A Travellerspoint blog

March 2017

The Hudson Valley, Pt 1: City Mouse and Country House

Day 1: Bourbon, Bombs, and Butterballs

This past October marked our third visit to the Hudson Valley. We'd made it through two prior visits without being savaged by bears or attacked by rabid raccoons. We'd survived a 22 35 48 mile bike ride and the indignity of bike helmets. And although we'd had some close calls, we'd never actually been confronted by a jackalope. Overall, I was feeling pretty confident that this whole weekend-in-the-country thing wasn't so bad after all.

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That's because I am the type of person who loves the idea of salt-of-the-earth activities like hiking, camping, and taking in the charms of small-town America. I dream of holing up in a country cabin with no electricity or running water, at one with Mother Nature. I am enamored with travel experiences that harken back to a simpler, more carefree time when the pace was slower, our lives less complicated. But when these ideas become reality and I am faced with things like sleeping bags, beef jerky, towns with the word "turkey," "pigeon," or "goose" in the name, fishing villages that actually smell like fish, or any house without an ironing board, I flinch. (Angel jumps in the car, locks all the doors, and leaves skid marks.)

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The truth is, Angel and I like our "country" experiences to include artisanal cocktails, cashmere wraps, and refurbished farmhouses with heated floors and high-thread-count bed sheets. And we have found the perfect compromise in upstate New York's Hudson Valley: The area is quaint, charming, and bucolic, but with enough expat Manhattanites around to ensure that the whiskey in our drinks might be homemade, but by someone who first made $10 million on Wall Street so he could end up on a farm wearing steel-toed boots and overalls ironically.

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Our first stop on the drive north was at Buttermilk Falls Inn in Milton, NY, which is home to the 40-acre Millstone Farm. As usual, the GPS did a bang-up job of getting us to our destination.

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After beating my head against the dashboard a few times, we finally found the place, and we both agreed it had been worth the detour.

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At least we found the place faster than this guy, who never even made it past the parking lot.

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Millstone Farm produces nearly all of the fresh greens, organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, and eggs used at the Inn's restaurant, Henry's at the Farm, and if all of this is not farm-to-table enough for you, then you are just going to have to milk your own cows next time.

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We settled in at a table overlooking the lake and took in the lovely surroundings.

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We both agreed that we couldn't pass up the day's special cocktail, dubbed the "Apple Butter Bourbon Ball," which is made with Maker's Mark Bourbon, a touch of Pastis, real maple syrup, and Millstone Farm's own ginger-gold apple butter, then topped off with a locally-made sparkling hard cider.

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The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue even before you've finished one, and so Angel and I referred to it as the "Apple Bourbon Butterball Turkey Bomb," as well as other various combinations of those five words.

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For lunch, we enjoyed a creamy mascarpone and butternut squash soup studded with dried cranberries and garnished with fried sage, followed by a yummy flatbread with roasted Millstone Farm veggies and the decadent lobster mac & cheese.

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And homemade chocolate chip cookies with a glass of cold milk for dunking.

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The property at Buttermilk Falls is expansive, encompassing not just the restaurant, but also an inn, several freestanding cottages, a spa, a barn for weddings, numerous ponds and waterfalls, and the farm itself, which includes an aviary, an apiary, donkeys, and llamas.

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On this particular day they were setting up for a wedding, but apparently no one informed the geese, and so this poor guy was given the impossible task of chasing them away. You know how a toddler in a high chair likes to fling things off the tray, watch you pick it up, then immediately knock it to the floor again? That was this guy with the geese.

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We decided the explore the grounds, taking in the lovely views and emerging fall color.

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We continued walking off our lunch by heading over to the goat and llama barn, which also included one very friendly donkey.

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Before we knew it, it was time to check in at the house we'd rented for the weekend. As we'd done the year before, we chose "Creekside Manor," as we'd taken to calling it, as our home base.

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Situated on four wooded acres at the end of a dirt road in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it village of Red Hook, Creekside Manor put us within easy driving distance of our favorite Hudson Valley towns, yet far enough from civilization to go au naturel in the hot tub if we felt like it.

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When Esquire magazine names a bar in tiny Kingston, NY, one of "The Best Bars in America," you know you have to give it a try. And so, after settling in at the house and unpacking a bit, we gussied ourselves up, then set off for the Stockade Tavern, a Prohibition-style speakeasy located in a lovingly restored, 1880s-era sewing machine factory.

