The Hudson Valley is only a couple hours drive away from the city- just 100 miles! Believe it or not, the huge Catskills mountain ranges occupy 700,000 acres of fluffy green trees, waterfalls, rocks, and wildlife just waiting for you walk all around them. I shouldn’t admit it, but for your pleasure, I will say I thought New York was only city life before I moved here. When I saw these freshly brushed mountains, peaks, rocks, lakes, and wildlife for the first time I was blow away! New York really does offer everything. The people in upstate New York all give off a calm sense of warmth and “been there done that” attitude about New York City. The restaurant, grocery store, and bed and breakfast owners look at us city slickers in awe of their time in the boroughs, and we look at them in awe of their slow pace of life, green grass, fresh produce, and lake life. It’s quite a trade! While Monhonk Mountain House is an upscale resort that includes room and board, food, and all kinds of activities as a one stop shop, if you have a car Athens, NY is a great place to stay in the Hudson Valley.
THE STEWART HOUSE
We stayed at The Stewart House, which is a quaint old house built in 1883 was renovated in 2011 making it feel like the summer home you’v always wanted. Think a cute little breakfast room with wallpaper of world longitude and latitude, (complimentary breakfast everyday), a lovely sitting room upstairs with inviting couches, tea, coffee, and pretzels, and gorgeous white drapes, full windows and a cozy bed to dive into. The house faces the Hudson River and a grassy knoll where they have live bands and music nightly as well as a bar called Happy Jake’s. We booked our room only one week in advance in August. You can also take the $12 round trip ferry over to the town of Hudson for great restaurants such as Bakar at Back Bar. This is Zak Pelaccio’s new Malaysian restaurant. It’s feels like Brooklyn with a nice spacious patio and fun Asian style light up lamps. The food has just been added in June. Go for the whole fish which is mackerel, the cucumbers with chili vinegar, and the fried potatoes which are salty and crunchy as hell. Besides the fish everything is under $20, and since you’ll most likely be sharing, walking away after this low bill feels like a crime. Also, you can get freshly cracked coconut water and spiked with rum. Lots of feelings here!
For more information on great hikes, we went to Kaaterskills Falls which is a two-stage waterfall. You can do a shorter hike up to the first fall and play around in the pool of water, or climb about 100 stairs up and a few miles more up to the highest point which is around an hour total. Working those buns of steal is included. Once you are up here, you can see the clearest views of the mountains in the distance and enjoy some clear air and blue skies. The walk down is much quicker obviously. Also, make sure you go early to try and get a parking spot. You’ll have to walk along the highway to get to the starting point, but have no fear you are headed the right way. On your drive back to the city, stop in New Paltz and climb Breakneck Ridge. This hike begins with a rock scramble on your hands and knees for about the first hour. Good luck, but you’ll never be prouder of finishing anything else that took you a total of 4 hours. Then reward yourself with Moo Moo’s Creamery ice cream in Cold Springs right at the end of the hike. This is also by the train if you are just going up here for the day from Grand Central Station.
Top of Kaaterskills Falls
My favorite meal out here was about a 20 minute drive from The Stewart House in Athens to a town called Germantown. The restaurant called Gaskins, stole my heart, and the old lady at the resale shop next door named Eve made me realize how caught up we get in the city, and that the simple things in life are truly great again! Anyway, Gaskins is a country, chic, farm-house style restaurant. The navy coloring of the outside wood, park bench style seating which happened to be surprisingly comfortable, indoor light posts, and cloudy windows that separate the bar from the restaurant made you feel that all was right in the world. The heavy vegetable centric menu proves that this place is really serving you what is growing outside around the corner, and they can do magical and creative things without having to do much at all. The plates are also very large so take that into consideration when ordering.
Start with the huge plate of Heirloom Tomatoes with Peaches and Basil, and be so sneaky to also order the Burrata with Garlic Scape Pesto, so you can combine the flavors together in one bite or even on one piece of toast. If you want to feel and taste a garden in your mouth, these two guys together are the way to go. I also loved the Roasted Beets with Chili Oil and Creme Fraiche. The Lentils & Mushroom main with carrot puree, broccoli and a soft egg is super lentil heavy. However, it feels oh so good to get your vegetables and nutrients in during this meal. Somehow Gaskins makes all the vegetable dishes feel like comfort food. You have the same emotions after eating a crazy bowl of pasta—satisfaction and pure bliss, except here you are actually eating something good for you.
Heirloom Tomatoes + Peaches
However, this brings me to two of the best things I have eaten all summer which include the opposite: Baked Mac & Cheese with Breadcrumbs and Homemade Ice Cream. You absolutely cannot miss the mac ‘n cheese here. After I broke into the pile of breadcrumbs through the pasta and into the creamy cheese sauce, I boldly stated that it was the best I think I’ve ever had. Nothing tastes too artificial, the cheese isn’t too strong or overly mixed with too many kinds, and the ratio of breadcrumbs is on par. Seriously, once this little dish was over, we kept digging around for more. It’s cute as a button and one of the more polite Mac ‘n Cheese offerings I’ve seen without anything too wild or bursting over.
To round out your lovely farm house evening, get one scoop of the Sweet Cream ice cream and one of the Chocolate. The chocolate somehow tastes like mousse but it’s ice cream. At this point in the meal, I almost blacked out because my senses had just reached a peak. It’s creamy, cold, not too sweet, and ends the night and the trip for that matter with memories you simply just can’t wipe away.
As long as you get a good hike in, meet some locals, bring a freshly grown tomato home, and indulge in some homemade ice cream out in the Hudson Valley, you’ll have a successful trip no matter what. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Shrimp + Grits