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Henry Hudson gave the river his name while giving the land that rises up on both sides of it to the Dutch king. No doubt Hudson and his men were impressed with what they saw of the majestic landscape; artists and writers, important personages of history, and mere citizens alike have been awestruck ever since. During the Revolutionary period, Benjamin Franklin — a man not easily impressed — recorded his sense of wonder as he traveled the mighty river in winter. A half century later, the painters of the Hudson River School celebrated the Hudson’s forbidding palisades, undulating hills, and early morning mists. At about the same time, using the medium of the short story, Washington Irving invested the surrounding towns and villages with much the same sense of magic. In our own time, Franklin D. Roosevelt found solace from politics, polio, Depression, and war further upriver at his family’s traditional seat, Hyde Park. This is the Hudson River Valley, home to American history, to some of the most inspiring sights on the East Coast, and to more than a few of New York State’s best country and suburban restaurants, many of them within a 30-minute drive of New York City. For once you get much past Yonkers, the grim urban scenes at the edges of New York give way first to bedroom commuter towns and then to increasingly rural villages and countryside. With so many well-heeled residents, southern New York State abounds with fine restaurants. Chappaqua is no exception, and new residents Hilary and Bill Clinton will no doubt soon be sampling the appealing fare at Crabtree’s Kittle House. But for the biggest concentration of interesting restaurants you’ll have to go to the CIA. Yes, the CIA — that’s the Culinary Institute of America, and it’s in Hyde Park. If you have to have an excuse to go, there’s always the Roosevelt estate to visit. The CIA food, though, is reason enough. WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN The Zagat ratings are based on a 0- to-30- point scale and are for Food, Decor, and Service, in that order. The fourth column, Cost, reflects the estimated price of a dinner with one drink and tip. Lunch usually costs 25 percent less. 0-9 Poor to Fair 10-15 Fair to Good 16-19 Good to Very Good 20-25 Very Good to Excellent 26-30 Extraordinary to Perfection BUFFET DE LA GARE 27 21 23 $50 155 Southside Ave. (at Spring St.), Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., 914-478-1671 “So French, so great,” gush admirers of this charming family-run favorite in Hastings-on-Hudson, a tony bedroom commuter village just north of Yonkers. The setting is intimate and charming, while the food is truly exceptional. XAVIAR’S 29 26 28 $62 Highlands Country Club, Route 9D (at Route 403), Garrison, N.Y., 914-424-4228 Superlatives abound for this highly rated New American: for the prix fixe dinner (Friday and Saturday only), the best buffet brunch in Westchester County, the parade of luscious wines paired with creative dishes, and the “perfect country club chic” setting. LA CREMAILLERE 27 27 26 $58 46 Bedford-Banksville Rd. (at Merritt Parkway, exit 31), Banksville, N.Y., 914-234-9647 La Cremaillere is a little jewel of a restaurant located in northern Westchester County that feels like a “hideaway in rural France.” The bucolic setting is matched by beautifully presented food, and the wine list is one of the best in the area. CRABTREE’S KITTLE HOUSE 25 25 24 $45 Crabtree’s Kittle House Country Inn, 11 Kittle Rd. (at Route 117), Chappaqua, N.Y., 914-666-8044 This northern Westchester County colonial inn (circa 1790) is both romantic and elegant, providing a stately, soothing setting for the excellent new American food on offer here. Service is outstanding, and the wine list extensive. The weekend jazz offering is a special treat. THE ESCOFFIER 27 26 25 $47 Culinary Institute of America, 433 Albany Post Rd./Route 9 (opposite West Dorsey Lane), Hyde Park, N.Y., 914-471-6608 Plan to call well in advance if you want to enjoy the pampered dining experience offered at this flagship CIA restaurant. The superb French cuisine here is complemented by fine student service in beautiful surroundings. AMERICAN BOUNTY RESTAURANT 26 25 25 $41 Culinary Institute of America, 433 Albany Post Rd./Route 9 (opposite West Dorsey Lane), Hyde Park, N.Y., 914-471-6608 A showcase for the CIA and its chefs-in-training, this student-run New American garners praise for its innovative food. Careful service — from “sweet and eager to please pupils” (all gunning for an A) — not to mention the lovely country inn-like setting, makes a visit here highly rewarding. LA PANATIERE 28 27 26 $59 530 Milton Rd. (at Oakland Beach Ave.), Rye, N.Y., 914-967-8140 This sublime contemporary French is Zagat’s top-rated restaurant in Westchester County. La Panatiere gets raves for its excellent food, unusual menu, beautiful French country house setting, and first-rate staff. Expensive, yes; but also outstanding in every way possible. MAXIME’S 27 25 26 $56 11 Old Tomahawk St. (between Routes 118N and 202), Granite Springs, N.Y., 914-248-7200 Fans of chef-owner Maxime Ribera’s classic French cuisine describe it as delightful and delicious, and the romantic country setting in northern Westchester County couldn’t be nicer.

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