catskills [upstate new york].

[spotlight series. Robert Earl Thomas and Inez Valk-Kempthorne]

[Catskills soundtrack. girl from the north country.]

It may only be two hours from New York City (a super easy and beautiful drive or train ride), but once here, you will feel a million miles away. Come to this stunning part of the world to do a lot, or nothing at all. The Catskills region certainly does, however, inspire adventure. Spectacular mountains to hike or bike, creeks to jump through, rivers to float down, forests to get lost in, and breathtaking views to take in. Amazing food, wilderness, farm stands, farmers markets, orchards, colors (especially in fall), peace, calm, stillness, sunsets, cosy suppers, arts and culture, bookstores, antiques, roadside diners, small-town bars, swimming holes, ziplines through the forest…you can find it all. On the way up, be sure to stop at the Storm King Art Centre – a definite highlight of our three-day adventure (and only one hour out of New York). And check out as many of the region’s little towns as you can – each with their own quirks and charm – we found much to love.


There’s an urban vibe here in Hudson, or “Rubarnism” (as described by Ann Marie Gardner, a local resident and founder of the Modern Farmer magazine), “when urban expats bring their cultural touchstones and appetites with them when they move to a place like Hudson”. With echoes of Brooklyn, this quaint little town offers a young, creative, simple aesthetic, with country-town vibes. You can feel the momentum build as new shops, galleries and hotels (we are excited to see what comes of the old Warren Theatre/Inn development) continue to pop up.

To eat and drink.

There is much your stomach will get excited about in these parts. Here are our favorites:

Bonfiglio and Bread: for breakfast. Order the poached egg bowl (on avocado, croutons, lardons, yoghurt and chilli oil); take home a loaf of their sourdough bread, and try the apple cake as well.

Café le Perche: a cute bistro and boulangerie for huge (bigger than your head) sandwiches, on delicious homemade bread, and an open fire.

Swallow: for good, Brooklyn-style coffee (we like that they rotate their coffee providers on a weekly basis. They were serving Heart (our favorite) from PDX on the days we visited).

Hudson Food Studio: for a locally sourced menu with a southeast Asian accent. A cute, narrow space to eat in, or a perfect option for take out as well. We opted for take out on our first night and were blown away by its awesomeness. We wanted to try it ALL…but ended up ordering the Coriander Roasted Carrot Salad (with pickled beets, turnips, baby kale and roasted garlic miso dressing) – which was so market fresh it was amazing – and then the Pork, Greens and Rice (with tofu, ginger, garlic). Hudson Food Studio is a must.

Swoon Kitchen and Bar: a cute and cosy bistro on Warren Street, come here on Thursday nights for burger night – Kinderhook farm all natural grassfed beef served on a toasted brioche bun.

Grazin’: its pretty amazing to find an old-school American diner that serves local, sustainable and organic/biodynamic, and animal welfare approved everything (where possible).

Fish and Game: for something more fancy. It’s a prix fixe, seven-course, omnivores-only menu here. Come here for civilized weekend eating and drinking. 

Truck Pizza: for delicious wood-fired pizza out of the window of a panel van, in the food truck area at 347 Warren Street.

To shop.

Lots of cute little stores (largely antiques) dot Warren Street, making it the ideal place to poke around. These were our favorites:

Hawkins New York: the most beautiful store. We loved the tiled entryway. A curated lifestyle brand (showcasing their own brand, and a bevy of other designers as well). All our favorite things. Candles, rugs, throws, books, and the most beautiful of Burmese Mountain Dogs to keep an eye on everything - Charlie.

Flowerkraut: a stunning space, so so swoonworthy you will want to linger awhile. Come here for homemade sauerkraut, fresh blooms, cute cards, ceramics and all things pretty…by Scottish girl Mairead Travins, and her husband Seth.

RueDePapier: handmade leather bags, made with love by Robyn, a cute Swedish (via Brooklyn) expat.

Hats: by Bosnian-born milliner, Behida Dolic. People travel far and wide (direct from Paris we hear) to order these custom-made hats by Behida.

