“I’ve been obsessed with food since I was four years old,” says Jodi Cummings, chef/owner of Caffe Macchiato in Newburgh’s trending Liberty Street corridor. “I was born here in Newburgh and grew up in Marlboro, surrounded by apples and Concord grapes. My best friend Karen lived on Quimby Farms, and I grew up infatuated with farms and animals and beautiful fruit.
People thought it was funny, because Karen was so absolutely not into it, but to me it was always, ‘Wow! There’s food right there to pick!’ I grew up eating farm-to-table and learned early about specialty shopping for the best fresh, local stuff. It’s always been my conviction that that’s how food should be.”
A cozy European-style cafe on Liberty Street, where guests will find a seasonally inspired menu.
Despite her early obsession, Jodi first attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and lived “all over the Northeast” for a while. It was while taking a break from fashion that she tried her hand at waiting tables, graduated to bartending and management, and found that her passion for food came roaring back. “I embraced restaurant work wholeheartedly and did very well; I was a great server. I loved overseeing someone’s dinner and their experience. I’ve always just loved eating out—the colors, the tastes, the smells. I have absolute empathy with what a guest is hoping to experience.”
Her love of cooking and knack for it led her to take the next step. “I had a ‘What am I really doing with my life?’ moment at 40 and enrolled in the Culinary Institute,” she says. “It was the best decision I ever made. I’d always been a Culinary groupie; I brought my experience and they gave me an even stronger foundation. I loved attending school there, and when I opened Caffe Macchiato in ‘06, I was able to hit the ground running, focused and passionate.” Working as a chef at Glynwood—the iconic Cold Spring not-for-profit dedicated to regenerative agriculture and fine cuisine—brought together her love of the farm and her passion for the kitchen.
It also taught her a great deal about what eating farm-to-table is really about. “The official ‘organic’ label is not the important factor, and in some cases
“My philosophy is that everyone who can afford to have someone cook for them once in a while should get the very best, served with a warm welcome.”
it can even be deceptive,” she says. “It’s a marketing term. I rely on local; your local farmer is a better bet for fresh and healthy than something labeled ‘organic’ from a supermarket that was shipped in from a factory.” All of that experience and education comes together at the cozy European-style cafe on Liberty Street, where guests will find a seasonally inspired, frequently refreshed menu and a staff with a collective 50 years of restaurant experience.
Whether you’re after a hearty weekend brunch, a cappuccino and a croissant, or an early fix of huevos rancheros, Jodi and her crew will tend to your every whim. “I’m fanatical about customer service and hospitality,” she says. “It’s not just the food, it’s the experience.
My philosophy, one of them anyway, is that everyone who can afford to have someone cook for them once in a while should get the very best, served with a warm welcome.”Both the service and the food live up to the stellar online reviews. Jodi knows where to find the best ingre dients in the whole bountiful Valley, and spares no effort in retrieving them. “My menu changes all the time; about 40 percent stays the same,” she says. “I’m a very seasonal cook: warm soups on a chilly day, cool salads in the summer heat. I tend to steer toward bright, distinctive flavors. I get the most beautiful bacon, local fresh brown eggs, bread from Bread Alone. I love Asian-style housemade dressings. Hudson Valley Magazine readers named us the best avocado toast around—my avocado toast apparently has a cult following.”
“I grew up eating farm-to-table and learned early about specialty shopping for the best fresh, local stuff. It’s always been my conviction that that’s how food should be.”
As a local, she’s proud to have created a landmark that’s part and parcel of the city’s revitalization. “There’s still some stigma to Newburgh among those who don’t know what we’re doing here,” she says. “But more and more are discovering us, and people who are from New York City—and we get a lot—don’t turn a hair, they just enjoy. I’d like to see city government get more hands-on. I meet with the city manager regularly. I’d like to see a ‘Have you been to Newburgh lately?’ tourism campaign.” When a tornado struck Liberty Street last spring, Jodi helped spearhead an epic neighborhood cookout, breaking out the shrimp, oysters, and gourmet goodies for the whole community to feast on during cleanup.
“We get a lovely cross section,” she says of her guests. “Manhattan transplants, locals from Newburgh, people who travel from all over the Hudson Valley for brunch. There’s typically a line out the door for brunch on weekends, full of people from Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, Goshen.... The fact that people would leave Beacon and come over here is wonderful to me. Being a Newburgh destination, we may have to work a little harder, but I love amazing people. Green drinks, for example. People taste mine and they’re shocked. ‘This is delicious! It’s like a great cocktail without the vodka!’ I want them excited to come here. I want them to leave thinking about how soon they want to come back.”
As owner, Jodi keeps a firm hand on all aspects of the Caffe’s affairs, from accounting to social media and beyond, and finds her bliss in the daily rhythms of cooking and hospitality. “Baking for a few hours in the morning is my meditation,” she says. “I don’t follow food trends; I follow my own instincts and what the customers want, find out what they love and go in that direction to keep it fun. A lot of restaurants don’t really have that luxury; they’re locked into a particular cuisine or description—Italian, gastropub, whatever. The Caffe is whatever I decide it is, and I couldn’t be happier when someone’s pleased. At the end of the day, I’m an artist, and food is my medium.”
“At the end of the day, I’m an artist, and food is my medium.” - Jodi Cummings, chef/owner
99 Liberty Street, Newburgh