Food-Lovers’ Day Trips
8 Delicious Day Trip Destinations â€“All Within Two Hours From Here
By Dina Cheney
There’s no longer any need to go to France or California for good food products,” says Ben Feder, founder and co-owner of Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners, NY. “We’ve got it all right here.” He’s right. Along with the farms that have been around for a while, supplying the city and surrounding areas with produce, culinary visionaries—many from the city—have recently planted their roots north of Westchester, especially in the Hudson River Valley and Litchfield County, CT.
They’ve refurbished old buildings and launched artisan food businesses and vineyards, while other entrepreneurs have opened inns, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and antique shops—many upscale—to cater to an increasingly sophisticated clientele. The food mecca, the Culinary Institute of America, continues to shine, with increased activities for visitors. And those farms that have been around for a while? They’re no longer just farms. They’re food destinations in their own right, attracting tourists with pick-your-own options, tours and hayrides.
So how about devoting a few days or weekends to exploring these delicious day-trip destinations, all within about two hours of our county? You can either construct day-trips or pair a few sites together and stay overnight at the suggested inns and B&Bs (see “Where to Stay,” page 54). Whichever route you choose, rev up your engines and appetites, and let’s begin.
If you’re so inclined, you can drink your way through much of Connecticut and New York State. Just follow the various wine trails and get ready to imbibe. In Clinton Corners on New York’s Dutchess Wine Trail, visit Clinton Vineyards, where you’ll taste some transcendental fortified dessert fruit wines, including the complex, rich black currant cassis (the only cassis produced in this country) and Duet, an inspired strawberry-rhubarb combo. You’ll also sample delicious wines made with the Seyval Blanc grape, some of which have been served at the White House and prestigious New York City restaurants, such as Gramercy Tavern.
Perhaps even more important, you’ll feel right at home and meet some witty, inspired conversationalists: Ben Feder, the impish founder, and Phyllis, his wife and the elegant chair of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. Before stopping by the small, rustic 19th-century winery building, complete with period furnishing and a collection of photographs and memorabilia, just knock on the door of their home. They’ll probably offer to show you around. Take them up on their offer—you’ll end up learning barrels-full about wine.
Alternately, explore the 60 mile-long Shawangunk Wine Trail, which winds through Ulster and Orange Counties between the Shawangunk Mountains and the Hudson River and includes Brotherhood, America’s oldest winery.
While in Connecticut, stop at the family-owned Hopkins Vineyard and other wineries on the Connecticut Wine Trail. At Hopkins, situated high above Lake Waramaug, sip award-winning wines in the Tasting Room, browse the gift shop, peek in at the winery, or visit The Hayloft Wine Bar. While enjoying the lake view, sample a cheese, pÃ¢tÃ© and fruit board and a glass of sparkling or ice wine, hard cider or Chardonnay. Hopkins also hosts wine festivals featuring live music, food, wine tastings, and wine seminars.
Clinton Vineyards, on the Dutchess Wine Trail (www.dutchess winetrail. com), is located at 212 Schultzville Road in Clinton Corners, NY (www.clintonvineyards.com, 845-266-5372). Tastings ($5/person). Informal tours available Friday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. year-round or from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Monday, June through October. Visit www.shawangnunkwinetrail.com for a list of vineyards and upcoming food and wine events on the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Hopkins Vineyard, on the Connecticut Wine Trail (www.ctwine.com), is located at 25 Hopkins Road in New Preston, CT (www.hopkinsvineyard, 860-868-7954). Tastings ($5/person plus tax). The vineyard is open every day May through December (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Institute of America
To some, the culinary institute of America, or CIA, is a holy place. Since 1946, the school, located in Hyde Park, has graduated culinary prodigies, such as Anthony Bourdain, Rocco DiSpirito and Sara Moulton. Foodies nationwide visit the school in throngs, feeling the former presence of these and other noteworthy chefs in the halls and hoping that some of this airborne culinary magic will transfer to them. Luckily for Westchester residents, culinary enlightenment is less than two hours away.
