Two hours and change from the slush-stained intersections of Manhattan lies a region that is every bit as opulent as the city proper, complete with farm-to-table eateries, plush accommodations and all manner of watering hole.
But it’s also got what the big city lacks: unpolluted air, outdoor adventures and a deep-seated quiet you simply won’t find in the five boroughs.
We speak of The Catskills, a premier destination for winter-sports enthusiasts, solitude-seeking weekenders and anyone who’s just plain sick of the Hamptons. It’s between these creeks and peaks that many an enterprising urbanite — from brilliant hoteliers in Hunter to apple warlocks in Andes — have flexed their creativity in recent years, giving the rest of us a very necessary opportunity to stretch our legs a few clicks north.
Whether it’s cider, fresh pow or the best pork chops north of the Mason-Dixie you’re after, here are your marching orders for a jaunt through the Borscht Belt.
WHERE TO STAY
Time to get acquainted with Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter, NY. The new Catskills is all about balance: drinking well and dining long, but still getting up early morning for that hike. The newly-renovated Scribner’s — and its mountain-facing guestrooms — combines Scandinavian minimalism with an air of the American frontier. There’s a roaring red chimenea on the deck, the brick-road lobby used to function as an auto garage, and the in-house restaurant, Prospect, dishes game-changing roast chicken and bread pudding. The showstopper, though, has to be the library: a bright, impeccably decorated half-football field of a room perfect for reading, shooting pool or “working from home” on a little midweek adventure.
Also: The Roxbury Motel, home of the country’s most tasteful “themed” rooms (from Mozart to Indiana Jones).
WHERE TO EAT
Brushland Eating House in Bovina is a handsome, Brooklyn-style gastropub meets Main Street, USA. That the spot has a “pork guy over the mountain" comes as little surprise. The pork chop special was, simply put, the best plate of pork chops this correspondent has ever consumed. The roasted carrots and olive oil cake are also must-tries.
Also: Prospect (at Scribner’s Lodge in Hunter) for breakfast or dinner, Mama Boy’s Burgers in Tannersville for … burgers, Public Restaurant & Lounge in Roxbury for five-hour roasted ribs, Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia for milkshakes and onion rings.
WHAT TO DO
Influx of Williamsburg buzzwords and urban explorers aside, the Catskills, at its core, has always been about drinking and the outdoors. (Not necessarily in that order.) If you haven’t skied yet, book a lesson at Belleayre Mountain in Highmount. They’ll take you up on a few green runs and you’ll be zipping along in no time. Just avoid the moguls (source: the pillow I’m still sitting on three days later). As for drinks, Wayside Cider in Andes is an absolute can’t-miss. The tap room and courtyard are perfect for groups of any size, and the meat and cheese boards are unique and delicious. As for cider, try The Tuesday. It’s named for the day the crew finally perfected the recipe … which, at 11.2% ABV, had them sleeping in the barn.
Also: Windham Mountain in Windham for more skiing, Union Grove Distillery for apple-wheat distilled vodka, Rip Van Winkle Brewing Co. for pub grub and award-winning brews, and Hudson-Chatham Winery in Tannersville for varietals made from local grapes.