For too long the Hudson Valley was considered a second-rate region, an afterthought realm that served but two purposes for most New York City dwellers: Autumn leaf peeping and apples ad nauseum. But with its verdant, big-sky vistas, its storybook small towns, and its wealth of organic crops and markets, the area has fast become a capital of the farm-to-table phenomenon and a destination for foodies. If you find yourself in the Big Apple this summer, head due north toward the source of some of the best fare on the planet.
The Kingston-based butcher shop Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meat, which has a shop in Brooklyn, has long been a mecca for local grass-fed and hormone-free meats, like its lamb loin chops and dry-aged porterhouse. If you can, um, carve out the time, the shop offers a three-day butchering 101 class. In addition to supplying New York’s top restaurants with everything from foie gras to micro greens, Hudson Valley-area farms help make the farmer’s market scene one of the most bountiful in the nation. One of the Valley’s best is in the town of Hudson, held every Saturday from May through Thanksgiving. Your market must-buys: Breakfast carrots from Red Oak Farm, chewy pretzels from Loaf Bakery, and Doc’s Hard Cider from Warwick Valley Winery.
Last fall, John McCarthy and Ben Freemole, who earned their stripes at New York’s acclaimed WD-50, opened The Crimson Sparrow in Hudson, which has fast become a destination dinner for foodies from the Big City. The order: lobster-and-shrimp cassoulet with sous-vide pine nuts. Go to Mercato Osteria and Enoteca in Red Hook for the grilled branzino with roasted potatoes and sautéed local lacinata kale paired with Paolo Scavino’s Piemonte Rosso; Local 111 in Philmont for burgers and steaks from cattle raised by nearby Grazin’ Angus Acres. Bonus: Be on the look out for the much-anticipated opening of Fish & Game, chef Zak Pelaccio’s (Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue in NYC) first foray upstate.
While not on par with the Finger Lakes or Long Island, the Hudson Valley does sport a legitimate wine industry based largely on hybrid grapes and a few noble varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Millbrook Vineyards and Winery in Dutchess County not only offers jaw-dropping views of the valley, it also has guided tours and tastings of its Chardonnay, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. At rustic Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, sip the dry Riesling and Seyval Blanc, and Merlot and Cab Franc. For a more potent pour, head to Hudson Whiskey in Gardiner. One of the vanguards of the craft distilling boom, this family operation boasts several mouth-watering mash bills, including its Corn Whiskey, rye and Baby Bourbon.