Hudson Valley, NY

July 2018

Hudson Valley, New York

Kevin has had this destination on his radar since the Bourdain episode featuring the diversity of Hudson Valley, so it was an easy choice for his birthday weekend. We spent a large portion of our time leading up to this weekend planning our Galapagos trip, so we kept it simple. Since Hudson Valley is huge, we decided to focus on one area to keep planning manageable with a short time frame. Hyde Park is home to President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Culinary Institute of America, and centrally located for hiking, brewing, and gourmet food- perfect for a weekend getaway.

Thursday

We drove just over two hours after work to make it up to our Airbnb located in the middle of Hyde Park right on the Hudson River. The photos online promised sweeping views of the water so once we got settled inside, we turned the lights off (to eliminate reflections on the floor to ceiling windows) and the view was stunning! The sun was just shy of setting so only a little light highlighted the mountains and the water in front of us. We went to sleep excited for the full view in the morning.

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Friday

What a morning view!

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We could get used to this. Airbnb has been a great way to experience these hidden gems around the world. There are not many places that are actually on the river so this is definitely one of the most unique Airbnb options in the area.

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Healthy breakfast options are slim around this area. There are fast food options, a diner, and a bakery five minutes from our Airbnb- Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall.

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Greeted with a friendly smile and a Philadelphia Eagles hat, we knew we picked the right breakfast spot. The inside resembled a tea time decor with floral wallpaper, floral centerpieces, and old photos on the walls.

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The smell is incredible as all the treats are made in house each morning. I ordered a bacon, tomato and swiss quiche and Kevin got an egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich on a roll along with coffee- the perfect start to fuel our morning.

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Since today was the best predicted weather day, we prioritize our outdoor activity- hiking the Catskills. There are numerous trails to choose from and decided on the popular Kaaterskill Falls. About an hour away, this 2.6 mile hike offered challenging inclines and rewards hikers with one of the highest waterfalls in New York. We arrived at the parking lot around 9AM before the crowds and the heat.

The parking lot is just passed the trailhead and proved to be one of the more dangerous parts of the hike. There is no walkway from the parking lot to the trail head and it is at a point in the highway where car visibility is low due to winding roads. Be very careful!

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This hike, while shorter than most, is almost entirely uphill on rocks, not a path, and there are multiple signs warning hikers that veering off the trail has resulted in numerous deaths. A serious message to hikers, especially if the rocks are wet or proper footwear (flip flops or other unsecure options) is not worn.

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After a solid cardio boost and thigh workout, we reached the lower trail end at the bottom of the lower waterfall as the water trickled down in the sunlight.

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The upper trail began with over 100 stairs at the bottom of the upper waterfall where a small pond met the raining water from atop the cliff above us.

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The upper trail continues higher to a landing at the top where the waterfall originates with a sweeping view of the valley surrounding Kaaterskills waterfall.

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The hike took us about two hours to complete, just as the trail was beginning to get crowded and the temperature climbed into the 80s. We stopped by the Airbnb to shower and get ready to explore the rest of the day, still unable to get enough of this view.

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Kevin had many breweries on his list and first up was Hyde Park Brewing ten minutes from our place. He really enjoyed the options here- the summer lager was his favorite of the trip. With a full menu, it was hard to refuse lunch after burning so many calories on the hike.

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  • Drunken Turkey (left)- bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, (an enormous amount of) turkey, and cranberry aioli, on a toasted brioche bun
  • Garlic parmesan french fries (left) with a garlic aioli dipping sauce (cause there is never too much garlic!)
  • Beef on Weck (right)- warm sliced top round of beef with horseradish sauce and aju dipping sauce on salted caraway brioche bun
  • Sweet potato fries (right) with a honey mustard dipping sauce

The food here was great- we could not get enough of the garlic parmesan fries! The cranberry aioli was the perfect sauce for the turkey sandwich, which was over stuffed with two inches of turkey, and Kevin was loving the horseradish kick. Needless to say, we left here completely stuffed.

