With an artisanal aggregation of microbrewery bottles and drafts, locally sourced cheeses and homespun charcuterie, The Hop is a retail exhibition of small-batch purveyors definable by quality and progression. Upon searching for a location for The Hop, its three proprietors—Matt Hutchins, Chris Kavanagh and John Kelly—desired an area with similar character. Beacon was an obvious choice.
“We believe in the community,” says Hutchins, who currently resides in Beacon. “It’s full of people who are progressive and doing things, not just talking about it. Everyone has been really supportive of our philosophy since opening. Beacon is a big family.”
Hutchins, who operates as executive chef, opened The Hop with Kavanagh and Kelly in March 2012, following a threemonth stretch of “brainstorming and kicking ideas around.” A former chef at Birdsall House in neighboring Peekskill, Hutchins attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) with Kelly, a microbrew enthusiast who was also employed at Birdsall, and later, Farm to Table Bistro in Fishkill. Desiring more control of creative aspects within their respective positions, both discussed collaborating on a business hybrid offering beer-bottled retail, a tasting room and local-focused cuisine. After securing property in Beacon and a self-performed renovation, the aforementioned elements were combined within the 1,800-square-foot building. The Hop was born.
“We started with a blank canvas, essentially, and just started talking about what we liked,” says Kelly. “Matt knows food, and I really love beer, so we wanted to present both with creativity. We got the place, fixed it up, and everything just fell into place. And the response has been overwhelming.”
The Hop’s success, thus far, may be attributed to its sheer variety. Kelly, who manages The Hop’s beer portfolio, has amassed 200-plus bottles and rotates its six-draft system (recent pours include Lagunitas Brewing Company Lucky 13.alt, a flavor balance of grapefruit, spice, malt and pine; and Stone Brewing Company Imperial Russian Stout, an opaque pour of chocolate and roasted coffee notes) based on season and customer feedback. Hutchins, who “didn’t want the intensity of a full restaurant,” alternates the small-plated menu daily, and visits Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt Manor often to hand-select harvested beef, pork, lamb and so forth. Though certain dishes are constants, such as rabbit and raisin terrine, prepared with Berkshire Blue Cheese and Wild Hive wheat crackers, Hutchins strives to “break the mold and try everything once.”
“We really try to have something for everyone,” says Kelly. “But it’s still hard to describe to people what we are, since we dabble with a lot.” Despite its incapability for strict classification, however, the trio clearly agrees on The Hop’s definitive objective: to provide a communal space for all demographics within Beacon. This is emphasized by the store’s commanding and inviting centerpiece: a torso-high expanse of wood table enabling patrons to gather, socialize, eat and imbibe.
“Mothers can come in for a beer and sit with a group of seniors, who are sitting with some 20-somethings, and everyone is happy,” says Kelly. “We really try to appeal to everyone in Beacon.” —Niko Krommydas
458 Main Street, Beacon
HOW THOMAS KELLER PASSED
THE RABBIT TEST AT LA RIVE
Chef Thomas Keller, whose culinary empire includes Manhattan’s Per Se, Las Vegas’s Bouchon and Napa Valley’s French Laundry, established a fiefdom first in the Hudson Valley. Beginning in 1980, Keller, 24, was chef de cuisine at the French bistro La Rive. Situated in a farmhouse on a rural road between Saugerties and Catskill, it was owned by René Macary and open only during summer months to serve the influx of seasonal tourists. (The balance of the year, René was a wine seller in Florida, where he originally met and hired the fledgling chef.)
La Rive was modest in the spirit of French countryside restaurants, plates hanging on the walls and simple white tablecloths on each table. René would prepare the hors d’oeuvres, such as marinated lentils, celery hearts remoulade and eggs à la russe (the Russian version of deviled eggs) while wife Paulette handled the books. Paulette’s octogenarian mother, Mimi, would polish glasses, peel shallots and pick green beans.
“And then I would do everything else,” Keller explains. “It was quite a wonderful time where the roles were varied because I had the opportunity to be the pastry chef, the chef de cuisine and I also worked in the garden.” Keller considers his time at La Rive “an advancement in my career as I had the opportunity to learn so many roles,” adding, “My skill level when I was at La Rive was extensive, but certainly not refined.”
