Where's Moe?

Photo by Keith Farris/CIA

The trip began hopefully but slowly turned strange toward, and I don't know that it was entirely Bourdain's fault (as it typically is).  Other forces had to be at work.

I was thrilled to be returning to the Hudson Valley to be a part of another No Reservations episode.  The Hudson Valley is the place where my life changed in an extraordinary way. Also, it's a place of great natural beauty and the food grown and raised there is fantastic. The crew had already begun shooting by the time I arrived but my first stop with Bourdain was the Culinary Institute of America, which I wrote a book about and which is Bourdain's alma mater (he graduated more than thirty years ago, thirty).

We were handed snappy chef coats on which our names were emblazoned and set up in Chef Pardus's Asian kitchen, prepping and preparing a stir-fried squid dish. To our mutual relief, neither of us embarrassed ourselves at the wok—though the students in Pardus's class had our backs the whole time in the event that we made a mess of things.

We had awesome wheels again, a 1965 Lincoln Continental convertible, suicide doors and all, must have weighed three tons and got at best five miles to the gallon, but this was a car with genuine character.



But really what set the tone of my days there was the Mohonk Mountain House, a vast sprawling resort where the crew was staying, the biggest wood structure I've seen in a long time. Tony had heard rumors it was the resort Stephen King had in mind when writing The Shining, even seemed a little creeped out by it, wondering if the crew could fill an elevator with blood for one of the scenes. The family that has owned it from its 19th-century beginnings is named Smiley. Soon Tony was taking to spending inordinate amounts of time in the spa while the crew filled the hours shooting B-roll (even this article in the Times Herald Record, notes the spa business).  He was munching pain killers like breath mints and began to obsess about his cuticles.

The guy's an odd creature with his own inner demons, surely, so I was just rolling with it hoping things didn't get worse (even when he started with Red Rum Red Rum whenever we were in the elevator alone together, trying to make it sound like a joke, but chuckling nervously).

Things got genuinely creepy for me for me, though, when a note was slipped under my door, rousing me from my nap. Tony was inviting me to high tea on the upstairs porch overlooking the lake.  We had high tea together.  Our conversation over cucumber sandwiches and 140-year-old china was strained, at best. It got worse afterward when he suggested we go for a little boat ride after tea.  Was he going Victorian on me?  Would he bring a parasol? Was he going to propose?  Dump me in the lake with a pair of cement clogs? It's not just his kid he talks about now, it's his kitty cat as well.  Was his fame making him go all Michael Jackson on me?  I had no idea.

I honestly think it was Pardus's Asian pork belly and the promise of Hudson Whiskey waiting for us in Pardus's backyard for the final meal of the shoot that kept Tony focused on the road ahead.  It did turn out to be a long late and delicious meal, until the fog rolled in off the river. Last I saw him, Tony was a silhouette, staggering into the misty Hudson Valley night, mumbling, insisting he was heading back up the mountain on foot.

I hear he's in Louisville today for a speaking gig. I trust safely.  If you see him, don't bring up the cuticle business, especially not if he's slurring, and not if you're near an open window—he's sensitive about it.


55 Wonderful responses to “Bourdain and No Rez in Hudson Valley”

  • applehome

    Now I’m worried. A kid and a cat – there’s such a thing as too much responsibility for a man. And based on his own blog, he’s really doing a lot of traveling and shooting – he’s got to provide, provide, provide… OTOH, he’s been a skinny, neurotic, driven workaholic – probably all his life. And a new wife, kids, cats and TV shows are a lot better than whatever else he had used. So did he have a block of Knorr’s in his pocket back at the CIA?

  • Scott Johnston

    Wow, not sure if this is great or if I should be very afraid. Thanks for the in-depth behind the scences look at no res. Now that you are back, was it a good time or just an adventure?

  • Flora

    Tonight is the big night – 9:00 p.m. Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. We have been talking non-stop about the big event tonight at Ideafest all week.

  • skormos

    Was at Mohonk for my first Anniversary. It’s gorgeous place, and does have The Shining creepy feeling, but what a lovely setting! Would go back for certain, though the food their was a bit over-rated. =/

    I need to know though… during high tea, were the pinkies extended or tucked? lol.

  • parkbench

    A KITTY?! I have a kitty. I have three kitties in fact. I am a woman of a certain age and it is, I’m told, required of me.

    But Bourdain should never, ever have kitties.

    Good lord, man. He is so jumping the shark. I was worried when he went for drinks with David Johansen — frou frou drinks with fucking parasols! Now, KITTEHS. What’s next, a No Rez with an “I Can Haz Cheeseburger?” LOLcat theme? gaaaaaaaaaah.

