While the Hudson Valley is known for having some great restaurants, our local chefs are responsible for making us the laughingstock of New York.

I always assumed that the Hudson Valley had some of the best chefs in the state. I mean, the Culinary Institute of America is here. We're surrounded by farms that supply restaurants with fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. There's simply no other place in the state that can touch our culinary achievements, right?

During a recent trip through Upstate New York I came to realize that the Hudson Valley isn't the best food destination in the state. In fact, it may be at the bottom of the list. And no, it's not because we don't have any great restaurants. In fact, we have some of the best restaurants in the Empire State. It's the chefs who've let us down.

If you've traveled through New York you've probably realized that every region is famous for it's own unique food. Buffalo is the home of Buffalo wings, Binghamton has spiedies, Rochester has the garbage plate and Utica is home to one of the most delicious regional foods in the state, a dish called Chicken Riggies. Once you read about it you're going to want to go on a road trip to try some.


What's the Hudson Valley's Signature Regional Food?

As for the Hudson Valley, we have absolutely no culinary identity at all. A list of regional foods put out by the New York State Department of Tourism lists "Philadelphia style cream cheese" as the Hudson Valley's signature dish. I've never heard of anyone who visited the area to ask where to get some of that special Hudson Valley cream cheese. That's probably because Philly Cream Cheese is available all over the country and is most definitely not special to the Hudson Valley,

Another food blog posted a map of the state featuring all of its great regional dishes. Underneath regions that included photos of tomato pie, red hots and beef on weck was a section between Albany and NYC that just depicted a Brooklyn Egg Cream. How utterly embarrassing. Not only is this a Brooklyn invention (as the name implies), but I have yet to find anywhere in the Hudson Valley that makes a proper Egg Cream with homemade seltzer and U-Bet sauce.

Some people have written in to suggest that perhaps cider donuts are our regional food. Nice try, but no. Saying, "Well, we already make donuts, so how about that?" is so lazy it's insulting. While there are places to get great cider donuts here, they are also available all over the state as well as in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey, where (sorry to say) they actually make them better (don't come after me, it's true).


Coming Up With a Signature Food Should be Easy

So if we don't have a signature food, why hasn't any of our talented local chefs come up with one? I have no culinary background or training, but I could think of dozens of unique recipes to try.

How about a hamburger patty on thick, toasted Italian bread topped with peanut butter and apple chutney? Toast up the bread and slice it twice into four triangle-shaped pieces. We could call it a Poughkeepsie Slammer. The taste combination incorporates local apples and the sweet and savory peanut butter on top is simply delicious. It's also nothing that anyone has ever done before.

If you don't like that, how about a take on the pasta dish served at Il Figlio in Fishkill called "priest chokers"? It incorporates a rarely seen pasta called strozapretti that's long and twisted and was named because it would literally choke priests who would come in and eat it so fast before mass. Regional dishes need to be cheap and easily accessible, and while the dish is a bit high-end at Il Figlio, it could easily be simplified with some cream sauce, peas and sausage and served up at pretty much any greasy spoon in the Hudson Valley. We could call it Hudson Valley Chokers.

A. Boris
A. Boris

I'm not a chef, but I've just come up with two ideas off the top of my head that actually sound pretty delicious. So what's the excuse for our local chefs who actually have experience in this area?

A Plea to the Hudson Valley Culinary Community

It's a slap in the face to the Hudson Valley that we have no regional delicacy. When tourists come to visit what I believe to be the greatest part of New York, they should be treated to the greatest food that they can only get here. Sure, we've got top notch restaurants, but the menus are serving up the same old food you can get anywhere else.

It's time to step things up and put the Hudson Valley on the map. There must be a chef somewhere out there who's able to create a truly unique, signature regional dish that we can call our own. If there is, I personally invite them to create what they believe is the quintessential Hudson Valley food. I will invite them on our show to debut it, encourage other Hudson Valley restaurants to make it and promote it every day on our radio show until it becomes part of the local cuisine.

Until then, I guess I'll be putting lots of miles on my car traveling every other area of the state to enjoy their unique dishes and remain envious of the pride it brings their community.

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