Iron and Herb Plates Farm-to-Table Steaks in Hudson
Photos by Marc Fredette
Brought to you by the chef behind Clermont Café, Columbia County’s Iron and Grass restaurant puts an all-animal spin on the steakhouse concept.
The Hudson Valley is a playground for chefs who are passionate about their cuisine. Local farmers produce high-quality ingredients that not only enhance farm-to-table dishes, but also beer, wine and spirits. The rolling hills and green pastures of the valley serve livestock particularly well, resulting in premium beef and leather. At Iron and Grass in Hudson, chef Mark Fredette emphasizes sustainability through an all-animal approach to a modern steakhouse.
“I guess it’s pretty simple, I never wanted to be a chef. It’s something I’ve always wanted to pursue all my life. My parents don’t remember that I wanted to be anything else,” says Fredette.
Fredette grew up in and around kitchens. Her father worked in the hospitality industry and Fredette always wanted to see the magic behind food. When he moved to the Hudson Valley from Boston, MA in 2010, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.
After that, he became captivated by the Hudson Valley farm-to-table movement. As Executive Chef of Sprout Creek Farm, he got behind the scenes. Seeing how food arrives in a restaurant was an invaluable opportunity.
“My wife and I always said we’d open a place if Sprout Creek ever closed, and it did,” he says.
Luckily, Tousey Winery sought to open a cafe on his property. Fredette opened the Clermont Café, a very successful little place. First, he created a menu with the elegance of any chef-led gourmet boutique. Second, he became very close to cattle ranchers in Columbia County. He used what was available, allowing farmers to showcase the freshest cuts.
“I realized that there are only 22 cuts of rib eye for a cow. When it comes to New York Striploin, Rib Eye and Tenderloin, what is it, maybe 15% of the cow,” Fredette explains. The rest becomes ground beef and, well, you can only sell so many burgers. As he learned more about the local beef industry, he was captivated by the diligence and dedication of Hudson Valley farmers. He discovered that grass-fed, organic, rotationally-grazed cattle produce incredible food. Fredette was so confident in the product, even with lesser-known cuts like picanha and less expensive options like baby sirloin, that he just had to write “local steak” on the menu.
“I found the challenge of breaking down these steaks and pulling out these cool, unfamiliar cuts, and I overcame them. I made sure my portion matched the price set on the menu,” says Fredette The less expensive cuts manifested themselves in massive steaks, while the more expensive and popular cuts were served on sophisticated small plates.Above all, his creativity brought fresh, local ingredients to foodies in delicious meals.
Clermont Café has attracted a huge fan base in Columbia County. However, starting a full-fledged steakhouse has always been in Fredette’s mind. Very few operate in the Hudson Valley, and even fewer are focused on sustainability.
“So I thought it might be educational and fun for everyone to work on a cow at this level and educate my staff on the different cuts.” He left Tousey Winery and opened Iron and Grass in late August 2021.
A concise and focused menu demonstrates Fredette’s philosophies towards food. Let the amazing ingredients speak for themselves and make the most of the richness of the earth around you.
For example, examine “The Burger”. Fredette uses grass-fed, grass-finished beef from Dirty Dog Farm in nearby Germantown.
“It’s one of the first companies I’ve seen here. You can visually see the grazed fields in intensive rotational grazing. And so when I contacted them, I was like, “I need your meat,” he recalls. He makes the bun from scratch, with local tomato ketchup and local onion jam. Fredette tops every local Swiss burger. For the accompaniment, he swaps the fries for crispy mashed potatoes. Other side dishes include grilled Hudson Valley broccoli (with local lemon), kale roasted in local cold-pressed sunflower oil, and sweet peppers.
Iron and Grass also offers beef from Golden Farm in Germantown and Grimaldi Farm in Ghent. Along the same lines, Fredette sources the duck for her miso-glazed wings at Belle Farms in Sullivan’s Catskills. He pays particular attention to preserving the integrity of local flavors. It dry-ages tomahawk steak for 21 days and bone-in vacuum chuck for up to 24 hours.
Of course, Iron and Grass’ cocktail menu will follow, using quality products with a Hudson Valley twist.
“Obviously Tousey Winery is with us, you know, that’s where we started. Good gins, good bourbons, good cognacs, everything is there. Grain grows well in the Hudson Valley, it’s a great breadbasket and you can make really good liquor,” Fredette says. It aims to partner with Hillrock Estate Distillery, Cooper’s Daughter and other local distillers for clean cocktails that complement the meat. Peach Manhattans, Ground Cherry Margaritas and Developing Concoctions feature farm-fresh fruit.
Eventually, Iron and Grass will open a retail butcher shop. Fredette wants to buy larger cuts from farms as part of a “hoof to muzzle” program. He will break down the meat himself and work with equally passionate people to provide the best possible service. The restaurant’s dry aging program will begin sometime next year.
“Our team knows a lot and will be able to give customers all the information they need. We may not have rib eye for sale all the time at the retail store, but our butcher can tell you about Denver steak or tell you about teres major and how to cook it.
Tables at Iron and Grass fill up fast, so be sure to make a reservation before sampling some of the juiciest steaks around.
Related: Meat Things Takes an All-Animal Approach to Butchery in Kingston