    For god’s sake, Ruhlman, don’t let him drag you to the dark side, too. Bring him back to us, Ruhlman. Please, in the name of all that is holy.


  • Jamie

    Can’t wait for the show! I’ve been to Mohonk a few times, it is a very interesting place.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I have a phrase I am finding it impossible NOT to say and the words are not of my ownership…but,

    “I see two middle-aged food dudes” cooking side-by-side…

    I have been to the Mohonk in the days when it used to host the Who Did It Mystery weekends…mmm it has a spa now????

  • bourdain

    Spa treatments, Ruhlman?
    Lies and calumny–your blood libel already picked up by the local press, I see. For a guy who demands 45 minutes of intensive man-scaping, waxing, plucking, aromatherapy and then hair and make-up before every scene on camera, your account seems disingenuous at best. And lay off Mr. Fluffington–he never hurt anyone and needn’t be involved in this.

  • Kate in the NW

    I suspect the kitty is Bourdain’s answer to Gordon Ramsay’s turkey and lamb-raising stunt. Or maybe not – the daughter would cry, and as a besotted parent myself, I know The Kid’s Wishes trump all – and I mean pretty much ALL other intentions and impulses.

    Mohonk is gorgeous, and sometimes creepy for sure. We never has enough scratch to stay in the “Big House” (even before the Spa moved in), but we used to rent a little Revolutionary-War-era cabin way out on the property. I’d pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and we’d get to cook all our meals in cast iron in the huge stone fireplace, and watch the stars through the cracks in the roof. Nice place.

    Too bad it’s in Westchester….

    (Oh Gawd – I just had a horrible thought…Bourdain moving to a big white, green-shuttered Colonial planted on rolling green lawns in Bedford…Afternoon Tea on the porch, a swingset in the back yard, a late-model Mercedes sedan in the flawlessly-paved driveway…THE HORROR – THE HORROR!!!!)

  • Pat Goodwin

    Okay, enough frivolity and kitty sh… When does the show air? Or will it?

    TEA? BOATING? WTF? Bourdain and Ruhlman visit Oxford?

  • craigkite

    Tony has Mr. Fluffington, leave the poor dude alone! William Burroughs had cats. Maybe that is not a good example of a stable middle-age man with cats. Did Fluffy survive the Oriental Cuisine crash course by Pardus? Thank god, the Sunshine Boys have hit the Catskills for a reunion.

  • jo

    Can’t wait to see the episode. Very nice wheels. There is a ’66 navy blue version of that very car out in my garage as we speak. Takes 10 minutes for the ass end to get around the corner.
    SO..VERY..L-O-N-G. I was amazed though that there is ZERO space for luggage as it’s all roof in the trunk.

  • JunkyPOS

    68′ Mustang K THNX

    Fluff huh?

    Might I suggest you ingest some gastric FOAM a’la Marcel?

  • luis

    The most amazing thing about a dancing B… is not how well he is dancing these days but that he is stil alive and dancing at all…..high tea anyone?

  • luis

    Michael… I am into casseroles these days…You do touch on the subject in… “The elements of cooking” but really don’t say much on it at all….?. Do you ever make one? I have the feeling this is one dish that is useful to the home cook but really can stand being done well and NOT confort style. Isn’t it time to elevate the common casserole?

  • luis

    The most amazing thing about a dancing B… is not how well he dances but that he is still dancing at all…

  • Rhonda

    Wow. This is freaking me out! Tony has gone Marco. At least he didn’t invite Madonna to tea like Marco does.

    Cuticle treatments, earring and thumb ring gone and now high tea? And a kitty cat?

    I hope you are kidding about the painkillers. I really really do. It took him too long to beat smack.

    Anyways, you guys look great. Hope it was a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing the episode in two years time when they air it in Canada (not kidding, unfortunately).

  • Carrie

    Why do I find it impossible to believe anything either of you say about the other? You know you’re secretly bffs. I saw the twinkle in your eye when you were leaning toward each other over a bowl of skyline chili. LOL

  • Tony

    These tales portend troubling times, at best. There is only one solution. Drinking copiously from dawn ’till dusk.

    /No better way to keep the spirits at bay

  • Darren

    I just came home from Kentucky Center where Mr. Bourdain brought the house down. The crowd loved him and there was only one loud drunken questioner that Tony managed to blow off with style. But what’s the deal with people asking for books to be signed during the question session? Or some owner of a sh*tty restaurant inviting him over. Some people have no manners. I mean, this guy is to be respected . . . he’s been drunk in over half the world!

