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I look forward to June every year, not only because the Inn’s gardens are their most beautiful, but because it is strawberry season.

When was the last time you tasted a local strawberry grown in season, in your own region…not California, or Mexico or Chile? If it has been awhile, you won’t believe how delicious a strawberry can truly be. And beautiful, red all the way through, none of those white centers that we see in supermarket strawberries.

Organic Strawberries

Yes, I know those unripe strawberries above are white, but you know what I mean about white centers.

In Ancram, NY, just a scenic 25 minute drive from the Inn, is the beautiful Thompson Finch Farm. Every June I make a pilgrimage to pick their fabulous organic strawberries. I am always impressed by the beautiful rows of plants, carefully mulched with clean straw to dissuade any bugs from trying to make a meal of the ripening strawberries. For more photos of the beautiful drive down to Ancram to the farm, and of me picking strawberries, see my June, 2012 blog post. The farm expects strawberries to be available for picking from the second week of June through the second week of July. But check first by calling the farm at 518-329-7578 for up to date information on the picking conditions.

So plan a visit, bring your basket,  or I will lend you mine. You will be so pleased with the results.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay, the celebrated 20th c. poet, spent the last 25 years of her life just up the road from my Inn at Green River, on her 700 acre farm high up a ridge in Austerlitz, NY. She named the property, Steepletop, after a wildflower which grows there -Steeplebush, or Spirea Tomentosa. This Saturday, May 21, and again, once a month through the summer and fall season, you can take an expanded hiking tour around the property, led by head gardener, Michael Minchak.

Views at Steepletop

Photo courtesy of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society – millay.org

Even if you have visited Steepletop before, this hiking tour offers a broader experience of this historic property.  The tour will include a selection of Millay’s nature poetry, much of it inspired at Steepletop.  You will hike to areas of the property that are not included in the regular House or Grounds & Gardens tours.  You need to wear appropriate attire and foot gear as the hike will take you over uneven terrain, through the forest and the fields, and some areas may be boggy.

This special monthly hike is held on Saturdays; May 21, June 11, July 9, August 20, and October 8, from 10am to 12pm. You will meet at the Visitors Center at Steepletop 15 minutes before the hike begins. The cost is $35.

The woodland photo below was taken along the Poetry Trail.

Photo courtesy of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society – millay.org

For those who wish to take a tour of Millay’s home afterwards, a 12:30 pm tour will be offered at a special price of $12.

Also, this Saturday & Sunday, May 21-22, 2016, there is the added bonus of an Herb and Plant Sale, which takes place from 10am to 4:30pm at the Steepletop Visitors Center.

Millay was a serious gardener, and her kitchen garden included many different herbs.  Her last herb order, placed in 1949, included 36 varieties.  Between 20 and 25 different types that were included in that order will be offered for sale this weekend.  In addition to the herbs, Steeplebush plants and a limited edition of Steepletop Lupine seed packets, harvested from Millay’s kitchen garden, will be on sale.

You might also like to read my very first blog post from June 2010, which was about my tour of Steepletop that spring. The blog post also includes a link to an excellent Washington Post article about Millay. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

So bring your hiking boots, and enjoy a Saturday hiking around Steepletop. It will surely be a highlight of your 2016 getaway.

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It’s April, it’s Spring, and that means we will be treated to the unusual sight of people riding their high wheelers on the back roads of Copake, New York, in celebration of the 25th annual Copake Bicycle Auction. It is one of the most respected antique bicycle auctions in the world!

If you are not a bicycle aficionado,  you might not be familiar with the term high wheeler, which was one of several names for early bikes made with a very large front wheel, and a very small back wheel. This style of bicycle was also known as a Penny-farthing or an ordinary. Shown in the photo below are a number of high wheelers lined up for the preview before the Copake auction.

high wheelers

High Wheelers Lined up at Copake Bicycle Auction Preview

Childs Tricycle at Copake Bicycle Auction Swap Meet

Antique Tricycle for Sale at Swap Meet

 

The auction weekend kicks off with the 6 am Swap Meet on Friday morning, (April 15, 2016) which is described by auctioneer, Mike Fallon, as having “a sort of “Fair” quality to it …..(it) is a priority pit stop for all bicycle enthusiasts. We see people return year after year from every corner of the world for a day of shared admiration, deal hunting and riding stories, and of course Shopping and Trading!”

