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Planning a weekend trip to any destination can feel overwhelming especially when must-see historic and culinary attractions combined with ample time for relaxation are on the agenda. If you're visiting Dutchess County in New York's mid-Hudson River Valley, look no further than this Top 10 List, which includes a locally run bed and breakfast in which to spend your evenings.
With roots in the restaurant business extending back to 1906 first with Angelo's Tavern in Brooklyn and then starting in 1956 at Gurney's Inn in Montauk NY, the Monte family over the generations is no stranger to providing gracious hospitality and authentic Italian dishes.
Today, the Montes have reinvented themselves in the town of Amenia with Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room. Ann Marie (daughter of Angelo Jr) along with her four siblings and all their spouses joined forces with Chopped Champion Dafna Mizrahi. Angelo “Chip” Monte (former executive chef at Gurney’s Inn) still keeps a watchful eye over the kitchen serving up family inspired cuisine made from locally and sustainably sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Chef Mizrahi, a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park, is the ideal ambassador for Hudson Valley farm-to-table Italian dishes as they're served in Italy, with only the freshest ingredients from local purveyors like feta from the owners of Four Brothers pizza parlor a block away; “toussaint," a cow’s milk pecorino, from Sprout Creek in Poughkeepsie; chicken from North Wind Farm in Tivoli; and strip steak from Sugar Hill in Pine Plains. You can taste the difference in menu stalwarts like Angelo's meatballs, a specialty blend of beef and ricotta, and their Caprese salad.
Dating back to 1677, the Hudson Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the country. At the heart of this heritage is Staatsburg's 98-acre Milea Estate Vineyard with its brand new tasting room perched on a knoll overlooking the vineyard's 5.7 acres of Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay surrounded by rolling hills, horse pastures, and orchards in the distance. The interior has a farmhouse feel with a French bistro twist of tiled floors and copious paintings displayed on the walls. Right now, wine and cider tastings accompanied by cheese and charcuterie are served on the patio but eventually a broader menu will at times be prepared in a outdoor kitchen hosting cooking classes and wine dinners prepared by celebrity chefs.
It's not often that award-winning wines come from a first crush, but that's exactly what happened at Milea in 2015. A member of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition, Milea is best known for single varietal and Cab Franc rosé but also grows small lots of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, as well as more extraneous varietals like Blaufränkisch, Noiret, and Traminette. While not certified organic, they grow fruit as sustainably as possible with most vineyard work done by hand, reducing the impact of machinery and need for pesticides.
Just as much as grapes, apples have figured prominently at this family owned estate as far back as 1984. The trees produced apples so plentiful that cider making became a worthy pursuit early on especially when combined with local cider apples sourced within 20 miles of the estate. Their current lineup includes The Jumper Traditional (extra dry), The Jumper Orchard Select, and a Wild Goose Bourbon Barrel-aged cider aged for three months in barrels from Hillrock Distillery in Ancram, NY. Look out for their rosé cider set to be released this summer.
The USA's first presidential library is located on the grounds of Springwood, the Roosevelt family estate in Hyde Park. Unique from other presidential libraries, it was built under the president's personal direction while he was still alive. Roosevelt was also the first POTUS to make his papers available to the public by donating them to the United States government. When it first opened in 1941, the library housed a vast collection resulting from all his years in public service and quickly became overcrowded because he didn't expect to serve more than two terms.
Built of Hudson Valley fieldstone in a style reminiscent of Dutch colonial architecture, the library and museum's displays dig deep into FDR's political impact and personal life, including the study where he delivered several of his signature "fireside chats" via radio. In 2009 the library and museum received a $17.5 million renovation and features three floors of state-of-the-art exhibits, including the car that accommodated his disabilities resulting from polio.
Also on the grounds of the estate entering FDR's family manse gives you the feeling that Franklin and his wife Eleanor just stepped out and will be back shortly to greet you. The rooms with attendant decor, particularly Franklin's library, are preserved just as they were upon his death. Informative placards put things into context like where the king and queen of England as well as Winston Churchill stayed when visiting (the former visit portrayed in the 2012 film Hyde Park on Hudson), in addition to the elevator that Roosevelt had personally installed as a young man.
Also located in Hyde Park, Journey Inn B&B is run by Valerie Valente and Eric Miller, who bought it after residing for many years in Brooklyn Heights while enjoying weekend trips to the decidedly more breathable and rural Hudson Valley. They soon became local experts, sharing advice on all there is to do in the region. The inn has plenty of places to linger with a book or board game as well as meeting other guests in the two downstairs sitting rooms. Their scratch-made family style breakfast served each morning is sure to accompany their shih tzu named Buddy, who will invariably be making the rounds and winning hearts. A large window overlooks an extensive backyard and bird feeders that attract a wide variety of songbirds.
The inn itself has loads of windows and the interior decor of their seven guestrooms and suites reflect local history and inspirational destinations ranging from local legends like the Roosevelts and Vanderbilts to the English countryside and New York City. Best of all, you're within sidewalk walking distance to Hyde Park Village and directly across the street from the Vanderbilt Estate. By car, you are happily 15 minutes equidistant between downtown Poughkeepsie and the Village of Rhinebeck.
