Troutbeck in Amenia | Photo by Paul Barbera
This romantic escape for writers boasts breathtaking country views, luxurious amenities, and a fresh culinary program in Amenia.
A stroll through the historic Amenia estate reveals dozens of hidden vistas. Babbling water from the Webatuck Creek gently serenades you as you cross a quaint, red bridge heading toward the stone Manor House. When you experience the weight of the front door close behind you, you’re instantly transported. Guests navigate their way through stocked libraries, atmospheric dens, and a stunning restaurant led by a Michelin-starred chef before entering their bespoke abodes.
Troutbeck inspires visitors with the same wanderlust that has moved forward thinkers, naturalists, and writers for two centuries. The property’s first “pioneers” arrived in 1765, as personal houseguests of the prominent Benton family. Among them were Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Samuel Clemens.
“It’s intended to feel like a home, and we do our best to continue the tradition of the house. [We’re] pointing people into the wilderness. We’re doing something that the Bentons did before us, and something people like Burrows and Thoreau embraced during there time here as guests,” Anthony Champalimaud says. He’s the Dutchess County destination’s current owner and steward. In spite of all there is to unearth during a stay, there’s something intensely familiar about Troutbeck. And it was designed that way.
From its very inception, Troutbeck has been more of a “home away from home” rather than a swanky hotel. The Manor House is the epicenter of Troutbeck’s landscape. Inside, 17 guestrooms and suites await, each with their own unique flourishes. Sleek mid-century and retro modern elements imbue the rooms with a timeless quality, without betraying the property’s history. There’s also a four-bedroom cottage (built in 1770), an annex with 12 guestrooms, and a perfectly sequestered garden house. Two suites overlook the gently flowing Dunham Creek and Troutbeck’s nearly 200-year-old sycamore trees.
Champalimaud pays tribute to the unique hospitality offered in this special place. In the early 1900s, the Benton family turned the property over to Colonel Joel Spingarn and his wife. They in turn cultivated impressive company. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and literary giants Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis spent weekends at Troutbeck.
History buffs can roam the scenic grounds and peruse every nook and cranny of Troutbeck, searching for evidence of their heroes. And, if they look hard enough, they’ll find it. However, it’s important to note Champalimaud’s central philosophy. When he took over nearly six years ago and began the renovation process, he understood the gargantuan shoes he would fill.
“We were almost intimidated by the almost perfect integrity of its history. There’s a dialogue between the precedent set by the Bentons and the way in which the Spingarns embraced and carried their mission forward,” Champalimaud explains. For instance, there’s a deep connection between the site’s relationship to the Humanist movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Troutbeck’s “ever-expanding universe” encompasses the Harlem Renaissance, the Suffragette movement, and countless other influential moments. “How do you make this a place that’s relevant and appealing in a contemporary sense without packaging it as a kind of walk down memory lane and an artifact?”
Champalimaud did not set out to turn Troutbeck into a historic site. On the grounds, there’s a distinct divide between life of the past and life today. He views the museum approach, highlighting every relic, as “looking in the rearview mirror.” Yes, you can sleep in the room Teddy Rooselvelt once stayed in, but you’ll have to discover that for yourself. “That might be a little cheesy to trade on, but it might be an interesting anecdote to discuss over dinner,” he says. Instead, Chamapalimaud wants guests to view Troutbeck “through a windscreen,” as a continuation of what the property always was.
To accomplish this, he incorporated plenty of modern design alongside elements preserved through the years. Contemporary comforts include silky Frette linens, climate controlled bathrooms with soaking tubs, and Bluetooth Tivoli Audio speakers. In contrast, original fireplaces, antique doorknobs, and vintage literary works hint at Troutbeck’s storied past. A copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter to the Spingarns hangs in every room. During the renovation, Champalimaud’s wife discovered a Christmas card signed by Langston Hughes—who wrote Dear Lovely Death onsite.
“The history is there for you to choose to discover….We embrace a pretty wide spectrum of guests, and want them to find whatever it is they’re looking for here, without dictating their experience,” Champalimaud says.
For those searching for world-class dining, Troutbeck delivers. Executive Chef Gabe McMackin explores Hudson Valley flavors through a foodie-friendly dine-in menu—as well as a slew of satisfying room service options. Starting November 2021, Troutbeck’s dining room will fully open to the public, when previously reserved for guests. Thanksgiving feasts and other holiday specials await foodies with a touch of wanderlust. Book a table to get a glimpse of the curated experience of the property.
