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Millerton, Millbrook, Amenia 

Dutchess Charm

click to enlarge The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook.
  • Roy Gumpel
  • The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook.

There are a lot of reasons why out-of-towners tour the Hudson Valley. We have spas nestled in seclusion, fine dining established by some of the world's most talented culinary graduates, wineries with vintages known throughout the country, endless miles of hiking trails and mountain ranges, and seasonal festivals that people from far away flock to. Few neighboring towns offer as much edible, natural, and cultural charm as Millerton, Amenia, and Millbrook do, though, and this segment of Dutchess County is well worth a weekend visit.

Tea barons Harney & Sons have a location in Millerton that is a tasting room, café, and gift shop all in one. The café has a four-seat counter with brown suede stools; yellow walls with hanging photographs of the tea process; small lamps as sconces; and light burlap curtains over the windows. Order unfiltered ginger ale, black currant iced tea, a scone plate, or organic carrot and pineapple cake with lemon and cream cheese frosting. The store sells taper candles, books about Paris, tea sets, luxurious linens, and Belgian chocolate. Pick up a box of their Birthday Tea sachets—berry, pomegranate, and vanilla flavors mix with marigold petals, rose hips, and other ingredients for a sugary, candy-like aroma, and the more it steeps, the sweeter it gets.

click to enlarge Downtown Millerton
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • Downtown Millerton

The Hunter Bee antique shop on Main Street isn't musty, cluttered, or overpriced. Instead, they have something for everyone's taste and budget, including industrial pieces, eccentric folk art, classic designs, and a few unexpected items here and there.

In 1996, a small coffeehouse called 71 Irving Place was established in Manhattan's Union Square. Soon after, the founders decided to roast their own coffee, and three years later, a Hudson Valley farm at the foot of the Catskills was converted to a roasting facility. Now, Irving Farm perfectly blends the company's love of both city and country. Set up in front of the counter is a farm table with a display of honey, cookies, coffee plants, and rolled-up T-shirts in Chinese takeout containers. Green plants line an indoor windowsill near a table for two and a tiny fireplace is topped with a few books that lean against one another. Coffee lovers can visit the Millerton café to pick up a bag of beans, grab coffee and a bagel to go, or nosh on a grilled sandwich during lunchtime. If they have it, order the chocolate-coconut bread pudding, which seems more like a brownie and is just as delicious. For java connoisseurs, you'll notice that Irving has unique blends that taste unlike most other brews found in the area.

The Moviehouse shows everything from Hollywood hits and art-house films to cultural events like live broadcasts of performances from the London National Theatre and on-screen exhibits from the National Gallery. The Gallery Café shows two-dimensional work from local artists and sells coffee, tea, and chocolates.

click to enlarge Amy Dutcher and Gillian Barto of Four Brothers Drive-In on Route 22 in Amenia.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • Amy Dutcher and Gillian Barto of Four Brothers Drive-In on Route 22 in Amenia.

Taconic State Park is located along 16 miles of the Taconic Mountain Range. The trail systems near Copake Falls and Rudd Pond have terrain for every level of hiker. Both rustic and more homey campsites are available, with tent and trailer areas as well as outfitted cabins. Bike on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, go swimming in the lake and sunbathe on the beach, climb Brace Mountain to get a view from the highest point in Dutchess County, or fish for brown trout in Bash Bish Brook. On a rainy day, visit the Iron Works museum, which is at the former site of Copake Iron Works, established in 1845. During the winter, you can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

In the Berkshire foothills is Cascade Mountain Winery, which serves table wines and artisanal breads and cheese. The wine bar is open weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment during the week. Guests are welcome to picnic either indoors or outside, using the winery's restaurant facilities. Two of their most popular wines are the dry Seyval blanc aged in stainless steel and the full bodied Private Reserve Red, which is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and French-American hybrids.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is home to one of the world's foremost independent environmental research organizations, with 16 scientists who specialize in areas including environmental chemistry, climate change, freshwater, and invasive species. Studies by in-house scientists have helped with the Clean Air Act, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and practices on the Hudson River and the Catskill and Adirondack forests. The institute hosts events for birding enthusiasts, fall foliage photographers, and overall nature lovers of all kinds. For visitors who are more interested in sightseeing than unraveling the complexities of biodiversity, the 2,000-acre campus has hiking trails, scenic lookouts, and internal roadways. See how many rabbits you can spot as you roam around—they're all over the grounds.

