The $2,500 Hamburger: The Point at Saranac Lake, New York
Need to score big points with your significant other? Looking for a fly-in experience beyond the usual $100 hamburger...like maybe a $2,500 hamburger? Formerly the Rockefellers' camp in the Adirondacks, The Point is now a remarkable, ultra-deluxe romantic hideaway and the nation's number-one-rated resort in the Zagat Survey. For a mere $1,000 a night, you get outstanding service, all-you- can-eat superb gourmet food, an open bar, and the ultimate sybaritic wilderness experience. If you need to put a dent in those stock market gains, that year-end bonus, or your kids' college fund, The Point in Saranac Lake, New York, is definitely the place.
Click on any of the photos that accompany this article to view larger, higher-resolution images.
(For most of us, this is about as close as we'll ever get to The Point! —Ed.)
Cynthia, my otherwise perfect bride, hates to fly. Always on the lookout for a pretext to lure her into the air, I stumbled across The Point while flipping pages in the Relais et Châteaux hotel book. Only an hour's flight from our home base at While Plains, N.Y. (HPN) — I tell my family that everything is "an hour" away — it seemed perfect. To make certain I had her hooked, though, I asked our close friends the Harpers if they would consider joining us; I knew she could back out on me, but she couldn't back out on them. Reservations were made five months in advance. On the appointed day, when we arrived at The Point — two Valiums, one martini and 80 minutes (that's about an hour, right?) after departure — even Cynthia wasn't disappointed.
The Point is in Saranac Lake, New York, in the heart of Adirondack Mountain State Park — at six million acres, the largest park in the United States. Saranac Lake is a nearly continuous waterway — from Upper Saranac Lake to Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake — that provides beautiful mountain views, with soaring bald eagles overhead and an almost ancient, pristine quality. No wonder the Robber Barons all chose this area to build their summer camps. The Point was originally the Rockefeller's "camp."
Access to the area is obtained through Adirondack Regional Airport (SLK), a full-service IFR airport (on the day of our arrival, we shot an ILS approach to minimums in snow showers and fog) located 100 nm. north of Albany, New York. The airport is attended (see below for hours) but uncontrolled. ZBW provides air-traffic-control services in this area.
The area is readily reachable from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Montreal. There is even scheduled air service on USAir from EWR, ALB and BTV.
By prearrangement, The Point sent their van for us, and it (and their very helpful driver) were waiting for us on the tarmac as we taxied up to the FBO. The driver unloaded our baggage, and we were off. (Hertz cars are available at SLK for those who plan on venturing forth from The Point, chances are that you won't want to.) The drive to The Point is 17 miles and about 25 minutes.
Arrival at The Point is via a long, unpaved access road, with a
rough-hewn log gate. There are no signs for The Point. Visitors are not welcome ("We
regret that all drop-ins must be turned away at the gate," their brochure
admonishes). Since all arrangements have been made prior to arrival, there is no check-in,
and we were taken directly to our rooms. There are no predetermined check-in/check-out
times at The Point.
And what rooms they were! Of log architecture, they feature stone fireplaces, marble bathrooms and sumptuous beds. Each room is decorated to within an inch of its life, and is equipped with a library. Robes, slippers, hair dryers and irons are kept in every room. No amenity has been overlooked. If it's not there, all you have to do is ask. There are no phones in guest rooms, no television and no newspapers.
arrived shortly before dinner on Friday. After a short stroll around and a nap, it was
time to dress for dinner. Jackets and ties are de rigeur for all evenings,
and black tie is suggested, but not required, on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Virtually everyone succumbs to this mandate. The Great Hall, where meals are served, is
elegantly decorated, and it's appropriate that the guests are suitably attired.
The cuisine at The Point is incredible. The executive chef and kitchen staff were trained under Albert Roux, three-star Michelin type. Individual dietary requirements are accommodated. Meals are served en famille: no menu, family-style tables of eight. The supply of food seems endless. After only one meal, I can hear my coronary arteries snapping shut. After one feeble attempt to have a "light" continental breakfast in our room, I capitulated to utter gluttony. Some guests come for the food alone. It's worth it.
On Saturday, some exercise was certainly appropriate. Cynthia, the Harpers and I all went for a long walk in the woods, and then a long walk out of the property. There are no formal activities. With a maximum of 22 guests, The Point has the luxury of individualizing most everything. Fishing rods and tackle, canoes, rowboats, water-skiing and swimming are all available. Adirondack guides can be arranged for hiking, fishing or just about any other outdoor activity. The staff will go to great lengths to assure that you have every possible opportunity to have an enjoyable experience.
Guests should be prepared with lots of clothes, since jacket and tie, black tie and informal attire are all needed. including casual clothes and boots for walking and Topsiders or sneakers. Outdoor clothing that can be added and removed in layers is a good idea. Nights are cold, year-round.
So, what's wrong with the place? Depending on your outlook, you may find en famille dining with other guests to be tiresome and the illusion of being in a private home to be strained and disingenuous. Guests are self-selected on the basis of their ability to afford the accommodations, not on the basis of their affability as dinner companions. If you're in love and you bring your own company, so much the better.
Room rates are for two people, including unlimited use of sports equipment and facilities, three meals, unlimited wine, liquor and liqueurs from self-service bars open 24 hours a day. There is a minimum stay of 2 nights on weekends, 3 nights over holiday weekends. Prepayment in full is expected at the time of reservation. The hotel quotes rates with service charges and taxes. Real room rates range from $953 (including 15% service charge and 7% NYS sales tax) to $1,261 (for the boathouse, shown above right) per night. You can have the entire property for for $11,997 a night. Go for it. You're worth it. Needless to say, your platinum card is welcome.
The Point, HCR #1 Box 65, Saranac Lake, New York 12983, (800) 255-3530, (518) 891-5674, fax (518) 891-1152.
Adirondack Airport, (518) 891-4600 — 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.