Driving Trip - Fall 2005
New York State and Eastern Long Island
On a beautiful day in early October, we were en route
from Toronto to The Hamptons to attend the wedding of our
oldest nephew, who was five years old when he was a guest
at ours. It was clear sailing along the Gardiner
Expressway onto the QEW south to the Niagara region and
the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to the U.S. Fortunately
there were not long lineups at the border and we were
soon on the New York Thruway (I-90) heading east across
New York State.
The day was sunny and crisp as we
passed Rochester, The Finger Lakes District, Syracuse and
Utica, feasting our eyes on the trees dressed in their
fall costumes of red, orange and yellow.
We would be spending the night in Sharon Springs,
in the Central Leatherstocking Region and the Mohawk
Valley Heritage Corridor. This gorgeous area is home to
many world famous attractions: Cooperstown and The
Baseball Hall of Fame, Glimmerglass Opera, the Erie Canal,
Iroquois Museum, Howe Caverns, International Boxing Hall
of Fame and the Herkimer Diamond Mines, to name a few.
For exercise, there is Vrooman's Nose Hiking Trail and if
you like wagering on your favorite ponies, try your luck
at Saratoga Racetrack.
We exited the Thruway at #29 and
headed south on highway 10 for about 10 miles to Sharon
Springs, which was incorporated in 1871. The north Main
Street neighborhoods of the village, known as "downstreet",
were placed on the National Register of Historic Places
in 1995. The main industries are agriculture and tourism.
Sharon Springs is a great place to
headquarter, relax and experience all the region has to
offer. There are numerous options for sports and
recreation (skiing, snowmobiling, ATV trails, golf,
hiking, fishing, bird watching) and cultural activities (Boswell
Museum, Glimmerglass Opera, Petrified Creatures Museum,
Canajoharie Library/Art gallery, Saratoga Performing Arts
Center, Procters Theatre), as well as the Historic Main Street
Walking Tour and the Sharon Historical
Folklore has it that Native
Americans discovered the healing powers of the "White
Sulphur Springs" of Sharon Springs in 1825. The
first commercial use of the springs started in the mid
1800s and until the mid 1900s the town thrived as a spa
resort. Gorgeous hotels and homes were built and the
"Imperial Baths" became the center of spa
activity. When the spa boom faded, the town went into
decline and the glorious hotels and many of the
magnificent mansions were abandoned or burned down.
Garth Roberts and Douglas Plummer
found their way to this beautiful green hamlet and in
1996 they purchased the American Hotel, which is listed
on the National Register of Historic Places, circa 1847.
It was built between 1847 and l851 and operated as a
hotel until the 1950s and then as a religious retreat
until it closed in 1989. After an extensive four year
renovation, The American Hotel was reopened on May 23, 2001, breathing new
life into the town and the surrounding area.
We were impressed by the care and
attention given to maintaining the integrity of the
original design of the hotel. The high white pillars and
porches and meticulously-kept shrubs and flowers along
the wide front are a welcoming sight on Main Street. We
pulled into the parking area alongside the hotel and
appreciated the beauty of the grassy, treed acreage
surrounding the property.
The instant we entered the word
cozy came to mind. From the reception desk to the pub,
outdoor patio and dining room to the upstairs bedrooms,
this was a delightful trip back to a time when a hotel
was a home. In addition to preserving the architecture
and building materials, a deliberate effort was made to
furnish the hotel with an eclectic mix of period pieces,
furnishings and artifacts.
We were greeted by Scott who
cheerfully led us to our corner room on the second floor.
The colors were blue and white and we later learned that
the lovely antique plates displayed above our bed were
from Garth's mother's home in Maine. Our queen size bed
was beautifully dressed, as was the entire room and
bathroom. This is an old fashioned home with modern
conveniences such as air conditioning and wireless high
speed internet access.
We had been in the car for seven
hours so we decided to take a walk around town. We
discovered that Garth and Doug had also purchased and
restored two buildings across the way. One houses a cafe
and bakery and the other, An American Emporium, is leased
to four separate retail establishments. Throughout the
town the buildings, homes and hotels are wonderful
specimens of historic architecture. Sharon Historical
Society posts along Main Street offer descriptions of the
history of the town and its buildings.
The "Imperial Baths" and
four hotel properties were recently purchased by Korean
business people who plan to develop a world class health
and spa complex. Let the good times roll!
