price range: $21 (hanger steak au poivre) to $23 (grilled
the town’s name strains credulity. Cherry Valley sounds absurdly
nice or ironically Bates Motel-ish—but it’s a charming village
with a Revolutionary War-era history that has welcomed the
likes of Willa Cather and Allen Ginsberg. “The rumor is that
there’s lithium in the water,” says Dana Spiotta, so maybe
the name is appropriate.
and her husband, Clement Coleman, own and operate the Rose
and Kettle, maintaining a moniker used by a former owner but
adding a fine-dining philosophy that centers around fresh,
locally obtained ingredients.
is a recurring theme in these reviews of late. As it should
be. As the mighty maw of Monsanto threatens to envelop all
mega-farm fields, replacing heritage produce with frankenfood
(even as it populated groups like the FDA with its own former
employees), we have to depend on small-farm foodstuffs for
that the fact that food just plain tastes better when it’s
humanely raised and freshly picked. This was a lesson Coleman
learned during an art-school year in Italy, where he marveled
at the close-to-nature nature of nearly everything he ate
and thus became, as he puts it, “absorbed in food and cooking.”
he was led to the classic struggling artist’s path: pursuing
the muse while waiting on tables. And cooking, making him
a rare double threat in the business. The owner of a small
clams-and-chicken joint in Martha’s Vineyard reinforced the
value of fresh ingredients, a skill he carried to such places
as Giorgio’s of Gramercy, an acclaimed eatery on Manhattan’s
21st Street, where he met his future wife.
grew up in the Seattle area, and moved to New York—“and I’ve
been waitressing my whole adult life,” she says. But she,
too, was pursuing her muse. Her first novel, Lightning
Field, made the 2001 Best Books lists in The New
York Times and Los Angeles Times; her next one,
Eat the Document, was a 2006 National Book Award finalist.
after the success of the first one that she and her husband
decided to quit the city. A housesitting stint in Cherry Valley
introduced them to the town; what clinched it was when they
learned that a restaurant was for sale.
which makes for a rare muse-appeasing tale, but there’s another
aspect further confounding the odds. What they’re operating
is a magnificent restaurant, its ambiance subtly informed
by the couple’s artistic sensibilities.
the place thrives on traffic from Glimmerglass Opera attendees,
and the five-days-a-week summertime season generally requires
reservations. The rest of the year, the restaurant is open
three nights a week, offering the added pleasure of live music
I was in good culinary hands when I spotted a leadoff entrée
of Homemade VanCalcar Acres Lamb and Pork Sausages ($22).
VanCalcar Acres (nys farm.com) is a sheep farm in Fort Plain
that also happens to be my personal meat source, through a
CSA arrangement. In Coleman’s hands, the meats were transformed
into herb-rich gateways to Italy, boasting that inscrutable
yet immensely satisfying quality of being sourced from the
land right around you.
six appetizers and five entrées, it’s a perfect-sized menu.
It changes, of course, based on what’s fresh, so its intimacy
promises a new experience each time you visit. “We always
have a wild fish entrée,” says Spiotta, “and there will be
chicken, steak, and lamb or pork. But the preparation changes,
along with what accompanies it.”
are priced in the low-$20s range, and included pan-seared
chicken, roasted and served with mashed potatoes; snow crab
ravioli; and aioli-rubbed wild Copper River salmon. And for
those who, like me, tend to think of steak as merely steak,
the hanger steak au poivre proved to be a terrific
variation on a traditional French dish, using a more economical
but intensely flavored cut that’s gaining American popularity.
The green peppercorn sauce was flavored with bourbon, further
Americanizing the dish. Sides of creamed spinach and mashed
potatoes gave it that mom’s-kitchen flourish.
no appetizers, you ask? Fear not. The entrées were rendered
all the more satisfying by what preceded them, chosen with
great difficulty from a selection that included spring rolls
with plum dipping sauce ($8.50), a market-priced cheese-and-fruit
plate with homemade bread, and a simple green salad with citrus
opera enthusiast Richard satisfied the idea of dieting with
the Rose and Kettle salad ($8), which fills out a plate of
local (Sunset Hill Farm) greens by adding goat cheese, onion
and almonds. To get my own goat-cheese fix, I enjoyed a flaky
(texture, not disposition) cheese-filled tart with a tangy
red-pepper coulis adding flavor ($8.50).
attentive server was Spiotta herself, working alongside a
staff that deftly moved the many diners through their courses
and out in time for the opera. What makes this place work
so well (besides having outstanding food) is the way concentric
circles of family radiate from Coleman and Spiotta to include
the staff, the customers and, I have no doubt, the town itself.
Keep an eye on the Rose and Kettle’s soon-to-change hours,
and see for yourself.