Where in the world is Piermont? For some reason hardly anyone knows about this wonderful little town way down at river level on the other side of the Hudson. Yes, you do have to drive for about an hour to get there, because it’s almost at the NJ border, but honestly, it’s worth the pain.
Piermont is changing, unfortunately, so go soon. It used to be a small artist’s enclave, a secret hiding place for artists, writers, and advertising executives who wanted to escape New York City, but also wanted a VERY easy commute. Unfortunately the secret got out a while back, but there is still treasure to find.
This little town juts out into the Hudson River, just above the New Jersey line. Sadly, several condominium or apartment complexes have been built on the thin peninsula where I guess the Hudson River Day Liner once stopped. It’s great for the people who live in those new places, but awful for those who love the River and the beauty thereof.
To get to the village itself, one must wind down one of several steep switchbacks, to get to sea level. The trip is an exciting one, not just for the switchbacks, but also for the amazing array of little old houses, which have been so lovingly restored, by the discoverers.
Once in the village, one can wander around little shops and hope to find a table at one of two Xavier’s restaurants there. The owner is Peter Xavier Kelly, who has superb restaurants on both sides of the Hudson, and lucky are we that he does.
Piermont was described in the New York Times Dining section a few years ago as “proof that you don’t have to go very far from the city to be in an entirely different world. ”The “different world” appellation also works if you are going from Dutchess County to this former mill town on the river.
Xavier’s and its next-door more casual offspring, called the Freelance Café and Wine Bar, make the journey from any direction well worthwhile. The Freelance Cafe is a tiny place, with perhaps 8 tables and dominated by a large bar. The décor is sleek and modern, but somehow very welcoming. The walls are decorated with very interesting art, and fresh flowers graced each table and the bar. The best part, of course, is the marvelous food, which always does it for me, as you know. Five of us met in this central place and were all envious of each other’s main course. But when it came to dessert, the tabletop became downright dangerous. Mine was so good, I took a photo of it. A chocolate mousse enrobed with chocolate ganache and surrounded with a pinwheel of fresh strawberry slices and fresh whipped cream, all on a bed of crème anglaise decorated with chocolate designs. Sorry to dwell on the dessert, but it is an indication of the sophistication of the restaurant and the attention to detail that was so apparent in every phase of our lunch. No fancy clothes are necessary to dine here, (which is a trend I usually favor.) (505 Piermont Ave., phone 914-365-3250)
Piermont is more than restaurants (there are others).There are some very nice shops, including a great women’s clothes shop next door to these Kelly restaurants. Down the street a few doors is Ned Kelly and Company, a fairly new home and garden shop, where I bought a charming and useful copper watering can in the shape of a beehive.
Piermont is just south of Nyack, which warrants a day trip in its own right, if only to see its trove of antiques shops. Also in Nyack is the Hopper House Art Center, a Community Art Center, located in the boyhood home of Edward Hopper, a beloved American painter. The drive along the river road from Piermont and Nyack affords a history of American house styles. It is clear that these houses, mostly colonial and Victorian in origin, and no doubt extremely expensive real estate, have been lovingly restored and most are kept in good order, with gardens to match. Above these houses, up the cliff, more houses hang over the river. Our early spring drive, in the midst of blossoming fruit trees, was like a Technicolor movie.
If you take the kids, you might stop at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site. This is the site of a decisive but little known battle of the Revolutionary War, where American forces, led by “Mad” Anthony Wayne conducted one of the most brilliant exploits of the Revolution. Adults could also learn some history here. Stony Point is another peninsula out into the Hudson, where the Stony Point Lighthouse was relit in 1995. Although I haven’t seen it, I’m sure it adds to the attractions in the area.
The Hudson Valley is a treasure beyond price. I have been enjoying several outings along the river lately, which I hope to share with you, but I urge you all to find your own secret places along the river.