About 25 miles east of Saratoga Springs , Cambridge is the official birthplace of pie à la mode. The historic moment occurred one evening in the mid-1890s when a Prof. Charles Watson Townsend, dining at the Hotel Cambridge, ordered ice cream with apple pie; a neighbor eating at the next table dubbed the concoction “pie à la mode.”
The professor ordered it by its new name during a subsequent visit to Delmonico’s in New York City . The waiter had never heard of it and called for the manager, who declared in consternation, “Delmonico’s never intends that any other restaurant shall get ahead of it.… Forthwith, pie à la mode will be featured on the menu every day.”
A New York Sun newspaperman, overhearing the conversation, reported it the next day, and before long, pie à la mode was a standard on menus across the country.
The renovated Cambridge Hotel still stands in the middle of town. Elsewhere along the nicely restored, turn-of-the-century Main Street lie several art galleries, natural-foods stores, and Hubbard Hall (25 E. Main St., 518/677-2495).
Originally a rural opera house, the 1878 hall now houses an arts and clothing shop on the ground floor, and a restored theater up above. A wide range of music, dance, and theater events take place throughout the year, including the popular Music from Salem classical series held on Fridays in summer.
On a thickly wooded hilltop between Cambridge and Vermont  stands the Eastern Orthodox New Skete Monastery. Home to a handful of brothers, the monastery centers around a rough-hewn wooden chapel filled with icons painted by the monks. Nearby presides a more elaborate church.
The New Skete community’s secular claim to fame, however, is—dogs. The monks began breeding and training German shepherds shortly after moving here in the 1960s, when it became apparent that they could not support themselves by farming. The business took off, especially after 1978, when one of the brothers wrote a best-selling, award-winning book, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend (Little, Brown).
Though the kennels are off-limits to the public, you can stop into the chapel and a gift shop (New Skete Rd., off Chestnut Hill Rd./Rte. 67 east of Cambridge, 518/677-3928, www.newskete.com , 9 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m. Tues.–Wed., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 2–4 p.m. Sun.), stocked with the monks’ homemade cheesecake, smoked meats, and various dog-related items. The main church is open during Sunday-morning services only. The nuns of New Skete run a similar gift and bake shop five miles away (343 Ash Grove Rd., off Chestnut Hill Rd., 518/677-3810).