Another Fork in the Road Restaurant Review in Milan: Diner Fare, American Comfort Food and Dining in Dutchess County

Fork it over: Inventive cuisine elevates the diner experience at Milan’s Another Fork in the Road



If you head out of Rhinebeck towards Route 308 it isn’t long before you pass a fork in the road; literally — a fork. The 31-foot tall dinner fork stands, tines down, at the intersection of Routes 308 and 199 (read our “Where in the Hudson Valley” contest question and answer). And if you continue on 199 towards the Taconic State Parkway, you’ll soon pass Another Fork in the Road. This one is worth pulling over for. Even though the aptly named restaurant is housed in a modest building sandwiched between a defunct motel and an old mechanic’s garage, a bright yellow sign out by the road promises “A Finer Diner.” If you blink you might miss it. But you’d be sorry, for a finer diner it is.

The building has been home to many restaurants over the years, none of which ever last very long (not even the last incarnation, Another Roadside Attraction). So when celebrated local chef Natalie “Figgy” DiBenedetto (former chef/owner of Mina in Red Hook) opened Another Fork in the Road (with help from friend and chef Jamie Parry) in May 2009, many locals questioned whether her strong reputation alone would be enough to keep the place going.

It was somewhat risky, admits Parry, but it made sense for the duo at the time: The restaurant’s daytime hours — it initially served just breakfast and lunch — meant they could both be home to meet their kids at the school bus stop. The not-so-obvious reason was that Parry knew DiBenedetto — who had been widowed in 2007 — might decide to leave the area for personal reasons. DiBenedetto did chose to move a year after the eatery opened; Parry bought the restaurant from her in 2010, making him a chef/owner for the first time in his 20-year career.

The risk paid off. Three years later, the restaurant, which now serves three meals a day, Thursday through Monday, is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike. “It’s the most wonderful thing,” says Parry. “Passersby expect this little diner and they find it’s something else, something really good.”
Almost immediately after the place changed hands, Parry started serving dinner. “It’s the money-maker,” he laughs. And this past February, he finally got a beer and wine license, which has allowed him to start focusing on pairing. “That was more difficult when it was just a diner,” he admits. “It’s hard to pair salmon with soda.” 

jamie parryChef/owner Jamie Parry (center) and his smiling staff

Unlike many local chefs, Parry did not attend the CIA, or any cooking school for that matter. The way he tells it, he was a ceramicist employed as a paralegal in the city, who fantasized about cooking. So when an old girlfriend working at a Manhattan restaurant asked him for help getting into the paralegal profession, Parry had her return the favor. He started working at Manhattan’s Montrachet, where he stayed until he met his wife Katie, who owns Grandiflora nursery in Red Hook. Ten years ago, Parry moved to Rhinebeck and spent the next five years working with Jeffrey Gimmel at Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson.

At Another Fork, the innovative dinner menu prominently showcases Hudson Valley ingredients — Parry sources almost everything from Dutchess County farms — with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables and high-contrast combinations. “Meat is really expensive, so to keep the prices down I buy the best quality, and portion appropriately. But you can’t beat a delicious vegetable from the Hudson Valley.” The dinner menu, which can change from day to day, does feature a number of vegetarian dishes.

My two companions and I visited on what turned out to be the busiest Friday night they’d ever had. Since there was no hostess, we stood at the door (on a giant fork carpet, of course) and waited to be greeted by a cheerful waitress in high-waisted jeans. We were seated at a table by the roadside wall, and had a good view of the bustling room, which my friend deemed reminiscent of an old Hancock Shaker schoolhouse. The place was already almost full (it seats just 46), the clientele a mix of couples young and old, and a surprising number of young families with small children, some of whom took frequent jaunts to the designated children’s play area by the entrance. None of the laminated, aluminum-edged diner tables were pre-set, although some of them were decorated with a small vase of wildflowers and an unlit candle. Framed photographs, hung slightly askew, circled the room on the walls. The music was barely audible above the pleasant din, which only added to the laid-back diner vibe. Ironically, it was the deer head festooned with drooping Christmas lights and the red boater’s hat above the kitchen door that served as my only reminders that I was, in fact, still in Dutchess County and not somewhere in Brooklyn.

