It’s an unusual name for an eatery, so let’s establish right now that Ryan and Rachel McLaughlin have four daughters under seven; one set of twins came as a surprise, particularly timed as they were. Ryan had been working at the Swoon Kitchen Bar in Hudson when it occurred to him, one busy afternoon as he was churning out the plates, that maybe it was time for him to go out on his own. “I could have kept being the chef of somebody else’s restaurant for a long time. It was a Saturday afternoon and it was busy, and I thought, ‘Let’s do a store. I’m good at talking to people and making food taste good.’ I called Rachel and she said, ‘Okay, we’ll figure it out. Do it.’”
Knowing that they’d have a hard year ahead – relocating, setting up a business and giving birth to two more kids – they jumped in. Daughters Fare and Ale has been open since last May. They started out with shelves of packaged foods, along with the deli menu of soups and sandwiches, baked goods and snacks and an array of the sort of staples that every gourmet kitchen should stock, pâtés and terrines and confits of this and that. “We had ideas of how it was going to work,” says McLaughlin, talking about how their focus has changed from groceries to served foods, “but the people tell you; they let you know what they want. People seem to be happy when they come in. The mayor and town supervisor were just in yesterday; it was very nice. The schools are so good, which is the reason why we live here.”
Originally both from St. Louis (they met in New York City, however), the couple lived and worked in Brooklyn. “After our first child was born, we wanted to have a second. We decided, ‘Let’s move upstate.’ I talked to one person who had a friend who owned a restaurant and needed a chef. I went up to Swoon and met him and cooked, and took the job. It was so quick, and it all went so well, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Before Swoon, McLaughlin had worked at Blue Hill, where he found someone “insanely good at it all” and stuck with him. He gained more experience at Café 81, Per Se on Columbus Circle and the Vanderbilt in Brooklyn. “I cooked in St. Louis when I was 20. My mom told me I had to go do something with my life, so I went to the French Culinary Institute in SoHo. At one point you just have to have the gumption to go and do it – do the best you can. Swoon was good because the owner was so good to work with. We’d bounce ideas back and forth, but he’d let me do pretty much what I wanted.”
At Daughters, the couple buys locally as much as they can. “We get almost all our vegetables from Starling Yards during the summer. We buy our chickens from Northwind Farms, and go to Lover’s Leap in Kinderhook for pork, which started out as two guys in an overgrown orchard. Oh, and Kinderhook Farms.” We talk about the designators “healthy” and “natural” and “organic”; “Someone came in and asked if we had any ‘organic food.’ People assume it’s better, but it has become this crazy corporate tag. If you’re just doing it right anyway, you don’t need the stamp.”
They purchase breads from Tribeca Oven in New Jersey and from Our Daily Bread in Chatham. The Tribeca Oven breads come par-baked and frozen, to be finished off in-house. “It’s a good product and makes life a lot easier if you have consistent bread products. And there are only so many bread puddings and bread crumbs and crostinis you can make from leftover bread. We get one delivery a week.”
“The ale – my wife and I both enjoy drinking good beer. One of our friends is the owner of a new brewery in Brooklyn: Other Half Brewery. People wait in line for their cans of beer at 7 in the morning! Our friend said, ‘You can be the only store besides the brewery in Brooklyn to stock our cans.’ People drive here to get the cans from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Albany, even people from the City who say, ‘We live on Long Island, but it’s easier to come here than go into Brooklyn.’”
Daughters is a work-in-progress, as McLaughlin and his wife and co-worker Sam Hyers are planning to paint one whole wall in chalkboard-black to advertise what’s on tap. A bar along a bank of windows, beer dinners, more great food are all in the planning stages. “We opened this by our bootstraps,” says McLaughlin. “We said, ‘Let’s minimize the things that can go wrong, ’cause we know that there’s going to be things that don’t work.’ We started with groceries, and it became apparent that it should be food- and beverage-focused. That’s what people want. We’ll keep some select things around; we have one person who comes in once a week and buys a box of muesli.” Drop in and place your order.
Daughters Fare & Ale, Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 7466 South Broadway, Red Hook; (845) 835-8365, www.daughtersfareandale.com.