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Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Tivoli 

Falling in Love Again

View from the Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower.

Chris Cring

View from the Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower.

The Hudson Valley is a destination for visitors from New York City who want a taste of "the country." There is so much more than meets the eye, though, and out-of-towners and even locals miss a lot of the area's best kept secrets. With new restaurants and shops opening up all the time and an array of historic settings, it's a shame to glaze over these spots for the more popular and obvious stops. Rhinebeck is buzzing with patrons in its own delightful and gentle way. Red Hook has destination after destination that you can easily miss if you're just mindlessly driving through. Tivoli is tucked away, happy to be out of the limelight, thrilled to welcome back its true fans and regulars who return time and time again.

Gratifying above all else is how Rhinebeck's purveyors have such a deep affection for their businesses' home town. Luciano Valdivia, general manager of the recently opened Market St. restaurant, says, "[Owner] Gianni [Scappin] and all involved have fallen in love with Rhinebeck. The town is full of interesting people with great taste and a wonderful sense of community. We're so happy to have been embraced by the town." What's nicer than dipping into a restaurant or boutique and having the owners, managers, and staff show their appreciation for their guests and express their fondness for their village?

Dede and Steve Leiber opened Upstate Films at its Rhinebeck location in 1972. Behind the indie movie theater is a mission to show independent and foreign films rarely seen in the multiplex. Playing daily are movies that wouldn't otherwise be shown, many of which attract underground niche audiences. To find their next unconventional flick, the Leibers attend festivals, work closely with distributors, and pre-screen each movie. They find that all of the Hudson Valley—not just Rhinebeck—responds well to the cinema, and they took over the former Tinker Street Cinema as a second Upstate Films location three years ago. Filmmakers and screenwriters frequent Upstate Films for community-oriented events like the "Well Worth Watching" series and pre-screenings.

Local Luxuries
Bask in the light of luxury at the Belvedere Mansion—the grounds have a pool for sunbathing, a pond for rowboating, a court for tennis, and a garden for strolling. Views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains are unparalleled, dinner can be served fireside or underneath the stars, and newlyweds can sip Champagne with their nearest and dearest at the copper bar.

Unwind for an hour, day, or long weekend at Omega, which lets guests choose from nourishing activities and treatments like yoga classes, diamond microexfoliation, and sauna sessions. Boldface names of the personal transformation movement like Ram Dass, Harville Hendrix, and Pema Chodron offer workshops at Omega's rural campus from May through October. Continuing the theme of well-being, Rhinebeck Health Foods has been around since 1978 and is the area's one-stop shop for everything organic and wholesome. Mosey on up to the juice bar, pick up homeopathic remedies, or stock your fridge with local cheeses and produce.

"Small-scale" and "hushed" aren't usually words associated with a department store, but then again, the Rhinebeck Department Store isn't your predictably overwhelming, bustling shop. A little bit of everything is for sale, from men's socks and ties and clothing for newborns to ceramic coffee mugs. To feed your inner gourmand, stop by Pure Mountain Olive Oil, which lets you taste flavored balsamic vinegars, olive oils, and sea salts before you buy, or bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy, which has everything you never knew you needed for cooking and entertaining.

Foster's Coach House Tavern is the second restaurant to ever open in Rhinebeck, cementing it as an authentic cornerstone of the town. Wally Foster purchased the venue before World War II and designed it to resemble a horse stable, complete with a tack room and upscale horse stalls where guests can dine. Originally, the menu was German, but it's since been changed to offer seafood dishes and comfort food.

Small-Town Staples
Market St. isn't what you'd call cutting edge—it's casual Italian done right. "Our goal wasn't to re-invent the wheel," Valdivia said. "We just want to make it the best we possibly can." Market St.'s aspiration is to be a twice-a-week restaurant instead of a place people visit just for special occasions. "We've tried to create a beautiful space for our patrons," Valdivia said. "With so much energy going into the food or ambiance or service, it's often hard to find a restaurant that puts a great emphasis on all three. We don't want to fall short anywhere. A great deal of care has gone into the details."

click to enlarge Blithewood Mansion, Bard College - DAVID MORRIS CUNNINGHAM
click to enlarge Blithewood Gardens - DAVID MORRIS CUNNINGHAM

Arielle is a Mediterranean restaurant from its meals to its motifs, with decor circa the late 1800s. Champagne cocktails, Moroccan dishes, Greek flavors, and nods to Italian cuisine round out the menu. The Art Bar, a makeover of the former Zen Dog space, offers a first for Rhinebeck patrons: light and healthy Black Sea cuisine served in zakuski, which is Russian for "small bites," similar to Spanish tapas. Tastes are taken from various cultures, including the Ancient Greeks, Slavs, Romans, Germanic Saxons, and Magyars. Staying true to its locality, though, most of the kitchen's veggies hail from Hudson Valley farms. The bar reportedly boasts the largest selection of in-house infused vodkas outside of New York City. The Art Bar's live music offerings are eclectic, and a substantial display of original art works are for sale.

