Saisonnier, a craft beer and cheese bar in the Village of Kinderhook, NY somehow manages to feel both elegant and primal. Offerings of drink, cheese, and meat with bread are served up in a low-slung tavern, tucked into a historic, burgundy storefront, built in 1831. Elbowing up to the bar seems to tickle a forgotten antediluvian pleasure receptor in the back of the brain. The level of refinement—both in the quality of the (local) ingredients and the presentation—makes for a standout modern gastro-pub experience.
Opened in summer 2019, Saisonnier (which rhymes with crème brulee) has become another success in the small village’s surprisingly robust food scene. Owners Kasey and Patrick Kenny moved up to Columbia County from New York City to start the business with no more culinary cred than a pedestrian passion for beer and food, and a young son they wanted to raise in the country. Kasey, a teacher, and Patrick, who worked previously in commodities and shipping, have taken quickly to their new upstate lifestyle and have been amazed by the community’s support.
“People really seem to get it,” says Patrick, of Saisonnier’s vibe. “It’s very casual. You pop in here have a drink, something small to eat, then you also might go somewhere else.”
A Crafty Selection
Saisonnier, in case you were wondering, is the term for the French-speaking seasonal laborers who worked in the fields of Wallonia Belgium during the Middle Ages. The style of beer these workers preferred was the progenitor of the saison.
At the tavern Saisonnier, make no mistake; beer is the reason for the season. There are 10 constantly rotating, never repeating taps behind the bar, offering everything from regional craft brews to European rarities ($5.50-$10.50). There are also roughly 125 unique cans and bottles of beer available to drink in-house or take away ($4-$50). The selection celebrates craft and passionately promotes the best that Hudson Valley breweries have to offer.
“We always have a well-curated list of beers,” says Patrick. “We have a big spot for pilsners currently. They’re just exploding right now. There are some really great sours on the wild or Lambic side.”
He adds that Lambic sours specifically have been really appealing to wine drinkers, as the wild-yeast fermentation process produces a complex flavor experience. (There is still a nice little wine list for the inconvincible.)
Beyond Bar Snacks
The Kennys say they initially intended to offer Saisonnier’s cheese boards, snacks, and sandwiches as refined but simple sides to accompany the beers. While made with high-quality local ingredients and presented nicely, offerings were designed to be easily assembled by a bartender. To their surprise, the food service aspect of their business has boomed. Now the menu has expanded and items rotate depending on what’s seasonally available.
All cheeses are cut to order for each board and come from nearby dairies including Churchtown, Jasper Hill, Cobb Hill, and Chaseholm. There’s a Columbia County cheese board ($17) that features selections produced hyper locally and perfected in aging caves. Similarly there is a Vermont cheese board ($17) and others, which bring fine pate and cured meats to the party. Other sharable options include a house-made hummus plate ($11), sardines with lemon olive oil and baguette ($8), and a “goat medley,” which showcases a jar of fresh goat cheese nestled in olive oil, pesto, olives, hot peppers, rosemary, garlic, and a baguette ($14). All simple, high quality that would feel as at home on a table in the south of France as they do in Kinderhook.
The Kennys may have been surprised at the success of their fledgling food program, but the appeal is apparent with offerings a kimchi grilled cheese with Grafton six-month cheddar and Hawthorne Valley kimchi on sourdough ($11). Along with a few other provincially inventive grilled cheeses, there’s a ploughman sandwich with pate de champagne, gherkins, radish, and mustard ($13) and the Brooklyn North, featuring gravlax, Cheval Farmstead Dairy chevre, red onion, and heirloom tomato on a baguette.
Saisonnier is an exercise in capturing the terroir of Columbia County and the Hudson Valley in its beer, its food, and its atmosphere. In less than a year, the Kennys seem to have already succeeded in trapping that elusive full sensory flavor in a bottle. Come get a taste.