Mere minutes from downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa is a true hideaway, its entrance hidden beneath towering pine trees. The 2,200-acre property on Saratoga State Park features 9- and 18-hole golf courses, two outdoor pools, a full-service spa and salon, and varied outdoor recreation like hiking, biking, tennis, and cross-country skiing, but the main attraction is right downstairs in the kitchen.
Executive chef Brian Sterner promises guests local, fresh, high-quality food and he delivers on his promise. Some 20 to 40 percent of the ingredients on Sterner’s seasonal menu are sourced from local farmers whom he personally visits to verify sustainability and ethical standards.
On a recent visit to Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa, The Daily Meal accompanied Sterner to the Saratoga Farmers' Market, where he picked up mushrooms, yogurt, cheese, and a variety of greens to use in his menu that night.
"We use the freshest, best ingredients we can get our hands on with a local, regional tie-in," said Sterner, who grows many of his own herbs and vegetables right in the resort’s backyard patio garden. "I want to be able to tell guests the food doesn’t get more local than this."
The freshness is evident in the dressings, sauces, rubs, and pestos that are made from his garden and served at the newly opened Putnam’s Restaurant and Bar. Sterner can often be seen personally walking diners out to the garden to admire the peppers, basil, squash, and lavender — all used to create specialties like house-grown shiitake flatbread, pesto roasted squash panini, and lemon lavender pound cake.
Sterner began planting herbs outside as a personal project and over four years the garden’s grown into a team-building activity for the entire staff. Everyone pitches in with clipping and cultivating, and potted plants are hung in the kitchen during winter.
Sterner also shines at crafting summer barbecues, the hotel’s bi-annual beer dinners, and weekly Sunday brunches — a hotel tradition for more than a half century. Constantly working with different ingredients, Sterner masterfully worked Newcastle Brown Ale into a squash bisque, Amstel Wheat into a Waldorf salad, Dos Equis into both beef and chicken, and Newcastle Summer Ale into a chocolate keg cake during our visit.
You can’t help but feel at home with fresh food, homemade sweets, and personable chef who gives guided garden tours.
Hospitality was provided by Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa to the author.