Best of Hudson Valley 2009

It’s that time again, folks. For 23 years, we’ve brought you the Best of the Hudson Valley, soliciting your take on the region’s finest restaurants, shops, services, and people — and offering up a few choice picks of our own. Conjure up a category and you’ll likely find it somewhere on the following pages, from the tastiest shrimp-stuffed jalapeños to what you, dear readers, believe to be the greatest thing about living here. (Hint: it’s big, it’s blue, and it flows in two directions.) So without further ado, we present to you the biggest, the brightest, and the best our region has to offer


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Local TV Talent

Voices of Glory Highland
When their mother, Felicia, slipped into a coma after being struck by a drunk driver in 2007, the Cole siblings (Michael, 17; Avery, 13; and Nadia, 9) of Highland took to singing at her bedside. (Eight months later, Felicia awoke.) Recognizing their talent, the trio visited hospitals and nursing homes in an effort to brighten the days of other patients — and the rest is history. After bringing judge Sharon Osbourne to tears with their rousing a cappella version of “God Bless America” on America’s Got Talent, the Voices of Glory are now the nation’s feel-good story of the year. As of press time, they’d reached the final round of the show — and aren’t looking to slow down just yet. According to their guidance counselors, these young celebrities are personable pupils who have been involved in their school’s choir programs throughout their academic careers. In June, they even went home to sing at high school graduation. How’s that for hometown heart?

Backyard Chef

Jessica Winchell at Global Palate Restaurant West Park
Like other great chefs, Winchell likes to use the freshest ingredidents possible. That means tailoring her menus to take advantage of whatever is at local farms — or whatever is ripening in her own backyard. With gardens tucked away behind her restaurant as well as at her Ulster Park home, Winchell has her pick of herbs, tomatoes, garlic, squash, chilies, peas — if it’s ready for picking, it’s ready to make its way into an appetizer, entrée, dessert, or cocktail. (Her nontraditional, Mediterranean-style martini includes both rosemary and cherry tomatoes.) Whatever her gardens can’t provide, she seeks from local sources, like RSK and Davenport farms and Stone Ridge Orchards. But then you’d expect nothing less from a chef whose restaurant describes its location as “where local ingredients meet the world.” • 845-384-6590;


Steve Perks LaGrangeville
Born to coach is an apt description of Perks, a retired math teacher at John Jay H.S. in Hopewell Junction. For 17 years, he led the school’s cross-country and track teams. But it’s what he’s done since his retirement that really impresses us. For the past five years, Perks has held weekly track sessions for members of the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club. This year, approximately 70 local runners — of all ages and abilities — took advantage of Perks’ training program, which includes a variety of workouts (personalized according to each runner’s ability level) as well as plenty of sage advice on foot turnover, active isolated stretching, plyometric drills, and other secrets of elite athletes. And for all this time spent and attention paid, he received no payment whatsoever — other than the gratitude of a host of weekend pavement-pounders around the county. An avid runner himself, Perks twice won the Dutchess County Classic Marathon in the 1980s; now in his early 60s, he regularly bests runners less than half his age in local road races. •

Regular Guy Do-Gooder (tie)

Bob Baird at Touching Bases Rockland County
In 2002, longtime Journal News columnist Bob Baird founded Touching Bases, a baseball league for adults with special needs, after he realized players who aged out of a similar Little League program had nowhere else to play. Seven years later, the volunteer-run Touching Bases is home to 15 teams and 240 players. Its season begins in mid-August and ends when “we have to chip ice off of them,” Baird says. “I’ll run into them around town during the winter and they’ll say, ‘Hey, Coach! When does the season start?’ ” Players range in age from 21 to 87 — no, that’s not a typo — with three dozen or so over the age of 60. Baird hopes to see similar leagues pop up in other counties in the Valley. “We’re happy to share information and advice,” he says. “There’s every reason in the world to do it, and not one good reason not to.” • 845-598-1657

Regular Guy Do-Gooder (tie)