Our evening "good time"
started in the comfortable pub where we admired the
Sharon Springs memorabilia gracing the walls while
sipping well-deserved cocktails. It had been a long day
and this was the perfect environment for relaxing before
And what a dinner! Doug and Garth
told us they were very proud of their kitchen and rightly
so. The low key casual dining room was the perfect venue
for enjoying a delightful country dining experience. Doug
and Garth are very hands-on. Doug was hosting his guests
with his usual good cheer while Garth was making sure the
cucina was operating properly.
A house starter of cold marinated
yellow cauliflower, onion and baby carrots was a neat way
to spark the appetite (as if we needed it). We chose the
evening's appetizer for two which consisted of large,
cold, crunchy shrimps, crab cakes with a remoulade sauce
and beer battered Palatine cheese (a local cheddar from
nearby Palatine Bridge). The crab cakes were the perfect
texture and the seasoning was amazing. The combination of
the tasty beer batter and smooth melted cheddar was a
A choice of three wonderful salads
is offered with any entree. Linda had the "steakhouse"
with crumbled bacon, marinated red cabbage, fried
croutons and a bleu cheese dressing. I chose mixed greens
with apples, cranberries and raisins with a creamy cider
The ample-portioned entrees were of
top quality products, prepared to perfection and
beautifully presented. Rack of lamb consisted of four
double chops served with real mashed potatoes and
sautéed veggies. Half of a roasted duck was awesome,
with crisp skin and tender moist meat with apricot sauce.
This beauty was served with rice and fresh asparagus.
Everything is always fresh and made
to order in-house so it was necessary to put the desserts
to the test. The maple walnut ice cream with raisins and
the apple cheesecake with almonds reaffirmed the skill in
After a great sleep we tested the
kitchen for breakfast. Doug and Garth were both on duty
and after deep consultation we selected pancakes with
bacon and raisin sunflower bread French toast with apple/cranberry
sauce and warm, real maple syrup. Both passed the test
with flying colors.
Our only regret was that we would
be at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs for only one
night. Oh well - next year. Truly a remarkable American
Then we were off to The Hamptons,
at the tip of the south fork of Long Island. The
highlight of the drive was the colorful roadside stands
awash in the colors of autumn with piles of pumpkins,
squash and gourds and the quaint famous towns of
Easthampton and Southampton.
The wedding parties would be in Sag
Harbor and Three Mile Harbor, both of which are just
north of Easthampton. After a lengthy internet search we
chose Sag Harbor Inn in Sag Harbor for our two nights' stay. The
driving directions on the website led us easily to the
entrance on West Water Street.
Sag Harbor is a maritime village,
best remembered for its history as a whaling port from
the early to mid-1800s. Artifacts of its past are
preserved at the Customs House and the Whaling and
Historical Museum. Southampton, East Hampton, the North
Fork and South Fork wine country are close-by. Beaches
abound and nightlife is abundant.
Sag Harbor Inn overlooks the harbor
and the village, a glorious setting! Sail boats and
luxury yachts rise from the harbor and the quaint Main
Street shops, restaurants and museums are a short stroll
The setting is lovely but
unfortunately the Inn is no more than a seaside motel in
need of a facelift and change of attitude. The reception
was perfunctory and cold. Our first floor room had two
double beds, chain motel furnishings and indoor/outdoor
carpeting. The small bathroom featured a toilet seat with
bubbling, peeling paint. The continental breakfast was
highlighted by cold bagels and undrinkable coffee. Sag
Harbor Inn claims to be "the most luxurious
accommodation in the Hamptons"- we would call it
overpriced and mediocre.
Fortunately the rehearsal dinner
and wedding were smashing events and the only time we
spent in the motel, we were sleeping or getting ready to
No trip across the New York State
Thruway would be complete without a visit to Herkimer and
the Heidelberg Bakery on Rt.28 just off State Rt. 5, a
worthwhile detour on our way to Rochester, where we would
be spending the night before heading home to Toronto. In
preparation, we had emptied our freezer before we left
home so that there would be plenty of room for the
delicious, dense rye, whole wheat, oat bran, raisin/walnut
and raisin breads (all made from natural ingredients) we
would be hauling home (21 loaves).
The Strathallan Hotel was the winner of our internet search for a
place to overnight on our way home. The only all-suite,
full-service hotel in Rochester, the hotel boasts an
internationally acclaimed chef, Anthony Harris, who makes
the Grill at Strathallan a dining must while in Rochester.
