2 Days in Ulster County: A Fall Getaway Guide

Head north and replenish your soul by satiating your stomach.

Photo: Facebook.com/UlsterCountyTourism

Ulster County truly hits its stride in fall. Not only is it ripe for apple picking, winery hopping and leaf peeping, the Hudson Valley province is rich with history, culture and natural beauty. And did we mention the dining scene? The region’s diverse culinary landscape is anchored by a farm-to-table ethos—most establishments are devoted to the community and committed to using locally made products.

The next time you feel the pressing need to escape the city for a few days, arm yourself with this two-day, food-fueled Ulster County itinerary, head north and replenish your soul by satiating your stomach.

Day 1

Breakfast: Kickstart your gastronomic getaway in Kingston, New York’s first capital, which is fast becoming a culinary hub. The quirky, Southern-inflected PAKT (known for its cheeky menu) has played a large part in burnishing that reputation; there’s no denying its over-the-top platters of scrambled cheese eggs, grits, biscuits, red eye gravy, fried green tomatoes and salt-cured country ham.

Lunch: Though well known for its wine trails, many people are unaware that Ulster County is also home to Tuthilltown Spirits, New York’s first post-prohibition whiskey distillery. Feeling lightheaded after a tasting? Set yourself straight at Tuthilltown’s adjacent farm-to-table restaurant, Char 1788, where you’ll find boards overflowing with local charcuterie and cheese, a smoked peach salad dressed with Tuthilltown R&D Cassis, and a killer dry-aged beef burger on brioche—served with a whiskey sour pickle, of course.

Dinner: Idyllically situated where the Hudson Valley meets the Catskills, Ellenville’s Aroma Thyme Bistro was the first restaurant in upstate New York to be Certified Green. Spearheaded by award-winning chef Marcus Guiliano, who has specialized in sustainable, socially responsible cuisine for the past 20 years, Aroma Thyme uses area purveyors and small, independent brands for dishes like Sugar Hill Farm smoked pork belly with red wine reduction, lobster mac & cheese mixed with Bulich Farms crimini mushrooms, and pan-seared wild Coho salmon filet, accompanied by Barthels Farm fairy tale eggplant.

Extra Credit: Take a cue from the area’s college students and get your caffeine fix at Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary in New Paltz. Pair your pour-over coffee with vegan, fair trade and organic confections such as beet coriander truffles, crafted with naturally sugary veggies from a nearby farm. Now put that energy boost to good use with a hike to the ice caves at Sam’s Point, followed by a dip at Verkeerderkill Falls.

Day 2

Breakfast: Ready to embark on another day of hardcore dining? We hope so, because you haven’t even scratched the surface of Ulster County eats.

No trip would be complete without a pilgrimage to the famous Phoenicia Diner. Located off Route 28, the reliably mobbed establishment slings modernized American classics in an endearingly retro space. Feast on locally smoked trout on bagels, mushroom and ricotta toast teamed with Phoenician potatoes, or the “Morning in Tunisia” skillet, featuring polenta, peppers, summer squash, black olives and feta, topped with a poached egg. Feeling drowsy? Ease into the day by heading across the street to the Sleepy Hollow Campgrounds for a leisurely dip in Esopus Creek.

Lunch: Another Hudson Valley must-visit is iconic Woodstock, where you’ll find local landmarks like Joshua’s Cafe, serving Mediterranean-inspired cuisine since 1972. It’s easy to imagine rock and roll luminaries eagerly tucking into chopped Israeli salads, zucchini flatcakes or shawarma tofu pitas, although nowadays, loyal locals are the true VIPS.

Dinner: Ulster County is a veritable little Italy; the region is teeming with takeout pizza parlors, casual trattorias, and elegant, white tablecloth bistros—like Annarella in Saugerties. This Tuscan stunner is an ideal fit for the Hudson Valley. The menu tells the tale: hearty plates of pasta replete with wild boar and juniper berries, baby chicken with white beans and escarole, and polpo alla griglia (grilled Portuguese octopus) showcase the rich, rustic tastes of the region, along with a formidable bottle list to match.  

Extra Credit: Not only is Ulster a wine and whiskey mecca, it’s proven a haven for beer. For a mid-day libation, make a beeline for Arrowood Farm Brewery in Accord, which grows hops on site, or Rough Cut Brewing Co. in Kerhonkson, beloved for its citrusy Deserted Island IPA and its Belgian-style Tripel, brewed with orange blossom honey.

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Bridget is the digital strategy editor for Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Long Island and Edible East End.