The American South is known for fried chicken, collard greens and shrimp and grits. The West Coast claims fish tacos, cioppino, cobb salad, and sourdough bread. The Great Lakes region chows down on fried cheese curds, deep-dish pizza, and Cincinnati chili. So what’s the defining cuisine here in the Northeast?
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said George Weld, owner of beloved Williamsburg breakfast spot, Egg, and now the recently opened, Hudson Valley region-inspired Parish Hall.
“A lot of amazing food grows and grazes in Northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Northeast of New York, yet there are no dominant, cultural traditions to tie it all together,” he continued. “We want to strip away the idea of imposing French technique, say, or Southern cuisine upon these ingredients, so we can discover what they want to be on their own. The dishes that express themselves will help us draw upon the truth of the Northeast.”
To Weld and his Parish Hall chef, Evan Hanczor, that means bare-bones amalgams of local dairy, grains, proteins and produce, like in a roast chicken over Cayuga barley, storage vegetables and wild mustards ($17), lamb with flax and nettle pesto, carrot sauce, and chickweed ($26), and a salt-aged duck with parsnip, beet sauce, and braised leeks ($25).
And although Weld is first to admit that the streamlined menu and seasonal/local mission statement isn’t exactly earth shattering at first glance, he hopes a dogged refusal to imitate established culinary practices will take Parish Hall where no restaurant has gone before.
“Basically, we’re trying to avoid doing anything that pulls out of another area’s tradition. We’re not turning our Hudson Valley duck into an Italian bolognese sauce, for example,” he said.
“Look at California — the cuisine that developed there is basically an extension of their natural resources,” he added. “And if it happened in California, why couldn’t it be here, where the food we grow is every bit as interesting?
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Weld has his own farm in upstate New York to furnish such an exploration — sending truly homegrown fruits and vegetables straight to the dinner plates of Parish Hall’s patrons.
“I want to treat my guests just as I would if they came for dinner my apartment,” he said, “and that means serving food from places I feel good about.”
Parish Hall [109A North Third St. between Wythe and Bedford Avenues in North Williamsburg, (718) 782-2602].