Pricey, but well worth it for those special occasions. (And weddings there are fabulous!)
Les Baux – 152 Church Street, Millbrook, NY
A charming little cafe with authentic French food (the owner/chef is from France). Les Baux would be a wonderful place to stop and relax after a day in the country. Millbrook is a town for strolling in and out of antique shops, or perhaps a drive through the surrounding countryside, filled with beautiful estates and farms. The French onion soup well deserves the Best of the Hudson Valley award it recently won, incredibly rich and satisfying. Steak frites are especially delicious, tender steak and piles of fries done just right. Tables are close together, but small enough that whispering or sharing sweet desserts can still encourage romance.
Le Petit Bistro – 8 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, NY
A small, intimate restaurant with pine walls, fresh flowers and candlelight on the main street of the village. Cuisine is French with Mediterranean influences. The lighting is especially flattering, and the service is friendly and helpful. Food is always fresh and interesting, the wine list is excellent, and there is a cozy little bar that makes any wait for a table a pleasure.
Cascade Mountain Winery – Flint Hill Road, Amenia, NY
A fantastic drive through farm country on winding roads brings you to a tiny European style chalet offering wine tastings as well as tapas style restaurant food in a charming atmosphere. Open for tastings every day, the restaurant is open only on week ends. The wine is amazingly good for such a small operation, having won many awards over the years., and the food matches well. Hard to find, perhaps, but a hidden jewel at the end of a really beautiful drive, especially in Fall foliage season or Spring, when many of the farms in the surrounding countryside may have lambs, calves and colts frolicking in the fields.
Charlotte’s – Route 44, Millbrook, NY
Another destination that will bring you through beautiful country roads, Charlotte’s is a magnificent old building with views of rolling soft green hills and horse farms. In summer, a patio makes al fresco dining a true delight, and in cooler weather the four fireplaces inside with candlelight and fresh flowers provide a cozy ambiance. Coming into the dining room from a cold winter’s night and feeling the warmth of the fireplace and the glow of the candles is incredible. The menu changes with the seasons, with emphasis on fresh local produce and game.
Depuy Canal House – High Falls, NY
In a building built in 1797 to be used as an inn for travelers on the now defunct canal, dinner there feels a bit like dining in a charming museum. Open only Friday through Sunday, filled with antiques and lit mainly with candles, the various small rooms with their fireplaces are fascinating to walk through. Once you’re seated, be prepared to be amazed at the menu; ala carte or as a five-course meal, the food is unlike any you will have seen before. Called New American Cuisine, it is not at all what you might expect from the surroundings – the Carrot Pasta rolled with ricotta cheese served on tomato sauce is just one example. Between courses, diners are encouraged to wander upstairs to a small balcony where you can look down into the kitchen. If there isn’t a crowd, the servers try to seat people as far apart as possible, so you may even find yourselves all alone in one of the smaller rooms – how romantic is that? All this ambiance doesn’t come cheap, but as a special occasion place, it’s one of the best. There are also rooms available in another building, light-filled, decorated nicely with antiques and quite reasonably priced.
Locust Tree Inn – 215 Hugeuenot Street, New Paltz, NY
Located next to the fairway of a golf course, this is a Dutch colonial home built in 1759. There are three indoor dining rooms, including a tap room with a great bar, as well as patio dining in summer with breathtaking views of the Shawangunk Mountain range. Each of the rooms has a wood-burning fireplace decorated with comfortable antiques, and the over-all feeling is of a stylish, yet friendly European country house. Northern European cuisine with French, Northern Italian, Austrian and German influences with emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.
Le Chambord – 2737 Route 52, Hopewell Junction, NY
A real “occasion place” located in an 1863 Georgian style mansion that will have you feeling like Scarlett and Rhett as you stroll around the ten acre property. Expect four-star dining along with impeccable formal service, exquisite French nouvelle-classical food and a wine celler that is unequalled in the area. The artwork is worth noting, as the owner is a renowned collector. A cozy bar in the basement is a charming way to begin a romantic evening, and rooms are also available, each uniquely decorated with antiques and including a sumtuous continental breakfast.
Plumbush Inn – Route 9D, Cold Spring, NY
A historic 1867 gentleman’s farmhouse in historic Cold Spring (a wonderful place to shop for antiques before dinner). Rustic American cuisine is served in dining rooms complete with woodburning fireplaces or on a charming verandah overlooking perriennel gardens in nice weather. Rooms are well appointed and spacious with comfortable brass beds and include a continental breakfast delivered to your room in the morning – what luxury!
Shadows on the Hudson – 176 Rinaldi Drive, Poughkeepsie, NY
Perched on a cliff forty feet above the Hudson River, Shadows offers five different dining areas to choose from. Pass by the huge bar and opt for one of the quiet side dining rooms, either the casual and warm Sunset Room (word has it this has been the setting for many proposals) or if you like ultra-modern, choose the Winter Room, all white leather, lucite and silver, with a unique fireplace set high in the wall. In nice weather, of course, the terrace provides incredible views of the river, especially if you’re in time for a sunset. Start off with one of their award-winning cocktails and if the weather’s fine, possibly end the evening with an after-dinner drink at the Terrace Bar with its view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
Ship Lantern Inn – 1725 Route 9W, Milton, NY
In a building dating back to Revolutionary War times, with rather old-fashioned nautical decor, enjoy being thoroughly pampered. Servers wearing tuxedos treat everyone like a VIP, with never a hint of rushing you through excellent cocktails, fresh shellfish from their raw bar, all the way through to coffee and marvelous desserts. Dinner here is an event, with tableside preparation of Caesar salads, Chateaubriand for two, and Bananas Foster – when was the last time you had an expert cooking at your table just for you? A great place to take someone you want to impress, but not overly expensive considering the quality of food and service.
Stissing House – 7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, NY
Built as an inn in 1782, both Washington and Lafayette dined here. Renovated several years ago, but with an eye to keeping the ancient feel of the place, it boasts a large dining room with low beams, long bar and a wood-burning oven turning out awesome appetizer pizza. The remaining spaces are a charming rabbit warren of small rooms that give more intimacy to those diners wanting a quiet evening, one is so tiny there is only one table – how would that be for a proposal spot? The food is French-American, with those pizzas definitely worth a try for a pre-dinner nosh.
Old Drover’s Inn – Dover Plains, NY
Built in 1750 as a place for drover’s to stop on their way to market with their cattle, the inn now boasts high-quality cuisine in several charming dining rooms complete with fireplaces. It also operates as a B&B, with exquisite rooms, all king-sized beds, most brass or canopied. Breakfast is fabulous, you won’t need to eat again until dinner! Expensive, but worth it for a special treat or occasion.