Triple Scoops (and we’re not talking Ice Cream)

Big News!!!! In case you haven’t heard, we have lots going on in this neck of the woods (Amenia, our home town)! We seem to be coming out of the doldrums of economic tailspin, and this eastern side of the Hudson Valley is going to be hopping in no time. We hope, knock on wood, etc., etc., etc.

For a long time now, Silo Ridge, was a dream of a golf course and resort center that didn’t come true. It lay fallow on the side of the ridge that is topped off by Rte. 44 leaving town and goes up and over west to Millbrook. Every so often a maintenance crew would trim the long grass, or baling occasionally but that was what it was, maintenance. And all of the Amenia-ites were heartened at first, then came to shaking their heads collectively when they drove by.

Let’s go for the history aspect: The old inhabitants hoped Silo Ridge would be a revival for the town. You see, Amenia once was a famous vacation spot—with city folk coming up for their summers—until the dam burst (literally) and the topography around the resort community was changed for good.

According to sources, the old turn to the nineteenth century resort period of Amenia saw crowded streets—how crowed was it? (cymbal crash) Why it was so bad that there wasn’t room for every one to walk. The DeLaverge Farms Hotel was a grand spectacle of a place, and that same said ridge of Rte 44 went by the name of the DeLaverge Hill. Then in the early 20s Lake Amenia—when there was a lake, came and went away, don’t ask me, go to this site for the whole scoop, well researched and with pictures; Lake Amenia was developed, and around it other competing developments sprung up. Subsequently, the 1955 Hurricane named Diane, poured the burgeoning lake water out of the unmanaged dam and all over Wassaic and Amenia. Widespread destruction. People left. Jump ahead; more stuff happened. The movie house burned down, merchants closed up shop, enrollment fell in the school system, the myriad hotels are no more.

Maybe the only good thing in those many calamitous years was that Metro North put the terminus to the commuter train line thru to our Southern border in Wassaic. It’s a good place for us, since many folks come up to visit on the train from New York City. And I think there’ll be a few more people coming–stay tuned for this 3 part story! (And don’t let the season get you down. It’s meant to be joyful, so if it’s bugging you, find a way to be happy in spite of others’ expectations.)

Next segment: The New Silo Ridge Plan—see you in a couple.


Okay, So Maybe Teddy’s Your Man (Not FDR)

Sand.LionOrvis Sandanona is closeby to Hilltop House– about a 15-20 minute drive up and over Route 44 on the way to Hyde Park and Pougkeepsie. It’s the kind of place FDR’s (see previous blog) distant cousin and prior President, Teddy Roosevelt, would have wanted to visit but actually, according to Sandanona’s website, “is the oldest permitted shotgun shooting club in the country. The main lodge was built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.”

So Presidential–without a doubt. And it being the mid-term election year, we need to include in our Roosevelt coverage,  the Republican point of view.

Our family recently attended Orvis Sandanona’s GAME FAIR, a chance to see displays, sporting merchandise and hear lectures on wild game and hunting. It was something the whole family got into and was refreshing to see: Another side of the conservation story.


With news coverage of a customer getting shot and killed in a Walmart because someone panicked when he was only holding a toy BB gun–STORE MERCH—in hand, it was an opportunity, Sand.BirdDisplaya slice of life we need to show our kids, that there are places in this great country of ours where people carry, and they’re not all BAD GUYS.

I recommend Sandanona –and suggest you check out their website to get a look and feel for their offerings–from clay shooting to private instruction, to this kind of an event. It’s the kind of unique offering the eastern arm of The Hudson Valley has to offer for sportsmen and others like me, looking to understand the full spectrum of life outside of the fast lane.

3047 Sharon Turnpike Road (New York Route 44)
Millbrook, NY 12545 | 845-677-9701
Open 7 Days a week   9am – 5pm


Part 3: Sandy’s Garden Tour–Onto Hyde Park!

Hyde Park Gardens, Finally!!!!

Continuing westward from Hilltop House in Amenia, we find we’re in an off-year for the biennial garden tours conducted in Hyde Park in the odd years, 2011, 2013, etc. Good news for us as we can tour on our own schedule—have a leisurely breakfast here on our renovated stone porch before heading out—and not deal with the crowds. The bad news is that gardens on tour dates like actors well rehearsed tend to be ready for the show.

The Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield, the Rose Garden adjacent to his home site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion are all parts of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Library and Museum site at 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, New York 12538. In very close proximity is the Vanderbilt Mansion, for which, in 1940, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the enabling legislation to become part of the National Park Service. Vanderbilt was established as a monument to the gilded age, an historic era in America rather than a tribute to any one person or family, today, all clustered together as the NPS historic site in Hyde Park. (And with Val-Kill—the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady a few miles away, plan a day or more to view it all.)