Just show up for a tour of the school’s elegant campus and professional classrooms, learn about student life, and breathe in some of that exalted, learned air. Or, become a student yourself by signing up for one of the school’s hands-on or demonstration-style classes or the weeklong intensive Boot Camp program ($1,500 for the four-day course and $1,850 for five-day). If you want to bring the kids, try Parents and Children in the Kitchen or sign up for an adult class while your children participate in classes such as Kids Party Food or Teenagers in the Kitchen ($160 a day for adults or children).
Alternately, sample some of the students’ expertise directly by choosing to dine at one of the CIA’s five establishments: American Bounty Restaurant, Apple Pie Bakery CafÃ© (offering baked goods and cafÃ© cuisine), Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici (featuring Italian food prepared with seasonal ingredients), Escoffier Restaurant (serving up light, modern French cuisine), and St. Andrew’s CafÃ© (highlighting creative, Asian-accented fare). Whatever you do, make sure to try the American Bounty Restaurant’s baked-to-order fruit cobbler, advises Cathy Chen and Nick Wilson, student concierges and tour guides. “They make it to order just for you!” Wilson says.
To cap off your day of grand cuisine, stop by the bookstore to browse through the selection of more than 1,000 cookbook titles (including The Professional Chef, owned by every CIA student), posters, kitchen equipment and gourmet food products.
The CIA is located at 1946 Campus Drive in Hyde Park. Hour-long public tours ($5/person) are given at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays and 4 p.m. on Thursdays. To make the required reservations, call 845-451-1588 or 845-452-2230 and be sure to check www.ciachef.edu for school closings before you visit. See www.ciachef.edu/ enthusiasts/index.html for a full schedule of courses and Dining Series events. The bookstore is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For a less exalted, more coun-trified cooking class escape, visit The Silo Hunt Hill Farm Trust in New Milford, CT. Situated on bucolic Hunt Hill Farm, a trust currently owned by Skitch Henderson (founder of the New York Pops) and his wife, Ruth, the cooking school resides in an old barn with two silos. Adjoining an art gallery, the school is a frequent host to prestigious chefs and cooking instructors, such as pastry prodigy Nick Malgieri and Rafael Palomino, chef and owner of Port Chester restaurants Sonora and Pacifico. While sitting under a beamed ceiling and learning from culinary pros, either through demonstrations or full participation, enjoy full meals with wine. A recent course with chef Palomino featured Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche, seared Chilean sea bass with chorizo white bean saffron broth, skirt steak with traditional Chimichurri sauce and passion fruit flan. Upcoming classes include “Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!” with cookbook author and traveling cooking instructor Julia della Croce on July 25 and “Summer Cheesecakes for Entertaining” with Disneyland’s former executive pastry chef George Geary on July 31. After each class, take home handouts with all of the featured recipes and browse the extensive cookware store, featuring gourmet food products, serving pieces and equipment.
The Silo Hunt Hill Farm Trust is located at 44 Upland Road in New Milford, CT. Visit www.thesilo.com for a full schedule of upcoming courses and register at 860-355-0300. Adult classes range from $80 to $90; kids classes are $45.
Bread Alone no longer makes only bread, but it is bread—largely organic, artisan, European-style, hearth-baked bread—for which this bakery is best known. If you’ve ever visited Manhattan’s Union Square Greenmarket, you’ve probably seen their stand. If not, maybe you’ve read in publications such as The New York Times and Food & Wine about their loaves, such as whole wheat walnut, Catskill wheat and raisin pumpernickel.
This bakery, based in Boiceville, in New York’s lower Catskill Mountains, is a pioneer, setting the standard for bread in this country. Bread Alone, which has been using organic grain since 1983, grinds it on millstones and slowly ferments and hand-shapes its loaves to fully develop their flavors. To see firsthand how the bakery works this magic, visit its headquarters and ask for a tour. If you’re lucky, founder and president Dan Leader or his wife, Sharon Burns-Leader, will be on the premises to show you around.
