Butterfield at Hasbrouck House | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Butterfield at Hasbrouck House 

Fresh Vision

Last Updated: 09/27/2017 3:40 pm

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We are walking through the single south door from the kitchen to the patio, past the walk-in refrigerator where Abramson gently places the bread dough to hibernate until dinner. Just outside is a fired-up, barrel-shaped metal grill, big enough for a whole pig. "When I got here it was full of trash," he says, staring into the logs and flames where he wood-fires beets and grills steaks. "Fixing it up was a no-brainer. One of the first things I did."

Opposite the grill is a small stone shed that looks as if it's about to be pulled to the ground by ivy, chimney protruding. Hasbrouck House figures it might be the oldest standing smokehouse in the state, built to preserve meats and fish before the refrigeration era 260 years back. (They won't know for certain until someone steps forward with an older one.)

Near the smokehouse, some herbs and vegetables dictate a corner of an otherwise wild raised garden bed. Star-shaped yellow blossoms hang on a cucumber plant. "One more critical thing I must show you," says Abramson, rounding the stout stone wall of the garden. "My ping-pong table." He goes head to head with other kitchen and hotel staff, and he's not undefeated, but at the time of this interview, he's seen only one loss.

As we walk back into the kitchen, there's a commotion at the south doors: Leah Wesselmann has arrived bearing armfuls of shopping bags stuffed with 18 pounds of oyster, lobster, and chanterelle mushrooms. The kitchen staff gathers around her. She peers into the middle bag. "I think these are the best ones," she says.

"Amazing," says Abramson. He turns a bright mustard-colored colony of oyster mushrooms over in his hand, surveilling Wesselmann's take. Looks of satisfaction and victory are exchanged.

Wesselmann has foraged "a couple hundred pounds" of mushrooms for Butterfield so far this year, not to mention huckleberries and sassafras root. And in line with the charms of a small town, "She's also our dishwasher's substitute science teacher," says Abramson.

This week, the oyster mushrooms before us could find themselves simply sauteéd in butter, glazed with a stock made with the trim and scrap left after cleaning them (toward a goal of no waste), and served with a grilled green garlic aioli. Next week, they could be cooked and tossed with Catskills huckleberries, dressing a grilled leg of Kinderhook Farm lamb.

Beyond what Wesselmann forages, and what little so far Butterfield grows on site, Abramson sources most ingredients from local farms via Hudson Valley Harvest, an aggregator and distributor of local farm-fresh goods, that connects him with area farmers as easily as sending a text.

He finds out what's available, what's exciting, and designs the menu accordingly. (It changes quite often). "It's one of my favorite ways of cooking. I didn't set out to be a farm-to-table chef who only uses ingredients from within a certain radius, but I figure, let's try to offer something unique. Let's force ourselves to create boundaries in the interest of pushing our creativity."

What's available on Butterfield's home turf is often of the produce persuasion, and their presentations are deliciously creative: Try the Ember Roasted Beets ($13) with crispy quinoa and Butterfield mustard greens, plated in a burst of color on a slate board, and with a wood-fired flavor lending something savory and new, or the Heirloom Tomatoes ($14) with baby greens. A garnish of flowers and a sweet corn creme the texture of caramel makes this almost dessert-like. The meat dishes, like the Aged Duck Breast ($29), are elegantly dressed in fruits and vegetables—in this case, local beets and blackberries.

Beyond that rush of creativity that stems from boundaries, Abramson finds farm-to-table cooking to be a favorable division of labor. To him, it's just a new way of delegating: "The farmers are doing all the work. They grow this squash from a seed, spend six weeks of pulling weeds out of the ground. All I do is sauté it, add a little lemon and a pinch of salt."

But he's just being humble. With a look at the Butterfield menu you'll note there's a fair amount of curation involved.

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