Dr. Lloyd Hamilton Nyack
Earlier this year, the low-cost, county-run health center in Ramapo where 82-year-old Dr. Lloyd Hamilton worked ran out of funding and closed down. Knowing that many of his patients lacked health insurance and would likely have nowhere else to turn, he decided to try to start his own office, one that would offer basic care for free. Against all odds — he did. In May, Hamilton opened Health Lifeline in Nyack. How can he afford not to charge patients a penny? For space, he uses a few rooms in an old convent; for supplies, he uses donated medical equipment; and for staff, he uses volunteer nurses and secretaries. As the rest of the country mired itself in an often-raucous debate over health care, an 82-year-old man in Rockland quietly set about doing what everyone else was only talking about: He treated those in need. • 845-358-5433

Regular Gal Do-Gooder

Dorianne F. Brown for A Dramatic Approach Washingtonville
Children with autism spectrum disorders find it difficult to express their feelings and to recognize others’ facial expressions and body language. You’d think that would make the prospect of performing in a play all the more daunting. Yet acting is exactly the thing Dorianne Brown believes can help children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (autism’s less-severe variant). Brown is the founder and director of A Dramatic Approach, a theater program for kids with an autism-family disorder. By asking participants to role-play characters in different social situations, Brown helps them develop much-needed interaction skills. (In a game called “I’m From Slovatnia,” for example, one student can speak only in gibberish, forcing him or her to communicate nonverbally.) “They’re practicing these social skills without even realizing it,” says Brown, who also runs a consulting firm serving families and schools with autism-spectrum children. Each workshop consists of several sessions of improvisation games and a final performance in front of family and friends. If you ask us, it’s an endeavor — and a director — worthy of a standing ovation. • 845-774-6773;

Adult Rock Band Debut

Freakswitch Poughkeepsie
If you’re looking to get your freak on, hit up the Poughkeepsie-based hard-rock band Freakswitch, which formed in January 2009. Comprised of guitarist Mike Kenny, bassist Mike Polito, vocalist Brian Amato, and Mike “Scratch” Skaretka on drums, the band — whose sound hearkens back to Metallica and Godsmack — is a regular at Fishkill’s Keltic House and the Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie. They’re already rubbing elbows with the big guys (in July, they shared the stage with Pat Travers — a “really awesome experience,” says Polito), and were featured on Time Warner Cable Channel 6’s Poughkeepsie Live show in August. This fall, the ’Switch is in the studio prepping for its latest album, Seize the Moment, due out before December. •

Ambitious Intern

Scotty “Deuce” Connolly, WPDH 101.5FM Poughkeepsie
Ah, intern: A classification synonymous with mild slave labor and impromptu latté runs, it is the rare undergrad who, upon completing an internship, advances beyond indentured servitude in this economy. Scotty Connolly is one of those few: Affectionately dubbed “Deuce” by the WPDH staff, the Marist College communications senior took to the airwaves in September 2008 and has been a fixture on the Coop & Tobin Morning Show ever since. (After his debut, listeners jammed the hotline in an overwhelming show of approval.) In addition to regular duties like answering phones and updating the Web site, he’s made community appearances and even manned the studio while the regular gang was away. And it paid off: Deuce officially became a Cumulus employee last December, responsible for the show’s production, overseeing the new interns, and taking a regular seat on the Morning Show during the week. With his radio-friendly voice, killer wit, and uncanny likeness to Owen Wilson, Deuce seems destined for greatness. • 845-471-1500;

Readers' Picks

Actor: Liam Neeson

Actress: Melissa Leo
Stone Ridge

Artist: Pattie Eakin

Author: Da Chen

New Band: Set On Site
Hyde Park.

Chef: Serge Madikians at Serevan
Amenia. 845-373-9800;

Golf Pro (tie): Tommy Monteverdi at Dutchess Golf and Country Club
Poughkeepsie. 845-452-5403;

Golf Pro (tie): Rhett Myers at Vassar Golf Course
Poughkeepsie. 845-473-9838;

Local Musician: Pete Seeger

Morning Show (tie): Joe Donahue, WAMC 90.3FM
Albany. 800-323-9262;

Morning Show (tie): Coop & Tobin, WPDH 101.5FM
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-1500;

Politician: U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey
Middletown. 845-344-3211;

Radio Personality: Mark Bolger, Star 93.3FM
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-2300; 


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