I don't cook all that often, but I do have one favorite recipe: Take one of the world's most foremost culinary institutes, add a bunch of elite Manhattan chefs fleeing the city's astronomical rents, toss in acres of prime farmland, and finish with a slew of expert mixologists who favor locally-distilled whiskey and other spirits. Stir well to combine, and the result is the food and drink paradise known as the Hudson Valley, one of our favorite weekend getaways.
This is particularly true in the fall, that magical time of year when the bounty of the area's harvest graces restaurant menus and seasonal cocktail lists from Kingston to Kinderhook and every town in between.
It's a little over two-and-a-half hours from New York City to our favorite town in the Hudson Valley, aptly named Hudson, which is obviously about one-and-a-half hours longer than we can typically go in between meals. And so we usually stop for lunch on the way, this time at Tuthill House in Gardiner.
Of course, we didn't make a detour into Gardiner just for lunch: Tuthill House is part of Tuthilltown Spirits . . . which makes Hudson Baby Bourbon . . . which I like for its gorgeous bottles and cool labels and seasonal offerings like Maple Cask Rye and Fresh Pressed Apple Vodka . . . which made it the perfect place for lunch, a whiskey tasting, and a little shopping.
We snagged a table by the windows overlooking the falls, then got to work choosing a couple of seasonal cocktails: The Apple-y Ever After with apple-and- vanilla-infused gin, cinnamon, walnut, and egg white foam for me, and the Autumn Smash with Old Grandad, sage-poached local apples, sage liqueur, and cinnamon for Angel.
Lunch was inadvertently loaded with greens: A "whole head of lettuce" salad dressed with Castelvetrano olive vinaigrette and shaved manchego; Murray's chicken breast with pesto and Hudson Baby Bourbon chicken jus; and a tartine with frisee, walnuts and goat cheese.
This much healthy in one meal would not do, of course, so we ordered up an Orchard Gin lemon-thyme custard tart with stewed plums and meringue for dessert, to restore balance in the universe.
And then we did a whiskey tasting.
Or, rather, I shopped while Angel sipped.
Loaded down with tote bags full of booze, we noticed on our way back to the car that we weren't the only ones who might have overindulged at Tuthilltown.
Our next stop was at Golden Harvest Farm in Valatie to stock up on apples, pumpkins, and pies made from both.
Finally it was time to head over to Warren Street in Hudson, the bustling main drag where we'd rented an apartment for the weekend.
That evening Angel had planned a birthday dinner for me at Deer Mountain Inn in Tannersville. We kicked things off beforehand with a round of celebratory cocktails at my favorite spot in Hudson, the William Farmer Barroom.
We lucked out to find two seats at the busy bar, then consulted the "Field Notes" for our cocktail choices.
Soon it was time to head over to Deer Mountain. And while we were expecting a fantastic fireside meal, we were not expecting a swirling snowstorm . . . in October.
The bad weather actually made the dinner all the more romantic, snuggled up as we were with craft cocktails, comforting bowls of soup, decadent entrees of beef tenderloin and butter-poached lobster with pillowy dumplings, and a view of the storm outside from our toasty table.
After dinner we retired to the cozy bar to finish our cocktails.
And although the drive back down the mountain featured sleet, snow, and even tennis-ball-sized hail, I'd like to think this guy watched over us.
CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2!