First look: This new Catskills hotel is raising the bar for hospitality and amenities
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Editor’s note: Kenoza Hall extended a media rate for TPG to be among the first to experience the new property. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren’t subject to review by any external entity.
It was, by all accounts, snowing much harder than anyone expected.
Heavy flakes were swiftly sticking to the road and turning the mountainous, undulating landscape into a glittering, fairy tale rendering.
It was beautiful, but my friend and I were both relieved when we finally made it to the entrance of Kenoza Hall, a new 22-room boutique hotel that opened in the Catskills over the summer.
The car, too, seemed grateful to have safely reached our destination. So much so that it hunkered down right where it was, its tires spinning hopelessly against the fresh snowfall.
My friend went inside to get help from the hotel staff while I supervised the car, and we were both encouraged to warm up inside at the hotel’s cozy bar.
I sipped a Shandelee Fog (gin, Licor 43, allspice, anise and Earl Grey-infused cream) while the car was coaxed up the hill and parked safely in front of the hotel by members of the staff.
When I recall our three-night stay at Kenoza Hall, it’s this moment — and others like it — I think about most. It was the helpfulness from every person on the hotel staff and the variety of wintertime activities that transformed our spontaneous, snowy weekend in the woods into an unforgettable tale of warmth and hospitality.
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Kenoza Hall is the newest property from Foster Supply Hospitality (FSH), which has been opening independent hotels and restaurants across the Western Catskills since 2014.
Like many properties in the area, it was formerly a summer retreat — one of the first boarding houses in the region — dating back to the late 19th century.
But the Catskills has become a year-round destination, which is why we ventured there at the end of winter for a getaway that couldn’t be ruined by freezing, inclement weather.
Like other burnt-out New Yorkers who want to get outside during the day and elbow up to a stylish bar for excellent cocktails and cuisine at night, we were drawn to this popular, outdoorsy escape.
And Kenoza Hall offers access to both in spades, regardless of the season.
When my friend and I first checked in on a Saturday afternoon, we went upstairs to see our garden-view king room, which was awash in soothing grays and pale pinks.
Like the rest of the property, rooms feature a playful mix of Victorian-era and midcentury furnishings.
The velvet sleigh-style bed was fitted with Sferra linens and the bathroom was stocked with fragrant Zenology amenities.
There was even a Davenport-esque writing desk perfect for jotting down notes (or applying makeup).
Some of the rooms feature private balconies with lake views — a particularly appealing upgrade during the summer and fall.
The en-suite bathrooms (no more sharing with other vacationers like you might have in the late 1800s) have either stone-tiled showers or deep clawfoot soaking tubs, and a whimsical custom floral wallpaper makes the space feel youthful and fun.
Many of these elements are carried throughout the common areas, which are replete with wholesome diversions such as chess and checkers. Kenoza Hall may be an intimate property, but it punches well above its weight with an array of activities and amenities you might expect from a much larger hotel.
The Lake Room, for example, which commands views of Kenoza Lake from (just about) floor-to-ceiling windows, is a great place to curl up with a volume of Shakespearean comedies or nurse a glass of whiskey.
My friend and I spent hours playing highly competitive games of Scrabble in the front Parlor (let the record show I won one round with “zenith” on a triple-word square), where a fire roared throughout the day in the fieldstone fireplace.
It’s not uncommon for a Catskills inn or hotel to have one or two standout features (such as an on-site restaurant or a seasonal pool).
But Kenoza Hall overlooks Kenoza Lake and a sprawling 55-acre estate, meaning there’s space not just for a number of porches and patios with a communal fire or an Adirondack chair but also a full-service restaurant, bar and spa.
We spent ample time, for example, taking advantage of the on-site Hemlock Spa, which nods to the region’s Swiss and German heritage with Kneipp-inspired treatments.
You might consider a fig-milk and argan oil scrub, an oxygen facial or a Catskill rain wrap. We both opted for traditional massages and spent an evening unwinding in the barrel sauna.
Guests can also book a yoga, meditation or pilates class in the Movement Studio or join a guided walk — delightfully called a morgen lauf — on the grounds.
Even heavy snowfall can’t diminish the number of ways to fill your days at Kenoza Hall, which provides snowshoes, toboggans, microspikes and other gear so guests can enjoy the grounds and nearby mountain trails all winter.
And though an evening dip may be an all-weather activity, there are few better ways to enjoy a snowstorm than from the comfort of a 104-degree hot tub. There’s also an outdoor heated pool that, during the summer, is framed with German-inspired lounge chairs.
