A Hudson Valley Restaurateur Couple Unites Recipes and Romance
The owners of Kingston's Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go publish a cookbook that channels local flavor and the passion of a 35-plus-year marriage.
Mary Anne and Richard Erickson / Photo by Franco Vogt
Hudson Valley foodies have savored Richard and Mary Anne Erickson’s brand of healthy, flavorful dining for 25 years. After a quarter century of turning out dishes at restaurants — including their café and catering business, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go — the couple has published an inspiring new cookbook entitled Feel Good Food. Full of recipes that Richard perfected in kitchens throughout the Swiss Alps, Tokyo, New York City, Woodstock, and beyond, the cookbook is beautifully illustrated with Mary Anne’s artwork and photographs.
Feel Good Food began on Valentine’s Day six years ago, when Mary Anne gathered some of Richard’s recipes into a booklet to inspire him to begin the cookbook they envisioned. It was a reflection of how they like to make special gifts for each other, and Richard’s love of writing poems for Mary Anne. “It’s fun and creates romance,” he says. “It gets you thinking about the things you appreciate about someone, and Mary Anne has made beautiful cards with her artwork for me, too. We both like to make things and work with our hands, so it transfers to romantic gestures and to life, too.”
Photos by Mary Anne Erickson
Feel Good Food embraces an enticing collection of recipes, many of which are Mediterranean-inspired. One intriguing section is dedicated to condiments, with standouts such as red onion jam, sweet-and-sour lemons, chimichurri sauce, and dried fig and honey compote. Richard also details the fine arts of brining, making sauces and stocks, perfecting a pastry crust, and crafting elegant appetizers. He introduces readers to one of his Middle Eastern favorites, pomegranate molasses, and to many Hudson Valley food purveyors, too.
“I was a little intimidated,” Richard says. “I don’t have a TV show, and I wanted to make it more than a collection of nice recipes. Our best move to make it special was to join forces: Mary Anne’s photos, illustrations, and her design of the book with our son, Chris, gave us a focus. We’re thrilled with how it came out.”
But it was a challenge to adapt his recipes to smaller quantities, for home chefs who are not entertaining 50–100 people. “Here at the Bistro, I have everything I need at my fingertips — produce, ingredients, tools,” he says. Mary Anne and their willing cadre of friends and Facebook-recruited volunteers reviewed and tested recipes to ensure they were simple, delicious, and accessible.
Borscht photo by Mary Anne Erickson
Bistro-To-Go patrons will be happy to hear that several menu favorites are revealed in Feel Good Food — chicken vegetable soup, grass-fed meatloaf, salmon Dijonnaise, and others — yet Richard keeps it fresh by introducing people to dishes and ingredients that may be unfamiliar. “I get excited about preparing food in new ways,” he says. “It’s like actors on stage: Though I play the same role every night, I find something new in it.”
Not unlike keeping their personal lives in sync and fresh after 36 years of marriage. “It’s pretty amazing, but we’re lucky,” says Mary Anne. “We approach life with similar values and have a lot of respect for each other.” Richard adds, “Our lives, our work lives, merged organically. When we opened our first restaurant, I never imagined we’d be in business 25 years later. We’re still enjoying it and we’re still together — and that does not surprise me.”
Mousse photo by Mary Anne Erickson
“We like taking on crazy challenges together,” says Mary Anne, “like opening a takeout business — an entirely different business model than a restaurant — or building our house or writing a cookbook.”
Though many couples celebrate Valentine’s Day and other special occasions with dinner at a restaurant, the Ericksons appreciate time together at home. “When Richard makes a special meal for me — when he goes shopping and makes it from scratch, at home — that’s romantic,” she says, “because it’s different from an ordinary day.”
If you’re looking to make someone feel special this Valentine’s Day, Richard’s recipe for chocolate mousse is a good place to start. It is, as Mary Anne says, “so sexy!”