It had been a long driving day and
as we exited the thruway at #45 we looked forward to a
fine meal and a good night's sleep. Twenty minutes later
we were at 550 East Ave., greeted by a valet who took our
car to its complimentary overnight parking spot. The
reception staff was delightfully friendly and while
checking us in informed us about the numerous
complimentary services and amenities.
The hotel is situated in the middle
of a lovely green residential area boasting some of the
finest old homes in Rochester. Our corner room had two
balconies affording us a glorious perspective of the
surroundings. The suite was very spacious, well-appointed
and decorated. The living area contained a long desk,
leather chair, convertible sofa and ample seating along
with a large screen TV. The kitchenette area had a round
table and four chairs and cupboards with dishes, glasses,
cutlery plus a microwave oven.
The large bedroom was a dream. The
king bed was covered in a light comforter with lots of
plump and firm pillows from which to choose. The
lacquered furniture style from the living area carried
into this room featuring a console containing a TV and
four drawers and extra storage space. The bathroom was
stocked with quality amenities, a terry robe, magnifying
mirror and a hairdryer.
Linda regretted not bringing her
laptop to take advantage of the complimentary high speed
internet connection. We did, of course, manage to pop
into the fully-equipped business center to check our
email. We checked out the complimentary fitness and sauna
facilities but decided to save our energy for the heavy
fork and knife lifting ahead.
We had time for a brief walk around
the neighborhood to stretch our legs after 9 hours in the
car. We loved the huge, wonderful old homes lining the
streets of this neighborhood!
A major reason we had chosen this
hotel was because of the fine reputation of its
restaurant, The Grill at Strathallan. The bar/lounge and
restaurant complex designed with dark woods and subdued
lighting provides an unpretentious intimate venue either
for business or romance. A pretty outdoor patio runs
across the front of the building and even on a cool,
drizzly evening a few hearty souls chose to sit outside
under the awning.
The appealing menu made decision-making
difficult and the fact that the wine cellar boasts17,000
bottles definitely required assistance. The amiable staff
proved to be experienced, knowledgeable and extremely
Our menu decided, our waiter
suggested two California wines: a 2002 red from St.
Francis Winery in California for Linda and a 2001
Cabernet Sauvignon from Beaulieu Vineyards for me. The
former was full-bodied with a spicy aroma and the latter
medium body with a lovely rich blackberry and cherry
The chef teased us with an amuse
bouche of ahi tuna and cucumber salad presented in
cylindrical layers of freshness and mouth-tingling flavor.
We shared Dungeness crab and Australian lobster cakes
seared golden brown accompanied by red cabbage/blue
cheese slaw, hot bacon vinaigrette and citrus butter
sauce and creamy seafood bisque with pieces of Alaskan
halibut, sea bass and shrimp. All breads are made in-house
and tonight's cheddar cheese bread was delicious.
Linda proclaimed her cranberry
tenderloin to be extraordinary. She reluctantly offered
me a taste and she was right. Two generous tournedos of
beef tenderloin were sautéed and finished with port wine,
cream and cranberries, garnished with blue cheese and
sautéed asparagus, all of which rested on a bed of
exquisite mashed potatoes. The duck man was enthralled
with a seared rare breast of duck fanned over a marvelous
mushroom duxelles and brilliantly sided with a spiced
port-braised pear and baby bok choy.
It was time for a bit of cooling off with
house made sorbet and ice cream. Scoops of blueberry,
strawberry, raspberry and pineapple sorbet delighted
Linda. I had a vanilla ice cream sandwich. This beauty
was comprised of a layered round stack of pineapple
sorbet, the ice cream and mango sorbet resting in a pool
of watermelon sauce. A very happy ending!
Executive chef Anthony Harris's
superb reputation is well earned.
Breakfast in the Grill was another
delight. Linda had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and
sautéed onions accompanied by fresh fruit while I had
the Travelers' special of eggs, pancakes, bacon,
homefries and toast. Our contented stomachs were ready to
Our final night on the road was a
delightfully relaxing and invigorating experience, likely
to be habit-forming. The Strathallan Hotel and Grill are
a quality experience and excellent value.
After our blissfully uneventful
border crossing, we were quickly on our way home to re-pack
and prepare to leave for Austria, at last!
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