On our ride up to Hyde Park the night before, we passed massive Hogwarts looking buildings that we identified as the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Immediately enamored, we searched online to see how we could visit the campus without aimlessly walking around. The CIA offers tours for the public every week day at 4PM with reservations and we were able to call this morning for a spot.

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Arriving to CIA around 3PM, we found the visitor parking deck and made our way up the stairs to the Roth Building which sits elevated to the rest of the campus regally surrounded by fountains, floral arrangements, gazebos, shrubbery, and a pineapple sculpture. What is the pineapple about?

Walking through the doors, the hospitality office is on the right (for check in) and a massive gift shop is on the left, which we browsed first. With time to spare, the Apple Pie Bakery was the first food sighting on campus.

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We popped in for a snack and found is quite difficult to make a decision. The donut of the day? One of the many pastries? The artfully crafted gourmet options? Yes, that one worked.

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  • Milk and Cookies- brownie bits, sweetened condensed milk, Chantilly (fancy whipped cream), brown butter pastry cream housed inside an edible chocolate “glass” with macaroon cookies inside

No words- what a fantastic dessert. Our first spoon full grabbed a bit of the condensed milk and a macaroon cookie. The second spoonful grabbed the brown butter pastry cream. The third spoonful grabbed the brownie bits. The final spoonfuls had all three elements combined to make a wonderful dessert. The fun part was breaking the chocolate “glass” without making a mess – the chocolate was covered in thick blue edible powder. We managed to keep the bright blue to our fingertips which we quickly washed off before starting our tour.

A large group was gathered at the entrance while CIA students introduced themselves. To our delight, the large group separated into smaller segments with each student and rotated around the tour sights. It was a relief to be in a smaller, more manageable group of six than a group of forty!

Our CIA student led us around to one of many restaurants on property, Booce, where students perfect their technical skills with many table side presentations to guests. We then walked by several teaching kitchens, one dedicated to Apple Pie Bakery, before being shown the dining hall. I think this is as close to Hogwarts’ Great Hall as it gets! Students prepare the food in one of the classes and the prepared food gets served in one of several areas on the campus- a great way to limit food waste in these teaching kitchens but even better, a great meal for everyone. Quite a delicious perk! We learned about the other CIA restaurants, including American Bounty, Caterina de Medici, Post Road Brew House, and more. Our group had many questions about enrollment, curriculum, experiences, concentrations, post graduation opportunities, and our CIA student was generous about answering every one… including my question about the pineapple! Turns out it is a symbol for CIA because a pineapple represents hospitality.

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With a few hours before our dinner reservation, we decided to hit another brewery in nearby Poughkeepsie- Hudson Ale Works. Refraining from food to avoid spoiling our dinner appetite, Kevin got a beer and we played 90s trivia cards, which proved slightly more challenging than we expected (though Kevin’s knowledge of boy bands was impressive!).

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Our 8PM reservation was for American Bounty, the farm to table dining experience at CIA. Still arriving a smidge early, we walked around the campus and found a bench to watch the sun begin to set. I know these students work very hard, but there were certainly perks of attending this school.

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After checking in for our reservations, we were seated and given an iPad for the beverage options- a fun way to pick out our bottle of wine for the evening!

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With the menu focusing on New York producers, we chose a dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank (top left).

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  • Duck Fat Biscuits (top right) Fermented Apple Sauce, Pecan-Duck Butter, Country Ham, Strawberry Jam, Sorghum
    • I could have used ten more biscuits to sop up all the dipping options since I had to resort to my knife scooping it into my mouth
  • Smoked Pig’s Head (middle left) Succotash, Mustard Root Purée
    • Yep, roast a pigs head and press it to make a foie gras like dish
  • Steelhead “Wellington” (middle right)- Mushroom, Cabbage, Local Potatoes, Shellfish-Mushroom Reduction
    • A salmon like fish prepared like a traditional beef wellington wrapped up with cabbage
  • Sea Scallops (middle middle) Truffled Creamed Corn, Bok Choy, Chanterelle Mushrooms
    • Oh that creamed corn! Scallops were a large size and pan fried very well.
  • Chocolate Tart with Tea Ice Cream, Apricot, Dulce (bottom left)
    • Little truffle chocolate balls of amazing
  • Lemon-Blueberry Napoleon with Crispy Phyllo, Local Wildflower-Honey Ice Cream (bottom middle)
    • A balanced combination of super tart parts and super sweet parts

Stuffed and satisfied, we left CIA very happy with the time we spent exploring the campus, learning about the program, and experiencing immersive dining.

