Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

As the announcement of this year's James Beard Award semifinalists attests, the Hudson Valley's culinary scene stands shoulder to shoulder with the most exceptional in the country. This is especially worthy of note given that this region is not a metropolitan foodie hotbed with hundreds of buzzworthy restaurants like New York, Chicago, or Seattle. To put this achievement in context: This year, Los Angeles has 11 semifinalists; the Hudson Valley has seven—not quite the same, but not that far behind. (The region boasted four semifinalists in 2023.)

Let's be clear: These are halcyon days for eating out in the Hudson Valley. Tapas bars are popping up all over. Poughkeepsie has a own multi-vendor foodie destination. Bistros are making a comeback. Traditional Italian joints are upping their game. And it's hard to keep up with the dizzying number of new establishments opening up in Kingston.

And then there's the James Beard Awards. To be nominated is a big deal, bringing national recognition, credibility, and prestige—as well as media coverage. Here's the list of the seven local semifinalists.

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
Sasithon Pooviriyakul
Potato risotto with caviar and chive at the DeBruce.

Outstanding Restaurant: The DeBruce, Livingston Manor

Sims and Kirsten Harlow Foster of the Foster Hospitality Group were semifinalists in 2023 in the Outstanding Restaurateur category for their portfolio of Sullivan county properties that include the Arnold House, Kenoza Hall, and North Branch Inn. This year, the restaurant at their Livingston Manor hotel got the nod. From Jane Anderson's 2022 profile:

"The menu at the DeBruce is constantly evolving, and the DeBruce’s signature tasting menu includes 14 courses, including a thoughtful medley of items like kombucha, housemade bread, snacks, a salad of mushrooms, and dry-aged duck with a sauce of reduced vinegar and herbs. Past menu offerings have included venison tartare, served on an antler; white asparagus, cooked risotto-style, with horseradish and dill; fermented potato bread with homemade butter; and housemade 'chocolate': burned bread ends, ground up and mixed in a tea of foraged tree bark."

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
Nora Allen of Mel the Bakery has been named a James Beard semifinalist for the second year in a row.

Outstanding Bakery: Mel the Bakery, Hudson

This is not Nora Allen's Beard nod, but the first since she moved her bakery to Hudson in December to take over the former Breadfolks space. From Melissa Esposito's recent profile:

"Originally located on the Lower East Side, Allen opened Mel the Bakery in September 2020. With ingredients like freshly milled flour and heirloom grains, the concept took off, thanks in part to the following she gained while working at New York City restaurants like Roberta’s and The Standard, and her prior decade-plus experience of working on farms, in restaurants, and with bakeries. 'I had been doing bread for some really good chefs, who also started doing their own projects during that time, and I managed to create a little buzz in the industry side before generating public and wholesale interest,' she says. 'We’re guided by both quality and kindness, and I think people can taste the thought and care in our products. Even by using hand-milled grain, I have such an appreciation for ingredients that I know people worked hard to provide.'”

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
Nils Schlebusch
Sichuan filet mignon carpaccio, served with crispy shallot, hot & sour mustard-yolk, crispy lotus root

Best Chef: New York State: Doris Choi, Good Night, Woodstock

No one who's eaten Choi's locally inspired Southeast Asian cuisine at Good Night will be surprised by her nomination. But it's pretty incredible that someone like Choi—a talented home cook with no restaurant experience—can go from opening her first restaurant (Silvia) to being a James Beard semifinalist in five year's time. From Marie Doyon's 2021 profile of Good Night:

"Picking up where Silvia leaves off, Good Night’s menu is hyperlocal and seasonal. The combined culinary repertoire of Southeast Asian countries is a good match for the produce of the region, according to Choi. 'As much as I love my own Korean culture, the food is kind of one-note. There are barely any salads,' Choi says. 'Here in the Hudson Valley, the produce is so fresh and vibrant. You can work with so many different herbs and spices—cilantro, mint, basil. Southeast Asian cuisine has more range to incorporate those flavors.'"

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
The uni tostada at Casa Susanna in Leeds.

