Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.

This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mountain Brauhaus, Gardiner, NY

Mountain Brauhaus Restaurant, Gardiner, New York
845 255 9766
Lunch & Dinner, Wednesday through Sunday
Closed Monday and Tuesday

The business texts frequently suggest that a family business is often destroyed by the third generation. The Mountain Brauhaus, nestled on the corner of the approach to Minnewaska at the intersection of Routes 44 / 55 and 299, is a happy exception to that rule. It has flourished, even improved with each new generation, now on its third. I have been dining at this family owned and family oriented restaurant since 1976, which actually opened in 1955. It is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. Sometimes it seems that everyone in the place knows each other; that anyone who walks in the door is greeted by the rest of the dining room and the bar patrons. You get the feeling that you walked in on a big birthday party but you’re not sure who the guest of honor is. By the end of the meal the wait-staff, all of whom dress in too cute traditional German garb, will make you feel like you are.

The restaurant has the look and feel of a traditional German Brauhaus, and takes advantage of the locale to accent the flavor with pictures of local climbers tackling the Gunks. The restaurant has a separate bar room with a few tables for those (of us) who like to sit close to our beer. In days of yore this restaurant was one of a few “Bavarian style” restaurants in the area that could always be counted on for traditional German fare – Arno’s in Esopus, The Brauhaus on Main Street in Poughkeepsie, The Swiss Country Inn up the road in Gardiner. The Mountain Bauhaus’s competitors are now all a distant memory, but the dishes we craved are not, they’re all still here - rouladen and sauerbraten, kassler ripchen and knackwurst and bratwurst and bockwurst and schnitzel platters brimming over with red cabbage and sauerkraut and spaetzle. We’re talking real homemade spaetzle here, fried and finished with a rich brown gravy. Wonderful stuff. Served with a basket of pumpernickel and a glass of wheat beer and there is no way you are leaving hungry. Those traditional dishes are still on the menu, and still wonderful, but the offerings - particularly the daily specials - are now much more expansive. A long list of black board specials now accompany the menu, and the kitchen stretches far beyond its Germanic roots.

I am fortunate to have a group of friends in the Hudson Valley that have dined together every week for many years. The membership travels from both sides of the Hudson, so we try to alternate destinations on each side of the river. Frequently our “right bank” destination will be the Mountain Brauhaus. We dined there last Wednesday evening. Leslie, our usual waitress, greeted us with her usual “Hello Boys!” as we gathered at the bar. We will usually share a bottle of wine as we wait for everyone to show up. The wine list here is limited but well chosen, and sensitive to the family restaurant’s price point. A Drouhin Beaujolais Villages will go well with just about anything. Also offered are a Clos de Bois red zin or chardonnay, a Rosemount Estate merlot, a Nino Franco prosecco, the requisite collection of German reislings and an Alsatian gewurtztraminer.

By 6 PM the dining room was filling up – as it does most evenings. We positioned ourselves to avoid the tables with young children (so as not to offend any families with our table talk), and nestled in for a long winter’s night. Our usual modus operandi would be to order different entrees and share – one arctic char, a platter of schnitzel, one schlatte platte of mixed sausages, but there is something about a braised pork shank that growing boys (growing horizontally) seem to find irresistible. We started with a salad topped with a home style vinaigrette topped with grated blue cheese, and the said aforementioned basket of pumpernickel. This alone should be enough for any normal appetite, but since we ordered appetizers before we saw the Flinstone size pork shank, we of course ordered another course. One of the house specials on Wednesday was a plate of duck breast, cured with pastrami seasonings. A novel preparation to be sure, but quite delicious, and highly recommended. The roast shank was fabulous, topped with a rich brown gravy and a pile of crispy onions, and nestled on a platter of homemade spaetzle. ‘Twas the diet special, no? Well, just pass the Lipitor.

At lunch on Tuesday a restaurateur friend of mine confided that when he and his wife manage to steal a night away from their own establishment, they go across the river to The Mountain Brauhaus for a meal. He described it as “real” - totally honest food. I couldn’t agree more. We will add it to our favorites too.

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