Eat Here Now: Hudson Valley's Restaurant Scene

New York's Hudson Valley has officially emerged as a go-to travel destination for discerning gourmands and oenophiles, and rightfully so. It's blessed with fertile soils and the precise climate necessary for producing juicy wine grapes, creating the ideal stomping ground for chefs, farmers, growers, vintners, and makers of fine food products to coalesce and form a juggernaut of freshness. The farm-to-table philosophy resonates throughout the community like a battle cry against the system that brought the world modern fast food, transforming the territory into a haven for many a burnt-out city chef looking to revitalize creativity (and career) by reconnecting with the purity of nature.

To celebrate the late-fall harvest, the region's best restaurants and supporting businesses are collaborating to bring diners Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. The most esteemed eating establishments in seven counties (spanning 114 miles from north to south, and including one spot in nearby Connecticut) will be offering multicourse lunches and dinners at jaw-droppingly low prices — perfect for people who want to experience as many remarkable meals as possible without breaking the bank.

Running from Nov. 4 through Nov. 17, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW) is the brainchild of Janet Crawshaw and Jerry Novesky, co-owners of The Valley Table, a quarterly publication that highlights the agriculture, products, and cuisine of the region. Crawshaw and Novesky kick-started the culinary movement here by launching their praised publication in 1998 after being inspired by Chefs Collaborative, a collection of sustainable and local food evangelists. Then, to really rocket their scene into statewide (if not international) stardom, they organized the inaugural HVRW in 2006 to entice diners to dabble in an extensive array of the area's offerings.

What began with 70 participating eateries now features just less than 160, with Westchester County leading the way with 87 establishments in the mix, followed by Dutchess with 28, Rockland with 17, Putnam with 10, Orange with nine, Ulster with six, and Columbia and the state of Connecticut each having one. During the promotion, lunch runs for $20.95 and dinner is $29.95, each including three courses. Supplying these venerable venues with top-notch produce, meats, cheeses, wine, and spirits are some of the state's most notable suppliers renowned for attention to detail and quality.

On Oct. 22, the picturesque Millbrook Vineyards & Winery popped bottles and played host to a number of local artisans and chefs looking to synergize their respective products and services for HVRW.  Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which is setting new standards in the industry with its cage-free, hand-feeding methodology, was slicing up an assortment of decadent cured duck with dried apricots and preserves; Black Dirt Distillery poured out its smooth-but-still-100-proof Apple Jack brandy; Dutch's Spirits got patrons plastered on its New York Sugar Wash Moonshine; and Warwick Valley Winery (which runs the state's first fruit micro-distillery) showed off its American Fruits line, offering tastes of Bartlett pear liqueur and blackcurrant cordial.

Upscale tea producer Harney & Sons represented with the company's actual kin (vice president Michael Harney) sampling out shots of seasonal Cranberry Autumn blend; and growers, including Quattro's Farm of Pleasant Valley, New Windsor's sustainability focused Continental Organics, and nearly decade-old Adams Fairacre Farms, showcased bounties of fresh herbs, lettuces, and sweet tomatoes. There were exquisite blends from the passionate purveyors at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, and Hudson Valley Skin Care, which makes beauty products using local honey, maple syrup, beer, goat's milk, and coffee, showed off their natural product line.

But the most memorable moments experienced by The Daily Meal at this event had to be tasting the cheeses: Sprout Creek Farm's bloomy rind Margie and Acorn Hill Farm's heavenly lavender-and-honey chèvre (seriously, these are the kinds of cheeses you can eat an entire wedge/log of in one sitting if not careful).  

Chefs like Josh Kroner of Rhinebeck's Terrapin Restaurant and Cathryn Fadde of Cathryn's Tuscan Grill were able to connect with these local vendors to secure special ingredient orders for HVRW dishes (and in hopes of forging mutually beneficial ongoing relationships). Noteworthy newcomers to the two-week event include French-influenced Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, Purdy's Farmers and the Fish, Restaurant 1915 and the Blue Roof Tapas Bar (at the historic Bear Mountain Inn), Kingston's Duo Bistro, and Mexicali Blue of New Paltz and Wappingers Falls.  

If you're into indulging in enticing cuisines from across the world made with the freshest local ingredients, then check out this list of HVRW's participating restaurants and head to New York's Hudson Valley for an extraordinary eating experience.