The Grange in Warwick, N.Y., which is just over the New Jersey border, is truly a farm-to-table restaurant.
It is not just because it uses produce from farms in the magically fertile Black Dirt region of southern New York State, or because Jim Haurey, the owner and head “cook” (he dislikes the title “chef” when describing himself) spends Tuesdays and Wednesdays working on an organic farm (run by his girlfriend, Dominique Herman), or even because 80 percent of the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced locally. It is because Mr. Haurey seems to be on a mission that goes way beyond owning a profitable business.
“This is more than a restaurant to me,” he said in an interview after my visits. “It’s about community. To be able to create jobs, support local farmers and get people to eat real food.”
The Grange is in a 112-year-old former post office, located in the hamlet of New Milford, near Warwick’s antique-shop-filled town center. A large chalkboard with the day’s specials greets guests as they walk into the cozy, low-key space. A printed menu lists a substantial cheeseburger, as well as fish and chips approved by my British husband.
The menu also offers a plate of large and lusty onion rings, fried in beer batter, which are worthy of their own paragraph. In a region famous for onion farms (Polish settlers in the region apparently found its soil to be similar to that of their homeland, and commenced with the onion farming, along with the Germans and the Dutch), there could be no better homage to the previous tillers of the peat-rich soil than these.
On our first visit, our table of four shared a smooth chicken liver pâté and a delicate salad of greens, farmers’ cheese and fresh figs, and then squabbled over a dish piled high with tempura garlic scapes. Another appetizer, a miso and egg drop soup — enriched with egg, vegetables and fried won ton skins — was hearty and unforgettable. I swear this soup reached out and hugged me.
Yet, on another visit, my husband patiently chewed his way through the sockeye salmon sashimi salad I had ordered. It was a well-meaning plate, but the fish, however fresh, was lost in a sea of salad and desperate for something salty to bring out its rich flavor. Fumbles such as these were rare and quickly forgotten. Indeed, after I fobbed the salad onto my husband, I hunched protectively over a bowl of homemade capellini, served with dandelion greens in a Parmigiano-Reggiano enriched broth. I may actually have growled at the waiter who tried to take it from me before I could sop up the peppery broth with bread.
On another night, one of my guests tucked into a hanger steak that had spent its earlier existence pastured in the Hudson Valley. Served atop a pile of mashed potatoes, the steak was garnished with disks of cheery yellow summer squash and blue cheese from a nearby dairy farm. The star of the evening, however, was a locally sourced pork chop, where radishes and turnips once again made an appearance, this time roasted and served atop a pile of garlicky basmati rice.
Desserts were homey with quiet, sophisticated touches. A banana split featured brûléed bananas, the shards of which mixed with the homemade vanilla ice cream to produce something magical. A dark chocolate pot de crème, drizzled with local-made cherry cordial, was pudding for grown-ups.
It is my duty as a critic to point out that the skin on my otherwise delicious seared duck breast could have been crispier; that a dish of perch was strong-armed into bland submission by its accompanying bulgur (also: who really goes out to eat bulgur?); and that I should not have to ask for water three times. But in the end we all left content, happy to be out among the fireflies on a summer evening, with bellies full, after an impressive meal.
“It’s just honest-to-goodness food. It’s what food is supposed to be,” Mr. Haurey said of his cooking style.
Like the lowly turnip, it is what you make of it.