Monday, January 16, 2012

Eating our way through Rhinebeck, N.Y.

It was a big birthday weekend for Ryan, so we spent it in Rhinebeck, NY, one of our favorite little towns on the Hudson. So much of any trip like this one, for us at least, is about the food, but what better way to begin the trip than to arrive at one of the oldest inns in the U.S., the lovely Beekman Arms.

The bar in the Beekman Arms
The Beekman is magical. It has all the trappings of a quaint inn -- the historic documents lining the walls, the bar with its regulars (including the wonderful Homer Knickerbocker Staley, whose family has been in Rhinebeck for 7 generations), and a bottle of port to welcome you to your room. Each night before heading out to dinner we'd spend an hour or so in the bar, where there are plenty of regulars who are happy to fill you in on the history and lore of the Beekman. The food at the Beekman is fun -- more refined in the restaurant and good old pub fare in the bar. It's well worth the trip, and by far the loveliest place to stay in Rhinebeck.

The first floor landing at the Beekman

Registry, Beekman Arms

A must see while in Rhinebeck is the home of FDR, just a short ride into nearby Hyde Park. Similar to Sagamore Hill, the home of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR's home is simple and lovely, quite unlike its neighbor down the road, the Vanderbilt Mansion. One of the highlights of the tour was this line from the guide: "When the Queen of England visited Hyde Park, Sara Roosevelt, FDR's mother, finally met someone of her social status. For that visit she changed the slipcovers on the furniture." Compare that to the new money down the road, who wanted to prove they were the new royalty by displaying a 15th century Medici family crest above their fireplace.

We ventured out into the 20 degree night to eat at the Catherine de Medici restaurant at the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America. Ryan ordered much better than I did, for a change, and was well chuffed with his pasta starter and lamb dinner. But meal aside, I think it was this that did it for him:

For breakfast the next morning and the morning after, we headed to Bread Alone, located on East Market -- great coffee and reliable fare, not to mention the beautiful loaves of bread to take away for your trip home. And even after a hearty breakfast and lunch, we found room for dinner at Terrapin, one of the best spots in town. Terrapin is located in an old church, with dark wood and vaulted ceilings and wonderful food. I had short ribs over mashed potatoes, perfect for a freezing New York night, and Ryan had a hearty dish of rigatoni. But one of my favorite places in Rhinebeck is Arielle, a little bistro also on East Market. The food is reliably good, Mediterranean at heart, inventive and fresh. These little beauties were served with a yogurt dipping sauce and topped with fresh lemon juice and sea salt.
Artichokes at Arielle

Rhinebeck is a lovely little getaway, close to Manhattan and quite the foodie's town as to make it well worth the ride up there. I didn't even mention the farmer's market on Sundays in Town Hall, the beer and cheese shop across the street from the Beekman where you can get a bit of local cheese and hundreds of different beers, both local and far flung, nor the wineries, trails and parks in the area. But I don't have time for that right now; right behind me on my kitchen counter is a raisin and pecan loaf from Bread Alone that's demanding my attention...

My history geek moment: George Washington visited Rhinebeck in 1796, and both Aaron Burr and Morgan Lewis used taverns in the area as their campaign headquarters.