Thursday, October 22, 2009

New York Day 5 - FDR, CIA, Vanderbilts and More

For our last full day in NY, we returned to the FDR site to resume our tour of the museum and explored the remaining exhibits (The New Deal, The Presidential Years).

Next, we headed back to the CIA for lunch at one of the student run restaurants. Each student attends the school for 21 months, and the last several weeks are spent working in the kitchens and then in the front of various students restaurants on campus. We ate St. Andrew's Cafe, which focuses on both local and heathful fare. We made the most of our experience and practically rolled out of the restaurant some time later. Here is a picture taken during dessert (Goatcheese Cheesecake, Milkshake Sampler, and Pear/Ginger Crisp).

These last few days gave us beautiful weather to enjoy. We were happy to spend the rest of this afternoon touring the grand Vanderbilt Mansion and estate. Walking through this huge mansion, left almost entirely as it had been furnished in the late 1930s, was quite the experience. We also explored the gardens and riverfront, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to watch the colors shift as the sun went down.

After a wild goose chase through Poughkeepsie to find the perfect restaurant for dinner, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the last of our wine on our last evening on vacation. More Apples to Apples also rounded out the evening. Throughout our trip, we had some wonderful conversations - some funny, some serious, and always enlightening. It was a great experience to learn about people and events from a wide-range of time periods and then to discuss them with our fellow travelers.

Where to go next...

New York Day 4 - FDR, ER, CIA

Day 4 of our trip was the day we were all waiting for: the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum! This was the first presidential museum and the only museum to have been built and opened with the president still in office. Located in Hyde Park, NY - it sits on a campus which includes FDR's home, a National Historic Site, and is very close to Eleanor Roosevelt's National Historic Site and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

We arrived bright and early at the Library/Museum and immediately secured tickets for the FDR Home tour. We enjoyed learning more about President Roosevelt and his family through the interesting tour through his home. By this point we had started to become quite good at evaluating tour guides, and Pres, our FDR Home guide, was one of the best. With clear enthusiasm for the subject and easy manor, we thoroughly enjoyed this tour.

Next - the museum! We made it through the exhibit covering his boyhood and pre-presidential history before needing a lunch break. After grabbing a bit to eat at the museum's cafe, we ventured across the way to Eleanor Roosevelt's National Historic Site since our tickets would be good for two days. Here we toured the house that was to become her retreat (Val-Kill) when FDR was in Washington and after his death. We learned a lot at this site and felt a much greater appreciation for Eleanor Roosevelt and how she worked tirelessly to make the world a better place. Mike, in particular, become a huge ER fan.

Cousin Christine had made reservations for us to tour the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), our next stop for the day. Our tour gave us great insight into life for these dedicated culinary students and we were even able to observe classes in session through large zoo-like windows. After the tour of the beautiful campus, we stopped by the student run Apple Pie Cafe and Bakery for some decadent and unique deserts (carrot cake pictured above).

Again we returned to our hotel and ate at the nearby La Luna Pizzeria before retiring to our hotel room. We finished out the day enjoying wine from the winery, teaching Mike and Christine a new card game, and playing Apples to Apples into the wee hours. Who could ask for more?

New York Day 3 - West Point

Day 3 led us to the United States Military Academy at West Point, after another breathtaking drive through another region of the Catskills. After a brief tour of the West Point visitors center, we took a guided bus tour learning about West Point history and visiting several sites along the way. First we visited the Cadet Chapel, pictured at right. Next, we viewed memorials dedicated to West Point officers that served in the Civil War. Our tour guide described how difficult it must have been for the West Point officers to fight in the Civil War against their fellow classmates and teachers.

Later we were able to observe a mini-parade of cadets along their parade ground and then we visited the West Point cemetery. This was poignant experience as we saw several gravestones of West Point graduates killed in several wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan. We also saw another example of how Benedict Arnold was removed from history (shown by the blanked out section on this plaque).