click to enlarge Millbrook Antiques Mall
  • Roy Gumpel
  • Millbrook Antiques Mall

Trevor Zoo at the Millbrook School was established in 1936 by Frank Trevor, the coeducational, independent high school's first biology teacher, who had a passion for wildlife. The six-acre zoo now has more than 180 exotic and indigenous animals representing 80 different species, seven of which are endangered, as well as a veterinary clinic. Trevor Zoo is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year.

The Millbrook Deli (3281 Franklin Avenue) is busy and bustling, and it's the best place to stop for coffee and a breakfast sandwich early in the morning. Slammin' Salmon (3267 Franklin Avenue) is one of the Hudson Valley's best gourmet shops, known for their hand-cut aged steaks and, appropriately, their always-fresh salmon. Breads and produce are brought in from New York City daily and dairy products are locally sourced. Café Les Baux (152 Church Street) has been a neighborhood staple since 1986. Opened by Chef Herve Bochard after he left France in the mid-'80s, the menu includes classic French dishes and an extensive wine list. The Millbrook Antiques Mall (3301 Franklin Avenue) has 5,000 square feet of American and European antiques spread out across three floors, with pieces from 25 dealers and even more consignors. The Merritt Bookstore (57 Front Street) hosts writing seminars and book signings, and is a large component of the annual Millbrook Literary Festival.

click to enlarge Jan Gilmore of Gilmore Glass in Millerton.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • Jan Gilmore of Gilmore Glass in Millerton.

Shop at the Millbrook Farmers' Market every Saturday through October from 9am to 1 pm, located across from the Bank of Millbrook, in the municipal parking lot. Vendors sell fruit and veggies; chicken, pork, and beef; wine; herbs; fresh pasta; artisanal cheese; hand-spun yarn and knitted products; and handmade cutting boards.

Clinton Vineyards boasts several award-winning single-grape wines and has a line of acclaimed estate-bottled wines. In 2010, the limited-edition Tribute wine was given to guests of Chelsea Clinton's wedding. The property is a reflection of founder Ben Feder's love of the French countryside, where he lived as a painter following World War II. The vineyards' 100 acres have been modeled to look like a scene from 19th-century Europe.

During the economic downfall, emerging New York artists and musicians didn't have many options for showing off their work. The Wassaic Project's motto was, and still is, "Creating opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be available." The Maxon Mills feed elevator was bought in 2005, but it wasn't until 2008 that the Project actually began. "It really evolved over the course of a few years," Co-Director Eve Biddle says. In order to develop the program, the directors asked themselves, "What are the opportunities that our artistic peers are not getting?" (All four founders are artists, whose work includes everything from sculptures and murals to interactive works about the medical industry.)

The first annual festival was held over a weekend in 2008, with 35 artists performing on a flatbed-truck-turned-grandstand. Today, there's a bonafide stage in the Luther Barn; year-round education courses; and a residency program that was launched between 2009 and 2010. Artists, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, and writers come from all over the world to show their work in exhibitions or to live in either the Lodge or the Schoolhouse for up to three months. In order to qualify for either exhibit space or residency, applicants have their work and applications reviewed by guest juries. While living on-site, residents have to meet certain professional development requirements. Open studios are held for the public the last Saturday of each month, when guests can visit the artists and view the workspaces.

click to enlarge Oakhurst Diner in Millbrook.
  • Anne Cecille Meadows
  • Oakhurst Diner in Millbrook.

Resources
Associated Lightning Rod Company, Inc
Cafe Les Baux
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Eckert Fine Art
Horse Leap (845) 789-1177
Maplebrook School
McEnroe Organic Farm Market (518) 789-4191
Paula Redmond Real Estate
Village Wine & Spirits

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