For four summers in the early ’80s, Keller prepared René’s seasonal five-course menu of traditional French cuisine. Anne DiNardi, a schoolteacher then waitressing at La Rive, remembers Keller’s penchant for experimentation, applying the maverick flourishes that would eventually solidify his standing in the culinary stratosphere. “He made a nest out of shoestring potatoes [with] a pigeon or quail in the middle,” she says, “and he served it rare.” Even then Keller was a farm-to-table practitioner, maintaining an herb garden and foraging for wild berries that he used in some of the restaurant’s dishes.
His perfectionism, DiNardi says, fueled a temperamental disposition. “When he made a chocolate bombe ice cream, he used very expensive Belgian chocolate. It didn’t come out perfectly so he threw the whole thing into the garbage.”
Keller remembers one La Rive incident that was career changing. He had asked the local rabbit purveyor how to prepare the game, “so that I could better understand the full cycle by which it made its way to my kitchen,” he recalls. The man arrived one day with 12 live rabbits. He dispatched the first with a club to the head, slit its throat, pinned it to a board and skinned it. The man then departed, leaving Keller to the grizzly task of contending with the remaining 11 rabbits.
“On my first attempt, the rabbit screamed,” he says. “I had a hard time killing it and it broke its leg trying to get away. I was swift with the next 10 but the memory of that first attempt was so awful, it became clear to me that day that I would never squander anything—ever. That was really a significant moment for me.” —Jay Blotcher
Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility. —Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
This year marks the observance of the International Year of Co-operatives, as decreed by none other than the United Nations. While the definition of a co-operative (or co-op, for short) is simply a business owned and run by the members of that particular co-op, our national context for co-ops are, in large part, around food co-ops, and locally we have one hell of an example of the model in action in Hungry Hollow Co-op.
Teetering on the border of New York and New Jersey in Chestnut Ridge, Hungry Hollow Co-op is celebrating 40 years of operation next year, and continues to be not only relevant but a thriving member of the local food movement. Started in 1973 by a handful of parents of children attending the neighboring Green MeadowWaldorf School, the co-op was less a means to carve out a commercial niche in the local and natural foods scene than it was a way for a few families to form a buying club and share the cost of a sack of oats.
It was a humble start, literally in a garage, that moved its way toward legitimacy, and significantly more stock, through the decades and wound up in the converted house where it operates today. The slim aisles of the co-op are a riot of natural-food-store staples along with a bevy of very local specialty items, like Rasta Pasta from Rochester and dairy from nearby Duryea Farm, which was established in the 1800s and, in the 1960s, founded a pioneering model in which locals were free to come harvest right from the fields.
The co-op movement received a major push into public consciousness in the late ’60s and early ’70s as an ideological means to provide quality food while uplifting the community—the old “food for people, not for profit” model. But according to Hungry Hollow’s general manager Peter Wiesner, two-thirds of those ideologically driven co-ops started during that golden age are now just memories. A certain pragmatism sets in and, as Wiesner states, “The co-op [Hungry Hollow] has not been as focused on food ideology, as much as it has [been] on social and economic issues, environmental impact and quality.”
The big struggle for the co-op, going into its fifth decade, is simply keeping things available, affordable and mutually beneficial to suppliers and customers (membership is not mandatory, but an estimated 25 to 30 percent of customers are members). But to be sure, the operation is strong with its ideological roots, as issues of community welfare and fair trade loom large. Wiesner claims he is not as interested in the grocery store business as he is in economic justice and maintaining a certain human scale to the local operation. A simple natural foods outpost it is not.
The U.N. is saluting co-ops this year, not just because they have been an enduring economic model, but also because they represent a potential economic solution during this wintery economic era, and not just food co-ops. So the message of endurance coming out of this small Rockland County co-op serves as a lesson to the world that the cooperative ideal actually works, and that 40 years on it is still a great place to pick up a sack of oats. —E. Steinman
HUNGRY HOLLOW CO-OP
841 Chestnut Ridge Road, Chestnut Ridge