The Troutbeck Experience

November 8, 1999 9:45 pm
Troutbeck-Country-Inn-and-Conference-Center-in-Amenia-New-York-12501

Text and images by: Katharine Fletcher

Deep in New York State’s Hudson Valley, there’s a home away from home, beckoning.

Snuggled in your wing chair across from a crackling fire, your eye is greeted by rows of books clustered along wooden shelves. Magazines sprawl across a coffee table, before a comfy sofa. The door of the game room is ajar, and the murmur of voices emanates from the ongoing poker game. You hunker down, cozy in your cocoon.

Idly glancing at your watch, you realize you have time for a swim or stroll and a before-dinner drink at the open bar.

You opt for a stroll. Out you go, into the hushed landscape of Troutbeck’s muted colours and sounds.

Leaving the English-style manor house behind you, you follow the bend in the private road. Just before venturing along the nearby “beck” — the brook once filled with trout which gave the inn its name — you spy a historic sign.

It tells you that Troutbeck was the former home of Myron B. Benton, “poet-naturalist, friend of John Burroughs, Emerson and Thoreau.” Images of Walden Pond leap to mind. The sign fails to inform you that this site welcomed the founders of the black movement, including Booker T. Washington, who helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).

Perhaps now, as you walk, you’ll wonder if Emerson and Thoreau lingered on a stroll just like yours, today, over two centuries later. The sharp, cool scent of autumn pierces such reveries, and draws you onward.

Falling leaves swirl softly about. Suddenly invigorated, you start kicking at the piles of leaves, reliving that time-tested, joyous childhood pastime. Just possibly you’ll break into a laughter-filled, heady run and, as your feet fly, you’ll breathe in the cool, still air.

The sheer beauty of these eastern woodlands catches you. Here and there, tucked away in the woods, you’ll discover private homes straight from the pages of Architectural   Digest. For like many international inns and retreats, Troutbeck’s ample acreage is a refuge for a private community. The artful architecture and gracious settings provide ample inspiration for you… for if you are like us, you’re always on the lookout for great gardening or deck ideas for your own home.

Returning to your room, you’ll marvel again at its unlocked door. There are no locks here and this lends an unexpected charm to Troutbeck, for once you’ve crossed the threshold into its serene world, you have entered a gentler, easier time.

But now the pool beckons… grabbing your swimsuit, you return outside, walking the short path to the outbuilding. Once you’re there, you’ll recognize that it’s also the greenhouse! Plants and flowers provide welcome green borders to the turquoise water. How many laps are you up to? No one will be watching, no one will be counting, so take your time. Try floating in this interior, green world and let your mind focus on the superb meal awaiting you.

Typical meals at Troutbeck include fresh, seasonal and local produce. Who knows what Chef Robert A. Timan will be planning for tonight?

Consider these possibilities… (and do some more laps of the pool, first). A typical dinner menu might include wild mushroom bread pudding; mesclun with spicy walnuts, Anjou pears and champagne vinaigrette; followed by an entrée of ginger marinated duck breasts with a rhubarb chutney.

Dessert? How can you demure? After all, this is a holiday, so surely you’ll test the bittersweet chocolate cake, triple lemon tart, or warm polenta soufflé cake with a molten centre… We dare you to resist.

Whether you opt for dessert or not, the ambiance of the dining room is enchant ing. Candlelight flickers on its exposed, stone walls while leaded glass windows reveal the last glimpses of garden for the evening. Eventually, the old glass shimmers, reflecting candlelight, glass and silverware. Troutbeck is charming, easy, relaxed. Go. You’ll love its gentle ways.

That’s Troutbeck for you, just a bend down the road from Amenia, New York, hidden in the Hudson River Valley’s gentle hills and dales.

What else is there?

The Hudson Valley is packed with intriguing finds. Fine gourmet cooking classes from world-class chefs, antique shops, galleries, historic homes… browse the Internet at: www.vintagehudsonvalley.com, or write to: Vintage Hudson Valley, c/o Maren Rudolph, P.O. Box 288, Irvington, NY 10533; tel: (914) 591-4503; fax: (914) 591-4510; e-mail: info@vintagehudsonvalley.com.

Spooky Hudson Valley Sidebar

“If I could but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod. “I am safe.” (from ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving)

“But the headless horseman relentlessly pursued him on his jet-black steed. Urging his mount to gallop faster, terrified Ichabod sped through the darkness trying to outrun the horrifying spectre.”

Such is the imaginary stuff of legends and horror… or is it?