Saturday

Another early morning with the sun sparkling on the river, we made our way to Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall for a breakfast of oatmeal and freshly made croissants- yes the place smelled absolteuly incredible.

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Our first stop this morning was at the Franklin D Roosevelt campus.

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We opted out of the FDR house tour and instead focused on the museum. There was a twenty minute orientation video highlighting the life of FDR and his accomplishments. Not knowing what the expect out of this museum, we were blown away just walking through the door. This was going to be an in depth exploration of Kevin’s favorite time period- the years leading to and around World War II.

First, we walked through the special exhibit which displayed artwork posters from WWII with an hour long video that consumed our attention before even entering the museum itself.

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The museum starts with the Great Depression era and follows FDR through all four elections in an interactive and informative manner. Period videos, graphics, comparisons, and explanations covered the walls from floor to ceiling with the progression of this time… on two floors! Needless to say we spent way more time here than we expected!

At almost 2PM, lunch decision was critical- our dinner reservations were at 7PM and we did not want to over book our stomachs. A light snack would suffice. Kevin found a beer and cheese place in Rhinebeck near our dinner reservations, so we planned on spending the rest of the day there.

Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Market showcased a variety of beers by the can or on tap along with cheeses of the day and homemade pretzels. We opted for three cheeses – cheddar, truffle cheese, and aged gouda- and Kevin got a glass of kolsch beer as we sat and watched the Red Socks baseball game. This was a perfect snack to hold us over until our dinner.

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We walked around, grabbing ice cream at Village Pizza of Rhinebeck that serves Jane’s locally made ice cream.

It was 3PM and we already circled the downtown area, though to be fair we did not go into any stores since we are not big shoppers. Kevin found Upstate Films, a small scale theatre playing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” at 3:30PM- a perfect idea to spend an hour and a half. It just felt silly to go back the Hyde Park with dinner being in Rhinebeck.

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Aside from wishing I brought my makeup to fix my puffy red eyes, the film was poignant and well produced. I won’t review the film but everyone should go see it.

It had downpoured while we were in the theatre so we grabbed our trusty rain jackets before heading into Old Mill Wine and Spirit for a free wine tasting. The owner was pouring a red and a white wine from Burgundy- the white being a Sauvignon blanc from Chabils which we really enjoyed and bought a bottle. We didn’t know Chabils grew other grapes besides Chardonnay! Learning new things.

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Across the street a pronounced building caught our eye as we noticed many people snapping photos. With a closer look, we noticed it was the oldest inn in America! The Beekman Arms Inn was opened in 1766 attaching itself to the tavern established in 1704. While we did not see inside, it was clear that this inn retains much of its colonial roots.

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Finally, we were ready for our dinner at The Amsterdam. The open kitchen, the menu, and the vibe all reminded us of Brick Farm Tavern back at home so we were very excited to embark on this meal.

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To keep our options open, we opted for singular orders of beverages. I ordered a glass of the Malvasia from Italy and Kevin started with the Dunkel from one of his favorites, Von Trapp, and finished with a glass of Barbera d’Alba.

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The restaurant is known for their extensive charcuterie boards, so we ordered the charcuterie and cheese assortment to avoid making any ‘tough’ decisions as everything sounded great. Our board included the following:

  • Duck and pork pate (paired with green peppercorn)
  • House smoked ham (pared with pickled mustard seeds)
  • Chicken liver mousse (paired with red onion compote)
  • Foie Torcon (paired with hazelnut, rhubarb compote)
  • Fresco- pasteurized cow’s milk, McGrath Cheese Co NY (paired with
  • Bogart- raw cow’s milk, Sprout Creek Farm NY (paired with
  • Bayley Hazen- raw cow’s milk, Jasper Hill Farm VT

This was definitely one of the most intense spreads we have had. For cheese, our favorite was the Bayley Hazen as it had a thin layer of blue cheese that provided the funk we love about good cheese. The meats had us giddy- the foie gras was perfect and the chicken liver mousse was smokey and so flavorful- could have easily had more of both of these. We were so excited to our entrees!

