Rhinebeck is half opulent and the other half agrarian, and it pulls off both personas oh-so-well. This versatile town has tall, blooming flowers and fresh-squeezed lemonade during the summer; hand-knit sweaters, creamy hot chocolate, and caroling in the winter; piping hot coffee and fluffy croissants early in the morning; after-hours shopping, late-night dining, and indie movies once the sun goes down. The Rhinebeck Department Store
is the smallest of its kind, which is just another part of its charm. The space is packed with well-made clothing, Life is Good wear for babies, coffee mugs, and a quaint men’s section. A moose head hangs over the mirrors, seemingly judging whatever you’re trying on. Staff members quietly whisper to each other, a welcome change from noisy stores where teen workers loudly gossip. At nearby Oblong Books & Music
, you won’t find any dogeared pages or water rings ruining front covers. The shop holds regular readings by authors and stocks a lot of music from local musicians.
a href="http://puremountainoliveoil.com/" target="_blank" title="Pure Mountain Olive Oil">Pure Mountain Olive Oil opened over Memorial Day weekend, and owner Zak Cassady-Dorion is still beaming. Along with his cousin and fellow store owner, Charlie Ruehr, the two men have created a one-of-a-kind shop in the heart of Rhinebeck. Flavored olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and sea salts are all available for tasting before you buy. bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy
, the brainchild of Sean B. Nutley and Gregory F. Triana, is the perfect recipe for anyone who likes to cook, bake, entertain, or just shake up a good martini. Once located in High Falls, bluecashew made the move to Rhinebeck in 2009. “To further expand the business, the move was evident,” Nutley says. “Rhinebeck takes pride in its Dutch history, scenic beauty, and support for the arts.” Celebrity chefs and authors frequent bluecashew for book signings and tastings. (Zakary Pelaccio of Fatty Crab fame will read from his new book, Eat With Your Hands
, on August 4. An interview with Pelaccio appears on page 116.) For an all-inclusive kitchenware emporium, head to Warren Kitchen and Cutlery
a few minutes up the road. Culinary students rely on Warren when they need to stock up on supplies.
Shopping for cookware is bound to make your stomach growl. Foster’s Coach House
, Rhinebeck’s second-ever restaurant, serves various seafood dishes, old favorites like the French Dip sandwich or roast turkey dinner, and sugary desserts like berry mascarpone cake. When Wally Foster bought the establishment prior to World War II, he remodeled it to look like a horse stable. The dining booths are designed as horse stalls, trophies are displayed in the tack room, and a faux mare greets you at the door. Gigi Hudson Valley
, which runs both the Trattoria in Rhinebeck and the market and catering center at Greig Farm in Red Hook, focuses on the healthy side of Italian cuisine. “As a chef, restaurateur, and registered dietitian, I see all of these initiatives intertwined,” manager Laura Pensiero says. Next door, the old First Baptist Church houses Terrapin
. For the Red Bistro side of the restaurant (the more formal dining room is adjacent), chef Josh Kroner whips up shredded duck confit sandwiches, maple-bacon roasted almonds with sea salt, and macadamia nut tempura calamari. Matchbox Cafe
and its friendly owners Sam and Joann Cohen offer a faster dining experience. Visitors ask themselves, “How does a baker grill a burger so well?” Or, on the other hand, “How does a chef learn to bake like this?” While the cafe’s burger (recommended rare) is the main draw, the desserts (namely the Oprah-recommended red velvet cake) are a close second.
Once you’ve exercised your wallet, visit Ferncliff Forest
for a real workout. The green haven is quieter than quiet, other than the deep ribbits from undetectable frogs. Stand close to the water by the murky pond to be surrounded by colorful dragonflies—they bring good luck, you know. Grab your best buds and fishing poles or lace up your hiking boots and head to the fire tower for an expansive view of the valley from above the canopy of trees.
The eclectic Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
offers another type of entertainment, with shows ranging from the lighthearted “Legally Blonde: the Musical” (through August 19) to the dramatic, tense “Doubt” (September 28 to October 14). The center was built to resemble a barn, enhancing the rural setting while also paying tribute to summer stock’s roots.
