Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern, Saugerties, NY: New American Food and Dining in Ulster County, Upstate NY (Restaurant Review)
A tavern for all tastes: The eatery at the new Diamond Mills Hotel brings stylish fare to Saugerties
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Eight years ago, Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS), a company that organizes equestrian events, opened a multimillion-dollar show ground in the blue-collar town of Saugerties. It was an unlikely location, but every summer since then, a horde of horsey types on the traveling competitive circuit has descended on the town, bringing their lovely money with them — an influx of cash and cachet that Saugerties coolly absorbed without losing an ounce of its character. Recently, HITS’ savvy president, Thomas G. Struzzieri, helped solve the problem of where those elite horsey types will stay during their sojourn by building a luxury boutique hotel on the banks of the Esopus. Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern opened late last year.
To his credit, Struzzieri, a Saugerties resident himself, showed his respect for the town’s industrial past by having the hotel designed to resemble the abandoned Cantine paper mill, which burned to the ground on the site in 1978. This was a daring decision, given that mill buildings are rarely welcoming — and, in fact, the huge red-brick façade is somewhat forbidding. But once you’re through the doors, the mood is much warmer — although calling a sleek, 250-seat restaurant a “tavern” is a bit of a stretch.
Through the mill: The former site of an Ulster County paper mill is transformed into a sleek, modern hotel and restaurant
True, there’s a cozy taproom done up like an old-time watering hole, with dim lighting, a tin ceiling, a few tables, and a beckoning bar. But the main dining room is bright and expansive. The ceiling soars to 24 feet. An enormous arched window frames a view of the terrace and the rushing Esopus falls, which are lit up at night. There are high-backed booths on the edges of the room and well-spaced wooden tables in the middle. A billboard-size black-and-white photograph of the old Cantine mill hangs on one wall. On the chilly night we went, a gas fire was blazing in the big stone fireplace, where a horse weathervane on the mantel reminds you of the force behind all this. If you prefer a more intimate setting, you can eat in the adjacent library or the balcony lounge, but we found it pleasant to be in a large, modern room that doesn’t hit you over the head with faux rusticity.
CIA-trained chef Giuseppe Napoli has designed a seasonal New American menu that covers a lot of ground, offering charcuterie and oysters among the plates to share; five flatbreads (also shareable); salads; six first courses; pastas in full and half portions; and fish, meat and vegetarian mains — some 40 choices, not counting sides like hand-cut truffle fries that everyone (by which I mean me) wants. As we were trying to decide, we heard a “psst” from a booth nearby. It turned out to be Rich Reeve and Maya Karrol, owners of the Kingston tapas restaurant, Elephant, who told us they were ordering a variety of dishes rather than an entrée each. What a good idea! We decided to do the same.
Service is congenial, and although it took a while to get our bread basket, that may have been the Monday night blahs. When the bread arrived, we were delighted with the fresh assortment, particularly some crisp pretzel sticks that looked like ET’s attentuated fingers. (Breads and desserts are made in-house by pastry chef Andrew Comey.)
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