Fall Getaways 2010

Where to go and what to do: Six nearby spots where you can shop, dine, explore — and relax



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hilltop house b&bPhotograph courtesy of Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast

Hilltop House B&B Amenia, NY

Peace and quiet: Hiding out in northeastern Dutchess County
By Greg Olear

If you want to enjoy a weekend getaway in the Hudson Valley this fall, why not truly get away? There are no obvious, must-see tourist attractions in northeastern Dutchess County, just peace, quiet, and acre upon acre of bucolic splendor. This is a place where you can lose yourself in the fall foliage, the lush pastures, and the movie-worthy horse farms. Which is what makes this the country redoubt of choice for so many celebrities (that, and the surprising number of superb restaurants). Hey, if it’s good enough for Mary Tyler Moore and Liam Neeson, it’s good enough for me.

Northeastern Dutchess County is loosely centered around two small towns, Millbrook and Millerton, some 20 miles apart on Route 44.

Quaint and unassuming, Millbrook is one of the wealthier towns in the state, and is well-known for its array of antiques shops — although the wares tend to be pricey, as the shops cater to another of Millbrook’s claims to fame: celebrities. The award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery is another area attraction, offering tours and tastings — not to mention wine and food pairing seminars (including one taking place September 11).

Millerton, an artsy village near the Connecticut border, was hailed as one of the “10 coolest towns in America” by Frommer’s Budget Travel. And cool it is. The original Oblong Books and Music is here — one of the best bookstores in the Valley — as well as the Moviehouse, an indie cinema. There’s a music scene, with acts at the Irving Farm Coffee House and the Zagat-rated Manna Dew Café (serving eclectic fare and a stellar variety of wine and beer). And Harney & Sons Tea — well-known to lovers of that steeped beverage — has its shop and tasting room in town.

But the real draw of this area is the scenery. When the well-to-do speak of “going to the country,” this is what they mean. The farms here look like the ones you see in paintings: The pastures are pristine, the architecture gorgeous, and the animals healthy and happy. You could spend a weekend just driving around admiring the farms, equestrian centers, and so forth. You should at least spend an afternoon doing so.

And that’s only scratching the surface. You can hike or bike along the 15 paved miles that make up the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, visit the superb gardens at Innisfree or Wethersfield, have a tailgate party at a polo tournament at the Mashomack Polo Club in nearby Pine Plains (matches take place throughout September), or tour the majestic — and quirky — Wing’s Castle (open weekends in the fall). For a true Valley-autumn feel, visit one of the many area orchards for apple or pumpkin picking.

For my own getaway, I stayed at the Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast in Amenia, a small town located between Millbrook and Millerton, and thus well-situated to take in the area’s many pleasures.

The Hilltop House, as the name suggests, sits atop a hill near the base of the Berkshires, a short stroll from the center of town. The house itself, an architectural charmer, was built in 1909, and features a wraparound porch looking out at the backyard, as well as a veranda, where guests can take breakfast. The interior, sumptuously designed by Penelope Hedges Interior Design, resembles a gentlemen’s club: big stone fireplace, dark wood-paneled walls and hardwood floors, antique chairs and couches in reds and deep oranges, tables of dark wood, patterned wallpaper, old paintings, Persian rugs. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hot coffee on a chilly fall morning (or a glass of port at the end of a chilly fall day).

Each of the five guest rooms is furnished with antiques — and each has a unique twist. The yellow Sunshine Suite features a crystal chandelier, while the adjoining Firefly Bedroom has old-fashioned wallpaper adorned with dragonflies. I slept in the cannon bed in the George Washington Bedroom, which I found quiet and comfortable. What the rooms don’t have are television sets and alarm clocks — a big plus. However, for those who are not quite ready to unplug from their high-tech lives, complementary Wi-Fi is available.

Sandy Johnson, who with her husband West has owned Hilltop House since last November, has just the right comportment for running a B&B. She’s helpful, she’s friendly, but she’s not imposing. Plus, she whips up a dynamite plate of blueberry pancakes. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, where she owned a bakery business, Johnson saw the house online and fell in love with it. “I knew I had to have it,” she says.

“It’s just so beautiful here. Any direction you look, you’re awed at the scenery.”

For dinner, Johnson recommends I try Serevan, a fancy place close by that has earned raves from foodies from Manhattan to Hartford (including in the pages of this magazine). But I’m more in a burger-and-beer mood. She sends me 10 miles down the road to the Red Devon, a farm-to-table restaurant in the village of Bangall. “They raise their own cattle there and use it to make the burgers,” she says, “I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard good things.”

I take my meal at the bar, where I watch well-dressed people stream in from a sudden downpour. In a different era, this was the Stage Stop Restaurant, a country hangout for movie stars. The bartender, Ian, says James Cagney’s mistress owned the place, and I was sitting at Cagney’s personal bar — the one he and Bob Hope danced on in The Seven Little Foys.

The food comes, and oh my. Put it this way: the difference in quality between a burger at Red Devon and a burger at Red Robin is vast. Even the French fries are superb. I wash it down with a fine IPA.

For a quick getaway, I couldn’t have asked for more.

43 Depot Hill Rd., Amenia 917-586-4694, www.hilltophousebb.com

Where to stay:

Millbrook Country House
3244 Sharon Tpke., Millbrook. 845-677-9570
British-sounding name; Italian-feeling B&B. Four guest rooms are stuffed with romantic furniture imported from Italy.

Porter House Bed & Breakfast
17 Washington Ave., Millbrook. 845-677-3057
A private residence when built by Italian stonemasons in 1912, Porter House offers package deals with Millbrook Winery, Equine Escape Stables, and Pride of the Hudson boat tours.

Simmons’ Way Village Inn
53 Main St., Millerton. 518-789-6235
In addition to the requisite array of gorgeous antiques, fireplaces, and porch space, this Victorian manse near the Connecticut border comes equipped with its own restaurant, Martha’s.

Where to eat:

Red Devon
108 Hunns Lake Rd., Bangall. 845-868-3175
This green restaurant serves farm-to-table fare and promotes sustainability with progressive, eco-friendly technology in its construction.

Babette’s Kitchen
3278 Franklin Ave., Millbrook . 845-677-8602
This gourmet market — selling seasonal oils, jams, cheeses, and more — is also a coffee shop and a bakery.

Charlotte’s Restaurant & Catering
4528 Rte. 44, Millbrook. 845-677-5888
Charlotte’s offers dishes made from local ingredients in a refined setting which embodies country elegance.

Serevan Restaurant
6 Autumn Ln. Rte. 44, Amenia . 845-373-9800
Chef Serge Madikians blends Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors with ingredients from surrounding farms and the restaurant’s own garden.

Things to do:

Mashomack Polo Club
48 Briarcliff Ln., Pine Plains
Host a tailgate party during an exciting match at this polo club, or try your hand at a private lesson.

Wing’s Castle
717 Bangall Rd., Millbrook. 845-677-9085
Tour this historically evocative retreat, built over the course of 40 years by a husband-and-wife duo. Still a work in progress, plans are underway to open a bed and breakfast at the site.

Visit www.millbrooknyonline.com/sources/wineries.html for a listing of nearby farm stands and wineries.

» Next stop: Bristol, RI

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