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  • Kevin ordered the scallop dish with saffron risotto and piquillos peppers (top left) and the the Chess pie with Chantilly (fancy whipped cream), honey, vanilla, and berries (bottom right)
  • I ordered the homemade potato gnocchi with sweet corn, chanterelles mushrooms, and bacon (top right) and the chocolate coulant (fancy chocolate lava cake) with spiced nuts and salted caramel ice cream (bottom left)

Ironically, we both loved our dishes and were glad we didn’t order each others! I am still not quite sure why Kevin was not a fan of the gnocchi cause it was so flavorful and I did not like the risotto due to the high concentration of peppers. The gnocchi was swimming around mushrooms, bacon, and corn in a sea of olive oil favored by the combined ingredients. For me, it was a perfect combination of flavors for a rich dish. And the portions of both dishes were very generous! We were both stuffed but could not turn away dessert, which were both delightfully delicious.

It was thunderstorming on our way out of the Amsterdam (yay rain jackets!) and we could not wait to get back to the Airbnb to watch the storm passed. As we made our way through flash flooding, we entered the house, kept the lights off, and just sat and watched the night light up with blasts of lightning and rolling thunder.

Sunday

Our final morning with Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall! Kevin decided to combine both previous breakfasts by having a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a croissant and I got the mushroom and swiss quiche. Waving bye to our new friends, we packed up our things and headed out for our last day.

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Just ten minutes away is the Vanderbilt Mansion located next to the FDR estate. The entrance is a long winding road guiding visitors through massive trees leading to a clearing where the mansion displayed.

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The only way to see inside is on a tour but the grounds are open to the public (it is a national park). We had enough time before our tour time to visit the gardens on this grey morning, which ending up portraying an eeriness to the vacant garden.

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After hearing the history of the Vanderbilt family and the establishment of the mansion, we were led through the front door. As if we were transported across the Atlantic Ocean and took a step back in time, every inch of the floor, walls, and ceilings were covered in elaborate marble, tapestries, sculptures, and more. A Medici palace in the middle of New York State. We were guided through three floors of pure gaudy wealth inspired by European royalty. This mansion is the most modest of the Vanderbilt properties and also the most persevered to its original furnishings.

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As we drove through the property, we noticed the numerous trails around the mansion that many people, especially runners, were taking advantage of. Knowing what a Sunday drive home could look like, we decided not to join them and instead head south.

One brewery Kevin has been talking about hitting is Equilibrium Brewery in the southern portion of New York State. Releasing beer since Thursday, there was concern of a large crowd and limited supply on a Sunday. As we drove through downtown of Middletown and approached the brewery parking lot, there was no massive line of people (or rather, no people at all) and the next door brewpub Tapped also had a lot of room. Even though one of the beer offerings was no longer available, Kevin still took home three varieties. We were not expecting this transaction to occur so quickly! Still full from breakfast, we decided to opt out and continue south home.

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I know we barely scratched the surface of the opportunities in the HUdson Valley area and this snapshot definitely validated that. Catskills extends quite far and hiking trails can be found throughout. There is a growing food an beverage focus that is focused on highlighting all the valley has to offer. Nearby mountains offer activities all year round from skiing to zip lining. I would love to visit in the fall to see the leaves change along the river. We are definitely looking forward to a return trip to Hudson Valley perhaps to explore a new region or revisit our new favorites.

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Day Time Activity Food
Thursday Night Drive to Airbnb
Friday Morning Kaaterskill Falls Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall
Afternoon CIA Hyde Park Brewing

Hudson Ale Works

Evening American Bounty
Saturday Morning FDR Museum Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall
Afternoon Rhinebeck Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Market
Evening The Amsterdam
Sunday Morning Vanderbilt Mansion Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall
Afternoon Equilibrium Brewing

 

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