The DeBruce: A Charming Catskills Culinary Retreat

Written by Salvatore DiBenedetto [@TheGrubfather]
Please note photos are from Summer season. The DeBruce is located in the Catskills and the ambiance & menu is completely reflective of the season. 
When we think of an exciting getaway our eyes often turn to the sky, envisioning airports and planes. This year, amidst venturing around the world, I needed something more humbling. The result? I turned my eyes North for what would become to of my most memorable adventures this year to The DeBruce. The 14 room lodge boasts an incredible food program – each room comes with breakfast and dinners for two, including an epic 9 course tasting menu.
My first trip to the Western Catskills was a sporadic choice for my girlfriend’s getaway birthday celebration. We wanted something exciting but without all the hassle of air travel. The region’s Americana allure was a welcoming factor after spending a fiery Summer in Europe. We were sold on the idea of fresh air, cozy quarters and a slightly undiscovered culinary scene.
Daniela and I snaked our way North on a Monday evening, riding out to a gorgeous sunset and arriving to the region by nightfall. The endlessly dark landscape reminded me of how much I love arriving to a new destination by night… Nothing to see but everything to imagine.
Self-admittedly, I wanted to love The DeBruce. How could I not? It touched upon every element of getaway I had envisioned for this trip: A chef-driven hotel, bountiful acres of nature and a vision that played out like a storybook. I was steadfast in my faith up until the
moment we arrived.
Needless to say, my expectations were surpassed and The DeBruce did something more, it deepened my understanding of the region in its entirety.
The DeBruce is a moment in time. Transcending the normalities of hotel,resort or inn, the place becomes something more. I’ve come to hate the word “experience” when dealing with hospitality but I can’t help but find solace in the term when I think of my time at The DeBruce.
Seasonality is redefined here. The dining room’s stunning panoramic view of the mountain backdrop is a tell tale of the elements. My visit in the Summer offered a sweeping green scene but I grew excited at the prospect of dining amongst a toasted Fall foliage, a magical Winter snowfall or the blossoming of Spring.
Cue the culinary team, headed by Chef Aksel Theilkuhl who brings the season’s flavor to life through nightly tasting menus and decadent breakfasts. Chef Aksel and his team embark on wild foraging trips of the property’s 600 acres every day, dashing dishes with ingredients found in the very land diners gaze upon. Poetry in food? I believe so.
Following my tasting, I had a chance to kick it with the kitchen crew and staff in the downstairs bar. We dove into Chef Aksel’s past as a Johnson & Wales graduate, Michelin training endeavors in France and his eventual landing here.
Perhaps its biggest vantage is that The DeBruce may evoke a different experience for each of its guests by covering a wide array of amenities and perspectives. Visiting the property for my girlfriend’s birthday checked off everything that could comprise a low-key celebration: Local yet foreign, familiar yet surprising and all set in a humbled, luxe aesthetic.
The ending note? We loved it so much we returned for my birthday a few months later! The Winter experience was just as diverse, unique and exceptional in food and drink.
Make the trip!
Always hungry,
Salvatore DiBenedetto

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