigi Trattoria & Gigi Market
Root vegetables sing of the season. This colorfully layered gratin can be made up to 2 days ahead of Thanksgiving, making it a quick “re-heat” side dish on a busy cooking day or any day. Steeping the ancho chiles in the broth lends a smoky deep layer to the flavor, making this a standout among the Thanksgiving spread. Prepare it again throughout the autumn and winter, serving it with roasted pork, lamb or chicken.
Makes 6 servings
2 dried ancho or chipotle chiles
1 1⁄2 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large baking potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 14 ounces), peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 medium parsnips (about 8 ounces), peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
3 medium turnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, simmer the ancho chiles in the vegetable broth for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep while preparing the gratin.
Rub a casserole or baking pan (about 12 cup) with the olive oil. Arrange the root vegetable slices, starting with a layer of slightly overlapping potatoes, followed by sweet potato, parsnip, .and turnips; repeat the sequence. Season each layer with salt and sprinkle with diced roasted pepper and shredded cheese; reserve about 1/3 cup of shredded cheese.
Remove the anchos from the broth and pour evenly over the casserole. Cover with foil wrap and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake for 15 more minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
**Thinly sliced vegetables are critical to even and complete cooking. Use a mandoline to slice vegetables quickly and uniformly. Made of stainless steel or plastic, they are usually sold with a variety of blades for thin slicing, julienning, and french-fry cutting. Inexpensive, good-quality plastic mandolines are available at most culinary stores.
Used with permission Excerpted from “Hudson Valley Mediterranean” (pg 170), by Laura Pensiero, Chef/Owner, Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck and Gigi Market in Red Hook. Published by William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2009 by Laura Pensiero.
by Laura Pensiero
Blueberries contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical that may help boost enzymes that rid the body of cancer-causing substances. Peaches derive their orange color from beta-carotene and contain substantial amounts of vitamin C. Greig Farm on Pitcher Lane in Red Hook is a great place to pick your own local blueberries.
Servings: Serves 6-8
6 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into large chunks
2 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking dish or casserole (at least 6-cup capacity) with a canola-oil cooking spray or lightly rub with canola oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the peaches, blueberries, 1 tablespoon of the flour, the granulated sugar, and the lemon juice. Toss with your hands to combine thoroughly. Spread the fruit out in the baking pan.
In a separate bowl, prepare the topping. Mix together the oatmeal, remaining 1/4 cup flour, the brown sugar, and the cinnamon. Drizzle with the melted butter, and then rub the topping together between your hands until it resembles a coarse meal. Evenly spread the topping over the fruit and bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is browned lightly. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Leftovers make a good breakfast with low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt instead of ice cream.
Printed with permission. From The Strang Cancer Prevention Center Cookbook by Laura Pensiero, R.D., Michael Osborne, M.D., and Susan Oliveria, Sc.D., M.P.H. Copyright (c) 2004 by Laura Pensiero. Published by McGraw-Hill. Laura Pensiero is a published author, and chef/owner of Gigi Trattoria, Rhinebeck & Gigi Market, Red Hook.
by Laura Pensiero
Growing a portion of our own food connects us to the seasons and the freshest delights of the dining table. And haven’t we decidedly earned some colorful garden goodies after one of the longest winters in recent memory? Personally, I’ll look forward to rutabaga in about 7 to 8 months….
white pea flower. photo by Christian Guthier; www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/
Three upcoming seasons of splendid Hudson Valley harvest start now with snap peas and shelling peas, asparagus, and mushrooms and ramps. What a year for these last two wild edibles! A snowy winter and raining spring does have its upsides. I’m incorporating all into risottos, pasta dishes, frittatas, spring stews, and so much more…
Washed down with Italian whites, like a Falaghina or Fiano, all these flavors come together to make memorable meals.
Strawberries come in from the fields beginning in late May in the Hudson Valley and, the first strawberries at the farmer’s market are typically snatched up immediately. The obvious reason is flavor, simple as that. Berries, after all, are fragile and when fully ripe they really can’t travel long distances. To eat juicy, sweet strawberries, you’ve got to find what’s growing nearby. Make a day of it, get some exercise, and save some money by going to a Pick-Ur-Own farm that grows strawberries. There are many in the Hudson Valley; the three that are closest to me include Greig Farm, Mead Orchards and Fraleigh’s Rose Hill Farm.
Buona primavera! Laura Pensiero
Author and Chef/Owner, Gigi Trattoria, Rhinebeck & Gigi Market, Red Hook
Strawberry BBQ Sauce
photo by Jeff Kubina
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This strawberry balsamic grilled shrimp glaze is the perfect sweet and sour accompaniment to pork, chicken or shrimp on the late spring-early summer grill. Later in the season, substitute peaches or fresh plums for the strawberries.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, or a combination of tarragon and chives
2 pints strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and halved
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and chives and cook, stirring, often, until the shallots are softened, about 2 minutes. Add the strawberries and cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates to a few tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Simmer unitl thickened and syrupy, about 4 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook (Pensiero/HarperCollins 2009)
by Jen Kiaba
Now that winter is upon us and we find ourselves blanketed in snow, warm hearty meals are just the ticket to get us through the next few months. If wine isn’t your thing and those crisp light beers of summer aren’t cutting it anymore, then it might be time to explore the diverse world of craft beer. Craft beer is a somewhat loose term that describes brews that come from small, independent and traditional brewers across America. With craft beer, the beverage is no longer simply a tailgate party accoutrement – it is a beverage to be savored and contemplated much in the same way one could approach a quality wine.
