Restaurant Review: Fish and Game in Hudson, New American Food and Dining in Columbia County

Taste maker: In Hudson, a revered city chef melds sophisticated flavors with local products


Fish & Game’s house-made ramen noodles are served with rotisserie roasted duck, egg, green onion, and a spicy red chili sambal

Photographs by Teresa Horgan

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The New York Times recently ran a story about the migration of celebrity chefs from the city to the Hudson Valley, evidently lured here by our farms. It’s been going on for years now, of course, and I feel obliged to mention that chefs using “earthy” local produce is not an idea introduced last year by newcomers from the metropolis. Still, the influx of famous chefs is raising the bar on the foodie scene, and while many of them alight in Westchester, some are drifting as far upriver as Hudson. The latest arrival in that increasingly hip enclave is Zakary Pelaccio of Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue fame, who opened Fish & Game in a onetime blacksmith’s shop in the spring.

Rather than continue in the spirit of his trendy city spots, where the cuisine was Malaysian, Pelaccio in his ambitious rural incarnation has gone seriously locavore, offering a nightly tasting menu using food that’s almost all produced nearby. Butchering takes place in-house, and nothing goes to waste. Jori Jayne Emde, Pelaccio’s wife and co-chef, is the “alchemist” creating the vinegars, pickles, relishes, essences, and distillations that enhance the main ingredients or find their way into interesting drinks.

Architect Michael Davis, who — like Pelaccio and Emde — has a place in Columbia County, designed the interior of the handsome building, which has been gutted and enlarged. It’s now a well-staged mix of red flocked wallpaper, Prussian blue wainscot, beamed ceilings, cool light fixtures, and two big fireplaces built with salvaged bricks, one of them containing a rotisserie. A stuffed boar’s head on the wall reminds everyone of the promise of game in season. In the bar/lounge, cushy leather sofas are so inviting that a couple was canoodling there when we arrived on a hot night.

fish and game interior

lamb prosciuttoAt left: A view of the kitchen from the main dining room; above, house-cured lamb prosciutto with sweet-and-sour shiro plums and anise hyssop leaf

We were greeted by a cute young guy wearing a pork pie hat. When I casually remarked that it was cool inside, he promptly produced a box of shawls, and demonstrated to my husband how one could be worn like a scarf, if you happen to be a chilly, non-cross-dressing guy. (It was not needed.) We sat at the communal table that anchors the small dining room, where we could see into the kitchen. Linen napkins in metal rings, heavy silverware (a fresh set for each course, it turned out), and glassware are all of high quality.

You can get drinks and a small selection of a la carte fare in the bar or on the brick patio outside. But in the dining room, Pelaccio serves a seven- or eight-course nightly tasting menu for $68. “Limit of one dietary restriction per customer” it says in tiny type at the bottom of the menu. Wine pairings cost an additional $75. The mostly European wine list is also on the pricey side, but there are a few offerings by the glass.

The experience (and that’s what it is) began with a wonderful, chewy sourdough bread with sweet butter that we enjoyed as we waited for the action to start. The back of the menu lists the “Farms and Artisans” who provide the ingredients for each night’s dinner (26 of them on the day we went). The menu itself, a model of simplicity, names the main ingredient of each course — Potato, Eggplant, Pork — with back-up ingredients that don’t give much of a clue about preparation either. “Potato,” for example, was subtitled “hollandaise, caviar.” Pelaccio is evidently both serious about what he’s doing, and having fun dispensing surprises.

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