Hudson, New York, which I kept referring to generically as The Catskills despite being informed on Facebook that technically it’s not, is the type of bucolic, bougie paradise I’m not typically attracted to (if I’m leaving NYC, give me the suburbs) and yet I went up by myself on a near whim because that’s what you’re supposed to do in summer. Elsewhere, I’ve described it as if Red Hook was an entire Ikea-less town, the projects were ramshackle wood-clad homes with saggy porches, and Van Brunt was more densely packed with galleries and antique stores and perfumed with essential oils. I did not visit purely for food purposes, especially with my solo dining weirdness, but of course eating happened though not as much as one might think for four days.
I will say one thing about Hudson: the bread and butter is very good everywhere.
Fish & Game recently went more a la carte, which is great if you’re not willing to fully commit to a tasting menu. Still, you will need two for the shared roast chicken, rack of lamb or whichever big meats are getting the wood-burning oven treatment that day. Oysters, eggs, both chicken and sturgeon, were playing a large role on the Thursday night I visited. I started with the shellfish, roasted, encrusted with a less-overpowering-than-it-sounds kimchi hollandaise to snack on with my Dr. Mephisto Swizzle (white rum, sherry, turmeric liqueur, husk cherry). I treated a hefty slab of smoked and grilled pork belly nearly hidden in a mound of thinly shaved Hakurei turnips and doused with the F&G house sauce that smelled strongly of fish sauce and was similar to a Vietnamese sweet-savory caramel yet also managed to taste like pizza as a main, along with a glass of orange wine (Franco Terpin Quinto Quinto Bianco) because that’s what one must drink at 2015’s midpoint. Really, though, the tartness was right on with the pork that would’ve been better split with another diner to free up stomach space for a third dish. Sitting at the bar, I had a view of a more granular demographic division than townie/”citidiot” (as I was later told interlopers were called by a retired NYPD libertarian who also relayed a Father’s Day sob story and wanted to talk guns with me) which boiled down to boisterous group-dining golf-shirted men in their 40s vs. the cocktail-sipping millennial topknot girls who probably harvest their own honey.
Swoon Kitchenbar is kind of the original upscale, locavore restaurant in town (founded in 2004). The kind of place we almost take for granted in every tier of city now. Once again, I was more of a snacker, trying the greaseless fried artichokes with black olive aioli and a roasted beet and goat cheese salad that swayed me with the inclusion of crispy onions because double fried vegetables for one meal is a sound decision. I appeared to be the only unknown entity dining at the bar. It’s also that kind of place. There was confusion about the lady at the end of the bar who’d ordered the beet salad. Both I and the older solo woman with short spiky silver hair, similarly toned statement jewelry, and funky glasses were brought the same dish at the same time and I had a vision of one possible future if I started making different life decisions. I don’t think I’m ready for that.
Helsinki Hudson. I went twice, once just for a drink, because this restaurant/performance space was very close to my airbnb, and left with two very different impressions. At the bar on weeknight there’s a more casual menu and on the early side was province of solo-dining (there are a lot of solo diners in this town) men over 50 who appeared to make money in mysterious ways and have homes in town and elsewhere. On a weekend evening in the outdoor compound, I had Hudson Valley duck confit made Southern with collard greens and a slightly incongruous puck of blackberry cornbread, and the crowd was a hodgepodge of gay seniors, non-young moms with newborns, a plethora of Eileen Fisher and straw hats, plus a woman in a one-shoulder cocktail dress who looked like a vixen from an ’80s video but was a little too old to be ironic yet not old enough to be time-warped.
Cafe le Perche is a French-ish bakery/bistro with scattered service and an assumption that reservations are required on a Monday morning. I’ll take my black coffee and almond croissant to go, though I should probably shouldn’t take it at all.
The Cascades, on the other hand, is not terribly fancy but where to go for solid American sandwiches named after mountains. Because I was starving, I didn’t even take a photo of my Mount Baker, roast beef and provolone on a hard roll, with shredded iceberg balanced out by vaguely chichi balsamic mayonnaise.
Grazin’ Yes, there’s one in Tribeca, but this is the original. It’s the pseudo-diner to visit if you want hyper-local burgers (Grazin’ Angus Acres beef), cheese (Prodigal Farm bleu), and beer (I don’t remember) and to observe children trying their first tastes of gazpacho and attractive, middle-aged couples without wedding bands having quiet fights. When “Movin’ Out” started playing, I braced myself. There. “Heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack.” As if on cue, the dressed-down tortoiseshell frames finance guy confided to his bird-tattooed, age-appropriate girlfriend in expensive clogs and crowned with sun-streaked waves , “I used to be so into Billy Joel.”
Relish. Maybe you have an hour (or more once you get an Amtrak text alert) to kill before your train back home? This is really the only daytime hangout in the vicinity of the station, directly across the street. Have a BLT on multi-grain bread, side of the day (a chickpea salad that I swear had wasabi in it) and a cucumber mint soda, and try to mentally will your train to arrive faster by staring at the Hudson sign in your line of vision.
American Glory. Just for drinks (like the improved whiskey cocktail above) and friendly bartenders, not the bbq. If you wear a Target dress, moderate heels, and lipstick, everyone will think you are up from the city for the weekend.
Half Moon. The good dive bar to go to if you need something open after midnight. I still feel guilty for under-tipping the bartender who gave me more free drinks than I realized.
Melino’s Pub. The dive bar you go to before you realize Half Moon exists when you need something open after midnight and want to scare your beer-hating, skinny-jeans vegan Tinder date and make them drink Fireball shots against their will.