Beatrix Farrand garden in Spring

Beatrix Farrand garden in Spring

Of particular interest and often overlooked by visitors not of the garden variety is the Beatrix Farrand Garden. Farrand, America’s first woman landscape architect, was hired in 1912 to design a series of three gardens descending from the elegant 18th century house (now called Bellefield headquarters for the National Park Service) of her cousin and his wife. Enclosed by hedging and native stonewalls, visitors can glimpse our oldest surviving example of Farrand’s work: flanking flowerbeds of annuals selected for color harmony, bloom sequence, and texture — a technique Farrand helped spearhead. Other areas included a rose garden, a lilac and fruit-tree allée, a boxwood parterre, and something I like, a kitchen garden. Farrand also designed several gates, which have been rebuilt from her original sketches.

In all, over 200 acres of formal and “romantic” or naturalistic landscapes, from high ground to Vanderbilt’s riverside trails are free for the wandering and are open from sunrise to sunset. (To tour the houses is a rose by another name—there is a fee.) There are even pod-casts, and cell phone tours, which you can find of the nps website that help one navigate the landscape.




Garden Tour Part 2: Millbrook

Sorry to have been delayed on my garden journey report. If anyone had started at my first posting, they would have been long trapped on the road between Amenia and Millbrook. Or maybe you just would have holed up here with us at Hilltop House for the duration.
But off to Millbrook, west of us on Route 44 to visit two very different gardens. Gardens, you see, are as different as the gardeners who create them. I use the word create, because there is nothing more creative than gardening. It is a wonderful way to see beauty evolve, to eat healthier, to involve children, to stay active, probably introduce us to all sorts of microorganisms that have been absent from most of our diets for all the anti-bacterial era closing behind us, and well, these gardens will inspire all sorts of souls.
Warning: You may not want to visit both on one day. They are both vast landholds covering many acres.

The Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum is a private enclave open to the public from dawn to dusk on most days. Founded in 1971, it is nearly 2,000 acres wide, and is home to / operated by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Originally the homestead of Mary Flagler Cary—an heir to the Standard Oil fortunes, Cary passed in 1967 and left her property to a trust. The trust asked the New York Botanical Society to take over oversight in 1971, and since then has the added surname “Arboretum.” In the 1980s the Institute for Ecosystem Studies was founded, which has since become an independent, nonprofit corporation. In 2008, they adopted a new name, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
There is no charge to tour the grounds, and Cary Institute holds regular talks and demonstrations. If one is interested in vegetable gardening, for example, this is the place to go to learn the rudiments of composting, and combination planting and what organic really means. But the grounds are vast with maples, a meadow, a swamp, trout stream and hiking paths.

Not two miles away is Innisfree!
Named one of the “world’s ten best gardens,”* Innisfree will overwhelm your garden senses and make you rethink landscape design. Largely the creation of landscape architect Lester Collins, (1914–1993), with collaboration from his client, the artist and teacher Walter Beck.
To quote their website: “Innisfree merges the essence of Modernist ideas and traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design principles with a nuanced reading of its glacial landscape. The result is a distinctly American stroll garden on 185 acres surrounding a large, shimmering lake — a sublime composition of rock, water, wood and sky.”
I urge you to wear good shoes, sunblock, a good hat, and give Innisfree the attention it deserves. Take two or more days if you’re like me and can’t take too much in on one visit.
Innisfree is open weekends and legal holidays from 11 am – 5pm
Admission is free for members and children 3 and under, $7 for the general public
The garden has been open since April 19th. There are many events on the web that might inspire you. Here’s one for this weekend:

Late May Wildflower Walk, May 24

• Explore Innisfree’s wild spring beauties with George Petty, a life-long naturalist who has led many wildflower and bird walks for the New Jersey Audubon Society. He is a Life Member of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Author of Hiking the Jersey Highlands: Wilderness in Your Backyard, George is also a published poet and a retired professor of college English.
• 11.00am, $10 for Innisfree members; $15 for the general public.

*Rory Stuart, What are Gardens For? Experiencing, Making and Thinking About Gardens (2012)


As American as Maple Syrup

I recently heard a radio interview of an author who’d just written a book about maple sugaring. That’s a topic near and dear to B&B owners in the Northeast given a propensity for pancakes and French toast. Here are some of the interesting things I gleaned.