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It was the wrong night for quiet sophistication: A music festival was in town and the bar was loud and crowded . . . with all sorts of folks.

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Luckily, however, Angel managed to snag us a table for two near the front, insulating us from the scrum near the band.

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I kept things simple with one of my favorite cocktails, a gimlet (this one made with Brooklyn's own Greenhook Gin), while Angel decided to try the Over the River, made with bell pepper-infused tequila, fresh lime, and green chartreuse, a French liqueur that's been made by Carthusian Monks since the 1700s.

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Both drinks were delicious, and it would have been nice to have another, but our dinner reservations beckoned. And so we made the short walk over to Boitson's, a lively bistro and bar specializing in comfort classics like meatloaf, fried chicken, and prime rib.

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How Boitson's came to be is one of those only-in-New-York stories: The owner, Maria Philippis, named the place for her former Brooklyn landlord, Alexander Boitson, a Ukrainian-American World War II veteran whom she'd befriended. They kept in touch over the years, even after Ms. Philippis moved to the Hudson Valley, and when Mr. Boitson died in 2007, he showed his fondness for Ms. Philippis by leaving her enough money to pursue her lifelong dream of opening a restaurant.

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We kicked things off with an order of butternut squash fritters drizzled with honey, followed by two orders of the over-the-top delicious reason why we came here.

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I don't know why they had to take up real estate with those green vegetables in there, but when the meatloaf is this good, you can overlook an errant Brussels sprout or two.

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It had been a jam-packed day filled with great food and drink, and we were pleasantly exhausted. And so we drove back to Creekside Manor and tucked ourselves into bed.

But not before checking for wild jackalopes out on the deck.

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Day 2: Go Take a Hike

Angel and I are not what you'd generally call the outdoorsy types. We don't camp because there are bugs, and it gets cold. We don't hike because there are heavy backpacks, and it gets cold. We don't ski because there are broken legs, and it gets really cold. Also, all of these activities sound suspiciously like work. Don't get me wrong: We both love and appreciate the natural beauty of the outdoors. It's just that we prefer to take it in from a safe distance, such as from behind a large picture window beside a roaring fire with an Old Fashioned in hand.

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But the weather on Sunday was so ridiculously perfect that even two city slickers like ourselves had to get outside.

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We started with a leisurely drive over to the country club at Copake Lake, whose restaurant, Greens, specializes in local ingredients and a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.

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There, we fueled up on brunch staples for the bike ride to come.

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Well, brunch staples and split pea soup.

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The enclosed terrace was open and airy, allowing a 360-degree view of the fall foliage and bright blue sky outside.

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Inside, a wood burning stove and floor-to-ceiling wine racks create a cozy atmosphere for chilly evenings.

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After lunch, we soaked up the sun on the patio for a bit before heading out.

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As has become our habit, we rented a couple of bikes from Bash Bish Bikes, which is just a short drive from Copake.

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We hopped on our bikes and then spent the bulk of the afternoon taking in the spectacular beauty of Taconic State Park, followed by a ride along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.

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When we got tired we tried playing possum, but this little guy beat us to the punch.

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Afterwards, we decided to check out Bash Bish Falls, reportedly just a stone's throw from the bike rental.

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Apparently, however, "a stone's throw" means something different out in the country, which I discovered when I realized that I'd walked all the way to Massachusetts to see these damn falls.

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All I know is, next time I foolishly decide to go on a hike, I'm bringing my passport just in case.
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You know I didn't walk all the way to Massachusetts to not see a waterfall, so come along for Part 2, featuring waterfalls, a Dangling Deathtrap of Doom, and another apple-y cocktail, this one named for yours truly!

Posted by TraceyG 06:53 Archived in USA Tagged hudson_valley kingston hudson red_hook boston's buttermilk_falls henry's stockade_tavern copake_lake american_glory ca_mea Comments (2)

The Hudson Valley, Pt 2: Blubbering Heights

Back in Part 1, I'd just been duped into hiking my way across state lines to see some waterfall that was supposed to be just 3/4 of a mile away. (Apparently upstate New York is so close to Canada that they've actually just gone ahead and switched to the metric system.) Still, once we finally arrived, I had to admit that the falls were lovely.

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To me and my blistered feet's utter dismay, however, we later discovered that we could have just driven there. Now that's my kind of hike.

