The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the best way to discover a destination’s heart is through your stomach.
Food is an edible embodiment of any region, and if you do it right, what’s on your plate should reflect where you are. Seasonal produce and local goods tell visitors about the area’s geography, climate and industry; and spices and flavors transport travelers through the people’s culture, history and values.
Travel Alliance Partners (TAP) offers tours that highlight some of the best regional cuisines around the country. Here are some of the culinary hot spots that your group can visit on a TAP trip.
Hudson Valley, New York
New York’s Hudson Valley is known for both its abundant agriculture and its long history as a retreat destination, and visitors can get a taste of both extremes. Guests can feast on farm produce they pick themselves or sit down to feasts at historic resorts.
At the restored 1854 Rhinecliff Hotel, The Bar is both a bar and a brasserie-style restaurant featuring the valley’s bountiful seasonal produce, and Sunday Jazz Brunch delivers brunch favorites with a side of live jazz. Although the Mohonk Mountain House dates to the 1870s, it has been expanded many times and now resembles a sprawling Bavarian lodge perched on the edge of Lake Mohonk. The hotel offers a variety of group dining options, including outdoor meals at the Granary.
Madava Farms in Dover Plains is home to Crown Maple Syrup. Groups can walk in the woods, eat lunch in the cafe and take an hourlong guided “maple tour” to see the farm’s hand-bottling and sugar-making operations and finish with a five-stage tasting.
Pennings Orchard is “a real farm experience but an upscale farm experience,” said Susan Hawvermale, Hudson Valley Tourism director. Guests can pluck apples from branches, take a hayride and visit Pennings Market to shop, eat lunch at the cafe, drink a beer or have an ice cream cone. There’s also an on-site cidery and a hard-cider tasting room.
The valley is home to food festivals that celebrate the region’s agriculture. The two largest happen every fall: the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties and Applefest in Warwick. Per its name, Applefest features all things apple: ciders, fritters, caramel apples and, of course, apple pie. And “as they say when you go to the Garlic Festival, everything is made out of garlic, including the ice cream,” Hawvermale said.
Vermont is a veritable cornucopia of fresh produce and farm goods: apples and maple syrup, cheese and dairy products and, of course, the famous Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Every nook and cranny of the state is bursting with local food finds, but the town of Shelburne “is kind of a little food mecca that centers on Shelburne Farms,” said Grace Meyer, communication and membership coordinator for the Vermont Fresh Network, a community of Vermont farmers and food professionals.
Shelburne Farms is an old, 1,400-acre estate farm that is now a leader in farm-based education. On campus, groups can visit historic barns and buildings, the seven-acre vegetable garden and the eight-acre sugarbush, with nearly 1,000 sugar-maple taps. The 1890 Farm Barn is the hub of Shelburne Farms’ educational programs and serves as a sort of visitors center. There, groups will find the farm’s cheesemaking facility; the O-Bread Bakery, an independent organic bakery and cafe; and Beeken/Parsons, an independent furniture-maker. The former estate home, now the 24-room Inn at Shelburne Farms, sits on the shores of Lake Champlain.
“People often go and stay at the inn and retreat [at the farm],” Meyer said.
Three miles south, Shelburne Vineyard offers tours of its vineyards and winemaking facility, as well as tastings in its 110-person tasting room; groups of eight or more should make reservations at least two weeks in advance. Groups can cross the street to visit Fiddlehead Brewing Company’s tasting room to sample what’s on tap.
At Shelburne Orchard, guests can take a tour, pick apples, munch on cider doughnuts and visit the orchard’s new brandy still.