10 Reasons to Visit Dutchess County, New York

Perhaps you read my post about spending a weekend in upstate New York. The quick escape offers the best of natural surroundings, charming towns, farm to table dining, wineries and more. If you plan your trip in advance, you can also catch some of the local festivals and concerts.
Here are top 10 Events in Dutchess County:
1. March – St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Held on first Saturday in March, each year the Committee selects an outstanding community person to lead the parade who is the Grand Marshal. www.DCSPPC.org
2. April – Wappinger Creek Water Derby. Who says you need to get to the Caribbean to scuba dive? Take lesson, compete in canoe races and more, right here in New York. www.AquaticExplorers.org
3. May – Rhinebeck 2016 Antique Car Show & Swap Meet. Check out antique and classic cars on display at this 3-days long car show. http://dutchessfair.com/
4. MayWW II Living History, USO Show, Bivouac and Memorial Day Events include the 75th Anniversary of FDR Presidential Library & Museum and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, and 100th NPS anniversary. www.NPS.gov/HoFR
5. June – Country Living Fair, Rhinebeck. This weekend long fair includes art displays, live concerts,  food tastings, and dozens of themed gardens to keep the entire family entertained. www.dutchessfair.com
 duchess county fair
6. June – Discover Hudson Valley Bike Ride. Explore forests, waterfalls, hills and gorgeous surroundings of the Hudson Valley on a guided bike tour. www.BikeNYC.org
7. July – DCRCOC Balloon Festival, Poughkeepsie. Over 100 hot air balloons are launched from the banks of the Hudson River, against the backdrop of a picture perfect sunset. www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival
BalloonFest
8. August – Jazz in the Valley, Poughkeepsie. An annual festival, showcasing music performed by world-class musicians, fittingly complemented by breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley as backdrop. www.jazzinthevalleyny.org
new york jazz festival
9. September – Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival & HV Craft Beer Festival. Taste local products including beer, cider, spirits, wine and food at this weekend long gastronomic festival. www.HudsonValleyWineFest.com
10. October – New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. Features livestock displays, competitions, arts display, cooking demonstrations and lots of kids activities. www.sheepandwool.com
duchess county festivals
~ Information sourced from Dutchess Tourism. 

Weekend in Westchester, New York

If you have made it up to Hudson Valley on your weekend getaway from New York City, also check out Westchester County.

Taste some of the best maple in the world at Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Their certified-organic maple products are so pure, you can taste the woods. Take a tour of the technologically advanced facility and learn how maple is harvested. Sample different kinds of syrup and homemade pastries made on the premise. The 800 acres property of Madava Farms is open to the public for picnicking and hiking. It’s a great place to enjoy the peaceful and scenic outdoors only 80 miles from the city.

crown maple farm new york

 

There are over 35 wineries in the Hudson Valley. If you have limited time, stop at award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery’s 30 acres of vines include plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and an Italian grape varietal called Tocai Friulano. The winery officially opened for tours and tastings in 1988 and today produces between 10-12,000 cases of wine annually.

millbrook wine

For lunch, stop at Babette’s Kitchen, offering gourmet salads, pasta, sandwiches and entrees using local seasonal ingredients. They pride themselves in having long lasting relationships with local farmers who supply them with the best produce the Hudson Valley has to offer. You can also get boxed lunches to take with you on a scenic train ride or road trip.

Contemporary art lovers would want to take this opportunity to stop at Dia: Beacon art gallery. Occupying a former Nabisco box printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon presents Dia’s collection of unusual art installations and spaces, such as white on white, homepage to the square, fluorescent lights and more. Since its opening in May 2003, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant arts destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond.

Thereafter, take a tour of Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions. Overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, The architectural brilliance of the residence, designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, is complemented by the park-like landscape of the estate and a comprehensive collection of original decorative arts. Its noteworthy occupants included: former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.

Lyndhurst Mansion

Dinner at Rivermarket Bar and Kitchen is a must. The restaurant and market showcases producers located throughout the Hudson Valley. Menu includes a variety of fresh seafood, poultry and meat paired with local wines. The rustic decor of restored wood ceiling brings the outdoors inside, and gives a subtle reminder of the restaurants’ sustainable initiates.

Those interested in learning about where their food comes from can visit the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown. Here you can meet some happy chicken, pigs and sheep, who are treated humanely. The center also offers educational day camps for kids to learn about farming, livestock and sustainable eating.

Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Yonkers is an interesting suburb, where many New York City commuters also reside. Here you can visit the Hudson River Museum to see six art galleries, the Andrus Planetarium, and Glenview Mansion, an historic house museum of 1876; taste local brews at Yonkers Brewery; and enjoy a delicious meal at award-winning chef Peter Kelly’s restaurant, Xaviar X20 on the Hudson. A ride back to Grand Central is only 30 minutes aboard Metro-North Railroad.

This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Read Part 1 of my upstate New York experience in Duchess County.

Weekend in Hudson Valley, New York

When I think of New York, images of the city’s bustling streets, neon lights, Broadway musicals, top chef restaurants and shopping at 5th Avenue fill up my head. The fact is the state of New York has a lot more to offer than Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. For the first time, I took a train starting at Grand Central Station to explore the surrounding areas of upstate New York.

hudson river bridge

A 2-hour ride on Metro-North Railroad took me along the Hudson River to the city of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess county. A short walk from the train station to the elevator led to the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, spanning 212′ above the Hudson River and 1.28 miles across. This is a great place to get a good view of the river and the surrounding foliage, specially during spring and fall. During season, there are concerts, open air movies, marathons, and festivals taking place in the historic state park.

vanderbilt mansion

Poughkeepsie has a few restaurants, hotels and shop that sustain tourism in the area. Shadows restaurant offers great view of the Hudson and is often used for large events, such as wedding receptions. Also, nearby is the Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Here you can visit the Roosevelt family home, burial site, see the president’s personal library, and an interactive museum. Just a few minutes drive away is the Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the smaller homes owned by the family. After spending an afternoon in the area, you begin to picture what affluence and stature the neighborhood had up until only a few decades ago.hudson1

Food lovers can take a break at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for dinner. The oldest and most well known culinary school in the country offers four student-run restaurants. Here when you dine, you will become part of their classroom experience. The CIA’s new 800-seat, state-of-the-art Ecolab Auditorium in the Marriott Pavilion makes it possible for visitors to experience one of Half Moon Theatre’s New York-style theatrical productions after enjoying a meal at The Bocuse RestaurantAmerican Bounty, or Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici.

Rhinebeck is a charming city to stay overnight. Check into America’s oldest continuously operated hotel, Beekman Arms, for luxurious accommodations in a historic setting. Next day, stroll around the downtown area, shopping for antiques, clothes and local products, as well as boutiques and dining at historic taverns. Not to miss is Oliver Kita Confectionaries for hot chocolate, cupcakes and handmade chocolate truffles. Terrapin Restaurant features farm-fresh organic cuisine under the guidance of award-winning Chef Josh Kroner. There are over 30 wineries in this area and many of them are offered on the menu, paired with locally raised duck, venison and chicken.

oliver kita

Early December is a good time to visit Rhinebeck for the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where a local resident dresses up in a Santa-bishop like attire, accompanied by his long-time sidekick, the Grumpus, as well as the entire town parading through the town.

The Hudson Valley area is roughly 150 miles long and covers various counties. It is easily connected to New York City by train and makes for fun weekend getaways. Read Part 2 of my upstate New York experience in Westchester.

This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Highlights of the New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, and an interactive Exhibition including more than 500 exhibitors from Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Mexico and the United States. In addition to discounts and special offers for travel, the show provides educational seminars and live entertainment for families, individuals, couples and seniors.

I attended the 13th New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center last weekend. There were more than 500 exhibitors, representing 150 countries, which was great but also overwhelming. Entire rows representing geographic areas were set up, featuring different tourism boards, travel agencies, resorts and more. This year, there was a section on wellness travel as well, featuring one of our partners, The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina.

art of living boone

The winners and their categories were:

  • Best in Show: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
  • Rookie of the Year: Go Touch Down Travel and Tours
  • Most Interactive: Destination Canada
  • Best 10′ x 10′ Booth: Flight 001
  • The People’s Choice: Mexico Tourism Board
  • Most Imaginative: Curaçao Tourist Board
  • Best Show Service: It’s Easy Passport Visa Services

Here are some of the vendors that stood out the most to me…don’t be surprised if you catch me at these locations in 2016!

Voyage Unique Mongolie organizes trips across Mongolia, the most popular being the Gobi Desert. They own two hotels – Dream Gobi Lodge and Dream Terelj Lodge. Both are yurt style camps with private bathrooms and luxury accommodations.

TimesTravel mongolia

Eco Sicily is a project to promote tours to the small towns in Sicily. The area has access to beaches, hills and villages. Old traditions are still followed when it comes to art, cuisine, agriculture, etc.

