• To Ric Orlando, owner of New World Home Cooking and head chef of New World Bistro Bar, who went head-to-head with celebrity chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay this winter. Chef Orlando (a two-time winner on Chopped, another Food Network show) beat the television personality using two modern twists on his signature latke recipe.
• To another Hudson Valley chef in the winner’s circle— 23-year-old Dafna Mizrahi, a CIA grad and chef/owner of Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room in Amenia, who came home from Chopped with $10,000 after beating out three other chefs in a gastropub-themed challenge. She donated half of her winnings to Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue in Dover Plains.
• To the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF) which in December renamed its toptier annual awards after two of the Hudson Valley’s industry leaders: Phyllis Feder, owner of Clinton Vineyards and past-president of the Dutchess Wine Trail; and James Parker “Jim” Finkle, who passed away this past September with over 25 years experience in the national and regional wine industries. The Phyllis Feder Unity Award will celebrate “major contributions in promoting unity within the industry,” while the Jim Finkle Industry Award will recognize “extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the industry.”
• To Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, which came in sixth on OpenTable’s “100 Best Restaurants in America for 2015.” The list included a total of 11 restaurants in New York—10 in New York City and one in the Hudson Valley—and is based on more than five million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants nationwide.
• And to Debbie Gioquindo, a.k.a. The Hudson Valley Wine Goddess, named one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Wine Bloggers of 2015” by Excel Wines, based on a statistical algorithm involving social media interactions, internet presence, page views and a variety of other analyses. Gioquindo runs her own consulting company and co-created the wine brand Happy Bitch Wines.