Summer Stroll: Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and Tivoli | Community Pages | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Summer Stroll: Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and Tivoli 

click to enlarge Elizabeth Olson at The Gallery @ Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Elizabeth Olson at The Gallery @ Rhinebeck

Between a glorious stretch of the Hudson to the west and rolling farmland to the east, Northern Dutchess has always been physically stunning, but it's the people who make it so amazing. To the south and north, the Culinary Institute of America and Bard College have been magnetizing brilliance for generations as graduates of these savvy institutions opt to hang around, cooking and creating. Throw in a few handfuls of city expats with fresh air dreams, and the sum of it all means that if you haven't wandered around Rhinebeck, Red Hook, or Tivoli lately, you're missing out. Each village is utterly different; the common theme is the fine art of intelligent community building and fine, fine food—and there's always something new and cool popping up.

click to enlarge Upstate Films and Liberty Public House in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Upstate Films and Liberty Public House in Rhinebeck

"Rhinebeck really is the small town everyone pictures when they think 'quaint small town,' says Claudia Cooley, executive director of the Rhinebeck Chamber of Commerce. "Victorians, brightly colored little shops—it feels like a prosperous, historic village because, well, that's exactly what it is."

click to enlarge The intersection of Market Street and Montgomery Street - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The intersection of Market Street and Montgomery Street
click to enlarge Bruce Tripp at Milea Estate Vineyard in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Bruce Tripp at Milea Estate Vineyard in Rhinebeck

For about 250 years, Rhinebeck has been "on the map as a place for relaxation and respite. Those of us who live here love it passionately, and I think that's something visitors breathe in with the air."

From the village's central intersection, you'll find yourself beckoned in every direction. "Within four blocks, you have 25 different foodie destinations—not just restaurants but places like Oliver Kita. Oliver just got named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in America. The Beekman Arms, they're in their 251st year of doing business and it's such a great little place to eat. The Amsterdam just opened; the chef is a charcuterie expert. Even the pâtés and toast points have this slightly fire-roasted edge. So delicious. The menu doesn't compete with the other places, it complements them."

click to enlarge Barbara Schreiber and Susan Kravitz at Rhinebeck Department Store - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Barbara Schreiber and Susan Kravitz at Rhinebeck Department Store

It's very Rhinebeck, this mentioning of the village's oldest and newest restaurants in one breath. It's hard to imagine a more curated, yet wildly creative mix. "The closest thing we have to fast food is Buns; they use all Hudson Valley beef, they have turkey and lamb burgers," says Cooley. "Aba's Falafel got so beloved at the farmers' market that they're opening a storefront. Then there are the new spring menus all over town—but then, most of the menus get updated every few weeks anyway." Then again, you could always grab something from Sunflower Natural Foods or the farmers' market and picnic at Ferncliff Forest or atop Burger Hill, perhaps with a bottle from the Milea Estate Vineyards, new and award-winning in neighboring Staatsburg. Or go with a tried-and-true staple like the French Dip sandwich at Foster's Coach House.

click to enlarge The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck's production of "Kiss Me Kate" - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck's production of "Kiss Me Kate"
click to enlarge Jonna Paolella and Cynthia Curnan at Olde Rhinebeck Inn - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Jonna Paolella and Cynthia Curnan at Olde Rhinebeck Inn

Between meals, you'll find around 60 retailers; here too, there's collaboration. Cooley ascribes it to the womenfolk. "'First-floor Rhinebeck' is almost a matriarchal society,'" she says. "The Chamber, Enjoy Rhinebeck, much of the retail is woman-run. Store owners work together to make sure you won't find five shops selling the same thing." What you will find are best-in-class classics: cottons and wools and country-wear at the venerable Rhinebeck Department Store, hand designed and tailored women's clothing at Haldora, resort wear at Willow Wood. Sparkle it up with something made by one of the 75 artists—or the in-house master goldsmith—at Hummingbird Jewelers. There's a top-notch community of healers—the newest, Rubystar Healing Arts, is born of a mission to "increase light and love on the earth and help heal the world." This month, "Oliver!" is being staged at the Center for Performing Arts and Upstate Films is wrapping up its activism-focused Engage film series. The newly established Gallery@Rhinebeck is tapping into the wider region's star power for its ongoing Hudson Valley Celebrity Series with local notables like Elliot Landy and Danny Shanahan.

click to enlarge The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck

Rhinebeck has been something of a low-key celebrity magnet ever since George Washington hung out. "Paul Rudd, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Hilarie Burton invested in Samuel's Sweet Shop, and they're there a lot—people are too cool to fuss," says Cooley. "We have our tree-lighting festival, much smaller and more local than Sinterklaas, and there was Jeffrey driving his pickup truck in the parade, kids throwing candy from the back. I think well known people love it that you can wear your cashmere and muddy work boots and no one turns a hair."

click to enlarge Bruce Lubman at Hummingbird Jewelers in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Bruce Lubman at Hummingbird Jewelers in Rhinebeck

The single most important thing made in Rhinebeck? Memories. "Make time for a barnstormer flight at the Aerodrome," Cooley urges. "Take your loved ones. Turn to them when the plane is banking over Rhinebeck and Red Hook. The propellers throbbing, the wind in their hair, the town looking like a postage stamp—you will see each other's inner 12-year-old in a state of ecstasy."

click to enlarge Law professor, activist, and erstwhile Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Law professor, activist, and erstwhile Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout in Rhinebeck

Farmy, Funky, Family Oriented

"Rhinebeck gets the exposure and celebrities; we have a more college-town feel," says Kim Gomez of the Red Hook Chamber. "Laid back, a little edgy, a little funkier. It's like coming to a family party where there are a lot of deep, interesting things going on."