Best Chef: New York State: Efrén Hernández, Casa Susanna, Leeds

It was clear from the moment that Casa Susanna opened that Hernandez, who also helms the kitchen of Hudson's quite good Rivertown Lodge, was going to make some noise with his inventive Jaliscan fare. From my profile earlier this year:

"I wasn't expecting the mackerel. Well, let me clarify that slightly: I was expecting the mackerel—we had ordered it, after all. Here's what I didn't anticipate: The fish being served head on, with all its little teeth grinning at me like a miniature demented caiman. It was a bit of a shock. What was unsurprising, however, was that the grilled mackerel—spiced al pastor-style and served with caramelized fennel, guajillo salsa, and fennel sauerkraut—was an inspired creation. It was one of the final dishes served to us that night at Casa Susanna, the last in a string of modern takes on Mexican food from the kitchen of chef Efren Hernandez."

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
David McIntyre
Shaina Loew-Banayan in the kitchen of Cafe Mutton in Hudson.

Best Chef: New York State: Shaina Loew-Banayan, Cafe Mutton, Hudson

Like Mel the Bakery's Allen, this is the second year in a row that Shaina Loew-Banayan has been acknowledged for the wild and outstanding dishes they envision. A recent Cafe Mutton dinner menu included blood cake with carmelized cippolini onions; whole braised lamb head in its broth with crusty bread; and pig ears with green sauce. Leave your vegan friends at home. From Kerry Kolensky's 2021 profile:

"The menu is short but filled with delicacies. 'Scrapple and eggs' is one of them—two sunny side eggs are served alongside scrapple, a loaf made with polenta and braised pork that’s pan fried, and a choice of potatoes, toast, or greens. The country paté sandwich is another popular choice, featuring house-made pork and chicken liver pate, whole grain mustard, and cornichons on country white bread from Bartlett House in Ghent. If you’re in search of a gluten-free option, try the chicken and rice porridge featuring ginger, scallions, a poached egg, and an optional chili crisp. 'Especially with the cold weather, it’s selling so fast,' says Loew-Banayan."

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
Chris Mottalini
The tavern room at the Stissing House in Pine Plains.

Best Chef: New York State: Clare de Boer, Stissing House, Pine Plains

De Boer is another repeat semifinalist. No surprise there—she's been on JBF's radar since 2018, when she was nominated as a Rising Star Chef for her work at the “slightly French but mostly Italian” SoHo eatery King, which she opened with co-chef Jess Shadbolt and manager/beverage director Annie Shi.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that celebrated chef Clare De Boer’s takeover of the Stissing House in Pine Plains has earned her a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant. In 2018, at just 28, de Boer earned a JBF nomination for Rising Star Chef for her work at the “slightly French but mostly Italian” SoHo eatery King, which she opened with co-chef Jess Shadbolt and manager/beverage director Annie Shi.

Since reopening the historic Stissing House in March, 2022, de Boer has put her stamp on the rustic-but-not-simplistic fare there with dishes like rabbit and tarragon pie with celeriac mash and green salad for two; fluke schnitzel with endive, Brussels sprouts and warm tartare sauce; and Collards stuffed with wild mushrooms and spelt on root vegetable mash.

Hudson Valley 2024 James Beard Award Semifinalists
Ashleigh Lovelace
Harana Market moved from into a larger location in Accord in December.

Best Chef: New York State: Chris Mauricio, Harana Market, Accord

Harana Market's original location, a 100-year-old general store perched on a sharp curve on Wittenberg Road, was known for its precarious parking situation and tiny 800-square-foot interior that only accommodated a few customers at a time. Despite its physical constraints, partners Chris Mauricio and Eva Tringali grew Harana (the Tagalog word for serenade) into a warm-hearted community hub that ​​celebrated the homestyle Filipino recipes handed down to Mauricio by their grandmother and served as a safe “third place” for queer, trans, AAPI, and BIPOC communities. After three years at that remote spot, they moved their operation to a spacious 2,500 square foot barn in Accord. Their fans followed. From Ashleigh Lovlace's recent profile:

"Inspired by generations-old family recipes, Mauricio’s hand-rolled lumpia, impossibly crispy patis citrus fried chicken, garlicky arroz caldo, and fiery tofu sisig put Harana Market on the map as a food destination quickly, earning accolades from the New York Times as a must-visit new restaurant in the Catskills.

Nominees will be announced on April 3, and winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Good luck to all our local culinary nominees.

Brian K. Mahoney

Brian is the editorial director for the Chronogram Media family of publications. He lives in Kingston with his partner Lee Anne and the rapscallion mutt Clancy.
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