Best of the Hudson Valley 2008

Readers, you have spoken! Back in April, we asked you to cast your ballot in our annual Best of the Hudson Valley poll. We received hundreds of enthusiastic responses detailing your favorite eateries, shopping spots, arts venues, outdoor activities, and local personalities. Not to be outdone, we editors supplemented your choices with our own Best Of picks, which highlight other local people and places that you might not know about, but should. Our final list features more than 240 reasons why living in the Hudson Valley — we think you’ll agree — is absolutely “the best.”


Food & Drink

* denotes Readers’ Picks


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Best Restaurants By Cuisine

*American (tie)

American Bounty Restaurant
Culinary Institute of America
Hyde Park

It seems our readers are of two minds when it comes to dining out “American-style.” The CIA’s student-staffed American Bounty specializes in regional recipes prepared using locally raised ingredients — heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, or foie gras, anyone?

Coyote Grill
For a casual menu of classic dishes (think roast turkey with cranberry sauce) combined with Tex-Mex, Italian, and Asian favorites, Coyote Grill takes the cake.


Spanky’s has been serving up innovative Louisiana Creole-style cookin’ for 24 years. Customers also enjoy the funky, informal eatery’s festive décor — it’s changed often for special themes such as their Oyster Fest — and, of course, Mardi Gras. Don’t miss the jambalaya.


China Rose
Rhinecliff, Kingston
For 15 years now, hungry commuters getting off the train at Rhinecliff often make a beeline for China Rose, next to the Amtrak station. There’s a lively bar scene inside, and river views from the relaxing patio. Diners enjoy freshly made Oriental-style dishes, as well as specialties such as tangerine peel chicken and goat cheese wontons. “We’re also famous for our sake margaritas. They really pack a punch,” says bartender Jimmy Fassone. (The Kingston branch is mostly take-out.)
Rhinecliff 845-876-7442; Kingston 845-338-7443


Café Les Baux
Chef and owner Herve Bochard, originally from the medieval hill town of Les Baux in the Brittany region of France, has run this cozy, 36-seat bistro for the past five years. Customers adore the cuisine and relaxed, très French ambiance. “We have a simple menu based on fresh foods, and I make everything myself,” he notes. Favorite bistro classics include moules marinieres and steak frites, while specials like the lamb burger are truly magnifique.

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Mountain Brauhaus
The motto of this family owned restaurant, in the shadow of the Gunks near New Paltz, is “sit long, eat much, laugh often.” You expect hearty food and that’s what you get: sauerbraten, chicken schnitzel, bratwurst, sausages, meat loaf — there’s also a vegetarian spaetzle. Remember to leave room for fresh apple strudel or Black Forest cake.

*Greek (tie)

New Paltz
This small, no-frills, family-run eatery on the main drag of New Paltz offers fresh, simple Mediterranean meals with prices that are easy on the pocketbook (no wonder it’s so popular with SUNY students). Stuffed grape leaves, falafel, gyros, hummus platters, and such are staples of this eat-in or takeout favorite.

Fresh, pastel decor and faux-classical pillars in this former roadhouse serve as an airy backdrop for tasty Mediterranean food — from goat-cheese appetizers to main dishes such as spinach and feta baked in filo dough, sardines, lamb, and, of course, octopus. Sip a Greek wine and pretend you’re in Athens.

*Indian (tie)

Fishkill, Rhinebeck
Aficionados know the fragrant, freshly made specialties (think chicken tikka chaat or tabac maz), and authentic Indian beers and signature cocktails (Madras Monsoon, anyone?), make this a first choice for a change-of-pace dinner. With all entrées under $20, it’s a bargain, too.
Fishkill 845-896-6659, Rhinebeck 845-876-7510;

Jaipore Royal Indian Cuisine
It’s an unusual combo: elegant Victorian mansion and fine Indian cuisine — and it’s been a success for years. There’s gracious table service, though everyone loves grazing at the brunch buffet, especially newcomers to the fare, who can sample from the wide range of subtly seasoned, aromatic offerings.

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Café Capriccio
With its artfully prepared dishes, this Tuscan-inspired dining destination features savory seafood, handmade pastas, and regional classics like puttanesca Napolitana. There’s a broad wine selection to boot — and it’s all served by a professional staff sporting classy ties and vests. Mangia!

*Japanese/Sushi (tie)

Neko Sushi
New Paltz, Wappingers Falls
Super-fresh fish make up the creative sushi, sashimi, or maki combinations at these serene spots. If the raw route makes you queasy, fear not: soups, teriyaki, and other cooked dishes await — and there’s even hibachi in the Wappingers branch.
New Paltz 845-255-0162, Wappingers Falls 845-298-9869;

Just steps away from the bustling Poughkeepsie train station, this stellar sushi joint is an easy entrée into what acolytes consider a little slice of sushi heaven. Be sure to try one of the dozen different signature rolls.


Chef/owner Serge Madikians’s emphasis on local produce, combined with his innovative Middle Eastern style, ensures that this restaurant remains the region’s trendsetter in Mediterranean cuisine.


La Puerta Azul
Salt Point
The Valley’s ultimate stop for tasty tapas and mouth-watering margaritas, this colorful hot spot serves up south of the border favorites that’ll have you feeling muy buena. Wash it down with a signature cocktail, like the Big Spender or the Spicy Melon.


The Rosendale Café
Loyal customers flock to this funky, cozy eatery for meat-free meals. “One big favorite is the seitan gyros,” says cook and manager Amy Walker. Made with wheat gluten, the dish is flavored with garlic and thyme, and comes with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sprouts, and tahini sauce. Even the cakes are vegan. The café’s also a favorite for its top-notch jazz, folk, and blues on weekends.


Aroma Thyme Bistro
Yes, vegetarians and vegans alike worship chef Marcus Guiliano for his delicious dishes (many gluten-free) that make eating healthy seem positively sinful. But with a menu featuring organic meats for carnivores, there’s something for everyone.


Sukhothai Restaurant
Attractively decorated in an industrial space with an exposed brick wall, this three-year-old favorite lets you choose how much to spice up your dishes — and now offers beer and wine, too.


You’re reading about the


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Best Restaurants By County


Aroma Osteria
Wappingers Falls
The picturesque waterfall at the entrance is just the beginning of the Tuscan delights — visual and edible — at this big, beautiful spot that’s been serving inventive Italian fare since 1997.


Jack’s Oyster House
You get a whopping dose of nostalgia at this great American restaurant that has been catering to the who’s who of the Capital Region since 1913. Oysters, steaks, and seafood are cooked to perfection under the direction of Chef Luc Pasquier, one of only 52 French Certified Master chefs on the whole continent.


Mexican Radio
Whether you crave the nachos, can’t live without one of their fresh lime-juice margaritas, or just have to have that legendary flan, get the fiesta started at this ever-popular, fun-loving institution. Olé!

outside view of Bristro Brie & Bordeaux, voted 2008 Best Restaurant in Greene County


Bistro Brie & Bordeaux
This two-year old country charmer continues to draw a steady stream of customers with their classic French fare, delightful surroundings and très attentive service.


Il Cenàcolo
Year after year, readers rate this elegant and classic Tuscan hot spot the ultimate dining experience. Try one of their always spectacular specials; you’ll be so inspired you’ll be singing Italian arias for the next week.


Cold Spring
This restaurant’s name hints at the one-of-a-kind Hudson Highland views; let us tell you about the charming circa-1941 building and the excellent new American cuisine. 845-265-4778;


Paolo Lombardi’s Ristorante
Out-of-this-world pasta served in overflowing portions is just one reason why this elegant Albany institution has been synonymous with upscale Italian dining in the upper Valley region for more than 10 years.


Xaviar’s at Piermont
Exquisite food served by professional staff in a jewel box of a space — Peter Kelly’s New American standout still rates a resounding number one with our readers.


The Would
Our readers once again say that yes, they would like to dine at this inventive eatery housed in a beautiful old building nestled among a backwoods apple orchard.


Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Pocantico Hills
They started the farm-fresh trend, and this world-renowned restaurant still thrills foodies who flock there for special occasion dining.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


How Sweet It Is


Apple Pie Bakery Café
Culinary Institute of America
Hyde Park

What better place for a luscious dessert than at the Apple Pie Café, where baking and pastry arts students at the renowned cooking school showcase their talents? Whatever you try, you’ll have a sweet time here.

Homemade Cookies

Lisa’s Cookie Shop
Four years ago, Lisa Ciriello decided to ditch the grueling city commute for a sweeter, more wholesome way of making a living. Now she bakes up batches of the most scrumptious cookies we’ve ever tasted — pecan coconut bars, chocolate chip cookies, and raspberry bars — from recipes she has been perfecting over the years. Taste for yourself — these sweet morsels are available throughout the Valley (including Warwick’s Frazzleberries) or on her Web site.

Over-the-Top Desserts

Catskill Cake Company
“I’m known as the ‘uh-oh baker,’ ” laughs Kristin Frisina, owner of Catskill Cake Company, which opened in 2003. “Some of my recipes came about as accidents.” So if you’re bored with dessert staples, now’s the time to indulge in one of Frisina’s artistic culinary creations, available at her Gardiner location: Kahlua chocolate chip cheesecake, banana white chocolate chip sweet bread, cappuccino brownies, and of course, her famous “Chocolate ’O Cake,” which, she says, “is made with a lot of love — and heavy chocolate!”

Toffee Treat

Toffee Pudding Cake at Hudson House
It’s not unusual for diners here to order more desserts than there are people at the table, says co-owner and baker Matt Hudson, whose tantalizing treats bring on such naughty behavior. Warm apple crisp, orange panna cotta, triple layer chocolate cake — how could you settle for just one? Our favorite is the sticky toffee pudding cake, served drenched in toffee sauce and candied ginger with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Yum!

Chocolate Covered Cranberries at Vasilow’s
Rich, dark chocolate on the outside, chewy, tangy cranberries on the inside — the perfect silky blend of tart and sweet. No wonder they’re among the most popular confections at this old-time candy shop. Most of the sweet delectables are made following the same recipes the original Vasilow brothers used in the 1920s — there are even carob-covered dog biscuits for the furry member of the family.

*Chocolate/Candy Store (tie)

Krause’s Candy
This is the eighth year in a row that our readers have given the nod to the Krause family business, which has been whipping up delicious hand-dipped and homemade goodies for three generations of grateful Valley chocoholics.

Alps Sweet Shop
Fishkill, Beacon
Harken back to the delicious days of yore at this old-fashioned chocolate shop that has been delighting local residents with more than 100 different treats (including decadent truffles and their signature “Signal Fire Toffee”) since 1922.
Fishkill 845-896-8080, Beacon 845-831-8240;

Carrot Cake

Hudson Valley Dessert Company
“People used to follow the scent down the alley,” says Connie Bailey, owner of the bakery, which used to be hidden off Partition Street. Now it’s more findable, after moving in August to the space on Main Street long occupied by the late lamented Lachmann’s Bakery. Although they’re best known for their biscotti, we think the carrot cake rates really high. Buzzed up carrots, walnuts, and raisins makes it the perfect combination of sweet and crunchy — and the cream cheese frosting, infused with a generous helping of pure vanilla extract and a little powdered sugar, is simply the best. The adorable “baby cakes” are just right for four (larger sizes are available, too), “but we know people who like to eat one all by themselves,” says Bailey. Back to biscotti for a minute. “No one makes the old-fashioned recipe like we do,” says Bailey, noting that the classic version is much harder than the Americanized one. “It’s very popular with weight-watchers, because there is really no fat, besides the eggs and the almonds.”


Bake Me A Cake

Italian Bakery

Caffe Aurora
Caffe Aurora has been serving sweet treats to the Italian community — and local Italophiles — for nearly 70 years. The café, at its current location since 1962, has a comfortable, old-timey feel — thanks in part to the original, vintage soda fountain, complete with Coke dispenser. But it’s the baked goods that really lure ’em in. “Our cannoli are the hands-down favorite,” says owner Lou Strippoli, whose father started the business in the 1940s. “We’re taking them to a whole other level.” You can buy traditional cannoli, but Caffe Aurora offers a cool spin — canoli shells cut into tortilla-like chips that you dip right into the creamy ricotta cheese filling. Says Lou: “This way, you can eat as little or as much as you want, and you don’t have to deal with canoli that have those soggy shells after you’ve left them overnight in the refrigerator.”

