It's elaborate in scope, but it also serves as a reminder to appreciate the simple.
Jessica Merrill last wrote for Travel about sugaring season in Vermont.
At Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the food goes directly from garden to table.
Details: Hudson Valley
GETTING THERE: Flying to New York City and renting a car is the most convenient way to explore the Hudson River Valley. From Washington, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., is about a five-hour drive. Take I-95 north over the George Washington Bridge to Route 87 north (New York State Thruway) to Saw Mill River Parkway north to Exit 23 (Eastview). At the light, make a left. At the stop sign, make a right onto Lake Road, which will merge onto Route 448. Entrance is on the left. Info: 914-366-6200, www.stonebarnscenter.org.
WHERE TO STAY: Tarrytown, only a few miles from Stone Barns, and Rhinebeck, about an hour north, make good bases to explore the valley. In Tarrytown, the Tarrytown House (49 E. Sunnyside Lane, 914-591-8200, www.tarrytownhousehotel.com) features 212 guest rooms on 26 acres with indoor and outdoor pools and a fitness center. Rooms start around $149 per night double.
The Beekman Arms (Route 9, 845- 876-7077, www.beekmandelamaterinn.com) boasts a prime location in the center of Rhinebeck. The white-columned inn dates to 1766 and is billed as the oldest continuously operated inn in America. Rooms in the main house run from $140 to $150, while motel-style rooms behind the inn begin at $100. Veranda House (6487 Montgomery St., 877-985-6800, www.verandahouse.com), built in 1842, is a historic B&B with rates from $150 to $200.
WHERE TO EAT: Blue Hill at Stone Barns (630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, www.bluehillstonebarns.com) is open for dinner Wednesdays to Sundays and highlights farm-fresh ingredients. Two savory courses cost $48, three $62 and four $75. The cafe offers lighter fare. The Culinary Institute of America (1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park, www.ciachef.edu) operates five restaurants, including the fine-dining American Bounty (dinner entrees $19-$28), the Asian- inspired St. Andrew's Cafe (dinner entrees $14-$20) and the casual Apple Pie Bakery Cafe, showcasing the work of America's future pastry chefs.
Calico (6384 Mill St./Route 9, Rhinebeck) is a snug, seven-table restaurant run by CIA alum Anthony Balassone, who oversees the kitchen, and his wife, Leslie, who directs the front of the house and makes the pastries showcased in the dining room. Dinner prices start at around $17. Chiboust (14 Main St., Tarrytown) is a French-Mediterranean-inspired bakery, bistro and wine bar opened by CIA grad Jill Rose. Dinner entrees such as crisp duck confit cassoulet, steak frites and braised lamb shank are priced from $21 to $26.
EXPLORING THE VALLEY: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is free and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Culinary Institute of America runs public tours Mondays (10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and Wednesdays and Thursdays (4 p.m.) for $5. The Dutchess County Wine Trail connects three Hudson River Valley wineries -- Millbrook Winery on 130 acres, Alison Vineyards for tastings in a converted dairy barn and Clinton Vineyards, a seyval blanc producer -- open for tours and tastings. Info: www.dutchesswinetrail.com.
The Hudson River Valley is also home to a cluster of grand estates and gardens including Vanderbilt Mansion and Springwood, the birthplace and home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both sites are in Hyde Park and are managed by the National Park Service (845-229-9115, www.nps.gov/vama or www.nps.gov/hofr).
INFORMATION: Hudson Valley Tourism, 800-232-4782, www.travelhudsonvalley.org.
-- Jessica Merrill