From Mount Tremper to Nyack, where to find culinary warmth and welcome this February (or anytime, really).
Frosty days of February naturally cause our cravings to give in to dishes that bring comfort and contentment. While what we call “comfort food” differs between each person’s unique preferences, restaurants across the Hudson Valley continue to offer dishes that cater to a range of satisfying traditions and stomach-filling temptations.
Satisfying sweet notes are what start the day at Woodnotes Grille at the Emerson Spa and Resort in Mount Tremper. Well-situated for in-transit skiers and very convenient for those luxuriating at the spa, guests can wake up to fluffy Belgian waffles topped with Nutella and bananas, graced with fresh berries, or topped with local apple butter and mascarpone made with honeyed cream. For a cozy dinner, they’ll savor the hearty Bison Stew served over flavorful pumpkin spaetzle and dusted with toasted pumpkin seeds, or indulge in the plump, house-cut fries that come alongside the customer-favored Woodnotes Burger, topped with charred onions and gruyere, or served up slathered in Cajun remoulade with the Catfish n’ Chips plate.
A similar folksy feeling is created at Cedar Street Grill in Dobbs Ferry, where guests get a sense of a homey cabin in the woods immediately upon entering and scanning a menu that features generous helpings of nostalgia. Chef Matt Kay describes the appeal as “very simple elegance, with simple food done right; nostalgic foods with a little twist.” He recommends the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, made with mushrooms, onions, and brown gravy, as well as the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, served with house-made pickles and roasted potatoes, and finished with a drizzle of wildflower honey.
Jed Gidaly, the chef and owner of Nyack’s Communal Kitchen, is another who works to incorporate comforting cues from several regions and various cuisines. Dishes range from a hearty plate of lamb ribs covered in a root beer glaze and served with warming white beans and merguez sausage to a distinctive Orecchiette Carbonara with a sauce that subtly mixes in cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, to a winter duck delicacy served with braised red cabbage. For a sweetened veggie experience, guests can try the Roasted Rainbow Carrots coated with honey and presented with whipped feta, but for a true treat, end the meal with the warm Farmer’s Market Crisp.
Michelle Silver, co-owner of Miss Lucy’s Kitchen in Saugerties, defines comfort food as “any food that makes people feel good.” Menus at the homey restaurant — where retro aprons serve as curtains and attitudes are friendly — are locally sourced and change daily, but one crowd-pleasing favorite has been the warming Turkey Confit Pot Pie with a cheddar-studded, buttery biscuit. Vegetarians, on the other hand, have savored dishes like the Mushroom Ragout with crispy polenta cake and roasted Brussels sprouts, while nostalgic desserts — like fruit crisps, upside down cake, and assorted bread and banana puddings — have consistently ensured all visitors leave having satisfied their sweet tooth, too.
Bacon-wrapped meatloaf takes on another incarnation at Wunderbar Bistro in Hudson. Describing the menu as “progressive American comfort food,” this low-key eatery composes its dish with a blend of slow-roasted beef, turkey, and sweet Italian sausage, which is then wrapped in bacon, and served with homestyle mashed potatoes. Chef Zakariah Russell, who trained with multiple CIA and Cordon Bleu grads, also recommends ordering a plate of Wunderbar Wings, coated in a delightfully finger-staining hot, mild, teriyaki, BBQ, or Thai chili glaze. Other comforting options are the pea-less Penne Carbonara, served in a decadent caramelized onion, bacon and roasted garlic cream sauce, or any one of the intriguing Schnitzel dishes on offer.
Chef Kay’s other suggestion, however, is also a popular order at New Rochelle’s Wooden Spoon, where, according to owner Nick Tiscari, every item on the menu qualifies as comfort food. Their take on the fried bird is smothered in gravy and served with biscuits or served perched on waffles and doused with maple syrup. The option to add this characteristically crunchy chicken to the spot’s Mac ’n’ Cheese (made with a béchamel sauce and three different cheeses) is another way to satisfy cravings. For something different, guests can try the Veggie Lasagna made with creamy ricotta, grilled vegetables and marinara sauce, or partake in a southern staple, Seasoned Grilled Shrimp and Grits, with bacon and cheese melted right into it, and a honey-chipotle sauce drizzled on top.
If rich, soul-warming sauces are what help cultivate comfort in your mind, however, you may do well to head to Cold Spring Depot in Putnam County. The menu at this train-stop-turned-restaurant features the thick-cut Smoked Pork Chop — with both tamarind BBQ and fresh mango sauces — that’s served with jerk rice and beans. Another good choice would be the Portobello Swiss Burger, which is covered with caramelized onions, Portobello mushrooms, melty Swiss cheese and an ultra-luscious garlic aioli. The dish is highly recommended by the restaurant’s owner, Greg Pagones, who believes all their comfort food offerings are tasty, warm and “make you feel at home.”
This article was originally published in Hudson Valley Magazine.