The Hudson Valley Takes Manhattan!
Story by ML Ball
Photographed by Laurie Szostak
You often hear that the Hudson Valley is the best-kept secret in America. Well, not if Laurie Szostak and Caroline Benveniste have anything to do with it.
Each fall, this dynamic duo is spreading the news about our awesome corner of the world at a food and wine event at the Harvard Club of New York City in midtown Manhattan. Now in its fifth year, the Best of the Hudson Valley Autumn Harvest Tasting Event was held September 22, organized by Harvard Club member Caroline Benveniste with support from Laurie Szostak, owner/editor-in-chief of Organic Hudson Valley.
Laurie and myself attended this year’s sold-out event, riding the train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central. Once inside the Harvard Club’s dark paneled walls (comparisons to Hogwarts are unavoidable), we quickly got down to the task at hand: to do our utmost to educate the evening’s attendees about the vital importance of the Hudson Valley; its food, farmers and chefs; and the substantial difference all of these are making in terms of Fair Trade, sustainability and responsible farming.
Like clockwork, we set up the OHV table (at the head of the buffet line!) while representatives from 14 Hudson Valley farms, distilleries and vineyards assembled their stations. Participants included Catsmo Artisan Smokehouse, Hudson Valley Duck Farm, Raven & Boar/Hudson Valley Charcuterie, Mauer’s Mountain Farms, Walbridge Farm, Bield Farm, Paisley Farm, Wild Hive Farm Grains, Sprout Creek Farm, Taconic Distillery, Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, Fishkill Farms Treasury Ciders and Nostrano Vineyards.
Also on hand was Francesco Mastalia, who was holding a book signing for his Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley, featuring stunning black-and-white portraits of Hudson Valley farmers and chefs committed to growing and preparing organic food.
Many of the 125 attendees arrived earlier than the event’s start time of 6:30, eager to learn about the Hudson Valley and sample what the Harvard Club’s Executive Chef David Haviland had ingeniously created with the meats, fish, produce, grains and cheese that had been provided by the participating farmers. And they weren’t disappointed.
In fact, a hint about what was in store could be found in the event’s title, “The Best of the Hudson Valley.” And certainly, “the best” is what it was: smoked trout rillettes, Gewürztraminer cider–braised duck leg, garlic scape sausage, roast guinea hen, cider-braised brisket, braised lamb, grilled heirloom eggplant, red wheat berry-roasted pear-squash salad…and that’s just a sampling. Add to that a massive table loaded with artisanal cheeses, homemade preserves and charcuterie and plenty of bourbon whisky, rum, red and white wine and sparkling cider to wash it all down.
Yet what made the event about more than dining on incredible fare was the way the people in the room displayed a true appreciation for the Hudson Valley, our Hudson Valley, and what makes us us…organic, sustainable, responsible, dedicated, passionate. They got it. And that’s what propelled the evening from really good to absolutely magnificent.
Laurie and Caroline, very well done.