Monday Miam-Miam: Village of Nyack

Besides food and books my husband and I like art. Particularly American and French from the 19th and 20th centuries.

So along our deal One Restaurant/One Bookstore, we also try to select our overnight stop in a town or city with a museum that fits our interest.

Doesn’t always work, mostly due to museums hours of closing.

But sometimes we luck out.

Today I’m taking you to Nyack, New York, a small town on the Hudson River, less than thirty miles away from New York City. A train can in fact take you to the city. Not directly but still pretty cool. I read that Nyack’s residents use public transportation 70% higher than anyone else in the US. I also learn how to pronounce Nyack.

Nyack’s compact walkable downtown is packed with independent restaurants, cafés, all kinds of shops, including a shop made for my musician son…

… and a gorgeous library.

My husband noticed Nyack first because of the Edward Hooper House. He’s a fan of Hooper’s artwork, so he was eager to visit his native home where the artist lived until he turned twenty-eight.

Then he chose Velo as our dinner table because he ate there once sans moi and had promised to return whenever we got a chance. Glad we did. Much more fun to eat à deux than alone. Especially when the restaurant is as pleasant as Velo.

Courtesy of Velonyack.com

Velo is how we designate a bicyle in France – with an accent aigu on the e. Anthony DeVanzo, the owner also the chef, a graduate of the prestigious C.I.A. (not that one, the other one: Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, New York), picked the name Velo to illustrate his passion for cooking and cycling. The décor features many bicycles, either as objects or depicted on posters and paintings.

Courtesy of Velonyack.com

Since its opening in 2008 Velo has established its reputation as a cozy yet innovative restaurant in this lovely part of New York state.

From the second I entered the restaurant I understood why my husband knew I would love the place. Ambiance more than décor is important to me. When I eat out I like a space that feels mine for the time of a meal. As much as I enjoy the company of people I never feel myself in an intimidating restaurant. Unpretentious doesn’t equal unsophisticated. I like the new American look of many restaurants. They blend raw material such as wood and brick, tableclothed tables, handsome china and utensils, and impeccable yet approachable service. Velo exemplifies these ingredients.

Courtesy of Velonyack.com

Courtesy of Velonyack.com

It was a quiet, still cool early summer night. A night that calls for candles. We talk less loudly and engage in better conversations under dimmed light, no? Our waiter must have read my thoughts since he lit the small votive already set on our table and someone else dimmed the overhead lights throughout the restaurant. I easily imagined Nyack in the winter when snow spirals in the air and colors the world in white.

Courtesy of Velonyack.com

The wine list is terrific, said my husband. He goes through a wine list as if reading a rare book, slowly and appreciatively. Velo is in fact a real wine bar with an extensive selection of expensive bottles but also very affordable wines by the glass, including unusual French wines that you rarely find in the US. In France we call them petits vins locaux. Unassuming yet highly enjoyable, light in alcohol, crisp and fresh, I still favor them to headier California or South America wines.

Of course, food matters when you decide to eat out. Food is what gathers people around a table, but everyone owns their own taste buds.

For instance, my husband favors charcuterie while I prefer salads. But we both love cheese. Don’t forget that the former French President Général de Gaulle supposedly said that governing a country with more cheese than days in a year was a real challenge. Dealing with lots of cheese has never been challenging to me.

So I happily enjoyed Velo’s Baby Field Greens with thinly sliced cucumber and warm herbed goat cheese. In France we also serve cheese with a simple green salad on the side, right before dessert. Velo’s slightly fruity blood orange vinaigrette complimented the savors. Fruit and cheese go really well together. In the winter, I like to bake individual mini goat cheeses on top on thick slices of apple. I serve them with a green salad and good bread. You got an easy tasty dish.

My husband chose the fried oysters and encouraged me to try one, knowing that I favor fresh oysters and have always preferred the French ones, smaller and never chewy. But these fried ones were a pure delish. The reason being a perfect light batter.

