2016 Food & Drink Editors' Picks
From creative cookies to top comfort food
Blueberry Pancakes at the Groundhog Cafe
Shawangunk Wine Trail
Through Orange & Ulster Counties
Nestled between the Shawangunk Mountains and the Hudson River, and extending from New Paltz to Warwick, this trail is home to 15 wineries. Vinifera, sparkling, French-American, and fruit wines can all be found on the 80-mile trail. Members participate in events throughout the year, and the purchase of the Hudson Valley Wine Passport gives you access to all of the wineries from April through August.
Using a mix of fresh ingredients, including items from its own garden and from local farmers, Aurelia serves up some of the tastiest Mediterranean-inspired apps in the area. Nosh on a homemade hummus with warm, pita bread; fresh mussels with chorizo, roasted tomato, basil, shaved garlic, olive oil, and white wine; and grilled shrimp with avocado, artichokes, grilled corn, and roasted peppers.
Northern Italian Food
This upscale Northern Italian eatery offers a huge variety of mouthwatering dishes and daily specials. Start with a classic crispy fried calamari and antipasti traditional—a combination of grilled and marinated vegetables, prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, and Kalamata olives drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. For an entree, feast on Chicken ala Brother’s, chicken breast sautéed with artichoke hearts and plum tomatoes in a garlic-white wine sauce.
Traghaven Whiskey Pub
Traghaven Whiskey has not only the largest selection of Irish whiskey in the Hudson Valley—but in the United States. The comprehensive selection ranges from basics to bold, blended or single pot, familiar names, and some you’ve never heard of. Let the bartenders guide you through a personalized tasting journey through one of Ireland’s most precious exports.
A little bit spicy and a little bit sweet, the Red Curry Duck at Sukhothai delicately balances the coconut and red curry flavors that make it so delicious. Crispy boneless duck is stir-fried in a red curry sauce with onion, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and Thai basil. But what makes this dish extra special is that you can customize it yourself: Opt to add ingredients like tomatoes, pineapple and vegetables, and pick your personal spice preference from a scale of one to five in degrees of heat.
Sports Memorabilia Bar
Who would have thought that this unassuming Putnam County bar would be home to a signed contract between the Yankees and the Great Bambino and the first-ever Heisman Trophy? Being surrounded by such relics in this classic bar, outlined with no-nonsense dark wood paneling, makes it all feel more personal, as if you are in direct commune with the ghosts of the greats.
Most Authentic Neapolitan Pizza
Trattoria San Giorgio Restaurant
What comes out of the impressive 900°F wood-fired brick oven at Trattoria San Giorgio are authentic Neapolitan pizzas—thin, crispy, and made with locally sourced ingredients, baked under the watchful eye of owner Joe Comizio, who is certified as an authentic Neapolitan pizza maker by the international Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. Try the San Giorgio house special pizza, dressed with fresh arugula, prosciutto di Parma, and shavings of Parmigianno-Reggiano.
Hyde Park Brewing Company
This sandwich gets its name from a special ingredient: Hyde Park Brewing’s handcrafted Winkle Lager beer. The brew is blended into a cranberry aoli, which acts as a perfect complement to stacks of fresh turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese. Pair your sandwich with a pint of the bohemian-style, hoppy Pilsner for the full experience.
Catfish tacos are a choose-your-own-adventure experience at this California-influenced eatery. They come three different ways: the Original Grilled Cajun Catfish, the Cali Catfish, and the Mango Catfish. Ahi Tuna, salmon, shrimp, and weekly fish-taco specials are also on the menu.
Caked Up Café
Ever hear of a chicken-and-waffle cupcake? And no, not just a flavor. This one has actual pieces of fried chicken inside a buttermilk cupcake, and is topped with a small waffle, vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. This is just one of the more than 90 creative cupcake varieties you’ll find at this Rockland County café. Flavor selections change daily.
