Thursday, November 5, 2009

Get ready for ski season in the Hudson Valley and Catskills

Temperatures are dropping, and that's getting all us downhill diehards thinking about ski season. Buy your lift tickets now, before Thanksviging, to save money all season long when you ski Hunter Mountain and Plattekill.
Hurry, because these deals are good only through November 15th.

Hunter's Big Lift Card offers season-long savings, and is Hunter's greatest value. You save 25% on weekend and holiday lift tickets, and 50% on mid-week tickets ALL SEASON LONG. The card comes with one unrestricted lift ticket to be used any time during the 2009-2010 ski season. What a bargain! The card costs $39, which means it will pay for itself in just a couple of ski days.

Plattekill is offering an entire season of skiing and snowboarding is just $429 for the first adult, $379 for the second, and $199 for juniors. A season pass for seniors is $349 and kids five and under ski and ride for free.

So get those skis and snowboards waxed and ready. It's going to be a great snow season!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Henry Hudson gets 21-Gun Salute in New York City

Four hundred years ago today, on September 8, 1609, Henry Hudson and his Half Moon crew sailed into a certain harbor. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history. The 400th anniverasary of the discovery of what is now known as the Hudson River and Hudson Valley is being celebrated in New York City as the city goes Dutch for the week.

NY 400 Dutch Week begins at the USS Intrepid, with a 21-gun salute by the Dutch warship HNLMS Tromp, to welcome a fleet of Dutch and U.S. ships. That's just the beginning.

New York City is going Dutch all week. There's a recreation of a colonial Dutch village at Bowling Green, artworks and performances by more than 150 Dutch artists on Governors Island, and more. Lots more. So much more that NY400 has created a 19-page PDF with all the details.

The most fun just might be a Silent Disco -- that's a dance party with no sound. Just dancing. The Dutch love it. Maybe we will, too. After all, we love Dutch chocolate and the artists known as the Dutch Masters, with names like Rembrandt and Vermeer.

There's a special exhibition of Vermeer paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including his iconic The Milkmaid, on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. It will be the first time in 70 years this painting will be seen in the United States -- it was last exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair. The special exhibit opens on September 10, through November 29.

Dutch Week in New York City ends on Harbor Day, Sunday, September 13, with festivites along six scenic waterfront sites in lower Manhattan. There are opportunities to board the Half Moon for a tour all week, and more as the Half Moon replica heads back up the Hudson River to its home port in Albany, making stops along the way.

The New York City festivities end when a flotilla of historic and modern Dutch and American vessels head north, following the route Henry Hudson took so long ago. The flotilla is being led by the replica ship the Half Moon, plus Dutch Navy ships, the Onrust, 16 flat-bottom boats, and 56 Flying Dutchman-class sailboats.

It will be quite a parade. And nobody will bother to remember that Henry Hudson failed in his mission to discover a shortcut to the Orient. Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Company to find the Northwest Passage. Instead, he found the Hudson River and the Hudson Valley.

Thank you, Henry Hudson, for your historic mistake.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hunter Mountain Festivals Celebrate Food, Drink, Music

It's not too late to enjoy great music, great food, great wine and beer, and the company of several thousand of your closest friends. I'm talking about the famous summer and fall festivals at Hunter Mountain.

September -- The weekend of September 26 & 27 is the Microbrew & Wine Festival. More than three dozen breweries and wineries are offering tastings. Nearby micro-breweries Red Hook Brewery and Brooklyn Brewery, and wineries inlcude Warwick Valley Winery and nearby Windham Vineyard and Winery.

October -- The famous Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest is simply too popular to cram into a single weekend. It needs two, October 3-4 and the following weekend, October 10-11. Admission is free, part of what makes it so popular.

You can keep up with the latest doings at this popular Hudson Valley all-season reasort on the mountain's own blog -- including updates on the upcoming ski season. The temperature is in the 90s today, and I'm talking about skiing!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Commemorating Henry Hudson's Momentous Voyage of Discovery

If you didn't already know, this year marks the 400th anniversary of the discovery by Henry Hudson discovery of a certain river and the valley at its shores. Celebrations throughout the Hudson River and Hudson Valley include replicas of Hudson's Half Moon and another historic Dutch vessel, the Onrust, north from New York City to Albany.