Yampu Tours offers unique tours across the world, focusing on local interactions, learning and adventure. You can design a custom itinerary choosing your own date, location and a theme that fits your interest.

Lernidee is a Germany based company that offers rain and river tours to remote parts of the world. The ones that caught my attention were the Silk Road tour across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the Trans-Siberian railroad.

Valdez, Alaska is a destination that encompasses the best of everything Alaska has to offer. Closed to cruise ships, this small town is most enjoyable by driving or ferry. It has access to glaciers, wildlife, fishing, hiking and more. The representative told me I can find myself standing fishing right next to the bears!

Seychelles are beautiful islands off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, which are frequented by European tourists. If you have had your fill of the Caribbean, this would be a great destination to combine with your African safari.

Times Travel seychelles

There were also workshops, seminars, cooking demonstrations, cultural performances and book signings taking place during the show. Celebrity personalities included Madhur Jaffrey (Indian actress, food writer, author), Ruth Reichl (chef, food critic, author), Arthur and Pauline Frommers (travel writers), and many others.Times Travel 2016

If you are in New York City or surrounding area in January 2017, make sure to add The New York Times Travel Show to your upcoming calendar.

Top 5 Meals of 2015

It has become an annual tradition. Each year, I write a blog about the 5 best meals I ate. This is very hard to do since my job involves eating and traveling “for a living.” This year, I traveled to 14 countries and 5 states in the US. Needless to say, I ate a lot of good food!

After considerable thought, these memorable meals made it to my top 5 picks of 2015:

Machneyuda Restaurant in Jerusalem – This concept restaurant is run by three genius chefs – Yosef “Pappy” Elad, Assaf Granite, and Uri Navon. They run the business like a party. The quirky website and non-descript menu that offer dishes like “Entrecôte Django Unchained Style,” and “Lamb with lot of tasty stuff,” with pairings like “yummy stuff, some sauce” offer some clues. The waiters are not just friendly, they are singing, dancing and even doing shots in the kitchen…at work! The food is served in unpretentious sharing plates and is absolutely to die for. Ingredients are sourced from the surrounding Machneyuda market.

The biggest surprise for me was the dessert. Our server cleared out our table (we were 5) and laid out aluminum foil to cover it. On it, was orchestrated a symphony of cake, chocolate sauce, caramel, candies, nougats, cookies, ice cream and whipped cream – spread around the entire table within matter of minutes. It looked very haphazard as it was happening, but then appeared to be a delicious pile of artful looking happiness. We dug in with our spoons feeling like kids, and started dancing to the Israeli pop tunes.

Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney – Located on the world-famous Sydney Harbour, this family run restaurant is known for serving the highest quality meat and poultry sourced from all over Australia. Sydney Seaplane Highlights Flight Fly/Dine experience, included lunch at Catalina overlooking the Rose Bay. We start by enjoying fresh oysters on the shell paired with an Australia white that is produced not too far from the bay. The warm Sydney sun refreshed us as we watched the Seaplanes go by. I had the Poached Western Australian Marron Tail (something I had not had before), and the small sushi plate with delicious fresh tuna, salmon, prawn, kingfish, tataki tuna and Catalina roll. Dessert was caramelized fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio. It was a memorable dessert, though the others I took bites off were pretty good too.

best seafood in Sydney

Boulanger Patissier Le Fournil Notre Dame in Marseille, France – My husband and I got to this bakery in the South of France early Sunday morning when the aroma of fresh baked goodies were oozing out of this tiny neighborhood bakery. There were sleepy residents, some still wearing pajamas, lined up to get bread, croissants, pastries, macrons, and Tropezian cakes. We got a few assortments to share with our cappuccinos. Till this day, we still talk about how the croissants flaked into a thousand pieces and melted the moment it touched our tongues. It was so good, that we had to eat another. Though so simple, it was by far the best breakfast I had this year!
best croissants in France
Marea in New York City – My close friend know that I am a big snob when it comes to Italian food. I can just about dismiss majority of the Italian restaurants in the U.S., but when I find a good ones, my heart melts into clarified butter. This is what happened at Marea, 2 Michelin star restaurant located on Central Park South. My friend and I had to wait for a long time to a spot at the bar (reservations few days in advance are highly recommended), but it was great people watching too. Everything at this high end Italian eatery boasted freshness of ingredients, integrity of flavors, and perfection in cooking. Some of my favorites were the tender Noca Scotia lobster and burro found in Astice; al dante and earthy Funghi Risotto; flaky and dressed Branzino: as well as the fried doughnuts dipped in lemon ricotta and dark chocolate Bomboloni. The portions are not small and you may end up eating 10k calories, but now you can die and go to heaven on earth.
best Italian in New York
Yachiyo Ryokan at Himeshima Island in Japan – It’s hard to imagine that one of my top 5 meals was at a 1-lady run Bed and Breakfast in a sleepy island off the coast of Kunisaki. I stayed at this beautiful family run 8-room inn surrounded by gardens, where we were served a delicious seafood dinner with ingredients that were probably swimming just a few hours ago. I had eaten a lot of good sushi throughout my stay in countryside Japan, but this was an unbelievable spread. Every inch of the table was covered with a fresh piece of fish or vegetable that was delicately prepared and artful served. The Japanese chefs take great effort in presentation as you can see from this picture. Unfortunately, this place doesn’t have a website and the manager, Michuri-San, speaks limited English, so good luck finding it.
best sushi in Japan