Also in Hyde Park just across the street from Eleanor's house on the FDR estate, Val-Kill, Joseph's Italian Steakhouse is actually located in a building that once belonged to the famous First Lady where in 1933 she began using it as a tearoom and in 1939 entertained Queen Elizabeth during the royal couple’s visit.
Now completely rebuilt after a fire heavily damaged it several years ago, the formal dining room is divided into an American steakhouse and a reopened tearoom where guests can take afternoon tea as Eleanor and her visitors once did, with a three-course spread complete with finger sandwiches, homemade scones with strawberry butter, petit fours, and truffles. The steakhouse dining area dubbed the “Sinatra Room,” usually has the legendary crooner playing in the background along with photos from his Rat Pack days adorning the walls making it the perfect setting for experiencing their 12 certified Angus cuts, dry-aged in-house for 30 days.
What was once the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge (and the longest bridge in the world when it was built in 1889) now welcomes over 500,000 visitors annually from across the globe. The 1.28-mile long walkway, suspended 212 feet above the Hudson River connects the Empire State Trail and Hudson Valley Rail Trail networks.
After a fire ignited by a spark from a train’s brakes in 1974 destroyed the tracks and a large portion of the bridge’s wood decking, the structure languished until non-profit group Walkway Over the Hudson assumed ownership and began reconstructing the bridge surface into a linear walkway in 1998.
Officially re-opened in October 2009, Walkway Over the Hudson is now a State Historic Park, open year round and featuring views of the Catskills to the north, Hudson Highlands to the south, and can be seasonally accessed via an ADA-compliant, 21-story glass elevator just a short walk from a Metro North train station near Poughkeepsie's waterfront at Upper Landing Park.
Also in Poughkeepsie and open for tours year round, a historic Italianate mansion sits on a bluff on Locust Grove Estate overlooking the Hudson River surrounded by 200 acres of landscaped grounds with five miles of hiking trails awaiting exploration.
Built as a summer home in 1852 for artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code, the mansion's design was inspired by the detailed sketches Morse made on scraps of paper, which he eventually handed over to his architect depicting the elegant villas he visited in the Italian countryside during his early years.
Morse was also strongly influenced by romantic 19th-century landscape garden design. When the next owners William and Martha Young purchased the property, they expanded the formal gardens and added a kitchen garden which today is restored as a place for visitors to learn about the wide variety of vegetables and fruits grown on the estate over the course of its history.
Touring the mansion's 25 rooms, it feels as though everything was left untouched since the times when a large housekeeping staff tended the kitchens, dining areas, and laundered the countless linens and bedding still on display. At the turn of the 20th century, the layout was expanded and modernized adding a new, larger dining room wing, guest bedrooms, and practical conveniences like central heat, running water, and electric lighting. The estate opened to the public in 1979 showcasing its 15,000 piece collection of furniture, paintings, and decorative arts.
Perched on a cliff just 50 feet from the edge and 40 feet above the Hudson River, the dining room at Poughkeepsie's Shadows on the Hudson feels like you're on a cruise ship looking out over the open water. Even as you walk through the restaurant's front doors, you are immediately connected to the river with two large murals of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and Walkway over the Hudson. More historic images flank the walls leading to the front desk with a custom made temperature controlled wine cellar in the background.
A four-sided, floor-to-ceiling fireplace of blue stone and glass at the center of the restaurant separates the lounge from the main dining area. The bar currently features 16 draft beers including a number of local craft favorites along with a state-of-the-art wine dispensing system offering eight reserve list wines by the glass.
In addition to Shadows' outside terrace during warmer months, the restaurant's panoramic glass wall can be removed for a one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor dining experience. Their menu showcases fresh inventive seafood and steak dishes ranging from fettuccine fra diavolo to burgundy-braised beef short rib. Directly below is Shadows Marina where you can take the Shadows One water taxi to the Newburgh Waterfront and back.
FDR purchased a parcel of land that would become Val-Kill in 1911 and Eleanor quickly became fond of the property in the early 1920's picnicking on the east bank of a stream running through the property called Fall-Kill. Known for their love of outdoor activity and informal gatherings, the Roosevelts adopted the picnic spot as a favorite place away from the main house to relax in a secluded natural setting. Later, Eleanor used the site to establish Val-Kill Industries, building a cottage and workshop where women revived handcraft traditions like furniture-making, metalwork, and weaving providing a skills training program that later served as a model for New Deal WPA recovery programs.
Led by CIA students, reservation-only public tours are available every weekday. You get an inside look into the school's kitchens and witness chefs grading students' handiwork firsthand. Student chefs prepare dishes for all onsite restaurants including American Bounty Restaurant, which focuses on contemporary and traditional dishes made with regional and seasonal ingredients.
Back in 1973 when American Bounty opened under the direction of a former alum, the menu was defined by the belief that American food could be as fresh, inventive, and locally based as its much-touted French counterpart. This was way before the Hudson Valley's farming renaissance made it into the regional breadbasket it is today. Since then, the restaurant has evolved but remains dedicated to celebrating the joys of the table and using exquisitely fresh ingredients in dishes like venison loin and seafood pie.
Photos: Dutchess County Tourism, Steve Mirsky, and the specific attractions covered herein. Coverage made possible by participating in a partially sponsored visit.