For New Paltz restaurateur Jordan Schor, “Food is an emotional thing, an experience of memory. Earlier I was making poached pears, and it’s how my house smelled growing up. It was a really intense experience. I almost had to stop what I was doing for a moment.” And that powerful sensory experience, laden with pleasurable associations, is exactly what he wants you to have when you come in for a meal at his new downtown establishment, End Cut, now serving French/Italian fusion cuisine in the space that used to be the Indian restaurant Suruchi at 5 Church Street.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Kingston native Schor has been running Jordan’s Bistro and Pizzeria at the corner of Main Street and South Chestnut, formerly Fat Bob’s (and Chez Joey to New Paltz old-timers). Before that, in Kingston, he owned a luncheonette on Fair Street called Solstice and an Italian restaurant and pizzeria on North Front Street called Jordan’s. But Schor grew up with fabulous food and “worked with some really great chefs who were willing to teach and share all of their knowledge,” so he has long dreamed of doing something a little more gourmet than the pizza biz. End Cut is the realization of that dream.
The new restaurant’s name is something of an in-joke, drawn from his father’s career as a “front-of-the-house guy” during the heyday of the Borscht Belt. “Jewish people love the end cut of prime rib,” Schor explains. “It’s always the biggest piece, and has all the seasonings.” But there are only two end cuts on each bovine rib cage. So as a “young kid hanging out at the hotel” with his Dad, he quickly learned that patrons would tip the waiters generously to make sure that they got an end cut, and the waiters in turn would have to bribe the chefs. It became something of a metaphor for getting the very best that a professional kitchen had to offer.
But it was from his mother that Jordan Schor really learned how to cook. “It was mostly French with Mom,” he says. “Dinner was always this feast in our house…We used to go to Mohican Market every day. For fish we went to Sea Deli, and there was a butcher shop that isn’t there anymore…From a very young age I learned how important the freshness of the product was. We never used a freezer. I never had fast food until I was about 14.”
Schor, who attended SUNY New Paltz in the ‘90s, relocated his family here about seven years ago “so my kids could go to the New Paltz schools.” He honed his craft as a chef in Manhattan for a while, but now he’s in town all the time, barely taking time to sleep as he runs two restaurants with a very small staff. Not only does he do all his own baking for both establishments and all the cooking for End Cut, but he also sells a lot of his products wholesale. Il Mercato in Highland carries his Jordan’s line of peasant bread and focaccia. He ships homemade ravioli, meatballs and tiramisu. And at End Cut, even the ice cream is made on the premises.
So what’s on this upscale-but-not-unaffordable “fusion” menu? Well, the lineup changes every couple of weeks, and there are daily specials. But currently the four appetizer choices include the closest thing to a “specialty of the house”: the wild mushroom equivalent of crabcakes, pan-seared and dressed with avocado pesto and red pepper coulis. Then there’s the fire-roasted eggplant Napoleon that was making the kitchen smell so heavenly when the New Paltz Times came by for an interview while Schor multitasked. You can get French onion soup, and salads include a beet “carpaccio” with goat cheese and a classic Caesar. As for entrées, good luck choosing among that house-made ravioli and two free-range chicken dishes, roasted salmon over braised red cabbage and fennel, half a deboned roast duck with a cassis berry sauce, braised short ribs with port wine reduction or steak frites.
The menu includes several vegetarian choices, most of which can be prepared vegan upon request. Folks on gluten-free diets can also be accommodated. Other than baking, “I don’t cook with flour,” says Schor. “For a thickener I use arrowroot, chick pea flour or chestnut flour.” And although he does not claim to operate a strictly “farm-to-table” establishment, he gets his eggs, milk, butter and cheese from farms in Dutchess County, uses locally grown produce as much as possible and describes the menu as having a “carbon footprint of 100, 150 miles.”
The price of the most expensive entrée is under $30, and several are under $20, so you don’t have to break the bank to have an extraordinary dining experience at End Cut. (You do, however, have to come prepared to pay in cash; no credit cards are accepted at present.) By law, no hard liquor can be served because the restaurant is across the street from a synagogue; but it does have a beer and wine license. Local brews like Yard Owl and Keegan Ale are featured, and the wine selections — 25 choices at $25 per bottle — were made by none other than Kevin Zraly.
“It’s not pretentious,” Schor says, “but it’s not just your typical generic dining experience where you leave in 27 to 30 minutes…People come together with food. People love to hang out in the kitchen. The whole point of End Cut is to have that experience.”
The restaurant only seats 30 people, and there’s no great rush to turn over tables, so reservations at 255-2772 are strongly recommended. End Cut is open from Thursday through Monday, with dinner service beginning at 5:30 p.m. and running as late as patrons linger; there’s no official closing time. Sunday brunch is served beginning at noon, and come July, there will be lunch service on weekends.