Updated: Apr 9, 2021
By guest blogger "JoJo Wanders Official"
Oh, how I long for the days of crowded city cafes, unconventional chats over stemless glasses of dry pale pinky rosé or giant goblets of tangerine hued slightly bitter aperitifs, dreamy artsy-inspired walks through Montmartre, crazy midnight Eiffel Tower-view Vespa rides up and down the Champs-Élysées and let me not forget…my once true o-b-s-e-s-s-i-o-n …cutesy couture fashion gazing through the back alleys of my beloved…City of Lights. If I just close my big brown eyes super tight and focus really hard…I can almost feel it…a gurl can dream, can’t she? It’s no secret that global exploration has been…nonexistent for most. Or has it? What if I told you, right here in the Hudson Valley you can have your over-the-ocean travel cake and eat it too? Really? Oui…si…yes…absolutely monsieurs and madames! The region is brimming with internationally toned delights, and in my case, as a bona fide Francophile, I think this valley has a whole lotta’ ooh-la-la goin’ on!
Ooh-la-la? What is that exactly? Here? …here in the Valley? It’s not as simple as adding the preverbal “la” or “le” in front of a restaurant or hotel name. It’s more about what I characterize as… carefully curated…attention to details…a bit imperfect…handmade…that something special… a dash of “je ne sais quoi” …unique touches that make me…you…think or say out loud…yup…you got it…” ooh-la-la”!
I think one of the most obvious examples of Hudson Valley’s faraway flair (full-on Frenchieness at times) is its food scene.
Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s French-centric nor am I a notable foodie critique franchise offering yet another app type review (seriously not!) …but from my experience what exists up and down the river valley is a culinary culture bursting with a true worldwide taste that can virtually “transport” you…Italian, Greek, Thai, and yes…you guessed it…French cuisine too! My take is that the region has manifested itself into a place reminiscent of what I’ve seen and experienced in some of my…our… favorite overseas places…voila! It’s sort of my France à la mode!
Café-styled outdoor dining is everywhere…from Rhinebeck to New Platz to Cold Springs…and many other river edged towns. Boutique chalet-styled stays, or chateau-grand spas are dotted here and there…some even amongst vineyard vines…and every so once in a while, I actually catch the “vroom,” “beep-beep” of a European scooter blazing by as if it were touring along the Côte d’Azur. Specialized boutiques stocked with handmade, crafted-in, fill the shelves of select boutiques and one-of-kind shops too...”ahhhh.” It’s true there’s without a doubt some…ooh-la-la goin’ on here!
Read on and learn how this Frenchie-at-heart (well actually, I’m a descendant of one of the Louis’) fed her deep desire for all things French while wandering through the Hudson Valley:
Brassiere Le Bouchon (Cold Spring, New York) …is a quintessential French brasserie. Bold rouge and bright white checked table cloths immediately greeted me while the menu served up some of the best-known French classics.
Mon Favorite: Escargot Parisienne…s-n-a-i-l-s (Yeek, I know!) in a buttery, parsleyed, garlicy edible potion…I say potion because just the thought of eating this delight magically puts me into a daydream.
A Touch of Ooh-la-la: I loved the graphics used everywhere. They were definitely reminiscent of an artistic era gone by…La Vie en Rosé played in my head as I sipped slowly on my glass of Bordeaux-styled wine…just like I once did on the Rues far away.
Paulette (Cold Spring, New York) …part boutique, part café! Paulette gets its French roots from its founder, Jacqueline (just her name alone…) From the moment I stepped into the chic blanc space, I knew it was amour at first sight. If I didn’t know better the carefully selected fashion and trinkets reminded me of a well-known Paris based shop once known as the “it-girl” of Paris’s Rue Saint- Honoré.
Mon Favorite: Everything! …but if I had to choose…the edgy jet-black leather goods are what caught my eye first. For sure, reflective of the effortless frenchness I’ve come to love.
A Touch of Ooh-la-la: Café au lait… “oui!” I, j’adored how “Paulette” invited me to stay a bit…to hang with my gal pal while we enjoyed our hot heartwarming beverages…now why didn’t think of this perfect coupling?!
Supplies for Creative Living (Cold Spring, New York) …a one-of-a-kind venue of artistic expression! From the moment I stepped into the tiny retail studio, I felt as if I was surrounded by the delicate tools of a European master…watercolors, inks, and pencils of every imaginable kind.
Mon Favorite: Shop owner and artist, Grace Lo, thought of everything! Examples of colorful handmade swatches, numerous doodle test pads, and even an active worktable…every engaging detail put me into a creative state-of-mind.
A Touch of Ooh la la: I loved the petit hand-painted landscapes (Grace’s very own) that were gently sprinkled yet… slightly hidden throughout the shop. It reminded me of the time when I uncovered some adorable vintage watercolors amongst hundreds of trinkets at one of those famous French markets…it was pure bliss!
Mirbeau (Rhinebeck, New York) …a foresty escape. Built as a day retreat and the second of New York’s own, Mirbaeu is a scene out of a French impressionistic painting but with a slightly modern twist. I’m not a spa girl but based on the glowing faces I saw exiting…I am pretty sure it’s worth a whirl.
Mon Favorite: Brunch was da’vine! Frilly yet delicious cocktails and a bowl of piping hot…gooey, cheesy French Onion Soup.
A Touch of Ooh-la-la: The view from the exterior porch lined in black and white stripes was magnifique like a clip in a period movie. Just as we got cozy, some local wildlife emerged to greet us…as if it were queued!
Le Petit Bistro (Rhinebeck, New York) …”Bon appetit,” say we. On a second visit to Rhinebeck, I scored a sunny outside table…this is definitely a favorite in these parts. Whether you are looking for that French touch or want to confirm its star status, Le Petit Bistro is one to try…a moi-try!
Mon Favorite: I couldn’t help myself…I had to have the French Onion soup. There’s something about the cheese, bread, broth combo I love…and as I suspected…it didn’t disappoint.
A Touch of Ooh-la-la: Aside from the carefully prepared dishes, the aesthetic alone was chez, chez la vie (my Fran-glish…ha,ha)! The menu cover looked just like an antique print I found years back at a famous borcante (French for antique market) on the outskirts of Paris.
Take it from me…jojo…while we patiently wait for our borders to open completely, with a little touch of your imagination, a bit of creativity, and some site searching (like here on HVH) you too can find your slice of international heaven…here…locally…ooh-la-la!
Psssst…Just between us Francophiles…I hear RUNA (limited service at the moment) in New Platz is a must!