Lamb chops aside, Michael Kaphan has a lot on his plate.
The Hudson incarnation of his much-lauded flagship restaurant, Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, is entering its first summer season on the Sleepy Hollow waterfront. (Gramercy Farmer & the Fish in Manhattan opened in 2016).
This much-anticipated third location from the F & F team has an outdoor patio and breathtaking water views. The New England-inspired menu and riverbank location means that when the weather picks up, so will business at Hudson Farmer & the Fish.
Clearly, Kaphan’s plate is full. But that doesn’t mean he’s satiated.
“Purdy’s has sheep this year,” he says excitedly of the 15 lambs that just started roaming the 3 acres of pasture on his Purdy’s farm.
The new arrivals have his farm and family abuzz but it’s his organic produce, harvested daily from an additional 4 acres in North Salem, that’s earned Kaphan a foodie following.
“These guys grow every leaf of lettuce” for the restaurants, he says with a reverence for his farmers’ toil. “You can stand on our fields, watch us never spray (chemicals) and pull every weed by hand,” he says.
He should know. As “the farmer” in the farmer and fish scenario, Kaphan drives the passion for pure food cultivation. It’s a strictly enforced philosophy that places his restaurants at the forefront of “farm-to-fork” dining.
To keep up with expansion, 1,000 asparagus plants were added this year and he’s growing chamomile to start a tea program. “We’re trying artichokes and iceberg (lettuce),” he says, noting how difficult lettuce is to grow in New York. Kaphan is the kind of chef who has his own peach trees and won’t put tomatoes on the menu unless he grows them himself. His diners taste that connection to the soil and seek him out. “We get people from all over — the city, Westchester and Connecticut,” he adds. “People that get who we are.”
Then there’s “the fish” partner, Edward Taylor, whose Down East Seafood supplies all three restaurants. Taylor’s fresh caught seafood has its own following. His passion for the ocean’s bounty means foodies at F & F are covered on both the sea and the land.
“I do this, because I just love to do it,” says Kaphan, who tries to be in the fields on the farm “as much as I can.”
And, just like that, Sleepy Hollow arrives on the culinary map.
A short stroll downriver, it is lunchtime at another hub for the locavore ethos, RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen in Tarrytown (profiled in WAG’s November 2013 edition). RiverMarket is the more casual outpost from the folks at Crabtree’s Kittle House, an upscale restaurant in Chappaqua with an eat-local pedigree as well.
“We…felt that the location, being right next to the river, really would allow us to stand on the soapbox about the Hudson River Valley and all the good things that are happening here,” says Glenn Vogt, owner and managing partner of RiverMarket.
The eatery strives to extol “all of the farms and farmers who are growing their products naturally, sustainably, humanely and all those words that used to mean a lot less than they do today,” he says.
Diners at this stretch of the Hudson have a front-row seat to a decades-in-the-making transformation of this expanse of riverfront as it morphs from a longtime industrial site to an “eco-corridor” filled with native plants, luxury housing and sought-out restaurants.
Both Hudson F & F and RiverMarket help anchor the sprawling, architecturally appealing Hudson Harbor condominium development that has enticed residents with expansive water views, bucolic towns and walking access to the train.
“When we got here, only half of the Hudson Harbor condominium complex was built,” says Vogt, who is also a partner, general manager and wine director at Kittle House.
Both restaurants bookend a newly paved stretch of Riverwalk. The winding path is an easy stroll between the two eateries and offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, still informally known as the Tappan Zee, and cliffs of The Palisades. This segment is part of a planned 51-mile path, an important part of a bigger design that should revolutionize Westchester County’s relationship with the river.
“We’re very excited about the new project that’s going on about a quarter of a mile away from us just north on the old (General Motors) plant site,” Vogt says. “They are planning to have 1,200 more residential units and a full hotel right on the river. And they’re also looking at some operators for restaurants on that property as well, so we’ve only started to see the beginning of what I think will be a really amazing transformation of Tarrytown that will probably continue to take place over the next 5 or 10 years.
“It’s been like watching a dream come true.”