Lunch in the Garden at Homespun Foods in Beacon, NY
One of the Hudson Valley’s 12 best dishes in 2012: Lunch in the garden at Homespun Foods in Beacon, NY (Dutchess County)
Okay, Beacon’s main street isn’t exactly Times Square, but there’s traffic and bustle. If you want a delightful little escape at lunch time when it’s nice out, rendezvous with a friend or sweetheart at Homespun Foods, place your order at the counter, then make your way through the brick-walled cafe to the hidden courtyard garden in back. Settle at an umbrella table, and you’re ready to laze away an hour or two.
Jessica Reisman, the owner — and the baker responsible for all those tantalizing tarts, cookies, and cakes you see in the display cases inside — also takes care of the garden. Clematis, wisteria, and grapevine climb up arbors; azaleas, lilies, perennials, annuals, and herbs fill the flowerbeds. Butterflies dart among the buddleia and echinacea. There’s even a little fountain.
So that’s the horticulture. As for the comestibles: Chef Claudia Levesque makes sure the cafe lives up to its name by preparing simple soups, salads, and sandwiches from scratch using wholesome ingredients (“local if possible,” Reisman notes), with no nasty nitrates, hormones, or preservatives.
The outdoor garden in full bloom
Photograph courtesy of Homespun Foods
You can pretend you’re in Turkey and nibble your way through the Middle Eastern platter: baba ghanoush, tabbouli, hummus, feta, olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Perhaps you prefer the classic cheddar and chutney sandwich, which is even tastier with maple-smoked ham. A salad with blue cheese, pear, prosciutto, and toasted hazelnuts is not only delicious, it seems virtuous enough that after you’ve eaten it, you can splurge on one of Reisman’s most tempting goodies: carrot cake roulade, a confection she describes as “an inside-out carrot cake with the cream cheese frosting inside.” Or indulge in a dense, flourless, bittersweet brownie (or two), inhale the fragrance of stargazer lilies, listen to the splish of the fountain and take it easy for a while.
“People love the garden,” Reisman says. “It’s an oasis.” You can eat breakfast there on weekend mornings. On Friday and Saturday nights in summer, Reisman illuminates the garden with twinkly string lights and candles and serves a small-plate dinner menu. It’s even prettier at night.