Wednesday, June 22, Laurie Katz and I decided to go a bit more “local” by visiting Dutchess and Westchester County in “upstate” New York. Here in New York City, any destination located North of The Bronx is considered to be “upstate”.
Needing to enjoy the experience of petting an alpaca, we first headed to Rhinebeck, the location of Fiddlehead Farm where we met owner Mary Ellen (Mel) Dean. The farm, located at 314 Cedar Heights Road (914-466-3994) is most likely larger than it appears as we did our encountering in one area.
After her little pug dogs, Gemma and Louis, greeted us, Mel told us about her background as a physician giving it up so her and her husband can own this farm, open to the public only by appointment. I did not blame her.
One section was devoted to her special animals…sheep, llamas, alpacas and a cross breed of an alpaca and llama, producing a smaller alpaca with a different fiber. They were all absolutely adorable, especially a one-year-old hopping about. We were able to pet and feed them. Mel created a blanket using sheep, alpaca and llama fibers that was soooooo soft that I asked if she would make a simple square to have something to pet at home, particularly when I was feeling stressed.
One of the sheep loves to nosh on the roses located at the front of her home.
Mel maintains an herb garden used not only for her own cooking but sold to local restaurants.
Then there were the chickens, rooster and a turkey, all who were not as friendly. They live in a chicken coup that looks like a Victorian Cottage. Hens are laying certified organic eggs, also for sale...the eggs, not the hens. Able to speak in Donald Duck, I did get to converse with one of theirs.
Oh yeah, did I tell you that she makes honey? I got a jar and looking forward to trying it out. Hmmm…Ronnybrook cream and honey.
With a vast amount of restaurants, I was most curious about Schultzville General Store and Café, located at 835 Fiddler’s Bridge Rd. (845) 266-8461. Brothers Kameron and Kyle are the owners, who are in the progress of redecorating to provide more products. Kyle happens to an Interior Decorator. Great, but we came here to have lunch.
I usually do not drink carbonated beverages, but this Cranberry Lime Soda sounded thirst quenching and flavorful.
A tarragon chicken salad with grapes and pistachios on toasted raisin bread hit it off. It came with a side of orzo and artichoke with dill mayo dressing. Kameron treated us to a taste of their guacamole as well as wheat berry with lime dressing.
Noticing that the bottle of table water read “Ronnybrook Farm” I asked if they sold their products. Kameron said that the Ronnybrook chocolate milk and blueberry/pomegranate drinkable yogurt had to be constantly stocked. Since they make some desserts, I went for the lemon bar which I found later does not go well with chocolate milk. Oh well.
Due to a power outage in downtown Rhinebeck (as we found out), we made a change of plans and went directly to the Red Hook Inn located at 7460 S. Broadway (845) 764-8069.
Charming on the outside and even more charming on the inside thanks to Pat, the owner and the fact that it is an 1841 Federal Colonial. B & B’s rarely have accessible rooms. There are two on the first floor that have roll-in showers ( formerly a large gathering room with a bar). I was given the Parlor Room that had a fireplace, which would have been great in the cold months. I was so engrossed with other things that I failed to notice that there was a tv up on the wall. Loved the cozy “common room” that had a few recliners.
Breakfast, the next morning, could not have been better starting with a small bowl of fresh fruit. Then came the banana bread with a fruit compote. How fresh are the eggs? They have chickens. In fact, they just had a delivery of little baby chicks. Not only did we see them, I was able to hold one and pet its little head. One of the guests wanted to do the same.
Back to the food, I had crisp bacon with a cheese omelet. As it turns out, they have Ronnybrook products as well. When I saw the cinnamon butter I asked if they had their milk. Sure enough I was satiated.
After chilling out, yesterday, we had dinner at Foster’s Coach House Tavern back in Rhinebeck’s historic district. Outdoor dining was perfect for the weather. However, I prefer to dine with air conditioning. Phoebe is the owner of this long time establishment located at 6411 Montgomery Street (845- 876-8052). She is the daughter of the former owners, Bob and Karen Kirkwood. At first it looked as if there were not many patrons until I realized how many dining and drinking areas this tavern had.
