Since its opening in 2011, Nathan and Bonnie Snow’s restaurant at 46 Main Street, A Tavola, has been racking up culinary awards along with great word-of-mouth. With a menu dedicated to the many different regional cuisines of Italy, A Tavola was dubbed Best New Italian Restaurant by Hudson Valley Magazine in its opening year, then Best New Restaurant in 2012. Last year it doubled the accolades as both Best Restaurant in Ulster County and Best Italian Restaurant in the Hudson Valley. When Ulster Publishing’s Megan Labrise reviewed the place for Almanac in 2012, she was forced to resort to such hyperbolic verbiage as “virtuosity,” “exquisite,” “silken,” “ecstasy,” “the stratosphere of sensuality.” Of the breadbasket filled with Bonnie’s baking, Labrise wrote, “If I could find someone to bake bread like this for me at home, I would fall in love and marry them.”
But that level of success wasn’t enough for the Snows, apparently, for they’ve gone and done it again: opened a new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by 36 Main, called simply The Huguenot. “This town has been really great to us,” says Nathan, “so this time we wanted to give a nod to the founders.”
Though there may eventually be dishes on the menu that attempt to approximate what New Paltz’s Huguenot settlers may have eaten — “There’s nothing wrong with old-school French food,” Nathan notes — the new restaurant’s “core philosophy” will focus on farm-to-table American cooking. The Huguenot is a collaborative venture between the Snows and Karl Family Farms of Modena, which primarily raise grass-fed beef and lamb, pasture-raised pork and goat and free-range chicken and duck, and more recently branched out into organic produce.
“I started using Karl Family Farms products at A Tavola,” Nathan says. “Their meats are amazing!” The Karls “appreciated the way we treated food at A Tavola,” and soon broached the idea of opening a new restaurant in partnership to feature their locally raised meats. When the owners of 36 Main put the property on the market, the deal was quickly sealed, and the Huguenot opened for business on Feb. 4.
The renovated space looks quite a bit different from its previous incarnation: The bar has been relocated from the storefront to the east side of the front room, and the formerly uptown décor has been made much more rustic to reflect a rural vibe. In fact, some vegetarians may blanch at the stuffed animal heads that now line the walls — all of them, according to Nathan, crop marauders killed by farmers defending their homesteads.
Although there are no vegetarian entrées on the menu at The Huguenot, the veggie in your dining-out party will be able to manage to put a fine meal together by combining salads and appetizers: “There’s a seasonal vegetable tart made every day,” says Nathan. He buys as much of his produce locally and in season as possible, and avidly looks forward to the spring when wild plants like ramps and mushrooms can be foraged. But fabulously tasty, healthful meat dishes are definitely the main attraction: “The idea here is to highlight right practices for raising animals for food.”
When you’re sourcing most of your meats from a single small-scale local livestock operation, he points out, you can’t put something like filet mignon on the menu, since you don’t get many of those out of each cow: “You need to use the whole animal.” So the menu will constantly vary, with a different “Farm Special” offered nightly — usually a cut of pork with an appropriate garnish. Taking that approach to its apotheosis will be the Chef’s Table nose-to-tail prix fixe feast that Nathan envisions for the largest table in the place, seating up to ten, in an alcove that he jokingly calls the Taxidermy Room.
When the available ingredients vary so radically depending on what Karl Family Farms have to offer in a given week, it’s a challenge for a chef to come up with a “specialty of the house” dish that will become a customer favorite. But “people come for the Farm Special,” says Nathan, “and they love our chicken liver pâté.” He’s looking forward to warm weather so that The Huguenot can open up its outdoor patio area, which he projects will happen in about a month. “Sitting outside in the sun with the view of the Gunks and eating fried chicken and gravy and drinking white wine — I can’t really think of something I’d rather do on a Sunday!”
The Snows, both of whom trained at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, will continue to do the cooking and baking for both their downtown restaurants, ably assisted by sous chef Luís Escoto and several Culinary Institute of America graduates. “I just run back and forth and manage the kitchens,” Nathan says. He has amply stocked both bars with local wines, microbrews and distilled libations, and his mixologists create signature “elixirs” attuned to the differing flavors of the two restaurants’ menus.
The Huguenot at 36 Main Street in New Paltz is open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For information and reservations, call 255-5558 or visit www.thehuguenot.com.