After lunch at a local pizza joint and a quick visit to the West Point Museum, we headed back towards George Washington's Headquarters! Or so we thought. We had spotted a sign directing us to the headquarters on the drive to West Point, but later we realized that George Washington had two separate headquarters and we had gone to the wrong one!

Thankfully, we soon discovered that we weren't too far from America's Oldest Winery - the Brotherhood Winery. So we stopped by and had a quick, enjoyable wine tasting which improved our moods greatly! After that, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and later had dinner at Salsa. Another good day!

New York Day 2 - The Catskills

Our second day got off to a cold start - since this would turn out to be the coldest day of our tour (high of 46 degrees). Still, we were intrepid tourists and would not be stopped! This was our day to explore the Catskills - starting with a visit to Cedar Grove, the home of Thomas Cole (19th Century landscape artist and founder of the Hudson River School of Art). Here is our version of a famous painting of Thomas Cole's House (Cedar Grove by Charles Moore).

Next, after a chilly, depressing lunch at a fast-food-chain-not-to-be-named and a trip to a liquor store staffed by a Chinese Sharpei dog, we drove into the Catskills Mountains. Our first stop was Kaaterskill Falls, a 260 ft. waterfall that inspired Thomas Cole painting as well as other Hudson River School artists. We took the short, rocky hike up to the foot of the falls while watching a few small snow-like flakes start to fall.

On the way back to our vehicle, we ran into fellow tourists the told us about a hike we should take further up the "Clove." After locating the trail head a few miles up, we started out on our hike on the Escarpment Trail. The colors throughout this region were beautiful! Yellows and reds spotting the green forest landscape. This trail alternated between easy walking to moderate climbing and led us to a path that ran along cliffs overlooking the Clove. It was a wonderful view and enjoyable hike. Mike even saved the day when he rescued my water bottle before it rolled over the edge and crashed into the valley below. What a guy.

We finished this wonderful day by driving to Poughkeepsie, where we would stay for the next few nights. The drive took us over the Mid-Hudson Bridge, which was spectacular to see at night (even though bridges seriously creep me out). We spent the rest of the night warming up, eating dinner, and discussing our plans for the next day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We love New York! (Day 1)

Recently, my husband and I traveled to the Hudson River Valley area of New York with our cousins Mike and Christine. We had such a great trip that I wanted to document it here for us and for anyone else remotely interested. We flew into Albany and immediately headed north toward the Battle of Saratoga National Historic Park. After a quick lunch at the Rusty Nail in Clifton Park, we arrived at the Park and began learning about this historic battle. The day we visited, October 17, was the 232nd anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga. Here the American forces defeated the British Army trying to conquer the land between Canada and New York (since New York had already fallen to the British). This crucial victory gained the American forces global support and forever changed the future of the young nation.

We walked through the old battlegrounds, imagining battles behind British and American fortification lines, as well as learning more about Benedict Arnold's participation here. His activities later in life led to his name being removed from the statue honoring his bravery and injuries suffered during the fighting here.

Later that evening, we attended a candelight tour of the Schuyler House. This 1777 home was burned to the ground by the British during the Revolutionary War and was visited by many notable figures from the period, including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. The house exists much as it did from the period and walking through this home was like walking back through time. The candlelight tour happens only once a year and we were happy to have been able to experience it. Kudos to Cousin Mike for finding out about it before our trip!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chili Days

A cold October weekend calls for two things: chili and football. While I have a few favorite chili recipes, this weekend I tried a new one: Black Bean-Salsa Chili a reader recipe from this month's issue of Cooking Light.

The addition of black beans (whole and pureed) and a mild salsa gave the chili a wonderful depth of flavor while keeping the right amount of heat without overpowering our taste buds. We topped the chili with sour cream mixed with fresh lime juice and cilantro and also baked corn bread to round out the meal. The recipe itself was quick and fairly easy.

Next time I make it, I might add water instead of beef broth or I might double the recipe and see how well it freezes. All in all, we loved this recipe and it will be our standard chili recipe from now on. There is no better way to enjoy a fall day at home with my boys.