Frank was our waiter and Justin, one of the Executive Chefs. We were both up for a beer and chicken wings to start. With a range of plain to “Foster’s Fire”, the Teriyaki was our choice. Just the right amount of spice and flavor to want a half dozen more. Salad is a necessity. We shared the chopped salad which had avocado, tomato, cucumber and bell pepper. Opted for bleu cheese dressing.
I think we were both in the mood for meat. Sliced London Broil with a mushroom gravy made for an excellent carnivorous experience. It came with string beans but we also wanted to taste their special cole slaw and potato salads. Loved them both. Too full for dessert except room for ice cream. Frank graciously sends us to a place called Holy Cow as I purchase a large soft chocolate for the huge amount of $2.10. Now tired from the long day, we went back to Red Hook Inn to chat with whoever was there until bedtime.
This is what it looked like prior to be glazed and fired up.
Oliver Kita Chocolates was just down the block at 18 W. Market Street (845) 876-2665. As we walked out of the parking lot, this man said, “Hi, how are you?” I answered and thought, “Wouldn’t that be funny if that were Oliver”. It was and I asked the person inside to contact him. Oliver returned 15 minutes later.
This is not your ordinary chocolate shop. Each piece of chocolate is an artistic culinary creation both inside and out. Oliver is a graduate of the nearby Culinary Institute of America as well as going off the France to learn a bit more. He creates the recipe for each of the chocolates. Let me give you some examples: Palet d’ Opium – Dark Chocolate – first taste of seductive blood orange, next lapsang in the middle, hypnotic spice finish; Espresso Double Shot – Dark Chocolate – crushed cocoa nibs, dark ganache made with organic espresso inside; Shiki Matcha Crunch – White Chocolate – captivating green tea with antioxidants infused into ganache; and White Peaches and Cream – Dark Chocolate – rich velvety, luscious summertime taste made with the slightly sweeter peach.
Oliver produces several bars of chocolates as well most of which are quite “culinary”. These days people demand chocolate with something salty. Most of the bars are his idea. However, he does take the advice of his staff. Here goes with some of the bars. Peanut Butter and Crispy Rice (milk or dark chocolate). Annandale Almond (dark chocolate). Beekman Butter Crunch. Cleremont Cappuccino. Japanese Mermaid. Breakfast Candy dark chocolate with bacon and toffee. If you want the bars to have your company or store name, it can be arranged. www.oliverkita.com
Off to Mt. Kisco where we are checking in at the Holiday Inn, located at 1 Holiday Inn Drive (914-241-2600). I was there about four years ago and had since gone under new management and renovations, especially with their bar/lounge called Teddy’s Restaurant, which is now a full restaurant serving both breakfast and dinner. I didn’t really have the opportunity to wander around the hotel but I understand that the pool had been worked on as well as rooms.
I had booked two rooms, one for Laurie and one for myself. I had requested an accessible room with a roll-in shower so that I can sit in a shower chair to bathe. Despite the confirmation, there was no accessible room available. They offered to pay for another hotel. The problem was that we would have to find one near Mt. Kisco that had this type of room. Our itinerary had one destination in North Salem and another in Katonah. I’m happy that the art of a “sponge bath” was taught to me when I was in rehab.
Other than that, the room was large, clean and comfy with a refrigerator to store the chocolates that I got at Oliver Kita. A business center area allowed me to check my email and free refreshments were nearby, such as flavored iced tea and cookies.
Dinner was on them. We started off with a Caesar Salad and Buffalo Chicken Wings, which I shared with Laurie. It came with restaurant made potato chips. I decided to have burger made with a combo of beef cuts and stuffed with bleu cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and red onions. Rather than fries I chose broccoli. The burger was great but the broccoli was soooo overcooked. Breakfast the next morning got me Eggs Benedict with “home fries”.
