-by Norm Goldman
Remember, it was this movement that led to the establishment of the 600 square mile Catskill Forest Preserve that surrounds the inn and which began with the publication in 1836 of Emerson’s brilliant essay "Nature."
However, this is precisely what The Emerson Inn & Spa did when they purchased an empty and forgotten 1874 Victorian home located in the Catskill Forest Preserve that initially was known as the Cockburn House.
A home that we were informed has some history attached to it, as it was located directly across from the Mount Pleasant train- stop of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad that would disgorge travelers to the neighboring resorts for more than a century.
In addition, the 24-room inn is just minutes away from the small rural community of Woodstock, New York, where for over one hundred years a steady flow of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, actors and dreamers have flocked.
As for its physical attributes, it is quite apparent that lying at the heart of the design of the Emerson are the key elements of spaciousness, stylistic purity, and impeccable service, all contributing to a most romantic and private stay.
After all, without these key ingredients, the inn would never be able to claim the title as being one of the most luxurious in the Catskills, according to such prestigious publications as Travel & Leisure and New York Magazine’s annual 52 Great Weekends issue.
Every suite is a work of art depicting five unique themes of the 19th century, African, Asian, Persian, Victorian, West Indies Colonial, and containing the most luxurious amenities- Frette linens and robes, oversize towels, Hermes toiletries, plush feather beds, down pillows, remote controlled air conditioning, and Aiwa Stereo Sound systems.
Guests are further welcomed with added personal touches as picturesque fruit baskets, bottled spring water, and monogrammed stationary displaying their names.
It’s little wonder, when I asked Ilene Marder, the public relations representative of the inn, what romantic activities would she suggest to her guests? Her immediate reply was- “Stay in bed and have dinner in your room!” With all of the above amenities, you have to agree, why would any romantic couple want to venture out of their rooms!
If you were to succinctly describe the Emerson, perhaps you can compare it to Helen Hayes’ description of the adjacent village of Woodstock, when she stated: “it is a unique spot in the world, isn’t it? Throbbing with creation, flashing with genius-and so placid and countrified withal.”
From the moment you enter the inn’s main lobby located in the parlor of the original home, you experience a grand sense of escape, visualizing the era of steamer trunks, telegrams, and exotic ports.
Every season casts its special light on the inn, the snowy white- mountain- tops of winter, glorious wild flowers of spring and summer, and the magnificent foliage of fall, all reinforce the inn’s assertion stated in their brochure-“nature cannot be surprised by undress. Beauty breaks in everywhere.”
The inn’s recreational facilities revolve around its elegant spa that offers more than forty options, including holistic and deep tissue massage, hydro and aroma therapies, Vichy shower, hot stone therapy, detoxification mud & algae wraps, oxygen facials, cosmetics, and stress recovery programs.
In addition, there is a well-equipped cardio-exercise center, yoga classes, indoor resistance pool and whirlpool.
Dean Gitter and Emily Fisher, the Emerson’s owners, also own Catskill Corners, located across the street from the inn,
For shopping, Catskill Corners is likewise the site of a marketplace offering an indoor main street of unique specialty shops that combine pleasure with fun and adventure.
Of course there is also the mystique of the village of Woodstock that has been a magnet for over a hundred years, dating back to Ralph Whitman, who had purchased 1, 500 acres of farmland above the village, that eventually led to the first utopian art colony, Byrdcliffe.
There are no shortages of year round activities in Woodstock.
Be sure to attend one of the concerts offered by the oldest continuous summer concert series in the United States the Maverick Concerts. If you are interested in theatre, check out the Bird-in-a-Cliffe Theatre. The Woodstock Film Festival is something you certainly shouldn’t miss.
If you are into physical activities, ample opportunities abound, such as hiking, horseback riding, skiing, jogging, fishing, and even experiencing the thrill of riding the rapids of Esopus Creek, a nearby town in Tinker, in an inner tube.
Another major draw of the inn is its formal dining facilities that were chosen for the “Best Award of Excellence,” after it had received the Wine Spectator’s basic award of Excellence for the past two years. Noteworthy is that it is the only dining facility in the Hudson Valley Catskills to have received this accolade.
The inn boasts a wine collection featuring more than 700 labels from 13 countries comprising some 5200 bottles.
Focusing on “nouvelle cuisine,” and European service, artistically created dishes are presented on Wedgewood, Limoges chinaware and Waterford crystal.
Diners feast on some of the most imaginative and original dishes - roasted loin of lamb with a parsnip puree, port glazed white asparagus, pomme galette, chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms, dried figs and a truffle jus, or the grilled Hudson valley duck breast served with toasted coconut and almond pilau, sautéed bok choy and a soy-ginger sauce.
My wife and I had a chuckle when we noticed that the inn’s cuisine also included purée fava beans. As my wife was born in Egypt, she often makes this delightful dish for me, pointing out that it is the national meal in Egypt and generally served with pita bread.
The Egyptians call this “foule madammas.”
I guess you never know when some staple food becomes a delicacy in another country!
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