(Continued on next page)

» Get directions to Another Fork in the Road in Milan, NY
» Read about Another Fork in the Road: “Best New Diner with a Twist” (Best of Hudson Valley 2009 Editors’ Pick)
» Read about Another Fork in the Road in The Accidental Foodie blog
» Go to http://anotherforkintheroadmilan.wordpress.com
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide

 

 

fork burgerDiner delights: The Fork Burger is dressed with caramelized onions and arugula

We started out by ordering a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the affordably priced, Franco-centric wine list. Since all three of us have spent many years working in restaurants (fine and not), we reflexively wrinkled our noses when our server returned to the table with a tray of pre-poured glasses, setting the open, unchilled bottle on the table before walking away. I worried that this was proof positive of the rumored poor service, but as the meal went on we found the wine service to be the only real faux pas. Though not very attentive, both servers were sweet and patient, and deserving of slack considering they were the only two front-of-house staffers working on that packed evening.

We began our meal with the fresh handmade mozzarella ($7) because I had heard from a number of sources that it is “life-changing.” It was served slightly warm in a pool of olive oil, with a tin box of lightly grilled baguette rounds (from Loaf in Hudson). We found the cheese perfectly chewy, its creaminess balanced nicely by the texture of coarse sea salt and pepper. After several more tastes, it was decided that the olive oil was the real standout. The extravagantly rich dish was too much for our small group to finish, so more than half of it was taken home as leftovers.

Next we moved on to the baby beet salad served with duck confit and dandelion greens ($9); the crispy calamari with black olives, honey, and grapes ($11); and the snap pea salad ($9). The calamari was a favorite — light and crisp, not too chewy, and deliciously complemented by the salty tapenade and cool, sweet green grapes. Both the salads, though undeniably fresh, fell a bit short. As expected, the strong flavors of peppermint, horseradish, lemon, and ginger emboldened the sweetness of the raw snap peas — although we had difficulty detecting anything but the slightest hint of mint. Dressed in goat cheese and fig vinaigrette, the beets were perfectly tender, their tangy sweetness just slightly overpowered by the dandelion greens.

crab saladThe crab salad includes apple, fennel, sorrel and a chili/brown butter vinaigrette

For dinner, I ordered the Atlantic scallops ($22), which were served atop a cauliflower puree and arranged around a bright blueberry and corn salad. The scallops were cooked to perfection — lightly seared on top and bottom, and buttery throughout, not at all chewy — which is a feat in and of itself. Their accompaniment of fresh blueberries, corn, and large chunks of nutty maitake mushrooms was a revelation. “It is a career-defining dish,” Parry says of the entrée. ”It came to me like a lightning bolt out of the sky after I’d worked for 18 hours straight.” Like the calamari, this is an instance in which Parry’s inventive, high-contrast vision goes off without a hitch, the unconventional combination of flavors and textures balancing one another perfectly.

The scallops were clearly the winning entrée. We loved the porcini mushrooms in the rabbit lasagna ($20), but found the rabbit somewhat sweet, and the greens were not quite bitter enough to provide balance. One of my friends ordered the braised Point of View Farm lamb ($22) served with wood sorrel yogurt, mashed green peas, and crisp mushrooms; as with the lasagna the mushrooms stole the show, the lamb being slightly overcooked. Stuffed though we were, we also ordered the corn risotto ($19) to share. We were glad to have tried it, as it was second (albeit a distant second) to the scallops in tastiness. Unlike most risottos, in which the creaminess obscures all other textures and tastes, the oversized grains in this dish were rough and delightfully loose, allowing the fresh summer flavors of grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, and lemon to stand out front and center.

We were all enticed to try dessert when our server mentioned the special chocolate bread pudding, served warm with fresh whipped cream. We were a bit disappointed to find it a bit cloying and not warm enough. The rhubarb pie, however, was served piping hot, with a masterful buttery lattice crust, the rhubarb filling appropriately tart with just a hint of sweetness; one friend declared it “a perfect piece of pie.”

Although there were several dishes that missed the mark, those that hit it did so with such pizzazz that it more than made up for the disappointments. And there was something in every dish that we could appreciate — whether it was the quality of a single ingredient, the mastery with which it was cooked, or simply the bold intention behind the preparation. As far as Parry is concerned, cooking is a lot like making ceramics, at least the way he does it. “With comfort food, nothing is off the plate. I let my cooks and myself have the freedom to do what we want. It’s a mosaic.”

And just like the business itself, “it all sort of comes together.” I agree wholeheartedly.

Another Fork In The Road
Open Thurs.-Mon. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (breakfast and lunch), 5-9 p.m. (dinner). Breakfast $4.50-$13, lunch $4-$12, dinner $10-$22

» Get directions to Another Fork in the Road in Milan, NY
» Read about Another Fork in the Road: “Best New Diner with a Twist” (Best of Hudson Valley 2009 Editors’ Pick)
» Read about Another Fork in the Road in The Accidental Foodie blog
» Go to http://anotherforkintheroadmilan.wordpress.com
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide

 

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