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Northeast Regional Stories

The Northeastern US: Tapping into Tradition

The nation’s oldest buildings and cities – including Boston and New York City – are rooted in the Northeast, making it one of the most historically rich regions you’ll ever visit. Not to mention, it’s home to the country’s most brilliant display of nature’s distinct seasons.

Culinary Kingdom
The Essex Resort & Spa is more than just a place to rest your head at night. Cooking – particularly the education and enjoyment of great food – is the true lifeblood of this hotel.
Laura Sorkin

It’s a culinary destination. From 1989 to 2009, before it was a resort, the site housed a branch of the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), where chefs would train under the tutelage of New England’s leading culinary minds. Though the NECI has moved on, the culinary trainings still abound – the only difference is that now it’s the chefs training the guests, with classes that range from weeklong adventures that explore regional cuisine to a three-hour course that ends in a sumptuous student-prepared meal. If looking for something more passive, they can watch the prep cooks prepare the evening meal or stop by one of the demos held in the lobby every afternoon. Or, if they would prefer to leave the prep work to the professionals altogether, there are two restaurants (Tavern and Junction), which serve fare made from the high-quality produce Vermont is famous for. Here, we highlight the ways in which culinary art permeates the many aspects of the resort.

Cook Academy 

Two teaching kitchens make up the resort’s Cook Academy, a low-stress, hands-on program that allows guests to work alongside one of the resort’s chefs to prepare a meal from Vermont ingredients. Limited to eight participants, the cooking classes are held daily and feature subjects like hand making different types of pasta, cooking with Vermont beer, crepe workshops, and more. 

Bake Shop

Apart from the professional kitchen that serves the two on-site restaurants, the resort is also home to its very own kitchen bakery located in the basement level of the resort. Here, three ovens, one stove, and plenty of gadgets – like ice cream makers and giant standing mixers with bowls large enough to bathe in – help churn out out a range of pastries, breads, and cakes, which are featured throughout the two restaurants, the lobby’s pastry display case, or possibly even one of the banquet halls. Twice a day (once in the morning and again at night), the resort puts out a tray of that day’s treats in the lobby for guests to sample.

Daily Cooking Demos

Every day, at 4:30 p.m., one of the chefs brings their prep work for that evening’s dinner to showcase in the lobby. You can expect to see them cranking out pastas from an extruder, chopping and dicing a range of veggies from the on-site gardens, stuffing squash blossoms, and more. 

Chef’s Table at Junction

The culinary jewel of the resort, Junction Restaurant, is known for its playful culinary-themed décor: Whimsical place-settings of all different styles are ensconced on the ceiling; the private dining room features a giant chandelier made of spoons and colanders. But the star of the experience is the Chef’s Table, where diners can sidle up to the counter space that looks into the open kitchen to watch the chef’s in action, while chatting with them about their techniques and tricks. 

Spa at The Essex

Even the full-service spa features a nod to culinary art. Several of the herbs and flowers from the on-site garden are used in the products, and there are specialty body treatments that employ food: a coffee-almond scrub, a body brew (made from hops grown on-site), a honey-lavender treatment, and more.

Ames Boston Hotel & Copley Square Hotel
Theories behind the
Greatest Art Heist in History
Half-a-billion dollars worth of art was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum during the Boston’s notorious 1990 art heist
Jeff Harder

The empty frames in the Dutch Room, a gallery on the second floor of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, once held some of the greatest human achievements rendered in brushstrokes: Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black, and Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert. But in the early hours of March 18, 1990, they vanished after two men dressed as Boston police arrived at the museum to investigate a disturbance. Security guard Richard Abath buzzed the men inside, and within minutes, Abath and the other security guard on duty were bound and duct-taped. The faux police officers disabled the security cameras, then set on pillaging the museum, slicing canvases from their frames and swiping 13 artworks. After 81 minutes, the thieves drove away with a score worth half-a-billion dollars today – the single-largest property theft in United States history.

In the 27 years since, the crime has been linked to a rogues’ gallery of New England’s underworld with Amore and FBI investigators following leads from Boston to Brooklyn to France and to Japan. But it still remains unsolved to this day. Here are a few of the top theories of how it was done, who may have done it, and where the works of art reside now. 

