Zen and the art of innkeeping

Photographs by Guy van Grinsven

There’s a peacefulness that descends on the Bedford Post Inn in the early spring. You can hear it in the burble of the reflecting pool, with its cozy outdoor seating and fireplace. You can see it in the soaring, timeless rocks that buttress the hiking and Bedford Riding Lanes Association trails. You can feel it in the deep breathing of the students in The Yoga Loft classes.

The Yoga Loft, overlooking the Zen garden, is a good place to begin the story of our visit to the Bedford Post, because yoga is an integral part of the inn’s daily rhythm and also a metaphor for the attention to detail and sense of community that define the inn.

After an hour of gentle but focused stretches with instructor Tricia Keane in a space distinguished by polished wood, light-filled windows and a huge white paper-lantern chandelier, you feel not only a new fluidity in the body but a lightness of spirit that puts the cares of Zthe day in perspective.

The yoga program isn’t just for guests and staffers. There are six to seven classes a day, seven days a week, with hundreds of students, says Oscar Henquet, the inn’s general manager.

“Richard, Carey and Russell wanted this to be a haven for the community,” says Yoga Loft director Rebekah Jacobs.

That would be actor Richard Gere, his wife, actress Carey Lowell, and their business partner, Russell Hernandez, who live nearby.

“In my long career, I’ve played many challenging and demanding characters,” Gere notes in his charming introduction to the inn’s brochure, “but believe me, none more so than my real life role as an innkeeper.”

Henquet picks up what is by now a fairly well-known tale: Riding his horse, Gere noticed a dilapidated piece of Americana, a Dutch Colonial circa 1762 that was once a post office and is one of only three 18th-century structures still extant in Bedford. Six years ago, he, Lowell and Hernandez brought it back to life – renovating the original building and creating a barn that houses The Yoga Loft and The Barn restaurant. More important, Bedford Post has a new purpose that in part reflects Gere’s commitment to Buddhism.

“There’s a very active meditation program and workshops in art and yoga,” Tricia Keane says of a schedule that recently included two explorations of Tibetan medicine. “It’s really an effort for wellness. And there’s lots of different styles of yoga, from gentle to vigorous vinyasa (breath-synchronized movements). There’s something for everyone here.

“The teachers also support one another,” she adds, so that if a student needs to transfer to a more rigorous class, there’s no possessiveness or jealousy among the instructors.

That sense of community goes hand-in-hand with caring.

“There’s such an attention to detail,” Keane says, pointing to the handsome wood cubbyholes where the yoga props – blankets, bolsters and blocks – are stored neatly.

You’ll find the same meticulousness in the inn itself, which was designed by Lowell, right down to the pale-colored ceramic cups that contain lightly scented candles. The eight suites – some of which have terraces – feature a restful creamy palette, queen- or king-size beds, rich wood and Frette linens and towels in an atmosphere that is at once modern (reclaimed wood, geothermal heating and cooling) and romantically rustic. But where you really see a woman’s touch is in the spacious, blue-gray Cararra marble baths with their mosaic-style floors, upholstered chairs, double sinks and claw-foot tubs – the better for guests, 90 percent of whom are from New York City – to unwind in.

Caring and community extend to the kitchen. On the day WAG visits, Executive Chef Jeremy McMillan has been called away to an emergency on a nearby farm. Locally sourced food is key to the menu at The Barn, which bustles for breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch and dinner Mondays and Tuesdays; and at The Farmhouse, which serves only dinner Wednesdays-Sundays. (There’s also a chefs table for up to 12 guests, a private dining room for up to 24 and a classic wine cellar that seats up to 14 where French limestone keeps the vintages at a constant temperature.)

But food at the Bedford Post isn’t just about the quail, guinea hen, sweetbreads and lamb that may be served from the wood-fire grill on the Farmhouse Patio through October. Farm-to-table hits close to home as some of the inn’s 85 staffers forage for plants on its 14 acres. (Kitchen staffers went on a four-hour forage for edible stuff with naturalist Wildman Steve Brill and continue to consult with him before using any unknown plant in their dishes.)

As we sample a spring vegetable salad of garlic mustard greens, trout lilies, ramps, peas, asparagus and watermelon radishes, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil, Daniel Sabia, one of two sous-chefs, dropped by to chat about some of the popular offerings. At The Barn, they include the lentil, quinoa and shaved vegetables; the jasmine rice veggie burger, served with avocado, pickled beet and daikon slaw; and the more traditional double bacon cheeseburger with fontina, pickled cherry peppers and caramelized onion. Meanwhile, patrons at The Farmhouse can’t get enough of the salt-roasted branzino; the fagotelli, with parmigiano fonduta and chopped truffles; and Johnboy’s chicken, served with sunchokes and shitake mushrooms.

Yet it was clear that foraging – well-established in Europe and now finding a home here – has caught the fancy of Sabia and the Bedford Post Inn.

As he says, “It gives you respect for what you’re eating.”

The Bedford Post Inn is at 954 Old Post Road. Suites range from $395 to $650 per night. For inn reservations, call (914) 205-377. For restaurant reservations, call (914) 234-7800. Or visit bedfordpostinn.com.

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