Locals are familiar with the 30-year-old Rhinebeck Animal Hospital
, which also runs the Rhinebeck Animal Hospital Helping Hands Fund to help compensate for the cost of treating wild animals. For your domesticated furry friends, the hospital also offers grooming and boarding. The Rhinebeck Bank
, one of the oldest in New York State, is seriously dedicated to its community and puts local needs first. Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery
in Red Hook has light wood tables and burnt orange walls, creating an airy, bright atmosphere. The small restaurant is louder than normal, but in a good way. Parents laugh as kids happily shriek, staff members chat with customers and dishes bang in the semi-open kitchen. Order fresh-squeezed juice from organic produce like purple carrots, elephant garlic, and Thai basil. Try the avocado and roast corn chilled soup or the vegan coconut ice cream. Healthy, green wheat grass is displayed next to Boston Creme cupcakes in the cooler.
At Flatiron Restaurant,
everything is made in-house. Shaved Brussels sprouts with butter-roasted walnuts, caramelized sea scallops, and lamb burgers are on the menu. The family-friendly Mercato Osteria Enoteca
serves bruschetta with chicken livers, pan-seared quail saltimbocca, and a pine nut honey tart with vanilla gelato for dessert. Loyal patrons dream all winter of the West Coast-style vegetarian burritos and cheese quesadillas from the seasonal Bubby’s Burrito Stand.
Both Red Hook and Tivoli are carbon copies of what New York City dwellers typically envision when they think of upstate New York—even though Dutchess County residents know that the area isn’t technically “upstate.” Sprawling, freshly mowed fields lead to rows of swaying corn husks. Dirt an gravel roads kick up a dusty film that coats your car. Unpretentious eateries have coolers filled with milk in glass bottles. Once you turn onto Broadway in Tivoli, though, you come across some of Dutchess County’s best kept secrets, like the Madalin Hotel. The boutique hotel, which dates back to the early 1900s, was first a hotel, then a bar, and now both. After buying the building nine years ago, owner Jose Cicileo spent two years renovating it to its original state. Eleven rooms accommodate travelers and the wraparound patio serves as the dining area in balmy weather. The flat-screen TV in the tavern-style bar is the only reminder that you’re in the 21st century. Otherwise, the setting is a throwback to simpler days.
Order Japanese dishes and sushi rolls at Osaka
. Aside from its laughably long tequila list, Santa Fe’s
menu also includes sweet gold plantains and pulled pork tacos. When nothing but a cold beer at a simple bar will do, make your way over to the Black Swan Pub, the resident hangout for Bard students. If there’s not a college kid in sight, they may be grabbing a slice at the brand new Two Boots Pizza (of New York City fame), located directly across from Bard’s main entrance.
The contemporary Tangent Theater Company
, which was created in 2000 and produces character-driven plays, moved from New York City to Tivoli three years ago in an effort to tap into local talent and the area’s rich arts environment. Before packing up, Artistic Director Michael Rhodes jotted down some notes concerning the relocation. “To go where the doors are open, the phones are answered, the possibilities are tangible…Show that talents don’t always lead to the ‘cultural nerve center,’ sometimes they migrate away from the congestion,” Rhodes wrote in 2006. Once situated at their new address, the owners knew they were exactly where they belonged. Today, Tangent produces both contemporary works and revivals of old classics, always examining the hidden corners of relationships and human behavior. Kaatsbaan
, the international dance center that was founded by professional dancers, gives choreographers a place to train, experiment, and perform. Visitors can browse the retail shops and exhibition galleries. Bard College’s
vast, easy-to-get-lost-on campus is home to the imaginative and dominant Richard B. Fisher Center
, designed by Frank Gehry. The centers hosts Bard SummerScape
, with events ranging from opera and dance to film and cabaret. The whimsical Spiegeltent holds events through August 18, including acrobats, salsa music, and DJ sets.
As you pass through Rhinebeck and into Red Hook, finally making your way to Tivoli, you’ll notice that the pace gets slower by the mile. This gait is probably why so many people love spending their free time off the beaten path. Business owners will tell you the same thing: That while they have plenty of local regulars, so many customers are weekend travelers escaping the city. All three unrushed towns have figured out how to run thriving businesses without being in too much of a hurry. Everyone could use the same lesson in how to succeed and exhale simultaneously.