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Aug 09

Hudson Redux: Why I Keep Returning to This Fascinating River Town

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A stretch of Warren Street, Hudson’s extensive and historic main business drag.

Back in the spring, I had posted an article titled A Place Called Hudson: A Must-Visit for New Yorkers, detailing my weekend getaway with Deborah to the city of Hudson, NY. Our new favorite nearby escape, Hudson is a treasure trove of antique shops, art galleries, funky boutiques, trendy cafés and fine restaurants, all nestled into a 19th-century small town setting. Steeped in two centuries of rich American history, architectural movements, economic twists and turns, and most recently, a renaissance of gay culture, Hudson is now a diverse and esteemed community that will have both a refined and a bohemian appeal to visitors from NYC.

Just 2 weeks ago, Deb and I found ourselves in Hudson for visit number five. This visit, however, was a first for us in several respects, most notably because it coincided for once with the bustle of a tourist-adorned summer weekend. Let me share with you some of the other firsts (and a few worthwhile repeats), as I tempt you to take the two-hours Amtrak run from Penn Station to the self-designated “Upstate’s Downtown”.

First Things First

This time around, we experimented with the more center-of-the-action lodging option by staying at Warren Street’s The Barlow Hotel, which, much to our delight was cozy, clean and quiet. The building’s Art Deco atmosphere is in wonderful contrast to its comfortable modern amenities, offering the best of both worlds. The staff at The Barlow couldn’t be friendlier and more accommodating. For instance, with our mere mention of a local restaurant we were curious about, the desk manager was on the phone booking our dinner reservation before we could blink.

White Rice Hudson

Only half of what White Rice has in store. Their contemporary ladies’ apparel will entice you.

Girl Stuff

The ladies’ fashion boutique that Deb discovered on this visit is worth the trip alone for anyone from NYC. White Rice is the career dream-come-true for a young couple who visited India 20 years ago and fell in love with the textiles of Bali, and the Batik technique of crafting garments from them. Their storefront showcases their very own creations….dresses, tops, skirts, scarves and more, crafted from these imported fabrics, but in familiar western fashions. Featured also are tons of jewelry, various eastern musical instruments, and some bigger-ticket items including furniture and hand-crafted headboards that you won’t find anywhere else. Deborah, who never gets too excited about shopping for clothes, gave me a fashion show at White Rice, and fleshed out her wardrobe considerably that afternoon.

Boy Stuff

While Deb was exploring some more apparel, I made my escape to a shop that’s been luring me since our first Hudson visit. John Doe Records & Books is the kind of place an audiophile can get lost in for hours. Like with any good used vinyl record store, eclectic music is piped out onto the street, the platters are not arranged in anyparticular order, the ones with racy album covers are pinned to the walls, and the

My loot from John Doe Records & Books. Spinning fresh wax for less than forty bucks!

My loot from John Doe Records & Books. Spinning fresh wax for less than forty bucks!

owner has an appropriately smug “I’ve heard it all before” attitude. After just 20 minutes of flipping through the stacks, I managed to find 4 desirable titles in mint condition, each priced well below ten bucks. Score!

Feed Me!

A random stroll north from Warren Street led to our discovery of Helsinki Hudson, a fine dining establishment located in a lavishly renovated historic industrial building. Remember that reservation made by The Barlow Hotel staffer? Here’s where it landed us for a romantic sunset and dinner for two. Helsinki’s side patio is a manicured and elegant setting, but don’t let it distract you from the stunning, two-level interior dining space, which seems perfect for weddings. The wine list is diverse and the meal was outstanding. Don’t miss the Faro Risotto and the perfectly-gamy New Zealand Rack of Lamb.

Feed Me Some More!

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Ahh, Cafe Le Perche’s Country Pate. With all the accouterments.

The greatest dining experience we’ve had to date in Hudson was with Café Le Perche in the BeLo3rd District (on Warren Street below 3rd Street). The bistro-style dinner we enjoyed in their European courtyard included just about everything on their seasonal menu. The staff is sharp and down-to-earth, the mostly French wine list is well-designed, and their breads and pastries looked so delectable that we found ourselves returning twice during breakfast for fresh croissants and coffee. They even took a special order from us for a loaf of superb caraway seed bread, baked fresh just before we left town. Dinner highlights included a Coconut, Carrot & Lime Soup (special), House-Made Pork Country Pate (we got one of those to take home too), and their Coq Au Vin.

Some Old Faves

Our periodic drop-in at Carrie Haddad Gallery was highlighted by the latest paintings by Mark Beard based on photographs taken by his great-grandfather. Lunchtime at Grazin’ was amazin’ as expected, where we split another gourmet local grass-fed burger. And a loading-up of artisanal salumi, cheeses and sausages at Olde Hudson finally put a face to a name, as we met the charming owner Dena Moran. If you are now temped to see Hudson for yourself, be sure to pack a cooler and visit on a weekend, since the local Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday until November 22nd, from 9-1pm. Happy Travels!

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