“At first,” says Burns-Leader, “we made all of our bread by hand. We didn’t want machines to dictate our process. And we baked all of our loaves in our old-style European brick ovens.” (Leader actually brought in a fifth-generation French master oven-builder to construct the mammoth hearths, in front of which the couple married.) However, over the years, the Leaders have found modern, international machinery that fits into their bread-baking methodology. Now, in an interesting paradox, these hearths neighbor stainless steel ovens, and the couple produces hand-formed artisan loaves on a massive scale with a mixture of industrial and old-fashioned equipment. Just walk through the bakery doors and you’ll see the centerpiece pair of brick ovens, 21st-century Brobdingnagian stand mixers, and sacks of organic flour. You’ll also notice workers moving in a tightly choreographed symphony, the dance resulting in golden-brown, fresh-baked loaves.
Meanwhile, you’ll inhale the aromas of yeast, fire, and freshly-baked bread, learn about the process of European-style bread-making, and absorb some of the Leaders’ passion for their trade. After the tour, join the other locals for lunch at the cafÃ©, and don’t forget to take home some of the bread (all of which is Kosher) or pastries—their tour will surely make you hungry.
Bread Alone’s headquarters—where all of its bread is made—is located on Route 28 in Boiceville (845-657-3328 or 800-769-3328). No tour reservations are necessary—just walk right in during normal business hours. Bread Alone (www.breadalone.com) also has retail locations with cafÃ©s at 22 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock, 45 East Market Street
in Rhinebeck, and 385 Wall Street
Harney & sons fine teas store and tasting room
Who knew that a tea shop could feel like a spa? The second you walk into Harney & Sons in Lakeville, CT, your heart rate slows and you feel a sense of peace. It might be the artfully displayed tea cozies, handmade silk slippers, sachets or elegantly packaged tins of gourmet tea. Or perhaps it’s the fact that, as soon as you walk in, you’re offered a cup of a transporting “Tea of the Moment.” And don’t be surprised if you are mightily impressed—Harney & Sons teas are offered at the Waldorf-Astoria, Williams-Sonoma, Asia de Cuba, Neiman Marcus, Takashimaya, Olives, Tao and other high-end hotels and food spots throughout the country.
However, if you’re still a bit overwhelmed and need a brief education about the ins and outs of tea, you’re in luck. Your hosts at the shop—many of them members of the Harney family—will share their extensive knowledge of the beverage. While you’re listening, learning and sipping, glance behind the counter and take in the sheer variety of teas offered—everything from chocolate mint to ginger peach to wedding tea (featuring lemon, vanilla and rose petals). The Harneys import, blend, flavor, package, and ship teas, mixing black teas, for example, with ingredients such as dried rose petals, herb leaves, mango, flavoring extracts and cocoa.
If you’re thirsty for more and have had your fill of tasting and browsing through the shop, continue your tea education with a tour of the factory in nearby Millerton, NY, a 20-minute drive away. John Harney himself, the company’s founder, president and a good-natured master tea blender, might even show you around. Harney or another family member will lead you into a scented world, as if your nose were in a cache of potpourri. Immersed in this massive factory, aromatic with lavender-black tea-mango-rose-everything nice, you’ll see complicated machines for packaging teas and turbines for blending teas with flavoring ingredients. A behind-the-scenes tour never smelled so good.
Harney & Sons Shop and Tasting Room (860-435-5051), located at 11 Brook Street in Lakeville, CT, is open 7 days a week, Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 800-TEA-TIME in advance to request a weekday factory tour or visit www.harney.com.
Do you fancy a lesson in belgian cuisine and a buttery, ethereal madeleine? If so, head to Belgique, a refined patisserie, chocolatier and restaurant/tearoom housed in a beautifully restored 1878 Queen Anne Victorian home and carriage house in Kent, CT. The moment you enter the sun-yellow carriage house, with red trim and French doors, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Belgium. And you have, in a way. Belgian chef and co-owner Pierre Gilissen—who spent years working in foreign embassies cooking for Queen Elizabeth, Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush—and his wife, Susan, restored the buildings themselves with the goal of teaching customers about Belgium’s internationally renowned cuisine and chocolates. Just look around at the cobblestone floor, tiled wall mural of a Belgian street scene, homemade European pastries, and museum-quality cakes and chocolates, and you’ll marvel at their handiwork.
