People in the Hudson Valley make and grow things. They always have. The area’s farmers, distillers, brewers and even baby food producers have defined this region north of New York City as an agricultural hot spot. In fact, its nickname, the Home of Good Fruit, came from its abundant pear, apple and peach orchards – many of which supplied fruit to the Beech-Nut baby food factory that opened in Canajoharie in 1891. Now a new upstate movement is afoot. The Amtrak train is a direct route from Manhattan, forcing the local B&Bs to up their game. Today’s recipe for a farm weekend involves equal parts rustic and comfort, plus a few craft cocktails and some chic bath products.
The best example of this is the Graham & Co., a 20-room boutique hotel located in Phoenicia. Founded by four Brooklyn-based friends, all of whom work in design and fashion, this Catskills retreat offers 3 acres of upstate R & R with a pool, fire pit, badminton court and outdoor movie screenings all summer. They also offer a line of bath products and fragrances made in house from natural ingredients. The bed frames are custom made from reclaimed local wood. “We wanted to create a place where we would stay,” says co-founder Amanda Bupp.
On the piano at Roy Ardizzone’s Hudson Merchant House, you’ll find a signed songbook from former guest Katy Perry. Praised by the Martha Stewart empire, Ardizzone’s boutique inn is a hit with celebs (e.g., Usher, Zach Braff and Katherine Heigl). The four-room B&B was built in the 1700s and eventually redone in a funky yet refined style. Guests enjoy a homemade breakfast with food sourced from local farmers.
At Bonfiglio & Bread, locals wonder what the ciabatta bread has in it. It’s that addictive. Owners and bakers Gabriele Gulielmetti and Rachel Sanzone have made Bonfiglio the go-to eating spot in Hudson. “We want to feed the people here,” says Gulielmetti. “Our goal is to be the local bakery.”
Mercato is the only place to eat in Dutchess and Columbia Counties, according to regulars. Chef and co-owner Francesco Buitoni (yes, those Buitonis) says, “The proximity of farms gives our food much more vitality.” Think globally reaching meals with locally sourced flair: grilled Mediterranean branzino with lacinato kale from Hearty Roots Community Farm in Germantown.
Montgomery Place Orchards’ offerings make them the Barneys of farm stands: elegant local kale, a dizzying array of local cheese and apples and bread from Tivoli Bread and Baking. Their homemade jams, creamed honey and vinegars are simply the best, as is the Annandale Atomic hard cider made from their apples. Owners Talea and Doug Fincke, their family and friends work the farmstand and are the reason everyone keeps coming back.
If you can’t find the knife you want at Warren Kitchen & Cutlery, which offers more than a thousand knives, it’s probably not a knife worth having. Warren Cutlery is the unofficial supplier for nearby Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and a great place to eavesdrop on local chefs and see what they’re buying. The shop offers free sharpening, and is loved by professional chefs and home cooks alike. Co-owners Richard Von Husen and James Zitz have been in business since 1993.
After a 17-year stint at Whole Foods, Otto Leuschel went local and started a hometown grocery on Main Street in Germantown, New York. With its windows steamed up from homemade bread, eggs for sale from a neighbor’s chicken and local microbrews on display, Otto’s provides a great selection in a small and stylish space. “Our farmers stop by to drop off apples or berries, and they end up staying for a sandwich,” says Leushcel. “It’s a truly local economy.”
Last year, Otto Leuschel opened the hardware-chic Germantown Variety across from Otto’s Market. This hybrid mix of a hardware store, drugstore, office supply store, stationery store, pet store and houseware store is like the old fashioned five-and-dime. Leuschel says, “I have nostalgia for a simpler time where we were not driving as much or going to soulless big-box stores. I’m just trying to put a little soul back into retail.”
In 2003, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee launched Tuthilltown Spirits, the first small-batch distillery in the state since Prohibition. They make whiskey using grain harvested within 10 miles of the distillery and vodka using apples grown within 5. “We don’t just know where the farms our ingredients and products come from are,” says chief distiller Joel Elder. “We’re out there weekly, walking the fields.”