Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photography by Manos Angelakis
Hudson Valley Peregrinations
Don’t blink! Cause if you do, you’re in danger of missing the Village of Rhinebeck, and that would be a shame. Rhinebeck Village, in the town of Rhinebeck, New York, is a historic Hudson River community located on the east side of the Hudson Valley in Northern Dutchess County. It grew up in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the likes of the Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Roosevelts, fled the heat of New York City summers for the cool river breezes of the mighty Hudson.
Loosing none of its charm to the advances of time and the development of air conditioning, at the corner of Mill and Montgomery Streets, you will still find the 1766 Beekman Arms, which claims to be the oldest and still functioning, Inn in the country.
Rhinebeck’s streets are lined with a potpourri of old and new buildings housing shops, restaurants, theaters, antique and craft shops. A word of caution, the home owners of some of the beguiling gingerbread houses the town has in abundance, are somewhat touchy about having photos taken of their houses, and while they certainly have a right to protect their property from voyeurs, it would be more acceptable if they had posted a sign requesting privacy instead of screaming from their doorway to stop taking pictures as was our unfortunate experience.
Nonetheless, the picturesque village encourages strolling and window shopping by providing abundant parking. Once situated, I was drawn to the beautiful fashions displayed in the window at JOOVAY on Montgomery Street and stopped in to check them out -- and stayed to have a chat with Omkari Williams, an amiable New York City expat. Turned out we had lots in common and could have stayed talking but we had reservations for lunch just across the road at Gigi, Hudson Valley’s Mediterranean Trattoria. www.gigihudsonvalley.com
The day was warm and sunny so we opted to dine al fresco and sat on the sidewalk patio to watch the passing scene. We started with a divine combo of deep fried flour battered fresh calamari and crispy zucchini strips cooked to perfection and served with a home made tomato sauce flavored with Italian parsley. What a treat, after eating many soggy, chewy, poorly flavored calamari rounds with commercially made marinara sauce. Manos could not resist the renowned Gigi ½ pound hamburger dressed with grilled tomato, pickles, bacon, and lettuce, all contained in a grilled bakery roll topped with black onion seeds and sided with rosemary and sage grilled spears and the de rigueur chips.
I had a hard time selecting from the menu of delectable sounding salads and finally settled on locally grown field greens with goat cheese, asparagus spears, candied walnuts, beets, grilled mushrooms with add-on’s of grilled shrimp and Italian white anchovies. Dessert was an aromatic wild strawberry tart sided with fresh whipped cream and spearmint leaf. Lunch at Gigi’s was a delectable start to a week filled with culinary delights to be savored in both Dutchess and Ulster Counties, located on both sides of the Hudson River… more on this later.
The White Wine list is quite interesting and full of excellent summer wines. It was divided into:
Sparkling Wines, with 2 Proseccos - a Primo Franco 2010 vintage and an Extra Dry from the Treviso DOC; a nice Cava from Penedès (Segura Viudas Brut Reserva); a Rosé sparkler from Alto Adige (Metodo Classico Cantine Ferrari); and an Excellence Brut NV from Gosset.
Southern France, with 2 Chardonnays - a 2011 Le Bourcier, Macon, and a 2011 Domaine Antugnac from Languedoc. Also, a 2012 Domaine Lafage from Languedoc.
Spain, 3 whites - a 2009 Verdejo ‘Con Class, from Rueda; a 2011 Albarino from Rias Baixas; and a 2009 Can Feixes from the Huguet Estate in Penedes (to see more about wines from Catalonia click here).
A Tocai “Gigi” Millbrook from New York’s Hudson Valley.
The Italian list was quite long. 14 wines from different areas that included a 2011 Pecorino DOC from Abruzzo, an excellent 2011 Gavi from Piemonte, a couple Pinot Grigios from the Veneto and Friuli, a 2012 very nice Muller-Thurgau from Alto Adige, a couple Sauvignon Blancs also from the Veneto and Friuli, and a very interesting Falanghina from Campania (an excellent wine, very popular during the Roman period that was recently revived when Falanghina vineyards were discovered in Campania and Lazio about 15 years ago).
