Cranwell

By Anthony Ottomanelli ,
Romance, New England Charm, a Gilded Age Getaway from the City and the Kids

There probably are more spa resorts out there but none will match the charm of this very romantic, historic, all season hotel and resort which once was The Berkshires Hunt and Country Club, and still holds much of its appeal as a "manly man's" place to be pampered. Cranwell is not the spa that you begrudgingly attend just to make your wife happy. Yes, most of us men know the rule "happy wife = happy life," but men will enjoy the meat and potatoes feel of this resort and spa. Guys, whether you’re a fitness fanatic, a metrosexual, an outdoorsman, or a gourmand and wine lover, this place has lots to offer! I should also mention that Cranwell won SpaFinder Wellness' 2012 Readers' Choice Awards for "Best for Golf" and "Best for Affordability" that will make your wife even happier since she may want to shop on the way home and you’ll say "knock yourself out!" Packages include credits toward the spa and dining.

After our recent super-storms, getting into the holiday mindset isn't easy since there's still that nagging little knot in your shoulder and you just haven't had time for the gym since you've been playing catch-up at work for weeks. And when was the last time you made time for romance? Just driving to the Berkshires can be enough to make you want to hold hands, but we wanted a weekend of complete luxury and excess, so the first thing we did upon our arrival was head directly to the spa for our spa treatments.

Leaving it all behind, including my manly inhibitions, I experienced the Grand Mosaic Body Treatment which included the best massage I've ever had. (Thank you, Ginny, you’re an artist and a true professional!) My wife also told me that her massage was the best she’d ever had. (Thank you, Holly!) I’ve found that an intuitive massage therapist is not easy to find, but Cranwell has found some of the best around. After some quiet time in the immaculately clean spa and pool facilities, we switched from green tea and infused water at the spa, to wine and cheese in our room. This was supposed to be a quick snack to hold us until dinner, but we found that our room in the Tudor-style Cranwell Mansion was intoxicatingly romantic and we had to remind ourselves that we really should go to dinner.

Dinner at the mansion’s Wyndhurst Restaurant just added to the feeling of romance and luxury. The dress code is not very formal, but the atmosphere begs for a bit of GQ refinement and a dinner jacket is certainly appropriate. Service is very attentive and friendly, and as a chef, the menu and wine list did not disappoint me. In fact, I completely agree with the Wine Spectator in honoring the restaurant for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world, and with many of the selections being very affordable.

I especially liked the Duck Confit Spring Roll, which my better half happily shared with me. The Foie Gras did not disappoint either, and for the main course we thoroughly enjoyed her Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Lavender Risotto while I had most of my very manly Venison Osso Bucco to myself. Paul Thayer, the very capable Maitre d'Hotel, helped us choose an excellent Stone Street 5th Ridge Merlot, which was not "she-she" enough for my wife to have much more than a glass. There are plenty of lighter, more feminine beverages offered, but my spouse decided to forgo any additional wine and enjoy a dessert which she had chosen even before we had decided on dinner. The Chocolate Truffle Bar Sundae is a rich, more refined take on a brownie a la mode; it's rich, luscious, and creamy textured with a delicate crispiness inside. It's decadent, and I would have had more than a taste if she didn't devour it, proclaiming that they should rename it "Passion" on the menu. I had the special, Pumpkin Cheesecake, which was better than I had expected and will satisfy any cheesecake lover. This isn't "spa cuisine" - this is indulgence.

Leaving our world behind had left us giddy and holding hands, and we enjoyed the spa, fitness center, pool and dining at the resort but we'd never been to the Berkshires before so we decided to visit a couple of local towns. In Great Barrington, which feels kind of like a quainter version of NYC's Greenwich Village, we had a really nice late supper at Allium, which has a clean, modern-rustic feel with a very simple, creative and vegetarian friendly menu. In the town of Lenox. I highly recommend stopping in at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar at 11 Housatonic Street for a glass of wine, a good read and a friendly chat with the owner. Bistro Zinc is a great place to stop in for lunch and Patisserie Lenox makes some of the best croissants and macaroons I could expect to find. Nejaime’s Lenox Wine Cellar is a gem and has a great selection of wine and cheeses, some of which I selected to bring home.

Other things which we'll schedule in on future visits include fitness and yoga classes, cross country and downhill skiing, skating, museums, tennis, golf, hiking and maybe even mountain biking, since rentals are available right on the premises.

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