After one year under Clare de Boer, Stissing House surges forward

PINE PLAINS —  Stissing House has remained a centralizing force to the town of Pine Plains in one form or another since its construction in 1782. That’s 241 years of milestones. It reached a new one on Friday, March 10: a full year under the ownership of Clare de Boer.

A James Beard Foundation nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2018, de Boer’s move to take on ownership of Stissing House in 2022 was reported on by the New York Times, Eater, and beyond. Her work there has since born fruit: Stissing House was named a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant 2023 by the James Beard Foundation on Jan. 25. Next to a Michelin star, recognition by the James Beard Foundation is one of the food world’s most prestigious honors. On March 29, the nominees will be announced, and a winner will be decided at a James Beard award ceremony on June 5.

Having earned her chef stripes working at King in Soho, de Boer now splits her time between the city — where she co-owns both an Italian restaurant and a French restaurant — and Dover Plains, where her family spends much of its time. As for what drew her to opening a restaurant in Pine Plains, the answer was unambiguous: “Stissing House. Period. Stissing House is magnetic. It’s a forcefield.”

From 1995 to 2021, the Stissing House operated under a series of owners as a French restaurant, and the journey for de Boer to providing a fresh take on an established and historic mainstay involved taking it back to those historic roots.

“[It was] really about restoring the building to its full potential. It has such brilliant bones, so we didn’t want to change anything that was pre-existing…. So our focus is really on creating a sense of place…. For instance our camel logo came from a doodle that we found in one of the old diaries of someone who had slept upstairs at the inn!

“That’s kind of our approach to food as well. But the bones of our food are the incredible local produce. We work with all of these incredible farms in the area, and we try and keep it simple by using the wood oven and wood-fired grill. We’re kind of locked on all sides by farms, and we want to celebrate that…. Just do simple, country American style cooking.”

That first full year of operation, however, was not without difficulties for Stissing House. Though jobs filled in restaurants have now surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels, in April 2022, restaurants were staffed at 6.4% below the 2019 norm. This staffing shortage was met by both a surge in demand — during many of the months of 2022, levels of dining out exceeded pre-pandemic levels — and record inflation. Though this kind of industry-wide difficulty was impossible to avoid, de Boer credited her team for much of the success in navigating it.

“The headline is truly the team. I’ve been so lucky to find these people that are really doing all of the hard work day to day to make Stissing House what it is. My chef de cuisine, Roel Alcudia…. and my general manager Nathan Rawlinson…. they’re wonderful. It takes good people to attract and retain good people. Unless you’ve got awesome leaders, you have nothing, and I really think that we’ve got the best of the best.”

As for what keeps de Boer tethered to her work both as a chef and business owner amid the busyness and chaos of life, the answer is simple: “People and produce. I’m in constant contact with my team, and love working with them. And I love being in the restaurant, chatting to all of our customers and our regulars. There’s a real sense of community around it.

“And then as it comes to food, you can never really get bored of it—because when you do, the next season arrives. Obviously, right now it’s March and I’m very bored of kale and potatoes. But just as you lose interest, the ground thaws and you’ve got peas and rhubarb, and it starts all over again…. I love how food ties into life, how it can make us all feel, and bring people together.”

Whether or not Stissing House takes home an award in June, for de Boer, the future of the restaurant is one full of potential and challenges.

“There’s just so much room to grow with that building. There’re rooms to feast in upstairs, there’s a room for us to open a bakery, there’s a huge garden that we haven’t even begun to landscape! I think we’re just at the very beginning of our journey.”

The Stissing House team, from left: Katie Pearce, Clare de Boer, Jose Rameirez, Roel Alcudia, Nathan Rawlinson and Amanda Beverly. Photo by Gabriel Zimmer

The Stissing House in Pine Plains. Photo by John Coston

A bustling Thursday night Photo by Elias Sorich

The Stissing House team, from left: Katie Pearce, Clare de Boer, Jose Rameirez, Roel Alcudia, Nathan Rawlinson and Amanda Beverly. Photo by Gabriel Zimmer

Latest News

Books & Blooms returns for ninth year

Four distinctive Cornwall gardens will be open for self-guided tours Saturday, June 22.

Photo Provided

On Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22, the ninth annual Books & Blooms event will take place, benefiting the Cornwall Library. This two-day garden-related event has become a cherished highlight, offering an enriching experience for garden enthusiasts and art lovers alike.

Friday evening will begin at 6 p.m. with a presentation by Ann Temkin, the distinguished Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Temkin will explore the deep connection between Claude Monet’s passion for gardening and his renowned paintings of water lilies. Her talk will reveal how Monet’s extensive gardens at Giverny were not just a source of inspiration but a vital part of his artistic process. Despite the current acclaim of the water lilies series, they were initially met with significant criticism in the early 20th century. Temkin will discuss the transformation in public perception that eventually led to their recognition as pioneering works of 20th century art.

Keep ReadingShow less
‘Old Glory’ finds new home for Flag Day

North Canaan Elementary School students applaud as the flag reaches the peak of a new 35-foot flagpole.

Riley Klein

NORTH CANAAN — Students of North Canaan Elementary School gathered at Sam Eddy Field Wednesday, June 12, to witness the stars and stripes hoisted high on a newly installed flagpole.

Celebrated two days early due to school ending, the Flag Day ceremony took place on a pristine spring morning. Patriotism was palpable as the students sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag” beneath a clear blue sky.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy at The Playhouse

The Sharon Playhouse honors Bobbie Olsen at its annual Spotlight Gala.

Justin Boccitto

The Annual Sharon Playhouse Spotlight Gala cast their theater light upon a worthy honoree this year: Bobbie Olsen, Bobbie Olsen, former president of The Playhouse board and namesake of a well-known location, The Bobbie Olsen Theatre, where residents pack the seats each summer to see the mainstage production plays and musicals. Held on Saturday, June 1, the dinner, cocktail, and musical review at the Olsen Theatre was a celebration of all she has contributed to keeping live theater active and alive in Sharon, even in the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bobbie Olsen is an incredible supporter of not just this theater, but this community,” said Sharon Playhouse Artistic Director Carl Andress. “She supports the Sharon Playhouse in her leadership, and in the beauty of her person-hood. We’re just so grateful that she’s been in our lives and that she continues to be such a good friend to the theater, Sharon Playhouse, and the theater in general.”

Keep ReadingShow less
NWCT Arts Council: Arts Connected

Matica Circus duo from Harwinton, Connecticut performing at NWCT ARTS Connected event in May

Jennifer Almquist

The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council (NWCT Arts) recently held Arts Connected, their first fundraiser, at the Spring Hill Vineyard in Washington, Connecticut. The evening celebration, a combination of Fellini movie, carnival, and Renaissance Fair, featured an aerialist from Matica Circus in Harwinton, and a flame and flow performer out in the courtyard under the stars. Momix, based in Washington Connecticut, under the artistic direction of founders Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn, also performed. Two dancers wore Jeff Koons-style inflated red dog suits, and Momix dancer Jared Bogart wafted through the space wearing an immense, two-stories tall silk fan. Persian calligraphic painter Alibaba Awrang created a community work of art, while Ameen Mokdad, a violinist from Iraq, made music with Hartford’s Cuatro Puntos Ensemble. A young musician, Adelaide Punkin, performed an original song from the balcony of the vast space, while a giant puppet from Sova Dance and Puppet waltzed through the festivities. DJ Arvolyn Hill from Kent spun the tunes, an African drum circle set the rhythm, and there was abundant food and drink for the gathered crowd.

Keep ReadingShow less