25 Years of Bliss

Recently my wife and I celebrated our 25th “Silver” wedding anniversary and the responsibility and pressure of properly acknowledging such a milestone was placed squarely on my shoulders. The silver anniversary symbolizes brilliance, radiance, and the value of a long-lasting marriage, for which I am not only grateful, but blessed to have found that one special person who truly understands me, my soulmate! So, I knew the culinary arts, natural surrounding and a bit of “pampering” were all necessary.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), located in Hyde Park, New York, sets the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. Their locution, “Food is at the heart of our existence,” the sheer joy and talent their students have can be tasted in every forkful. Reservations at their American Bounty Restaurant, securing a table overlooking the kitchen, my wife, an accomplished cook was in her glory. Following a first-rate meal, we meandered around campus and happened upon an “Egg” adorning an “Egg.” Let me explain. “The Egg” (physical building) is an extraordinary dining venue where nearly 700 students can dine both indoors and out. A far cry from Brower Commons, the College Avenue dining hall at Rutgers University, my Alma mater. Here, students can munch on artisanal sandwiches, sushi and wood-fired pizzas using local, responsible, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. A giant, eight foot “Egg” sculpture stands at the entrance of this building. “Clad in highly reflective chrome finish, and designed by Dillon Works of Mukilteo, WA, the 1,100-pound art installation brings The Egg to life through a visual representation of one ingredient professional chefs cannot do without.” Supporting this “egg” horticulturally, were magnificent common Pawpaw trees, Asimina triloba. The largest edible, native fruit trees to North America, “A pawpaw’s flavor is sunny, electric, and downright tropical: a riot of mango-banana-citrus that’s incongruous with its temperate, deciduous forest origins.” A perfect plant to compliment the architecture, remind one of their surroundings and showcase amazing yellow fall color.

Less than an hour drive from the CIA, we made our way to the shore of Lake Mohonk and an iconic resort in the Hudson Valley. A gorgeous property founded by the Smiley Family in 1869. Once a summit for some of the most progressive thinkers, visionaries, educators, leaders, philanthropists, and brightest minds; politicians, religious leaders, thespians, and authors gathered to discuss world issues and improve humanity. Clearly the Smiley’s were ahead of their time. A Victorian castle some 90 miles north of New York City, this was a “bucket list” experience put off for far too long. 40,000 acres of pristine forest and a National Historic Landmark, this resort offers farm to table cuisine too. 85 miles of scenic hiking trails, guided if desired, the outdoor activities and scenery provided a kaleidoscope of autumnal color. Situated south of the Catskill Mountains, on the crest of the Shawangunk Ridge, this property is “chock-full” of plant material, particularly conifers and birch protruding from ancient rock formations.

Before our initial early morning hike, we had time to appreciate the hotels foundation plant material. I say “we,” but my wife will tell you she humored me watching my excitement identifying plants. Flowering viburnum, hellebores, hydrangea types, larch (a deciduous conifer), and winterberry were all represented. Along our hike were huge populations of maple, oak, 3 needle pine, Eastern hemlock, witchhazel, and a low, prolific blue flower. Spotted knapweed, Centaurea stoebe, is a member of the Aster family and native to eastern Europe. This short-lived perennial is a “conspicuous invader” in the Hudson Valley. Asking our guide what his favorite time of year is, without hesitation said, “June 1st, that’s when all the native mountain laurel blooms. The entire valley glows with a white halo!” The highlight of our trek was a pileated woodpecker, skimming over our heads, en route to “Bert Smiley’s” lookout. Quaere Monumentum Circumspice, “To seek his monument, look about,” a vantage point that had us gawking at our Victorian hideaway, the lake’s namesake, and its “Tower” simultaneously.

As I reflect on our magical weekend, there is simply no other person I would rather walk-through life with. Our weekend nourished both our souls and provided a wonderful escape for such a celebration. A magical setting, not to be outdone by the likes of Brigadoon, we took to heart the resorts words… Exploration, Inspiration and Conservation.

Finally, acknowledging our “silver anniversary”, I did have a little help from a famed French jeweler. A “Magical Necklace” made my wife happy and reminded me of the Herend China, Rothschild Bird Pattern, I grew up with. “A 19th century tale about Baroness Rothschild, who lost her pearl necklace in the garden of her Vienna residence. Several days later it was found by her gardener, who saw birds playing with it in a tree.”

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