Most Creative Way to Serve a Cookie
The Cakery at On-A-Stick Bakery
The cookies at this cute bakery are homemade, creative and won’t get your hands all sticky. Recent-themed cookies include Olympics, Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a mermaid beach party. If you’d like to try your hand at the creative process, you can host your own private cookie-decorating party at The Cakery.
Classic Italian Cookies
Feasting your eyes on the cases of colorful cookies at this 40-year-old Newburgh shop is a treat in itself. But why stop there? Tickle your taste buds with a variety of biscotti, pignoli, classic rainbow cookies, or any of the other 30-plus types of butter cookies. Pick up a pre-made tray or your own assortment of the edible gems.
Mario’s Brick Oven Bread
Real bread should be bought fresh, in crusty loaves, every couple of days. Mario has brought the edifice of that Old World idea back to us brick by brick, importing his brick oven—housed in his small, nondescript bakery—directly from Italy. Try the sesame-seed bastone once, and you won’t disgrace your dinner table with the lifeless grocery store variety ever again.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Think you have to head south for good BBQ? Think again: The pulled pork sandwich from Brother’s Barbecue will satisfy any diner with a hankering for North Carolina-style eats. Tender pork is smoked slow and steady, while getting brushed with a vinegar-based sauce that serves as the perfect counterpoint to such a fattier cut of meat. It’s then hand-pulled—to order—and generously piled on a brioche bun.
Most Romantic Restaurant
Il Barilotto Enoteca
At Il Barilotto, set in a renovated 19th-century carriage house, the music is seductive, the lights are soft, and the colors muted, so you can focus on the food in front of you and the person across from you. Have the server walk you through the wine list—Il Barilotto receives a yearly Wine Spectator Award of excellence. For dinner, try CIA alumni chef Ralph Bello’s house-made pasta-tasting plates or something from the main menu, such as the squid Ink cavatelli with slow-cooked octupus ragu.
Daddy’s Donuts & Bake Shop
When it comes to flavors, you’ll find all the usual suspects here, but you’ll also find standouts glazed in bold colors and topped with sweet treats like sprinkles, cereal, and marshmallows. Signature doughnuts include the Fat Daddy, a maple-glazed goodie topped with bacon, and the Almond Joy, filled with almond joy cream, topped with chocolate glaze, and finished with coconut and almonds.
Pie Lady & Son
“Pie Lady,” Deborah Tyler, has been creating scrumptious pies-— with perfectly baked and flaky all-butter crusts in your choice of crumb or regular—for 20 years. The fruit pies feature a more-than-generous helping of fresh fruit, that isn’t heavily sweetened; the fruit delivers all the favor. Seasonal favorites include a mind-blowingly good Bumbleberry, made with blueberry, raspberry, apple, and rhubarb, and an Apple Pear Walnut. Just be sure to stop by early; these prized pies sell out daily.
The Groundhog Café
There are many reasons the Groundhog Café is loved, but Sundays are sacred here for one reason only: the blueberry pancakes, which are fluffy and generously packed with one of our favorite Superfoods. The café’s vintage vibe — with checkerboard flooring and biker décor — is another reason to get you out of bed on a Sunday morning.
Reinvention of the Classics
A Tavola Trattoria
Touting plenty of pasta and a romantic interior, this trattoria may seem like any typical Italian joint. But take one glance at their ever-changing offerings, and you’ll find tradition gets tossed out the window with classics reconfigured galore. Their summer menu featured an old-world pane carasau (traditional Sardinian flatbread) updated with a serving of citrusy yogurt and seasonal, local vegetables; and ravioli sheets wrapping around blueberries, goat cheese, and charred sweet corn. A well-tended Italian wine list also gets a twist, written alongside creative cocktails like the Three Sisters: sage-infused reposado tequila, cynar, elderflower, pineapple, and black peppercorn. Who misses red sauce? We don’t.