North Salem was our main destination this day…to visit an alpaca farm. Little Creek Farm is a different type of alpaca farm. It is not open to the public as the main function is to raise and sell alpacas. We were so lucky to get an appointment. Although the alpacas are generally friendly, this farm is not a place to go up to them to pet and feed. We are able to approach many of them as being curious they would come up the fencing. I did have one encounter that was awesome. We had gone into the barn that basically housed the pregnant alpacas along with their new-born. Lynn, one of the owners, brought out one that was born that day. She told me that they blow-dry their body, which is why this one looked pretty “furry”. I did get to pet it and kiss its little face. Lynn said that an alpaca could be bought for as little as $1 as the price is about the fiber that it produces and what it will be used for. Hey, if I could keep an alpaca as a pet, I would. I’m certainly not going to learn how to knit at this stage. That would be shear madness. I also learned that an alpaca can be used in place of a service dog for anxiety. However, I don’t think that you would be able to bring one into a restaurant or hotel.
That evening we set out to Katonah for an outdoor concert at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts as the Akropolis Reed Quintet was performing in one of the areas known as the Spanish Courtyard. Quintet was comprised of: Tim Gocklin, oboe; Matt Landry, saxophone; Andrew Loeppe, bass clarinet; Ryan Reynolds, bassoon and substituting for Kari Dion was Bixby Kennedy on the clarinet. I did observe one of the group playing the English horn. The oboe would be considered as a “soprano” instrument whereas the English horn, a tenor.
One of the pieces, Sorrow and Celebration involved the audience. For instance, they would play a few bars and the audience would respond by humming the bars. There were points when the audience would “shhhhh” and some members were provided with a toy that made a bird sound. Everything was cued.
Caramoor features music ranging from classical to jazz with concerts both afternoon and evenings. The Spanish Courtyard is one of three venues. Venetian Theater is a fully covered outdoor performance space ringed on three sides, which is also available for rental. Two gardens are the scene for concerts as well that include the Sunken Garden and Friends Field.
Then there is the historic Music Room located in the Rosen House. It is here that we took the house tour and delighted in Afternoon Tea, at 1:30 pm the next day. I stayed downstairs learning about the Music Room while Laurie joined the group checking out the rest of the house. A docent took me around while providing information on the history of the Rosen family as I got familiar with the antiques as well as Asian and Renaissance art and paintings.
One of the highlights is a musical instrument called a Theremin, played without physical contact. It’s all about electric signals. You are using one hand placed close to one side that controls the volume as you move your hand above it. The other hand is for the pitch sensed by an antenna. The closer you are to the unit, the lower the pitch. Think of the music theme from the original Star Trek tv episodes. One older Theremin is located on the stage, while a newer one nearby and encouraged to try it out.
Tea is held in the Summer Dining Room of the Rosen House overlooking the Spanish Courtyard. We had a choice of three different fragrant teas. Out came the three tier server. The bottom and middle tier afforded the taste buds with sandwiches including: smoked salmon and cream cheese on pumpernickel bread, one on a croissant, and your typical tea sandwiches of cucumber and egg salad. There was another sandwich a third sandwich as well. Each sandwich is served on a different bread and obviously savory once you taste it. Kudos to the chef.
The top layer is reserved for the scones, clotted cream and preserves. Let’s add large strawberries dipped in chocolate and muffins for the more dessert items. You won’t go hungry with this “meal”. Keep in mind that this is a more “social” experience of which each of the items should be deservingly savored. www.caramoor.org
Being Friday, our last day, we wanted to experience another art form that was new to us. I had previously painted a ceramic. Scarsdale is the destination for a place called Fun Craft, located at 590 Central Park Avenue (914) 472-1748.
I’ll let Laurie tell you about the trials and tribulations of getting there thanks to a GPS that would not recognize the address. Rather than paint a ceramic we painted a plaster craft. We both happen to choose the same craft. This type of craft does not require it being glazed and fired up and taken home afterward.
We are now homeward bound.