Millbrook Winery & Shunpike Dairy Farm

December is quickly fading and the New Year is creeping in. Looking back we did way more exploring than designing, but hey sometimes exploring is just way more fun! Here's a snapshot of two more favorite moments, one to satiate your longing for a cold glass of rosé in the warm sun as the temps start to plummet and another to inspire you to drive out to a local farm and pick up something good for you.

One fun thing about moving upstate is that there are heaps of wineries to visit. This visit in particular was to Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, located on the east side of the Hudson River in Millbrook. Friday nights in the summer you can find this winery packed with locals picnicking in the lawn, live music playing, and a different food truck vendor every week serving something yummy. There are several wines on tap to choose from and a pretty stunning view. They also make their own olive oil and it's incredible. Our good friend gifted it to us as a housewarming present and we definitely used it up in about a week!

Millbrook Vineyards is located on what used to be a 130 acre dairy farm so my transition to a real dairy farm should be pretty seamless...

Well, they actually ARE located in close proximity to each other so we can plan our day like, "Wanna grab some raw milk then go drink some wine?"

Raw milk is something we've been wanting to try for a while. We purchased some back when we were living in Brooklyn strictly for making cheese, but never really got into drinking it. We learned that raw milk is super controversial with so many studies and articles for and against it. It is not sold in most grocery stores and you usually need to buy it straight from a farmer like Shunpike Dairy.

We're not big milk drinkers and typically just use it in our morning coffee, so I was open to trying it. I honestly thought it was going to taste really weird, but it's actually really delicious. One of the benefits is that it's supposed to be easy to digest, which is always a plus. It's also more affordable than I thought.

If raw milk isn't your thing, they also sell fresh eggs, maple syrup, raw honey and produce. We were pretty excited to find Shunpike Dairy so close to home. The farm is really beautiful and we had so much fun exploring. Support a local farm, take a drive and check it out!

Foxfire Mountain House & Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Kicking off our year in review with that time back in January when my husband surprised me for my 30th birthday with a little getaway to Foxfire Mountain House. At this point we were still living in Brooklyn eagerly awaiting a closing date on our house, so naturally we would be spending my birthday upstate. In addition to this stay, we dinned at Blue Hill at Stone Barns on our way back to Brooklyn and I can honestly say this was the best birthday ever!

When I left my NYC design job Ryan asked me, “If you could do something else other than design that would make you really happy, what would it be?” I took this question very seriously because I was so nervous about what I was going to do next. I remember sitting and researching all the possibilities. Design is what I know and love, but I knew there had to be something else. I was already an avid follower of Escape Brooklyn’s guides and we both easily became obsessed with all the beautiful inns and activities surrounding the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. Then I found this New York Times article, Plan B: Open a Country Hotel in Upstate New York. It seemed like a perfect fit. Design something that you yourself would want to visit, be your own boss and practically entertain for a living (obviously I know it takes much more than that), but I'm sold. Where do I sign?

Although I am not currently designing and running an inn/hotel (who knows if I ever will), it can’t hurt to keep the dream alive and visit those that are so inspiring like Foxfire Mountain House. The hotel is incredibly welcoming and cozy. It really feels like you’re a guest in someone’s home with the freedom to build your own fire in the beautiful stone fireplace and select your own records to play on the turntable. The vintage details are so thoughtful and at every turn you can find interesting collections of items and florals displayed. Each room shares a clean modern aesthetic, but showcases their own unique personalities. In our room, a delicate light fixture made from shells hung above the bed and a worn double farmhouse sink highlighted the bathroom's lovely decor.

If you stay, and I highly recommend that you do, be sure to check out the bar and dining room. If you’re looking to dine elsewhere for dinner, it’s only a short drive to Cucina in Woodstock. The restaurant is located in a charming yellow farmhouse and the food is delicious. The next morning we were greeted at the bar with a delightful breakfast spread so beautiful you would want to try to recreate it at home for your guests. For an alternate breakfast option or lunch there’s always Phoenicia Diner and on your way home be sure to stop at the Migliorelli Farm stand to pick up some local goods.

As for Blue Hill at Stone Barns, words cannot describe the incredible meal we had. It absolutely was an unforgettable culinary experience. Part of me wishes I took more photos and notes, but I am really glad I didn’t. My goal was to take it all in and enjoy it without any distractions. It was so theatrical, very educational, full of surprises, and most of all insanely delicious. I’ll leave you with the one photo I did take, which was of this heavenly slice of multilayered birthday cake.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Tips:

  1. Watch Dan Barber tell his story on Chef’s Table to give yourself some background and to get you in the mood.
  2. Wear something loose around the waist. I mistakenly wore something fitted and regret it every day!
  3. Jot down a note or two after each course because there is no menu. They even give you a small notebook to take home.
  4. Photograph if you wish. Each plate is beautifully and creatively presented.
  5. Have an open mind and try everything.
  6. It’s seasonal and changes often so each experience will surely be unique. Choose the season that best speaks to you.
  7. Go! You won't regret it.