French Bakery

Jean-Claude’s Artisan Bakery and Dessert Cafe
Warwick, Greenwood Lake
Master pastry chef Jean-Claude Sanchez, who first learned the tricks of the trade in Bayonne, France, teamed up with wife Annette to open this acclaimed spot in the village of Warwick back in 1997. Everything is made from scratch — croissants, of course, plus brioche, cakes, pastries, chocolate truffles, and other elaborate “edible art.” Customers rave about the strawberry shortcake encased in chocolate, says Annette. “That, as well as the chocolate mousse and mocha cakes, are among our top sellers.”
Warwick 845-986-8900, Greenwood Lake 845-595-6580;

Furst Puckler cake from Hartmann's Kaffeehaus, 2008's Best German Bakery

German Bakery

Hartmann’s Kaffeehaus
Round Top
For 50 years, Hartmann’s Kaffeehaus has been luring Germans, German-Americans, and pastry lovers with their Old World-style cakes and pastries, says owner Diane Giacomino. Of Italian ancestry, Giacomino bought the business from the previous owners six years ago with the promise that she’d continue to make the tasty treats in exactly the same fashion. The most popular items? Black Forest cake, strudel, stollen, and something called Fürst Pückler — a rich white and chocolate cake, soaked with rum, and decorated with marzipan and three different kinds of buttercream. Hartmann’s also serves up breakfast and lunch (seating for 50), with classic specialities like bratwurst, potato salad, and, of course, German beers. Auch der lieber!


The Pastry Garden
Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, Hopewell Junction
More sweet success! Our readers insist that it’s another year on top for the Pastry Garden. If you’re in the mood for a pie, pastry, or pretty much any other scrumptious baked treat, head over to one of this Valley institution’s four Dutchess locations.
Hopewell Junction 845-227-2253; Fishkill 845-297-6747; Poughkeepsie (two locations) 845-473-5220 & 845-471-4603;


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Setting The Mood

*Special Occasion Dining

Culinary Institute of America
Hyde Park
Is it your anniversary? Your youngest just graduated from high school? Then do what smart folks from all around the region do and book a reservation — as early as possible — at one of the CIA’s four renowned restaurants, where you’ll be served delectable food prepared by the some of the world’s leading culinary students.

*Waterside/Al Fresco Dining

Torches on the Hudson
Pull your boat right up to the outdoor bar or grab a seat in this scene-stealing restaurant on the historic Newburgh waterfront. If you tire of the view, you can gaze at the 6,000-gallon Aqua Bar fish tank as you contemplate how lucky you are to live in this beautiful region.

*Romantic Dining

Ship Lantern Inn
Avast, ye lovers! This Revolutionary war-era structure is a cozy cabin of rich, dark wood accents. Owner John Foglia has tastefully decorated it with nautical delights, including his own collection of miniature sailing ships. But you may be too busy canoodling to notice.

*Place to Eat With a View
*Singles Scene

Shadows on the Hudson
The premier cosmopolitan venue this side of the Hudson, Shadows consistently wows its patrons with an impressive steak-and-seafood menu and breathtaking views of the river. Five luxurious dining areas and killer cocktails make this a hot spot for singles looking for a little fun.

Charming Courtyard

Backyard Bistro
This busy restaurant is not much bigger than a breadbox, so the delightful little courtyard outside is a welcome additional space to enjoy the highly rated fare. Sip a cocktail there before dinner, or sit at an umbrella table at lunch and nibble on a carefully crafted sandwich. A huge old maple casts shade over most of the space, while flowers brighten it up. Hardier diners will enjoy eating outside in colder months in the warm glow of the fire pit.

Romantic Country Dining

Crabtree’s Kittle House
Many a bride will attest to the romantic aura that pervades the gardens and dining rooms at this charming country inn. Perhaps romance comes naturally in a gracious 18th-century building, or maybe there’s leftover glamour from its days as a roadhouse during Prohibition. Most likely, though, it’s because of the easily elegant décor, pampering service, fine food, and famous encyclopedic wine list. (Choose from the abbreviated version if you don’t want to spoil the lovey-dovey mood.)

Garden for Lunch

If the weather’s nice, walk straight past the food cases and the few little tables at this gourmet-food-market-cum-café, and you’ll emerge into the not-so-secret garden in the back. It’s fenced for privacy, with flower beds full of herbs and cheerful annuals. Nab an umbrella table, then chow down on one of the famous homespun lunches — perhaps a cheddar and chutney sandwich, or the Tuscan tuna and white bean salad. It’s a lovely lunchtime escape from the hustle and bustle.

*Late Night Dining

Palace Diner
College students here know that in the wee hours of the morning — or any time they get hit with the munchies — their best bet is to head to this family-run establishment, where the friendly staff delivers all your finger-lickin’ faves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While noshing on cheddar cheese bacon potato skins, a juicy burger, or a fresh panini, happy patrons tap their toes to the music selection du jour flowing from the juke box.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Farm Fresh

Farm Fresh Restaurant Fare

Valley at the Garrison
From farm to table is just a matter of steps at this restaurant, where most of the vegetables and herbs on your plate are grown on the mini (two-acre) Garrison Farm right on the property. Brian Bergen is the mini-farmer (although he’s of normal human size), tending salad greens in raised beds just beyond the dining deck; vegetables in a large fenced garden nearby; and 20-something varieties of heirloom tomatoes in a hoop house a couple of fields over. It’s all organic — and it just doesn’t get any fresher.

Mid-Hudson Farmers’ Market

Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market
The Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, which has been providing fresh produce to the public for more than a decade, is becoming so popular that this year they added an evening market. Now, in addition to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., locals can browse through all the farm fresh goodies on Thursday nights, too. From Mother’s Day through November, wander among the booths in this transformed parking lot and shop (they carry the ever-popular Popovich Provisions), watch cooking demonstrations, listen to live music, or catch a special event, like pumpkin decorating day on October 26.

Up and Coming Farmers’ Market

Kingston Farmers’ Market
With a mission to “connect local people with local food,” the Kingston market’s cheerful crowd grows every year. Veggies, flowers, meat, breads, pickles, cheeses (we love Mike Panzarella’s homemade mozzarella), and chocolates are just some of the many choices at this bustling Wall Street market, which is open for business — and fun events like musical performances — on Saturdays in April through October. On October 4, check out delicious desserts that are good for you, too — part of the market’s healthy eating series.

Troy Waterfront Farmer's Market
You'll always leave with a handful of goodies at the Waterfront Farmers' Market in Troy


Ronnybrook Farms
Yogurt, ice cream, and milk, oh my! Whether it’s frozen treats you fancy, the legendary egg nog, or just basic bottled milk, this famous Valley farm churns out the most delicious dairy products. And there’s nary a trace of scary hormones, antibiotics, or additives.

Big-time Farmers’ Market

Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market
No matter what the weather, you can get your helping of local items — from jam to jewelry — at this year-round market featuring more than 50 vendors. Every Saturday, downtown Troy turns into a festive affair of music, activities, and, of course, booths displaying the finest in local produce, crafts, and dry goods. From November to April, the market is held in the Uncle Sam Atrium, but when the temperature goes up the vendors and the massive crowds move down to the waterfront. So the next time you’re in the Capital Region, be sure to stock up on fresh, locally grown vegetables, cheese, meat, soup, berries, honey, maple syrup, herbs, potted plants, pastries, and hand-crafted soaps and lotions.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks



Fruit Liqueur

Warwick Valley Winery
You may well know about Warwick Valley Winery’s Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider. That’s because this crisp, semi-dry sensation, which we greedily grab up each fall, has been written about in top publications near and far — including ours. But we’re focusing on another fruit just now. The winery’s oak-finished Bartlett Pear Liqueur, which made its debut last year, is a blend of their own excellent pear brandy and Hudson Valley-grown bartlett pears, and is — in a word — sublime. New York State’s first fruit distillery, Warwick Valley also creates delicious eau de vies and fruit cordials.


Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery
The richness of this brand’s five whiskeys — two bourbons, a rye, a single-malt, and an un-aged corn, all 92-proof — reflects the effort co-owners Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee put into every hand-waxed, hand-filled, and hand-capped bottle. And word is spreading: Some of Manhattan’s most upscale bars — including Brandy Library (recently named one of the best bars in America by Esquire) — serve Tuthilltown, and earlier this year the liquor made its European debut in fashionable watering holes in London, Paris, and Barcelona. But the small distillery hasn’t forgotten the Valley. This year, Erenzo and Lee began acquiring most of the corn and grain used in its whiskey from farms near Gardiner, and hope soon to buy more ingredients locally. There’s more: The state government passed a law last year that allows customers, for the first time since Prohibition, to buy and sample hard liquor at a distillery. Tuthilltown’s tasting room won’t be open until next spring, but soon whiskey fans will be able to enjoy the Valley’s finest legal hooch just a few feet from the charred-oak barrels in which it’s produced.

*Liquor Store

Arlington Wine and Liquor Store
You’ve chosen this well-stocked store as your favorite for the ninth consecutive year. No wonder: owners Bob and Valerie Keating are on a mission to supply you with the world’s best vino (and often at prices well below what others charge).


Brotherhood Winery
So many awards, so little time. The winery’s ruby port won a Gold Medal and “Best in Class” at this year’s Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Association competition; it won a bronze medal at last year’s state fair, and on and on. So curl up on the couch and toast the crisp fall nights as you sip on this sweet, full-bodied dessert wine. You can buy it on the company’s Web site for just $9.99, but the winery itself (the oldest in the country) is worth a visit. You could even join in the grape stomping on many Saturdays and Sundays this fall.

Helpful Wine Shop

In Good Taste
New Paltz
Whether you want to spend just a few bucks or splurge for a celebration, Ken Maguire, the knowledgeable, cheerful manager and buyer at this wine shop, can help you — and he’ll be as enthusiastic about your six-dollar Merlot as any ancient variety you may select (well, almost). Maguire, a CIA grad who inherited his love of wine from his father, spent time as a chef before launching a wine shop for a gentleman in Middletown, and discovering how much fun it was. Now in this post for about six years, he takes pride in sniffing out the best wines at the best prices. “I love people, I love food, and I love wine,” he declares. Stop in on Tuesdays for terrific discounts.

Locally Brewed Beer

Keegan Ales
Keegan Ales’ traditional method for creating clean, frothy brews keeps even the most serious beer aficionado satisfied. Brewed and bottled in historic uptown Kingston, there are three distinct varieties for hops enthusiasts to choose from: “Old Capital,” a classic ale; “Hurricane Kitty,” a hopped India Pale ale; or our personal favorite, “Mother’s Milk,” a rich, creamy milk stout with hints of chocolate.

*Wine List

Charlotte’s Restaurant and Catering
The diversity in Charlotte’s wine selection is impressive in both price and geography. Customers can drink a glass of chardonnay from Millbrook, or a Bordeaux from France; or from a $26 bottle of 2006 Seyval Blanc or a $485 Château Mouton Rothschild from 1988. Cheers.

*Beer Selection

The Gilded Otter
New Paltz
Beer lovers who walk in and see the huge, gleaming brew vats in the middle of this large, airy restaurant know this is the perfect place to wet your whistle. Brewmaster Darren Currier oversees production of the eight handcrafted ales and lagers, so you can choose from the likes of Huguenot Street American Lager or Stone House Oatmeal Stout (both named for nearby historic New Paltz sites). Sample the seasonal specialties, too, including award-winning Dusseldorf Altbier ale (it’s got a distinctive, toasted-biscuit flavor) and clove pumpkin ale — perfect in autumn.


Blue Martini
Sip the signature Blue Martini (Kettle One vodka, blue curacao, sweet and sour, and orange juice); or one of the favorites — maybe Very Berry (raspberry Smirnoff, Chambord, sour mix, and lime); or the Sex and the City (Grey Goose, peach schnapps, cranberry, and pineapple) — and all you need to really feel the part at this happening Front Street spot is a sexy dress and a pair of Manolos. (Unless you’re a guy, in which case, wear whatever you like.)

The Hudson Valley Little Wine Tour Bus is coming ytour way!Hudson Valley's Little Wine Bus is coming your way!

New Way to Tour the Vineyards

The Little Wine Bus
Tania P. Dougherty was driving from Valley winery to Valley winery with friends when she was struck with an idea: “We need a little bus to take us all around!” This April, Dougherty turned a favorite pastime into a dream job when she created The Little Wine Bus, a wine tour company catering to group outings and corporate events. A Cornwall native who now lives in New York City and works for a large financial firm, Dougherty runs the tour company on the side with the help of family members and friends. You’ll need a party of at least five to schedule a tour, but smaller groupings can sometimes hop on an already scheduled trip, she says. Customers can choose among the standard tour (the full-day “Take Me To The Vino,” which includes lunch and visits to three to four wineries), a variety of adventure tours (hike-, bike-, or kayak-and-wine), a five-course dinner at a winery, or a birthday or themed party. The choices don’t end there, either: you’ll have to pick either a stretch limo, town car, luxury van, or tour bus to cruise along in on the tour. Prices start at $100 per person. Whatever your preference or price range, though, you’ll know Dougherty will strive to meet each customer’s tastes, whether they’re of the vinous variety (white or red?) or otherwise (hello, togas!).


Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
This 30-acre winery, which specializes in Chardonnay, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, continually receives national recognition for its award-winning wines. We highly recommend the Chardonnay — and suggest taking a free tour (the vineyard is open seven days a week) of this grandmaster of the growing Hudson Valley wine scene.