Once you’ve purchased flaky pain au chocolat and patÃ© for later, walk next door to the Salon de ThÃ© in the main house to continue your cultural immersion. The Salon, a collection of intimate, elegant dining rooms outfitted with antiques and toile fabrics, serves long, languorous lunches, dinners, afternoon teas, and Champagne Sunday brunches. Try the Continental specialties, including imported duck foie gras served with brioche and sauternes jelly and beef Wellington, as well as more than 150 wines, Belgian beers and liqueurs. And finish off your meal with a chocolate and wine tasting or the ultimate Belgian educational experience: a blind-tasting of three hot chocolates, representing Aztec, 16th- and 18th-century versions of the drink. After you’ve sipped and guessed at the flavoring ingredients in each sample, you can look under your cups to discover if your hunches were correct. Can you spell decadent?
Belgique (860-927-3681), located on the corner of Routes 7 and 341 in Kent, CT, is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children 12 and older are welcome in the Salon de ThÃ©, which has a $30 per person
minimum. Reservations are recommended.
Sunrise Herb Farm
Down a winding lane, in the woods of rural Bethel, CT, sits a replica of George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. Housed inside this unexpected but grand residence is Sunrise Herbal Remedies, a company dedicated to the ancient art of healing with herbs. Owned and operated by Valerie Hawk Hoffman, a certified herbalist who claims that herbs saved her life and vows they are “the safest foods if used properly,” the company produces fresh herbal remedies, teas, natural bath and body products and aromatherapy products. Lucky for those of us with a yen for herb-laced dishes, Hoffman also offers Saturday morning and afternoon herb courses, explaining how to best garden herbs and utilize them for health and cooking. Past refreshments have included chive and thyme biscuits with purple basil leaf jelly and rosemary focaccia with herbes de ProvenÃ§e.
On August 21 at 9:30 a.m., Hoffman is offering a complimentary class, “Healing with Foods and Herbs Tea Party Program,” for Westchester Magazine readers. After sampling smoked lobster and crab in tomato dill cups, fresh fruits and sage cheese in a lemon verbena sauce, and peppermint basil tea, listen to a talk about herbal healing, tour the estate’s medicinal garden, feel free to ask questions, and purchase herbal remedies. Should you choose to linger, marvel at the beauty of the surrounding mountainside nature preserve and tour the tea and rose gardens.
Sunrise Herb Farm (203-794-0809) is located at 35 Codfish Hill Road in Bethel, CT. Call in advance to register for classes or set up on-site herbal consultations. Visit www.sunriseherbfarm.com or call 203-792-4701 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays to ask herb-related questions.
Farms and More
If you’d prefer a more direct experience with nature, pick your own at one of the following farms, which offer a lot more than an opportunity to commune with a peach tree or raspberry bush.
Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT, offers the largest indoor farmers’ market in the state, as well as a panoply of family events. Participate in the corn maze, summer music and blueberry festivals, Easter apple hunt, farm tours and annual apple pie-making party for kids after you’ve harvested apples, peaches, pears, pumpkins and berries from the farm’s 225 pick-able acres. And don’t leave without trying the cider donuts and apple pie, crowned Connecticut’s best by Connecticut Magazine. You can also indulge any produce-picking fantasies at Love Apple Farm in Ghent (www.loveapplefarm.com), Greig Farm and Farmers’ Market in Red Hook (www.greigfarm.com), Hudson Valley Draft Cider Company in Staatsburg (www.hudsonvalley cider.com), and Keepsake Orchards in Hopewell Junction (www.keepsakeorchards.com). And, if you’ve got a sweet tooth and an interest in black bears, stop by Widmark Honey Farms in Gardiner, NY. Operating for more than 100 years, the farm offers visitors the opportunity to pet and feed barn animals, see the two resident black bears and purchase honey products.
Lyman Orchards (860-349-1566, www.lymanorchards.com) is located at the junction of routes 147 and 157 in Middlefield, CT. Picking takes place between June and October. Widmark Honey Farms (845-255-6400, www.widmarkfarms.bigstep.com/homepage.html) is located on Route 44-55 East (about 4 miles from the termination of Route 299) and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. For a full listing of pick-your-own farms in New York and Connecticut, see http://dutchesstourism.com/farm.asp and www.ctbound.org.