Innkeeper at Swap Meet

Innkeeper Checking out the Swap Meet

 

 

I like to peruse the swap meet briefly before heading into the auction house to preview the auction, and get a close look at all the bikes and bicycle related art and collectibles that will be up for auction.

This is followed by the bicycle ride, led by folks on their antique “high wheelers”. This video gives you are good idea of what a fun event this is.

Saturday morning, the auction kicks off at 9 am, and will run for a good part of the day. This year, 631 lots will be auctioned, ranging from rare, late 1800’s antique bicycles expected to sell for thousands of dollars, to bicycle art, prints and  ephemera, to classic bikes of more recent vintage.

Very Rare 1889 King High Wheel

Very Rare 1889 King High Wheel

Everyone loves to see the really important, and expensive, bicycles come on the block, like this rare c. 1889 King Wheel Company 50″ high wheel (ordinary) safety bicycle, expected to sell for $15,000 – $20,000!

 Or this c. 1884-85 Victor adult tricycle, made by the Overman Wheel Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, expected to sell for $12,000-$15,0000. The bidding on both will be very exciting!
c. 1884 Victor Adult Tricycle

c. 1884 Victor Adult Tricycle

I have written about this annual auction several times before. You can check earlier blog posts in May, 2013,  April, 2012, and April 2011.
So do plan a visit to the Inn at Green River to coincide with this wonderful event. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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I was at the Tanglewood Business Partners get together in Lenox recently. As always, it is fun to meet other business owners who understand the importance of providing financial support to the wonderful Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose summer season in Lenox is such an important economic driver for the entire tri-state region. Of course, the bonus is the joy of experiencing the world class music in one’s own back yard! One of the Tanglewood staff, when asked if there were some insider tips he could share with the group, responded, “Yes, be sure to get to the July concert conducted by the young Spanish conductor, Gustavo Gimeno.”

Conductor Gustavo Gimeno at Tanglewood July 2016

Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve

Gimeno has enjoyed a rather meteoric rise (it seems to this layperson). After being the Principal Percussionist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam from 2001-2013, he began his conducting career in 2012, as an assistant to Mariss Jansons with that same orchestra, then went on to assist the late Claudio Abbado and Bernard Haitink.

Here is a video of him conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2013.

In the spring of 2014, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, starting in the 2015/16 season.

So there you have it! Book your weekend stay at the Inn now, or just come for Sunday night after the 2:30 pm concert . You don’t want to miss this Sunday, July 17, 2016 concert with Maestro Gimeno conducting music by Prokofiev, Ravel, Gershwin and Stravinsky, featuring Yuja Wang on the piano.

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I had been looking forward to taking a cooking class at the new Chef Shop in Hillsdale, New York, ever since it opened last September, 2015.

Hillsdale NY cooking store

I was delighted when Matthew White, proprietor of the Hillsdale General Store, added a sister business, the HGS Chef Shop. Once again, Matthew did a beautiful renovation on an historic building. And you will know you have arrived in the hamlet of Hillsdale, New York, as your eye can’t help but be drawn to the pink Victorian with the white trim!

Teaching Kitchen at HGS Chef Shop

 

The Chef Shop has two gorgeous teaching kitchens. This photo shows the one on the ground floor with that custom table which expands depending on the size of the class. The cooking class I attended was held in the second floor class room, where one can also arrange a private event like a bridal shower or birthday party.

Three friends and I signed up as soon as the class taught by John Andrews Restaurant chef/owner Dan Smith was announced. This is part of the Local Chef Master Class series.

The subject turned out to be made-from-scratch pasta, which pleased me, as Dan Smith makes the lightest pasta you have ever tasted! In fact, many of the house made pastas offered at his restaurant are gluten free, made with rice flour!

DanRavioliDan started off the class by showing us just how easy it is to make your own ricotta cheese. Who knew? Whole milk, a little heavy cream, a dash of red wine vinegar, heat and strain through cheese cloth, and voila!

Several class members got to help preparing the different types of pasta dough we made; gnocchi, fettucini, and ravoli. Dan is laying the top layer of pasta over the ricotta ravioli in this photo.