Pub Crawl

Classic English Pub

Yesterdays Restaurant
With 15 quality beers and ales on tap, this downtown Warwick neighborhood spot is the quintessential English pub — a place where birds and blokes can gather for a round of drinks and a plate piled with traditional Brit fare like fish ’n chips. The shepherd’s pie will have you speaking in a Cockney accent in no time.

Classic Welsh Pub

Peint O Gwrw
Perhaps it’s the Gothic, battle-oriented decorations furnishing the interior, or the ample supply of Welch Penderyn whiskey that gives you the feeling you’ve been transported to Cardiff. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. At any rate, when you visit this authentic Welsh watering hole, be sure to order one of the lip-smacking fried plates — or for the more health-conscious, make a selection from the “ffriod nad more” (“not so fried”) side of the menu.

*Irish Pub (tie)

Dubliner Irish Pub
Don’t be fooled by the Victorian-era build of this establishment. Die-hard sports fans can get rowdy cheering on their favorite rugby and football (as in soccer) teams. However, after indulging in one too many glasses of Smithwick’s, you can sit back and relax in one of the cozy armchairs near the fireplace.

*Irish Pub (tie)
*Happy Hour

Mahoney’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
Knock back a pint or share a pitcher with friends at this local taproom, which won two awards this year. Be sure to sample the hearty, down-home Irish specialties like shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, or beer battered fish n’ chips with your frothy Guinness. Check out the $2 nightly drink specials. Erin go bragh!

*Buffalo Wings (3-way tie!)

New Paltz
Sure, there are 12 TVs, a pool table, comfy booths, and a happy-hangout vibe — but the real draw here is the chicken wings. Choose from four heats (smoldering, volcanic, three alarm, or inferno) and 14 flavors, including Jamaican jerk, garlic, honey BBQ, teriyaki, or Cajun spice. “Wing of the Week” debuts a new outrageous flavor every Friday, and Monday is bargain night, when the wings are a mere 35 cents apiece. Get there early!


P & G’s Restaurant
New Paltz
Best known for bikers and burgers, this funky, fun New Paltz mainstay’s second most popular offering is classic Buffalo-style wings. You get a dozen juicy morsels, served with celery (of course), and an in-house variation on the traditional bleu cheese dressing. Wash ’em down with a cold beer and you’ve got yourself some no-frills culinary contentment.

Planet Wings
(twelve locations)
This chain of quick-serve eateries now has a dozen Valley locations — all dishing up boneless Buffalo wings for wing-aholics who prefer not to gnaw. Choose from four heats (mild to suicidal) and 24 flavors. Play it safe and get something like roasted garlic, sweet BBQ or lemon pepper, or go crazy and order Leapin’ Lizard without knowing what it is. Orders come in amounts from five to 100, with bleu cheese dressing and celery. There’s takeout and delivery, and some locations offer on-line ordering.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


More Food...


Skytop Steakhouse and Brewing Company
Our readers say that the perfectly prepared steaks and house-made brews taste even better because of the panoramic views from this chalet-style stone building perched high above downtown Kingston.


Mama Theresa’s Italian Specialties
New Windsor
The DeStefanos, Jim Sr. and “Mama” Theresa, offer more than 20 overstuffed specialty sandwiches with such irresistible names as “The Don” and the “How Ya Doin’?” They all feature the finest domestic cold cuts and imported Italian meats, homemade sausage, and fresh mozzarella (you can watch them make it throughout the day). “Very few people can finish them in one sitting,” says Jim proudly.


Raccoon Saloon
Our readers have said it before, and they’ll probably say it again: The juicy burgers here are tops. Slather on some house-made ketchup, get a side of sweet potato fries — aaah, burger bliss.


Gadaleto’s Seafood
New Paltz
This perennial favorite first opened in 1945, and deserves kudos for their environmentally friendly selection of wild-caught and sustainable farm-raised seafood. Steve Gadaleto heads to the Fulton Fish Market just about every morning to hand-select the day’s catch. Cook it yourself at home or sample their treats right in their restaurant.


My Brother Bobby’s Salsa
Insanely flavorful, full of zest, and tantalizingly tangy: This bro has a winning blend, made with the freshest tomatoes, onions, basil, and... well, we don’t want to give away any more of the secret formula. All in all, there’s no better way to top a fresh slice of crusty baguette.

Rack of Lamb

Grilled New Zealand Rack of Lamb at Wildfire Grill
The key to a perfectly grilled rack of lamb is to cook it just long enough to get a crispy exterior, while maintaining a juicy center. Luckily, the chefs at Wildfire have it down to a science. The generous portion of New Zealand lamb is encrusted with herbed goat cheese and topped off with a balsamic demi-glace. Roasted plum tomatoes and rosemary risotto make the ultimate accompaniment.

Big Menu

Double O Grill
Rhinebeck, Wappingers Falls
Feast your eyes on this. At Double O, hungry customers open the (25 page!) book of a menu and face the challenge of making a choice from over 100 selections — Mexican, Italian, Asian fusion, good ole’ American favorites like baby back pork ribs, and lots more. Looking for classic comfort appetizers? They’ve got a range of finger-lickin’ starters like fried chicken strips and calamari. Searching for a healthier option? Try the poached pear salad. Or perhaps you’re hankering for something a bit more gourmet. Try panko-crusted crab cakes, filet mignon tacos, or blue cheese–crusted sirloin.
Rhinebeck 845-876-0800, Wapppingers Falls 845-297-7625;

Thing to Happen to the Port Jervis Dining Scene

20 Front Street
Port Jervis
Since its opening a year and a half ago, this elegant eatery in an old bank building has turned Port Jervis, tucked away in Orange County’s far western corner, into a hot spot for foodies and fun-seekers. Patrons enjoy flavorful American Regional dishes, excellent happy hour specials, live jazz every Friday and Saturday, a Sunday brunch (at which kids under 12 eat free), and a wine list with more than 100 wines from all over the world. What more could we ask for?

Greek Salad

Four Brother’s Pizza
(Nine locations)
The salad itself is composed of the usual ingredients — lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, kalamata olives, and pepperoncini peppers — generously topped with feta cheese. But it’s the dressing that makes this dish fit for the gods. Four Brothers makes and bottles their own Greek Salad Dressing, a mild, creamy vinaigrette mixed with just the right amount of spices. Try it at the restaurant, then take a bottle home for your own table — but be warned, it’s addictive.

Indian Buffet You Don’t Know About

This tiny restaurant on Poughkeepsie’s Raymond Avenue seats only about a dozen diners, but it’s certainly worth squeezing in for the freshly prepared, aromatic goodies on the buffet. At both lunch (when it costs $9.95) and dinner (a dollar more), the buffet offers five or six main dishes (lamb curry and chicken tikka masala are popular) and several vegetable sides (we like govi — potatoes and peas in a fiery masala sauce). Don’t miss their home-baked naan, hot from the tandoor. (Locals can get it to go at


Max’s Memphis Barbecue
Red Hook
The hickory-smoking process used for barbecue at Max’s takes up to 15 hours, and the melt-in-your-mouth results are out of this world. Check out the chili with smoked sausage, hand-rubbed pulled pork, hickory-smoked chicken, or smoked beef brisket — add garlic mashed ’taters, baked beans, or Ozark cheese grits, and you’ll feel like you’ve left Dutchess County to dine in Dixie. Adding to the illusion is the white building with oversized columns that looks just a wee bit like Graceland, if you squint.

*Best-kept Dining Secret

Busy Bee Café
Tucked away on a downtown side street, this culinary treasure has become a word-of-mouth favorite. A former deli turned into an intimate restaurant with just 13 tables, the Busy Bee dishes up sophisticated New American bistro fare like pork tenderloin with celery root and apple purée, or tasty lamb and duck specialties. The filet mignon sandwich is a lunchtime favorite; the rice pudding draws raves all the time.


Le Petit Bistro
This très French, très petit eatery has been delighting Francophiles for years with classic dishes like escargots and French onion soup (so Parisian, n’est-ce pas?), and entrées ranging from frog’s legs to lamb’s ribs Provence-style (so Provencal). Many ingredients come straight from the nearby Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, and specials du jour are usually modern takes on old favorites. No wonder satisfied diners exclaim, “Formidable!”


Julie’s Restaurant
A favorite hangout for Vassar students, this Greek diner’s diverse menu of pancakes, omelettes, breakfast wraps, and homemade muffins offers a great way to energize before hitting the books, the office — or whatever else the day has in store. Diners especially love to linger over Sunday brunch.

*New Restaurant

Xaviar’s X20
He’s done it again. Culinary wiz Peter X. Kelly — whose venerated restaurants dominate the lower Hudson Valley — delights his fans with this newest arrival. Situated on a Victorian pier, the restaurant has gorgeous 25-foot-high vaulted ceilings, three walls of glass for stellar Hudson views, and (not least) an exquisite American menu. It may be the most extraordinary of his mini empire.

*Place to Eat With Kids

Soul Dog
This quirky cafeteria is best known for its outrageous toppings and herbivore-friendly menu (nearly all franks and baked goods are gluten-free). Oversized drawing paper and crayons adorn each table, making this the perfect lunchtime treat with the kids. But please, we’ve been telling adults to go there for years. They’re top dog with us.

Old-fashioned Brunch

McKinney & Doyle Fine Foods Café
Maybe it’s the way “Judge Malone’s Corned Beef Hash” comes to your table in its own cast iron skillet. Or maybe it’s dining in the 120-year-old building with original tin ceilings while you look out at one of the most charming little main streets in the Valley. Maybe it’s delicious down-home cooking (we’re still talking about the strawberry-cream cheese pancakes) that makes you think someone’s grandmother has to be back there flipping griddlecakes. Whatever it is, expect a wait on weekends at this one-of-a-kind, takes-you-back-to-better-days brunch experience.

Shrimp-stuffed Jalapenos

Armadillo Bar and Grill
There’s no skimping with these made-from-scratch appetizers — at Armadillo, they pick the same jumbo shrimp used in their entrées to concoct the shrimp-stuffed jalapenos. A touch of Monterey Jack cheese, then the shrimp is tossed in a coating and crisp-fried to order. “Some people dip them in sour cream to cut the heat a bit,” says Merle Borenstein, the live-wire owner who has presided over her domain for 21 years. Choose a small order of three jalapenos, or bravely opt for a serving of five. “Some people even order 10 at a time,” marvels Borenstein. Just be ready with a cold beer or frozen margarita to wash ’em down. We also give a big thumbs-up to the oversized, overstuffed burritos.

Moules Frites

Le Bouchon
Cold Spring
Plump, fresh, Prince Edward Island mussels come steaming in a fragrant broth (mariniere, curry, or Provencal), along with a mountain of crisp, golden, delicious fries piled so high you think you can’t possibly eat them all, and yet... Add a glass of something dry and white, and it’s a heavenly little taste of France — prepared by English-American chef Joseph Barlow, who says there’s no secret: the trick is simply “technique and love.”

Thing To Happen To Salad

Going green was a great idea for Butch Casale, who opened this specialty café two years ago. At lunchtime, customers line up for a dazzling variety of fresh salads — and “it’s not your typical iceberg-lettuce salad,” says Casale, who offers five different greens. Customers can choose from a mind-boggling 50 toppings and mix-ins — everything from apples to white beans, chicken, cheese, and nuts. The biggest seller is the Cobb salad, Casale says, made with lettuce, marinated chicken, egg, smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, and bleu cheese. Another favorite: the Mexicali with mesclun greens, Cajun chicken, avocados, corn, onions, tomatoes, white beans, green peppers, and cheddar. Add a homemade soup, and you’ve got a hearty, healthy meal.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Food & Drink (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Hospital Food

Hudson Valley Hospital Center
Cortlandt Manor
Room service in a hospital? The wildly popular “At Your Request” program offers patients a chance to have meals cooked to order and delivered to their bedside — within 45 minutes — whenever they’re hungry. As long as their medical condition allows, patients can order as much or as little as they want up to 6 p.m. The food is a step (or two) up from average hospital fare, thanks to the program’s three professional chefs, all trained at top cooking schools. “Patients are always saying that it makes them feel like they’re in a hotel, not a hospital,” says Jennifer Fell, clinical nutrition manager at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.

Challah Bread

Rockland Bakery
Customers of all ethnic backgrounds love this bakery’s challah, says co-owner Sal Battaglia. The secret? The challah (Jewish Sabbath bread) is still made by hand, using a traditional recipe — and customers can also opt for a tasty raisin version. With a booming wholesale business, the bakery, which has been around for 40 years, distributes close to 15,000 loaves of challah every week throughout the tristate region, and makes dozens of other kinds of breads as well as rolls, bagels, cakes, pies, and pastries.

