The wildly imaginative fare of chef Jamie Parry might tease your tastebuds with a dish like salmon with chamomile broth, golden beets, baby artichokes and Ligurian olive oil ($24). Not afraid to use a little seaweed or duck fat in unexpected places, he and his cooks at Another Fork in Milan play with fire – and ramps, leeks, lamb chorizo and ever so much more, on a continuously evolving menu, as proprietor Parry aims to bring out the best in local and in-season raw materials.
You have to get past a couple of forks before you get to Another Fork’s fine fare. The Dutchess County road trip through Rock City takes you past an assortment of larger-than-life giants: an eight-ball, a toothed fish, Christmas ornaments, a Prozac pill and a 30-foot-tall fork, and finally, you’re almost at the Taconic Parkway by the time you get there. Then you stop at the unassuming little red schoolhouselike building lined with windows, pass the crude sign boasting local produce outside the door, then a long rug with a big fork on it leads to the casual, comfortable, unpretentious interior. No elegance or stuffiness here to go with the high-end culinary wizardry, but the kind of place where you just want to kick back and hang out all day.
Although the sign says “a finer diner,” the only thing dineresque is the lineup of cakes on a counter near the entrance (plus a beautiful apple tart). Although in a previous incarnation the space was a diner called Another Roadside Attraction, there is little of the diner left. Gnomes and other knickknacks assure that nothing is taken too seriously. Walls are decorated with art by family and friends, like a sketch that Parry’s wife Katie (who, with Carol Horning, owns Red Hook’s Grandiflora nursery) did when she was a teenager. There’s also art by Parry’s nine-year-old daughter Sally, doodles and paintings by friends and an Italian poster for a Clint Eastwood movie.
Kids, who can get antsy during restaurant visits, have plenty of diversions. They can just count the forks or play in an area just for them, with toys, kids’ books and a blackboard-painted storage unit with chalk. The grownups can browse through magazines and a collection of cookbooks and other books, which evokes welcome, an invitation to settle in and stay awhile.
But the food will make you sit up and pay attention. Parry’s visionary approach will have you tasting unexpected combinations, on a menu that is constantly evolving and being reconfigured. If something is a hit, it may stay around awhile. “We have clunkers, too,” though, Parry laughs. “If it doesn’t work, we take it off the menu.”
How these wild items are dreamed up is a joint effort, though. “We figure it out by consensus,” he says. “I learn from the cooks who work for me…We swirl around each other.” The customers inspire him as well. “We have conversations,” he says. He loves to see people pleasantly surprised when they come in and look at the menu.
What are causing those smiles are items like, on one recent menu: starters like homemade mozzarella with grilled bread, good olive oil and sea salt ($8); a Brussels sprout Caesar salad ($11); escargots with butternut squash, hijiki (seaweed) and toganoshi oil (a Japanese spice blend) ($9); wax beans with black olive tapenade, roasted almonds and toasted seeds ($10); mussels monclade with winter root vegetables, pancetta and chive ($18); peekytoe crab with cauliflower pannacotta, green goddess dressing and toasted seeds ($12); hand-cut pappardelle with lamb chorizo, white beans, sweet peppers, tomato, Romano and crispy sage ($18); cornmeal-crusted calamari with arugula, pickled jalapeños, chicharrones (cracklings) and celery heart pesto ($12). Entrees go on to braised brisket with porcini cream, winter root vegetables and grilled leeks ($24); grilled leg of lamb with roasted zucchini and parsnip, romesco and rosemary pesto ($26); and pan-seared duck breast with celeriac puree, butternut squash and Swiss chard ($24).
Another force of inspiration for Parry is Jeffrey Gimmel, owner of Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, for whom Parry worked for five years. “Swoon was an incredible foundation for me,” he says, “and Jeff is an incredible teacher.”
After Swoon, Parry worked for Natalie Steward DiBenedetto (who previously owned Mina in Red Hook) at Another Fork. Five years ago, when she relocated to Maine, Chef Parry took over, and a year later started adding dinner to the breakfast and lunch that Another Fork offered. Then a liquor license followed, with offerings of craft beers and good wines (mostly from France, Italy and Spain).
Like the rest of us, Parry is looking forward to spring – but for the coming change in ingredients: those exciting harbingers morels, ramps and asparagus, as well as the game birds that farmers will begin offering, like grouse and pheasant. He says that radishes are another early spring ingredient that he likes to put in soups and braises, or just serve with dulse-spiked butter and smoked sea salt. “I’m looking forward to anything green,” he laughs, “that isn’t a root vegetable.”
As for that spot, way out there past that fork and a bit of a drive from town? “It’s a challenge,” he admits, “but I like being apart from the Rhinebeck and Red Hook restaurant scene.”
Another Fork also serves breakfast and lunch, which have menus that are “more stable,” according to Parry. The restaurant is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, opening at 9 a.m. Thursday through Monday, and closing at 9 p.m., then 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Find it at 1215 Route 199 in Milan, (845) 758-6676 or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Another-Fork-in-the-Road/163533972662, where the ever-changing menus are often posted.