Best of Hudson Valley 2011: New Winners, Old Favorites Dominate 25th Issue of Best Food, Shopping, and Entertainment in Upstate NY (Editor’s Letter)

A word from Hudson Valley Editor in Chief, Olivia J. Abel

We’re celebrating a big anniversary here at Hudson Valley. This October marks the 25th year that we have published our Best of Hudson Valley issue. 25 years! Wow. Of course, many things have changed since that first BOHV, which appeared in January 1987. The magazine ran four black and white pages (only the covers of the magazine, and an occasional photo spread or ad, were in color back then) announcing the winners in 22 different categories in the first readers’ poll.

In this issue, we bring you 20 colorful pages proclaiming more than 200 winners; in addition to polling our loyal readers, our team of editors and experts also weighs in with their thoughts about who and what constitutes the best of life here in the Valley. This year also marks the first time readers have voted for some of their picks online. We weren’t sure how attached you all were to the paper ballot that appears in the March issue, but happily you sent it back in record numbers and voted online at a rate that exceeded our expectations. So, we thank you for your participation. After all, this is an interactive effort — you learn from us, and we learn from you.    

Still, after I cringed at the ancient graphics — remember clip art, everyone? — it was loads of fun to discover what has and hasn’t changed in a quarter of a century. For instance, in 1987 our readers voted the Hyde Park Festival Theater as the best theater; we applauded the new management, which was bringing in stars like Stockard Channing. Unfortunately, the theater burned down in a spectacular fire several months later, bringing a longtime Valley tradition to an end. Best ice cream? Sweet Blondie’s, with shops in Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, and Highland reigned as king of the cone. That was before my time — and senior editor Polly Sparling, who has lived here for 24 years, doesn’t remember it either. (Readers?) The favorite politician then was Dutchess County executive Lucille Pattison, the first woman ever elected to that county’s legislature. She served from 1978-1991.

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It is also interesting how many things haven’t changed. Best produce? Even back then it was Adams Fairacre Farms. Adams still routinely wins in multiple categories: this year, not only “best produce” but also “best gourmet store” and “best plant nursery/garden store,” too. Back then, there was no Newburgh branch, and who could have possibly anticipated that a Wappingers outpost would soon be opening (those of us in southern Dutchess can’t wait). The best skiing was at Hunter Mountain, the same as now; the best fair or festival has consistently remained the Dutchess County Fair. Readers in 1987 voted Poughkeepsie’s Milanese Restaurant the best Italian eatery in the region, and lo and behold, fast-forward 25 years and you’ve declared it the winner of the best pasta. This family-run establishment is celebrating a big anniversary of its own — 40 years on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street. That’s some impressive staying power, particularly in this economy. So, a hearty congrats to the Milanese family, and we’ll be visiting soon for a bowl of spaghetti bolognese.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue. And you can see for yourself how wonderful our winners are by joining us at our annual Best of Hudson Valley Party on October 13 at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. You can chow down on loads of delicious food, sip and sample local beers and wines (and whiskey), listen to some great bands, and contemplate how lucky we are to live in such a great region. See you there!


Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief

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