*Lunch Spot

Miss Lucy’s Kitchen
With an ever-changing fresh market menu and cozy, home-style setting, this country luncheonette warms its patrons’ hearts — and tummies — with tomato-topped tuna melts; thick, creamy chowders; and the like.

a plate of nachos from Bombers Burrito BarThese nachos from Bomber Burrito Bar (Best Cheap Eats) really hit the spot


K&D Deli
Poughkeepsie/Hyde Park (six locations)
The mark of a great deli is an unforgettable ham or turkey sandwich, and nobody does the basics better than these guys. With the Reuben as their masterpiece, K&D has made an art out of sandwich-making, and their macaroni and antipasto salads are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Poughkeepsie 845-471-1607




Bread Alone
Boiceville, Woodstock, Rhinebeck
Customers clamor for Bread Alone’s acclaimed hand-shaped artisanal loaves. First, the grain is ground on millstones, then baked in traditional Old World, wood-fired brick ovens. With offerings ranging from brioche to spelt, plus perfect pastries and tasty sandwiches, this certified organic and kosher bakery (which also serves coffee, soups, and salads) elevates basic bread. Their products are sold in green markets and specialty stores from Albany to Manhattan.
Boiceville 845-657-3328, Rhinebeck 845-876-3108, Woodstock 845-679-2108;


New Paltz Bagel Café
New Paltz
Especially on weekends, eager eaters queue up for this café’s New York–style bagels (firm outsides, chewy insides, thanks to boiling), then top ’em off with one of more than 20 kinds of homemade cream cheese, including classics like salmon, vegetable, and spinach-dill, or more out-there blueberry, jalapeno, and tofu. “Strawberry cream cheese is a special favorite,” says owner Paul Kellerman. Come lunchtime, the café serves sandwiches and such, too.

*Comfort Food

The Eveready Diner
Hyde Park
Miss Mom’s home cooking? This double winner offers a huge menu of comfort favorites like roasted turkey, Yankee pot roast, and no less than seven homemade pies. Yum!

*Cup of Coffee/Latté

Muddy Cup
(Eight locations)
This home-grown coffee shop chain, known for its comfy couches and cool lounge-like atmosphere, keeps opening outposts all around the region. Our readers really like them a latté.


Gigi Trattoria
Mediterranean-inspired dishes won over our readers as far as fork-able, twirl-able, and slurp-able carbs go. Handmade gnocchi, lasagna Bolognese, and wild green ricotta-filled ravioli top our list of pasta favorites.

Jack and Luna's soup
We like the way Jack & Luna's soups warm our tummies
(and our hearts!)

*Early Bird Special (tie)

Though you don’t have to get there early to take advantage of the $11.95 dinner special at Riccardi’s (hey, it lasts all evening), you can arrive at 3:30 p.m. to enjoy their tasty homemade Italian specialties, accompanied by salad and cake.

Hillside Manor
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday (and 1 to 7 p.m. on Sunday), savvy early birds flock to this restored Colonial mansion to feast upon salmon, chicken, shrimp, soup, salad, and dessert — all for the low price of $15.95.

Late-Night Snack for College Kids

Irish Nachos at Darby O’Gills
Hyde Park
The ever-popular Friday night hangout for Poughkeepsie undergrads, Darby’s has a menu that provides plenty to party over. But it’s the Irish Nachos that really tickles their fancy: The mix of seasoned waffle fries, bacon, globs of melted Cheddarjack cheese — and your choice of chili, beef, or chicken — perfectly complements that well-deserved Guinness after midterms.

Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs

Noshi’s Coney Island
Noshi’s winning weiners are of the throwback variety, the kind that audibly snap when you bite into them. The recipe is simple: Take a beef or veggie frankfurter, throw on the works (different orders feature chili, loose hamburger, or bacon, as well as the usual veggies), name it after a blue-collar industrial city (Detroit or Chicago) and — voilà! — you’ve got yourself a Coney dog. Here, the boardwalk-themed restaurant decor matches the food’s old-time fresh taste.


Andy’s Place
Meaty, beany, hearty, and warming, Andy’s chili is made from a family recipe that’s been pleasing his customers as well as his relatives for years. Get the bowl size — it’s so good, if you order a cup, you’ll only have to order another one.

*Cheap Eats

Bombers Burrito Bar
If you’re searching for a bargain, Bombers is da bomb in the Capital Region. With most items in the downstairs seating area priced under eight dollars, you can grab a giant burrito (stuffed with everything from jerk pork to barbecued tofu), a bowl of meaty Texas chili, or their famous loaded nachos without emptying your wallet. Nightly drink specials, too.

Jackaroni-n-Cheese at Jackalope BBQ

Comfort Mac and Cheese

Jackaroni-n-Cheese at Jackalope BBQ
Whether it’s for the ultimate summer BBQ experience or a soulful wintertime warmup, the Jackaroni-n-Cheese satisfies the most demanding appetite with its generous helping of soft noodles, smothered with melted Fontina and Jack cheese. Cooked to mouthwatering perfection, this hot, creamy dish oozes stick-to-your-ribs deliciousness, transporting you right back to Grandma’s kitchen.

Designer Mac and Cheese

Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese at Artist’s Palate
Envision steaming chunks of fresh lobster embedded in a maze of perfectly cooked noodles, blanketed in a scrumptious blend of sizzling gourmet cheeses, and topped with a Pedro Jimenez sherry drizzle. We can’t think of a more luxurious twist on this old-time American favorite.


Jack and Luna’s
Stone Ridge
“The public first loved the butternut squash with curry,” says owner Julie Bowman. “It was everyone’s favorite until they tried the tomato basil bisque. Then that was the favorite. Then I served the sweet corn chowder with crabmeat, and they all said ‘No, this is the best.’ Unless it’s summer, when the gazpacho goes out as fast as we can make it.” In other words, any choice is the right choice here.

*Ice Cream

Weir’s Dairy Bar
Salisbury Mills
Since 1956 Valleyites have flocked to this roadside stand for immediate relief from the scorching summer sun — and to satisfy that sweet tooth. At this family-run ice cream mecca (open from April through mid-September), frozen favorites include homemade coconut Almond Joy and cherry vanilla fudge ice cream; old-fashioned floats; and milkshakes.

Rino's PizzaReaders flipped for Rino's in New Paltz — we think you will, too


New Paltz
In a landslide victory, readers declared this Ulster County joint the greatest dough-slinger around. And it’s no wonder — owner Rino Mazzella tops his gourmet pies to suit every taste: from flaming chicken fajita to the legendary Grandma-style pizzas. That’s amoré!


Elephant Wine & Tapas Bar
This bold addition to the Ulster County dining scene, housed in a handsome Victorian storefront on busy Wall Street, offers only small plates. But don’t worry, chef Rich Reeve infuses big, Spanish tastes into inventive dishes like chorizo and chocolate and Basque-style chicken with piri piri sauce.


Terrapin New Zealand Green Mussels

New Zealand Green Mussels at Terrapin
Our readers told us that the very best appetizers in the land could be found at this classy converted church. But we editors want to let our readers know how we feel about some very amazing mussels. Don’t expect the usual topsy-turvy heap of mollusks in a bowl — this appetizer is a true delicacy. Nine or 10 juicy New Zealand green mussels (the very large ones) come daintily arranged on the half shell; lightly coated with a mix of finely chopped and sautéed leeks and mustard greens; then topped with a lemongrass beurre blanc that gets the subtlest kick from sake, white wine, rice wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Chef Josh Kroner’s duck quesadillas have been a hit at Terrapin for years, but this dish (which he created last spring) may soon knock them out of the water.


The Thayer Hotel
West Point
Year after year our readers salute the sumptuous Sunday champagne brunch in the Thayer’s luxurious dining room (it’s a National Historic Landmark). A lavish buffet, stunning river views — and cute cadets too — make us all want to march right over there.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Fun"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.



* denotes Readers' Picks


Rocking Chair Front Porch

The Winter Clove Inn
Round Top
This classic mountain getaway offers a relaxing, friendly feel that’s hard to come across these days. You’ll find no phones or TVs in the 49 guest rooms; with 300 acres to enjoy, most guests prefer to just soak up the fresh air as they lazily sway back and forth in one of the 12 comfortable rocking chairs on the front porch. “Until you come up here, you forget how everybody walks around with a cell phone attached to their head all the time,” says Lenore Whitcomb, who owns the inn with her husband Bud. But there are plenty of activities if you want them, including an indoor pool for the kids, thousands of acres of hiking in the adjacent Catskill Park, and nearby antiquing. “We’re not a cookie-cutter, chain hotel. That’s why people like it here,” adds Whitcomb.


Caldwell House
Salisbury Mills
B is for beds: The four guest rooms are lovingly furnished in period Colonial style, befitting a home built when Thomas Jefferson was president. B is for breakfast: Coproprietor Carmela Turcos’ crème brulée French toast, pumpkin pancakes, specialty scones, and other baked goods provide the morning fuel for your day trips to nearby attractions like West Point, Bear Mountain, Storm King Art Center — or the shops at Woodbury Commons.

Cheap Date Night

$1 and $2 Movies at Silver Cinema South Hills
Wappingers Falls
Looking for love without breaking the bank? If the thought of spending 10 bucks apiece for a flick that may or may not be worth your while has you feeling a little reluctant, then zoom on over to Silver Cinema in the South Hills Mall, where you can impress her (or him) with your savvy economic sense. On Tuesdays, you can enjoy 10 movies (that’s just $1 each) for the price of one at most other theaters in the area. Can’t make it Tuesday? Every other day is just $2. You can’t rent a movie for less than that.

Antidote to Boring Old Blockbusters

Upstate Films
Don’t expect to catch the latest romantic comedy on these big screens. For more than 35 years, Upstate Films has provided sophisticated movie buffs with a venue for alternative cinema. Showings are held seven days a week (adding up to over 700 screenings per year) and feature an eclectic range of independent, international, documentary, animation, experimental, classic, and silent films.

Miniature Golf

Yummies Ice Cream & Mini Golf Café
Fore! This prime putt-putt destination provides Valley residents and tourists alike with the ultimate way to enjoy a fun, active afternoon with friends and family. The challenging course, which was codesigned by owner Anne Spero three years ago, features multiple water hazards, a 10-foot waterfall, and a jump hole. The best part: After an invigorating 18-hole round of mini golf, you can grab a cone of homemade ice cream — or one of their famed hamburgers — while gloating over your hole-in-one.

*Ski Area (tie)

Hunter Mountain
Anxious cliff-huckers and bunny-slopers alike will find solace at Hunter Mountain, which still reigns supreme as the “Snowmaking Capital of the World.” Locals and tourists flock to this 240-acre resort to revel in their top-notch trails (including three distinct ski areas) and amenities, such as lessons, a health spa, restaurants, and more.

Belleayre Mountain
“Forever Wild” Belleayre promises its guests a new adventure on every visit. With tons of trails to master, plenty of eateries and shops, and five-star accommodations, the sky’s the limit at this premier Greene County ski destination.

*Bike Trail

Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Amenia to Copake Falls
Divided into two sections, the 15 miles of paved trail winds through woods, past wetlands and farms, and over bridges, offering spectacular views of the Catskill Mountains and Taconic hills. Best of all, it’s flat — so even if you haven’t been on a bike since grade school, you can enjoy this ride.

*Community Theater

County Players
Wappingers Falls
With a dedicated group of volunteers, as well as an enthusiastic list of regular subscribers (about 1,500 at last count), this nonprofit troupe has been mounting productions of blockbuster musicals as well as serious dramas for 51 years. Next month, catch Blood Brothers, a British musical about twin brothers separated at birth and raised at opposite ends of the social spectrum.


Dutchess County Fair
The second largest county fair in the state, this old-time August event (more than 160 fairs have been held over the years) combines traditional agricultural competitions with live concerts (the Beach Boys played this year), a carnival midway, and fried dough to die for.

*Golf Course

McCann Memorial Golf Course
No matter what the season or the weather, duffers of all abilities crowd this popular public course. With reduced rates for Poughkeepsie city and town residents as well as senior citizens, practicing your tee shot is both easy and affordable.


Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz
One of America’s oldest family-owned resorts, this 1869 Victorian castle (which has received dozens of accolades from near and far) offers it all — golf, tennis, skiing, and other seasonal outdoor sports; miles of hiking trails; a new spa; and a first-rate kitchen — not to mention its spectacular location atop the Shawangunk Ridge. With special activities for kids and families, year-round theme weekends (this month: Halloween Haunts and Happenings), and the Smiley family as your gracious hosts, it’s impossible not to have a great weekend here.

*Hudson River Cruise (tie)

River Rose Tours & Cruises
New Windsor
Two great boats, two unique cruise experiences. The River Rose, an authentic New Orleans paddle-wheeler, departs from Newburgh and heads south toward West Point. Captain John “Duke” Panzella provides narrated sightseeing tours, as well as brunch and dinner cruise options (the next dinner outing is Oct. 7).

The Rip Van Winkle
In business for more than 20 years, the Rip Van Winkle sets sail from the Kingston Rondout and ferries passengers past the lighthouses, vineyards, and Gilded Age mansions in northern Dutchess and Ulster counties.

*Indoor Venue for Plays and Concerts

Built in 1869, this beautiful Valley landmark (with its famous Wurlitzer pipe organ) has hosted performers as diverse as Mark Twain, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bob Dylan. This season’s lineup is equally eclectic, with headliners including jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, comic talent David Sedaris, and Motown icons the Temptations.


