Culinary Adventures in the Hudson Valley

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
October 20, 2016 5:44 pm Last Updated: October 20, 2016 7:27 pm

The Hudson Valley’s fertile soil is a blessing for New Yorkers. Its abundant produce makes its way into the city’s farmers markets and restaurant menus, and inspire craftsmen to create all kinds of delicious, artisanal products.

The Culinary Institute of America, the country’s top culinary school, saw the merits of opening a campus right here. The school not only teaches students how to make the best use of local ingredients, but generates talent who often stay in the region to open restaurants or create craft goods.

This hotbed of creativity—in farms, restaurants, and shops all over the region—is open for you to explore, amid gorgeous lush foliage that surely inspires nature-induced contemplation. Just a short drive or train ride away from the city, it will seem like you’ve stepped into a whole other world. It’s this beauty, after all, that inspired a generation of Hudson River School painters to capture it.

The lush greenery on the grounds of Millbrook Vineyards & Winery in Millbrook, N.Y. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
The lush greenery on the grounds of Millbrook Vineyards & Winery in Millbrook, N.Y. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

There’s lots to see and eat in the Hudson Valley region. You’ll get a good head start by tackling our list of foodie and sightseeing spots.

Places to Eat and Drink

Culinary Institute of America 

The country’s best-known culinary school also boasts a gorgeous campus, with its main building facing a tree-lined mountain. Before sitting down to a meal prepared by faculty and students at one of the restaurants on campus, you can take part in a cooking class or tour the school grounds. You’ll get to observe chefs-in-training scurrying to class with backpacks and toiling away in the kitchen on their latest projects. Fun fact: The students take turns cooking meals in the cafeteria and feeding their fellow classmates.

The CIA runs four different restaurants: the farm-to-table American Bounty, the French concept The Bocuse Restaurant, the Tuscan-style Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici, and the casual Apple Pie Bakery Café.

American Bounty makes the best use of ingredients from the student-run garden and nearby farms within 50 miles of the campus. As the Hudson Valley is the only foie gras producing region in the country, it’s worth trying here. Chef and CIA instructor Jason Potanovich tops La Belle Farms foie gras with lychee-raspberry compote and champagne gel to create a velvety, mousse-like terrine with none of the iron flavor sometimes found in foie gras ($15).

Local vegetables, like a dish of heirloom tomatoes seasoned simply with black pepper and olive oil, and paired with sliced red onions, sunchokes, and serrano chilis, make a fantastic appetizer, the different textures and tartness of each tomato apparent with each bite ($12).

Heirloom tomatoes dish. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Heirloom tomatoes dish. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The Local Roasted Squash soup is a warm, spicy blend with ginger cream, flavorful nuts, and king trumpet mushrooms—like the essence of autumn ($9). A starter, the Lamb Ragout, is a hearty dish perfect for the cooler weather, with al dente pasta and delicious lamb sitting in a mellow, smooth reduction ($14).

Meanwhile, an entree of root vegetables and foraged mushrooms (called Roots, Tubers, and Forest Flavors) was like a walk through the forest ($20). Each vegetable’s pure, unadulterated flavor stays on the palate, with just a hint of char to bring out their sweetness.

Dessert is a celebration of local produce too. Lightly savory corn fritters are complemented by tart blackberry sherbet and whipped honey (Sweet Corn Fritter, $10), while a bright lemon meringue tart is tempered with blueberries, thyme, and honey ice cream ($10).

Sweet Corn Fritter dessert. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Sweet Corn Fritter dessert. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Fishkill Farms

Apple-picking is the quintessential fall activity. At Fishkill Farms, you’re welcome to frolic through 270 acres to pick about 20 different varieties of apples (the farm grows a total of 80), as well as flowers and seasonal vegetables in its garden—mostly grown organically or without spray pesticides. On weekends, there are also live musical performances. A bit of local history: The farm was started in 1914 by Henry Morgenthau Jr., the treasury secretary under president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two were good friends before they became politicians. Morgenthau’s grandson operates the farm today.

Sprout Creek Farm

Sprout Creek Farm makes scrumptious cheeses from goats’ and cows’ milk, ranging in flavor and texture, from Margie, a creamy, brie-like cheese made from cows’ milk; to Madeleine, an aged goats’ milk cheese with an intense nuttiness akin to pecorino; to Kinkead, a raw cows’ milk cheese with a fantastic cheddar-like funk, perfect for pairing with crackers. The onsite educational center also raises farm animals including donkeys, guinea hens, pigs, and ducks, making it a favorite for families and school groups.

Crown Maple and Madava Farms

Crown Maple's maple syrup. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Crown Maple’s maple syrup. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Crown Maple, the largest producer of maple syrup in New York state, uses a unique technology to purify its sap, making the syrup more clean-tasting. After the sap is collected through a tubing system from the farm’s 800 acres of maple trees, air is pumped into the liquid so that particles can be skimmed off the surface. The different grades range from the caramel-like amber to the bourbon-barrel-aged dark syrup with a roasted flavor and notes of vanilla.

The farm gives public tours and also has a hiking trail for people to explore.

