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Zak Pelaccio's Fish & Game pays delicious homage to local farmers and artisans

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Fish & Game Restaurant

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Walking into Fish & Game in Hudson is a little like walking into an intimate, elegantly rustic mountain lodge. Chutney, the trophy wild boar, adorns red velvet-flocked walls and greets restaurant patrons. A cavernous fireplace flickers warmly in the low light of the bar area cozy with comfortable Chesterfield-like leather sofas and wingback chairs. The tiny bar at the end of the room displays an artsy mélange of colorful liquor bottles and glasses softly lit by pillar sconces .

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The small dining room reiterates the elegant rustic ambience and is softly lit with an eclectic assortment of fascinating light fixtures. Furnishings are simple with mid-century modern Italian chairs and handmade black walnut dining tables made by a local Hudson Valley artist. The brick walls were rescued, rebuilt and refurbished from what was formerly a 19th century blacksmith shop. There is an open view of the kitchen where chef/owner Zakary Pelaccio quietly wields his magic. The kitchen staff is totally in sync and rhythmic as in a symphony orchestra. The brick wall adjoining the bar houses a huge iron-forged rotisserie in a wood-burning oven. The fireplaces in the dining room and bar and the wood-burning oven were also made with brick and stone salvaged during construction.

Good fortune is with our party of four as we are seated at the best table in the room (almost like a chef’s table), near another roaring hearth and close to the kitchen with an all-encompassing view of Chef Zak and staff preparing and cooking the prix fixe seven-course menu. We begin our epic epicurean journey with savory cocktails layered with flavors and labeled with whimsical names ~ Fallen From Grace served with slivers of crisp apple to enhance the apple flavor in the drink, The French Tickler, a Champagne cocktail, and Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, a fiery drink of Mezcal Tequila, fresh lime, ground sumac, and Thai chili-infused Aperol. A bread basket with sour dough, rye and Pelaccio's signature pretzel bread was a tasty teaser before our culinary adventure began.

The seven-course meal commenced with a delicate slice of Smoked Pork Loin over a perfectly formed fresh farm egg and salted chilies. The egg dissolved like a rich liquid silk spiked with the chilies and smokiness of the pork.

Second course was Shiitake Mushroom with oyster and tomatillo in a succulent pork jus, another dish loaded with layers of flavor and texture. Third course was Roasted Cod in a crispy crust and sauce brunoise over a maple-infused butternut squash puree. The cod melted like butter and was perfectly complemented by the squash puree.

As the fourth course came forth, we were all slowing down a bit, reflecting on all the beautifully presented and deftly prepared three courses we had just consumed. Time for an intermezzo maybe? No, it was Bucatini Pasta with guanciale (cured meat prepared from pork jowl or cheek) and preserved summer tomato sauce. The refreshing delicacy of the tomato sauce sufficiently served as an intermezzo.

Our fifth course was Lamb Shoulder, lamb sausage with roasted turmeric potatoes in lamb au jus and topped with an oven-roasted garlic scape. The lamb sausage was tender and mild, not at all overpowering as lamb can be. The only miss here was the piece of lamb shoulder that I received could not be cut and was inedible. However, the others agreed their servings were rich and flavorful without a strong lamb aftertaste.

The sixth course, Crème Brulée, was attractively presented in a mini-parfait pottery cup. The mildly burnt sugar crust was paper thin sweetness layered over the creamy custard, which was slightly pungent with caraway and rye berries. The serving left me craving for more even though, at this point, I was totally sated.

The grand finale seventh course was Chocolate Ganache on a Rye and Spelt Tart topped with preserved rhubarb and black salt – definitely a chocoholic’s death by chocolate dream. The tartness of the rhubarb preserves perfectly offset the ambrosial richness of the ganache.

The wine we selected, as suggested by our very attentive server Michael, was Julie Balagny Fleurie La Carioca 2011, a Gamay Beaujolais that was light, mildly fruity and the perfect complement to all the courses.

Zak Pelaccio and his wife Jori Jayne Emde are true locavores, growing produce on their farm in Old Chatham and purchasing from local farms and artisans (All are listed on the back of the menus, which are handed out at the end of the meal). One artisan worth mentioning is Caroline Wallner, Tivoli Tile Works, who crafted many of the gorgeous pottery dishes that adorned the table and embraced the food.

Pelaccio does all his butchering in house and adheres to his “nose to tail” principle by using every part of the animal. Vegetable and fruit parings are used to make the preserves in Jori’s Lady Jayne Alchemy. The bottled preserves line the shelves in the dining room and add flavorful accents to the menu. Much of the produce comes from their farm in Old Chatham.

Fish & Game offers a set menu, which changes every week depending on what is available from purveyors and farmers, Thursday-Sunday from 5 p.m-12 midnight. Reservations should be made well in advance as the dining room is small; call 732-822-1500. Currently the prix fixe menu is $75 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Fish & Game is located at 13 South 3rd Street, Hudson.

*Note: due to the very dimly lit dining room and the ban on using camera flashes when photographing, some photos in the slideshow are mediocre at best, only an attempt to show the imaginative and artful presentation of food.

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