And then of course we all got to eat!

pasta dishes created in cooking class

The HGS Chef Shop has a great line up of cooking classes scheduled. Take a look, and plan a getaway to Hillsdale with some friends, staying at the Inn at Green River, of course!

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A delightful Inn at Green River guest, Mary Crimmins, kindly shared with me her family recipe for English Muffin Bread, after I mentioned my first attempt to make home made English Muffins. “Don’t worry” said Mary, “this recipe is so easy and delicious.”

homemade English Muffin Bread

I was intimidated at first as I hadn’t worked with a yeast bread in years, making mostly quick breads – scones and baking powder biscuits – at my bed and breakfast. So the very different – and sticky -consistency of the batter was a surprise. But Mary was right. This recipe is easy and has quickly become a favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

English Muffin Bread batter rising

Here I am checking that the dough has risen sufficiently. Don’t you love that linen dish towel with the red embroidery? Grandma’s!

 

 

 

 

 

And here is the bread just out of the oven, showing the corn meal that was sprinkled in the pan and over the top of the bread.

English Muffin Bread fresh out of the oven

So here’s Mary’s recipe:

English Muffin Bread

Ingredients:

5 1/2 – 6 Cups Unbleached White Flour

2 pkgs Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast

1 Tbs Sugar

2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Baking Soda

2 Cups Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Water

Cornmeal

Prepare two dark metal loaf pans by greasing with Crisco or butter, and sprinkling with corn meal. Combine 5 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda in a bowl. I think it helps to first put the yeast and the sugar in a bowl and let them sit a bit, so the yeast gets a head start by “feeding” on the sugar, then add the rest of those dry ingredients, and stir thoroughly. Then add the milk and water, stirring to combine. Slowly add enough of the left over flour to make a stiff batter. Don’t knead, just combine.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, sprinkle the top with more cornmeal, cover and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. My kitchen isn’t that warm, so I turn the oven on briefly, then turn it off, and let the batter rise in the oven. Be sure the oven is not warmer than 130 degrees or you will kill the yeast! Then bake @ 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let the bread cool briefly, then turn it out of the pan to finish cooling on a rack. Slice thickly, toast, and butter generously. Delicious! And really, you must toast this bread.

While looking online for advice on loaf pan sizes, I stumbled across this great cooking blog, Kitchen Encounters, written by chef, Melanie Preschutti. And lo and behold, she had a post about the same English Muffin Bread recipe, with a bit of history about how this recipe became so popular in the 1970’s, and some good tips about substituting bread flour, warming the milk first, and letting the dough rise twice, covered with plastic wrap sprayed with a non stick cooking spray. So do look at her recipe as well, and then try it yourself. I promise it will become a breakfast favorite.

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Need a unique holiday gift for that person on your shopping list who has everything? Why not a glass paperweight – made by you?

I created this beautiful paperweight during a half hour class at the Hoogs and Crawford Glassblowing Studio and Gallery, in Canaan, NY, just 15 minutes north of my Inn at Green River. And this was my first attempt! As the paperweight is solid, I wasn’t actually blowing glass, but it was great fun, and I can’t wait to make some more, and begin to understand the design techniques.

Here I am working on this paperweight during the class, under the expert guidance of gallery co-owner, Nathan Hoogs. I am using tongs to shape as he rolls the red hot glass.

red hot glass paperweight

On the gallery’s website is a video which gives you a good idea of what you would do during a class. Click here to see that. A half hour class cost $60. I actually booked an hour long session with an inn guest, and the total for two people was $100, each of us receiving one on one instruction for a half hour. This is a fun way to do it, as you also learn watching the other student, and you both cheer each other on.

 

Next time, I want to make a Christmas tree ornament! Here is a display of ornaments made by Hoogs and his wife, Elizabeth Crawford.

 

Blown glass ornaments at Hoogs and Crawford Gallery

When finished, your glass piece must slowly cool overnight, so plan to combine the class with a few days in the country, staying at the Inn at Green River, of course. Hope to see you soon.

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‘Tis the season; little white Christmas lights are decorating the many wonderful small, locally owned and curated shops here in Hillsdale, and throughout Columbia and Berkshire counties.

