Hudson Valley Food Tours, a company that showcases how awesome the Hudson Valley is through culinary walking tours, was started in the Spring of 2015 by Jennifer Brizzi. We talked to Jennifer about her company and plans for food tours around the Hudson Valley.
So tell us a little about Hudson Valley Food Tours:
I started the company this spring, after many years of thinking of way to show visitors how awesome the Hudson Valley is, and that culinary walking tours would be a great way to do it.
While we’ve long been a breadbasket for New York City, the Hudson Valley is now earning a reputation for innovation and quality fresh local food, sustainably raised and grown. Although we’ve been welcoming visitors for centuries, the area is enjoying a renaissance for people from all over who are discovering the natural beauty, the bounty of our farms, the adventurous creations of our cheesemakers, charcuteriers, distillers/brewers/winemakers, and chefs, all making the best out of our bounty, along with the rich history and the charms of our unique towns.
I started Hudson Valley Food Tours because I wanted to help visitors get to know the culture of the area through their taste buds, and to have the opportunity to meet locals, especially the people who create the delicious samples that they get to taste on the tours. In full disclosure, culinary walking tours are not my own original idea. Although I think I’m good at scouting out good food wherever I travel, culinary-focused walking tours happen worldwide. So I’m not the first, by a long shot. But I felt the Hudson Valley was ripe for it, a win-win for visiting tasters and the producers of good foodstuffs as well.
I started with the Rhinebeck Village Culinary Crawl because Rhinebeck is where I’ve lived for 19 years and I’m most familiar with it. But I also think the concept would work well for several more Hudson Valley towns.
Tell us a little more about your tours. What can people expect on the tour?
People can expect an enjoyable, fun, laid-back stroll through town that gives them an insider’s view of what makes us tick, along with some fascinating history of the area. There is a lot of good food, too much, some say, but people have been very pleased with the offerings, as our TripAdvisor reviews attest. The maximum for each tour is ten people, and we offer private tours, too. Both locals and out-of-towners have joined our tours, and always have a great time.
Currently, Hudson Valley Food Tours offers a Rhinebeck Culinary Crawl on Sunday afternoons from 1 pm to about 3:30. We spend the first 45 minutes in the 21-year-old award-winning Farmers Market. We meet board members, farmers and artisan food producers, and taste the best bounty of the season.
For the remainder of the tour we meander around the village, with some history and lore from the tour guide. Tasting samples (currently) include expert artisan authentic Italian pizza, high-quality infused olive oils and vinegars, house-smoked and seasoned local meats, local beer tasting, a refreshing gorgeous composed salad, hand-dipped chocolates from a local chocolatier, and more.
Our next Rhinebeck Tours are on September 13 and 27, and October 4 and 18, 2015.
More tours are in the works. Some may begin this fall, and others not until spring. We’re planning tours in Beacon (Dutchess County), Hudson (Columbia County), the Poughkeepsie Waterfront & Main Street (Dutchess County). An introductory tour or two in Beacon or Hudson will start in the fall if we can get them going.
Once it gets too cold for outdoor strolling, tours will be on hiatus until Spring, when they’ll start up again early to mid-May. Private tours are welcome, with advance notice, and tour tickets make great gift certificates. We also have discounts for over 62, military, and culinary students.
We are also planning other tours. In early development are several others, possibly in Rensselaer, Ulster, Westchester, Orange and Rockland Counties, plus progressive dinners and mini-bus tours. We’re busy!
So tell us a little about yourself, and how did you develop your love for food, and for the Hudson Valley?
I love to claim to be local, since I was born in Poughkeepsie. But a year later my family moved to Vermont, where I grew up. I only returned by chance in 1996. So while not technically local, I‘ve been back here for 19 years. I lived in Red Hook for the first year or two, then Rhinecliff (a hamlet that is part of the town of Rhinebeck), and for the past four years in the town of Rhinebeck.
My mom was a researcher/librarian fascinated with all things food, and it rubbed off. In the 70s we ate globally, from lobster and snails to the southern fried chicken and greens of my parents’ Arkansas heritage. We ate from my dad’s huge organic garden, from health food stores, half a local cow in the freezer, etc. We ate sustainably raised meats before it was fashionable. We traveled in Europe and around the country, so I was exposed to a lot of different cuisines.
Early on I was fascinated with food. When I was nine, I cooked a Danish dinner from one of my mother’s cookbooks. In high school I wrote an article on Japanese food-- which I hadn’t yet tasted--that got an A+.
As for my love for the Hudson Valley... My parents were both artists, and who can look at the Hudson Valley and the Hudson River without appreciation for how gorgeous it is?
After a few rat-race years in New York City, I love how laid-back it is around here, how friendly the people, how rich the arts scene and the history, and how amazing the food. What’s not to love?
Is it fair to ask your what is your favorite place to eat? And what are your other favorites in the Hudson Valley?
Yes! Since forever, my fave has been Osaka in Rhinebeck. It’s too tiny to bring in a tour group, but wow, is the fish fresh! And the family who owns it are sweet as can be. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a town that has Osaka.
As far as other favorite places in the area, I love just strolling around Beacon, New Paltz, Hudson, Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Saugerties and Woodstock.
Mills-Norrie State Park in Staatsburg is great, but the Hudson Valley is full of many, many places to explore and hike. I adore Poet’s Walk in Red Hook, and of course the Walkway Over the Hudson is a don’t-miss. Our many rail trails are great places to enjoy nature without traffic.
For farm-fresh produce, first seek out local farmstands and farmers markets. But you can also seek out Mother Earth’s Storehouse (in Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Saugerties), and Adams Fairacre Farms (in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls and Newburgh).
A couple of my favorite foodie spots to visit are Montgomery Place Orchards farmstand in Red Hook and Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, but the list is endless.
For more information on Hudson Valley Food Tours, see www.hudsonvalleyfoodtours.com.