Farm to table in upstate New York

The city of New York is home to some of the finest restaurants in the world. But if you want to experience real food that is served directly from the farms, head north within the state to Lake Placid, NY. Located near USA/ Canada border, Lake Placid is nestled in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains and home to several cattle, dairy and maple farms.

Many of the restaurants in Lake Placid incorporate locally produced ingredients in their menu. Visit the Lake Placid Farmers’ Market to get an idea of what’s in season and who’s producing it. Even the chefs and restauranteurs pick up fresh produce daily from the farmers market.

Chef David Hunt at the Generations Restaurant which is adjacent to the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort is a strong believer of serving fresh and local. He pick up gallons of maple syrup from Uihlein and blueberries from local farms to create his signature pancakes for breakfast. Chef Hunt is also known for cooking the best cuts of steaks directly on a Himalayan pink rock salt stone, that is delivered sizzling to your table.

generations lake placid

Cheese plates serving award winning chèvre, feta and soft cheese from Asgaard Farms can be found on menus all over the city. Certified organic fresh vegetables are sourced from Juniper Hill Farm and  Fledgling Crow. Farmers in Lake Placid take great pride in producing good quality food without the use of artificial treatments or pesticides.

asgaard farm lake placid

Another good place to enjoy a delicious light lunch is at KANU located at The Whiteface Lodge.  Typical spa meals are bento-box style and include salads, fruits and grains. Its the perfect ending to any massage or facial at The Whiteface Lodge.

kanu spa lake placid

The fried Brussels sprouts at Liquids and Solids are to die for! The quintessential neighborhood hangout place serves a wide selection of local Ale’s, one of a kind cocktails and international inspired small plates.

liquids & solidePerhaps, the best places to eat in Lake Placid is the Artisan’s restaurant, located inside Lake Placid Lodge. The restaurant’s patio overlooks the lake and makes for a fine romantic sunset dinner. On a chilly night, you can bundle up with complimentary blankets and sit next to the burning fireplace and enjoy great views through the high windows. Here you can sample Chef Nathan Rich’s seasonally inspired dishes where local flavors blend perfectly leaving you wanting for another bite. 

lake placid lodge

 

Secrets of Lake Placid

The Lake Placid I am going to tell you about has nothing to do with the giant, 30-foot-long man-eating crocodile that terrorizes people as depicted in the movies Lake Placid, Lake Placid 2, Lake Placid 3 or Lake Placid: The Final Chapter. This Lake Placid is a beautiful vacation village located in the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York.

Continue reading “Secrets of Lake Placid”

Yummiest goat milk caramels

I’m having a caramel withdrawal. I brought back a box of fresh caramels from Asgaard Farm and Dairy in upstate New York, and am upset that I didn’t buy more! These caramels are hand made with goats’ milk (cajeta) and sea salt. They are soft, chewy and they melt as soon as you put them in your mouth. The only thing I don’t like about the Asgaard Farm caramels is that once you eat one, you cannot stop. Continue reading “Yummiest goat milk caramels”

Canada Day Picnic in New York City

Saturday, June 29 will be an unforgettable day in New York’s Central Park – with a free celebration of Canada’s best entertainment, sport and food. For the first time, Canada Day International, the organizers behind the hugely successful Canada Day London present Canada Day New York, a day-long festival with Canadian music legends Spirit of the West and Joel Plaskett joining award-winning electro-rock sensation LIGHTS on the main stage at Rumsey Playfield.

Continue reading “Canada Day Picnic in New York City”