East Fishkill Provisions Smoke Haus & Deli
You’ll not only find delectable versions of the familiar liverwurst and bratwurst at both Hopewell Junction Smoke Haus locations, but you’ll also find that the owners and their staff can tell you what to do with the less familiar Leberkase—great with eggs at breakfast— bregenwurst—a pork/pork-belly combo, or, for the adventurous, blood tongue. The business was started by Rudy Schlecter in 1958 and sold to the Mustakas family 26 years ago. At age 84, Schlecter remains a part of the business, working at both locations as a butcher, training the next generation to butcher in the traditional way.
845.226.9934 (567 Old Hopewell Rd); 845.221-9195 (2449 Route 52); www.smokehausdeli.com
Save yourself a trip up to Vermont; we’ve got major syrup bounty right here in the Hudson Valley. Crown Maple, produced on the 800-acre Madava Farms in Dutchess County, delivers a gourmet local maple syrup complete with USDA certified-organic distinction. With many delicious taste profiles to choose from (Amber, Dark, Very Dark), Madava even offers a blend aged in a bourbon barrel (an option the Wall Street Journal calls “soul-stirring”).
Ben Gable Savories
Made in small batches using seasonal produce and local dairy and eggs, each of Chatham’s quiches is served up individually instead of as a slice, providing more delicious homemade crust in every bite. From the classic spinach-and-cheese to the unique asparagus-and-ricotta, each quiche is served with a salad.
Drive-In Dining Experience
Four Brothers Drive-in Theatre
At a time when most drive-in movie theaters have gone the way of Happy Days, this charming outdoor cinema opened two years ago, serving up Angus beef burgers, handspun milkshakes and smoothies, local soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream, and even a frozen sundae treat for your pup. Four Brothers has a vintage-style car-hop service to deliver food during the movie, so you can make sure you don’t miss a minute of the show.
Homemade Ice Cream
Moo Moo’s Creamery
At Moo Moo’s, the ice cream is not just homemade, it’s also creamy, bursting with flavor, and available in more than 100 flavors (16 daily). The ice cream is a family recipe, perfected by research, and made in the shop. They also take requests, so let them know your best ice cream idea!
Soft-Serve Ice Cream
Joe’s Dairy Bar
For us, summer is synonymous with two things: Joe’s Dairy Bar and their towering twirls of soft-serve ice cream. We love its light and airy consistency (especially when covered in sprinkles), but it’s their more-than-generous portion size for a less-than-average price tag that solidifies a nod on our list. Just be warned: Everyone knows they offer the creamiest cones and cups around, so lines can be found wrapping around the road-side joint almost every warm night.
Twist on a Frozen Drink
Bank Square Coffeehouse
Though the frozen drink menu at this coffee shop impresses us with chocolate-peanut butter frappes and Chai lattes, it’s their wine smoothies that really drive us wild. The baristas switch water with wine to turn what would have been a wholesome fruit smoothie into a divine treat. The blend of fruit used in the drink is paired to emphasize the notes of flavor in each wine.
The oldest winery in America, Benmarl is known for creating quality wines, and its 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay is one of them. The vintage is minimally manipulated and bottled young, giving it nice mouth feel, a crisp finish, and an overall liveliness you wouldn’t normally expect from Chardonnay. But it’s “unoaked,” which means that the characteristic buttery flavor associated with oaked Chardonnay is replaced by a clean crispness that many white-wine drinkers prefer.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
Irving Farm source their specialty, sustainable coffees from far and wide, but roast in a state-of-the-art facility right on Route 22. The beans are then brewed up in a nearby cafe on Millerton’s Main Street by folks who have been seriously educated in the art and science of coffee.
Local Dairy Products
Ronnybrook Farm Dairy
Ronnybrook is a third-generation farm offering a full line of dairy products made “the old-fashioned way,” in small batches, and without the use of hormones like rBST. The result is a fine milk that’s sweeter than most with just a mild amount of earthy undertones. Plus, (our favorite part) it’s pasteurized but not homogenized, causing the cream to head to the top and leave a nice, frothy furrow around the edge of the jug. Your choice: Shake the bottle to unite the two, or follow our lead and scoop the cream right into your coffee cup.
