The day begins by feeding the animals (currently chickens), a regular slot on the weekly calendar. Midday, you roam the greenhouses or fields to see what’s growing. And at dusk, the activity is chopping wood, or at least a staff member chops it while the guests gather around a roaring firepit with cocktails and watch. At Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection, which opened this fall in New York’s Hudson Valley, the farm connection isn’t just terminology.
An appreciation of nature is taken very seriously as well. Located on 140 acres near the town of Gardiner overlooking the Shawangunk Ridge with the Shawangunk Kill river running through the property and three miles of walking trails, the resort presents itself as the antidote to city life, given its short distance from New York. In the summer there are fields of wildflowers, in the winter walking meditations by the river or guided ice climbing on nearby rock formations in the Mohonk Preserve. This December, there is also a four day stretch of dark sky stargazing with a high powered telescope planted in the meadow just off the Great Porch under the guidance of the Mid Hudson Astronomical Association to check out seasonal star movements and planets. Even without a telescope, the colors of the sky at sunset give evidence to the 19th century Hudson River School painters’ decision to set up shop here.
There are 65 freestanding cabins designed with wall to wall sliding glass doors to take in whichever views each cabin’s location affords—the river, Shawangunk Ridge, the fields of wildflowers—and décor that blends rustic and modern touches mostly in colors reflected in the outdoors. That may seem like a lot but since they’re scattered around the property, each set with different views, it doesn’t feel like that many and it certainly doesn’t feel like that many guests are here until a cluster of them gather around the fire pit on the Great Porch or stream into Clay, the literal farm to table restaurant.
At Clay, the bounty of both this farm and surrounding ones are on display in the seasonal produce and pasture raised meats forged into creative arrangements with occasionally mysterious sounding ingredients or techniques. Dancing mackerel, sashimi with mirin, radish and thyme, definitely do undulate when blasted with a crème brulee type torch; bison grass, an aromatic herb, might figure into the flavors of the apple cider doughnuts with cinnamon ice cream and summer preserves but the other ingredients are the primary flavors. Broken beef, which requires an extensive description but basically boils down to a section of grilled ribeye, another section of short ribs with toasted quinoa lending a Rice Krispie type crunch that’s actually appealing and a separate bowl of oxtail ravioli in broth all add up to a delicious mix. At breakfast, eggs collected from the chickens appear in a breakfast sandwich and omelet with fine herbs but for pure indulgence, it’s hard to resist the massive, frosted cinnamon bun.
The spa, Thistle, is in sync with the emphasis on nature utilizing ingredients from the Hudson Valley in the treatments ranging from botanical deep tissue massages to steamed herbal poultices in de-stressing body treatments to thistle oil in others. It’s surprisingly small, though, just six treatment rooms which means appointments are hard to come by when the place is full. Guests can fill in with other options such as Mat Pilates, Vinyasa Yoga, Meditation and Breathwork,Forest Immersion or time spent in the indoor (also small) salt water pool during the winter months when the outdoor pool is closed. But to get the maxium effect of this escape from the city retreat, better to grab a time at the spa at the same time as the room reservation.