DIA: Beacon
Created from the shell of a Nabisco box factory, this enormous facility — 240,000 square feet in all — houses contemporary art created in the 1960s and 1970s by two dozen groundbreaking artists — from Richard Serra (don’t miss his huge torqued sculptures) and Dan Flavin to Andy Warhol.


Hudson Valley Philharmonic
Seventy-six years young, the HVP heads up the Valley’s classical music scene with a five-concert schedule of performances each season. Appearing with guest artists — who in past years have ranged from superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma to B-52s vocalist Kate Pierson — is part of their stock in trade. Catch renowned pianist Olga Kern playing Rachmaninoff with the orchestra on Oct. 4.

*Outdoor Venue for Plays and Concerts (tie)

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
The new concert pavilion at Bethel Woods, the site of the Woodstock festival, has hosted star turns this season by everyone from Rascal Flatts, to the Jonas Brothers, to the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Boscobel House & Gardens
Our readers’ choice of Boscobel is actually a tip of the hat to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, whose innovative productions of the Bard’s plays are performed on Boscobel’s expansive lawn, making dramatic use of the Hudson River as a backdrop.

New Museum

inside the Bethel Woods Museum
Blinded by the light at Bethel Woods' new museum in Liberty

The Museum at Bethel Woods
Baby boomers, rejoice! Visiting the Museum at Bethel Woods — a multimedia extravaganza that celebrates the 1960s in general, and the ’69 Woodstock Festival in particular — is akin to reliving your childhood/teenage years all over again. From Vietnam and racial tensions to moon shots, transistor radios, and Twiggy, these in-depth exhibits explore the tumultuous decade in full and fascinating detail. The Woodstock section includes festival footage broadcast in a state-of-the-art theater with high-definition projection and multi-channel sound (so the younger generation can appreciate it, too). Far out, man!

New Homegrown Art Movement

Wallkill River School
Based in Orange County, this artists’ cooperative has a mission of which the Hudson River School painters would have been proud. They work to promote local artists and help preserve open space by offering outdoor painting workshops at small farms and other scenic locales. Their Montgomery gallery does double duty as an art school, and members of the group have even published Orange County Bounty, a cookbook of recipes using foods grown by local farmers (available through their Web site).


Bowdoin Park
Wappingers Falls
The jewel of the Dutchess County Parks System, Bowdoin is an all-purpose playground for outdoor enthusiasts — with simply stunning views of the Hudson. Visitors can run or hike on the woodland trails, observe frogs in the pond, frolic on the swings, hold a picnic in the pavilion, or camp overnight in the lodge. The recently built bandshell hosts summer concerts and fireworks, and kids love to cool off with the famous water-sprinkling turtles.

Scenic Camping Spot

North-South Lake
Haines Falls
The largest campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve, this site has two things going for it: beauty and history. A short walk from the lake takes you to the spot where the renowned Catskill Mountain House once stood; they say you can see five states from this promontory. The famous Kaaterskill Falls, a favorite subject of the Hudson River School painters, is also nearby. And Alligator Rock — a pair of boulders positioned in such a way that they resemble a giant jaw lined with pointy “teeth” — has been attracting campers for over 100 years.

New Hiking Trail

Dutchess Rail Trail
Currently under construction, this new trail will extend about 12 miles, from Hopewell Junction to the city of Poughkeepsie. In some sections of the route, the 10-foot-wide paved pathway will run alongside a softer surface just right for walkers, runners, and even horseback riders. Best of all, 80 percent of the funding for the project is being paid using federal — not county — tax dollars.

*Place for a Picnic

Vanderbilt Mansion
Hyde Park
The lawn in front of this Gilded Age manse — with its beautifully manicured grass, mature trees, and unparalleled view of the Hudson — practically begs you to bring a picnic basket and relax for a spell. Afterward, don’t miss the site’s ornate Italian Gardens and (if you’ve got the energy) the hiking trail that runs alongside the river.

*Place for a Wedding

The Grandview
Barely two years old, this waterfront venue has already won your vote as the spot to host a lavish do. With its jaw-dropping views of the river and Mid-Hudson Bridge, indoor and outdoor ballrooms, and a package deal that includes spending your wedding night in the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel’s Honeymoon Suite, it’s easy to see why.


You're reading about the


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Fun (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Doggone Place to Volunteer

Guiding Eyes for the Blind Canine Development Center
We’ve listed this worthwhile organization — which breeds and trains guide dogs for the visually impaired — as an editor’s pick. But it was nominated by the volunteers themselves — over 100 of them signed a petition to tell us how much they enjoy helping out at the center. Over 1,000 people throughout the Northeast (many of whom live in the Valley) give their time and talent gratis to the organization: they raise and train the pups, help new owners learn to work with their dogs, take care of administrative tasks, and (of course) keep the kennels clean.

Way to Pass the Time While Waiting for Your Flight

Albany Airport Gallery
Albany International Airport

Ease the stress of airline travel — visit the third floor of Albany International Airport and check out what’s on view at the Airport Gallery. For the past 10 years, the space has been mounting exhibits in a wide range of themes. Their most recent show, Locally Grown, showcased works by 22 contemporary artists from the Valley and Capital Region. Throughout the terminal, travelers also can admire site-specific installations of sculptures, prints — even poetry.

Catskill Mountain Railroad -- choo choo!
Catskill Mountain Railroad — choo choo!

Best Scenic Ride

Catskill Mountain Railroad
Mt. Pleasant to Phoenicia
At present, you can take a 12-mile round-trip jaunt along Ulster County’s scenic Esopus Creek aboard this rail line (which uses a corridor that dates back to the 1860s). Both environmentally friendly and naturally beautiful, a ride on this railroad harkens back to the late 19th century, when well-heeled visitors from the city traveled by train to the grand Catskills hotels. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the CMRR offers Fall Foliage rides on weekends throughout October.

Historical Exhibit

West Point Foundry at the Putnam County Historical Society Foundry School Museum
Cold Spring
Owned by Scenic Hudson, the West Point Foundry Preserve contains the remains of a once-thriving manufacturing site built in 1818. Recent archeological studies conducted by researchers from Michigan Tech have unearthed evidence of how the foundry functioned, and how its workers lived, during the 19th century — all of which is explained (via actual artifacts, photos, and interactive displays) at the Historical Society’s exhibit. After visiting the show, you can walk to the site (which is just a stone’s throw away from the museum) and see it for yourself (through Dec. 14).

Garden Tour

Secret Garden Tour, Putnam ARC
We love this annual June event for a couple of reasons. First of all, you get to visit a number of private gardens throughout Putnam County, each of which is in glorious full bloom. From formal plots to fields of wildflowers, each site seems to have a unique appeal — and an owner more than willing to describe the flora in detail. Secondly, this event is a fund-raiser for the Putnam ARC, an organization dedicated to serving county residents with disabilities. Cheers to supporting a good cause while having a good time!
845-278-7272, ext. 287;

Local Answer to Inside the Actors Studio

This fledgling Rockland County arts center has taken a page from James Lipton’s popular TV celebrity interview show with their “Conversations at Riverspace” series. WQXR radio host Elliott Forrest (who is also co-artistic director of Riverspace) does live Q&As with Hollywood A-listers. Last month, Forrest grilled Alec Baldwin; previous guests have included comedian Lewis Black, playwright Edward Albee, and actors Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner. And on October 18, director Jonathan Demme takes over the host’s chair to discuss the art of acting with none other than Ms. Meryl Streep.

Best Car Wash

Splash Car Wash
Brewster, Carmel, Mahopac
A car wash is a car wash — if you drive a ’79 Pinto with 250,000 miles on it. But if you really care about your car, Splash is the place to primp your ride. “We are a totally hand-wash, non-conveyor belt facility,” says Brewster Manager John Xidiaris. “It’s a lot safer, there’s nothing beating on your car.” That’s especially attractive for your antique-show car or your $400,000 Rolls-Royce Corniche. Each car gets the once-over from a customer care advisor, who recommends various options, such as tar removal or scratch repair, before the first sponge hits a fender. When the job is done, a quality control expert inspects the results before you pull off the lot. Xidiaris still remembers the first Ferrari that pulled in: “He told us, ‘Boy, am I glad you guys are here.’ ” Of course, your ’79 Pinto is welcome, too.
Brewster 845-279-9010; Carmel 845-255-5545; Mahopac 845-628-5547;


The Rhinecliff
Brothers James and David Chapman toiled for five years in a labor of love to renovate the classic 1854 Hotel Rhinecliff. Over the years it had also served as a rooming house and bar, before falling on hard times. Now, the Rhinecliff is a boutique country hotel featuring beautifully restored wood floors, historic beams, stone fireplaces, and a Victorian oak bar. Its nine guest bedrooms are totally modernized and offer balconies with a smashing view of the Hudson. There’s a banquet room and a newly opened brasserie–style bar/restaurant with a menu emphasizing local ingredients.

Cozy Cottage Getaway

Storm King Lodge B&B
If there was ever an ideal way to enjoy the Hudson Highlands’ majestic beauty, it’d be sipping a cup of coffee while surveying the sunrise from the window of a quaint, homey cottage, right? Storm King Lodge’s luxurious Guest Cottage can make that dream a reality. The dwelling, adjacent to the lodge’s renovated four-room carriage house, features two private suites (with a shared living room), a 30-by-60-foot pool, and — of course ­— a traditional, wood-burning fireplace.

*Sports Bar

Michael’s Sports Bar
Valley sports fans go wild here, where 15 TVs (and legendary hot wings) ensure that the game is always on. Play pool, hurl darts, and try the mic with friends any night of the week.

*Live Music Joint

The Chance Theatre
Once the home of a movie theater, this ever-expanding complex now includes the Platinum Lounge, where concertgoers enjoy their favorite groups in a low-key atmosphere. Famous acts that have rocked the Chance include the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and local favorites Just Surrender.

Place to Move and Groove, Latin Style

Tuesday nights at Pinto & Hobbs Tavern
This downtown Albany tavern, a burger-and-sandwich joint by day and evening, transforms into a dance fiesta come Tuesday night. DJ Rolo brings the beat well past midnight while host Christine Chin shows the all-ages crowd (known to include State Legislature politicos looking to scratch their salsa itch) the Latino way to shake it.

Place to Play Pool

New Paltz
Why choose between good pool and good food when you can have both? Here, patrons have seven full-size billiard tables, ping pong, pinball, and foosball at their disposal as well as access to Bacchus’ Southwest-style menu and long list of imported beers.

*Best Thing About Living in the Valley

The Hudson River
Enough said.

Reward for a Short Hike

The Saugerties Lighthouse
If “hike” sounds strenuous, don’t worry — the half-mile nature trail to this local landmark is an easy, breezy stroll (though you’ll want to wear sensible shoes). Birds and butterflies bob among wildflowers lining the trail, but what’s even more delightful is the lovingly restored lighthouse, set at the mouth of the Esopus Creek. The 1869 red-brick building is furnished as it might have been 100 years ago, with a little museum and a gift shop. Take a picnic and enjoy the views. Book ahead, and you can even stay overnight: it’s a quirky B&B, too.

cartoon guys on go-karts

Guys Day Out

Whether you’re planning a bachelor party or just need to spend some female-free time with your best buds, starting the day off at Grand Prix New York is sure to get your testosterone pumping. At this five-star indoor kart-racing facility that opened in Mount Kisco last January, friends can suit up and zoom around one of two tracks for just $25 per 16-lap heat. After that, head north to one of the three Men’s Room Barber Crew outposts in the mid-Valley. Take it down a notch by relaxing in one of their big leather chairs and enjoying an old-fashioned hot shave. Once you’re primped and preened, it’s time for a classic male bonding meal at Sapore Steak House in Fishkill: thick slabs of perfectly prepared beef served in a setting rich with dark woods and leather upholstery — sounds manly to us. And to top off the evening, drive over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to Hudson Valley Cigars in New Windsor. Step into their oversized humidor and inspect hundreds of cigars which have been carefully hand-rolled in the Dominican Republic and other exotic locales. But the best part is that the store is connected to a fun, Casablanca-style bar where you can eat, drink, and smoke. Yes, drink and smoke. Happy days are here again.
Grand Prix New York, Mt. Kisco. 914-241-3131;
Men’s Room Barber Crew, Poughkeepsie; 845-485-5332
Sapore Steak House, Fishkill. 845-897-3300;
Hudson Valley Cigars, New Windsor. 845-562-1762;

Girls Day Out

Nothing brings the ladies together like a little primping and pampering. Our suggestion? Start your dames’ day out with the $80, one-and-a-half-hour “signature break” at Marlene Weber Day Spa. A steamy aromatherapy foot bath and soothing hot shoulder wrap are followed by paraffin hand and eye zone treatments, and a 15-minute shoulder massage. Next, jump in the car and head to the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Tour the beautiful 1895 Mills Mansion and “ooh” and “aah” over the 65 rooms decorated in 16th- and 17th-century French style — plus 14 bathrooms. (Yes, ladies, it’s bigger than the Vanderbilt mansion and designed by the same architects. But if you get too envious, just remember that you don’t have to clean it.) Chat with each other while meandering along the waterfront walking trail or stop for snack in the picnic grove. Then, head north to the Emerson Resort & Spa in the Catskill foothills where you’ll feel oh-so-feminine at high tea, served from 2 to 4 p.m. each day. Try their fresh-baked pastries, scones, and finger sandwiches — and sip on the ever-changing selection of Harney & Sons teas. If you really want to splurge, spend the night and take advantage of the Ladies of Luxury two-night package, which includes an assortment of spa treatments and luxurious dining options. Prices for two start at $2,100.
Marlene Weber Day Spa, Poughkeepsie. 845-454-5852;
Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Staatsburg. 845-889-8851;
Emerson Resort & Spa, Mt. Tremper. 877-688-2828;

Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge

Idea About to Come to Fruition

Walkway Over The Hudson
After 16 years of promoting the idea of creating a pedestrian path across the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, the folks at Walkway Over the Hudson — with substantial support from the Dyson Foundation and several state and federal agencies — have finally begun construction on the project. Slated to be completed in time for the summer 2009 Hudson-Fulton Quadricentennial celebrations, the 25-foot-wide walkway eventually will link hiking trails on both sides of the Hudson — a boon for both the Valley’s outdoor enthusiasts and the tourism industry.