Cutest Lunch Spot
Easily the cutest eatery we ever did see, this newish addition to Tinker Street serves updated comfort food and carefully chosen craft beverages in a cheerful, cozy space. It has just enough of a Woodstock-hippie vibe, but trades touristy tie-dye and incense for a super friendly staff and funky but unfussy eats.
North River Hops and Brewing
Tucked away behind colorful Mexicali Blue off of Route 9 is one of the area’s smallest and mightiest up-and-coming breweries. Its earned a dedicated following since opening in 2012, using every inch of its 967 square feet to craft fresh beers inspired by the Hudson Valley.
Place to Wine Down
The Artist’s Palate
This contemporary spot in Poughkeepsie’s restaurant row offers an extraordinary list of pours to match (or make up for) any mood, and the staff is highly knowledgeable about each selection. Pair them with the restaurant’s innovative farm-to-table menu and there’s no way you’ll leave the place in low spirits.
Place for a First Date
Housed in a two-story 1850s farmhouse, The Local serves eclectic farm-to-table cuisine, offers alfresco dining on both levels, and features an open kitchen and a gorgeous antique bar. It’s intimate and cozy, but not too small either, the lighting is just right, and the service is on point. Bonus: The wine list received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2015.
Bonfiglio & Bread
Artisan technique and culinary craftiness come together at this locally loved bakery on Hudson’s main drag. It’s owned by a husband and wife who use Old World fundamentals to create hearth-baked breads and authentic French pastries. Their loaf of pane castoro (a giant loaf of mild whole-wheat sourdough) is a must-try.
Max’s on Main
Having a bad day? Head over to Max’s on Main for some hearty food that will not only cheer you up, but will fill you up, too. The chicken quesadilla, Beacon rolls or Cajun Alfredo are guaranteed to distract you from anything. And if that doesn’t work, you can grab a drink, sidle up to the bar, and take in some great tunes.
Place to Bring Your Parents
For the just-starting-out Millenial, pleasing your parents at mealtime can be just as tricky as introducing them to your latest beau. Thankfully, there’s Swoon Kitchenbar. Described as a “farm-to-table community brasserie,” it offers a little of everything, from Meatless Monday specials to house-made strozzapreti in a pork ragout, and inventive appetizers inspired by the seasonal offerings. Plus, anything you order is guaranteed to impress without a monstrous price tag.
Oasis Near the Palisades Center
Red Hill Café
We love the Palisades Center, but sometimes after a day of shopping, you just need a break. And no, Nyack isn’t your only option. The Red Hill Café in New City is where we prefer to refuel. The café serves breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch and has an eclectic menu featuring classics and Spanish-influenced items. The café also sells Jane’s ice cream, local products and Spanish imports, a great cup of joe, and has an outdoor seating area adjacent to the Red Hill Nursery.
Full of true apple flavors, and as golden as the solar power that produced it, Sundog Cider is an excellent representation of Hudson Valley cider. It’s made from a blend of tart and sweet regional apples and fermented with Champagne yeast. The result is a highly drinkable, well-balanced sip.
Place for a Fireside Drink
On Friday and Saturday nights, this sleek, creek-side cocktail lounge is the perfect place to unwind after a long workweek. The peaceful space offers a less formal, casual vibe, with lounge chairs and loveseat sofas providing the most comfort as you cozy up next to a crackling fire with your drink of choice in hand.
Brunette Wine Bar
There are lots of serious reasons to love this all-natural wine bar, but we’d be remiss not to mention how photogenic it is. Their near-to-the-waterfront location features wide windows and a bright white interior, ensuring your iPhone shots are almost always perfectly lit. And the bar’s details—from the simple brass hardware to their personal china—are curated to a tee.
Place to Take a Cooking Class
Culinary Institute of America
A CIA grad? Instant cred. But you don’t have to be prepping for a kitchen career to take up a class: CIA offers one-day courses in cooking, baking, culinary business, wine and beverage 101s, and even culinary boot camps—all taught by some of the finest gastronomes in the world.
