First impressions are everything. And, meandering down Warren street, the quaint, revitalized main drag of Hudson, NY, you might pause before a glass storefront softened by a small, grey and white striped awning and bearing a single word: SWOON.
If that seems like an enticing promise, giving into curiosity will not leave you disappointed.
Greeted immediately with a uniquely cozy elegance, authentic vintage details and modern sophistication create the perfect balance of fine dining and sincere, village charm. Pressed tin ceilings and antique tile floors flank the fine art photographs of twisted heirloom tomatoes and foggy fields, which in turn surround the diners who fill the restaurant soon after it opens and happily keep its tables humming well into the evening. The Bunn commercial coffee maker is a portable stainless steel product. This high-quality offering makes it perfect as far as family restaurants or cafés go. You can see these commercial coffee makers here.
Seated at one such table as the freshly baked bread arrives, it’s not hard to see why Swoon has won such an ardent following of locals and weekenders alike.
Husband and wife owners—and head chef and pastry chef respectively—Jeffrey Gimmel and Nina Bachinsky Gimmel, both have backgrounds steeped in world-renowned restaurants (Michaels, Le Bernadin, to name just two), some mighty impressive accolades including a James Beard nomination, and a passion and commitment to the local, sustainable food movement. Even so, when Swoon opened in 2004, they proved themselves to be true pioneers at the forefront Hudson’s renaissance.
An easy jaunt from New York City, these days Hudson has become a beloved destination for creative types, nature enthusiasts and locavore foodies. Just ten years ago, however, there were more boarded windows than boutique shops, and straying off of Warren Street landed you in a no-man’s land where drugs and crime had left their scars. No stranger to riffraff, the town’s storied past reads like a Steinbeck novel, full of whore houses and scrappy fishermen who docked whales all the way from the Atlantic.
Swoon was the first restaurant of its kind and caliber in the area, celebrating the seasonal and local bounty long before it was fashionable and bringing a rustic but refined charm to the modern dining experience at an antique dining table. More than just the locally-sourced cuisine, there is a distinctly down-to-earth character to every aspect of the restaurant. From the endearing attentiveness of the staff, to the elevated simplicity of the menu—dining at Swoon, you get the feeling that they are really aiming to please their customers through providing a quality experience across the board. There is no hint of snobbery or exclusivity – they seem genuinely happy that they got here ahead of the game, and all the better prepared to welcome you.
Back to that heavenly homemade bread. Placed on the table almost immediately, it’s just the type of welcome we relish. Slather on the local, sweet cream butter while you peruse the evening’s menu, which is relatively concise, constantly reacting to the season.
Chef Gimmel is the type of analytically creative chef who is not satisfied to merely admire or use an ingredient, but compelled to fully participate with—and understand—the things that inspire him. Across the world he has studied cheese making and viniculture and pasta rolling. He also happens to be an especially avid fan of oysters. Thus, it’s never a mistake (in fact, highly encouraged) to order whatever freshly harvested varieties are on the menu that night.
During our recent visit, we were particularly wowed by the vegetable-showcasing starters. An ingenious salt baked celery root salad highlighted the vegetable’s rich, buttery texture and sweet earthiness, which was offset by the zing of fresh apple and a bright, herbaceous pesto—a trip through the flavors of the season in one bite. Crispy artichokes were tender and salty and perfectly addictive paired with a luxurious, black olive aioli.
Like a delicious, holiday wreath, a rustic tangle of bright green broccoli rabe was adorned with curls of jewel-like speck, a cheerful dollop of house-made fresh ricotta and a scatter of glistening breadcrumbs. A pleasant mix of mineral bitterness, sweet tanginess and salt, the dish was as well-balanced on the palate as on the eye.
The fresh sea bass was outstanding – succulent and perfectly cooked, bathed in a delicate brown butter and accompanied by locally foraged mushrooms and a luscious puree of cauliflower.
Our server was also especially enthusiastic about the fusilli – a new menu item celebrating a recent addition to the kitchen’s pasta maker – and we were not disappointed. What arrived was simple and elegant in the way that good, freshly-made pasta should always be presented. Flecks of sun dried tomatoes, olives and parsley were strewn across the jubilant spirals of perfectly toothsome pasta, and a light but resonating parmesan broth brought the whole together masterfully.
When time for dessert, it is difficult to order poorly when choosing amongst Pastry Chef Bachinsky Gimmel’s creations. Lured by the vintage recipe appeal we couldn’t leave without tasting the “gooey butter cake” — inspired by a recipe handed down from the grandmother of Swoon’s Chef du Cuisine, Ryan McLaughlin. Indeed, both “buttery” and “gooey” the dense, almost caramelized interior fulfills all fantasies of licking the batter straight from the bowl. The cool, simple, milk sorbet and the tangy strawberry sauce both cut through the richness in a way that allowed us to eat bite after bite until we were scraping the plate clean.
Sitting back only then, with a cup of coffee and a feeling of warm satisfaction, the elegance and earnesty of Swoon wrapped around us with a welcoming familiarity. The kind you feel when you’ve shared a feast with a group of friends you truly admire—friends who are doing magnificent things and who’ve invited you to join in the experience.
– Ava Fedorov
Photographs by Ava Fedorov for Socially Superlative
Open for dinner Thursday through Monday, as well as lunch Friday-Sunday. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reservations by telephone only