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Two hours north of New York, on the east side of the Taconic Parkway, it's possible to not only visit iconic Hudson Valley farms but also return to the city with a cooler full of goodies, and appetites satiated by wonderful meals at the region's restaurants.
The way to go about this lesser-known food-lover destination is to get off the Taconic on route 115 toward Clinton Corners and head over for breakfast (or the Friday night special, where you can trace your dinner sources) at the Wild Hive Market and Cafe, where traditional menu items such as hamburgers and meatballs are upgraded by imaginative preparation and locally sourced ingredients. They also have a great bakery and a wide selection of organic grains (their specialty).
Alternatively, a bit farther north and east you can also get a wonderful breakfast or lunch at the Red Devon in Bangall (they serve dinner, too). While at the Wild Hive the vibe is casual country, at the Red Devon it's more casual chic. On weekends there is also the option of brunch across the street from the Red Devon at the Bangall Whaling Company—here the atmosphere is that of a youthful, updated tavern, where portions are generous and the menu prices accessible.
Still farther north, my favorite spot for lunch is The Farmer's Wife, a small restaurant/cafe in Ancramdale. The pulled pork sandwich there is really good, and I usually have a side of any of the vegetables they happen to have that day—always fresh and perfectly cooked. The Farmer's Wife was actually recommended to me by Andy Szymanowicz from Sol Flower Farm in Ancramdale.
Szymanowicz practices sustainable agriculture, growing his beautiful vegetables and flowers using compost from Herondale Farm's livestock. At Herondale, in turn, Jerry Peele raises 100% grass-fed cows and lamb, and chicken and pork in their pastures. You can enjoy Sol Flower's and Herondale's biodynamic synergy at their shared farm store, where you can buy not only their vegetables, flowers, and meats but also local breads and cheeses. Bring your coolers, for Herondale's meats are wonderful—I love their chicken sausages.
Many New Yorkers know and love Ronnybrook Farm's fantastic milk, ice cream, butter, and all other things dairy. Fortunately, they are easily available at the Chelsea Market at their Milk Bar, and pretty much all around the city. If you are in Ancramdale, however, a visit to the farm might be arranged by appointment. For a taste of the regular Ronnybrook ice creams and some additional special flavors in a charming, small town parlor, go to The Scoop Creamery in Pine Plains.
The other farm that's just around the corner in Pine Plains is Coach Farm, with its delicious, award-winning goat milk products; visits might be arranged by calling the farm directly. If you haven't tasted goat milk, you should: it's lighter and tangier than cow's milk, and sometimes you detect a bit of a salty taste in it; many lactose-sensitive folks do really well with goat's milk.
Speaking of cheese, the folks at Amazing Real Live Food Co. make some of the most delectable cheeses in the area. The products feature "essential probiotic beasties, dense nutritional values, and key digestive enzymes"—in short, owners Paul and Rory want to make their cheeses not just good, but good for you.
I don't know about that last part (although I am glad for it), but I do know that their Camembert is not the insipid cheese we have grown used to consuming this side of the Atlantic. This one is vibrant and intense and if you can patiently wait until it reaches room temperature, it oozes sensually out of its rind. If patience is not your forte, eat it cold; the flavors will be sharper and the bite will be buttery. Buy it at Herondale/Solflower, The Farmer's Wife, Red Devon, Wild Hive, or even in New York City and beyond.
Dinner at Agriturismo in Pine Plains should be the culmination of a great day in the area. Agriturismo features products from all the best farms in the region, including of course the ones mentioned in this post. The restaurant is elegantly simple, service is both warm and professional, and the food is worth the trip.