The Village TeaRoom

In the town of New Paltz, The Village TeaRoom has been serving good tea, small bites, and delectable pastries for over a decade. The quaint, rustic shop has an outdoor patio decorated with plants and a wooden gate. Its expansive menu features set meals served with tea, like the Ploughman’s Lunch, with a meat pie, cheeses, bread, fruit, cornichons, and two piquant condiments—stone-ground mustard and a sharp peach chutney ($16). Don’t forget to check out the pastry counter, which serves sweets like the Honey Bee Cake, an orange chiffon cake with layers of butter and local honey inside, topped with apricot preserves ($6).

Millbrook Vineyards and Winery

Grapes growing on the vine at Millbrook Vineyards and Winery. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Grapes growing on the vine at Millbrook Vineyards and Winery. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The land under Millbrook Vineyards used to be cornfields fertilized by nutrient-rich manure. The grapes grow so abundantly that owner John Dyson had to develop a new growing method that spreads out the leaves to allow them to get enough light. Millbrook is proud of Dyson’s invention, as well as its grape varieties that flourish in cold climates, producing excellent dry white wines. The estate’s rolling hills and spacious tasting rooms overlooking the property make a scenic backdrop for wine tasting.

Babette’s Kitchen

While in the Millbrook area, drop by Babette’s Kitchen, a charming little cafe serving fresh salads and sandwiches made from local produce, as well as delightful pastries. The BLT and buttermilk biscuit sandwiches are incredibly delicious: Thick slabs of applewood-smoked bacon feature in both, the former with homemade mayo on toasted white bread, the latter with a fluffy, warm biscuit made from owner Buffy Arbogast’s grandmother’s recipe. For sweets, you might have a hard time picking between the beautifully flaky hand pies, dense chocolaty brownies, and custardy fruit bars.

Taconic Distillery

Using natural spring water from the nearby Rolling Hills Farm, Taconic Distillery (which also owns the farm) makes bourbon, rye whiskey, and rum with a spicy flavor profile and smooth finish. The owners swear by the high-quality water. Its newly built tasting room offers samples of its large collection of U.S.-made bourbon.

Places to Visit

FDR Presidential Library and Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who grew up in Hyde Park, New York, was the first to establish a presidential library, believing in the value of keeping records. The museum, located on what was once FDR’s estate, paints a vivid picture of the president’s early life and career, as well as the tumultuous times he presided over, including the Great Depression and World War II. It also includes the president’s Oval Office desk on view and an illuminating exhibit on first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her legacy.

The library contains FDR’s private study, from which he held several official fireside chats during his presidency. You can also go on a guided tour of FDR’s personal home.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's private study. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s private study. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Huguenot Historic District

In the late 17th century, a group of French Protestants called the Huguenots fled to the New Paltz area of upstate New York to escape religious persecution in their home country. Later, the descendants decided to preserve their stories by establishing a 10-acre area as a historic landmark. Here, you’ll find architecture dating back to the colonial and Victorian eras, from a humble abode to a wealthy merchant’s two-story house. Artifacts inside give a glimpse into their lives, as well as how the Huguenots’ identities changed as they moved to the New World.

West Point Museum

With four levels of exhibits that trace the history of warfare since the beginning of human civilization, the West Point Museum offers a fascinating experience, even for those who are not military buffs keen on seeing huge collections of weapons (though the museum has plenty of those as well). The museum holds some memorable artifacts, such as a pistol that was gifted to Adolf Hitler, a dummy plug for the atomic bomb that fell over Nagasaki, Japan, and a collection of elaborate ceremonial swords gifted during different conflicts.

You can sign up ahead of time for a tour of the military academy grounds.

Walkway Over the Hudson

A view of the Hudson River atop the Walkway. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
A view of the Hudson River atop the Walkway. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Suspended more than 200 feet above the water, the Walkway Over the Hudson is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world and offers the best views of the Hudson River.


Buttermilk Falls Inn

The picturesque environs of Buttermilk Falls Inn. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
The picturesque environs of Buttermilk Falls Inn. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

This luxury bed-and-breakfast is an idyllic retreat, boasting stunning views of the Hudson River and its surrounding forests, friendly creatures in its animal sanctuary, and delicious farm-to-table fare made with produce grown in its own garden.

Bear Mountain State Park and Inn

Bear Mountain is a popular spot for families to picnic along the banks of pristine Hessian Lake or to hike its forest trails. With varying lengths and levels of difficulty, there’s bound to be a hike suitable for everyone. Afterward, you can head to the lodge-style Bear Mountain Inn to stay the night.

The inn’s Restaurant 1915 serves homey dishes drawing from different culinary traditions. There’s the Stuffed Local Peppers, with local squash, Indian corn, wild rice, farro, and beans in a spicy, smoky tomato sauce topped with cheddar and Monterey Jack ($20); or the House Made Fettuccini, with a zesty basil-sunflower pesto and loads of seafood, brightened by preserved lemon ($25). For dessert, don’t miss the Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet, a decadent dish of hot, melting, fudge-like cookie with caramel and vanilla ice cream to top it all off ($6).