Idea That’s Finally Come to Fruition

River Pool at Beacon
Five years after plans for its construction were submitted to the state, the River Pool at Beacon officially opened to swimmers last July. The pool, 20 feet in diameter and between two and two-and-a-half feet deep, is situated off the north shore of Beacon’s Riverfront Park, and can hold 20 bathers. While many folks have expressed surprise at how small it is, everyone knows it was no small feat to get it built. Its innovative and environmentally friendly structure consists of a ring of rainbow-colored fiberglass seats anchored to the riverbed by rope, an underwater fence to prevent swimmers from drifting out of the pool, and a mesh netting floor stretched tight like a trampoline. The pool’s water, carefully monitored for cleanliness, has thus far been close to pristine. Thanks in part to Pete Seeger, who first called for the pool to be built, the Hudson’s come a long way in the last few decades (and, yes, still has a long way to go). The River Pool at Beacon is a quirky and imaginative example of just how much progress has been made.

illustration of a man and a bald eagle (cartoon)

Place to Spot a Bald Eagle

Croton Point Park
This 508-acre park, perched on a peninsula on the eastern shore of the Hudson, offers hiking, camping, swimming, cross-country skiing — and a better-than-average chance of catching sight of one of these magnificent creatures. It’s also known to birders as a prime spot to view grassland species like meadowlarks, short-eared owls, and red-tailed hawks. The park also features a nature center that presents public programs, including organized eagle fests. More eagles than ever now live year-round in the Valley; spotting one is usually easiest in winter, when the big birds flock to waterways like the Hudson, whose naturally flowing tributaries offer hard-to-find fresh water.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Going Green"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Going Green

* denotes Readers' Picks


Way to Have Fun Going Green

Hudson Valley Green Drinks
You’ve participated in environmentally charged rallies and convinced all of your neighbors to recycle their newspapers. Now you’re looking for a more “recreational” way to express your environmental ideals. Your best bet: Attend one of Hudson Valley Green Drinks’ monthly events, where you can share a glass with some like-minded friends — and exchange ideas and spread the word on what you’re doing. The Hudson Valley chapter of Green Drinks — which is an international, self-organizing networking group — was launched this April. Be sure to check out upcoming gatherings scheduled for October 14 at Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, and November 11 at Steel House Restaurant & Bar in Kingston.

Green Restaurant

Red Devon
Forget “reduce, reuse, recycle.” The owners of this Bangall establishment are taking the effort to go green to an entirely new level. Aside from being completely committed to serving up fresh, local, organic food (think grass-fed beef), Red Devon has also constructed their eatery using the most cutting-edge, eco-conscious standards. From the rooftop solar hot-water system to the variable volume kitchen exhaust to the spoons crafted from potato starch, this is the green go-to for getting fantastically fresh food — in an environment that is serious about progressive environmental and agricultural change.

Example of Kids Going Green

Newburgh Free Academy’s Solar Car
These high schoolers can teach the rest of us a thing or two about environmental responsibility. Since its inception 14 years ago, the Newburgh Free Academy’s Solar Racing Team has created seven solar cars, three solar bikes, and two electric vehicles. Now their prized solar car has been selected as one of two solar-powered vehicles to appear on the Discovery Channel’s soon-to-be-launched Planet Green Network. In the new series, Battleground Earth, rapper/actor Ludacris and musician Tommy Lee use the automobiles to compete in a cross-country journey to save the earth.

Recycled bike parts for bottle openers from Hip E Living BoutiqueNow there's a better way to open bottles using your old bike (and we don't mean running over them)

Green Boutique

Hip E Living
Former Manhattanites Joanna Black and Matt Garrison left the city for the mellow life in Woodstock and launched Hip E Living in 2007. Dedicated to the environmental movement, they created the store — the “E” in the name stands for “eco” — to offer hip, yet high-quality eco-friendly products. The store itself is constructed largely of sustainable or recycled materials, and they sell well-designed products — some one-of-a-kind, ranging from recycled glass dinner plates to natural-fiber clothing and organic chocolates. Hip E Living also stocks a selection of natural laundry detergents and skin products. And did you ever see a bottle opener made from a recycled bike chain? How about a solar backpack that provides up to four watts of solar power to charge handheld electronic gear? Hip E Living has ’em.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Health & Beauty"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Health & Beauty

* denotes Readers' Picks


Hydrotherapy Treatments

Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
Perched on 70 acres of lush lawns overlooking the majestic Hudson River, Buttermilk Falls Spa offers an incredibly peaceful atmosphere that’s guaranteed to relax even the most wearisome among us. Although they offer a full range of services (including massages that last 60 minutes, not the normal 50), it’s the sublime hydrotherapy treatments that we treasure the most. While each room has its own whirlpool tub, it’s the beautiful glass-enclosed mineral salt pool — the only one in the region — that washes away every last drop of tension.

cartoon illustration of woman doing pilates

*Day Spa

Haven Spa
A day at Haven is like a day in heaven for locals who treat themselves to a variety of facials (they offer skin specific treatments that start with a thorough skin analysis), massages, body wraps (we’re talking mud as well as more-delicious options like chocolate or lemon chiffon body polish), waxing, and more. There are even princess services for the little girls in your life.

*Beauty Salon

Marion SalonSpa
Pleasant Valley
From bridal party packages to Swedish massage; from hair styling, paraffin manicures, salt scrubs, and any other kind of primping imaginable: Marion SalonSpa continually gives our readers the best in beauty.

*Health Club

Mike Arteaga’s Health and Fitness Centers
Poughkeepsie, Highland
Perhaps it’s their two very convenient mid-Valley locations. Or innovative programs specially designed for those who suffer from back and neck pain, or who are recovering from cancer treatment. Maybe it’s their sparkling clean facilities, which include racquetball and basketball courts, pool and sauna, and more than 135 exercise machines. Whatever the reason, our readers once again give Arteaga and Company high marks for helping them stay healthy.
Poughkeepsie 845-452-5050, Highland 845-691-6161;

*Health Food Store

Mother Earth’s Storehouse
Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park, Kingston, Saugerties
This one-stop shop for the health-conscious consumer offers everything from organic produce and homeopathic treatments to all-natural chewing gum. The expanded Kingston store, which opened last February, now has even more products to choose from. Can’t get to the store? The company’s Web site has it all on-line — along with news, recipes, and other tips to help you stick with the plan.
Poughkeepsie 845-296-1069, Hyde Park 845-229-8593, Kingston 845-336-5541, Saugerties 845-246-9614;


Gallery Salon
The Gallery Salon’s fabulous nail services keep Valley residents in need of a good pamper session coming back time and again. So treat your tired tootsies with an invigorating aromatherapy pedicure, or freshen your fingernails with a relaxing spa manicure (which includes a renewal scrub, evanescence soak, and rejuvenating serum for diminishing age spots).

All-natural Spa Treatments

River Rock Health Spa
“Our spa is a place to relax, celebrate, and heal... naturally,” says Babs Moley, creator of River Rock Health Spa, a deluxe spa-treatment facility nestled away in scenic Woodstock. According to Moley, every aspect of the spa “rigorously adheres to natural treatments by skilled and licensed practitioners,” using natural products from skin care specialists Eminence Organic and Aveda. Fruits, vegetables, essential oils, and other natural botanicals heal and nourish through facials, body scrubs, and body wraps, using state-of-the-art equipment. And with River Rock’s extensive service menu, the tired and weary are sure to find comfort in one of the 100 treatments, which are geared toward restoring balance and enhancing rejuvenation.

Way To Spice Up Your Workout

African Dance

African Dance with Assane Badji
New Paltz
Proponents swear that taking classes with Badji, who was trained in traditional African dance and drumming in his native West Guinea, is so much fun they forget how much they’re sweating.

Zumba dance


Zumba with Eileen Bastien
Everybody is doing this fabulous fitness program based on Latin dance and music — and more classes are continually popping up around the Valley. Orange County mom Eileen Bastien, who teaches several classes a week near her home, wins kudos for making everyone feel comfortable as they move and groove.

Rhinebeck pilates

Rhinebeck Pilates
Certified Pilates Instructor Elaine Ewing, who took over this studio in 2007, offers mat and tower classes, private sessions and special packages. But more important than all that, her students rave that she’s patient, knowledgeable — and flexible, too!


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Shopping"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.



* denotes Readers' Picks


Rare Books Store

Hudson City Books
Wide aisles, wood floors, and very high ceilings create a serene atmosphere for browsing among the 12,000 or so volumes in this well-organized shop. Westchesterites Karen and Neil Montone (who formerly owned Scarsdale Books) “fell in love with Hudson” on a visit in 2003; soon after, they purchased the 1865 building, and opened for business in 2006. “The books are more scarce than rare,” notes Neil, although he does have a valuable copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and a first edition Samuel Beckett. There are other firsts, including modern ones, fiction, poetry, literary criticism, cookbooks, and a few maps, as well as gently used classic paperbacks like those you once loved and lost. Find them again here.

*Crafts/Hobby Shop

Hobby House
If you’ve got a hobby — be it buildng model airplanes, trains, or collecting just about anything on earth — this is the store where you’ll find more to fuel your passion.

Place to Prepare for Halloween

Columbia Costumes
Whether it’s a witch, pirate, or Spiderman you’re looking to disguise yourself as this month, Columbia Costumes has the apparel and accessories you’ll need, thanks to its vast assortment of theatrical makeup, large selection of wigs and hats, and tons of masks. And if you’re not within easy driving distance, it’s not a problem — visit their user-friendly Web site and order your gear on-line.

Yarn Shop

Morehouse Farm
Red Hook
The Merino superfine sheep on this picturesque farm produce (as you may guess) super-fine, super-soft wool that spins into yarn that’s even more super — and not itchy. Morehouse Designs, a retail store a mile from the farm, opened 10 years ago to the enthusiastic approval of local knitters, who flock in to buy the gorgeous yarns. There are more than 70 colors, in weights from bulky to gossamer, as well as knitting supplies, patterns, and kits. Ready-made hats and mittens (check out the quirky Critter Collection), shawls, scarves, and sweaters are available for those who don’t know a purl from a pearl.

*Plant Nursery
*Garden Store
*Fresh Produce

Adams Fairacre Farms
Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie
Searching for a packet of seeds, a boxwood hedge, or a bushel of local apples? Adams has it. With five acres of greenhouses, they grows over two million bedding plants each year. Not a green thumb? The nursery sponsors a annual lawn and garden show to help novices and experts alike. And as the crowds at the market shops indicate, this is the place to buy everything from bananas to bok choy.
Kingston, 845-336-6300; Newburgh, 845-569-0303; Poughkeepsie, 845-454-4330;

cartoon illustration of girls with shopping bags

*Gift Shop

Handmade and More
New Paltz
This artsy boutique is stocked full of whimsical crafts and home decorations. You’re sure to find the perfect gift for that special someone at this welcoming shop, where the friendly staff happily help you weave through their eclectic collections of pottery, vases, chimes, music makers, and jewelry.

*Gourmet Shop

Babette’s Kitchen
At Babette’s, customers have the pleasurable experience of enjoying “simply good food” in a country casual, yet upscale atmosphere. Diners at the two and a half year old restaurant can feast on fresh baked goods, local cheeses, organic coffee — but you have to try the famed meatloaf and the freshly baked pastries and seasonal fruit pies. Babette’s also offers catering as well as lunch and dinner options to go.

