356 W 58th St, btwn Eighth/Ninth Aves, 212-554-6217, Hudson Lodge
Though the weather outside is…well, indecisive at best, one thing is certain: it snows every night promptly at 8 o’clock in Hudson Lodge, the seasonal pop-up at the glorious Hudson Hotel’s outdoor park. Gusts of artificial snowflakes propelled from several strategically placed snow blowers gently float down to make a miracle on 58th Street. Under a thumping DJ beat, garden vines extend from the grand lobby to discover roughly paneled wood planks on the walls and trophy animals, both real and imagined, filling them—heads of gazelles, boars, stags and wildebeests look on with fanciful ceramic deer for neighbors. Vintage sporting goods such as toboggans, snowshoes and ski boots thrown about add to the wintry whimsy. Should you not wish to participate in the après-ski atmosphere, you may leave your earmuffs, mufflers and mittens at the door; this lodge is tented and heated.
My fella and I met up with a few friends for cocktails and nibbles. Hudson Lodge is self-service, so we found our selections from the charming bar and food stands attended by men clad in patterned sweaters and knitted caps. Although it sounded fun, we thought better of bottle service, with Belvedere frozen in a block of ice for $150 bucks--Veuve Clicquot in a drift of SnoPowder over a bucket of ice was a better bargain at $65, but we went for cocktails instead. The Snow Cone with shaved ice was an easy decision for me. It was definitely drinkable but was so flooded with lemon juice that the elements of clementine, grapefruit and apricot juices with chamomile were difficult to discern. The Winter Holiday Cooler with pisco and bitters had exciting inclusions of fig jam and maple syrup, but was dominated by the flavor of ginger beer. On the warmer side of things, the Chocolate Bonbon looked quite a treat. It was a great sensation to discover—underneath the delicious cold cream topping the mug—tequila, Grand Marnier and hot chocolate hibernating below! Ultimately we decided a simple order of Bulleit bourbon whiskey was the best answer to the cold.
The menu is limited, with savory and sweet options. And there are no plates, just napkins—chalet style. We dipped lots of olive oil-slathered slivers of toasted country bread into a steaming tub of fondue with its pervasive hint of green chilis licking the gooey strings of Gruyère, Comté and Appenzeller cheeses as well as Brooklyn Lager, burnt garlic and chunks of well-braised pork. Wonderful chili served in red-and-white plaid cardboard snack trays was their version of a classic Frito pie, I supposed, with chipotle brisket, white cheddar cheese, onions, a dollop of sour cream and of course, Fritos.
Balk and question as you may, the S’more Grilled Cheese with ricotta, Gruyère, and cheddar cheeses laced with Nutella was a wondrous melding of flavors. I don’t know how it worked or why, but spread out between two slices of pressed, grilled bread, it was heaven.
Homemade cookies with chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and cinnamon were made to order and shockingly good—they were still warm when they came to the table! A light dusting of crushed rock salt brought out the balance of flavors even further. Whatever the weather outside may be, inside the Hudson Lodge it’s so delightful. Let it snow!
Short Order: Pots of fondue and hot toddies are among the tasties on the tiny après-ski menu at this urban lodge.
Peter's Picks: Chocolate Bonbon cocktail; green chili fondue; grilled cheese; made-to-order cookie
Peter's Pans: The idiotic woman who complained about the blasts of fake snow.
Prices: Appetizers: $9-$20; Alcohol: wine, beer, full bar, specialty cocktails.
First published in part in Next magazine.