Several strains of the 21 varieties of apples grown at Prospect Hill date to 1817, as does John and Judy Clarke’s caring work ethic. Hours of effort in the orchards paired with weekly trips to New York City’s green markets, where the family sells fresh apples, home-baked muffins, and cider, combined with an extensive U-pick operation at home, keep John, Judy, and their kids, Pam and Brad, busy. Brad tends new groves of peaches and cherries, pears and apricots. John and Judy work to develop low-spray maintenance programs that are a giant step toward organic certification, a r rarity among fruit orchards. “We’re supporting our growing families off one busy orchard,” notes John this face sunburned from outdoor work. “Together we’re holding back housing developers and keeping a Hudson valley tradition alive.”
Bread Alone Bakery & Cafe’s oven-fresh baked goods number among the many thrills of Hudson Valley living. Founded in 1983 by former New York City chef Dan Leader, the string of bakeries offers up European-style hearth-baked breads marketed from several locations, including New York City green markets and restaurants. When it comes to bread, Dan and his wife and bakery partner, Sharon Burns-Leader, are perfectionists who went so far as to bring over French specialists to custom-build their company’s brick ovens. Several times each year the couple trots the globe looking for ways to improve their bread and pastries even more. They dream of sending our Alpine-style bread trucks that will carry their sourdough levains and miches, baguettes, croissants, and muffins to the quiet villages and towns of their beloved valley. “We’re on the verge of rivaling Napa,” Sharon says, gesturing toward the Catskill Mountains surrounding them. “All we need now is our own Alice Waters to champion how great this region is.”
For years, Pete Taliaferro has been in training to become a certified organic farmer. Formerly a regional irrigation expert, he has logged hours of time with farmers, locally and globally, culling whatever growing tricks he could find. The produce rising from his rich Wallkill River bottomland now supplies a local food cooperative as well as several regional restaurants and the world-famous Culinary Institute of America, in nearby Hyde Park. “I love farming here. The temperatures work with the soils and the demographics are just right,” Pete says, surveying the New Paltz terrain he’s carefully nurtured to organic richness. Pete and his wife, Robin, feel they’re on the forefront of a great wave that’s giving the region national attention. “It can only get better if some of our competitors go organic, too.” Watching his kids hoe lettuce and chard, Pete nods his head. “We’re feeding a growing community. It’s good.”
Step out into the arbors surrounding Michael and Yancey Migliore’s Whitecliff Vineyards, in the mountain-shaded foothills of Gardiner, N.Y., and one immediately senses what they’re achieving with the fresh, new wines they’ve just taken to marker. Whitecliff’s Gamay (the grape from which French Beaujolais is made) and a mixed white table wine mirror the calm beauty of the Shawangunk Mountains landscape that surrounds the vineyard. Although currently producing a humble 800 cases of wine a year, the Migliores have spent 20 years preparing 25 acres of vines and believe themselves perched on the edge of major success. “The trick’s going to be getting New Yorkers to buy local wine,” Yancey says, “as readily as Californians and Europeans buy their own wines.”
WHEN TASTING & TOURING
The CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA, located in Hyde Park, N.Y., since 1972, is the preeminent school for culinary professionals in this country. With local farmers growing produce for its kitchens and graduating chefs often remaining in the valley area, the school has had a major impact on the region’s food industry. The C.I.A. operates four restaurants and a brand-new bakery cafe that are open to the public; for additional information or to make a reservation, call (845) 471-6608.
BEAR CAFE, on Route 212 just outside Woodstock, has been a mecca for food lovers for years. One reason is Chef Eric Mann’s insistence on using only the freshest local ingredients. Open daily for dinner (except Tuesdays); (845) 679-5555. DEPUY CANAL HOUSE, on Route 213 in High Falls, is known for its seasonal Hudson Valley cuisine. Here Chef John Novi serves Sunday brunch and dinner from Thursday through Sunday in a 1797 stone house that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places; (845) 687-7700.
Farm stands and local food producers abound in the Hudson River Valley, where you’ll find farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products available seasonally. Here are a few standouts: PROSPECT HILL ORCHARDS, located at 40 Clarkes Lane in Milton, offers just-picked apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and nectarines as well as farm-made honey, fruit butters, baked goods, and cider. Call (845) 795-2383 or visit the Clarkes’ Web site at www.prospecthillorchards.com for a picking schedule and driving directions. SAUNDERSKILL FARMS, a 12th-generation family operation on Route 209 in Accord, has more than 800 acres of vegetables, flowers, and orchards. It’s open to the public daily from 9 to 7, April 15 to December 24. For additional information and a U-pick schedule, call (845) 626-2676 or www.saunderskill.com. THE OLD TOWN STOCKADE FARMERS’ MARKET, located in Kingston, is not to be missed for farm-fresh produce and products. The market is open 9 to 2 on Saturdays, rain or shine, June through October;