Every year, when we publish our annual Best Of issue, I am always asked the question: How do you choose your winners? And that question is invariably followed up with a second: How do you know you are right? I once had a furious reader call and challenge me to prove — scientifically — that the chocolate-chip cookies we had chosen were, in fact, the very best in the land. I’m happy to report that I could prove no such thing. We don’t have a laboratory here in our office, with different colored test tubes indicating whether one food is superior to another (although that would be fun); we can’t hire the top 10 pastry chefs in the country to weigh in on which French bakery takes the cake. There’s no money-back guarantee if we name a hiking trail the best for small kids — and your toddler has a tantrum halfway up the mountain.
No, when all is said and done, our editors’ picks are basically our collective humble opinion.
That said, we don’t make our choices casually; a lot of research goes on behind the scenes before we’ll deem something the best. For instance, the decision to name McKinney & Doyle in Pawling this year’s Best Old-Fashioned Brunch started with me. I had heard a lot about the charm of the place. So one Sunday my husband and I, along with my in-laws, went to see what all the fuss was about. We were all captivated by the entire experience: the food, the take-you-back décor, the lovely old Main Street area, etc. When both my husband and father-in-law were still talking about it a few weeks later, I knew we were on to something. But still, we consulted a number of restaurant reviews, spoke to experts at the Culinary Institute of America, asked our network of faithful foodies for their two cents, sent a few more people to brunch (it’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it). Eventually, we felt comfortable giving this established eatery an award. The same vetting process was used to pick the best fruit liqueur. While several of us were already smitten with Warwick Valley Winery’s Bartlett Pear Liqueur, we spoke with some wine experts who confirmed that yes, this libation is truly lovely — and worthy of mention. The fact that it has won some awards helped seal the deal.
So there you have it. All year we travel around the region tasting and testing, sipping and sampling, asking and listening; then we come back to the office, hash it all out, and settle on our gold-star winners. The result, we hope, is a fun and functional reference guide that you can keep all year long to help enhance your experience of living in, or visiting, the Hudson Valley. So go out and try one of the new spa treatments we’ve told you about, or pick up a near-perfect pastry, or plan the ideal girls getaway.
But the easiest way to test out our bounty of bests is by joining us at our annual Best of Hudson Valley Party on October 16. That night, many of our winners will set up shop at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel; so come on down and sample all types of fine food, sip some local wine, listen to some hot local bands, and much more. You’ll quickly be reminded why the Hudson Valley is one of the very best places on earth to call home.
See you on the 16th.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor in Chief