Pizzeria Posto has approached pizza in a truly Italian way. Why buy a run-of-the-mill wood-fired brick oven when you can import one from Modena, Italy? Salads, antipasti, and a smattering of pies make up the compact menu. There's also an affordable wine list. Simple food prepared deliciously—buon appetito! Two Boots in Red Hook is on the opposite end of the scale when it comes to atmosphere, but their food is on the exact same level. Upbeat, funky, and colorful, Two Boots has just as much zest (and the same cornmeal crust!) as it did when it opened in New York City in the late 80s.

Celebrate the visionary Fisher Center's tenth birthday in April, as Bard College plays host to a month-long assortment of dance, music and theater performances. On April 12, attend the Percussion and Students Concert, followed a few days later by the American Symphony Orchestra. More events include "An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer," a production of Euripedes' "The Bacchae", and a faculty dance concert.

Over the summer, the owners of Flatiron Restaurant in Red Hook opened a less-formal eatery where Merritt Bookstore once was. Bread & Bottle is a retail bakery/wine bar that also sells cheese and house-made charcuterie, serves beer and is open from lunch through dinner. I know—it's my version of heaven too. "I think what sets us apart is we make almost everything in-house," Owner Jessica Stingo says. Bread & Bottle is a real family affair, with Stingo, her husband, and her brother-in-law running the show.

Barbecue is hard to come by in New York, but Max's Memphis BBQ hits the nail on the head every single time. Everyone who goes there goes back for their fall-off-the-bone barbecue wings, spicy crab cakes, and portions that will feed you for two more meals. Detox from your finger-licking meal by stopping into Rusty's Farm Fresh Eatery, which has fresh squeezed, organic juice from purple carrots, Thai basil, elephant garlic, and Migliorelli Farm apples.

Mac's Farm and Garden World sells items like bird feeders, seasonal nursery items, and clothing that's perfect for working outside. Mac's is more than a lawn, garden, and pet supplier, though. Proving they're part of the heart of Red Hook, the shop also supports fishing teams, soccer and softball teams, little leagues, and 4-H clubs.

Sizing Up a Sleepy Town
Tivoli slows down for most of January and wakes back up when February rolls in. First constructed as a hotel and eventually turned into a bar, the Madalin Hotel was rebuilt after burning down in 1909 and restored to resemble its glory days. Now, except for the flat-screen TVs, the bar portion of the hotel looks like it did in the early 1900s. Larger than a bed and breakfast but smaller than a high-rise, the Madalin is perfectly quaint and cozy. Foodies chat about dinner on the wraparound porch during the spring and summer, weekenders stay up late at the tavern, and vintage circus posters on the walls reflect the Madalin's fun and lighthearted vibe.

Professional dancers can be thanked for founding the international Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, which provides choreographers with a space to experiment and train. Visitors are welcome to wander through the exhibition galleries and peruse the retail shops.

After a two-and-a-half-week break in January, Panzur Restaurant and Wine Bar stretches its arms, yawns, and comes alive just in time for the most romantic day of the year. Special events are already planned for the rest of the wintertime, with the "A Tale of Two Hearts" tasting menu for Valentine's Day and the "Havana Nights" family-style feast, which pays homage to owner and chef Rei Peraza's Cuban grandmother. Peraza would like everyone to know that they're welcome to enjoy a cigar on the front porch after indulging in his favorite dishes from childhood and classic Hemingway cocktails.

Resources
Affordable Self Storage
Aroi Thai
Beekman Arms Antiques
Bread & Bottle
Bumble & Hive
DC Studios
Dean Vallas—Studio 303
Fitness Fusion
Flatiron
Foam and Wash Carwash
Gaby’s Cafe
The Gardens at Rhinebeck
George Cole Auctioneers
Just Lean Back
Kumon
Law Offices of Michel Haggerty
Oblong Books
Osaka
Paula Redmond
Pizzeria Posto
Rhinebeck Antique Emporium
Rhinebeck Artist’s Shop
Ruge’s Subaru
Satya
Terrapin

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  • Rediscover the best kept secrets of these charming, historic towns.

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