Many words could be used to describe the service at Gaskins—hospitable, attentive, knowledgeable—but what puts these folks above and beyond may just be that they seem genuinely happy to have you there. Diners are treated like beloved dinner-party guests from the moment they are greeted and “invited” to sit down. The whole staff (even the owners, who are always present and working) is warm and personable, and will go out of their way to accommodate guest needs. The fact that the food is incredible as well is almost a bonus.
Place to Make a Night of It
Newburgh Brewing Company
With so many breweries setting up shop in the Valley, Newburgh Brewing Company sets itself apart by being a go-to spot for a whole night of fun. The taproom features games galore, occasional live music, and long communal tables. The food menu features dishes like the artisanal grilled cheese (made with local Cheddar and house-smoked bacon) and traditional beer hall eats (their soft pretzels are imported from Munich!). Oh, and the beer? Delicious.
Daily Planet Diner
Named after the fictional newspaper where Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, was once employed, this whimsically retro diner is divided into sections adorned with playful décor from superhoeres, to Casablanca posters, to Beatles albums. And jukeboxes play at every table. The menu? Classic diner fare like burgers and shakes (kids’ meals are served in paper classic cars), in addition to offerings like an eggplant and hummus panini, and (of course) breakfast all day.
Harney & Sons
Hudson Valley-based Harney & Sons has spent 30 years mastering the artisanal trade of blending teas. While their products can be found throughout the world, the local Millerton outpost features a tasting bar where you can sample standard teas (like Earl Grey or Green) and intriguing new brews (like vanilla comoro or fruits d’alsace) alike. There’s also an onsite cafe serving 250 different types.
This European-inspired wine bar in the Stockade district first got our attention for their regularly changing tapas offerings, but it's their robust list of unique (and reasonably priced) pours that kept us coming back. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about pairing sips to your dinner selections, no matter how obscure an offering you opt for.
Located on New Paltz’s North Front Street, this sweet gem serves up delicately handmade vegan versions of artisanal chocolates, all organic and fair trade. Try the summertime barbeque-inspired Smoky Corn on the Cob Chocolate Bar or the Fig and Caramelized Fennel Bark. Looking for a smaller bite? You can’t go wrong with the rosemary sea salt caramels or the Bluestocking Bonbons, named for feminist luminaries.
Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden
Poughkeepsie, New Paltz
Now open on both sides of the Hudson River, this gastropub and German bier garden is perfect for noshing, especially on their dry rub wings. Served with carrots, celery, hot sauce, and blue cheese, this delightful finger food is over-roasted and fried crispy before being tossed in a blend of dried chilies.
845.255.1203 (New Paltz)
The folks at this Beacon outpost think everyone deserves to delight in fresh pastries, so they developed a gluten-free menu that includes everything from bread to cookies to cakes. They don’t overtly advertise being gluten-free, either, a strategy that’s had them convincing guests that gluten-free can be delicious.
On-the-Go Burger & Fries
The Filling Station
The strip of 9W between the Tappan Zee Bridge and the George Washington Bridge is not only a great place to cycle and drive, but it’s also a great place to grab a roadside meal. The Filling Station serves up a winning combination of a burger made of brisket, hanger steak, and short rib along with hot and crispy fries. Milkshakes, hot dogs, and a constantly changing craft-beer selection are also on the menu. Picnic-table seating only.
Table for Two
Take your date, take your spouse, take your parent—but do go. The menu at chef/owner Peter Kelly’s coziest spot is inventive and inspired, with affordable small plates like the Berkshire Pork Belly with Creamy Polenta & Pear Mostarda, as well as a full menu of entrees. Take note: The restaurant is small, and doesn’t take reservations. So dine early or late, or be prepared to eat at the bar or wait for a table.