Faithful to my tastes I went for fish and chose the Atlantic Skate. For full disclosure I still have a hard time to know the American equivalent for every French fish and I also start to forget the names of some French fish. So I wasn’t sure what Skate was. I assumed it was fairly local since it came from the Atlantic. I learned that it is indeed a fish caught in New England. In French it’s called Raie. Because of the shape of the skate the presentation was interesting. Looked like a gigantic circular comb served on top of a bed of rice and green peas, with a few shrimps and chopped tomatoes. The seasonned tomato broth added a slightly sweet flavor which I loved since I’m a tomato fan.

My husband followed in my steps and ordered fish too

We had been on the road all day and for once craved some coffee. The waiter who had been absolutely perfect from the second we entered brought us the two espressos we had ordered and the check we had also asked. He had not charged us for the coffee. When we mentioned it he insisted, “They are on me.”

There was no reason for this kind attention. You know what they say about random acts of kindness? I’m sure we will return sometime to this part of New York state and pretty sure too that Velo will be on the list. Not because of the two espressos, of course. But restaurants where customers feel valuable understand the importance of service. Good service stays on your mind long after the meal is gone.

From a neighboring front yard

 

My two extra personal plusses for Nyack:

Pickwick Book Shop, two minutes away from Velo, is a must stop, if not to buy a book at least to admire the building and the window.

Now I’ve visited countless bookstores all over the States and other countries and witnessed booksellers’ creativity when it comes to display their books.

Pickwick stands in its own league.

 

I didn’t want to ask the friendly man behind his crowded counter if he was able to direct his customers to a specific book.

Part of the fun in a bookstore is to get lost. I also love to find a book I wasn’t looking for or bump into one I wanted to read. So I left with Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, a teen book I had meant to read a while ago.

The novel was a small brick in the elaborate Leaning Tower of Pisa whose foundation was a chair.

 

On the opposite sidewalk and within a quick walk from Pickwick Book Shop you’ll find the Edward Hooper House and Art Center. We were able to visit late afternoon, before closing.

The artist’s house is typical of the houses from the 19th century in this part of the country.

The visit of Hooper’s birthplace is short since some rooms are not allowed to the public. Not so bad since his bedroom is probably where the young Hooper drew most of his creativity.

From his bed he was fortunate to follow the Hudson.

 

Downstairs, it’s possible to watch a video in a room with personal artifacts that once belonged to Hooper and even read a letter to his mother.

This is not your typical museum since the art center harbors temporary exhibits in addition to the permanent Hooper’s collection. The visit can feel disappointing if you expect to see all of Hooper’s work. But if you consider that your place of origin is part of the person you became, then you’ll easily imagine a young boy within these walls, lying on his bed and watching the Hudson, his head filling with artistic ideas that very soon he would explore with his pencils and paintbrushes.

And it would be too bad, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I love Edward Hopper’s work so this would have been a fantastic trip for me, even without the delicious food and quirky bookstore!

    • It’s a modest home, although I love this kind of American houses. There is a small adorable backyard. The Hudson River is two blocks down. And anyone who likes Hooper’s work can easily imagine him drawing his inspiration from his surroundings. See you, Andrea.

  2. I was wondering how you were going to complete your trifecta in a little bedroom community. Nicely done.

  3. What a delight! That bookstore wouldn’t suit me at all, though. I’d be like a kid in a candy store, cross because I didn’t have enough nickles for everything I wanted. lol! Your meal sounds like perfection. I love a place where the staff make you feel the experience is a pleasure they share with you. Thank you so much for taking us on your excursions!

    • The bookstore was fun and the owner really nice. It was a little challenging to know where to go, though:)
      A nicely organized bookstore is easier if you want a certain book. The smell of paper, though, at this book shop was lovely and I also wanted to buy too many books. The good thing is that I was traveling and could not carry more than my suitcase. So…
      I’m so glad you enjoy my little American discoveries.
      See you soon!

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