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Awards of Distinction Finalist Spotlight: Culinary

Date Published: September 1, 2021

Congratulations to the Culinary Award of Distinction Finalists!

Essie’s Restaurant, Poughkeepsie
Kings Highway Cider Shack at McEnroe Organic Farm, Millerton
Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn, LaGrangeville

The Culinary Award of Distinction recognizes businesses and organizations that provide phenomenal and innovative offerings to visitors and contribute to a “Storied Experience” for travelers coming to Dutchess. Join Dutchess Tourism in celebrating all the honorees at the 8th annual Dutchess Tourism Awards of Distinction on Thursday, November 4, 2021, at Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie. Read more about the event here.

We chatted with Chef Brandon Walker, Owner of Essie’s Restaurant, Kings Highway Fine Cider Owner Tyler Graham, Chef Wade McEnroe at   McEnroe Organic Farm and Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn Co-Owner Kathleen Hynes  to learn more about each finalist.


What about your business/organization inspires you?

Brandon Walker, Essie’s Restaurant: My passion for food and hospitality inspires me. Being able to provide a great experience through food and service which exceeds my customers' expectations keeps me inspired to improve and be better.

Kathleen Hynes, Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn: Inspiration comes from the community Zoe’s finds itself in. I love where I live and where I work.  My customers who support me, bring their friends and family through the doors to enjoy food or ice cream are a large part of my inspiration to always try to improve.  I am immensely grateful to the farmers of Hudson Valley Fresh, who supply me with a supreme product that makes it easy to develop and produce delicious ice cream.  Just as all my local suppliers inspire me with their work ethic to keep growing and learning.

Tyler Graham, Kings Highway Cider Shack: It’s amazing to see the bounty of the Hudson Valley all used in one place. We ferment the apple into delicious, sugar-free alcoholic cider. And McEnroe’s is raising some of the best livestock and produce in the country. You come to the Cider Shack and you can have a local cider, made just down the road, and pair it with a greasy, grass-fed smashburger from cattle that were grazed on the surrounding farm — what more can you ask for? A juicy, farm-raised, organic tomato to top off your burger? We have that, too!

Wade McEnroe, McEnroe Organic Farm: The proper stewardship of the land resources allows us to maintain a compost facility, grow over 70 varieties of vegetables, rotate livestock, and prepare the seasonal offerings into dishes. 

What has this past year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about the resiliency of your business/organization and staff?

Brandon Walker, Essie’s Restaurant: It has taught us that if you consistently provide your community with great food and service that they will support you during the tough times.

Kathleen Hynes, Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn: This past year was not without its challenges. My staff are rockstars, who rolled with the punches and worked tirelessly to make changes that would keep them and our customers safe. We knew early on we would have to be able to turn on a dime and adapt to each and every day so we could continue to serve food and keep everyone safe.

Tyler Graham, Kings Highway Cider Shack: A reduced workforce helped us to consolidate and focus. But to be honest, we can only be so resilient. Like all other businesses, schools, et cetera, we rely on fellow citizens from Dutchess County and all across the country to work together to beat back this virus. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation has made the prospect of running a business much harder than it should be. But by and large, we’ve had almost no problems with our own customers. We’re hoping there will be some lessons learned that the next time something like this happens, society acts in a more community-minded spirit like America has seen with past diseases like smallpox and polio.

Wade McEnroe, McEnroe Organic Farm: The past 18 months have humbled me and made me proud of my staff and business. The business was well-positioned to express gratitude to both the community and first responders. 

What are your hopes for the future of travel in Dutchess County?

Brandon Walker, Essie’s Restaurant: That our visitors will see the diverse culture, food, and artisans that make up the fabric of our county.

Kathleen Hynes, Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn: I hope to see the continued growth of travel to Dutchess County.  I think the agritourism market could continue to grow and educate the public.

Tyler Graham, Kings Highway Cider Shack: It’s incredibly beautiful here in our little tucked away corner of northeast Dutchess County, and we are very encouraged by all the protections of open space and historic farms, and we hope to see those landscapes survive as more and more people discover the beauty of our neck of the woods. It’s great to see all the new businesses coming in and all the energy, and we just hope it continues to be done in a way that preserves what makes Dutchess such an attractive place for people to inhabit and visit.

Wade McEnroe, McEnroe Organic Farm: I’m big on agriculture so I would personally like to see more agritourism.

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