|Hudson Valley Magazine, January 2007|
Best New Restaurants
It's official. The Hudson Valley has arrived as an international dining destination. Master chefs, many trained right here at the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America in Dutchess County, are wooing locals and tourists alike with inventive cuisine, locally grown ingredients and seductive spaces (bet you've never dined in a former auto garage before).
A New York City couple purchases an abandoned garage on the main street of a small upstate village that has seen better days. With no restaurant experience whatsoever, they decide to turn it into a restaurant and hire a chef by placing an ad on Craigslist. It sounds like the pilot for a TV sitcom, and not necessarily a very good one.
But nobody is laughing at Local 111, which opened in tiny Philmont last August. Husband-and-wife owners Linda Gatter and Max Dannis, along with chef David Wurth, have created a noteworthy restaurant that is attracting a regular stream of diners with fresh, local produce; simple yet innovative cuisine; and down-to-earth prices.
Gatter and Dannis, architects who moved to the area five years ago, decided to enter the food business after attending a lecture in Philmont about the revitalization of main streets. “There was just a great energy,” says Gatter. “I thought, ‘If you have a restaurant, people will come.’ We also wanted a nice place to eat.”
They decided not to obscure the restaurant’s previous incarnation as a gas station, but instead installed new overhead doors, a radiant heating system, and local black walnut in the entranceway. The result: a chic and welcoming space.
Food-wise, simple is the name of the game here. “There is nothing on the menu that anyone hasn’t heard of before,” says Wurth. (Despite finding his current gig on the Internet, the chef’s tony credentials include more than a decade working at New York’s famed Savoy, the last few as chef de cuisine.) “It’s about using as much as possible from local sources, but it is also about having a place that appeals to people who come up here from New York, and people who have grown up here. It’s a restaurant for everybody.”
Dinner choices run the gamut from hamburger with fries (all meats are grass-fed and local) and linguine with sweet onions, escarole and ricotta; to blackfish with toasted almond relish. Most fall in the $18-$20 range. Daily specials are based upon season and market availability, but have included starters of celery root fritters with anchovy sauce, and chicken with posole and tomatoes. Other popular entrées: a leg of veal with preserved lemon, smoked sea scallops with cauliflower and parsley sauce, and roasted venison with corn sticks and red cabbage. An added bonus: customers are tickled that they can always choose their own side dishes. (Three sides of vegetables and grilled bread are a bargain at $8.)
The gourmet eatery also has bragging rights to what may be a Valley first: it morphs into a down-home breakfast joint that serves (organic) egg sandwiches “with a nice selection of cheeses,” says Wurth, along with a “fantastic” spread of fresh baked goods.