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“The Trump boys love their burgers,"confides Ann Marie Pallan, one of the owners of Dutchess County’s best new restaurant, Monte’s Local Kitchen and Tap Room. Pallan ought to know. She is the fiancé of Robert Trump, Donald’s kid brother.

Pallan’s (nee Monte) family are the former long term owners and managers of the landmark Gurney’s Inn Resort and Spa in Montauk. Before that, they owned the iconic Monte’s Venetian Room in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn from 1906 until it closed in the 1980s. The restaurant business is simply in their blood. The five Monte siblings were enchanted with the small town charm of the area when they came to visit Pallan at her Millbrook home. The old Cozy Corner in Amenia was renovated by Aries Building Company and decorated in a vintage industrial farm chic decor. Monte’s has already earned its name as a top dining destination for those looking for the finest cuisine and service. Monte’s Local Kitchen andMonte’s Health Nut Hut3300 East Main Street, Amenia; monteskitchen.com, monteshealthnuthut.com; 845-789-1818 

But back to the burger. The RST Burger (Trump’s initials) is the best one you will find locally and perhaps nationally. That is all thanks to 2013 CIA graduate and celebrity chef Dafna Mizrahi who is co-owner/executive chef at the Amenia-based farm-to-table establishment.

Mizrahi was the 2014 champion of the Weber Grill’s Big Burger Battle Championship sponsored by Harley- Davidson. She is also the star of a series of Weber grilling videos that you can find at Weber.com.

The nationally renowned chef uses locally-sourced homemade ingredients and even goes so far as to produce the ketchup and mustard herself by hand. Additionally, the meat comes from Miller’s Beef in Pine Plains and the burger is topped with Batch 35 cheese from Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie. Add a side of truffle fries and homemade pickles and you have the perfect meal.

With four CIA trained chefs in the kitchen, including chef de cuisine Colin Perkins, there is simply no downside to visiting Monte’s. The burger is fantastic but don’t stop there. The diverse and innovative menu comes along with unique presentations and unusual flavor couplings. Both gluten free and vegetarian offerings are plentiful and most of the ingredients are organic, sustainable and come from local farms. Each week a different local farm and its produce are featured for the menu. Ann Marie Pallan says operating the restaurant is like “the old days of feeding the people from the neighborhood with food from the family garden.”

Monte’s features a full service bar where you can order from the regular menu. Artisinal beers are on tap, local wines are generously poured, unique cordials are plentiful, and bitters made on premises are featured. After dinner hours are over, there is live music on the weekends and a great karaoke party. Frankly speaking, it is the liveliest spot in Eastern Dutchess County and with Tom Brady moving in next door, you never know who will drop by.

In case you want to bring some of the Monte’s flavor home with you, there are many items for sale in the restaurant such as local wines and maple syrups. The Monte family produces their own line of sauces and condiments that can be purchased but are just too good to be passed off as your own. Brother Angelo, Jr. (Chip to his friends and family) carefully blends the old family secret sauce recipes while Chef Dafna adds her own touch to such items as flavorful pestos. There is even a socko Bloody Mary Mix.

A beautifully appointed two bedroom apartment graces the top floor of the Monte’s building. It is available for guests to rent by the night or longer. With its high ceilings and subtle decor, it would make a great getaway for even locals to enjoy.

As if the Monte family isn’t busy enough, sister Phyllis and her husband John Lomitola have fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening a health food store. Directly next door to Monte’s Local Kitchen is Monte’s Health Nut Hut. Ann Marie Pallan’s daughter Genna is a partner in that business. Although the specialty shop sells many organic and mostly local products, they also serve lunch and breakfast. Says Phyllis, “It would be a shame for 100 years of family hospitality tradition to go down the drain.”

Located adjacent to the Dutchess County Rail Trail, the Health Nut Hut operates the only “Bike Up” window on the trail. Hikers and bikers can simply order and take their to-go drinks and meals with them without having to set foot inside. Salads, homemade soups and sandwiches are all neatly packed for lunches and snacks.

Keeping with the farm-to-table theme, the Health Nut Hut is also stocked with items from Hudson Valley Skin Care, Johanna’s Raw Foods, and Tender Hill Farms just to name a few. Monte’s Local Kitchen products are also featured there. The Health Nut Hut juices its own health drinks and wheatgrass “shots.”

There is even a wheatgrass challenge with a prize. Stop in on Friday and you’ll receive a lovely free cup of tea while you browse. There are weekly specials, lectures, and other events all the time. An upcoming holiday fair is in the works and Chef Dafna will do some live cooking demonstrations using local products.

If all of this sounds good, you better make your trip to Monte’s soon. Chef Dafna Mizrahi will be a contestant on the nationally televised cooking competition show “Chopped” later this month. With her talent in the kitchen, she is sure to catch the eyes of both the judges and foodies from across the country.

Hudson Valley News is published weekly on Wednesdays.

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