Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hike Under the Stars at Frost Valley

A unique guided after-dark hike at the Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville will give participants the chance for star gazing, and perhaps see some night-time animals such as bats.

The hike is being held on Saturday, November 1st, under the guidance of biologist Reid Bauer, who is not scared of the dark, and wants you not to be. He's an expert on how humans and animals adapt to a nighttime environment. The excursion also will educate participants on how to view planets, stars and constellations with the naked eye and with telescopes that Bauer is bringing along. The hike includes a stop at Frost Valley's Raptor Center to look at and learn more about night predators, including the rescued animals at the center.

It's called a hike, but it's really a walk on easy terrain, suitable for adults and children. Space is limited to 30, so reservations are recommended.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Visit Henry Hudson's Half Moon in Yonkers

Just in case you didn't know -- next year, 2009, is the 400th anniversary of the discovery of a certain river by a Dutch explorer named Henry Hudson. And an important part of the year-long celebrations from New York City to the upper reaches of the Hudson River Valley is the plank-for-plank replica of Hudson's ship, the Half Moon.

The Half Moon is now docked at The Pier in Yonkers, and will stay there for two weeks. Students from schools throughout Westchester take part in educational programs on the boat, to learn what it was like to live and work in the early 1600s, including the life of a sailor aboard Henry Hudson's ship of discovery during the week. And on weekends, the Half Moon is open for public tours. Remember to watch your head when you go below deck -- people were a lot shorter in the 1600s than we are today.

The original ship, called the "Halve Maen," in Dutch, was commissioned in 1609 for the Dutch East India Company, which hired an Englishman, Henry Hudson, to find a passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He thought he had found it when he sailed up the river that was later named for him. His mistake -- our history.

The Half Moon is just one of hundreds of activities, festivities and celebrations for the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's discovery. Check the ExploreNY400 website regularly for updates so you can start planning now.

Hudson claimed the area for his Dutch employers, and soon Dutch farmers, cattle ranchers and fur traders began arriving to settle the Hudson Valley. Hudson's voyage here in 1609 was 10 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

The Half Moon replica was built in Albany, the New York State capital city on the shores of the the Hudson River. It is 85 feet long. Can you imagine sailing across the Atlantic into the unknown today in an 85-foot wooden boat, with no GPS, no iPod, no credit cards, no ice for the afternoon social hour and no balcony to enjoy it on?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Special Occasion Dinner at Xaviar's at Piermont

Taittinger produces some of the world's best French champagne. Peter X. Kelly produces some of the finest meals in the Hudson Valley. Put them together, and it guarantees a memorable dining experience.

It's called L'Instant Taittinger: La Cuisine Xaviar's. Translation -- a one-night-only extravaganza of lobster, Hudson Valley foie gras, Hudson Valley duckling, quail, truffles and more, enhanced by a bounty of Hudson Valley fall produce including squash. Plus , of course, champagne. Lots and lots of champagne. Each cru matched to the dish.

This special dinner is at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 21, 2008, at Xaviar's at Piermont, on the village's main street, Piermont Ave. It's a pricey $200 per person, so you might consider this an early holiday gift to yourself and your significant other. But the price includes the opportunity to discuss champagne with a special guest -- Clovis Taittinger, the newest generation of the Taittinger family to lead the legendary house.

Old World elegance is the rule at Xaviar's. Waterford crystal chandeliers, Rosenthal china, and Riedel champagne glasses, which will be filled from magnums of the finest Champagne Taittinger cuvees from the Côtes des Blancs, Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne.

So what's on the menu?

Reception --
Coconut Shrimp with Dijon Mustard Sauce, Macadamia Crusted Ahi Tuna with Yuzu Butter, Grilled Quail with Lingonberry, Caramelized Onion Tart with Goat Cheese & Olive,Butternut Squash Veloute with Gingered Shrimp and tiny Crabcake with Gaufrettes Potato & Avocado, all matched with Taittinger, Prestige Blanc Brut NV

Dinner Menu --
Butter Poached Lobster, Creamy Coconut Orzo With Mango & Pineapple are matched with Taittinger, Vintage 1999

Alaskan Halibut cooked “Sous Vide”, Green Onion & Black Truffle Risotto and Sorrel Butter & Volcanic Black Salt are matched with Taittinger, Prestige Rose Brut NV

Breast of Hudson Valley Duckling, Medallion of Foie Gras & Wild Mushroom Spaetzle and Organic Carrots & Sonoma Figs are matched with Taittinger, Comtes des Champagne, Blanc de Blanc 1998

Desserts --
Meyer Lemon Sabayon with Shortbread Crust, Salad of Pink Grapefruit with Acacia Honey and Pistachio & Spearmint are matched with Taittinger, Comtes des Champagne, Rose 2000

Reservations are recommended. Of course, Xaviar's at Piermont and Kelly's other restaurants, Freelance Cafe & Wine Bar, also in Piermont, and his Xaviar's on the Hudson in Yonkers, are included in my food and wine guidebook, Eating the Hudson Valley, published by WWNorton/Countryman Press.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall for Westchester Events

Fabulous autumn foilage is the backdrop for events throughout October throughout Westchester County, with something to please everybody -- and all great reasons to visit and enjoy the Hudson Valley.

More than 70 art galleries throughout the county are participating in All Fired Up! A Collection of Clay. There are whimsical ceramics, such as these, at the Pace Univeristy Choate Gallery, and more conventional pottery and ceramics, too. Many of the artists are local, so support them, and the galleries, by doing more than looking. Buy, too.

The annual Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze begins this weekend at Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, and every weekend this month. Tickets are required, and they are selling out. No wonder -- it is an annual extravaganza of 3,000+ hand carved jack o'lanterns. Bring your camera. And the kids, since this is a family-friendly spook-tacular.

If you've been waiting to buy tickets to the season opening performances of the Westchester Philharmonic on October 11th and 12th, you blew it. Sold out. And no wonder -- the symphonies -- at the Performing Arts Center, Purchase -- are conducted by Artistic Director Itzhak Perlman, the world-renowned violinist. He'll also be performing during the season.

The last weekend in October, the 24-26, is reserved for Legend Weekend, another annual spook-tacular, held at Washington Irving's Sunnyside in Tarrytown and also at Phillipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow. Halloween activities include storytelling, puppet shows, walks through woods that may or may not be haunted, and an appearance by the Headless Horseman.