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Worst of all, because Angel declined to walk back by himself, pick up the car, drive across state lines to Massachusetts to pick me up, and then return to New York . . . I was forced to walk back, too.

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That evening we were in need of some serious food and drink to recover from our interstate trek.

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Our first stop was at American Glory BBQ, which was built in 1802 as a firehouse.

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The current owner, Joe, presides over this downtown Hudson gathering place, doling out witty sarcasm and history lessons along with some damn fine BBQ.

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I'd put American Glory on our list because I remembered having a fabulous Angry Caramel Apple martini there back in 2012. (Some people never forget their first love, or what they were doing when Kennedy was shot. I never forget a great cocktail.) Sadly, however, in the intervening years American Glory has updated its drink menu to better accompany its down-home BBQ, with a list of bourbon drinks served in Mason jars.

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We started with a round of a bourbon-raspberry concoctions, which were quite good but lacked that apple-y fall flavor I was looking for, so I mentioned to our bartender, Chris, how much I'd enjoyed the Angry Caramel Apple last time we visited.

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Chris apologized that the Angry Caramel Apple was no more, then left us to our drinks while he waited on some other customers.

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And so you can imagine how thrilling it was when, just a few minutes later, Chris surprised me with his brilliantly boozy take on apple pie -- on the fly, and on the house! -- which will henceforth be known as the Tracey Apple. (The exact recipe remains a secret, but think bourbon, a touch of cinnamon syrup, one muddled Granny Smith apple, and a dash of chocolate bitters.)

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It was ahhhhmazing.

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It was all I could do to tear myself away from Chris' good company and his creative genius, but pasta awaited. And so we hopped over to Ca'Mea, an intimate northern Italian spot directly across the street.

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There, we feasted on mussels, rigatoni Bolognese, and homemade chestnut-flour gnocchi.

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We should have headed home after that, but it wasn't quite midnight and there was a chance American Glory was still open. They weren't, but they let us in after-hours anyway because we are good company, and even better tippers.

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While chatting with Chris and Joe, Chris's lovely girlfriend Katie, the marketing manager at the nearby Hunter Mountain ski resort, joined us after what had clearly been a very long day at work. Apparently still in work mode, Katie somehow convinced us -- within 10 minutes of meeting her -- to drive up to Hunter Mountain the next day to see the near-peak fall color and check out the resort's "Scenic Skyride" as her guests.

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Maybe it was Katie's enthusiasm and charm, or maybe it was that second Tracey Apple of the evening, but little did we know that we were in for the (sky)ride of our lives.

Day 3: Blubbering Heights

The next day we planned to poke around Hudson's dozens of antique and vintage shops, then grab a quick lunch before heading off for Hunter Mountain's Scenic Skyride. We meandered up and down Warren Street until we came upon Mexican Radio, the cheery-looking upstate outpost of a NYC spot we'd been meaning to try.

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Over chips and salsa and frozen margaritas, we plotted out the route to Hunter Mountain, figuring it would take about half an hour to get there. And it would have, if the road to Tannersville didn't have more twists and turns than an episode of "Game of Thrones."

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The mountainous drive ended up taking nearly twice as long as expected, which meant that we had just minutes to catch the last Scenic Skyride of the day. That turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to us, because up until that point, we didn't really know what the Scenic Skyride actually was.

What it was, as it horrifyingly turned out, was a detachable chair lift (yes, "detachable," which doesn't exactly inspire confidence), minus the fluffy bed of snow underneath to break your fall if the cables were to suddenly snap, or a mustachioed villain were to cut them with a comically oversized pair of scissors. Just a few thin cables and a slippery bench stood between us, and a grisly end on the jagged rocks below.

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Had we known that the Scenic Skyride was actually a Detachable Deathtrap of Doom, there is no way in hell I'd have gotten Angel aboard that thing, and I wouldn't have been too gung-ho myself. But our new friend Katie was young and adventurous, and I couldn't bear the thought of her finding out that she'd actually befriended a couple of wrinkled old fogeys who were both afraid of heights. And because we were running so late, we had just seconds to make a decision: Either board the Dangling Tramway of Terror or risk insulting Katie by failing to take her up on her kind offer. And so I grabbed Angel's hand and pulled him onto the next bench, throwing caution and common sense to the wind.

It took approximately 3.3 seconds, or 2.5 feet of air between the chair and the rocky ground, for me to realize that I'd made a huge mistake.