“When we think of what we want to eat, it’s partially trusting our instincts, and it’s also looking for what’s available. We want guests to be right here. What do our local farmers have? In this way, we can celebrate everyone that contributes to making this property special,” McMackin explains.
Eating by the season is much more than a mantra for the culinary director. It’s simply the only option. McMackin sources a majority of his ingredients from within a 15-mile radius. He perfected his expertise of the region’s unique bounty at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester. Contrarily, several of McMackin’s more daring designs were conceived at The Finch, the Americana chef spot in a Brooklyn brownstone that earned McMackin a Michelin star. After five years, he traded his concrete jungle for lush, rolling gardens in the Hudson Valley.
At Troutbeck, McMackin carefully constructs a menu with his team, committed to upholding immersion. During warmer months, diners can dig into lighter fare such as a vibrant lobster and pepper salad, a refreshing chilled zucchini soup, and Hudson Valley steelhead trout with summer beans and littleneck clam panzanella. Then, when leaves change colors and fall to the ground, a more literal form of culinary exploration takes over: foraging.
“They are just a magical thing, mushrooms. Right now [in early autumn] they especially have this incredible power,” he enthuses. “We love what folks like Tivoli Mushrooms are doing with both wild and cultivated varieties. The nuttiness of chanterelles play nicely with our dry-aged duck.”
McMackin cleverly utilizes the tropical notes of late-season sweet corn to brighten up this umami-rich dish. The Swiss chard lasagna is another harvest-time specialty. Castelvetrano olives, shallots, leeks, and spicy arugula compose this hearty, vegetal lasagna. Pine nuts and Pecorino Romano bring a bit of crunch, while herbed ricotta provides the creaminess one expects of lasagna. Starters invite guests to try something new and fun, from McMackin’s signature Japanese yams to the sea kist oysters that come with a snapdragon apple migonette. Troutbeck’s culinary program centers around meals the team can get excited about.
If you happen to be sipping an elegant cocktail bar-side just before the dinner rush, you’ll see the entire front of house staff gather. They work through the menu line by line, and discuss how the night will look. They note who’s coming in, who came in last night, what went well, what didn’t work, etc. They also meticulously plan where to seat guests, ensuring the dining room fills up in a balanced way. Then, servers sample any recent menu additions, so they feel comfortable discussing them. Above all, McMackin’s team is present, attentive, and quite knowledgeable. Convivial dinners spark esoteric conversations between guests and staff. Approachable and debonair, the staff ensures needs are met and curiosities are whetted.
“There are so many things that we can do here to make you feel special. [For in-room dining], we think about what we’d want to eat when we’re lying in bed watching a movie. Those kinds of thoughts are a core part of our creative process,” McMackin says. “We have friends that are making incredible products or incredible beer, cider, and spirits. Here, we get to celebrate the folks that are within our community, like the farmers. There’s a role for everyone to play in making this house on this property special.”
Speaking of spirits, Troutbeck’s eclectic beverage program highlights Champalimaud and McMackin’s curatorial precision. A focused assortment of European wines and classic pairing liqueurs take romantic dinners to the next level. Inventive cocktails really shine, like the Rye and Grind, a concoction of coffee, rye whiskey, and cynar. After chowing on juicy burgers piled high with Jasper Hill blue cheese, enjoy crisp Hudson Valley pilsners and lagers. Troutbeck caters to every palate, whether you’re craving something familiar or something exotic.
Of course, the exploration doesn’t stop at the dinner table. Patrons can spend warm summer days lounging by a beautiful inground pool or playing tennis on a private hilltop court.
Next, wellness aficionados can practice yoga, get an acupuncture treatment, or relax in a traditional sauna at The Barns. This facility debuted earlier this year, and features timber reclaimed from the old Tappan Zee Bridge. In the same way Frederic Church engineered the guest experience at Olana’s landscape, Troutbeck elaborately fashions its grounds. The 12 designated sites around the property—secluded campsites, Adirondack chairs by the creek, cozy gazebos—are available by reservation.
“You can be as secluded as you want without being interrupted by anyone. I can tell you in earnest that I think I’ve walked almost every square foot in the property, and I can’t predict how it will evolve. It’s a living landscape, and it always has been,” Champalimaud says.
Certainly, for all the luxury Troutbeck tantalizes with, there’s nothing more special than the grounds themselves. Romantic strolls along the same paths Thoreau tread upon bring couples closer together. Families adore the myriad of places to explore, while friendly chats around communal fires unite kindred spirits.