*Hardware Store

Davies Hardware, Inc.
At Davies, you don’t have to worry about that overwhelmed feeling you get when entering one of the enormous chain home improvement stores which seem to be sprouting up in every available strip mall. In business for 120 years, our readers choose this family-run firm as the place to buy everything from canvas tarps to corn brooms, hedge trimmers to hinges.

*Outdoor Sports Store

Mountain Tops Outdoors
The brainchild of Beacon natives Leonard Behney and Katy Bell, this oasis for outdoorsy types has hiking gear for you (clothing, shoes, backpacks, hydration systems, maps, you name it) and your dog (leashes, collapsible water bowls, even sunglasses). A community-oriented business, they also provide info on local running and hiking events on their Web site.

Cutlery Creations

Warren Kitchen & Cutlery
This store just might be knife nirvana for chefs and other hardcore foodies. With more than 1,000 sizes and styles of knives, plus cookware, appliances, bakeware, and serving pieces, the shop serves both professionals and home cooks searching for the perfect kitchen tools. They’ve also linked services with on-line giant to offer more than 50,000 kitchen-related products available on the Web. And the emporium doesn’t just sell kitchen stuff — they teach you how to use it by offering cooking classes and other special events throughout the year.

*Menswear Shop

Pleasant Valley Department Store
Pleasant Valley
The Pleasant Valley Department Store, which first opened its doors in 1946, has survived the advent of discount outlets, malls, and on-line shopping by maintaining a small-store, customer-friendly atmosphere. Its menswear department offers affordable and classic brands like Carhartt and Dockers to meet guys’ business-wear and dress-down needs.

*Antiques Shop

Hyde Park Antiques Center
Hyde Park
Nestled comfortably — and conveniently — between the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vanderbilt estates, this quaint “antiques mall” is the place to look for treasures from the past. Everything from Chinese porcelain and vintage handbags to gargoyles and miniature soldiers is collected and sold here.

*Auction House

George Cole Auctions and Realty
Red Hook
Valley bidders can’t stay away from this auction house, where anything goes — from estate liquidation, real estate, and antiques to vehicles, boats, and farm equipment. On-line auctions, too.


Oblong Books and Music
Millerton, Rhinebeck
This independent book house offers a personal touch that can be hard to find in the big-box stores. Nowhere is this more evident than in their knowledgeable staff picks, which eschew the obvious flavor-of-the-month selections in favor of unique literary gems.
Millerton, 518-787-3797; Rhinebeck, 845-876-0500;

glamour kills, hip clothes
Glamour Kills (2008 Best Hip Duds for Dudes) — not your average graphic tees

*Bargain Shopping

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets
Central Valley
Why trek to the city for nice threads when you can find your favorite designer brands (Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta, Salvatore Ferragamo) here at thrift-store prices?

*Jewelry Store

Zimmer Brothers
In business since 1893, this full-service jeweler (with the ultra-friendly staff) is the place to go for fine jewelry, diamond rings, Rolex watches, and distinctive gifts for the home.


Main Course
New Paltz
The supremely satisfying catering operation stays local and sustainable, combing the area for the freshest organic produce and meats, to deliver a classy, delectable final product.

*Cheese Shop

The Cheese Plate
New Paltz
Drop by this reader favorite and sample all sorts of imported and local gourmet cheeses and jams. It might be just a cute little village shop, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s the big cheese.


Morgan’s Florist & Nursery
Our readers aren’t the only ones who love these amazing arrangements. Morgan’s design team was awarded “Best in Show” at the Dutchess County Fair two years running.


Next Boutique
Contemporary fashion-lovers, look no further. This trendy shop has all the season’s must-haves — plus fun hats, scarves, belts, boots, and bling — that’ll make you say “next!” to other retailers.

*Butcher (tie)

Fleischer’s Grass Fed and Organic Meats

Quattro’s Game Farm
Pleasant Valley

Beef buffs need not leave the Valley for a first-rate meat market. West of the Hudson, Fleischer’s offers a healthier alternative for carnivores with its organic philosophy; on the eastern side, Quattro’s carves up free-range and natural-fed fowl.
Fleischer’s Grass Fed and Organic Meats 845-338-6666;
Quattro’s Game Farm 845-635-2018

High-end Antiques District

The ongoing transformation of Hudson has turned the city into one of the Valley’s most popular destinations for browsing — and serious antiques shopping. With 65 antiques shops clustered within five historic blocks around Warren Street, you can find anything from 17th-century paintings to 20th-century furniture — and everything in between. The resurgence has also spawned an influx of art and antiques restorers, designers, galleries, and restaurants to the area. “There’s always something new to discover in Hudson,” says John Anderson, owner of Foxfire Antiques.

Budget Antiques District

With several streets of antiques shops and a growing number of restaurants, Saugerties has emerged as a daytrip destination. One bargain hot spot: the Saugerties Antique Center, an 1800s building that’s home to about a dozen vendors of real-deal Victorian antiques, cool modern collectibles, pottery, glassware, furniture, and what-have-you. “One customer the other day called it tchotchke heaven,” laughs co-owner Henrietta Dunham. “We’re not concerned with making a zillion dollars. We like to buy, sell, and have fun.”

grandfather clock from De'S Jewelers

Grandfather Clocks

De’S Jewelers
If you just want to know what time it is, check your cell phone. But if you want to feel connected to time in a more profound, philosophical sense, consider the grandfather clock. It’s a tradition, an heirloom, a piece of family history that can be passed from generation to generation, says Paul Mancarella, president of De’S Jewelers. “It’s also a beautiful piece of furniture, not a dust collector sitting in the corner,” he says. He carries two of the best lines, Howard Miller and Bulova, which feature hand-crafted cherry and oak cabinets, German-made movements, and a variety of chimes, including the Westminster, “the Big Ben chime that everyone knows,” he says. You can start your own family tradition for as little as $1,000, or you can set your kids up with a clock worth 10 times that. “When you hear that chime it just fills the house,” Mancarella says. “It’s a warm homey feeling you can always count on.” And you can count on the helpful staff at De’S to help you find the perfect clock — and to start your own family tradition.

Hip Duds for Dudes

Glamour Kills
Catering to teens and 20-somethings, this colorfully decorated shop offers a different T-shirt design for every day of the month. Owner/designer Mark Capicotto’s cotton-blend tees use witty sayings and vibrant colors, creating up-to-the-minute fashion with a touch of attitude.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Home & Garden"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


  Home & Garden

* denotes Readers' Picks


Quickest Bathroom Remodel

Wappingers Falls
What’s the hurry? Why do you need a new bathtub in one day? Well, if you have one bathroom, a general contractor could be there two or three days, leaving you with no running water. If you’re busy, you don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself. Re-Bath will put in a new tub or line your old one, fix your tub walls, install new plumbing and faucets, give you a lifetime guarantee, clean up the mess, and be gone before you come home from work. Re-Bath is a national chain of about 200 stores; Michael Schnorr, a longtime Hudson Valley plumbing contractor, now owns this and two other outlets in the Valley. Re-Bath can also re-sink and re-toilet if you want. “We don’t just cover problems up. We fix them, says marketing manager John Goleeke.

Plumbing Supplies

N&S Supply
(Seven locations)
Whether you’re looking to install a sink, sauna, or anything in between, you’re bound to find it at N&S Supply. Founded by Louis Nussbickel during the Great Depression, this third-generation family-owned business has been providing the residents of the Hudson Valley with quality plumbing supplies and service for all of their residential, commercial, and specialty needs for more than half a century.

Place for Home Spas

Galati Pools & Spas
Hot tubs have come a long way since the ’70s, with their cheesy wood siding and Chablis-sipping, wink-wink reputations. Heck, now they’re even called home spas and are recognized as true therapeutic instruments for such ailments as insomnia, chronic pain, and arthritis. Of course, you don’t have to be infirm to love the warmth and relaxation they provide year-round. At Galati’s state-of-the-art showroom, you’ll find over 32 models from which to choose, with all the bells and whistles — hydromassage spa jets, mood-setting lighting, and soft recessed pillows. Salesperson Robin Nichols, of the Galati family, which has run this company since 1962, reports that her home spa has a waterfall, special lighting, and also a circuit therapy system that focuses water massage on different body parts. “My husband and I use it every day,” she says. Who wouldn’t?

Kitchen Showroom

H.G. Page & Sons
Amenia, LaGrange, Pawling, Poughkeepsie
To many, the kitchen is the centerpiece of a home. That’s why the folks at H.G. Page & Sons have created some of the most spectacular kitchen showrooms we’ve ever set foot in. From beautiful granite countertops to luxurious stainless steel, stunning tile floors, or country accents, they have stunning examples of their product lines all set up, so you can visualize exactly how you want to design your own kitchen. Come scope out the latest trends and ideas.
Amenia, 845-737-8900; LaGrange, 845-223-7200; Pawling, 845-878-3003; Poughkeepsie, 845-452-7130;

Place to Buy Lumber

Williams Lumber
(Eight locations)
Whatever your lumber needs — treated or trim, framing lumber or plywood — Williams likely has the wood in stock, and can even deliver it to your doorstep (deliveries for orders over $300 are free). All of the store's Douglas-fir and spruce-pine-fir, two woods perfect for framing, are kiln-dried in order to prevent bowing, splitting, or any other sort of deformation.

*Furniture Store

Davis Furniture
Futons for the family room and loveseats for the living room — this locally owned and operated business carries dozens of styles for the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and office. And don’t worry about overly anxious, paid-by-commission salespeople — the folks at Davis assure us they’re here to help with what you need, not to pressure you.

Gardening Gizmo

Deerchaser by Lee Reich
Forget trying to deter deer with stinky soaps, human hair, or rotten eggs. Garden writer Lee Reich’s invention, Deerchaser, is a harmless device that scares them off using the human voice. A radio and motion detector in one, the battery-run, weatherproof gadget covers about 25 feet with a 110 degree arc. Just tune the radio to a talk show (Rush Limbaugh works well, says Reich), and mount the device on a pole or tree. It turns on when deer get within range, then switches off after they leave. It’s available on-line through several garden supply companies, so peruse the Web for the best price, then say bye-bye to Bambi.


Sun Wallpaper and Paint
Beacon, Fishkill, Poughkeepsie
Wallpaper’s back — and the new patterns available at Sun are far from fuddy-duddy. You’ll find gorgeous papers from Thibaut (one of the last American companies still producing original designs); Ralph Lauren; upscale French designer Manuel Canovas; and the veddy-posh English companies Osborne & Little and Farrow & Ball. There are 50 patterns on the Poughkeepsie showroom floor, plus 400 wallpaper books that each contain hundreds more patterns, using every motif you can imagine — and then some. Daunted? In-house designer Patricia Boyle is there to help.
Beacon, 845-831-0093; Fishkill, 845-896-6200; Poughkeepsie, 845-471-2880;

Home Store

Hammertown Barn
Pine Plains, Rhinebeck
These snazzy stores (there’s also one in the Berkshires) can supply whatever you need to give your home a little cache, from a pink acrylic broom (for a mere $15), to a hand-crafted bed, or a classy couch from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. You’ll find a few well-chosen antiques amid the wool rugs, lovely vintage-style bed linens, patchwork quilts, needlepoint pillows, kitchen, glass- and tableware, as well as fun tchotchkes, candles, and other accessories.
Pine Plains, 518-398-7075; Rhinebeck, 845-876-1450;

Place for Big Boy Toys

Pine Bush Equipment
Pine Bush, Holmes
Should you find yourself in need of buying or renting a tractor, backhoe, off-road truck or any other large piece of equipment, this is clearly your one-stop shop. The folks at this family-run business are longtime equipment experts who will guide you every step of the way with fair prices and exemplary customer service.
Pine Bush 845-744-2006, Holmes 845-878-4004;


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Kids & Pets"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


Kids & Pets

* denotes Readers' Picks


Hikes For Kids

Discovery Quest Trails at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum
A perfect antidote to video games: Take the kiddies on one of four guided hikes around the museum’s grounds. Lasting from 30 minutes to close to two hours, each hike examines a different natural environment (pond, field, woodland, or geological features) and teaches fun facts about topics like tree identification, animal habitat, and rock formations. The terrain ranges from the stroller-easy Field Quest to the moderately challenging Hiking Quest — which will likely leave Mom and Dad more winded than Junior.

Lifeline for At-Risk Kids

Marathon Project
About three years ago, Poughkeepsie resident Susanne O’Neil read about programs in Philadelphia and Los Angeles that use distance running to help steer inner city and other at-risk youth away from drugs, gangs, and other negative behavior. She felt a similar program could work in Dutchess County, and set out to make it happen. Today, the Marathon Project — sponsored by the county’s Council on Addiction Prevention and Education — is training teens in Poughkeepsie, Beacon, and the town of Northeast to complete next month’s Philadelphia Marathon or Half-Marathon. Along with adult mentors, the kids run three times a week for nearly eight months in order to go the distance — building character, confidence, and fitness along the way.