  • Maple is one of the few truly North American flavors. Maple does not come from other sectors of the world.
  • 75% to 80% of the world’s Maple Syrup comes from Canada, primarily Quebec. (Just imaging their national flag with that dominant maple leaf.)
  • The rest—1.32 million gallons– comes from the U.S.—Vermont being the #1 producer, followed by New York, Maine, Ohio and Wisconsin.
  • There is a new Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, called “the OPEC of maple syrup,” and maintains a “global strategic syrup reserve” containing tens of thousands of barrels of maple syrup. Canada in fact, sets pricing of Maple Syrup and is moving to change the labeling of grades
  • The bulk price for Maple Syrup has increased by 89% since 2000.

That’s a bummer. Unfortunately anything that good seems susceptible to getting roped in, controlled, doled out and makes me want to move into a grove of maple trees and make my own. But…

  •  It takes 30 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! Or about one tree yielding a pint of syrup.

One of my friends was diagnosed with a kind of “fatigue syndrome” some years back and her nutritionist took her off all white foods—flour, sugar, pasta, rice—and told her to use only maple syrup as a sweetener. She got better, and she got very inventive with her maple sweetening. True maple doesn’t cause those spikes in glucose levels like most other sugars.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with artificial maple syrup of the Log Cabin type, which is mainly high fructose corn with maple flavoring. After this frigid winter, the maple season is not projected to be that great. The sap has yet to flow steadily—to do that, it must maintain 40 degrees in daytime, 20 degrees at night—and the weather doesn’t make it likely that pricing will get better. The narrow window of time between ideal sugaring weather and the budding of the maple leaves, which detracts from the flavor of the syrup, can get reduced greatly in a year of late storms like 2014.

Down the road in Dover, Madava Farms, the home of Crown Maple Syrup, opened as we reported back with our Red Chair sagas; their website touts 100% Certified Organic Maple Syrup.  It’s a remarkable operation; the site is worth checking out. MapleFactory


Here’s a quote from their site: “Visit Madava Farms on weekends to sample the week’s fresh cuttings for lunch in our selection of fresh sandwiches, grilled panini, composed salads, hearty soups, maple baked goods and specialty desserts.” They’re open 11am to 5pm most Saturdays and Sundays.

Oh, and by the way, it is officially spring in this hemisphere. Will someone tell the Big Guy?


Hudson Valley Restaurant Week— Bring Your Appetites!

There are seven counties north of the Bronx that claim the historic Hudson Valley as their own. (Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast is in Dutchess county, on the east side of the mighty Hudson.) So when they put together the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and a .com loaded with delicious details, it’s well worth the gander.
First of all, HVRW is a misnomer since it runs for two weeks, 14 days, beginning March 10th through the 23rd. Nearly 200 top restaurants will spread their collective table clothes to offer up 3-course dinners for $29.95 (plus beverage, tax and gratuity). Some offer 3-course lunch fare for $20.95 (plus beverage, tax and gratuity). You must call the restaurant in advance, but no ticket is necessary—and most, but not all times (usually high traffic seatings of Saturday nights for example) offer the special pricing.





Don’t forget, Hudson Valley is home to the Culinary Institute of America [ CIA ] as we’ve pointed out previously—so the proverbial dart board of great chefs circling it is pretty packed.

The Valley is also home to fabulous apple orchards, wine vineyards, maple sugaring operations, and pure and simple historic tourist attractions. Saute that all together and there’s lots to do, lots to eat, and after this winter, mud season will be welcomed with open arms!

You can find a great listing on their website that maps out the restaurants, has menu listings, shows hours of operation and how to contact them:

And because the Hudson Valley is also flush with local produce and crafts, we’ve edited this list of indoor farmers’ markets in the Hudson Valley that coincide with the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week(s). Bon Appetite! and we hope to see you soon at Hilltop House.

Pier/dock by Sloop Club across from train station
open all year, Sun 11-3

Hudson Valley-Greig Farm
229 Pitcher Ln., Red Hook
open all year, Sat 10-3

Millerton Indoor
North East Community Center, 51 South Center Street
Jan-Apr, 2nd & 4th Sat: 10-2

61 & 80 E. Market St.
open all year, Sun 10-2

Pine Island
W. Rogowski Farm, 329 Glenwood Rd.
Mar 15 & 29, 10-3

Cold Spring Indoor
Philipstown Community Center in Garrison
Nov 24-May, Sat 8:30-1

Palisades Indoor
Palisades Community Center, 675 Oak Tree Rd.
Jan 18-May 17: Sat 9-1

Callicoon Indoor
8 Creamery Road, Delaware Youth Center
Mar 9 & 23; Apr 6 & 27: Sun 11-2

