By Jennifer Brizzi
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Brizzi
You may already have a good idea just how fascinat- ing and beautiful the Hudson Valley is and what a breadbasket it is. I’ve visited some magical places with stellar food around the world, but I think this area holds its own against the best of them. Visitors from New York City and the rest of the world are getting hip to the unique appeal and bounty of Rhinebeck, Beacon, Hudson and our other towns and villages, as well as the surrounding countryside.
I’m a food writer and cooking teacher who has lived here for 20 years. I created Hudson Valley Food Tours to help people experience the region on a deeper level than the typical tourist passing through. I design tours for people to get to know the area in the way I like to do when I travel, by tasting everything, meeting local people and peppering all that with rich experiences like visits to cultural centers, historic sites and beautiful landscapes.
Our Culinary Crawls—on foot or by bus—blend tastings and personal encounters with history and lore recounted by our enthusiastic tour guides, who love spilling the beans on things you may not have known even if you’ve lived here for decades.
Tourists eat at chain restaurants where they know exactly how that burger will taste—just like the ones at the same chain back home. Travelers, on the other hand, seek opportunities to enjoy our special flavors, like black currant juice sweetened with local honey; deviled duck eggs; organic microgreens that pack a tasty, nutrient-dense punch whether from an all-women farm or an indoor urban garden; charcuterie and cheeses good as any in Europe; and artisanal bitters or distilled spirits or craft beer made with locally grown ingredients, as well as ethnic specialties from settlements where immigrants serve up the exciting dishes of their homelands. These tours let you get to know the Hudson Valley more intimately as you talk to the people who serve, craft, farm, raise and cook the food, at the farm or factory where it’s produced or at the farmers’ market or restaurant where it’s served.
Our popular original walking tour is in the village of Rhinebeck, a two- to three-hour crawl that begins with our award-winning farmers’ market, followed by a meander around town as you taste and learn history and lore with our Rhinebeck tour guide, a history buff and CIA-trained chef. The Beacon Culinary Crawl appeals to young day trippers from the city, or anyone who appreciates a quirky, funky and fun town, with art at every turn and many imaginative food and beverage tastings. The Culinary Crawl in Hudson (Columbia County) explores this elegant rural outpost that has trans- formed from old whaling city to upscale food and antiques destination, without leaving its special character behind. The City of Poughkeepsie’s Crawl is four hours of exploration on foot. You’ll be treated to many interesting tastings along the way and an urban art tour with renowned muralist/sculptor Franc Palaia. You’ll discover the wonders of the Valley’s Queen City and learn how it’s morphing from a recent past as a bleak urban space into a vibrant, historic, growing artists’ colony with a cornucopia of ethnic delights, where inspired chefs now play with local ingredients.
Bus tours include the Rondout Valley Savor Art & Food tour, where you can enjoy varied activities and tastings in this lovely part of Ulster County: milk a cow, have a flight of farm- brewed beer at Arrowood, see the permaculture gardens of a botanical illustrator, meet a maker of artisan pierogies and visit a tiny café hidden in the middle of the woods.
Another Savor Art & Food bus tour is ideal for locavore/art lovers, in and around the Re Institute in Millerton. This one includes tasting local charcuterie at the farm where the animals are raised sustainably, a visit to the Wassaic Project studios and a creative local-foods luncheon, with wine, at the home/studio/ exhibition space of artist Henry Klimowicz and colleagues.
Bus tours start and end at public transportation points for easy access from New York. More tours are in development, and meanwhile our custom and private tours bring people to a variety of savory locations, from tucked-away eateries with imaginative food to working breweries, distilleries and wineries to a pastry shop in Poughkeepsie’s Little Italy, and more.
If you want to visit as a traveler, not a tourist, our tours will get you acquainted with the Hudson Valley and its towns and villages in a way no other form of travel can.