  • Elayne Riggs

    Wow, up to $500 a night per room! Any suggestions on what those of us who aren’t millionaires might be able to do in the Hudson Valley this autumn? It’s my favorite time of year and my favorite place to be, only a couple hours from where I live. In a rented apartment.

  • Big Red

    Poor Ruhlman. It is never easy to see one’s nemisis lose their mind. I sensed Tony going soft, but this is ridiculous! LOL I have spent time down there and I loved it. I was supposed to go to the CIA in my younger days, but something happened to keep me from that career. But I digress…
    High tea, pain killers and whiskey is never a good combination. I think tony is trying to reconcile his 80s punk self with that of the English Dandy. Kep watching, this should get interesting. In the meantime, anyone else you plan on using to replace your nemesis? He ain’t long for this world if he has gotten a cat.

  • Bob delGrosso

    “It did turn out to be a long late and delicious meal, until the fog rolled in off the river.”

    Fog? I don’t remember any fog. Are you making a metaphor for the cumulative effects of local beer, local whiskey and fatigue?

  • NYCook

    My one big regret from CIA is that I never got to see Tony at school, take him out to Darby’s and get hammered. Tony whenever you are ready for Scarsdale we will welcome you with open arms.

  • nan

    I have always suspected Tony to be a mama’s boy and this post seems to confirm that in some abstract way. hilarious!

  • Chris L

    I can’t decide which was better, the original post or Tony’s response in the comments! Also, I think Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining was the Grand Hotel in Boulder, CO, or someplace out that way. He talks about it either in the forward to The Stand or the re-released Shining. SOunds like you had fun in the Valley though.

  • Francisco Migoya

    I am an instructor at the CIA and I have to say that it is great that both of you were on campus. The students were star struck and giddy. They definitely look up to you and Tony. I cannot wait to watch the episode.

  • JunkyPOS

    @Tags….not surpisingly, you’ve brought “fluff-a-nutta” to the next level. 😉

    Who else is invited to “high tea”?

  • Monsieur Ghislain

    Oh, now you’ve done it. This whole business of confusing high tea and afternoon tea really grates me. I know some American hotels go as far as calling it high tea themselves, but the fancy finger sandwich tea you have in the afternoon is called afternoon tea. High tea is a sort of early dinner of the British working class. This is one of my major pet peeves.

    Anyway, enough about my neuroses. Sounds like it should a good episode. Do you know if they went to Blue Hill Farm?

  • corey roundi

    The Shining was filmed in The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park,Co. Love No rez and Mr. Tonys’ style. Just ate @ L2O in chicago. what a treat.

  • Tags

    @Monsieur Ghislain – Michael had every intention of calling it “afternoon tea…”

    then the fog rolled in.

  • DJ

    PS, Mohonk’s not in Westchester, it’s an hour north of there in fabulous Ulster County. It did not inspire King to write The Shining. That was the hotel another commenter mentioned in Estes Park, Colo.

  • mirinblue

    Nice job, Michael, for letting the “cat out of the bag”! I seem to remember that Tony has always loved and kept a cat. So you, my friend, are late to the party! (must be all that waxing, make-up, etc) LOL

  • James

    The Shinning was filmed in Oregon……it was inspired by the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO.

  • Gman

    Mohonk Mt House is a parallel universe; a very EXPENSIVE parallel universe.

    It is also a very inadequate inspiration for true gonzo, though it sounds like you coulda gone epic had you been in less bizarre surroundings.

    Next time you’re in Po-town, Michael, ya gotta start at Andy’s at supper and end up at Julie’s on Raymond Ave for breakfast. Whatever happens in between is guaranteed to beat afternoon tea and cuke sandwiches by a country mile.

  • Dixon

    At least he’s on pain pills…Bourdain isn’t Bourdain straight and sober.
    It also proves he ain’t no steenkin’ quitter.

  • gemma

    thanks for coming to the west side of the Hudson.i live in new paltz and there is plenty to do on weekends for a short day trip. one need not stay at Mohonk,as there are plenty of b&b’s and smaller hotels,that are less expensive. as for food, well, the town has plenty of food:thai,pizza anyone? sushi, mexican, indian,middle-eastern, the bistro, pubs(it is a college town) and small quiet places like bello. so take a walk around the 17th century cementary,visit the old stone houses,walk the rail trail, visit the new “bridge over the Hudson” state park, hike the mountain, learn to rock climb,pick apples, and enjoy the day. traffic on weekends is a bitch when the weather is nice. driver beware.