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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Beechtree Grill - Poughkeepsie

The Beechtree Grill
1-3 Collegeview Ave.
Poughkeepsie, NY

845 471-7279

Open 7 days
Sunday Brunch
Monday from 5 PM
Tuesday though Sunday Lunch & Dinner

If consistency is one measure of success, then Arlington's Beechtree Grill can easily lay claim to the local title. Little has changed since the place opened twenty years ago. Much of the staff has been there for as long as I can remember, and that says something about how they feel about the place. Same for many of the local customers, whose appearance is as predictable as sundown. The Beech has been a favorite stop for me for as long as they have been open. I'll stop in once or twice a month and my glass of Pinot Grigio is usually on the bar before I have time to order something else.

It's a tiny place, seating maybe fifty people, with another dozen stools at the bar. During dinner hour those stools are prime real estate, as the Beech is a favorite destination for single diners looking for a conversation and a good meal.
A typical bar crowd is an eclectic mix of locals that could pass for the cast of a Richard Russo novel. You will probably find a banker, two IBM'ers (one retired), one real estate developer, three lawyers (one a prosecutor, one judge, one general practice), one truck driver, and a retired parole officer cum Facebook preacher. The restaurant is across the street from the Vassar campus, but curiously the Vassar crowd is rarely represented at the bar, at least during the hours that I keep. The dining room crowd varies with the season, offering the Powerhouse Theater crowd a destination during the summer (which displaces many of us locals), and a casual dinner / campus crowd on most other nights. The 9 PM bar crowd is often there for a late dinner, as the kitchen is open until 11:30 PM Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 PM Sunday and Monday. The place looks like a bistro should look, with stripped brick walls, and bentwood bistro chairs around slightly too small and slightly too close together tables. It is as comfortable, unpretentious, and welcoming as an old sweater - an old LL Bean sweater with a small hole where no one can see it.

The restaurant offers a similar menu for lunch and dinner, and the offerings include sandwiches, salads, burgers, pastas, and a few entrees at all hours. The specials are usually worth paying attention to. The kitchen will occasionally come up with some interesting surprises Рoften a broiled steak or filet of fish. Winter specials often include a duck confit or a risotto, either as an app or an entree. One appetizer is a local favorite Рthe baked double cr̬me brie ($8.50), served with roasted garlic, red pepper salsa, and toasted baguette. It is an ample portion that is perfect for sharing. Another dish that must be shared is the fried calamari ($8), which the kitchen prepares dusted with a seasoned cornbread and a side of spicy aioli. I have never seen any one person finish this dish. Actually I don't think two people can finish this dish without some effort. Sometimes I ask for the children's portion as a joke.

For a quick meal at the bar I like a hearty salad, and the restaurant offers two good choices. The caesar salad ($6.50) can also be combined with a hanger steak ($12.25), sliced chicken breast ($9), or a filet of Atlantic salmon ($12.25). Served with a plate of fresh bread and a glass of white wine, it makes for a very nice meal. Even more substantial is the baby spinach salad ($8.75), tossed with tart slices of granny smith apples, Coach Farm goat cheese, and a tangy cider vinaigrette dressing. This salad can also be combined with the same – chicken / hanger steak / salmon additions. Another favorite is on the sandwich menu – a roast turkey, brie cheese, and bacon trio served on an oversized English muffin and topped with lettuce and a few slices of Roma tomatoes. I usually save this sandwich for the day after I have my cholesterol checked. So far that's working fine. The pasta choice, which comes with a house salad for $18, combines a healthy portion of wild American shrimp, tossed with a very rich sauce of Roma tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella.

Last month the kitchen premiered the new house made charcuterie offerings, which Chef / proprietor Aaron Foglietta has been working on for the last few months. I was really impressed with his finished products. I've tried two different plates ($10) which included a fabulous mortadella, a classic dried saucisson sec, and a beautifully cured silky prosciutto, which would have been even more enjoyable if it had been sliced a little thinner. Last nights plate even included slivers of tongue and heart, offal not often seen in these parts. This type of dish goes perfectly with the substantial list of artisanal micro brewed beers that the restaurant showcases.

A good selection of moderately priced wines is typically up on the blackboard, available by the glass. There is usually nothing fancy, just “village” selections of a few pinots and cabs, tempranillos and malbecs. More often that not I'll get to taste something new, and more often than not I'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Beechtree Grill is an old jazz standard that we still very much enjoy listening too. If you stop in for lunch, Lori will be on the bar, and the dining room, and wherever else she needs to be to make it all happen. Ray usually takes over at 6, and holds court at the bar with the dinner gang, keeping everyone more or less in line while he complains about his last round of golf. Bring your appetite, and a casual outfit and attitude. Visiting suits are sometimes mistaken for lawyers.
If you do stop in please let our readers know about your visit in the comments section.
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