A. L. Stickle Variety Store 13 E. Market St., Rhinebeck; 914/876-3206. Ah, the smell of it—that magical combination of dust, Rubbermaid, fabric sizing, and candy that is particular to all great five-and-dimes. Stickle's is the real McCoy; open the door and you walk right back into childhood.
Arrowsmith Forge Rte. 44, Millbrook; 914/677-5687. All the steel four-poster bed frames, chandeliers, coffee tables, headboards, and patio sets in the showroom are made on the premises. The craftsmanship is lovely, and even the elaborate acanthus-leaf tables are reasonably priced at $600.
Hammertown Barn Rte. 199, Pine Plains; 518/398-7075. Maddy and Lola, the resident dogs, greet shoppers with a friendly sniff and then go about their business of patrolling this 150-year-old barn stocked with Simon Pearce bowls, hooked rugs, Crabtree & Evelyn bath gels, Irish pottery, and Shabby Chic bedding.
Gilmor Glassworks Rte. 44, Millerton; 518/789-6700. Visiting when the artists are at work is an education—you can watch them stoking the furnace, collecting the molten material on long rods, and blowing the glass into graceful shapes.
Rhinebeck Tru-Value Hardware & Bathrick's Gifts 47 E. Market St., Rhinebeck; 914/876-3049. Tru-Value has everything—Portmeirion china and wool kilims, Burpee seeds and penny nails—and if they don't have it, you don't really need it. People get lost in here for hours.
Rhinebeck Artist's Shop 56 E. Market St., Rhinebeck; 914/876-4922. Should the Hudson inspire you, stop in here for Winsor & Newton watercolors and oils, sticks of imported Japanese sumi ink and hollowed-out bamboo-reed pens, sketchbooks, brushes, canvas, and paper.
Culinary Institute of America Bookstore Rte. 9, Hyde Park; 914/452-9600. So you forgot to reserve three months in advance for dinner at one of the school's four restaurants?The student store, in the back of the main building, is worth the trip. It has any kitchen tool you can imagine and books on every aspect of cooking.
Café Pongo 69 Broadway, Tivoli; 914/757-4403; dinner for two $40. Tivoli resembles the Woodstock of 1965: a burgeoning arts community still small enough to have low rents and studio space available, big enough to support a great restaurant like Café Pongo. The bakers rise at 3 a.m. to make the bread for the Tivoli Bread Supply Co.; it's terrific, as is the green-curry shrimp at dinner.
Beekman 1766 Tavern 4 Mill St., Rhinebeck; 914/871-1766; dinner for two $70. Haute chef-restaurateur Larry Forgione owns this restaurant at the Beekman Arms hotel, and his focus is on simple American country cooking with the best ingredients from local purveyors. Free-range Pennsylvania Dutch turkey pot pie is actually a large bowl of delicious stew, with two cheddar biscuits standing in for crust; the medallions of venison arrive perfectly cooked, tender and rare, on a mound of so-rich-don't-ask mashed potatoes. Reservations are crucial.
Max's Memphis Barbecue Rte. 9, Red Hook; 914/758-6297; dinner for two $40. Come only if you're really hungry: the Jekyll Island curried crab cakes, smoked duck, cheese grits, and corn bread are too good to waste. Serving dinner only, this zippy rib shack—open kitchen, asymmetrical doorways, Southwestern-desert colors on every wall—will make you cry, "Arteries be damned!"
Calico Restaurant & Patisserie 9 Mill St., Rhinebeck; 914/876-2749; dinner for two $40. This tiny robin's-egg-blue and white bistro and patisserie—open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday—is always hopping. If you linger long enough over lunch on Saturday, you're sure to see one of the stunning wedding cakes being picked up.
Yet Another Roadside Attraction Rte. 199, Milan; 914/758-0535; brunch for two $17, no credit cards. The sign reads THE BEST PANCAKES IN DUTCHESS COUNTY, and it's no lie. This luncheonette serves a dozen kinds—three to a plate, piping hot, and big as a hubcap (well, almost). If the blueberry cornmeal ones are on the menu, don't even consider anything else.
Eveready Diner Rte. 9, Hyde Park; 914/229-8100; lunch for two $20. It's the fifties all over again, only with Pearl Jam on the jukebox and cappuccino in the coffee cups. Airstream diner snobs won't be impressed with this shiny new number, but it sure is fun, and the food is good. Who could resist "Bring My Baby Back Ribs" or the "Hound Dog" hot dog?
Luna 61 61 E. Market St., Red Hook; 914/758-0061; dinner for two $40, no credit cards. The framed poster in the bathroom, titled HOW TO WIN AN ARGUMENT WITH A MEAT EATER, lists cancer stats that will make you grateful you chose this all-organic vegetarian place. The food is far from bland. You'll find Asian-influenced dishes (futomaki roll with avocado and watercress), reinvented Mexican classics (burrito with sheep's-milk cheese), and juice blends with weird names—"Hale-Bopp" contains apple, broccoli, kale, and cucumber.
As a child, I loved the Dutchess County Fair. It's as authentic as they come: apple pies, prizewinning heifers, roller coasters, and cotton candy. Every August, I tried to con as many family members as possible into taking me. My paternal grandmother was always game; she and my grandfather would be my escorts several days in a row.
Grandma and I went on every ride, laughing as we were tossed about or spun around, defying gravity. (Only the violent Viking Ship gave us pause.) After our heads stopped spinning, we were ready for lunch. Our daily diet consisted of "walk-away" sundaes—a block of vanilla ice cream plopped into a specially designed cone, dipped in chocolate, and rolled in nuts. As for the games, well, we were never very good (probably that family hand-eye coordination problem).
The two of us strolled the exhibition halls with an enthusiasm shared by no one else in the family; Grandpa would often wait patiently outside. The agricultural displays—mammoth tomatoes, neon-bright petunias, gemlike jars of canned peaches, and lattice-topped rhubarb pies—inspired a pre-Martha Stewart awe. That unspoken faith in superlatives (largest! smallest! strongest!) was oddly reassuring. Finally, as night began to fall, we'd head for home.
The best part is, all these years later, it's exactly the same.
Dutchess County Fair Springbrook Ave., Rhinebeck; 914/876-4001; August 24-29.