This first weekend in December provides so many fun opportunities for holiday shopping. Stockbridge, Massachusetts, holds its 26th annual “Stockbridge – Main Street at Christmas” celebration this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 4-6, 2015. Come join in with the caroling, luminaria walk, holiday concert, house tour and the famous recreation of Norman Rockwell’s painting on Main Street in Stockbridge on Sunday, from noon to 6 pm.

Carolers at Stockbridge Christmas on Main Street

The Berkshire Botanical Garden, also in Stockbridge, holds it annual “Holiday Marketplace” on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 am. The Exhibit Hall becomes a twinkling market, with lots of local products from wonderful vendors and gorgeous seasonal decorations for you to purchase.

Beautiful wreath for sale at the Berkshire Botanical Garden's "Holiday Marketplace"

 

 

The Spencertown Academy, just 10 minutes from the Inn, in the hamlet of Spencertown, NY, is hosting a Handmade Holiday Pop-up Shop from 10 – 4 each day this weekend. This curated sale features cards, ceramics, jewelry, holiday greenery baskets, glassworks, paper crafts and edible yummies made by more than forty area artists and artisans.

Patricia's Christmas Greenery Baskets

 

 

 

 

And more from the Spencertown Academy’s sale; these wonderful bird photo cards made by a talented photographer friend, Antony Gravett.

Winter Bird Photos on Cards

At Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, the  38th annual Yuletide Fair takes place on Saturday, December 5, 2015, from 10-5.  My favorite part of this event is the dozens of original gingerbread houses on display. They are up for auction, so you may be able to take one home with you. And of course, there are many handcrafted items for sale.

So forget the boring mall, and come to the beautiful countryside to do your holiday shopping…and don’t forget to take home a freshly cut Christmas tree.

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John Andrews Restaurant in South Egremont, Massachusetts, is one of my top 5 choices when suggesting dinner options to my bed and breakfast guests. And like Pavlov’s dog, my mouth starts watering whenever I talk about chef/owner Dan Smith’s fantastic sweetbreads, shown below.

I just came across a nice write up about the restaurant on “The Berkshire Edge“, an online magazine.
The article was published on December 17, 2014, and written by Laurily Epstein. She does a nice job of relating the history of the restaurant which Dan opened in 1990. As she notes, “well before the “buy local” mantra hit the Berkshires, Dan Smith, chef-owner of the John Andrews restaurant in Egremont, was doing just that.”

Although I have been dining at John Andrews since its early days, and thought I knew a thing or two about Chef Dan, this article made me more aware of just how extensive Dan Smith’s involvement in the Berkshire community is. He has been generous with his time and skill, helping with cooking classes for young teenagers through the Railroad Street Youth Project with Chef Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn, and participating in many charitable events.

I knew that Dan and other Berkshire chefs make an annual trip to the James Beard House in Manhattan to cook a “Berkshire Cure-All”. The latest news is that Dan will be doing his first solo dinner at the Beard House on April 28, 2015. How I would like to be at that! Good luck, Dan!

So read the article, enjoy the recipe for JA bartender Eric’s delicious ginger soda, and be sure to let me make dinner reservations at John Andrews for you on your next trip to the Inn at Green River!

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What could be better than a steaming mug of hot chocolate to warm you, after an afternoon of cross country skiing across beautiful fields above a lake?

That’s what you will find at the Copake Country Club in Copake, New York, just 20 minutes south east of my bed and breakfast, the Inn at Green River. With several recent snow storms, conditions are now perfect to strap on those skis and head out across the hills at this pretty country club which overlooks Copake Lake.

Photo Credit: Copake Country Club

The $25 fee covers your skis, poles and boots rental, and access to the trails. These can be picked up at the Pro Shop. You should call ahead to reserve your equipment – 518-325-4338. If you own your own skis or snow shoes, there is simply a $5 trail fee. Again, stop at the Pro Shop to register.

Photo Credit: Copake Country Club

And that mug of hot chocolate is free with lunch at The Greens Restaurant in the club house. What a lovely place to relax, while looking out at the snowy fields. I love the ambiance with the antler chandeliers and central fireplace. Bring warm clothes and wool socks, and oh yes, don’t forget to book your room at the Inn. Call us at 518-325-7248, or book online at www.innatgreenriver.com. Just click the availability button. Hope to see you soon.