We set off to Hudson with a long, long list of cafés to visit, restaurants to eat at, and antique shops to peruse. But when we got there, it was so, so, so cold that every step outdoors had to be with a very close destination in mind, and if we didn't have a destination, we ended up diving into the nearest shop or cafe to defrost every two minutes. It was a minor miracle that we made it as far up the other end of Warren Street as Grazin', but we'd heard magical things about these burgers, so we were willing to lose some fingers and toes to get there.
When you look up and read about Grazin' on this here internet, you find repeated mentions of their local, sustainable, grass-fed and finished, organic, biodynamic, animal welfare approved meat. This was obviously enough to convince us clichéd food-lovers that we needed to pay this place a visit. But we weren't expecting this place to also fulfill all our American diner dreams.
All the red banquette lined booths were taken, so we sat on the stools at the bar. I resisted the temptation to have a Coop moment and order coffee, signaling to the waitress (who, sadly, wasn't dressed in blue and white) to wait while I pronounced it a 'damn fine cup of joe'. Instead, we listened to what the daily specials were and what they'd run out of that morning, before selecting which of the many burger options we wanted. We settled on The Stines - sweet caramelized onion and blue cheese - for me, and Uncle Dude - bacon, chipotle mayo, jalapeño relish, cheddar - for B.
It was a good job we were hungry - huge plates of perfectly cooked, juicy burger patties, melted cheese, perfectly cooked veg, pickles, and a beautiful amount of crunchy, perfectly created chips fries. Burger heaven. I'm not one to eat burgers often - I can probably count on one hand all the burgers I've ever had in my life - so maybe that doesn't make me an expert to judge them, but I can tell you that this one was wonderful. I would go back to eat it time and time again, so hopefully that tells you that this really is a burger worth its space in your stomach. Go, go, go.
From the outside, Bonfiglio & Bread looks like the perfect place to spend the morning with a steaming cup of coffee and a couple of slices of sourdough toast and local jam i.e. your ideal New York neighborhood café. However, this place is 2 hours away from New York in the beautiful, quiet, artsy town of Hudson, and, as soon as you step inside the little red door, you realize this place is better than any New York neighborhood café you have dreamed of.
The number of people crammed inside, more people than you've seen the whole weekend you've been in this town, testifies to the greatness of this bakery-café. Loaves of bread line the back shelves, in a glass cabinet are what remain of the day's pastries, and over the counter comes plate after bowl after plate of freshly cooked, stunning, and mouth-watering food. The blackboard menu is a bad-decision-maker's worst nightmare: B and I debated the merits of almost everything on there for far, far too long. I apologize to everyone who was stuck waiting behind us as we changed our minds again, and again, and again.
Eventually we settled: poached eggs with avocado, yoghurt, croutons, bacon, homemade chilli oil and lime zest for me, and a slow-cooked pork, chili relish, mayonnaise sourdough sandwich for him. We elbowed our way into a tiny bit of counter space (hey, you Americans need to learn you to make an orderly queue line), admiring everyone else's pizzas, open sandwiches and bagels as we did so.
The most beautiful bowl of perfectly cooked eggs with bright orange, runny yolks sat atop fresh, rich yoghurt, crunchy-chewy croutons, smashed avocado and brilliantly spicy chili oil. If I could have this for lunch every day for the rest of my life, I would be happy. B's sandwich was juicy and fatty and just amazingly fabulous. It easily walked its way into the mental list of top 10 sandwiches.
We reluctantly surrendered our standing space to some waiting customers, and left with an onion pinwheel in a bag which we tore apart alongside a glass of wine that evening. It was tricky to force ourselves to eat elsewhere for the rest of the trip.
We left the city for the first time in five months for President's Day weekend. We hopped on the train bright and early on an unbearably cold Saturday morning, and after two hours of a beautifully scenic train ride along the frozen Hudson river, we arrived in Hudson. We didn't really know what to expect apart from fabulous food and a plethora of antiques shops, but we didn't expect to fall in love with this little town quite as much as we did. By Saturday evening I was looking up apartments to rent and figuring out whether that 2 hour commute could really be possible. For now, we're back in the city, but maybe one day we'll be living in a house in this quiet, artsy, food-filled town upstate.
Little friends C & A - if you're reading, these obviously made us think of you!
More blog posts on where and what we ate and drank to come...
It's been a busy week at a new job where I spend all day doing nothing but writing, writing, writing. Yes, it's basically a dream - a job where I just get to blog all day long. But it's pretty tiring and I'm exhausted and lost for words (literally) by the end of a day. So hopefully that explains the sudden quiet round these parts over the last little while.
Anyway, what I'm really here to tell you is that you need to spend this Valentine's Day weekend baking blondies. Claire Ptak's blondies were the first thing I baked from her book, and I have been repeatedly putting them in the oven ever since. Making the caramel shards sounds like a faff but is actually incredibly easy and so much fun. The whole mixture comes together beautifully in the oven to create a sticky, chewy, buttery blondie with soft shards of melted caramel and molten chocolate. These are dangerous, but also perfect for Valentine's day. Skip the boxed chocolates and bake a tray of these instead: everyone will be doing well out of that gift.
You can find the recipe here. But really you should buy the amazing book and dream of living in Hackney next door to her adorable bakery.
B and I turned up rather late to the obsessively watching Twin Peaks party. We finally finished watching the series 25 years later, last weekend. Every time Coop had a slice of Norma's cherry pie at the Double R diner during the show, B would whine that he really, really, really wanted some cherry pie.
In his Christmas stocking B unwrapped an oh-so-fancy jar of cherry pie filling. The reference did not need to be explained. A few days ago, this filling found some pie crust, Joy the Baker's buttermilk double crust to be precise, and after bubbling away in the oven for a little while, we devoured piece after piece after piece of this fabulous cherry pie. Coop, you were right, that cherry pie really was worth the stop.