Hudson at Haymount House: Not Just for Special Occasions
Plus Fig & Olive’s new Fall dishes and The Beehive's super, homemade Greek yogurt
Mussels at the Hudson at Haymount House
Hudson at Haymount House: Beyond Tara
When do a fabulous restored mansion and a "Don't Miss" review in the New York Times work against you? When you want people to feel they can just drop in for a burger at the bar. Hudson at Haymount House, known primarily as a special occasion venue and fancy night out since opening in April 2012, is making a more vigorous bid for casual diners, with a new bar menu, pasta special, more live music, and prix-fixe Friday lunch. They've also changed chefs, making this a good time to take a new look.
Still, the façade can be intimidating. You drive up a residential side street, and just when you think you’re going the wrong way, cut to Tara! Complete with rolling lawns and a grand walkway leading up to a fountain in front of a two-story porticoed entrance. Heck, this building even made the Times in 1913. “We're fighting against the columns,” says co-owner David Breschel.
And when I say Tara, I'm not kidding. The mansion, built in 1910 by Wall Street financier William Fuller to resemble his childhood estate in Haymount, NC, was used to portray Tara in some scenes from Gone With the Wind. Pasta night with the kids, anyone?
Well sure, why not. This is an intriguing enough place and quality enough experience to be worth just barreling in there, grandeur and all.
Jazz night appealed to my crew, and it made for an atmospheric but comfortable evening. The space is undeniably formal—chandeliers, tastefully patterned wallpaper, a ballroom—but also warm and inviting: fireplaces with candles aglow, tables well spaced for conversation, soft but not dim lighting. Grand staircases lead up to who knows what (Scarlett O'Hara readying for a party? A bridal suite can be used as a dressing room or overnight, and other rooms are being restored). The bar area is set off; drinks are strong. I enjoyed the apple spiced rum with muddled apple slices. That night, which happened to be Halloween, a vocalist and keyboardist in full-on '20s garb performed a mix of jazz and blues. But in a spectacular feat of bad timing, we arrived after sunset, missing the famous river view; across the darkness glowed the lights of Haverstraw, à la The Great Gatsby.
Chef Bruce Beaty, who joined this farm-to-table establishment five months ago, has impeccable creds—Le Bernardin under Gilbert Le Coze, Gotham Bar and Grill under Alfred Portale—and was most recently at Red Hat on the River. So rather than ordering on my own, I went with a chef's tasting. First to arrive: an appetizer of grilled marinated octopus, nicely charred and very tender, atop Yukon potatoes with Cerignola olives and red wine vinaigrette. My tablemates snapped up its delicious tentacles every time I turned my head. The PEI mussels they’d ordered arrived in a pot, with a sprinkling of merguez that added interest without overpowering the sofrito and saffron-bouillabaisse broth. Then: a silky piece of halibut with baby bok choy and mushrooms, in a curry broth assertive enough to sing but mild enough not to distract. Although the entire meal was beautifully executed, this was the only dish that truly grabbed my heart, its flavors melting together beautifully.
Next in this Hudson Valley omakase, I was surprised with two game dishes, duck and venison. Roasted Catskill duck breast with spinach, red cabbage, and natural duck jus reduction was choice and succulent, but if you're a “crispy duck” person, this sort of beefy preparation might not be for you. Venison? Call me a wimp—I know it sustained our forerunners and was served at the first Thanksgiving—but I'd never tried it (and considered it a gutsy move to serve to a diner who’d asked for only one meat course). I raised a glass to Natty Bumppo (oh, go look it up) and took a few bites: venison ragu with handmade pappardelle, not a bad introduction. It's as good as any other meat, salty and deeply flavorful but not gamy, although you couldn't call me a convert. Sides of lentils and vegetables were thoughtfully seasoned. Dessert was an excellent cheese plate with toasted cranberry walnut bread, honey, and three local cheeses: Eclipse, Berkshire Blue, and Hudson Red. The others ordered the obligatory flourless chocolate cake—which was very good, of course.
Obviously this isn't comprehensive, and another visit is in order to try more things on the ever-changing menu. You need no reservation to have a burger plus beer or wine at the bar ($19/$23). Tuesday and Wednesday sunset happy hour on the lawn sounds lovely, and the new bar menu offers more dishes in the $6 to $15 range; a pasta special on those nights features three all-you-can-eat seasonal pastas plus side salad ($24/adults, $15/kids). As a further enticement, notice this coupon for lunch or brunch. Their Thanksgiving menu looks just right, and the atmosphere would be especially suitable for Thanksgiving…um, yeah. That’s a special occasion. Maybe they’ll even serve venison.
New Dishes at Fig & Olive
Fig & Olive, known for pairing dishes with fine olive oils and excluding butter, has scattered new fall items throughout their menu. I didn't expect to be wowed by—honestly, almost didn't order—crudités, despite their newfound hipness, but they’re refreshing simplicity itself, containing broccoli rabe, among other things, and served with tapenades: a pesto-y ricotta basil and a slightly spicy red bell pepper yogurt ricotta. Pumpkin sage ravioli is saved from cliché by the inclusion of free-range chicken and charmoula; salad Niçoise, topped with seared tuna, surprises with a hidden underlayer of tuna carpaccio. And for dessert, house-made raspberry sorbet with yogurt mousse, meringue, raspberry caramel, and fresh raspberries. Other new dishes include crab cake, salmon burger, steak frites, and soon a fresh berry crostata with mascarpone and Cointreau syrup. As always, meals begin with a tasting of three olive oils.
Homemade Greek Yogurt and Granola at The Beehive
Greek yogurt, which has more protein and fewer carbs, has inspired such devotion that you might soon find it in everything from toothpaste to shampoo. You can get it at the supermarket nowadays, but you don't come across it homemade too often. Enter The Beehive, from the former owners of the Mount Olympos Diner. This is no diner—it's all French Country and bees—everything is house-made, and breakfast, served until 2 pm, packs a crowd. (Seriously—by the time we got our food, the place was full.) The yogurt and granola is a winning combo: a generous bowl of rich, thicker-than-Fage yogurt, with granola full of dried fruit, almond slices, and almost whole walnut halves, lightly sweetened with cane sugar, maple syrup, and honey. Squeeze bear of honey on request. And while you’re there, don’t miss the fluffy pancakes and out-of-this-world cheese Danish, with cream cheese, farmer's cheese, mascarpone, and apple.