A little country inn and a restaurant, River House has always been a real estate dream: river front, mountain tops, conservation easements, tree-hugging restrictions. A few home sites for sale in a nature preserve. You get the picture.
The first phase, "By River House," was a collaboration with an adventurous New Jersey entrepreneur named Lanny Dacus and our friend and "resident fat man," Steve Plummer.
Among other past ventures, they had bought Number 1 Fifth Avenue, an impressive and historic New York building. I used to lunch there in the fifties in the nautical-themed dining room, and went more than once with playwright Leslie Stevens to see Elaine Stritch and other performers.
Well, when my friends bought the building they decided to close the restaurant, the effect of which was to fire the chef, Anthony Bourdain. Steve said, "Why don't you invite him down? He's just nuts enough to come." I kept meaning to do that over the years. I'm just nuts enough to think he would have come.
Choucroute garnie - a simple take in honor of Bourdain's version at Les Halles and his last dinner at the French hotel
Choose a cool day for this dish - or wait for fall.
Render lardons of bacon or pancetta until cooked and slightly crisp. Remove to a plate. Add duck fat or more bacon fat to the pot and saute chopped onions until softened. Add minced garlic, rinsed sauerkraut, finely sliced fresh cabbage, a peeled and chopped tart apple, a bay leaf, some juniper berries, ground pepper and a glass of white wine. Cover and cook gently until the cabbage is tender. Top with smoked pork loin, ham, kielbasa, brats, hot dogs, whatever sausages you can find, and the reserved lardons. Cover and heat through.
Serve with boiled potatoes and carrots and good mustards. Beer or wine.