Outdoor Wine Bar
di’Vine Wine Bar
While guests at this Wappingers Falls wine bar can choose to gather around an intimate bar or enjoy couches in a comfy upstairs lounge, we recommend doing as we do and taking glasses outside; di’Vine is perfectly perched above Wappingers Creek, and features a sizable deck with picturesque views of both the village and the falls. The al fresco setting has railings made with glass so as not to block the panorama and ample umbrella-coverage. Too distracted by the ambiance to choose your wine from their three-page selection? That’s okay too—an educated staff is at the ready to guide you through.
Rushing Duck Brewing
This little brewery is churning out big flavors unlike anything else we’ve tasted. The Cat Toupee, for instance, is loaded with malt (five different types!), making for a complex layering of toffee, toast, and fruit tastes that somehow marry perfectly. Another favorite is the spring seasonal and citrusy Bauli Saison. The tap list at its tasting room changes weekly, too, so we’re not seeing an end to this flavor infatuation anytime soon.
This upscale Wappingers Falls favorite is a cornerstone in Italian cuisine, so it’s no surprise their pasta tops our list. Aroma Osteria’s primi dishes bring bright Tuscan flavor no matter the pairing, with carefully crafted sauces complemented by seafood, fresh vegetables, or savory pork or veal. They offer a lighter flavor in the petite shell pasta with shrimp and peas drizzled in limoncello cream sauce, and a heartier taste in the homemade cavatelli all’amatriciana tossed in spicy tomato sauce.
Attention to detail is what makes these cocktails so superb, including everything from the ice cubes—a perfect one-inch size to allow just the right of melt in your drink—to meticulously measured pours to maintain consistency with each serving. Sip on traditional cocktails crafted with house-made syrup (try the Cherry Fizz with cherry cordial). The chic menu rotates seasonally to highlight different flavors and ingredients.
Lunch Spot Near the Walkway Over the Hudson
Owner Ed Kowalski opened this cozy café and catering business in 2005 to offer healthy alternatives to what he felt was a fast-food epidemic. If you do come from the Walkway, the exercise will help build up your appetite for dishes like the Short Rib Grilled Cheese, which pairs hot ribs with melted cheddar and a tomato chutney, and the Asian chicken salad, a mix of peanut-sauced chicken fritters with crunchy slaw and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Jaipore Royal Indian Cuisine
Set inside a mid 1800s country mansion, this Putnam County restaurant has a stately ambience that nicely complements its buffet’s fresh, hot, and well-seasoned selection of northern and southern cuisine. All the usual suspects are on offer in tasty, mouthwatering iterations that don’t disappoint—from the mango lassi and tandoori chicken to the garlic naan and raita. Even masala dosa is served made-to-order right off the grill.
Fish & Chips
Martindale Chief Diner
Just off the Taconic Parkway exit ramp to Route 23, you’ll find this Columbia County mainstay, which has been serving Berkshires-bound travelers dependable diner fare for decades. Its rendition of fish & chips is arguably its most consistent crowd-pleaser. Flaky cod, lightly battered and fried to a crispy golden brown, is laid atop a heaping plate of hot, golden fries—surrounded by the classic accompaniments of tartar and cocktail sauces, lemon wedges, coleslaw, and a pickle. Perfection on a plate.
WM Farmer & Sons
Part of an updated boarding house in Hudson, this barroom features expert cocktails that are as well-crafted as the renovated, historic space they’re served in, but their menu is what really sets them apart: classic Southern fare is updated with inventive twists and local tastes inspired by the seasons. Snack on smaller dishes like the buttermilk fried frog legs and an heirloom tomato salad with basil balsamic, or feast on a larger meals such as the Sunburst Appalachian trout or roasted local chicken served with braised greens and popcorn.
Happy Jakes at the Stewart House
We love this romantic garden restaurant at water’s edge, especially on crisp nights when there’s a bonfire ablaze and live music. The best part about the bonfire is that you can actually use it to toast s’mores. Just order a ready-made kit from the menu, complete with sticks and the fixins’ for four treats (available Thursday through Sunday, through September).