While the Hudson Valley is rich in local brew pubs specializing in great beer, Grand Cru of Rhinebeck is a hub for both beer enthusiasts and those interested in exploring the world and culture of craft brew. Situated in the heart of the Village of Rhinebeck, Grand Cru is run by husband and wife team Eric Molleur and Mary Sullivan. Both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, they long felt that the excitement and culture that craft beer has to offer ought to be brought to the Hudson Valley.
“We had always been into home brewing and we had jokingly talked about opening a store for a long time,” said Molleur. “We thought that the area would be receptive to it, and Rhinebeck seemed like the perfect community; the town is very supportive of local business and there is a lot of foot traffic.” The closest thing akin to Grand Cru being Half Time in Poughkeepsie, and a trek for anyone living or visiting in Northern Dutchess County, Molleur and Sullivan decided that the time had come for them to bring discussion into reality. So despite the shaky economy they took a leap and opened Grand Cru in the Spring of 2010. So far, they say, the reception has been fantastic.
With less than a year under their belt, they have started with a simple concept: offering quality beer and cheese pairings, along with local goodies like chocolates and pickles to go along with various selections. Unlike many other stores specializing in beer, Molleur and Sullivan have incorporated a cafe into their shop to encourage patrons to linger and test out various brews. “We found that craft beer was a new concept to many people,” said Molleur. “So the small cafe offers people a chance to try a beer and cheese plate, or we can make various recommendations.”
A great example of a beer and cheese pairing, Molleur said, is a cheese called Twin Maple Farm Hudson Red from Ghent, NY and a beer called Flemish Sour. He describes the cheese as similar to Munster, but with more pungency. “Something like that we recommend with Flemish Sour, which is a tart beer,” he said. “This is a case of matching characteristics of a cheese with the beer – the strong pungency of the cheese and the acidity of the Flemish Sour match pretty well.”
In keeping with their local focus, Grand Cru highlights cheeses from across the region and state. “We try to do about 70% local New York State cheese, and then for the rest we try to feature cheeses that someone is not going to find at a grocery store,” said Molleur. “We want to feature something more uncommon, unique and different.”
Eric Molleur of Grand Cru, photo by Jen Kiaba
Then the question remains, why beer and cheese? Molleur answers, “For us it’s the case that beer is a versatile beverage – it actually pairs well with anything. Name any cheese on the planet and there is going to be a beer that will pair well with it.” It is, essentially, taking the concept of wine and cheese and applying it to beer. “It’s our way to highlight that beer can be paired with any great food. The same case can be made with cheese: there are so many varieties that you can take any style of cheese and there will be a good beer to pair with it.”
Grand Cru now also boasts a slew of regulars who come in weekly with their growlers to see what the shop has on their rotating taps. “There is so much to choose from in terms of craft beer, that we have never had the same beer on tap twice,” Molleur said. “Which means that every week you can come in and try something new; that makes it exciting.”
The husband and wife team also enjoy serving in the role of educators. For those who are ready to graduate from the Anheuser-Busch brews to something more complex, Molleur and Sullivan are enthusiastic about sharing both the taste and culture of craft beer. “There is so much to the world of beer; there is vast variety and style to choose from,” said Molleur. “And craft brewers are fiercely independent; they are creating beers that are meant to be fun. It is a close-knit community – you’ll find brew pubs bringing in guest beers from other breweries which is something that doesn’t happen in, say, the wineries.”
Molleur and Sullivan’s knowledge of the world of beer is also an asset for those looking for either the perfect pairing with a family meal, or a holiday party. “We have people calling up all of the time looking for a recommendation for a meal they are preparing, or are interested in trying something new.” And while Grand Cru’s focus is on supporting New York State breweries, Molleur promises that if locals are looking for something special that isn’t in stock, they will track it down.
Keeping with the collaborative culture of the brewing community and the culture of the Village of Rhinebeck, Grand Cru also has plans in the works for beer dinners and local tastings. “We’re all about close collaboration with other businesses,” said Molleur. “We’re here to help and support each other.”
For up-to-the-date information on what Grand Cru has on tap and the special events they have up their sleeve, check out their website: http://grandcrurhinebeck.com, or call Molleur and Sullivan at (845)876-6992. They can also be found on Facebook, where fans can find special discounts and info on which beers have just been tapped.
Jen Kiaba is a freelance writer and portrait photographer based in Rhinebeck, NY. Her work can be found at www.jenkiabaphotography.com.