Enchanted Toys
Old-fashioned toys reign supreme at Enchanted Toys (2008 Best Toy Store)

*Baby/Children’s Boutique

Poughkeepsie, Fishkill
This mother-and-daughter-run shop offers both everyday and special-occasion clothes, accessories, and shoes for tots right up to eight-year-old kids. Gift-happy grannies love the signature stickers and colorful wrapping — and moms sure appreciate the store’s play areas, complete with a TV and puzzles.

Event for Kids

Kids Expo
Children rule Poughkeepsie when Kids Expo comes to town. For one weekend each spring, this citywide event offers educational and fun activities for the under-12 set. Some highlights from 2008: the Pee Wee Olympics and a Diaper Derby for the littlest ones; a climbing wall and a meet-and-greet with a K-9 police dog for tweens; and demos by a ventriloquist, a magician, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile for kids of all ages.
845-485-9803, ext. 500;

Charming Children’s Boutique

Cote Famille
For 10 years or so, Paul de Marchin has been dressing stylish adults at his Hudson boutique, de Marchin. About 18 months ago, he opened a shop across the road for their offspring, who can now strut their diminutive stuff in smocked gingham voile blouses, jacquard jackets with polka-dot buttons, or other adorable clothes, many imported from Europe. There are darling duds for newborns, party outfits, and day wear for boys and girls up to about age eight (plus a few well-made wooden toys and puzzles). As for the children who come to the boutique — are they charming? “Definitely,” replies associate Jonathan Osofsky.

Friend to Horses

Equine Rescue, Inc.
Executive Director Lynda Broas cofounded Equine Rescue over 10 years ago with a mission to provide rescue and care for endangered horses. The nonprofit organization, which runs a 56-acre farm in Walden (and another smaller one in Burlingham), offers care, adoption, and rehabilitation services to abused, abandoned, starved, and neglected horses. If the volunteers cannot find new homes for the horses, they’ll give them a home for life at the rescue farm. Fund-raising events — including a horse show scheduled for the middle of October in Montgomery — help raise funds to support the organization.

Best Pet Getaway

Pet-n-Play Luxury Pet Resort
If you are a dog or cat, Newburgh’s Pet-n-Play Pet Resort is your Club Med. Owned and operated by Middlehope Veterinary Hospital, it really is a resort, with amenities that rival most five-star hotels and staffing ratios that are better than top prep schools. So when you’re off skiing in Gstaad, you can leave Rover or Mittens in similarly luxurious accommodations. Consider (and we’re not making any of this up): every suite — yes, suite — contains a custom bed, pillows, comforters, lambskin rug, maid service, twice-daily room service, Web-cam and a flat-screen TV (to watch Animal Planet, presumably). Extras include a salon and spa, Movie Night (someone will lay on the couch with Snowball, eat popcorn, and catch a flick), Rent-a-Grandma (a private half-hour “cuddle session”), storytime, moonlit walks, organized play groups, gourmet snacks... oh, and then there’s the pool. “Most of our clients say, ‘Our pets are staying at better places than we are,’ ” laughs manager Charlene Schaper.

chiuauas are happy at Beacon Barkey's Beacon Barks Day

Pet Event

Beacon Barkery’s Beacon Barks
How do you show pooch how much you care? Whisk him away to Beacon Barks, the Beacon Barkery-sponsored Animal Appreciation Day Parade and Street Festival, where dog lovers unite to show their affection for their beloved canine friends. For the past two years, residents of the Mid-Hudson have flocked to Beacon Barks for a family-friendly day of doggy fun, including a kid’s corner of activities like dog mask painting, as well as dog trainers, vets, vendors, raffles, and pet adoption.


Jonathan Kruk
Cold Spring
Once upon a time, long, long ago, this storyteller began his career amusing his kid brother with bedtime stories. Now entertaining the Hudson Valley (and beyond) with 300 performances and workshops each year, Kruk has certainly made his mark in Valley lore. Aside from his role as the Legend Weekend Storyteller for Historic Hudson Valley every Halloween, Jonathan has appeared on PBS and the Food, History, Outdoor, and National Geographic Channels. Catch one of his interactive performances this season: October’s “Elk Walk” and November’s “The Wandering Leatherman” events take place at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River.

Groovy Blueberry dresses your little flower child

Place to Dress Your Little Flower Child

The Groovy Blueberry
New Paltz
Tie-dyed clothing stands for peace, love, and grooviness, man, so why not let your little ones help spread the message by outfitting them in something colorful from this unabashedly hippie emporium. “Tie-dye will bring you to a happy place,” declare owners Mama and Papa Blueberry, between musings on harmony, rainbows, and such. The soft cotton clothing fits counter-culture kids from newborn to Jerry Garcia-sized. Put a tie-dyed onesie on your infant and you’ve got one groovy baby.

*Toy Store

Enchanted Toys
New Paltz
A self-proclaimed “anti-Toys ‘R’ Us,” parents can feel good about taking their children to this unique store. From old-fashioned jack-in-the-boxes and train sets to hand-carved wooden trinkets and dollhouses, you just might end up playing with these novelties yourself. Little artists-in-training can enjoy coloring with beeswax crayons, and environmentally conscious tots can amuse themselves with playthings made from recycled materials.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "People"


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.



* denotes Readers' Picks



Serge Madikians of Serevan
Chef Madikians was born into an Armenian family, grew up in Iran, moved to California in the 1980s, and later studied at the French Culinary Institute and with the celebrated Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York. All these diverse influences come together to create his highly celebrated cuisine. Lucky for us, he finally settled in the Hudson Valley.

levon helm plays at a midnight ramble


The Levon Helm Band
Best known as the drummer and sometime-vocalist for the Band, Helm is a Woodstock resident who has taken to hosting “Midnight Rambles” in his barn/studio. Along with nine other musicians — including his daughter, Amy — Helm plays selections from the Band’s catalogue, as well as covers of popular songs by Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen (to name two). The wildly popular sessions sometimes last into the wee hours — and are known to be a rockin’ good time.

*Golf Pro

Rhett Myers
For the third straight year, our readers have picked Myers — the teaching pro at the Vassar Golf Course in Poughkeepsie — as the guy they want to help them straighten out that slice. And with good reason — as coach of the Vassar women’s golf team, Myers guided the four-year-old program to an appearance at the NCAA national championships in 2007.

Example of Super Seniors

Masters Women’s Tennis Team at Club Fit
Jefferson Valley
Obviously, these eight ladies spend more time on the court than at the mall. They are all members of the Club Fit Jefferson Valley masters women’s tennis team, which served and volleyed its way to a national title in Mobile, Alabama in April. The team qualified for the championship after scorching the competition at a regional tourney held in Saratoga Springs last fall. Once in Mobile, they won five of the six matches they played, earning them the crown.


The Dyson Foundation
Last year, the Dyson Foundation celebrated 50 years of doling out dough for a wide variety of good causes in the Valley and beyond. In 2007, grants in the mid-Hudson alone totaled more than $12 million, with 18 percent of that money going to environmental programs at places like the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.

Maurice Hinchey, best politician 2008Representative Maurice Hinchey stands strong as our readers' pick for Best Politician


U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey
This progressive Democrat, now serving his eighth term in Congress, remains a reader favorite year after year. An outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, a proponent of legalizing medical marijuana, and the author of the bill that established the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in 1996, Hinchey has recently been serving his constituents by trying to tackle high oil prices and securing more than $500,000 in federal funds for the expansion of the Sullivan County Airport.

Friend to the Arts

Carole Wolfe
Mill Street Loft, Poughkeepsie
Carole Wolfe, along with 11 other artists, launched the Mill Street Loft in 1981 in the former Bond Clothing Factory. Since then, Wolfe has been executive director of the nonprofit, multi-arts center that brings creative, culturally enriching programs to Valley residents of all ages. The Loft, now housed in a historic, two-story barn, offers extensive programs, classes and events in music, dance, visual arts, sculpture, design, drama, poetry, storytelling, photography, folk arts, and more; it also sponsors the award-winning Dutchess Arts Camp. The organization’s motto is “We change lives through the arts” — a major emphasis is on bringing people together and encouraging community unity. Led by Wolfe’s ongoing vision, the Loft actively promotes economic revitalization and neighborhood outreach, too.

*Radio Personality

Mark Bolger
New Paltz
Whether he’s dishing the Hollywood dirt with sidekick Kimberly Kay or offering up advice to a local listener, the Star 93.3 morning show host manages to be oh-so entertaining and engaging without being obnoxious. Born and bred in the region, the family man (he’s a father of three) also lends a hand with such annual initiatives as the “Stuff the Bus” food drive for local food pantries.

Uma Thurman, best actress
Uma's always a winner with us!


Uma Thurman
Seen a blonde bombshell driving down Route 9 lately? It could have been the Academy Award-nominated actress, whose performances in cult movie favorites like Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill helped make her a star. When she’s not on the big stage or island-hopping in Europe, our favorite starlet keeps a country house right here in the Valley.


James Earl Jones
Famous for his deep voice, this Pawling resident is best known for portraying Darth Vader in the early Star Wars movies. As a child, he overcame a severe stuttering problem by reciting poetry that he’d written in class. His son Flynn’s alma mater, the Poughkeepsie Day School, currently houses a theater in his name.


Roger Baker
Baker doesn’t slave behind an easel all day. He is a field artist, mowing the grass on large tracts of land into portraits of American icons like Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and the Statue of Liberty. Check out to keep tabs on his upcoming projects.

*Local Musician

Pete Seeger
At 89, this acclaimed folk singer, songwriter, and social activist can still be found performing at various Valley events, including fund-raisers for the recently opened River Pool at Beacon.

*Morning Show (tie)

Mike & Kacey in the Morning
100.7 FM WHUD, Beacon

Coop & Tobin Morning Show
101.5 FM WPDH, Poughkeepsie

Your a.m. rush hour drive just got a little better: readers love how Mike and Kacey shell out daily giveaways and prizes, including their Office of the Day (and Week) contests. A flick of the dial catches rock-’n-rollers Mark Cooper and John Tobin playing wacky game shows like “You Can’t Win” and “Did Coop Ever...” Both have listeners doubled over before they even clock in.
Mike & Kacey in the Morning 845-471-7477;
Coop & Tobin Morning Show 845-471-1500;

Up and Coming Band

The Morning Of
With two CDs to their credit (including The World as We Know It, which was released earlier this year), this pop-rock band consists of five relative youngsters (everyone is 20 or younger) from Orange County, including vocalists Justin Wiley and sole female Jessica Leplon. Their soulful harmonies have attracted more than two million hits on the group’s MySpace page and helped them launch a nationwide tour earlier this year. The band, however, doesn’t forget their roots; they can often be found jamming at the Chance in Poughkeepsie.

Mark Wilson, best triathlon coach 2008

Triathlon Coach

Mark H. Wilson
Founder of the Hudson Valley Triathlon Club, Mark Wilson helps folks of all athletic ability — from professionals to weekenders — get in shape and train for triathlons. Wilson, who started the club in 2000, had been a runner for 25 years as well as a triathlete himself. “I realized there was a need for it,” he says. “The people were there; they just needed to get organized.” About 100 club members — hailing from the Valley, New York City, and as far away as Rochester and Vermont — can take part in four races in the summer, one of which is held in Woodstock. The route: a 400-yard lake swim, then a 12-mile loop on a bike, wrapped up with a two-mile run; last year’s fastest participant finished the course in just over 47 minutes. Wilson also offers triathlon camps and coaching nationally. “Some people take a weekend or a weeklong camp. Others might hire me for a year to prepare for Iron Man,” says Wilson, who has coached folks who’ve gone on to the prestigious National and World triathlon championships. He’s also expanded beyond sports and serves as a life coach, too. “I love helping people transform their lives, whether it’s their first race or a world championship. It doesn’t matter as long as it helps them feel good about themselves,” he says. “Nothing’s better than that.”

Andy Mauer, best coach 2008


Andy Mauer
Hudson River Rowing
You could say Andy Mauer, who serves as boys’ crew coach for both the Hudson River Rowing Association and Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, won this award twice over. In May, Mauer, an IBM software engineer by day, led Lourdes to an appearance in the national scholastic championships in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In July, he saw his 16-and-under four-oarsmen HRRA boat capture a silver medal at the prestigious U.S. Rowing Club National Championship — and the 18-and-under, eight-oarsmen boat miss qualifying for the finals by mere tenths of a second. Mauer humbly credits his rowers for the teams’ triumphs — “I’m just there to provide the push in case they want to go to the mall or something,” he says. But there’s no denying Mauer built the foundation for their success: as founding member and president of the HRRA, he helped to conceive and oversee the establishment of the organization’s community boathouse, which provides HRRA members, high school rowers, and other local crew-bies a facility to train in year-round. So what’s left to accomplish? In the long term, Mauer hopes to see a Hudson-trained rower claim the biggest prize of all: “Ultimately, the goal would be to fly that Olympic flag,” he says. Given how far rowing has come around here since Mauer moved to the area in 1997, we wouldn’t bet against a shiny medal or two in the Valley’s future.


You're reading about the 


ème de la cr

ème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.



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