Ten years ago, Gomez says, Red Hook was "sweet, sleepy, conservative and agricultural. Now we're on the cusp of much more. The school district is insanely wonderful, and between that and Bard—their Spiegeltent is really the only dance club around—a lot of people with a larger vision make their homes here. It's been a long process getting the infrastructure together; we've got the sidewalks and the water now; the sewer is the last piece, which will facilitate just enough expansion. Anybody building new has to stay true to the look and feel. The 1970's parking-lot-based business model just doesn't work for us."

click to enlarge Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook

Family-centered, farmy, and quirky is turning out to be a winning formula of its own. Success here means having a unique creative angle as a draw, whether it's the exceptional work of Atelier Renee Fine Framing, the horse-themed fine art at Equis Art Gallery, or the individualized fitness instruction at Body Be Well Pilates. Little Pickles Children's General Store has toys, kids' clothes, and candy under one roof, and there's always something going on for tweens and teens at the BoardRoom Skateshop.

click to enlarge Christian Brengel at Taste Budds in Red Hook - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Christian Brengel at Taste Budds in Red Hook
click to enlarge West Market Street in Red Hook - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • West Market Street in Red Hook

Come hungry. "You absolutely need reservations for Mercato," says Gomez. "Flatiron Steak House, Black Star Social, Daughters Fare and Ale—we have wonderful bars, we have exquisite local food, there's a brand new tearoom in the Country Inn. This is a great town for sidewalk dining and watching the world go by." The folks at Taste Budd's Cafe keep everyone in java and fresh, healthful confections of all sorts. Gomez credits them with helping organize the Chocolate Festival each November. "Chocolate tastings in every business, live music on every corner," she says. "We have these deep, deep farmy roots, and we're a college town, and life is sweet here, Comfortable and accessible is our niche, and there's a nice sense of momentum building—a lot of really invested and creative people have been setting up shop."

Here too, collaboration is in the air. You're invited to come to Red Hook anytime, but consider coming on a first Friday for Friday Night Lights, when all downtown will stay lit into the evening. "We'll be having lots of laid-back, fun little events," says Gomez. "Very family, very centered, very real—very Red Hook."

click to enlarge Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook

Farthest north of all, tucked away in a universe of its own, is Tivoli. Back in 2009, when Andrea and Michael Rhodes first moved in after decades of Manhattan, it was already a seductive little place; it became more so after the couple opened their cutting-edge, soulful Carpenter Shop Theater smack in the middle of the tiny village.

Now "every store front's open, every light's on," says Rhodes. "There was a dormant business association. We thought maybe Tivoli's businesses could help each other, so we revived it as the Tivoli Merchants + Artists' Association. We've been getting together once a month, and once we got the website and Facebook up and running, there's been a very real surge. I mean, we have the Tivoli Artists Gallery next door, Kaatsbaan right up the road, lots of artists working in their individual studios. The new mayor is a born and raised Tivolian, a Bard grad and an artist himself; he's all in." (The mayor, Joel Griffith, is a painter whose work has appeared on the cover of Chronogram three times.)

click to enlarge The Corner in Tivoli - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The Corner in Tivoli
click to enlarge Flamenco Vivo and Carolota Santana Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Flamenco Vivo and Carolota Santana Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli

Co-leading the TM+A with Rhodes is the co-owner of Murray's, Jesse Feldmus. "[Murray's] was a little coffee shop and it's not little anymore; they renovated a church and made an event space in the sanctuary and it's a whole new destination spot," says Rhodes. John Schmitz, co-owner of Fabulous Yarn, is also part of the leadership team of the revitalized business group.

click to enlarge Amanda Traudt at Tivoli Libary - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Amanda Traudt at Tivoli Libary

World-class arts beget world class eats. "Murray's, the Corner, the Pub, Panzur, Rojo Tapas and Wine—You can eat out very happily here and never get bored, because the creativity is extreme," says Rhodes. "We were used to having Manhattan at our feet, mind you; we're social. We go out a lot, and it's usually right here; you can have a world class night on the town and never need to get in your car. Five o'clock hits and the town fills with visitors and people come out to play. Daytime, you have the bays and the river, hiking, biking, wineries, breweries nearby. the restaurants are starting to serve brunch, and we now have a great little general store with all the necessaries and a great beer selection. We even have a liquor store for the first time in forever! [Tivoli Wine and Spirits was opened in late May by longtime Tivoli resident Bob Zises.] More and more, it feels like there's just no reason to leave Tivoli."

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