Kingston Indoor
Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall St.
Dec 7-Apr 19, 1st & 3rd Sat, 10-2

Chappaqua Indoor
St. Mary’s Church, 191 Greeley Ave.
Dec-Apr, Sat 8:30-1

Hastings Indoor
Library (Dec, Apr, May); James Harmon Community Center (Jan-Mar)
1st & 3rd Sat, 8:30-1

Mt. Kisco
St. Mark’s Church, 85 E. Main St.
open all year, Sat 9-1
(914) 666-8069

Pleasantville Indoor
Pleasantville Middle School, 40 Romer Ave.
Dec 7-May 10, Sat 9-1

South Salem
Gossett Brothers Nursery
year-round, Sat 9-1


Why Don’t You Come Up and Cook Sometime?

From my class Chocolates and Confections

From my class Chocolates and Confections

CIA's beautiful dining room.

CIA’s beautiful dining room.

Don’t let this cold weather leave you land locked. A marathon’s run away—40 minutes driving—is Hyde Park, NY, where, nested on the eastern palisades of the mighty Hudson River sits the Culinary Institute of America, or CIA as it is called among foodies. Founded in 1946, CIA, as its HOME page on the web states: “is the World’s Premier Culinary College. Founded in 1946, … the proven path to an exciting career in the amazing world of food.”
You could use the following link to read more, but you’d miss the Google search quote that sits beneath its clickable .edu URL “called the Harvard of cooking schools by Julia Child and the best cooking school in the world”. I care less about the Harvard part, but the Julia Child part? Her opinion counts. ”
The pictures are ones I took in a Saturday class “Chocolates and Confections” I attended in 2011. It was tons of fun, culminating in a wonderful buffet lunch served by the students. I am really looking forward to participating in one of the BOOTCAMPS CIA offers. The webpage will explain more. And by the way, the campus and architecture are beautiful.
Since what we really hope for is you to stay with us at Hilltop, and find enticingly delicious adventures nearby, this blog focuses on the extraordinary Winter Dining Events that two of CIA’s eight restaurants have planned for the upcoming weeks.

The Bocuse Restaurant
Just before Valentine’s Day you might want to surprise your sweetheart with Bocuse, named for France’s famed chef, Paul Bocuse, which opened a year ago. To celebrate the first anniversary Monsieur Bocuse and other chefs (noted in italics below) will be recreating the exact opening day menu to include:

A Peach of Foie Gras
Louis Outhier (Dinner only)
Black Truffle Soup V.G.E.
Paul Bocuse
Lobster with Champagne and Caviar
Frédy Girardet
Filet Mignon of Beef with Marrow Custard
Frères Troisgros
Grapefruit Sorbet with Vodka
Craig Claiborne
Three Chocolates
Gaston Lenôtre

L’Anniversaire du Restaurant Bocuse!
Dinner: Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.
Course: B-102 Anniversary $95
Lunch: Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 11:30 a.m.
Course: B-103 Anniversary $55
Reserve Your Spot
Call 845-471-6608, Monday Through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m

Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici
Dining at this grand Tuscan-style villa is a culinary escape to another world. You can also enjoy wood oven pizza and other simple rustic dishes in the more casual Al Forno Trattoria. We’re listing just the events, you can find out more about the details by visiting the website directly.

Journey to Jerez
Thursday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m.
Course: C-100 Jerez
Flavors of Italian Wine
Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.
Course: C-101 Italy
For the Love of Wine
Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m.
Course: C-102 Love of Wine
Between Two Seas—Castello Monaci
Thursday, Mar. 6 at 6 p.m.
North Meets South
Wednesday, Mar. 12 at 11:30 a.m.
Course: C-106 North Meets South
Cooking with Wine
Wednesday, Mar. 19 at 11:30 a.m.
Course: C-108 Cooking with Wine
Black Tie and Truffles
Thursday, Mar. 27 at 11:30 a.m.
Course: C-110 Truffle $55
Wine for the Ages—Tenuta Capezzana
Tuesday, Mar. 18 at 6 p.m.
Course: C-107 Tuscan
A Wine Tour of Italy
Thursday, Apr. 3 at 6 p.m.
Course: C-109 Vino

Reservations are needed for all events.
Popular events do get sold out, so plan accordingly.
Call: 845-471-6608, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

We love the Culinary Institute and its sweeping—if not windy this time of year—views over the Hudson. It’s another great reason to come visit the Hudson Valley and Hilltop House. As Julia would say, Bon Appetite!



