Wednesday Food: Dining Out in the Hudson Valley

All of this reminiscing about being back in college got me thinking about all the great restaurants, good times with friends, and my first dates with my husband, Eric in the Hudson Valley (HV) area.  So I would like to take a quick stroll through memory lane, highlighting this amazing region of New York State.

Was it just because the Culinary Institute was nearby?  Is it because the HV area was such a hot bed of fertile ground for great produce and dairy products?  It all plays a part and from 2000-2003, I was in love with going out and enjoying what the HV had to offer!  Prior, going out to dinner consisted of family style Italian or chain restaurants, so this was an enormous change for me.

Early on at the CIA, I made friends with a local.  Which was great because you get to know all the hidden, cool places to go.  The first restaurant that we went to was called Sante Fe, located in this tiny, artsy community called Tivoli.  Delicious southwestern/TexMex style and the vibe was so lively!  And after knowing where the restaurant was, I could take my other friends there to experience it as well.  My very good friend Ann and I ate there after I got my first tattoo!

It was never hard to get a large group of us out to a fancy dinner.  Sometimes planned, and sometimes the party would just grow and grow.  You never knew who we would run into on the way to the car!  There were many memorable outings at all different kinds of restaurants...

One particularly lovely evening out, was at a restaurant called GiGi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, NY.  My friend Suzy had planned the night for about 15 of us and it was a meal I never forgot.  Great friends, great wine and the food was perfect.  I dined on a Cumin Braised Lamb Shank and it was the best meal I'd ever had at a restaurant!  Braised lamb shanks are such a treat for me and not something I get to have very often.  The meat was falling so tenderly off the bone and the flavor of the cumin was simply exquisite!  Everybody was trying to grab at my plate and I was happy to share.  The portions were plentiful for sure.
After trying many different sushi restaurants, my friends got a tip about a small place in New Paltz called Hokkaido.  To this day, this has been hands-down my favorite sushi ever.  It's a small, out of the way place that was so relaxing and absolutely delicious!  Another favorite and also of the Asian variety was China Rose in nearby Rhinecliffe.  They had the standard Chinese fair but along with some great specials like whole roasted fish.  And I can't even mention this place without telling you how delicious their sake margaritas are!  Love margaritas and love sake, together they are a force to be reckoned with!

We didn't always go high class either.  One of our favorite places to get some seriously delicious Mexican food was called Mole Mole in downtown Poughkeepsie.  And as the name implies, mole was their specialty, and it was fantastic!  Flavorful with deep dark chocolate undertones that make your taste buds jump with joy!  

Another great find was New World Home Cooking Company in Woodstock, NY.  I only got there a couple of times, once with friends, and once with Eric. Back then, there were 2 kinds of restaraunts: strictly vegetarian or a menu with one vegetarian option.  I felt like New World was one of the first restaurants that I went to that was all about organic, farm raised livestock (beef, chicken, etc.) but also had the BEST seitan steak ever!
Eric and I dined there after the Woodstock Tattoo and Arts Festival.  It was just a few months before graduation and we were in the deciding period.  Do we stay together or do we go our separate ways?  Eric knew he was on his way to San Francisco and I thought I had a plan in place.  But I couldn't see giving up such an amazing guy.  That night we decided that I would be joining him on the West Coast, and starting our lives together.

As I was searching these restaurants on the Internet, I was happy to see that they are all still around, and some are even growing!  It seemed anytime I had the chance to go back, things were always changing.  It was nice to see that some things haven't changed that much.  I encourage anybody in the surrounding area to indulge in all the splendor of the Hudson Valley, and tell us all about it.  I miss it on a daily basis, an will live through your experiences!

Next week, I'll be back in the kitchen... See you then!


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