The big kick-off is River Day 2009, in New York City, on Friday, June 5, 2009, but it's really more like several days, as the flotilla sails past some of the most important cities and towns in New York State, including Tarrytown, Yonkers, Peeskill, West Point, Beacon, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Kingston -- each which has a historic link to the original Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley, the Revolutionary War, or both.

Along with a replica of Hudson's Half Moon -- pictured above -- the flotilla includes a a full-scale replica of the very first ship built in this new world, the Onrust, built by the Dutch in Manhattan in 1614 after a fire destroyed their original ship. The replica Onrust was built by volunteers at a historic site along the Mohawk River, just for this Quadracentennial celebration.

River Day 2009 begins with a blessing of the fleet, Friday, June 5 in New York Harbor, and sets sail the next morning from the Statue of Liberty for an eight-day journey north. It's quite a parade of sailing ships.

Besides the Half Moon and the Onrust, the flotilla includes these historic original and recplicas of sailing ships --
  • Sloop Clearwater
  • Schooner Mystic Whaler
  • The Woody Guthrie, a wooden replica of an 18th-19th century Hudson River Ferry Sloop
  • The 1890s-style Pilot Schooner Adirondack
  • The Manhattan, built originally for the canals of Amsterdam
  • The Shearwater, a classic Maine Schooner
  • Modern vessels and recreational boats will also escort the historic ships.

Several of the river towns along the route are celebrating with parades (on land), fireworks, and more. Quite a celebration!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top Hudson Valley Restaurants in the News

Congratulations to chef and restauranteur Peter X. Kelley. Two of his restautants are rated in the top ten in the Hudson Valley and Westchester by the newest Zagat Survey.

Once again, Xaviars at Piermont takes the Number One spot for both food and service. Kelley’s newest restaurant, X20 Xaviars, on the Historic Yonkers Pier, wins for the the area’s most popular.

The elegant Equus at the Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown, gets the vote for best decor, and the top-rated as a newcomer is 36 Main in New Paltz. Other celebrated arrivals include Tarry Lodge, Spadaro, Chutney Masala and Arielle.

Zagat's reports that -- like everywhere else -- Hudson Valley and Westchester County residents say they are eating out less often, being more attentive to prices when ordering, eating at less-expensive places, and cutting back on alcohol. Not surprising since our home area is among the most expensive in the country -- right in there with New York City and New Jersey -- with an average cost for dinner of $38.99.

So, restaurants are rolling out edible versions of stimulus packages to lure local diners to the table. Some examples:
  • X20 Xaviars on the Hudson features two levels of dining: formal New American fare upstairs, and more casual small plates and cocktails downstairs in its Dylan Lounge.

  • Special-occasion mainstay Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua now offers a New American bar bites menu

  • Rye’s legendary French La Panetière has loosened its prix fixe only format, adding lower-cost à la carte options.

  • Diners seeking an economical celebrity chef experience fill up on pizzas at the Mario Batali backed Italian, Tarry Lodge, in Port Chester.

  • The Barn at Bedford Post lures locavores for seasonal American fare priced steps below the inn’s flagship Farmhouse restaurant.

  • Blue Hill Café in Pocantico Hills offers wallet-friendly bites from the same farm-fresh ingredients used at its parent, Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Zagat's does an excellent job of letting you know in just a paragraph about the kind of food, service and price to expect at neighborhood restaurants. I'm a firm believer in longer restaurant reviews, like the ones in my Eating the Hudson Valley book, published by Countryman Press, to give you the full flavor of your dining dollar. And -- unlike newspaper and magazine restaurant reviews and book food and wine guidebooks like mine, Xagat's guides don't have the room for appetizing, enticing photos.

But, as I said, Zagat's does an excellent job of letting you know in just few short sentences what you can expect for your Hudson Valley dining dollars.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Summer Starts in April at Hunter Mountain

The first festival of the summer kicks off this spring weekend at Hunter Mountain. It's TAP New York, one of Hunter's most popular festivals, celebrating the many fine craft brews of New York State.

More than 30 breweries and 100 beers will be available for sample, and many of the brewmasters will be on hand to chat. Plus, of course, great food, plus crafts vendors and lots of live entertainment.

This is a popular event, and in past years tickets have sold out. So don't wait. The weather is supposed to be spectacular -- sunny and wam, more like summer than spring -- so it is a great excuse to get outdoors.

There's plenty of food and drink for everyone! Buy your tickets at Tap New York

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sheep get rid of their winter coats at Philipsburg Manor

It's spring. We are shedding our winter coats, and so are the animals.

