Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, 845-255-1000. Serving dinner
6:30-8 daily, brunch 11-2 Sunday. AE, D, MC, V.
price: $64.60 (four-course meal)
celegant country lodge
family has been coming here every year for 43 years,” a woman
told me. “Back when we started, Mohonk didn’t advertise. But
they asked the people who stayed here to recommend others
who might like the place. Two friends of my father were stuck
in New Paltz one night and couldn’t find a hotel room in town.
Someone suggested they check with Mohonk. A room was available,
so they made the trip up the mountain—back then you did the
last section in a horse-drawn carriage—and stayed the night.
And the next day, when they were asked for those recommendations,
they gave my father’s name and address. We’ve been coming
here ever since.”
Having stayed a few times myself at this venerable property,
I’ve heard variations on this story several times over. The
265-room main building of the Mohonk Mountain House is an
astonishing feature, as is the mountaintop lake it overlooks.
The state-of-the-art spa that recently was installed is so
complete that there’s even underwater music for enhanced pool
enjoyment. Hundreds of miles of trails crisscross the thousands
of surrounding acres in the Shawangunk Mountains, much of
it part of the Mohonk Preserve. Even more of it constitutes
a state park.
But even more spectacular, in my view, is the food. Dinner
at Mohonk comes in two varieties: table d’hôte and buffet.
Except for Sunday brunch, the buffet is served from June 29
through Sept. 2, as well as on major holidays and during late-in-the-year
weekends. I visited the day after Christmas, when the buffet
was in full swing, but I’ve been there during other times
of the year and ordered off the menu. Either way, you don’t
Let’s take a tour that begins with the main dining area itself.
It’s a sweeping ballroom with honey-colored paneling and expansive
windows, offering a panorama of the Shawangunk Ridge. You’re
seated and beveraged with gentle drinks such as iced tea,
lemonade, fruit juice and soda. Liquor was a relatively late
addition to the resort, but the wine list is impressive and
Approach the buffet display slowly, avoiding a glance at the
desserts. There will be time enough. Sample a couple of the
cold selections: ginger-soy pork, scallops and shrimp with
grilled eggplant, or tortellini stuffed with boursin, ricotta
and parmesan. Or carve some slices from the fruit-adorned
Remember to take just a taste of each, even if those scallops
and shrimp are shrieking for an encore, because twice you’ve
passed the braised lamb shanks, and you know they will feature
into your next course.
As they should. As they must. Keep your Frenched racks and
minted chops—for me, a slow-cooked shank is as good as meat-eating
gets. Now, add to your plate a spoon of red quinoa, a couple
of gorgeous little pattypan squash, a serving of roasted fingerling
potatoes. Groan inwardly when you notice that tenderloin tips
are being freshly sautéed nearby.
The poached sole with fennel ragout couldn’t compete with
the lamb for bigness of presence, but it smiled with its own
gentle charm. Only the grilled chicken breast with Guinness
Stout reduction was disappointing, and only then because it
had succumbed to buffet dryness by the time I forced myself
to try a sample.
Recent dinner menus have included other braised meats, among
them wild boar and pork shank; these are complete plates finished
with appropriate and seasonal garnish. Roasted monkfish comes
with red pearl onions, for instance, and Serrano ham with
Indian-style cauliflower and potatoes with garam masala
and mint. The latter is one of the menu’s “sound choice” items,
crafted to go easy on the bad stuff (fat, cholesterol, etc.).
Table d’hôte dessert offerings might include caramelized pineapple
meringue tart, walnut apple baklava, espresso panna cotta
or sugar-free spice cake. When it’s laid out at the buffet,
you pause first at the chocolate fountain, daring yourself
to dredge anything you can lay your hand on in the swirly
goodness. But I also had chocolate mousse, cheesecake, chocolate-caramel
tartlettes, strawberry amaretto cake, toffee crunch pie, Black
Forest cake and hot cherry crisp to choose from. And ice cream.
My table split up the duties, ultimately unable even to taste
one another’s selections.
Executive chef Jim Palmeri is a recent addition to the resort’s
staff and is renewing the Mohonk culinary tradition of sustainability
by finding local sources of ingredients and designing menus
with the season in mind.
It’s only fitting. During its 140-year history, Mohonk has
placed ecological consciousness at the forefront. The hotel
itself is a National Historic Landmark. You can work off those
meals with activities on the 85 miles of hiking trails or
with ice skating (there’s a new, handsome pavilion), cross-country
skiing or snowshoeing.
A day visit grants you access to the house and grounds and
culminates in spectacular dining. Reservations are mandatory,
but you’ll see why when you’re cordially received at the gatehouse
and then eased into the relaxation of the place.
But why limit yourself to dinner and the view? Benevolently
priced packages abound this time of year. “Winter Weekends,”
priced at $210 per person, per night (double occupancy) for
a two-night stay, include theme programs such as a Taste of
Tuscany (Jan. 9-11), Mohonk on Ice with Gold Medalist Oksana
Baiul, and an Oscars celebration (Feb. 6-8). These rates include
three daily meals, afternoon tea and the aforementioned resort
There’s also a midweek special to celebrate the resort’s 140th
anniversary that runs through Feb. 26, when a rate of $140
per person, per night (double occupancy) gets you dinner,
afternoon tea and continental breakfast, as well as all that
As you make that left turn from the Thruway exit and head
through New Paltz, you can look at the tower on the hilltop
in the distance and happily murmur to yourself, “I’ll be there
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
a taste of historic food, historic drama and a
freshly crafted (but historically inspired) beer
when the New Old American Company previews The
Poor Soldier (George Washington’s favorite
operetta) with food from Troy’s The Irish Mist
and Poor Soldier Porter created by C.H.
Evans brewmaster George de Piro. Wet your
whistle as you whet your appetite for vintage
musical comedy at 7 PM, Jan. 15, at the Arts Center
of the Capital Region in Troy. Tickets are $30
and seating is limited, so call 377-3623 for more
info and reservations. . . . Book now for a final
dinner at JT Bakers “New Cuisine” (27 Main
St., Greenwich). Chef Jason Baker ruefully announced
that the place will close on Feb. 21, when he
starts a new position in the kitchen of The
Inn at Erlowest on Lake George. “We would
like to thank everyone who has supported us and
our business,” writes Baker, “and hope we can
look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces
in the next month and then to follow us to the
Inn.” Call 531-2000 for that last reservation.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.