I miss Asia. I miss the smells. I miss the energy, the colors, the chaos. Most of all, I miss the flavors. Unless you’re cooking it yourself, there is nowhere in the Hudson Valley to enjoy the dynamic flavors of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. Since living in Southeast Asia I have returned for a visit almost every year, eating, drinking, “researching” for Asian-inspired concepts on which, in my past life, I was working across the globe. Since making the full-time move to Old Chatham in 2011, however, those trips have been fewer and farther between.
Even before our move to Columbia County, we began whispering in our farmer friends’ ears: “See if you can grow turmeric.” “Plant ginger.” “Try this variety of chili.” “Have you heard of this type of mint?” Now we find the Hudson Valley enjoying an expanding variety of produce, much of which lends itself to the Asian flavors I love so much. Now we have a freezer full of preserved Columbia county turmeric, barrels of fermenting chilies, gallons of our own yellow and red sriracha, and a mosaic of salted chili jars decorating the cellar floor. We’ve been working, quietly, amassing quantities of Columbia county-grown flavor bombs.
These flavors work their way into the menus at Fish & Game, but due to the nature of our set menu, we don’t have the opportunity to share them with as many people as we would like. Fish & Game, since well before the doors opened to the public, has been a whirlwind of activity driven by creativity. We create to satisfy our own urges, pacify our demons, spar with our muses, test our stamina. We knock into the walls of our self-imposed limits (every creative’s duty), experimenting with every odd and end from out vibrant region in order to maximize utilization, minimize waste, and open ourselves up to unrealized potential of the gifts of this fertile land.
The set menu, this service style, has been a great vehicle for our rigorous creativity, but it also tends toward impediment. The length and presentation—in which the guest gives himself over to the decisions of the kitchen completely—can be intimidating. Further, some dishes that strike a chord with our customers slip into the dusty archives, never to be seen again as the menu is constantly reinvented. So, as is our wont, as is the nature of this evolving project, we’ve wondered what if we slowed the changes down a bit, what if we allowed dishes to remain on the menu for months at a time, when we have the product available to do so. What if our customers could come in and enjoy a meal without committing to seven courses?
So, because we can, we’re going to do just that. After our break, beginning in the spring of 2016, we’re going shift our intensive, week-to-week, ever-changing menu to reflect both what we’ve learned about Hudson Valley products and our customers over more than a decade of spending time here. The menu will always change, but with far less frequency, and our guests will be able to choose their dishes. We will continue to experiment, only now we will also take greater advantage of all the cured, fermented, aged, and preserved products we’ve spent so much time and money putting away. And perhaps we’ll give ourselves more time to spend with our experiments, refining rather than moving on to the next. Fish & Game with choices. Simple.
And, that’s not all, folks! To satisfy our Asian food jones, we’re going to take our little bar project at 347 Warren, BackBar, and expand it. We’re installing a full kitchen or, at least, full enough to really cook. The food will be influenced by my time spent living and cooking in Asia. We’ll use our Hudson Valley products to play with delights from funky fermented sausage to fish curries, native fermented squash miso to noodles glazed with smoky fish or meat juices and homemade fish sauce… and who knows what else… whatever inspires us. We can wait no longer! We need, no, we demand succor! Succor! Bring us succor!
The intense, micro-focused, week-to-week creative push that has consumed us is evolving, branching out into a variety of exciting projects, changes, and new developments that will probably require even more energy, but, we hope, will reach a whole lot more people… people to join in our celebration of this great town, this rich and healthy valley and the beautiful life we live here.
Dig it. Always.