Form Meets Function In The Hudson River Valley

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A weekend trip in the new Chevy Blazer

The shapely and sporty 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS handles like a dream on the winding mountain roads of the Hudson River Valley. (Talisman Photo)

Only a short drive away, the Hudson River Valley boasts beauty and fun all year long. On a recent sisters weekend away, I had the opportunity to spend time in Hyde Park, Stone Ridge, Rhinebeck and other towns in the area and can’t think of a better location for a leisurely getaway. I also had the opportunity to drive Chevy’s new Blazer and can’t think of a better car to explore the artsy, mountainous villages of the Hudson River Valley in.

Our trip began as most road trips do—by loading luggage into the car, or in this case, the stylish crossover SUV. The cargo area of the Blazer is equipped with a rail that slides forward and backward and locks in place. This ingenious feature is great for keeping a suitcase or two in place during a long drive and perfect for keeping grocery bags or sports equipment from rolling around during day-to-day activities.

The Culinary Institute of America’s American Bounty Restaurant serves up charred citrus salad with arugula and endive, turmeric Greek yogurt and an Aperol vinaigrette.

Welcome to the CIA

Hyde Park is known as the hometown of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His Springwood Estate, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, as well as the Vanderbilt Mansion, are preserved as National Historic Sites just two hours away in Dutchess County. You know what else is just two hours away? The Culinary Institute of America.

The CIA, as it is affectionately known as, is a four-year college and culinary school where the top restaurateurs of the country graduate from. The Hyde Park campus operates four public restaurants, including American Bounty, a contemporary farm-to-table restaurant with a focus on regional ingredients.

The lunch menu features dishes Roasted Sage Kobocha Gnocchi, Charred Citrus Salad and Grilled American Beef Wagyu Culotte, which are as beautiful to the eyes as they are delicious to the taste buds. The desserts—Warm Caramelized Apple, Chocolate Mousse Cake and Tres Leches Panna Cotta—are miniature works of art on a plate.

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Students at the CIA get hands-on experience at the restaurants and are constantly making connections between different areas of study. A student with a background in engineering named Joe sagely related the MAYA principle—Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable—to food design and car design. The father of industrial design Raymond Loewy developed this blueprint for delivering the future gradually and palatably to the masses.

“It’s this idea that the newest best thing that’s going to appeal to the most people is a balance between the furthest you can go without scaring people away,” Joe said. “I’m sure it’s a lot with car design too, the balance between aesthetics and use.”

The Chevy Blazer fits this principle perfectly. Designer Steve McCabe and his team endeavored to edge Chevy design into the future with sporty styling choices not typically seen on SUVs. The design turns heads—in a good way. 

Chef Bruce Mattel, senior associate dean of culinary arts at the CIA, also added to the concept of how far one can go with food design.

“If you’re too avant garde with food, some people are going to be intimidated,” he said, and this principle is reflected in the dishes he serves with innovative flavor combinations, a focus on texture interplay and artful plating that enhances the dining experience.

American Bounty changes its menu seasonally. There’s no excuse not to journey there quarterly to check out what new flavors they have in store.

Chill out with a good book or play board games with the other guests at Hasbrouck House in the warm and inviting Club Room. (Photo by Emma Tuccillo/Hasbrouck House)

Home Away From Home

Hasbrouck House has everything you could want in a weekend getaway. Established in 1757, the Dutch Colonial stone mansion is hidden among the trees of Stone Ridge, NY, and offers modern, luxury accommodations in a historic setting.

Guest rooms, lofts and suites are dispersed between the main building, the Stable House and the Carriage House, in addition to a private house called The Cottage. Though featuring the same soothing color palette, rich furnishings, large windows, Frette linens and goose down pillows, no two rooms are alike.

My favorite touches are the in-room Nespresso machines, Aesop toiletries and heated marble floors in the bathroom.

During your stay, I recommend booking an appointment with one of Hasbrouck House’s massage therapists or yoga instructors in the Wellness Room. A yoga session with Pepper will give you the opportunity to check in with yourself and feel more relaxed and renewed than you may have thought possible.

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The 50-acre property contains walking trails down to a private lake. It’s a lovely walk even with snow on the ground to get some fresh air and quietude.

For dining, you need look no further than Butterfield, the in-house restaurant and bar. Ingredients are locally sourced and the dishes epitomize farm-to-table cuisine. Simplicity is key and no more evident than in the shishito peppers appetizer. The tender peppers when blistered and sprinkled with coarse mustard salt are perfection.

After dinner, you can spend some time with a drink by the fireplace in the Club Room, or play a round of pool or darts in the Game Room downstairs. The arcade game machine, loaded with classics like Pac-Man and Asteroids, is a fun bonus. These are the best spaces to interact with other guests of the house.

