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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Babycakes Cafe, Poughkeepsie, NY

Babycakes Café
1-3 Collegeview Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY
Tues – Wed 8 AM till 9 PM
Thurs – Sat. 8 AM – 10 PM
Sunday 8 AM – 4 PM
Closed Monday
Babycakes first opened, as a bakery, in 2002. Over the years they have added to the menu, serving breakfast, then lunch, and now dinner. The menu is expansive, offering dozens of choices for each meal. The hours are ambitious to say the least. Diners keep the doors open for all three meals, but it is unique to see a restaurant of this caliber keeping the kitchen going from before dawn (pastry chefs start really early) through dinner. Its location across the street from the Vassar College campus provides a steady stream of customers. Babycakes does a land-office take out business, in addition to catering, the original bakery business, and a full service dining room.
It is hard to describe the atmosphere at Babycakes. It is very casual. There is a smallish bar near the entrance with a half dozen seats. At first glance it looks like a large service bar, but they offer a full complement of tap beers, liquor and wine. The walls are covered with very large blackboards which list the daily offerings at the bakery, in addition to breakfast and luncheon specials. Behind the bar you will probably find Gary, our new favorite barkeep. He instantly recognized us on our second visit for Wednesday Boyz Dinner (and I don’t think – or at least I am hopeful – that we didn’t do anything particularly memorable on our first visit). He also remembered what we liked in the way of wine, and offered us “our usual” Pinot Grigio as we collected at the bar. As you might expect, the place is usually full of students, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when they offer live entertainment. Last Wednesday they had a band for St. Patrick’s Day, which was a nice touch for everyone else in the dining room, but a disappointment for most of my party who would rather focus on the food and the conversation. (Actually I just don’t like my punchlines being drowned out by a chorus of “Whiskey in the Jar”.) Gary arranged for a table in the “back” dining room, where we could be seated away from the band. One of the few issues we have with Babycakes is the seating plan. The front dining room is usually busy with foot traffic – students coming and going with take out or bakery purchases. The back dining room is much quieter, but the narrow foot print makes rearranging tables for any parties larger than four problematic. The standard seating plan is all four tops.
This all might sound more like a campus hang out rather than a dining destination, but Babycakes has become very much the dining destination. I am told the kitchen crew – or at least part of it - came over from the immensely popular Busy Bee when they closed last year. The preparations of some of the dishes are carryovers from the Busy Bee.
The ala carte menu usually starts with a dozen or so appetizers in addition to a few daily specials. Over the last few months I think we have tried most of them. Greek Sliders ($7) are patties of ground lamb, sautéed with rosemary, garlic, onions, and served with spinach and feta cheese. Pancetta wrapped shrimp ($9) are served with an avocado and chili pepper sauce. Last Wednesday I had one of my favorite apps – macaroni and cheese. Know what’s better than Mac & Cheese? Fried Mac & Cheese! Here they take the traditional preparation and fold it into a fritter batter. Wonderful stuff!
Asian meatballs ($6) are made with ground chicken, then drizzled with a reduction of Alsatian Gewürztraminer and sesame. Eggplant chips ($7) are a tempura style sliced eggplant. A salad worth trying is the toasted quinoa (a South American grain) salad, tossed with almonds, feta cheese, sautéed onion, and cilantro in a vinaigrette dressing ($7). The menu offers a few pasta selections which can be ordered as an entrée, or also as a half order for an appetizer or pasta course. A scallop risotto is also offered in full or half orders ($18 / $13). The fettuccine ($16 / $11) is tossed with spinach in a bacon cream sauce. The ravioli and tagliatelle are made on the premises. The ravioli ($16 / $10) is stuffed with a maple infused butternut squash, tossed in brown butter and sage with cranberries. The tagliatelle ($17) is tossed with shaved fennel, and roasted garlic in a basil broth. I ordered short ribs last Wednesday night as this dish usually disappears from menus in the spring. It was very well prepared, braised in an apple miso stock, served off the bone with mashed potatoes. It will hold me till next winter. I’ve also tried the baked codfish ($17), and the baked steelhead (rainbow) trout ($16), which were also very well prepared.
Babycakes genesis was a bakery, and the pastry chef will tempt you with display cases full of the day’s offerings as you enter the ding room. At least leave room for biscotti with your espresso, offered plain or dipped in chocolate ($2). If you still think of Babycakes as a bakery or sandwich shop, you really need to try it again for dinner. From a marketing standpoint I think the owners would have been better off changing the name when they expanded the dining room, as Babycakes has definitely outgrown its bakery beginnings. It’s not just for breakfast anymore!

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