Red Chair on Warren: for beautiful old antique tables and chairs, and other random beauties.

The Spotty Dog Books & Ale: purely because it’s a bookshop in a bar, and how often do you see that! Once Hudson’s firehouse (from 1889-20022), this space is now a bookstore that has over 10000 titles on its shelves, and a rotating selection of craft beers on tap.

To do.

Visit Basilica Hudson: an amazing arts and performance space in a reclaimed 19th century glue factory on the Hudson waterfront, opened by ex-Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist – Melissa Auf der Maur – and her husband Tony Stone. If you are lucky enough to be in Hudson over Thanksgiving weekend, be sure to check out the 2nd annual Farm and Flea market – showcasing a diverse range of products from regional makers, farmers and vintage collectors.

Saturday Farmers Market: for the freshest and the best local county produce (9am-1pm every Saturday from May until November).

If the Union Street Guesthouse is full, we recommend sleeping here: Hudson Merchant House.


To sleep.

The Graham and Co.: we love this spot. One of our most favorite, laidback North American mountain motels. With an Americana aesthetic reminiscent of the ACE, and super friendly bearded staff who will offer you a beer as you check in, this is an idyllic mountain getaway. The perfectly refurbed 1940s motely is located in small-town Phoenicia, and is just a short 5min walk into the centre of (the kitschy) town. It’s a quiet, peaceful and restful place to hang out, and a great base to access the surrounding mountains, and other towns. Rooms are simple and comfy, with whitewashed walls and grey and woody tones. The Graham throws weekend bonfires through winter. In summer, when the weather is good, you can hang by the pool (with good tunes), or bike around. They also put on summer movies on Saturday nights at dusk, near the pool. And they will always sort you out with the best recommendations of where to go and what do in the local area. Breakfast is light but delicious, and showcases local favorites such as fresh breads, cider donuts, eggs, fruit, juice and coffee. There are always good tunes on the stereo, and warm and friendly vibes. Its beautiful here.

To eat and drink.

Peekamoose: for dinner. Sit at the bar (where you can choose from both the bar menu, and the restaurant menu). Amazing hearty soups. Fresh home made bread. Burgers. Steak. Gnudi. Onion Rings. Red wines. Open fires…and a fire pit, complete with complimentary marshmallows and sticks for toasting. Good cosy vibes. Hailing from one of NYC’s finest restaurant groups (think Grammercy Tavern) this is a must stop.

Phoenicia Diner: on Route 28, not far from The Graham, this is the perfect stop for or an amazing post-hike (summer) or post-ski (winter) brunch or lunch. Super friendly and authentic, using only local and seasonal ingredients. Order the skillet and a bloody mary.

To shop.

Scandinavian Grace: a big warehouse space on the side of the highway, showcasing home goods and furniture from Scandinavia and beyond. Good coffee as well. A lovely stop.

To do.

Town Tinker Tubing: plenty of tubing opportunities during summer. Find Town Tinker in downtown Phoenicia, walking distance from the hotel. Keep it mellow and opt for a more slow, and lazy ride – or amp it up and go full deliverance down the faster, bumpier course. Town Tinker will dump you in the river, and after floating all the way down, they will then scoop you up from the other end. FS Tubing: same deal but closer.

Hunter Mountain Zipline: we love a good zipline. This one takes you 600 feet about ground, at 50miles per hour – over the spectacular Catskill mountains.

Kaaterskill Falls Swimming Hole: this is the highest two-tiered waterfall in New York State. From the parking area, walk down to the bridge (be careful, its narrow along the shoulder of the road). Near the bridge is Bastion Falls. Continue on the trail for about .5 miles to the base of Kaatersjill Falls. The water drops 260 feet in two stages. The first drop is 180ft while the second is only 80 ft. The official trail ends here.

If The Graham & Co is full, we recommend sleeping here: at the new Spruceton Inn.

Also, keep an eye out for an ACE Hotel…the word on the street is that there will be one here in these parts very soon…


To eat. To shop.

