From afar, upstate New York?s patchwork of fields and hamlets looks like a Grandma Moses painting. But up close, the fertile valley of the Hudson River resolves itself into an Arcimboldo: The entire valley is made of produce. A quick two-hour drive due north from the city will bring you to the hamlet of Red Hook in time for dinner. At Mercato
, an osteria housed in a comfy A-frame with a broad porch, chef Francesco Buitoni serves an ever-changing menu that synthesizes recipes from his native Italy with the bounty of his neighboring farms. The crimini cascading over fried polenta, for example, are courtesy of Wiltbank farm; the chicken liver, braised in red wine and herbs, is also local.
Nearby, Rhinebeck?s Main Street boasts an unnaturally high bistro-to-burgher ratio. At Caf? Gigi
, Laura Pensiero, author of Hudson Valley Mediterranean
, makes her own pasta and scores her chickens from Northwind Farms
, a small farm in Tivoli, N.Y., that sells directly to the public.
During apple season you can pick your own at Liberty View Farm
, where gay farmer Billiam Van Roestenberg, voted one of Huffington Post?s hottest farmers, grows organic Cortland and Empire varieties.
A perfect day: Spend a night at Buttermilk Fall Inn and Spa
in Milton. Soak in the morning, lunch at one of the five restaurants on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America
, such as American Bounty, where aspiring chefs serve hearty American fare.
For dinner, venture north to Peekamoose
in Big Indian. Afterward, roast a marshmallow at the outdoor fire pit, stare at the stars, and contemplate never going home.More Road Trips:Chicago: A dog day afternoon in the Windy CityKey West: Fish seen, fish eaten in the Conch RepublicNapa: Massages and Meyer lemons in wine country