The annual shearing of the sheep takes place this weekend, April 18-19, at Philipsburg Manor's Sheep-to-Shawl festival. And it will be done the old fashioned way -- by hand -- the way the 18th century residents of his historic working farm would have done it.

There are 19 newborn lambs to see, as well, including a rare set of triplets born on the farm this spring. They are beyond cute, and the kids will love watching them play like happy puppies. This is a record number of newborns for Philipsburg Manor and its proud poppa, the ram named, “Lucky,” who is truly living up to his name.

Other new additions to the farm this year include Maebell the milk cow’s new heifer calf, Marigold. The site’s four-year-old working oxen, Josh and Jake, will also be part of the day’s events.

“Spring at Philipsburg Manor is a really special time, and this event really gives visitors the full flavor of what we do here,” said Thom Thacker, site director of Philipsburg Manor. Tours and programs reflect the daily lives of the 23 enslaved individuals known to have lived and labored there, including slaves. Philipsburg Manor is the country’s only fully staffed living history museum to focus on the history of northern slavery. The farm includes a working water-powered gristmill and a 'new world' Dutch barn.

Philipsburg Manor’s farmers will be shearing the sheep in the barnyard by hand while costumed interpreters continuously demonstrate wool dyeing, spinning, and weaving, and lead special hands-on activities for children. You can watch the entire process of making woolen cloth and participate several of the steps in the process after the sheep are sheared. That includes picking and carding the wool, spinning and dyeing the yarn, and weaving it into cloth.

Interpreters, wearing costume of the 18th century, also demonstrate the labor-intensive process of making linen from the flax plant. And, popular storyteller Jonathan Kruk will be on hand to share his tales.

The Sheep-to-Shawl is held rain or shine. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children ages 5-17. Members of Historic Hudson Valley and children under 5 attend for free. Tickets can be purchased online. Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., two miles north of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

This is a great year to learn about what life was like for the original Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley. After all, this is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of a particular river and river valley. You know the name. Hudson River, Hudson Valley.

More about the Quadracentennial events -- that's the dictionary word for 400th anniversary -- in upcoming postings.
photo courtesy Historic Hudson Valley

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Valentine's Day Escapes in the Hudson Valley

Several Hudson Valley hotels and resorts are offering great, romantic Valentine's getaway packages to encourage you to visit and enjoy.

The Ritz Carlton Westchester in White Plains believes 'Love is Here to Stay', which is the name of their getaway. Upon check-in, head for the ninth floor Spa for a choice of treatments, including a couple’s massage or special Valentine’s Day treatments. I like the sound of The Champagne Sugar Scrub. to exfoliates the body and contains antioxidants that provide the appearance of youthful skin, or The Pure Decadence Facial, to help reduce all those fine lines and wrinkles I got by worrying about the economy, the environment, and the election. Now calmed and revitalized, get ready for dinner at BLT Steak, where there's an exclusive chef’s tasting dinner on Sunday, Feb. 15th. Seating is limited and reservations are required.

The historic Thayer Hotel in West Point is offering a special dinner and overnight package for you and that special someone. The dinner is a special four-course extravaganza in the beautiful and elegant Gothic-style main dining room. Afterwards, you and your sweetie can snuggle by the roaring fire in the lobby, after nibbling your way through such decadent desserts as a chocolate heart for two, chocolate tuile with berries and zabaglione or homemade cheesecake with foster sauce. Valentine’s dinner is just $130 per couple. Add an overnight stay with champagne and chocolates for just $329 per couple with breakfast buffet or $369 per couple with Sunday Champagne Brunch.

The Ritz-Carlton and the Thayer are two very different Hudson Valley hotels. The Ritz is brand new and ultra-modern, in the heart of White Plains. The Thayer was built in 1926, on the grounds of legendary West Point and named for Sylvanus Thayer, superintendant of the Academy from 1877 to 1833. It has breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and over the years has hosted a long line of dignitaries and celebrities including General Tommy Franks, General Douglas MacArthur, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, Her Royal Highness Princess Alsha Bint-Huessen of Jordan, singer Luciano Pavarotti, actors George C. Scott, James Earl Jones and Gregory Peck, the Philadelphia Flyers, and many others.

Whether you choose the Ritz or the Thayer for Valentine's Day, know that you will get four-star and five-star service, even if you aren't wearing those stars on your dress clothes.