Hudson Valley's Local 111 in Philmont (Columbia County, NY)

The weekend weather in January was frigid, with light snow, in my hometown of Albany, NY, but not so severe to alter our decision to enjoy another meal at Local 111, a superb farm to table restaurant in Philmont (Columbia County, NY).  A special winter dinner to benefit local farms and agriculture through the work of the Columbia Land Conservancy caught my eye on the restaurant’s website: A six course meal with local meats from Cool Whisper Farm and “all manner of preserved and pickled things put up from the summer by Chef Josephine Proul.”

The special dinner menu listed a creative assortment of dishes: roasted chicken ravioli with celeriac, pecans and brown butter; ham hock broth with pork dumplings, slow cooked pork spare rib and carrot slaw; biscuits with smoked bacon gravy; Highland beef sausage with pork and white bean stew, corn meal cake, toasted bread crumbs and parsley; pickled green tomato and beans; seared Highland Beef sirloin with braised beef hash, beet puree and candied parsnips; and a dessert of preserved apricot tart with sweet cream, “July” berries and toaster almonds.  Each course was complemented by a particular beer from the small and local Chatham Brewing, which brews its beers every week and sells them on Saturdays from 11:00AM-2:00PM at the brewery in the village of Chatham in Columbia County.  All natural with no additives or fillers, the beer is “just hops, barley, malt, yeast and that magic elixir called Chatham water” The range of beers to be served with each course was enticing, including the brewery’s Porter, a dark beer with hints of coffee and chocolate, O.C. Blonde, with its traces of orange and coriander, and Scotch Ale, a brown ale “with so much malt, it will remind you of Scotland.”  But alas, my dining companion is not a beer drinker, and we decided to delay our visit to Local 111 for a day.

But the delay had its benefits, since it gave us time to figure out how to combine a visit to the wonderful art gallery of the Tivoli Artists Co-op in the quaint village of Tivoli near Bard College in northern Dutchess County, NY and dinner at Local 111.  Our local Albany newspaper had printed an image of one of Marie Cole’s landscape paintings of views of the Hudson River from Olana, the 19th century Persian palace built by Frederick Church on a hill just south of the small city of Hudson in Columbia County, NY.  Sharing the surname of Thomas Cole, the father of the Hudson River school of painting, and the apparent artistic talent from the image printed in the newspaper, our curiosity was piqued and we decided to enjoy the art exhibit in Tivoli before driving over to Philmont for dinner at Local 111.  The exhibit was well worth the extra miles.  There is a very magical spot in the gallery where the visitor can gaze upon not just one, but four wonderful painted views of the Hudson River from Olana.  Marie Cole’s work is worth a close look by anyone interested in fine landscape painting.  The artist Barbara Walter’s paintings of cows at pasture, which were also on view at the Tivoli Artists Co-op gallery, also deserve special mention.

Stimulated by the wonderful art at the Tivoli gallery, we arrived at Local 111 just before 6:00PM on a wintry Saturday night, to discover that the small 39-seat restaurant was booked up with reservations for the evening.  Fortunately, room was made for us, with the understanding that the table was reserved for diners arriving in 90 minutes.  Although we managed to be seated, be sure to phone ahead and make a reservation to be assured of seating especially on a Saturday at Local 111.

The restaurant is located in the former Schermerhorn’s Garage on Philmont’s Main Street.  One of the owners, architect Linda Gatter, designed a reuse of the existing service station, and the original bay structure of the building has been preserved with views out to Main  Street.  When we dined previously there this past summer, the bay doors were rolled up to enjoy the warm night air.  In late and wintry January, the doors were rolled down tightly-shut, but through the glass, the restaurant’s twinkling white lights shown magically against the snow.  Although there is a long bar on the edge of the dining room, we were never bothered by noise, and seating at the bar was a welcome relief to diners who arrived after us, also without reservations, who were able to dine at the bar.  A wonderful and huge landscape painting of a hazy twilight over the Taconic Hills near Copake in Columbia County by artist Gabrielle Senza of Great Barrington in nearby western Massachusetts fills the western wall of the dining area and was a perfect sight for diners who just came from an exhibit of landscape paintings earlier in the day.

Pleased to see the option of several local wines from New York State, I enjoyed  a glass of a flavorful Salmon Run pino noir from the Finger Lakes winery in Hammondsport (Steuben County,  NY) known as Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars [], and my dining companion savored a glass of a dry California chardonnay.  We then took a little time to study the one page menu, which at the bottom notes that “The food at Local 111 is as local as we can get. We cook good simple food that is, whenever possible, raised or made nearby.”  The menu lists more than 20 local providers, including more than a dozen farms and several dairies.

We each started our meals with a first course of mixed local greens, which were perfectly dressed in a delicious vinaigrette, and marveled how local farms have been able to extend the growing season in upstate New York by the use of greenhouses. The dinner menu offered a choice of five main courses,  halibut (today’s fish) with white bean puree, lemon, seasonal greens, fried bread and slow cooked garlic; roasted chicken breast with squash and potato hash, celeriac, smoked bacon & thyme jus; grilled grass fed sirloin with warm beet and spinach salad, parsnip fritters and béarnaise; braised local lamb ragout with roasted root vegetables and carrot chips, and roasted fennel and squash with quinoa, white beans, seasonal green, pecorino and pepitas.  In an earlier visit, my dining companion was exuberant in her enjoyment of a tender pork chop, and slightly disappointed that the current dinner menu didn’t have the chop as an option. Still, she seemed equally delighted with her choice of the local lamb ragout, which was tender and delicious, with root vegetables, including potatoes and parsnips, and carrot chips all perfectly prepared and complementary to the rich ragout.  I decided to forego ordering one of the main courses and instead enjoyed a perfectly prepared risotto with butternut squash, Hudson Red Cheese, parsley and toasted almonds, which was listed separately on the menu under pastas and grains, along with rigatoni Bolognese.

The dessert offerings included chocolate almond bread pudding with vanilla ice-cream, which was particularly enticing, but we decided to forego dessert.  The other creative possibilities included a lemon curd tart or candied chestnut ice-cream.

Although the main courses range in price from $20 for the vegetarian main course of roasted fennel and squash to $30 for the grilled grass fed sirloin, Local 111’s menu has options for diners who are budget conscious.  The restaurant offers the options of 6 side dishes of seasonal greens, roasted root vegetables, quinoa, white beans, fries, and garlic bread.  Three of these side dishes with grilled bread is priced at a reasonable $11.00.  On a future visit, this mostly vegetarian eater, who hasn’t enjoyed a hamburger in months, plans to dine on a “grazin’ angus hamburger” with caramelized onion, as listed under “sandwiches served with salad or fries” and which is priced at an attractive $11.00, along with a Chatham Brewing beer.  The menu also notes that on Sunday, the restaurant offers a three course prix fixe menu for $25.00, and on Wednesdays, in addition to the regular menu, Local 111 offers a family style dinner: “family-sized platters and bowls served to each table for guests to help themselves with the chef’s meat or poultry selection served with the day’s vegetable and potatoes or grain at the enticing price of $11.95 per person (offer good for 4 or more people, with children under 12 half-price).”

Local 111 has become a favorite destination restaurant of this reviewer, and praise to Chef Proul and her staff for their significant contribution to the local food movement. Bravo (FWB 1/25/11).  [Local 111, 111 Main St., Philmont (Columbia County, NY), 518.672.7801, Brunch: Sun 10:00AM-2:00PM, Dinner: Weds, Thurs, Sun 5:00PM-9:00PM, Fri-Sat 5:00PM-9:30PM

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