When in Phoenicia
Mimi: There is an awesome lodge in the Catskills that I am checking out.
Mimi: (sends link for Graham & Co) Hipster Coolness.
Me: Checking it out now. I LOVE it. And bikes and badminton?!
Mimi: I would totally book this like now if you're up for it.
Me: I'm down.
And that's how a weekend in Catskills with Mimi happened.
One of Mimi's coworkers had given rave reviews about this little hideaway called Graham & Co in the Catskills. It's a twenty room boutique hotel that was started by two Brooklyn based friends that were looking for the type of getaway that they themselves would want to escape to. Bringing some of that hip Brooklyn vibe, this hidden gem has tivoli radios in every room, kitchenettes in select rooms (which you know we opted for) and a welcome/hangout room with a picnic table, board games, coffee/tea, and a fire pit that was always burning. And a stash of s'more fixings, of course. For warmer weather, they offer free bikes for exploring and there's a pool and badminton court on grounds.
A standard single for "solitude," standard double for "togetherness," deluxe single for "space to think," and double deluxe for "camaraderie." So cute, so clever.
And of course they have their own branded products which you can purchase on site such as incense, perfumes, candles, shampoo & conditioner, sweatshirts, blankets, and beach towels.
The Nom-Worthy Noms
It's not quite a mountain weekend without placing emphasis on snacks and meals. In fact, we took complete advantage of making sure that we took the time to hit as many of the local "it" spots as we could.
Peekamose [Dinner #1] - Our driver friend recommended this spot to us after explaining to him that we were both into the rustic, farm to table type atmosphere. I was thrilled when he did after reading that you could roast your own s'mores in the outdoor fire pit. Sold! We split a twenty-eight dollar bottle of Spanish Tempranillo and were extremely satisfied. I opted for the Anjou Pear Salad and Mimi made a bold move and went with the wood grilled octopus. Between the red wine and squid ink, there was a lot of wondering whether or not her teeth would turn purple before the night was over.
For mains, I went with the Caramelized Sea Scallops that were served over a sage spaghetti squash. Melt. In. Your. Mouth is what that dish was, while Mimi tried the salt baked root vegetables. We drank, we ate, we laughed, we admired the plethora of burning candles and elderly couples on either side of us that could drink us under the table, and then we bolted to the fire pit and enjoyed Amarettos & Toasted Mallows.
The Phoenix at The Emerson [Brunch #1] - It was love at first sight when I saw Vegetarian Eggs Benedict on the "Specials of the Day" chalkboard. I dabbled around with the idea of something sweet like I always do, but I always go savory. And generous slices of avocado on top? Yes, speaking my language. So it was essentially two perfectly poached eggs on a bed of sweet potato and crispy kale, topped with avocado and doused in this green tomatillo-like sauce. I tried to create the perfect bite for Mimi (a little bit of everything) and in turn, she let me sample her baked oatmeal which was cooked perfectly. We made the wise decision to order a "side" of silver dollar blueberry pancakes and rolled them up for dunking into maple syrup. Just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth!
After checking into Graham & Co and quickly getting ourselves situated, the magazines came out, the music came on, and I whipped us up some Almond Butter, Banana & Crunola sandwiches that were extremely festive and filling.
For this, I used the following simple ingredients:
- 2 slices of gluten free bread
- Raw Almond Butter
- Half of a banana, sliced
- Crunola (I snag mine from Le Pain Quotidien, which is a blend of raw buckwheat groats, flax seeds, dried banana, raisins, Austrian pumpkin seeds, and goji berries)
- Hemp Seeds
Spread the almond butter on both pieces of bread and then place the banana on one of the slices. Next, sprinkle the other slice of bread with Crunola and hemp seeds, to your liking. Drizzle honey for an additional touch of sweetness and voila! Mountain toasts is what we'll call those.
Tavern 214 [Dinner #2] - THE FISH TACOS. The next day, in unison on the way to brunch, we both said that the tacos were better than ones we've had in the city. The piece of trout was perfectly crispy and the cabbage slaw added a nice crunch. The pair itself was fresh, light, and completely satisfying on its own - we didn't even need to split an appetizer. If you have the opportunity to escape to the Catskills and fancy a nice batch of fish tacos, this is your spot. Immaculate Infatuation, take note.
Sweet Sue's [Final Brunch]: The fact that this was called Sweet Sue's was enough to make me giggle, especially after hearing that it was all kinds of southern comfort foods. We were warned that one pancake would be enough, but it was up to us to make that call. I was in a pumpkin mood since I didn't feel like I got quite enough of my fix this winter, therefore I did a two-stack of the pumpkin pancakes that came with this applesauce looking cinnamon & cardamon sauce. Fluffy, dense, magical....are the only words to describe this. And then when I saw the word tempeh on the menu, in the form of a tempeh hash, it was a given. The perfect savory complement to my pumpkin stack of which I need to figure out how to re-create. Mimi impressively came out on top, leaving her plate of ricotta pancakes clean.
With it still being cold, although beautiful, we took advantage in all the ways that we could. Stomping around in the inches of snow left behind from this season's winter storms, breathing in the fresh mountain air, getting scrubbed down with sea salts and literally soaking up our time in the steam room and sauna, clay masks and all.
Thanks to the pile of board games at Graham & Co, we rekindled our childhood love for Operation (definitely more fun as a child - I believe we finished a round in under five minutes), played multiple rounds of Scrabble, eventually getting to the point where we were just making up our own words (Drumweed?), and ending our nights with toasted marshmallows - either by the fire or semi-sober over the stove in our kitchenette.
The rest of our weekend was filled with sleep, quiet moments indulging in pure R&R, and the sounds of our clever "Mountain Girls" playlist that we compiled (think Bon Iver, Birdy, Pinback, Kings of Leon, Fleetwood Mac, Volcano Choir, Band of Horses, Angus & Julia Stone and of course Lisa Loeb).
With the leftover Crunola form the weekend, I decided to play around with the other ingredients in my pantry and mixed up some Crunola bites, combining:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup Crunola (mixed with hemp seeds)
- 2 tbsp raw almond butter (I tend to lean towards the more generous side)
- 2 tsp ground flax/chia seeds
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp maca powder
- Sprinkling of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup honey
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl and then stir in the honey until it forms a consistency that can be rolled into small bite sized balls. Store in a cool place to set and enjoy along with your morning smoothie or as a quick snack on the go. It's pretty easy to eat them all in one sitting, though, so pick and choose your battles wisely.
All said and done, I've been able to indulge in the Costa Rican sun, skipping out on weeks of dreaded snow while still being able to come home and catch a glimpse of the white sheet that was left behind and breathe in the fresh mountain air, with good company to boot. I'd say that's a harsh winter well spent.
Until next time, Phoenicia...