Theory 1: The Security Guard was Involved 

Through the years, Richard Abath – the then 23-year-old security guard who let the Gardner thieves into the building – has remained a person of interest. While Abath maintains his innocence, it’s unclear whether he simply made a bad decision or if he was the heist’s inside man. Motion sensor data traced the thieves’ movements throughout the museum, but in the museum’s Blue Room – where the stolen Manet hung – the sensors picked up only Abath’s footsteps from his evening patrol. The sensors also revealed that Abath opened a side door to the museum just before letting the thieves in. And that security video that investigators released in 2015 from the night of the robbery? It was of Abath speaking with an unidentified, unauthorized visitor in the museum lobby for several minutes. (Abath, for his part, says he has no memory of the person.)

Theory 2: Local Boston Mobsters Stole the Art

For the Boston FBI, the leading theory involves Quincy gangster Carmello Merlino and his associates Leonard DiMuzio and George Reissfelder. DiMuzio and Reissfelder resembled police sketches of the perpetrators, Reissfelder’s car matched the vehicle witnesses spotted on the night of the Gardner theft, and Reissfelder’s family even claimed to have seen Chez Tortoni hanging in his bedroom. Investigators believe that Robert Guarente, a mobster from Maine, acquired some of the paintings, and they eventually found their way to Philadelphia, where the trail went cold. All of these criminals are now dead: DiMuzio was shot to death and Reissfelder died of a drug overdose, both in 1991. Guarente died of cancer in 2004. Merlino died in jail in 2005; despite offers of leniency, he offered no information about the Gardner paintings.

Theory 3: One Man May Hold the Key to the Art’s Whereabouts 

A still-living actor in this dizzying cast of characters is Robert Gentile, a now-incarcerated octogenarian gangster who, according to a tip Guarente’s widow gave to authorities, received two Gardner paintings from Guarente and brought them to Philadelphia. The FBI conducted several searches of his Manchester, Connecticut, home between 2012 and 2016. During one such search, they found a piece of typewritten paper inside a March 1990 copy of the Herald, listing the names of the 13 artworks with amounts they might fetch on the black market; Gentile also failed lie detector tests when he denied knowing where the paintings were. Gentile ended up serving prison time for gun and drug charges and even after a health scare last fall didn’t offer up a confession. He maintains that he doesn’t know where the paintings are and, if he did, he’d return them for leniency and the reward money.

Northeast Resorts
Our Newest in
the Northeast
Meet our seven distinct resorts and hotels in the Northeast with countless experiences and cultural to dos.
By Joanna Roberts

With the recent merger of Benchmark and Gemstone, the combined portfolio now proudly boasts 58 total properties, including seven distinctive resorts and hotels in the Northeast. From a countryside culinary resort in Vermont to Boston’s longest continuously operating hotel, here’s what you need to know about each.

Vermont’s Ultimate Boutique Experience
Topnotch Resort | Stowe, VT

Overview: Originally a ski club built in 1953, this 68-room boutique hotel sits on 120 acres in view of Mount Mansfield. 
Concierge Tip: Parents, leave the kids at the resort’s game room – equipped with Wii, PlayStation, and Nintendo – and enjoy a private dinner at the on-site modern ski bar, The Roost.
Treat Yourself: The spa’s Maple Sugar Body Scrub – made with maple sugar from local trees – moisturizes the skin and leaves you smelling divine. 
Don’t-Miss Detail: Hanging in the lobby is a giant stuffed male moose head, affectionately named Mikey, who used to roam the property in the 1950s.
Destination Gem: Less than two miles south, the cult brewery The Alchemist sells their unicorn of beers: Heady Topper, said to be America’s most coveted beer.

A Savory Culinary Resort Retreat
The Essex, Culinary Resort & Spa | Burlington, VT

Overview: The Burlington area’s only destination hotel, this 120-guest room resort is famous for its on-site Cook Academy, offering demonstrations, classes, and area food tours. 
Concierge Tip: Every day at 4 p.m., one of the chefs offers a free cooking demonstration on the cooktop in the lobby.
Treat Yourself: Visit the resort bakery at 11 a.m. to see the staff at work through the kitchen window – and enjoy free samples of that day’s specialty sweets.
Don’t-Miss Detail: Newcomers in August 2016, two adorable dwarf goats – Penelope and Stuart – live next to the property’s gardens.
Destination Gem: Area outfitter, Above Reality, offers hot-air-balloon tours from the resort property over the rolling foothills of the Green Mountains and shoreline of Lake Champlain.

