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Northeast Vacations


The nation’s oldest buildings and cities – including Boston and New York City – are rooted in the Northeast, making it one of the most historically rich regions you’ll ever visit. Not to mention, it’s home to the country’s most brilliant display of nature’s distinct seasons.

Essex resort culinary school
Culinary Kingdom
The Essex Resort & Spa is more than just a place to rest your head at night. Cooking – particularly the education and enjoyment of great food – is the true lifeblood of this hotel.
Laura Sorkin
culinary school pastry chef

The Essex Resort & Spa isn't just a resort and spa.  It's a culinary destination. From 1989 to 2009, before it was a resort, the site housed a branch of the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), where chefs would train under the tutelage of New England’s leading culinary minds. Though the NECI has moved on, the culinary trainings still abound – the only difference is that now it’s the chefs training the guests, with classes that range from weeklong adventures that explore regional cuisine to a three-hour course that ends in a sumptuous student-prepared meal. If looking for something more passive, they can watch the prep cooks prepare the evening meal or stop by one of the demos held in the lobby every afternoon. Or, if they would prefer to leave the prep work to the professionals altogether, there are two restaurants (Tavern and Junction), which serve fare made from the high-quality produce Vermont is famous for. Here, we highlight the ways in which culinary art permeates the many aspects of the resort.

Cook Academy 

Two teaching kitchens make up the resort’s Cook Academy, a low-stress, hands-on program that allows guests to work alongside one of the resort’s chefs to prepare a meal from Vermont ingredients. Limited to eight participants, the cooking classes are held daily and feature subjects like hand making different types of pasta, cooking with Vermont beer, crepe workshops, and more. 

Bake Shop

Apart from the professional kitchen that serves the two on-site restaurants, the resort is also home to its very own kitchen bakery located in the basement level of the resort. Here, three ovens, one stove, and plenty of gadgets – like ice cream makers and giant standing mixers with bowls large enough to bathe in – help churn out out a range of pastries, breads, and cakes, which are featured throughout the two restaurants, the lobby’s pastry display case, or possibly even one of the banquet halls. Twice a day (once in the morning and again at night), the resort puts out a tray of that day’s treats in the lobby for guests to sample.

Daily Cooking Demos

Every day, at 4:30 p.m., one of the chefs brings their prep work for that evening’s dinner to showcase in the lobby. You can expect to see them cranking out pastas from an extruder, chopping and dicing a range of veggies from the on-site gardens, stuffing squash blossoms, and more. 

Chef’s Table at Junction

The culinary jewel of the resort, Junction Restaurant, is known for its playful culinary-themed décor: Whimsical place-settings of all different styles are ensconced on the ceiling; the private dining room features a giant chandelier made of spoons and colanders. But the star of the experience is the Chef’s Table, where diners can sidle up to the counter space that looks into the open kitchen to watch the chef’s in action, while chatting with them about their techniques and tricks. 

Spa at The Essex

Even the full-service spa features a nod to culinary art. Several of the herbs and flowers from the on-site garden are used in the products, and there are specialty body treatments that employ food: a coffee-almond scrub, a body brew (made from hops grown on-site), a honey-lavender treatment, and more.

painting of a man in a top hat
Copley Square Hotel
The Greatest
Art Heist in History
You may have heard about Boston’s notorious 1990 art heist, when half-a-billion dollars’ worth of art was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. What you may not have heard are the top theories of who did it.
By Jeff Harder
painting of man riding a horse through a city street

The empty frames in the Dutch Room, a gallery on the second floor of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, once held some of the greatest human achievements rendered in brushstrokes: Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black, and Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert. But in the early hours of March 18, 1990, they vanished after two men dressed as Boston police arrived at the museum to investigate a disturbance. Security guard Richard Abath buzzed the men inside, and within minutes, Abath and the other security guard on duty were bound and duct-taped. The faux police officers disabled the security cameras, then set on pillaging the museum, slicing canvases from their frames and swiping 13 artworks. After 81 minutes, the thieves drove away with a score worth half-a-billion dollars today – the single-largest property theft in United States history.

In the 27 years since, the crime has been linked to a rogues’ gallery of New England’s underworld with Amore and FBI investigators following leads from Boston to Brooklyn to France and to Japan. But it still remains unsolved to this day. Here are a few of the top theories of how it was done, who may have done it, and where the works of art reside now. 

Theory 1: The Security Guard was Involved 

Through the years, Richard Abath – the then 23-year-old security guard who let the Gardner thieves into the building – has remained a person of interest. While Abath maintains his innocence, it’s unclear whether he simply made a bad decision or if he was the heist’s inside man. Motion sensor data traced the thieves’ movements throughout the museum, but in the museum’s Blue Room – where the stolen Manet hung – the sensors picked up only Abath’s footsteps from his evening patrol. The sensors also revealed that Abath opened a side door to the museum just before letting the thieves in. And that security video that investigators released in 2015 from the night of the robbery? It was of Abath speaking with an unidentified, unauthorized visitor in the museum lobby for several minutes. (Abath, for his part, says he has no memory of the person.)

Theory 2: Local Boston Mobsters Stole the Art

For the Boston FBI, the leading theory involves Quincy gangster Carmello Merlino and his associates Leonard DiMuzio and George Reissfelder. DiMuzio and Reissfelder resembled police sketches of the perpetrators, Reissfelder’s car matched the vehicle witnesses spotted on the night of the Gardner theft, and Reissfelder’s family even claimed to have seen Chez Tortoni hanging in his bedroom. Investigators believe that Robert Guarente, a mobster from Maine, acquired some of the paintings, and they eventually found their way to Philadelphia, where the trail went cold. All of these criminals are now dead: DiMuzio was shot to death and Reissfelder died of a drug overdose, both in 1991. Guarente died of cancer in 2004. Merlino died in jail in 2005; despite offers of leniency, he offered no information about the Gardner paintings.

Theory 3: One Man May Hold the Key to the Art’s Whereabouts 

A still-living actor in this dizzying cast of characters is Robert Gentile, a now-incarcerated octogenarian gangster who, according to a tip Guarente’s widow gave to authorities, received two Gardner paintings from Guarente and brought them to Philadelphia. The FBI conducted several searches of his Manchester, Connecticut, home between 2012 and 2016. During one such search, they found a piece of typewritten paper inside a March 1990 copy of the Herald, listing the names of the 13 artworks with amounts they might fetch on the black market; Gentile also failed lie detector tests when he denied knowing where the paintings were. Gentile ended up serving prison time for gun and drug charges and even after a health scare last fall didn’t offer up a confession. He maintains that he doesn’t know where the paintings are and, if he did, he’d return them for leniency and the reward money.