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With the Culinary Institute of America on the east bank of the Hudson, it's not surprising that there's some great eating in this section of the valley. Chief among the options are the student-staffed restaurants on the campus of the CIA, which are professionally run in every respect and require some foresight to nab reservations.

The Other, Less-Secretive CIA -- Throughout the Hudson Valley, inns and restaurants large and small count chefs and other personnel trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, also known by its unfortunate acronym CIA, among their staffs. A diploma from the food-industry CIA is a real badge of distinction, and it is a terrific boon to the region to have so many culinary pros in the kitchens. If a local tells you about a new restaurant opened by a chef, in the local parlance, "from the Culinary," check it out; chances are you'll find a winner.

Red Hook Local Treats Along the Side of the Road

The Mid-Hudson Valley may be all about organic farm-to-table cuisine and the CIA, but if you'd rather sit at a picnic table and wolf down some inexpensive comfort food, don't miss two local favorites, sure to be a hit with kids. Bubby's Burritos is a tiny roadside trailer dispensing fresh vegetarian burritos and quesadillas (there are just four items on the menu) in a little park area next to Montgomery Place Orchards on Rte. 9 (at Rte. 199) two miles outside Red Hook on the way to Tivoli. And for dessert, you've got to make a stop at Holy Cow Ice Cream, 7270 S. Broadway (tel. 845/758-5959; open daily 11am-10pm), an old-school ice-cream shop and local institution with picnic tables outside. I'm a sucker for the milkshakes and Brownie Sundae made with coffee ice cream, salted peanuts, and hot fudge -- just $3 for much more ice cream than anyone should eat in one sitting.

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