Dina Cheney is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. She also offers private cooking classes and guided chocolate tastings through her business, Cooking by Heart (www.cookingby heart.com).
If you’re hungry to explore multiple destinations, opt to stay at one of the following inns and B&Bs
For the ultimate couple’s getaway, book a room at the Emerson Inn & Spa, nestled in the Catskill Forest Preserve near Woodstock, NY. The restored 1874 mansion emits warmth and refinement, with its earth-toned walls and international objects d’art. Choose from among 24 sumptuous rooms and suites, complete with canopied beds, Frette linens, and romantic CD collections to boot. Whether you opt for a Victorian, West Indies Colonial, Oriental, Persian or African-style room, you’ll notice that no detail—such as comfortable slippers placed next to your bed at turndown—is overlooked.
The Emerson is located at 146 Mt. Pleasant Road in Mt. Tremper, NY. Doubles begin at $489, including full breakfast; call 845-688-7900 and check www.theemerson.com for occasional Wine Weekends.
However, if you’d like to bring the kids and the dog, opt for the Emerson’s rustic sister property across the street, The Lodge at Emerson Place. The log cabin structure, set on a stream, offers warmth and casual coziness for the more outdoorsy set. (The Lodge is located at 5368 Rt. 28, also in Mount Tremper. Doubles begin at $125, including Continental breakfast. Make a reservation at 845-688-2828 and visit www.catskillcorners.com/ lodge/lodge.htm.)
For a truly magical experience, head up the Shawangunk Mountain to the sprawling Mohonk Mountain House. Set on a cliff bordered by the placid Lake Mohonk, the eighth-mile-long Victorian castle looms majestic. The lodge features Victorian, Edwardian and Craftsman-style rooms and a surfeit of fireplaces, rockers, antiques, and framed photos of acclaimed visitors. When you’re through participating in everything from a massage to hiking, sit down to a satisfying dinner of well-executed crowd-pleasers, such as grilled tenderloin of beef with Dutchess potato. For a real treat, visit the resort during one of its many themed gourmet weekends, such as the upcoming “Hudson Valley Harvest” on September 17 to 19 or the annual “Art of Chocolate” or “Taste ofâ€¦” extravaganzas, including cooking demonstrations and tastings. (The Mohonk is located at 1000 Mountain Rest Road in New Paltz, NY. Doubles begin at $359, including three full meals, most activities and afternoon tea and cookies. Call 800-772-6646 to make a reservation and visit www.mohonk.com for a full schedule of themed weekends.)
For a more low-key getaway, opt for the charming, lovingly restored Red Hook Inn, with unique antique-filled rooms. Ask for Room 6, with mustard-yellow walls, a Federal-style bed, and a whirlpool bath. (The Inn is located at 7460 South Broadway in Red Hook, NY. Rooms begin at $125. Call 845-758-8445 or visit www.theredhookinn.com). For dinner, try bustling, casual Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, with high ceilings, exposed brick, and flavorful cracker-thin pizzas (845-876-1007).
While in Connecticut, try The Birches Inn, situated right alongside Lake Waramaug in New Preston. With picture windows—many looking right onto the lake—elegant antiques and comfortable beds, this tasteful and attractive inn is the perfect place to stay for a romantic weekend or a family vacation. The inn’s restaurant, rated “Excellent” by The New York Times, serves dishes such as Stone Church Farm dried aged duck breast with toasted barley ragout, confit and a black cherry port wine glaze. (The Birches Inn is located at 233 West Shore Road in New Preston, CT. Doubles begin at $125, including early evening wine and cheese and a Continental breakfast. Visit www.thebirchesinn.com or call 800-525-3466 or 860-868-1735.)
For a homier, more casual feel, try the conveniently located Homestead Inn, on the historic green in New Milford. This cozy Victorian charmer, built in 1853, offers reasonably priced rooms, one of which Marilyn Monroe is reported to have stayed in. (The Homestead Inn is located at 5 Elm Street in New Milford, CT. Doubles begin at $99, including a “hearty” Continental breakfast. Visit www.homestead