The Red Wine list was mostly from Italy, Spain and a few from Southern France.
To walk off lunch we continued our exploration of Rhinebeck Village, stopping in at cousins Zak and Charlie’s Pure Mountain Olive Oil emporium. The shop carries olive oils, balsamic vinegars and sea salts from around the world, all available for tasting. The friendly staff will even help you combine flavors to taste before you buy them. www.puremountainoliveoil.com
Of course we could not pass visiting Oliver Kita Chocolatier, where hand made chocolate bonbons are produced using fruits, berries, flowers, herbs and spices, citrus, and liqueurs, artfully blended into exotic combinations and exquisitely decorated confections. www.oliverkita.com
Before heading over to our hotel in Rhinecliff, a hamlet of Rhinebeck, we continued on Montgomery Street to Red Hook, New York, to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and Museum. In a large open field you can watch air shows with antique airplanes from WWI, and the barnstorming era of aviation. In hangars, by the side of the aerodrome’s grass landing field, you will see such delightful antiques as a French Bleriot XI, the oldest still flying aircraft in the United States, and the second oldest flying aircraft in the world; a reproduction of the 1917 German Albatros D.Va biplane (…curse you Red Barron!); a Fokker triplane and numerous others. Also on display are antique vehicles, while enticing Biplane rides are available for those desiring a thrilling adventure. Call for schedules and reservations 845-752-3200 or visit www.oldrhinebeck.org
By now we were ready for some serious down time and grateful for our GPS that guided us to the Rhinecliff Hotel, an 1854 renovated railroad hotel located just next to the train tracks along the river, one stop sign past the railroad station. The multi level hotel, sans elevator, has managed to retain the ambiance of its era while incorporating all modern electronics and fixtures into its 5 year, 5 million dollar renovation, under the auspices of James and David Chapman, the innkeepers. Choosing creative design elements to please the eye and titillate the senses, gives the eclectic hotel an amusing and unique point of view. Our room on the second floor was spacious with a sitting area and king sized bed crafted from the hotel’ s original ceiling beams into a platform upon which was laid a deep seated mattress covered with 100% Egyptian cotton bedding. The bed faced double doors leading to a small balcony overlooking the river and track crossing gantry. The pale yellow painted walls and outstanding original wide floor boards placed in a stunning stylized parquet design along with funky modern art completed the simple but friendly décor. Of course flat screen TV and high tech radio/alarm were accommodated. Scattered around the room were charming notes describing the workings of the various amenities, a much appreciated feature having struggled so often to figure out the various and sundry operating mechanisms in hotel rooms. So too was the thoughtful card holding ear plugs for those guests unnerved by the sounds of a passing train shattering the nighttime silence.
But for me, a city girl, the soulful sound of the train’s whistle and gentle rocking of the passing train lulled me to sleep in the too quiet countryside.
Our oversized bathroom contained a wall-to-wall Jacuzzi tub located under the window which offered a view of the setting sun melting into the calm river, while niches over the tub held candles for that special bathing experience. A Kohler water system wall-to-wall shower was on the opposite wall separated by double matching sinks.
We had a light dinner on the tented porch facing out over the tracks and the Hudson River beyond, watching the passing trains with their cargo of commuters anxious to return home to their pastoral community just 90 minutes from New York City. www.therhinecliff.com
More adventures and wonderful dining experiences await us as we sojourn into the historic past along the Hudson River Valley; we stop in Poughkeepsie and continue on to the famous “other CIA” (The Culinary Institute of America) and finally to the spectacular Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa in Milton, New York on the west side of the river.
For further information visit:
Dutchess County Tourism at www.dutchesstourism.com
Ulster County Tourism at www.ulstercountyalive.com
© June 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.