Tag Archives | feature fall 2016


El Norte

The makings of a Mexican food
identity in the Hudson Valley


The 1980s were a great time for Mexican cuisine—especially in the Hudson Valley. It was this decade, after all, that saw the Mexican community grow larger and faster than any other immigrant group in the nation. Towns like Poughkeepsie and Newburgh swelled as young men arrived to pick the valley’s apples and wash onions and lettuce grown in its black dirt fields—and the Mexican food followed shortly after. In Newburgh, several Mexican- owned grocery stores sprang up to quell the demand for authentic Mexican-made staples, like corn tortillas and spicy chiles redolent of the arid soils of the motherland. It was in these bodegas, with their teetering shelves piled high with the delights of Mexico, that Mexican-Americans were able to find a little taste of home, though thousands of miles away. What’s more, such pioneering businesses paved the way for the region’s now flourishing Mexican culinary scene and the crowds of gringos ready for freshly griddled picaditas.

In Newburgh, Los Portales’ port-wine-colored awning marks its place as one of about 10 Mexican restaurants now jostling for real estate in the city’s center. Once home to … Read More

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The Inconvenient Farm Stand

A new chapter begins for Montgomery Place Orchards


On a Tuesday morning this past July, chef Nick Suarez places a routine call to Montgomery Place Orchards to begin a new week of menu planning for his restaurant, Gaskins. Farmer Talea Taylor pauses the jam-making process underway in her kitchen to answer.

“Any idea what you’ll have this week?” the chef inquires. “Plenty of snap peas and a tsunami of black raspberries,” Taylor replies.

With that report, the week’s dishes for Suarez start to take shape. The snap peas are so sweet, Suarez won’t need to blanch them. He will prepare them with pistachios, olive oil, crème fraîche and a sprig of mint. Black raspberries he envisions on top of a lemon polenta cake. If supplies last, maybe they will flavor the ice cream of the week, too. When he swings by the farm stand on Route 9G in Red Hook to pick up his order, Suarez is sure to find another surprise or two that he will add to the menu at the last minute. This is the nature of fieldto- plate food in the making and typifies an exchange, while often improvisational in spirit, advantageous … Read More

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A Little Empire Thinks Big

Mount Kisco plays host to
an outgrowth of concept eateries

Salmon-Lentil Crepe, from Little Crepe Street in Mount Kisco


Intuition tells us to start small before going big, especially in the food business. The adage is one held by restaurant owner Bonnie Saran, who opened a string of Westchester eateries in the last six years, collectively known as the “Little Empire” of restaurants. This empire includes Little Spice Bazaar, Little Crepe Street, Little Kabab Station and Little Drunken Chef, all of which are within a stone’s throw from each other on East Main Street in Mount Kisco. There’s also the Little Mumbai Market in Pleasantville.

How Saran ended up owning all the “Littles” is a story in and of itself. She hails from a town near Mumbai, India, where her dad was in the Indian army (she often refers to herself as an army brat) and her mother cooked for various regional concession stands and local movie theaters. “We helped her every morning,” Saran recalls, “starting early around 4 a.m., preparing sandwiches and burgers to be distributed. By 10:30 we were done.” Although her college major was stage and set design, Saran had a strong entrepreneurial … Read More

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Continuing an ancient African
rice-growing tradition in Ulster Park

Farmer Nfamara Badjie with a handful of his rice harvest


“I told him, ‘You’re crazy, we can’t grow rice here!’” says farmer Dawn Hoyte with a self-deprecating grin. She’s standing in the grass next to one of Ever-Growing Family Farm’s many rice paddies, the hot sun beating down and the slender, green rice plants reaching up from the water to wave in the welcoming breeze. Not surprisingly, Hoyte has since conceded that her initial assessment was wrong and her husband, Nfamara Badjie, was right. The evidence surrounds her in the couple’s small farm in Ulster Park.

The couple purchased the property in 2013 with the intention of farming it. “But it was so wet—like a swamp,” says Hoyte. Fortunately, Badjie, who grew up growing rice in a tiny village in Gambia, was far from discouraged. Although most farmers would eye the marshy, clay-laden soil with doubt, Badjie knew it was a blessing—a perfect place to grow rice.

Armed with a traditional, long-handled shovel called a “kajandu,” Badjie, his three sons, Malick, 23, Modou, 15, and Abibou, 12, and his good friend and farming partner Moustapha “Tapha” Diedhiou … Read More

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