Cucina: for a beautiful Italian dinner in a rambling farmhouse in Woodstock. Warm, cosy and impossibly chic and beautiful. On sunny days, request a table on the large wraparound porch. If you would prefer to be inside, ask for a table in the bigger room, its better.

Sweet Sue’s: for pancakes the things that dreams are made of.

Peace, Love and Cupcakes: for other sweet stuff.

Woodstock General Supply: shop here for a curated mix of outerwear, gifts and accessories. Buy a cute Catskills vs. Hamptons sweater.


To eat. To shop.

{outdated}: for a light breakfast in an antiques store, where you can literally buy everything you see – including the plate you eat your breakfast from. Or the cup you drink your coffee out of. Sit amongst antique furniture and art. After breakfast at {outdated}, wander around Kingston's Stockade/Uptown District for some shopping.


To eat.

Miss Lucy’s Kitchen: a cute little spot that feels like something a granny has been running forever. A seasonal market menu inspired by the Hudson Valley, showcasing the finest local produce. All natural and antibiotic free meats; sustainable seafood; pork that is smoked in house; fresh herbs and veggies from their garden; house baked bread; and desserts made from scratch.

To do.

Find Big Pink: as other Dylan fans will know, "Big Pink" is the house that Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson recording music out of with Bob Dylan in the 60s and 70s. Located down a rough unpaved private dirt road somewhere between Woodstock and Saugerties, this is a bit of a mission to find, but if you love Dylan as much as we do, it is a fun little mission. Ignore the “private property” and “no trespassing” signs and keep driving. If there are cars around, feel free to even knock on the door. The musicians who spend time there now are always happy to welcome visitors.


To sleep. To eat. To drink. To shop. To do.

Table on Ten: is our kind of heaven. Located in the teeny tiny town of Bloomville (with a population of just 200), this beautiful, warm and inviting “public house” is pretty much the only reason to stop here…but be sure to make it an essential part of your western Catskills itinerary. Run by the ever-lovely Inez Valk-Kempthorne (a former model) and her partner Justice, Table on Ten is not only a café/ wood-fired pizza restaurant, but also a providore showcasing local artists and farmers goods, as well as a 3-bedroom hotel. If the hotel is full, come here on a Friday or Saturday night for “pizza night”. Incredibly delicious wood-fired pizza with interesting and inventive toppings – our favorite, the lemon-marinated fennel, feta and parsley one. And as recommended by Table on Ten collaborator, Julian, enjoy your pizza with a bottle of Italian Lambrusco – the perfect partner. After dinner, make sure you have room for their signature affogato. This was, without a doubt, the best affogato we have ever experienced – a double shot of espresso (from their very own Table on Ten A3 blend by Irving Farm coffee roasters), coupled with two scoops of their signature homemade fennel seed ice cream. A serious taste sensation. After dinner, spend some time swooning over the shelves of their in-house microstore. We left with a bag full of goodies - homemade (by Inez) granola, stunning 100% Irish linen glass-cloths (from the last traditional damask weaver in all of Ireland), a hand-sketched children’s book "The Wild Unknown" by local artist Kim Krans, and a box of her stunning tarot cards as well. If you are lucky enough to snag one of the three lovely bedrooms, spend the rest of your days hiking (up Mount Utsayantha), riding Icelandic horses (with Heleen Heyning), doing yoga at Table on Ten, skiing at Plattekill (if its winter), or tubing and jumping in swimming holes at Table Rock (if its summer). There is no need to leave. Table on Ten will keep you entertained, well fed and lovingly looked after for days.

Check out these nearby farmers/producers:

Byebrook Farm in Bovina for raw milk, eggs and yogurt.

Bea’s bacon, avocado, Swiss and tomato breakfast sandwiches at Russell’s.

Glen Burnie farm for milk-fed pork, a quart ofMoonshine Maple and half-wheel of Danchego.

Last Harvest‘s farmstand for a big bag of sugar snaps.

Lucky Dog Farm Store for meatloaf sandwiches.

Ommegang Brewery for the obvious.

Harpersfield for aged Tilsit.

Stone & Thistle for farm-raised meats and poultry, and their goats’ cheese fudge.