Travel

The World of Blantyre

by Richard Frisbie
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 5, 2009

The cottages in the Berkshires are reminiscent of another, more opulent era. Built as summer homes for the moneyed class to escape the grime and heat of the city, they were grand and elaborate mansions, not cottages at all. Their ornately carved wood-paneled walls, with leaded and stained glass windows overlooking vistas beyond the croquet and tennis courts, delineate the grace and elegance of their setting. These cottages were the playground of the privileged.

Some are gone, lost to fires, subdivisions and/or financial collapse, but Blantyre remains - restored to all its original elegant and pastoral splendor, buffered by the surrounding 117 acres and a golf course in Lenox, Massachusetts. The gated entry to the driveway is marked Private, but Blantyre is open year-round as one of the finest hotels in the world - exclusive, expensive and an incredible value for all the services offered - a Grands Chefs Relais & Ch?teaux Hotel.


The Perfection That Is Blantyre

Blantyre was our destination for a recent winter weekend of hedonistic spa treatments, gourmet food and exquisite wines, all orchestrated by the mistress of the house, Ann Fitzpatrick Brown. She is a charming raconteur with an encyclopedic knowledge of the origins of all the furnishings, linens, silverware and crystal that fill the vaulted halls, dining areas and intimate guest quarters of the century-old mansion. She oversaw the creation of the perfection that is Blantyre.

Blantyre’s individually decorated suites and extensive spa facilities provide the perfect setting to celebrate weddings and special occasions. It is a gay-friendly refuge with rooms filled with flowers, afternoons of fireside reflection apr?s-spa, and evenings of fine wine and dining experiences. Blantyre is perfection personified, presided over by a capable, gracious and solicitous staff that usually outnumbers the guests. Blantyre is Heaven.


A Book Instead of a Visit

For those of us unable to spring for a weekend at Blantyre, which could easily cost more than $2000 for a couple, Ann Fitzpatrick Brown produced and published a luscious coffee-table compendium of all that is Blantyre. Titled: "The World of Blantyre & The Cookery of Christopher Brooks"
($70) by Claire Hopeley, it is equal parts exquisite full-color photographs, detailed history of Blantyre’s origins, and a thorough examination of the kitchen, philosophy, and recipes of Blantyre’s incredible Executive Chef, Christopher Brooks. If you can’t be in Chef Brook’s kitchen as he teaches the techniques of Grands Chefs Relais & Ch?teaux culinary perfection, this book is the next best thing.


Chef Brooks’ Recipe For Dashi

Here’s a preview of his style with a simple, yet elegant broth you’ll find yourself using for many different creations. It was served to us on lightly saut?ed Maine scallops.
Dashi

  • 3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 scallions sliced into ? inch pieces
  • 1 inch cube fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  • ? stalk lemon grass chopped
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • ? sheet nori torn into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 3 Tbls. soy sauce
  • 1 qt water
    Put the mushrooms, scallions, ginger, lemon grass, sugar and nori in a saucepan. Add water and soy sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for 2 days to infuse the flavors.

    To serve: strain the dashi broth, discarding the solids. Bring broth to a boil and remove from heat. (Optional: add a thin pat of butter to give the broth a delicious sheen.) Pour over room temperature seafood, vegetables or chicken for a light and flavorful (but low calorie) lunch, or a dinner fish course. This versatile broth will figure in many of your favorite dishes because it adds intense flavor to any meal.


    Experience A Blantyre Evening

    Ample recipes for using this newly acquired ability with dashi are included in the book, along with others for entrees, desserts and soups. Chef Brown’s clear instructions and careful prose bring even the most complex dishes within the reach of the average cook. I’d suggest getting a copy of the book, buying a huge bunch of flowers, and spending the afternoon with your boyfriend cooking up the wonderful taste of Blantyre. Then, do what we do - pretend we’re at the spa and practice new massage techniques on each other while dinner gently simmers on the stove.

    If you can get away overnight, or longer, call for reservations for one of the most memorable times of your life - at Blantyre.

    Blantyre
    413-637-3556


    Richard Frisbie is a bookseller and publisher in New York State whose food & wine travel articles appear in LGBTQ and regional periodicals, as-well-as at Gather.com, Globalfoodie.com and GoNomad.com. He accepts free copies of books for review, restaurant meals to critique, bottles of wine and liquor for tastings, and all-expense-paid trips in exchange for articles about the destinations. He is paid for these articles. Richard promotes informed, authentic information about food, wine and travel, and does not allow the financial arrangements and/or sponsorship to affect his judgment. You can email him at: hopefarm@hopefarm.com


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