Equus at Castle on the HudsonThe Hudson Valley cooks up great places to take your favorite person Hudson Valley, N.Y. - Hudson Valley chefs are infinitely innovative when it comes to the farm fresh ingredients they find locally. Graduates of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park have fanned out all over the valley to create wonderful restaurants with dazzling dishes. Don't wait for a special occasion to dine in New York's hottest foodie region. White tablecloths are not always required for special occasions, particularly where BBQ is concerned. For a unique, flavorful experience try Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy. Located on the beautiful Hudson River, Dinosaur is acclaimed as one of the best Bar-B-Que restaurants in the country. The atmosphere is a fun, roadhouse blues environment, perfect for sampling the award winning sauces that will keep you coming back for more. Equally casual and delightful is Babycakes in Poughkeepsie, a café with kick. Known for their elegant baked goods, this neighborhood favorite has grown using locally sourced products for innovative dishes from breakfast through dinner. Live music on the weekends and changing art exhibits on the walls give this laid back place sophistication worthy of any occasion.   Speaking of neighborhoods, locals have really taken to Albany's New World Bistro Bar in the newly revitalized Delaware Avenue area. Best described as a gourmet pub, seasonal menus are fresh and inventive, even edgy! The brick walls and cozy eating areas are perfect for a special date or just a fun night out on the town. Another Main Street favorite is Ca'Mea in Hudson. Located amid the city's famous antiques shops, this is a delectable stop after a day spent scouting the vintage wares on Warren Street. The restaurant grows its own organic vegetables and you'll find locally distilled vodka and wine at the mahogany and granite bar. Savor the Northern Italian cuisine in the elegant dining rooms, or in warmer weather in the multi-leveled garden. Dine at the restaurant of a star chef at Backyard Bistro in Montgomery. Susan Crocker has appeared on television in CHOPPED as well as recently catering on the set of EXTREME HOME MAKEOVER. Her highly innovative dishes made with local ingredients are as artistic as they are delicious. The intimate dining room is beautifully set with fine china and linens reflecting the elegance of the food. Another restaurant with a star, five to be exact, is Equus in Tarrytown. Gourmet dishes can be enjoyed in the three dining rooms, each with its own distinct decor and atmosphere. Located within a hundred-year-old castle, the surroundings are as impressive as the food, and the views of the gardens, river, and Manhattan skyline are exquisite. The food of Italy speaks to a wide audience which is why you can find excellent Italian restaurants throughout the valley. Three outstanding ones come to mind. Lanterna Tuscan Bistro in Nyack surrounds you with a warm, romantic atmosphere. Located in the heart of the village, Lanterna serves succulent appetizers and sumptuous entrees along with their decadent desserts. Think of Tuscan food and you picture a saucy cuisine like that found at Cathryn's Tuscan Grill in Cold Spring. Enter through the cobblestone courtyard to large, colorful, artsy rooms with couches and armchairs perfect for dining and lounging. Rooms the colors of eggplant, avocado, and shrimp make your mouth water for the authentic Italian dishes before you even order. Further up the river, family-run Dionysos Italian Restaurant in Athens overlooks the scenic Hudson River. Cooler months will find you seated near the large fireplace to enjoy the seasonal menu, while the outdoor dining patio has beautiful waterfront views in the warmer weather. Gourmets and foodies have raised their forks for years, knowing that the Hudson Valley is a culinary destination not to be missed. Taking advantage of the wide variety of ingredients available locally, even the simplest restaurants produce gourmet fare worth a special trip. Hudson Valley Tourism, Inc. is the 10-county region designated by I LOVE NEW YORK to promote tourism for the area. Counties include Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester.  The Valley welcomes over 20 million visitors a year who spend $3 billion annually. Regional information can be obtained from any of the county tourism offices, the Hudson Valley Tourism website, www.travelhudsonvalley.com, or by calling 845-615-3860.    RESOURCES Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Troy. 518-308-0400, http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/ Babycakes, Poughkeepsie. 845-485-8411, http://www.babycakescafe.com/           New World Bistro Bar, Albany. 518-694-0520, http://www.newworldbistrobar.com/                        Ca'Mea Restaurant & Inn, Hudson. 518-822-0005, http://www.camearestaurant.com/ Backyard Bistro, Montgomery. 845-457-9901, http://www.holbertscatering.com/      Equus, Tarrytown. 914-524-6366, http://www.castleonthehudson.com/                   Lanterna Tuscan Bistro, Nyack. 845-353-8361, http://www.lanternausa.com/ Cathryn's Tuscan Grill, Cold Spring. 845-265-5582, http://www.tuscangrill.com/   Dionysos Italian Restaurant, Athens. 518-945-3225, http://www.dionysositalianrestaurant.com/

# # #

Photo: Equus at Castle on the Hudson  Contact: Susan Hawvermale shawvermale@orangecountygov.com   845-615-3863