On the last day of our break from NYC, reported in the prior post, Escape from Gotham, we drove north again to the Storm King Art Center which is near Cornwall, NY. It is described on its website as,
Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor museum located in New York’s Hudson Valley, where visitors experience large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions under open sky. Since 1960, Storm King has been dedicated to stewarding the hills, meadows, and forests of its site and surrounding landscape. Building on the visionary thinking of its founders, Storm King supports artists and some of their most ambitious works. Changing exhibitions, programming, and seasons offer discoveries with every visit.
I can add nothing meaningful to that, so I won’t try. I don’t understand modern art and certainly did not grasp the concepts behind many of the pieces at Storm King. Trust this, though. Five hundred acres of rolling hills is a lot of acres and hills, so if you visit, be prepared to do a lot of walking and climbing. The terrain is beautiful if you are attracted to verdant hills and forest. The selection of photos below will give you an indication of what to expect but there is much more to Storm King than this.
Desperate to get my wife a break from work and to free ourselves of the mental taint of post-COVID recovery, NYC lockdown and semi-lockdown and so on, we located Troutbeck in Amenia, NY (Dutchess County) and decided to go for it.
The apparent advantages were that it was in New York State, less than two hours’ drive away, car rental was available in our neighborhood and it looked pastoral and quiet. Just what we needed. The plan was to drive up on Sunday and stay for three nights, return but keep the car for some closer-in day-trips for a couple of days. More on that in a later post.
Troutbeck had other elements that attracted us in the circumstance of the pandemic. In what could be a model for other businesses, the resort sent us a detailed set of instructions and rules governing arrival and our stay. For example only,
Signage will direct you to pull up to the Manor House front door where you will be met by our guest services agent. Please do not leave your car.
We will ask that you and your companion(s) please submit to a mandatory temperature check.
You will receive your sanitized guestroom key card and visual direction to your guestroom.
Please print the copy of your itinerary sent to you prior to your arrival. Our staff will not provide you with a printed version unless requested by you and, only once you have checked in.
We will confirm your itinerary and answer any initial questions you may have for us.
Luggage service is suspended temporarily. You may be invited to leave your luggage in a convenient location while you park your car, as directed.
Regarding dining, the “rules” were,
Led by Chef Gabe McMackin our exceptional culinary team will carefully plan all of your meals. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all feature the most exciting things we can find in the moment. Our field-to-fork approach is strongly influenced by both the abundance and the scarcity inherent in sourcing only what is seasonal and what is best. Such is the nature and the pleasure in living close to the land.
We are now offering indoor dining at 50% of our permitted full capacity. All tables are spaced at a minimum distance of 6ft between the next. Up to 10 guests of the same traveling party may be seated together. All public areas at Troutbeck are fitted with HEPA/UV air filtration. All tables are sanitized between seatings. None of our services are open to the public at this time.
Should you choose to dine indoors a face mask is required to and from your table. Our service staff will wear gloves and a facemask at all times. At no time will you be presented with a check or a printed menu. Please help us to plan your meals below. Be sure to state your dietary restrictions – especially allergies – but also particular likes and dislikes as our team will keep these in mind. We will send our menus to you for the weekend prior to your arrival.
We appreciated the clarity and detail; clearly, Troutbeck had thought through its re-opening in detail and with respect for the obvious health implications. Here are a few photos of the residential buildings, our room (standard double) and some of the common areas.
This is the perhaps the best place to also reveal some of the harsh realities of the early reopening of resorts/restaurants during the pandemic. We understood that changes might occur. Indeed, we did not receive the menu in advance and were surprised to learn that the dinner menu (priced at $75 per person) was the same for each night of our stay and included only four appetizers and four entrees. The first night I ordered “Roasted Pork Belly with White Nectarines” and “Smoked Beef Short Rib with Fingerling Potatoes, Spring Onions & Deciccio Broccoli.” Disclosure: I am not a foodie. That said, my wife liked the Nettle Cavatelli
and the deserts were delicious.
The Pork Belly was almost all fat:
and the Short Rib, with which I am very acquainted, appeared to be semi-tough flank steak. It certainly was not Short Rib:
I soldiered on. The next night, confronted with the identical menu, we both opted for the Steelhead Trout but asked that it be grilled rather than poached as stated on the menu. For those not familiar with this fish, it is more like salmon than trout. My wife’s fish came undercooked. The second try was better, but her appetite was ruined. I found multiple bones in mine and just placed them on the side of the plate without comment, but the waiter took notice on his own.
To Troutbeck’s great credit under the stressful conditions of reopening jitters and bad economics, and without our asking or complaining, the waiter removed the entire meal from our bill. We had a very nice and respectful discussion of the need for disclosure and the issues surrounding responsible reopening. When I explained that I planned to do a blog post, he asked that I send them a copy, which I will do. I hope they find it fair and balanced. I have tried.
The only other observation I will make is about breakfast. The advance notice explained that the culinary team would be planning the meals. In practice, this meant that breakfast was crafted in the kitchen and delivered all at once on a large tray.
No coffee while you wait. [Parenthetically, we are both coffee addicts but there were no coffee machines in the rooms or in the central areas of the lodge buildings (removed due to the pandemic). We tried once to order room service coffee, as proffered, but it took 75 minutes and 3 or 4 calls to get this done.] The food was plentiful and quite excellent. My only gripe was that the last day there was no meat; a large and ugly mushroom on a bed of spinach instead. As I revealed above, I am no foodie and this did not sit well. However, the bacon the first two days was crisp and plentiful, just the way I like it. There was fresh squeezed juice and homemade pastries every day.
The other good side of the dining experience was that we were able to eat outside each morning and evening, while appropriately separated from the few other guests.
But, enough about food. Let’s get to the really great parts of the Troutbeck experience. Yes, there is a nice swimming pool if you’re so inclined, but we were impressed by the “sitting areas” established around the property. These consist of reservation-only areas that include two Adirondack chairs, two hammocks and a fire pit, most of which overlook the stream that runs through the property.
Each area is well-separated from the others, so we never felt crowded.
We found that sitting by the burbling brook was delightfully stress-reducing. Lying in the hammock did nothing for my planned reading as it produced a powerful soporific effect in minutes.
Unfortunately, the proffered lunch that was delivered to our spot on the first day consisted of very greasy fried chicken that we thought was an odd choice in the circumstances.
We spent the last evening after dinner (elsewhere) at another of the sites; a waiter brings a pre-arranged beverage and lights the fire.
This was a very relaxing way to close out our stay.
Troutbeck is quite close to Amenia, NY, a very small town with little to see or do. The surrounding country is extremely lush, very hilly and mostly beautiful. Our day-drive took us to Rhinebeck for lunch at Pete’s Famous
and eventually to Hyde Park (FDR home closed) and then to the Vanderbilt mansion (also closed, but the grounds could be walked):
We recognize that our mixed experience at Troutbeck was not “normal,” although the staff was very pleasant in all interactions The grounds of the property are lovely and interesting.
We think in better times we’d have an even better experience. This is not to say that you should not go there now. Just do it with your eyes open and be generous in your reaction to what may be a few struggles for perfection. Preparation is nine-tenths of a good time. Bring some good instant coffee to make in the common room microwave and some snacks. You can get a small refrigerator for the room on request. We do expect we will return another time, by which time the pandemic, hopefully, will be behind us.