A Legendary Boston Back Bay Hotel
Copley Square Hotel | Boston, MA

Overview: The oldest continuously operating hotel in Boston (since 1891), this 140-room property is Back Bay’s swankiest with posh accommodations and an on-site nightclub. 
Concierge Tip: In honor of the hotel’s 125th birthday in 2016, for an additional $1.25, guests receive valet parking, a full breakfast for two, and a surprise birthday amenity.
Treat Yourself: Every day at 5 p.m., a complimentary “Wine Down” in the lobby offers a different fine red and white (and sangria in the summer).
Don’t-Miss Detail: In the 1891 Boardroom, you’ll see turn-of-the-nineteenth-century photos of the hotel, including an old receipt for a $7 overnight stay. 
Destination Gem: Located across the street, Boston Duck Tours is home to the city’s famous 80-minute tours aboard WWII-inspired vehicles that run on both land and water.

An Intimate Hotel Escape in The Heart of Boston
Ames Hotel Boston | Boston, MA

Overview: Boston’s first skyscraper built in 1893, this chic 114-room hotel mixes European architecture, sleek lines, and minimalist design in the heart Boston’s most happening district. 
Concierge Tip: Need to get somewhere close by and quicky? Borrow one of the hotel’s cruiser bicycles.
Treat Yourself: Book the “Apartment,” the hotel’s most exclusive accommodation, which includes sumptuous details like a velvet chaise, oversized Moroso sofa, silk rugs, and a white feather chandelier.
Don’t-Miss Detail: The property’s Romansque floor-to-ceiling arched windows are a dramatic backdrop for photos. 
Destination Gem: Built in 1742, the famous marketplace of Faneuil Hall is just one block away from the hotel and filled with all kinds of retail and restaurants, as well as world-traveling street performers.

White Plains Most Unique & Original Resort 
Doral Arrowwood | Rye Brook, NY 

Overview: Located an hour from New York City, this 373-room resort nestled on 114 acres caters to corporate executives and those looking for a destination getaway. 
Concierge Tip: On Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m., sample a slew of local micro-brews in The Pub for $10 a pop.
Treat Yourself: Book the 9 & Dine package and receive a bucket of balls at the resort’s driving range, nine holes on the Robert Von Hagge-designed course, and dining perks.
Don’t-Miss Detail: The giant ballerina sculpture (from the hotel owner’s personal collection) that guards the entrance to the guest wing makes for a great photo opp. 
Destination Gem: Located 10 miles away, Playland Park’s 1920s wooden coaster is one of approximately 100 working coasters of its kind in the US. 

New Brunswick, Central Jersey’s Little “Big” City 
The Heldrich | New Brunswick, NJ 

Overview: Located an hour from New York City, this 235-room gem lives in the heart of the cultural center of downtown New Brunswick.
Concierge Tip: Present your same-day ticket stubs from any of the downtown cultural venues and receive 10 percent off of your entrées in the resort’s Christopher’s Lounge.
Treat Yourself: The 50-minute full-body Detoxifying Body Wrap removes impurities at The Spa at The Heldrich, while also treating you to a scalp massage.
Don’t-Miss Detail: Just one of several pieces by New Jersey artists, J. Kenneth Leap’s “Garden of Hesperides” is a three-dimensional, glass wall hanging that welcomes you in the hotel lobby.
Destination Gem: Across the street, the Cultural Center of New Brunswick features award-winning music, arts, and theater.

Historic Village on the Scenic Hudson River.
Edith Macy Conference Center I Briarcliff Manor, NY

Overview: Situated on more than 400 acres of secluded and lush hillside 45 minutes from Manhattan, this 52-guest room conference center is an ideal place to get away and focus on the work at hand. 
Concierge Tip: The self-guided walking tour or scavenger hunt are great ways for guests to explore the property.
Treat Yourself: Numerous fire pits are a popular place for guests to end their day; s’mores kits are available at the bar nightly.
Don’t-Miss: Detail Built in 1926, the Great Hall is an on-site historic building boasting a beautiful slate patio, stairs, and roof, as well as an incredible, original wood interior.
Destination Gem: Just seven miles west of the resort, Cronton Point Park is home to two vaulted brick wine cellars built into the hillside and believed to be the oldest in New York State.