Dutchess County, New York, is part of the Hudson Valley. In one single county, you’ll find all types of cultures: historic, scenic outdoors, indie artists, foodie, horsey set and “beautiful people.” This is the land where FDR lived and where Chelsea Clinton got married.
Mural in the artsy town of Beacon, NY.
What to do. Pete Seeger used to live in the city of Beacon, which gives you an idea of the flavor of the town. It had gone into industrial decay until, as the story goes, an architect flying over the Hudson River in a helicopter saw a former Nabisco plant as being the perfect place for a modern art museum.
Dia: Beacon, with artist Robert Irwin as a founder, houses art that because of its scale or size can’t readily be displayed in traditional galleries. With the museum’s opening in 2003, the town came back to life like a desert flower in the rain.
Beacon houses ethnic restaurants, vintage stores and Hudson Beach Glass. Not only can you see art glass being created, take classes and purchase elegant, one-of-a-kind items there, the employees are also a fount of local knowledge.
The National Park Service operates a free shuttle to historic FDR sites in Hyde Park.
With a renewed interest in FDR following the new Hyde Park on Hudson movie starring Bill Murray, it’s a great time to visit the Roosevelt historical sites, including Top Cottage. This quaint property with amazing views was FDR’s private retreat where he invited King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to stay. Wilderstein is where FDR’s distant cousin/ “close confidant” Daisy Suckley lived down the hill. It has free walking trails studded with large scale modern sculptures.
With just a couple of dollars in your pocket, during daylight hours you can help yourself to raw milk at Shunpike Dairy in Millbrook. They’re on the honor system!
Taste and buy locally made wines at Millbrook Winery. Owner John Dyson loves wine and he sure loves New York: not only was he a Deputy Mayor of NYC under Rudy Guiliani, he was the Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Commerce and Chairman of the New York Power Authority. He also developed the "I Love NY" advertising campaign for the state. Dyson owns vineyards in Tuscany and California, which help make up his award-winning wines and olive oil.
Maple syrup has now gone artisan at Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Thanks to a successful venture capitalist’s gorgeous property, organic maple syrup is now collected and made to exacting standards on site. Chefs at the snack bar come from the Culinary Institute of America. Their head of sales was the sommelier at Per Se, widely hailed as the finest restaurant in the country.
Where to eat. At the intersection of what was the King’s Highway/Old Albany Post Road and the Sepasco Trail – used by many New Englanders to arrive from bordering Connecticut to settle the New York wilderness – is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the country, The Beekman Arms(top). Enjoy the chic yet historic atmosphere where Chelsea Clinton married, on a budget: take pictures of yourself on the stately porch and then head back to the tavern. The local hard cider cocktails are rimmed with cinnamon sugar.
Many of the recipes at Gigi’s Trattoria in Rhinebeck are from owner/cookbook author/dietitian Laura Pensiero's Hudson Valley Mediterranean. The place is wildly popular with both visitors and locals for good reason. A bounty of local farms is featured in almost every menu item, but cooked in an authentic Italian manner. The bistecca is definitely not to be missed: grilled 14 oz rib-eye steak, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, Tuscan fries and Gigi salsa verde. The steakhouse-quality cut is beautifully aromatic, garnished with lots of whole sage leaves and rosemary.
Fancy a spot of fancy tea? Harney & Sons blends teas used at many of the world’s most luxurious hotels and restaurants. They also have a tea room in Millerton, based in a vintage farmhouse building. Whether you got to the tasting bar – like at a winery – or their lunch room, you can pick from hundreds of rare tea styles. After tea, check out the antique stores, vintage clothiers and family department store that seems to be fading from the American landscape.
On the Hudson.
Will you eat the food of the next celebrity chef? You just might at Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America, which boast grads like Anthony Bourdain, John Besh, Michael Symon, Roy Yamaguchi – of Roy’s fame – as well as Cat Cora, Charlie Palmer, Grant Achatz and others.
There are several restaurants on site, with different levels of formality and cuisine, including a bakery, an Italian dinner spot and a new formal French restaurant, Bocuse, that will be incorporating molecular gastronomy in its techniques.