Ten years after it started, little has changed in the concept of the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. And yet, everything has changed, from its options for diners, focus on local products and the size of the spotlight that shines on great eating destinations that stretch from Rhinebeck to Rye.
"It's certainly bigger and more interesting on so many levels,'' said Janet Crawshaw, the founder of Hudson Valley Restaurant week and owner and publisher of Beacon-based The Valley Table, the go-to source for all things food in the Hudson Valley. "The concept, no coupons or passports, is the same. As the variety of restaurants continues to expand, it reflects how the Hudson Valley has blossomed as a culinary destination."
- What : Hudson Valley Restaurant Week
- Where : Participating restaurants
- When : Through Nov. 13
- More info: https://www.valleytable.com/hvrw/restaurants
The Valley Table, in partnership with Empire State Development, even started a campaign similar to Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, "Support the Craft - Drink NY", to promote products such as craft beer and hard ciders that are made in New York.
Crawshaw and her husband, Jerry Novesky, started The Valley Table in 1997. The couple patterned Hudson Valley Restaurant Week after visiting New York City for its annual celebration of food. "We noticed how many Hudson Valley farms were mentioned on New York Restaurant Week menus,'' Crawshaw said. "We thought why isn't something like this happening in the Hudson Valley? We called up some of our restaurant friends and they loved the idea. We started an advisory board to get their input, and it went from there. The food in the Hudson Valley keeps getting better and better."
The initial Hudson Valley Restaurant Week included about 70 restaurants. There are more than 200 restaurants in seven counties participating this fall, and The Valley Table also hosts the event in the spring. Hudson Valley Restaurant Week’s participating restaurants offer prix fixe meals, including $20.95 for lunch and $29.95 for dinner. It runs through Nov. 13. Click here to find participating restaurants.
"From the time we started the magazine, we wanted to reflect our geographic footprint,'' Crawshaw said. "It's an event that brings everyone together. Some towns have really become destinations. In Mahopac, the first year we had one restaurant. Now we have five."
Crawshaw said the event has become easier to manage over time, but she and The Valley Table team work hard to ensure its success. "We take a very hands-on approach,'' she said. "We want to make sure the restaurants and the customers get the most out of it."
The community has embraced the event, even amid some turbulent times. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit during the height of Restaurant Week. "A couple of the restaurants got hit so badly, they couldn't open,'' Crawshaw said. "Some of the other restaurants helped them get open again."
The war in Afghanistan, Hurricane Irene and dismal economy at some points in the past decade have also affected Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. "We've been fortunate to live through some really challenging times,'' Crawshaw said. "It's really become something to celebrate. At the beginning, we bring all of the chefs together and there is this sense of conviviality. We've had people come out every year for their anniversary, people come from Albany and elsewhere upstate and as well as New York City to come be a part of it."
Since starting Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, craft breweries have also become an integral part of the Hudson Valley. More than 150 local restaurants, retailers and craft producers participated in the recent Support the Craft – Drink NY campaign.
"There are so many wineries, distilleries, breweries and cider-makers that we wanted to shed a light on them and have people find out more about them,'' Crawshaw said. "These are amazing entrepreneurs who are helping make farming more profitable. They’re turning apples and potatoes and even beets into more profitable products — craft beverages."
Crawshaw said craft breweries and distilleries have exploded due in large part to modernized laws in New York. "Many of the laws linked back to the era of Prohibition,'' Crawshaw said. "They hindered business. It was in the tens of thousands of dollars just to acquire a license. Now it's a much more reasonable amount and it makes it easier for people to produce and sell."
Crawshaw and Novesky founded The Valley Table magazine 19 years ago after a 35,000-mile nationwide journey to seek out authentic American experiences. They might not have discovered the Hudson Valley's food and beverage industry, but they certainly have found a prominent spotlight to shine upon it.
"It's something we love,'' Crawshaw said. "When we started, there was not anything in terms of a local food or craft beverage movement. We could see the nascent movement and the potential that was here. Now the Hudson Valley has become renowned for its food and craft beverages. Right here in Beacon, there are 30 or 40 places to eat or drink. That wasn't the case 20 or even 10 years ago."
For more information or to make reservations, click here to visit the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week website.