Up on Primrose Hill

Happy December to you all! We’ve been keeping busy, but especially so getting the house decked out for the holidays. Usually around this time of year I just feel so stressed trying to beat the crowds, schlepping through the subway, the pressure of getting all my shopping done and I become a “scrooge” as my husband would say, but this year it feels different. It’s exciting. Our first Christmas in our new house. We’re starting our own traditions and making this home more us, which makes this year particularly special. One of those new traditions is cutting down our Christmas tree at a tree farm. This is not something Ryan or I grew up doing and with so many farms up here in the Hudson Valley it feels so good to contribute to the local community while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Since we’re newbies to the area a little research led us to Saltsman Christmas Tree Farm in Rhinebeck. We had our hearts set on going here. Ryan and I have consistently changing work schedules and we sometimes tend to do weekend activities on weekdays, so we were pumped to know we could visit on a Monday. We were all set driving through the smokey dense fog and when we pulled up to the long driveway there was a sign hanging, “Sorry, we’re closed”. We were crushed and soon after learned that most farms are closed during the week, especially on a Monday. We almost gave up and were going to postpone to later in the week until we found Primrose Hill Tree Farm. We took a chance and upon arrival found ourselves feeling slightly spooked since we were the only people there. Even the owners were missing and left a note stating to serve yourself! We were already so invested so that’s just what we did, served ourselves and it was perfect. Eerily beautiful with the weather in a foggy state, old red barns scattered around the property and the best part no crowds. It felt like we were in the English countryside and had all the trees at our disposal.

I immediately sighted a gorgeous Concolor Fir - the one with the long eyelash-like needles. It was perfect, but of course we had to roam around to scope out the rest. Very unprepared with no gloves and water soaked shoes we circled back to the first one, chopped it down and gave it a home. Standing close to 11 feet tall, we managed to do all the heavy lifting, netting and tying to the car ourselves. Quite an experience and a strong start to the holiday season with the initiation of this new tradition. Next year, gloves and waterproof shoes are a must!

(Side note: The history of the farm is incredible - read it here.)

The Great Outdoors

Summer is officially here and if you see that sun shining take all opportunities to get outside! That's just what we did with a morning hike through the Black Creek Preserve in Esopus, NY. This leisurely 2 mile loop (if you follow all 3 trails) starts off along the tranquil Black Creek where you can take a detour to fish or keep on trekking through the beautiful suspension bridge that leads you to a prime spot overlooking the Hudson River. Unfortunately swimming is not allowed, but pack a snack or picnic instead and take in the delightful views for a lovely afternoon. Since leaving the city, we've learned that connecting with nature can be so invigorating and this hike is the first of many to come as we explore the abundant trails of the Hudson Valley.

Ravenwood: Barn Gatherings

Squeezing in a May post (barely)! Happy to be back and patiently waiting for summer to arrive. So much has happened this month by way of travel and I was planning to post about our incredible trip to Italy, but decided to kick off the 'explore' portion of this blog with an exciting local event that took place this past Memorial Day weekend. We're very lucky to have friends across the river to keep us up to date on west side happenings. Ravenwood is a small farm located in Olivebridge, NY about an hour from us east side folks and our friends happen to be their neighbors. They typically purchase Ravenwood's fancy pastel colored eggs on weekends and soon learned about the seasonal dinners they were starting to host in their newly renovated 19th century barn. When I heard about the dinner there was no way we could pass up the opportunity to not only experience a great meal derived from fresh local ingredients but to support a local farm and local makers. There is such a strong creative community up here, which is a large part of what drove us to make this transition. That said, getting a seat at this inaugural dinner was not easy and sold out in about fifteen minutes! Rising early with an alarm set was key and we feel very fortunate to have been part of this beautiful night. Despite the crazy weather New York has been dealing with and produce getting a late start, the meal was so delicious and highlighted the inventiveness that comes with working alongside nature's unpredictability.

We started off with a delightful welcome cocktail incorporating cider from a local producer and a chance to mingle, explore the property and sit beside a cozy fire. Once we were seated, Dana McClure and Chris Lanier, Ravenwood's collaborative team, warmly introduced themselves and their amazing project. The dishes that followed included an enticing hors d'oeuvres platter, a bright salad of fresh greens, a playful take on pork and beans, a comforting lamb and polenta dish, and finally a yummy maple flan made with Ravenwood's homemade maple syrup (full menu via image above). In addition, we sipped on local white and red wines that paired perfectly with the meal while chatting among those sitting beside us at the lovely communal table. At the end of the night, as we introduced ourselves and graciously thanked Dana for this wonderful experience in front of the open kitchen, I couldn't help but want to return for every dinner that will follow, but am glad to have left with a very full belly and the memory of this one.