THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS IS NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED. According to federal government statistics, two of every three new restaurants close within three years of opening.
Cathryn Fadde has beat those odds, handily. For almost two decades, the vivacious owner of Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill, in Cold Spring, has been welcoming guests into her restaurant, serving up Italian cuisine and a carefully crafted wine menu. Now, after her success in Cold Spring, Fadde has opened Perch, in Marlboro, with a locally inspired menu featuring global flavors—and the odds are in her favor again.
Though the menu at Perch is more eclectic than the classic Italian served at the Tuscan Grill, Fadde still focuses on sourcing local produce and beverages, involvement in the local community and maintaining a close relationship with her staff. She is, to put it mildly, deeply in love with the hospitality business.
“I like to say that I was always in hospitality,” Fadde says, beginning as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines. “When I was hired by the airlines, they asked me, ‘Why do you want this job?’ And I said, ‘I like people.’ It sounds so hokey—but it’s really true!” When Eastern went out of business, Fadde took up bartending in New York City and from there went to work selling premium Italian wines for Vinifera Imports. Over the next five years she became an Italian wine expert, traveling abroad and selling wines to businesses and restaurants throughout the City and north through the Hudson Valley. “I’ve been to Italy 20 or 30 times and I’ve talked to growers and visited the vineyards—so I really do know my wines,” she stresses.
Her personal history and experience with wine is evident at the restaurants. In Cold Spring, Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill boasts a wine inventory of between 2,000 and 3,000 bottles from more than 15 wine vendors (not including the local vineyards and winemakers who supply their own products). Fadde sees a comprehensive wine list as more than just assuring a satisfying pairing with food. “A wine list isn’t just to choose what you’re going to drink,” she notes. “It’s to see a wine that you drank somewhere before and remember who you drank it with and where you were. Or, maybe you see wines that you hope to be able to drink in the future, whether you can afford them or find them.”
At Perch, the menu focuses heavily on local products and beverages. The wine list is rich with selections from local wineries, including Glorie Farm, Warwick Valley, Benmarl, Robibero, Millbrook and Tousey, and 10 taps rotate local brews from Bull & Barrel, Peekskill, Millhouse, Chatham and Captain Lawrence.
Before opening Perch, Fadde met Glorie Farm Winery owners Doug and MaryEllen Glorie at a meeting of Meet Me in Marlboro, an agri-commerce group that connects business owners and farms. “We connected, and Doug said he’d bring me some wines we could taste. At Perch, I knew I wanted to feature as much local beverage as possible. I got their Cabernet Franc and I was completely blown away.” To make it easier for guests to try the wines, she offers flights (three sample glasses) of local wines so they can experience a side-by-side tasting comparison—a non-intimidating way for diners to relax and have fun trying new tastes without committing to the purchase of a whole bottle. “I like to do the wines by the glass, so you can have juxtaposition [of tastes],” she comments.
Serious about wine, serious about sourcing local, Fadde says these Hudson Valley wines “blow her away.” At Perch, the wine list draws heavily on surrounding vineyards, including three Cabernet Francs grown within 15 miles of the restaurant. These wines, she says, express the terroir of the Hudson Valley.
2014 Cabernet Franc
Glorie Winery, at the top of Mount Zion in Marlboro, brings the Hudson Valley this dry red, expressing flavors of cherry and plum. Its dark fruity flavors pair with warm herbs and roasted veggies. Retails at $19.
BENMARL VINEYARDS (FJORD)
2014 Cabernet Franc
Bright red fruit aromas with herbal undertones on the nose and dark cherries on the palate. This food-loving wine would go well with sautéed mushrooms or a smear of paté on toast. Retails at $19.99.
ROBIBERO FAMILY VINEYARD
2014 Cabernet Franc
This wine’s fruit and berry essences with the spice of pepper and clove make it a great partner to ripe cheeses like camembert or fontina. The peppery notes and mild tannins make this a good match to a wild game or a spicy tomato curry. Retails at $22.
While sourcing local food and drinks showcases the bounty of the Hudson Valley and demonstrates a dedication to the local community and economy, it also poses challenges. “All the local sourcing gets done by me,” Fadde smiles. “I get out to Quattro Game Farm in Pleasant Valley for duck; I hit Dutchess Restaurant Supply and Sprout Creek; then on this side of the river there’s Highland Sausage.” (A standing joke at the restaurants is that the best place to find her at any given time is in the middle of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.) Though she follows a rigorous routine that requires a high level of organization and planning, Fadde prefers the personal interactions. “These people are really nice. They're helpful. They’re informative,” she says. “I’m having a good time with it—it’s totally a two-way relationship.”
Shifting from the traditional Italian cuisine that made Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill so popular with locals and travelers alike, the emphasis on local inspiration at Perch allows Fadde and Chef Paul Roper to create a whole new, eclectic, seasonal menu (albeit with an Italian influence). “Food is interesting—you can’t keep it the same all the time. Here, we have the opportunity to see what’s out there. I’m so looking forward to Hepworth Farm eggplants,” she gleams. (They’re destined to become Chef Roper’s rollatini with fresh ricotta and herbs.)
Fadde’s relationship with the local community is only one facet of her success. “I run a very different type of restaurant,” she admits. “I don’t have children and I don’t know about ‘maternal management,’ but I learned the restaurant business from a woman. When you create the right environment in this business, you encourage people to think of it as a career, not just a job. I hire lots of young people in high school and I tell them that school and family is first—you still have to do your schoolwork and you need to look for colleges and all that stuff that kids do. The restaurant has to run, but I try to be flexible with the schedule.” She laughs when she remembers that when she first opened Perch, she realized she did not have a formal training program for her kitchen staff because she hadn’t needed to hire anyone new for 12 years.
Fadde strives to make the guests at her restaurants feel welcomed, but she wants her employees to feel comfortable, as well. “I want the environment that my staff works in to be the same environment that I would want to work in,” she says. “We spend a lot of time together and we feel, like, it’s nice to go to work.”
That, in fact, may be Fadde’s true secret to success. “You should never do a job you don’t love,” she declares. “I like every part of it. People ask when was the last time I took a vacation—but I don’t need a vacation from this. I like going to work. It’s hard work, but you look forward to it.” (“Except,” she admits, “when you’re short staffed.”) Indeed, if you don’t see her out front greeting guests, chances are you’ll find her in the kitchen, peeling shrimp, mopping floors or helping with the dishes. Otherwise, check the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.