Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW), which actually is two weeks from March 11 through March 24, kicked off a week in advance on March 4 with an event at The Factoria at Charles Point in Peekskill.
Participating restaurants, vineyards, brewers and other food purveyors provided tastings for invited guests and two county executives spoke about the importance of the restaurant industry to the economy in the lower Hudson Valley.
HVRW is organized by The Valley Table magazine which bills itself as “the magazine of
Hudson Valley farms, food and cuisine.” It is published in Beacon. Its founder and publisher is Janet Crawshaw. The magazine and Crawshaw have been the driving forces behind HVRW, which has won acceptance among restaurateurs, elected leaders and the public alike. In fact, there are two restaurant weeks each year: spring and fall. This year’s fall dates are Nov. 4-17. About 200 restaurants are participating in the spring promotion, during which diners can enjoy three-course prix-fixe lunches for $22.95 and three-course dinners for $32.95.
“Restaurants are so much a part of the fabric of our communities, bringing new life into neighborhoods and cities,” Crawshaw told the guests at the kickoff event. “Restaurateurs bring us great food, but you’re also leading the revitalization of our valley.”
Restaurants in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, and Greene counties participate.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said, “We county executives in the lower Hudson Valley recognize that a regional approach is very important.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, when interviewed by the Business Journal, noted that Day is a Republican and he is a Democrat and, “What we’re doing is very bipartisan. I think the other county executives, the mayors of the communities, take issues like economic development, tourism, restaurant approvals, off the table as a partisan matter.”
Latimer recalled that while serving in both the New York state Assembly and Senate in Albany dining out was for more than just nourishment. “One of the greatest unifying factors between those of us of each political party in the two houses was that we would go out and have dinner at night together and, even if it didn’t change our position on an issue, we learned to grow some respect for each other.”
You don’t have to be a politician to enjoy dining out, Latimer was quick to add. “It’s a social moment and it really fuels the downtown realities in many of our communities. White Plains, Tuckahoe, Mamaroneck, all of these places have a vibrant restaurant area.”
“A lot of it is in the demographics,” he said. “My parents almost never went out to eat; they were depression-era kids. Subsequent generations find that going out is not just eating to survive; it’s a social moment.”
Chef Peter Kelly, whose Xaviars Restaurant Group includes X2O on the waterfront in Yonkers, told the Business Journal, “I love to hang out in Manhattan, but the Hudson Valley has a broad diversity of cuisine and food and ambience we don’t always get in New York.”
HVRW began in 2008, and has grown steadily. It is supported by sponsors and fees paid by participating restaurants. HVRW allocates the fees to advertising and promotion. It reports that 92 percent of participating restaurants had an average 25 percent increase in sales during restaurant weeks, and calculates the sales revenue impact as $10 million throughout the region. Crawshaw said, “We measure it (success) as we go along by the feedback that we get from the restaurants. Are they seeing the turnout that they want? Are they getting the reservations?” Apparently, many of them are since HVRW indicates many past participants report 20 percent to 200 percent increases in traffic.
“We also do a survey of consumers after the fact and, you know, hands down, everyone’s having a great time, but each restaurant week we also learn something too,” Crawshaw said. One thing HVRW has learned is that more than 90 percent of the diners who participated said they’ll return to the restaurants in which they’ve dined.
Crawshaw emphasized that people can enjoy elegant and unusual dining experiences during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, some of which might normally be out of their price range.
“We have these spectacular restaurants, 200 of them, all doing these amazing menus at this incredible price. On top of that, you’ve got destinations like this place on the river (The Factoria, the home of Fin & Brew, Spins Hudson, and River Outpost Brewing), Bear Mountain State Park restaurant right on Bear Mountain, (and) you’ve got Peter Kelly at X2O on the river. Whatever experience you want, you can find it and it’s a great time to come out and enjoy.”