Every guest is treated like a VIP at Hasbrouck House, a true gem of the Hudson River Valley.

McCabe relates pottery design to car design. (Talisman Photo)

Make your mark

Nearby Rhinebeck has a flourishing arts and culture scene. Dive right in at Hudson Valley Pottery and Ceramics School.

Most of us have worked with clay in elementary school, whether it was making pinch pots or small sculptures. It’s easy to forget how much fun it is unless you’ve gone back to it as an adult and realize that ceramics is as much an art as a craft.

At a class at the pottery studio, we were given a tutorial on hand-building a mug, then unleashed on the clay and tools to bring our individual visions to life. Hand-building is good for beginners, while using the wheel requires more practice and skill. Everyone in the class enjoyed the time spent the studio and look forward to seeing our finished projects post-firing and glazing.

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Though it may seem unexpected, clay is an integral part of the car-design process. Following the initial sketches, clay sculptors make small models of the car. Changes in the surfacing are made and rendered back into a digital form. Later, a scale model is made with clay where designers can see if those lines and curves that looked great on the small model still look great life-sized.

McCabe credits the clay sculptors he works with with making him look good. Curves that read to the consumer’s eye as simple and sleek are actually the result of a complex collaborative process between artists.

McCabe also notes that clay is easy to work with, relatively inexpensive and recyclable, which makes it the perfect material for auto design as well as good choice for a hobby.

Make an appointment at Hudson Valley Pottery for a private lesson, or open studio time if you’ve got some experience under your belt. Judi Esmond and her wonderful staff will help you tap into your creative side.

Lead Creative Designer Steve McCabe highlights unique design features of the Blazer. (Talisman Photo)

Form and Function

‘Form follows function,’ the foundational principle associated with architecture and industrial design that states the shape of a building should primarily related to its intended purpose, can also be applied beyond those fields. In food, the form is the visual and the function is the taste. No chef wants to sacrifice good flavor solely to improve the look of the meal. In pottery, a beautiful-looking mug with an uncomfortable-to-hold handle is not functional for its intended purpose. Examples can be found all around.

The Chevy Blazer sports this principle perfectly in its interior with round vents. According to McCabe, there was a big debate during the design process whether to do a rectangular or a trapezoidal shape, or a round shape reminiscent of the Camaro, which the Blazer was modeled after.

In order to justify using an older vent style, the design team decided to make it functional. The round rim acts as the temperature control, making for an intuitive and slightly futuristic design feature. It was the first thing I noticed when I sat in the driver’s seat—my hand went straight for the vent instinctively.

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“From a styling standpoint, we’ve reached ahead a little,” McCabe said.

The Blazer is offered in the signature model, the sporty RS and, for the more formal buyer, the Premiere.

“The RS captures that sports car personality. We injected that Camaro DNA into it,” McCabe said.

As a young father, he feels he’s created an exciting loophole in the market—a bold, dynamic, responsive sports car with the spaciousness and features of a family-oriented SUV that he’s not ashamed to put a car seat and stroller in.

“I can get the best of both worlds with this vehicle,” he said, another place where form meets function.

Drive around and take in the scenery of the Hudson River Valley. (Talisman Photo)

Exploring The Hudson River Valley

Each hamlet of the Hudson River Valley has a personality all its own. Woodstock’s bohemian spirit is fun to explore. The friendly staff at Hasbrouck House can show you the route that takes you over the Ashokan Reservoir, where you can park the car and take pictures of the scenery.

Fruition Chocolate, which is available at Hasbrouck House, has its storefront on Tinker Street in Woodstock, where you can sample the small batch, handcrafted, bean-to-bar chocolates and bring a few bars home as souvenirs.

Also stop into the Garden Café, a vegan restaurant and juice bar on Old Forge Road, and try the Indian chickpea blinis with cashew date chutney—little savory pancakes packed with flavor that redefine what a pancake can be.

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To get away from it all or get some of that adventure you’ve been craving, spend a day hiking, biking or climbing at Mohonk Preserve. The mission of the sprawling nature preserve is to protect the Shawangunk Mountains region and inspire people to care for, explore and enjoy their natural world.

The Chevy Blazer handles amazingly well on windy, snowy mountain roads and has a tighter than expected turning radius, which stands up to the test on New Paltz’s angular, often one-way, streets.

New Paltz is another fun destination while you’re in the area. Lagusta’s Luscious offers artisanal chocolates in flavors like tahini cream and thyme preserved lemon sea salt caramel, while its sister cafe, Commissary, makes a mean cheese plate.

To cap off the weekend, visit the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art on the SUNY New Paltz campus. In addition to its permanent collection, works by Angela Dufresne and an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mohonk Mountain House are on display through mid-July.

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