We even spent an afternoon in a winter “cabana” designed exclusively for guests staying at a Foster Supply hotel.
These canvas bell tents are heated with a cozy wood stove and stocked with — you guessed it — classic games such as chess, Scrabble, Jenga and tic-tac-toe.
We shared a bottle of wine and ate lunch inside our cabana while playing board games one gray afternoon. Though the cabanas were originally introduced as a way to keep public spaces uncrowded during the coronavirus crisis, they’ll be available to guests for the remainder of the year, though the programming will change to be seasonal.
Kenoza Hall arrived in the midst of a pandemic and offered not only the outdoor access so many of us were craving after months inside, but also the opportunity to reconnect safely with other humans.
When we first arrived, my friend and I sat around a fire outside and sipped our welcome cocktails (the Be Our Guest, which mixes honey rye whiskey with toasted cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, bitters and cider) while chatting with other travelers and watching the sun retreat behind Kenoza Lake. A member of the staff came by to refill drinks, answer our questions about the property’s history and regale us with stories from the area.
In the morning, it’s common to greet other guests in the so-called Map Room. Here, you can fix a cup of complimentary coffee and flip through informational pamphlets, guidebooks and vintage maps of the region to plan out the rest of your day.
At the center of the hotel are the bar and restaurant, both of which are popular gathering places not just for guests spending the night but also locals in search of an upscale night out.
The hotel’s restaurant focuses on Old World European cuisine and, at a time when international travel is still largely off the table, dinner here may feel a bit like flying to France for a couple of hours.
We ordered the Dover sole meunière and escargot in a garlic-herb butter for dinner one evening and shirred eggs with mushrooms, leeks and gruyère for breakfast.
Anchoring the property is the bar, which is the oldest part of the building — once a family dining room — and features original wood beams, latticework and custom wallpaper.
Throughout the day, it’s an energetic spot where guests enjoy their coffee in the morning and cocktails at night.
Kenoza Hall may only have one restaurant and bar, but guests can easily venture out to one of the hotel’s sister properties, including Piccolo Paese (an Italian restaurant 30 minutes away in Liberty, New York) and the 14-room DeBruce, where breakfast and dinner are included for guests, but visitors are welcome.
We ordered dinner from The Arnold House’s decidedly more casual tavern one night. (Think: tater-tot nachos with short rib and braised carrot; a fried chicken sandwich and a flavorful shrimp cocktail.)
In many ways, it can feel like staying at a hotel with six restaurants since it’s relatively easy to drive around and sample the different menus, which will transport you all over the globe.
And though Kenoza Hall may be exceptionally well-equipped to entertain its guests, part of the lure is, undoubtedly, its proximity to the Catskill Mountains.
My friend and I ventured out to the Tusten Mountain Trail, about 20 minutes away, and explored the nearby hamlets of Livingston Manor and Narrowsburg.
Travelers may want to drop by Roscoe’s Prohibition Distillery or the river town of Callicoon, home to a tasting room and Spruce Home Goods, where you can shop for decorative items like alpaca throw blankets, cozy robes and Catskills-inspired candles scented with pine, juniper and cedar.
Throughout the weekend, I noticed that the hare features prominently in the property’s iconography.
It’s emblazoned on the label inside the bathrobe, illustrated on the dinner menu and marks the property’s private trails.
A hare sculpture presides over the Map Room and its image is echoed throughout Kenoza Hall in the form of artwork, bookends and glassware. At times, I felt like Alice chasing the White Rabbit to a faraway land.
So really, it’s no surprise that Kenoza Hall conjures in travelers a sense of curiosity. It’s an aesthetic wonderland that balances the property’s history with its new legacy as a gathering ground in the Catskills.
But it’s rooted in reality by the staff members who are eager to make recommendations and provide assistance with everything from snowshoe bindings to trailhead directions and dinner suggestions.
It’s the kind of place that forces you to stop and look twice, to start or join a conversation, and invites you to become part of this always expanding community.
Foster Supply Hospitality currently has seven properties ranging from restaurants to a cozy eight-room inn and Kenoza Hall, the company’s largest property for the time being. But the hospitality group plans to open another ambitious project — a 28-room retreat called Hotel Darby — as early as May.
Until then, however, guests at Kenoza Hall (and any FSH property, really) can find relaxation at the Hemlock Spa, admire the lake views from the hotel’s restaurant and become, even for just one night, a part of the ongoing story of the region’s rebirth.
All photos by the author
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