Especially come Hallowe’en, it is easy to let our minds wander fancifully, to imagine that sprites and goblins people winter’s approaching dark nights…

American writer Washington trying loved the Hudson Valley so much that he penned the spooky ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ near his home, north of Tarrytown, New York. Here, too, he wrote his other beloved masterpiece, ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ His home, Sunnyside, remains as a heritage treasure enjoyed by thousands of visitors yearly.

When in the Hudson Valley, visit Sunnyside, the 19th-century home of Washington Irving, near Tarrytown. For more information, call (914) 631-8200.

If you go

Troutbeck is a 71/2-hour drive from Ottawa…and a mere two-hour drive from Manhattan if you want to coordinate a business-and-pleasure trip to the Big Apple.

For information on the inn, and detailed instructions about the drive, check out the Troutbeck website at www.troutbeck.com or e-mail general manager Garret Corcoran at garret@troutbeck.com.

ADDRESS: Troutbeck, Leedsville Road, Amenia, NY 12501. Telephone (914) 373-9681 or tollfree at 1-800-978-7688,Fax is(914)373-7080.

RATES: $650 to $1.050 US for a weekend, NOTE: a 10% reduction is offered on the US dollar for Canadians. Take note that the price is all-inclusive and includes six meals, an open bar (complete with superb single malt scotch), use of the swimming pool, fitness centre, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, friendly poker table, video library and 12,000 books.

Florida's Nature Coast: Canadian Dollars at Par!

April 8, 1998 8:59 pm
Offshore

Text and  images by: Katharine Fletcher

There’s a little bit of heaven waiting for you on Florida’s Nature Coast… Mockingbirds will call melodious songs from palm trees. Natural springs pour turquoise waters through rivers bordered by emerald grasses and gnarled, bellbottomed cyprus.

And, as if such natural beauty is not enough to make you want to rush right down, Canadian dollars are accepted at par for stays of a week or more until May 21.

Where is this oasis of tranquil delights?

Steinhatchee Landing Resort.

At Steinhatchee Landing Resort (pronounced STEEN-hat-chee). Located only 1-1/2 hours south of Tallahassee, the state capital, the rustic fishing village of Steinhatchee is on the Gulf of Mexico. Freshwater and saltwater anglers know it well and in season (late summer) the scalloping is renowned. It’s a region largely untouched by commercial development: there are no McDonald’s, malls, nor Mickey Mouse or Goofy.

What you will discover, instead, is Old Florida, the sort of place where time lingers. Where you can bike down into the village of 1,000 to explore the coast at leisure. Where you can catch your breath amid the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and cook your own meals, just the way you like, on the barbecue or in the kitchen of your housekeeping cottage.

Your host is Dean Fowler, a southern Georgian gentleman who has cannily designed a 14-acre “off the beaten track” resort whose cottages are tastefully hidden among live oak, sweetgum and palm trees. Walkways lead from gazebos to riverfront, from the vegetable garden to the little creek that wends its way to the river. To affect the feel of a a little village. Dean – everyone calls him by his first name,
staff as well as guests – selected three architectural designs from which you can choose. Victorian, Georgian or the appealing Floridian style called “Cracker.”

We stayed in a Cracker “Spice Cabin,” which feature two-storey screened porches, queen-size bed, full bathroom with ensuite laundry facilities, and an upstairs kitchen, dining room/living room with sofa bed, and VCR/TV. We enjoyed the generous space, as would a family of four or two couples. It’s simply superb value at $120 a night for the cottage – not per person!

It was especially delightful to greet the sunrise and enjoy the ensuing birdsong from the upstairs porch. Acorns from the live oaks fell with a crack and a rattle on the tin roof. Far from disconcerting, the sound blended into nature’s awakening: besides, we could watch the squirrels chasing them as they tumbled to the ground.

The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic Home

The whirlpool spa, exercise room and swimming pool await, only a short walk from your cottage door. Says Dean: “Our free activities include archery, badminton, jogging trail, volleyball, fishing, spa, tennis, bicycles, shuffleboard, horseshoes, canoeing, walking paths and basketball.” Quite enough to keep most happy, even for a week-long stay. For an additional fee you can rent a horse and ride the Landing’s trails.

Although the well-stocked Mason’s Market grocery is nearby, Steinhatchee Landing’s restaurant offers delectable cuisine. Don’t consider leaving without trying crab cakes, pecan-coated grouper and other culinary sensations such as the fluffy coconut cake!

For those of you who want to explore, you’ll find that Dean and his staff are tremendously proud of their region. The
Landing’s office offers brochures describing attractions such as the 25 natural springs (where you can see mastodon bones or tube down a river of turquoise water). Want a bit of culture after all this natural splendour? Ask about the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings historic home (this feminist was author of The Yearling); the antique shops of High Springs; or the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science.

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