Last week I had the honor of attending the second dinner in the ChefX: Hudson-Berkshires 2013. ChefX is a series that was conceived of by Angela Cardinali of Berkshire Farm and Table and Bjorn Somlo, the chef and owner of Nudel in Lenox. The idea came out of a conversation about how to create stronger ties between the rapidly expanding culinary scene in and around Hudson and the one here in the Berkshires. While Hudson and Great Barrington are 50 minutes apart the farms that restaurants in both areas relief on for the fresh local products lay between them.
When Angela told me about this idea I was immediately excited. While Columbia County and Berkshire County lie on opposite sides of the state line, agriculturally we are the same region. If we are to strengthen our local food economy we must do it together. Great Barrington and Hudson are the food hubs that support this diverse and exciting farm community.
Crimson Sparrow in Hudson, NY hosted the first dinner, where Berkshire chefs came to Hudson. The chefs representing the Berkshires were Bjorn Somlo of Nudel; Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge; Jamie Paxton, formerly of the Meat Market in Great Barrington and now at CrossRoads in Hillsdale; Stephen Browning of Bell and Anchor in Great Barrington; and Matt Rubiner of Rubiner’s Cheesemongers and grocers.
Allium in Great Barrington hosted the second dinner, when Hudson chefs came to the Berkshires. As soon as I entered the space we could feel the energy. It was exciting to peer into the kitchen and see all of these chefs, whom we admire so much, working, talking, and plating together. After some time of drinking and mingling Nancy Thomas, owner of Allium and Mezze, invited all of us to take a seat and enjoy the meal. All of the food was inventive and delicious. My personal favorites were the Kinderhook Beef Tongue with grilled asparagus and ramps from Swoon KitchenBar in Hudson, and the buttermilk fried quail with sweet potato grits and greens from Helsinki Hudson.
But what was really great about this dinner, wasn’t the food itself, it was the energy in the room. It is so exciting to see the bridging of these two communities connected by a love of food and dedication to local farms. If the local food movement is going to continue to grow and succeed then this is exactly what needs to happen. I very much look forward to the next ChefX dinner series.