Every time a fellow city dweller asks where I grew up, I answer, “Upstate New York,” and they confidently respond, “Buffalo!” or “Rochester!” These two municipalities are in fact north of New York City, but are actually very western. I happily spent my childhood in the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains, where the air is crisp, the foliage is vibrant and deer and cows are as common as squirrels in Central Park.
The Catskills are just two hours south, and are equally as enchanting. In fact, if someone blindfolded you and took to a wooded area, you likely wouldn’t be able to tell which park you’re in — nor would you care, because the natural beauty is paralyzing and reminds me so much of home.
It’s possible that Buffalo and Rochester are charming in their own ways, but there’s no better place to experience the wonders of fall than true Upstate New York. I recently spent a lovely weekend in Hunter, New York, courtesy of Stella Artois Cidre, Stella Artois’ hard apple cider brand. Here’s a look at everything that made my heart happy:
Scribner’s Catskill Lodge
13 Scribner Hollow Rd., Hunter, NY 12442, (518) 628-5130, www.scribnerslodge.com
It doesn’t get much cozier than this. Scribner’s sits high at the top of a hill and is surrounded by fields of fragrant grass and tree-covered mountains. You can even see the ski slopes on Hunter Mountain. The lobby smells strongly of tobacco fragrance and there’s hot apple cider at the front desk to warm even the chilliest of souls. Few rooms are alike and many are equipped with a fireplace and balcony so you can step out and ogle at the view or stay inside and snuggle up. The décor is chic and monotonous with whites, grays, stone and natural wood.
Parallel to the lobby is a communal space with fireplaces, pool tables, comfy couches, board games and books. Just outside you’ll find a spacious deck, fire pits for roasting s’mores, the prettiest backdrop of wilderness and a calming silence. Here, you can’t help but think, “I deserve this.”
13 Scribner Hollow Rd., Hunter, NY 12442, (518) 628-5150, www.scribnersprospect.com
At the lodge restaurant, Prospect, we were treated to a delicious fall Stella Artois Cidre cocktail dubbed the "Orchard Romance," which was created by head bartender Alan Schachner. Here's how to make it at home:
Heat Stella Artoie Cidre on a stovetop on low heat and put aside. In a mug, combine 3/4 ounce of dark rum, a half ounce of lemon, a quarter ounce of allspice dram and 5 ounces of hot Stella Artois Cidre. Stir and garnish with whole star anise.
For my meal, I dined on roasted potato and leek soup with crème fraiche and chives. I’m a sucker for starchy soups and this one was no exception. What really made it stand out were little potato chips on top. I think about them often.
Secondly, I tried the steelhead trout, which tasted more like salmon, but was delicious nonetheless. This came with marble potatoes, house sauerkraut and whole grain mustard. But! The true star of the show was the rye gemelli with roasted shiitake, thyme and Parmigiano. It was perfectly cheesy, the noodles were nice and tender and the mushrooms were wonderfully flavorful. If I had to eat one meal for the rest of my life, this might be it.
Maple Shade Farm
(607) 746-8866, 2066 Co. Rd. 18, Delhi, NY 13753, http://www.mapleshadefarmny.com
This family-owned farm is a thing of fairytales. The charming old three-story barn and surrounding meadows are often used for weddings, food and drink festivals and other soirees. The whole place is glamorously rustic — a real jaw-dropper if you will. Although the weather was bone-chilling during our visit, the beautifully-lit barn filled with vintage trucks, antique furniture and local eats made the yucky afternoon cozy and inviting.
(845) 679-9800, 109 Mill Hill Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498, http://www.cucinawoodstock.com
This elegant Italian restaurant exists in a restored farmhouse that actually kind of looks like someone’s house from the outside. The ambiance is very warm, contemporary and country. I dined first on kale salad, followed by a caramelized onion soup, which was a cool interpretation of French onion soup. Instead of having croutons afloat in beef broth, this version used a large portion of toasted Gruyere baguette. The more bread, the better, right?
The best part of the meal was the risotto. Chef-owner Giovanni Scappin prepares a different kind every day, but the dish I received was deliciously cheesy and robustly flavorful with wild mushrooms. I had to use some serious willpower to stop myself from licking the plate clean. It was that good.
Sure, there are fantastic restaurants and beautiful hotels in all corners of the country, but no place is quite like Upstate New York during the fall. It’s peaceful, quiet and clean, and the mountains are painted with dazzling shades of red, yellow, green and orange. There are no loud car horns, startling sirens or yippy dogs barking within earshot. It’s just you, wind rustling through the trees, rain pattering on the roof and the crackle of a fire melting marshmallows for the perfect s’more. So layer up in scarves and sweaters, grab a hot PSL and head to the land of Macintosh apples and maple syrup to revel in all that fall has to offer.
Taylor Rock is the East Coast news editor at The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter at @taylorlrock. Travel expenses for this story and meals subject to review were paid for by Stella Cidre.