The next big escape nearby: Pawling

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By Richard Lévy

As a travel writer, I’m always on the lookout for new places to get away from it all. Since the onset of COVID-19 last year and with my wings clipped, I have only had short stays. Montauk, Shelter Island and I just returned from an absolutely wonderful getaway to the lovely town of Pawling, just an hour’s drive away.

We rented an incredibly charming log cabin in a state forest for 10 days on a private lake. The cabin was nicely furnished and equipped with everything you could possibly need. There’s even a classic wood-burning stove for those chilly nights. There is a well-equipped kitchen that a gourmet chef would love and a super comfortable bed in the master bedroom, two bathrooms, a small second bedroom and a huge terrace facing the woods and the lake. By the lake there are two new kayaks and a flat bottom inflatable boat in the garage.

Pawling is charming in every way possible and totally off the vacation radar. An unlikely getaway for most people in Westchester for a weekend or even a week, but it’s so close and devoid of annoying tourists, crowds, and weekend traffic. The perfect place to turn off your engines.

This New England-like country town has an exceptional restaurant, McKinney & Doyle, with its inventive menu that offers incredibly delicious dishes. Start with the grilled Spanish octopus or New Zealand lamb chops, then try their huge honey crispy shrimp or fresh scuba scallops. Each mouth-watering appetizer artfully rests on a delicious bed of delicious mashed vegetables. There is an affordable wine list and a selection of decadent desserts from their bakery next door. Sunday brunch is the undisputed best in Dutchess County. Order their Maine lobster made with chilaquile corn tortillas, salsa verde lobster meat, avocado, poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise sauce. Their corned beef mince and eggs are the best you have ever had and served in an iron skillet. They unequivocally deserve a Michelin star.

Pawling has some lovely shops, including an old-fashioned bookstore you can get lost in. The Blue Olive offers a large selection of gourmet olive oils and specialty vinegars. You can do endless tasting until you find the ones you like.

There’s Vinny’s Deli with their outrageous homemade mozzarella and incredible selection of Italian meats and cheeses. Vinny magically transformed his delicious sandwiches into edible masterpieces. More delicious than in Naples, Florence or Rome. The Food Network featured Vinny’s margherita hero steak sandwich with mozzarella and finely grilled steak in its “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” program.

The Sunflour Bakery offers amazing sourdough bread and gluten-free cakes. Just outside of town there is Dykeman Farm for the freshest produce and eggs laid that morning.

Nearby, hike the Appalachian Trail to Canada. You’ve heard of the Hall & Oates musical duo. Well, Daryl Hall chose Pawling to open Daryl’s House Club restaurant with delicious food and free live music on weekends. Visit the nearby colorful towns of Rhinebeck or Millbrook and their vineyards.

If I’ve won you over with the off-the-radar town of Pawling, check out Airbnb or Home Away. Or better yet let me know if you are interested in renting the log cabin on a lake that I escaped from and I will put you in touch with Candace, she is a lovely and lively owner. She might consider letting you rent her precious log cabin that her father lovingly built 25 years ago.

After spending 10 absolutely lovely days at Pawling, I find it appalling that most people have never considered getting away from it all. (Sorry I had to use this row, my gf said my columns need to contain more fun.)

Hastings-on-Hudson resident Richard Levy is a former creative director of “Mad Man” advertising and now a travel writer. He is also an inventor of new innovative products and writes and illustrates a new children’s book. You can contact him at [email protected]

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