For the Beauty of the Hills


For weeks, I had been looking forward to exploring the Dutchess County Fairgrounds (Rhinebeck) at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, which was held October 19th and 20th (for next year, the festival is always the full third weekend in October). It’s an annual event, and one of the largest, if not the largest festival of its kind in the country. It was my first Sheep and Wool Festival so I wasn’t sure what to expect; immediately I walked into display after display of the most amazing, beautiful wool.NYS Sheep and Wool Dutchess County Fair Yarn

You don’t see wool like this in stores; it made me want pull my knitting needles out of hibernation! Everywhere there were samples by fiber artists, knitters, crocheters, weavers, and yarn enthusiast of every stitch!

Sheep5Anyone could try their hand at spinning wool, observe it being hand dyed, help sheer the sheep, watch the llama parade or hang out at the sheep dog herding demonstrations


NYS Sheep and Wool Course

NYS Sheep and Wool Herder Course







I also found out about a facebook-like group for knitters et al online  Evidently, it is one of the main reasons why knitting is becoming popular once again. One can put her/his projects on from sheep to sweater and all the steps in between. Beginners can get help from pros etc.

Talk about craft culture! People came from all over the country. I heard tell of a busload from a knitting club that traveled for hours to Rhinebeck. One of my guests told me there are other sheep and wool festivals in this country but none like ours in this heartfelt Hudson Valley with its backdrop of beauty and the partly cloudy sky capping the perfect fall weather.

Sheep Shearing NYS Sheep and Wool

Sheep Shearing NYS Sheep and Wool


We’ve reached the off season!

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween marks the beginning of our off season.  What does that mean for you?  Better availability, no 2 night minimum, and lower room rates.  If you’re looking for an inexpensive getaway, why not spend a weekend at the Hilltop House Bed & Breakfast and enjoy some of the great activities here in the Hudson Valley.

Meet some of the local farmers and artisans at the Amenia Farmers Market. It’s here every other Saturday and is a quick walk down the road, but with all the great food, produce, baked goods, and hand crafted gifts, you may want to bring the car.

Many of the historic sites decorate for the holiday and give tours in December.  Visit Dutchess Tourism for a complete list of these homes.  One of the mansions, Locust Grove, does a Twilight Holiday Tour by candlelight and ends with a 4-course dinner featuring recreated recipes from the home’s archives.  Just want the tour?  It’s every Saturday in December and the week after Christmas.  Want the dinner too?  It’s December 3 beginning at 5:30. (Locust Grove Calendar of Events)

Maybe you want to check out ‘A Dinner to Die For’ murder-mystery at Charlotte’s which is about 7 miles from us.  Reserve your table for November 12th at 6:30 to enjoy Murder Cafe’s production of this comedy which has received rave reviews.

Are you a food enthusiast?  Want to explore a new cuisine?  Or bake?  The Culinary Institute offers a variety of classes.  I attended the Chocolate and Confections class.  It was awesome and delicious! Here’s a list of their offerings, Day Classes.

This is just a small handful of the things here.  Be sure that whatever you do, you’ll be returning to Hilltop House for a relaxing evening with fresh baked cookies and rich, homemade hot chocolate.  Then, after a comfortable, cozy night’s sleep, be prepared to wake up to a delicious country breakfast that’s sure to please.


From the Farm to our Table

Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast proudly supports our local farmers.  Some of the local sources for our country breakfasts include:

McEnroe Organic Farm just a few miles away in Millerton, NY, is where we get the coffee and sausage.  Among meats and fresh produce, you’ll also find local honey, fresh jams, pies and other baked goods, soup, and a deli.  Stop by for lunch and enjoy the view.  There’s room in our fridge for anything you pick up.  Did you know, Frommer’s named Millerton one of the coolest small towns in the USA?!

Harney & Sons, also located in Millerton, is where we get much of our tea.

DSC 0269 resized 600


Adams Fairacre Farms is where we go to buy the freshest produce and the fresh cut flowers around the house.  I absolutely love shopping there.  Not only will you find specialty foods from different regions of the world and all kinds of cheeses (including an espresso crusted cheese that is to die for) but they also have a gourmet chocolate shop featuring chocolate from around the world as well as some local candy makers.  Does a diet need anything besides fruit and chocolate?  Not mine!

The eggs come from one of my neighbors a few houses down.  If you’ve never had farm fresh eggs, you’re missing out.  What a difference!

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy produces the milk and cream we use.  It comes in glass bottles!  They also make yogurt, ice cream, butter, and cheeses.

I love my town and my neighbors.  I’m thrilled to drive around and see cows in the pastures freely grazing where they belong.  I’m happy to support good farming practices.  I encourage you to visit these sites and learn about your food.  The food is pure and it doesn’t get any better.