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The chair began to climb up the side of the mountain, higher and higher, with a sudden, sickening jerk at each detachment station that triggered an immediate fight-or-flight response, neither of which was useful at 3,200 feet. Instead, I focused on wrapping my sweat-soaked hands around the safety bar, and keeping my sweat-soaked feet inside my ballet flats, and reassuring my sweat-soaked husband that people hardly ever die on chair lifts, or at least they do so only rarely, and I hadn't heard about one on the news lately so maybe -- just maybe -- we wouldn't die after all.

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But probably not.

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As we neared the top, the valley now a vibrant carpet of red, yellow, and orange below us, I forced myself to open my eyes and take a peek.

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It was spectacular.

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For the same reason that airplane landings make me much less nervous than take-offs -- if anything goes awry during landing, I figure I'm headed down anyway -- the trip back down the mountain was somewhat less terrifying, and even Angel managed to open his eyes for a bit when we were close enough to the ground to jump if we needed to.

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As the Skyride neared the station, we catapulted ourselves off that bench like a guy who's been shot out of a cannon, then staggered about before finally dropping to our knees to kiss the sturdy pavement beneath our feet.

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We located Katie shortly thereafter and prattled on about how wonderful the view had been and how kind it was of her to invite us, figuring that if we jabbered on long enough, our legs would finally stop shaking and she'd never be any the wiser.

I'll never know if it was because she felt like celebrating the end of a long workday or because she could actually hear my knees knocking together, but Katie mercifully suggested that we head into town to get a drink. Angel and I nearly tripped over ourselves in our frenzy to get to the car, and we followed Katie down the mountain toward Tannersville and another American Glory BBQ.

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There, we got to chatting with the bartender, which is how we discovered that, astonishingly, she'd already heard about the great success of Chris's Tracey Apple drink at the location in Hudson, and was working on a version for the Tannersville branch. Word really does travel fast up in them there mountains!

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We'd never been west of Hudson before, and Katie was eager to show us around. She thought we'd particularly like a newly renovated arts-and-crafts style lodge called Deer Mountain Inn, so we piled back in the car and once again followed her lead.

Tucked between Catskill Park and Kaaterskill Wild Forest and set on 168 wooded acres of its own, Deer Mountain Inn was originally one of two summer cottages built in the 1880s for the Colgate family. (It's also rumored that the property once belonged to the Catskill's most notorious Depression-era gangster, Jack "Leggs" Diamond.) It didn't take more than a few seconds to realize that Katie was dead-on when she surmised that I would love this place.

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In fact, I'm not even sure "love" is a strong enough word.

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Inside, the country-chic theme continued, with worn leather sofas, dreer-antler chandeliers, and fireplaces in every room.

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Adding to our good fortune, Deer Mountain Inn's resident mixologist, Darren, was behind the bar, shaking and stirring an assortment of almost-too-pretty-to-drink seasonal cocktails with whimsical names like the Harvey Went and Got All Banged Up and the Vote for Pedro.

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On this day, we decided on the General Custer Invades Oaxaca, made with Xicaru Joven mezcal, Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur, and lime, and the Fig + Honey, made with cava, grapefruit, caramelized fig, and peach bitters.

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It had been a long day of heart-stopping terror, and that evening we decided to reward ourselves with an elegant dinner. And so we set off for Terrapin, a stylish American bistro housed in a Baptist chapel dating back to 1831.

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We started with a couple of Terrapin's excellent cocktails, the sour cherry bourbon Manhattan for Angel, and the pumpkin martini with a nutmeg-sugar rim for me.

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I don't always order martinis, but when I do, apparently I down them like I'm an extra on "Mad Men."

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When the waiter came, we barked out orders for every comforting item on the menu, seeing as how we'd miraculously survived a harrowing near-death experience on an unforgiving mountain: Pumpkin ravioli with oven dried tomatoes and brown butter-sherry sauce! Butternut squash soup with coconut and lemongrass! Braised beef short rib gratinée (luxuriously topped with caramelized onions and a melted gruyere crostini)! Teriyaki sockeye salmon over mizuna greens and crispy leeks!

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And an apple crisp to share.

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Of course, we should have eaten dessert first. Life is short . . . especially when you spend it riding ski lifts.

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Posted by TraceyG 14:42 Archived in USA Tagged hudson_valley terrapin rhinebeck tannersville hunter_mountain scenic_skyride deer_mountain_inn american_glory_bbq Comments (5)

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