When I used to tell people that I was taking off for the Catskills, they pictured me at an all-you-can-eat buffet at a down-at-the-heels resort. But the mountains two hours northwest of Manhattan are fashionable again, with new restaurants, boutique lodgings and part-time residents like Uma Thurman and David Bowie.
For starters, I head north on Route 32 towards Rosendale, an old mining town. The Rosendale Cement Company (419 Main St.; 845-658-3210) is a restaurant in a refurbished 1860 brothel. Chef Jonathan Sheridan's specialties include seven-lily soup with red onions, leeks and Gruyère, and Sicilian braised chicken. You can eat on the porch overlooking the lovely flower gardens or have a drink at the silver Airstream trailer they've turned into a bar.
Most of my favorite artisanal purveyors are due west along Route 28. Just outside Wittenberg, near Woodstock, I stop at Smoked Fish and Honey (403 Wittenberg Rd.; 845-679-4514), the shop owned by Lenny Busciglio, the mad-genius cousin of late tennis pro Vitas Gerulaitis and the Catskills' best trout smoker. The pint-size Ice Cream Station (84 Main St., Phoenicia; 845-688-5851) sells homemade strawberry near a 14-foot statue of Davy Crockett. I get fishing equipmentand a licenseat Morne Imports (52 Main St., Phoenicia; 845-688-7738), also a retailer of garden gnomes. Ten minutes away is the charming old-world Copperhood Inn & Spa (doubles from $270; Rte. 28, Shandaken; 845-688-2460). Some rooms overlook the Esopus Creek, where there's a private island with tennis courts. You'd never mistake Copperhood for the Lazy Meadow Motel (5191 Rte. 28, Mt. Tremper; 845-688-7200), which is owned by Kate Pierson of The B-52s and has retro chic interiorsthink turquoise Frigidaires and atomic-starburst clocks. The rustic cabins are set on a secluded section of the Esopus, ideal for tubing, and the perfect place to pretend that the Catskills are still my little secret.