Innkeepers can’t usually get out of the kitchen early in the morning in the busy Berkshire summer season, but I managed it this week and made it to the BSO morning rehearsal at Tanglewood. It was a rare treat.
When I walked onto this gorgeous lawn just before 10 am, there was literally one man sitting in a lawn chair reading the paper. I had never had the opportunity to gaze across the lovely great lawn with almost no one on it. It is a most beautiful serene spot. Although I didn’t realize that one can’t sit inside the shed during these working rehearsals, there are several staffers patrolling the shed who will lend you one of the folding chairs that the ushers use during concerts. Or bring your own.
I plunked myself down, right in the center, just at the edge of the shed, with perfect sight and sound lines, and for the next hour and a half, I listened to Sir Andrew Davis rehearsing the world class Boston Symphony Orchestra, preparing for the Friday night concert. It was a serious working rehearsal, with a number of stops and starts, lots of laughter, and discussion (or should I say direction from the conductor!) about how certain passages should be played . While I was there, they were working on Sibelius’ Symphony #5 which I love. With no audience sitting in the shed, I felt like the orchestra was playing just for me, and the sound coming across the empty shed just washed over me! It was thrilling.
Other folks did start to straggle in, and by 11:30 when the orchestra took a break, and I left, probably 40 or 50 people were there, enjoying the music and the perfect, cool, breezy, summer day.
You can drop in for these morning working rehearsals on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at no charge. On Saturday mornings at 10:30 there is always the rehearsal of the Sunday afternoon concert, and tickets are required to sit in the shed or on the lawn. But I heartily recommend the mid week rehearsals.
So come spend a mid week night or two or three at the Inn at Green River, enjoy a free morning rehearsal, and don’t forget, if you stay three days, I will provide 2 lawn tickets to one of that weekend’s concerts. Hope to see you soon.
Spencertown Academy, “just up the road and across a bit” from the Inn, is hosting their annual “Hidden Gardens” which includes five country garden-themed events this weekend, June 17-18, 2016, kicking off with a twilight party on Friday and then a breakfast lecture, tours of local gardens, and the final weekend of a gallery exhibition of still lifes by eight regional artists.
Also, from 9 ’til 3 on Saturday, the Arts Center will be hosting a Garden Market on the green in the hamlet of Spencertown, with twenty vendors selling a fine array of unusual plants, garden furniture and other garden-themed items. Garden demonstrations will also be offered on the green in the afternoon.
Admission to the gallery exhibition and the garden market is free, while the other events have individual admission fees, so you can pick and choose the ones you’re interested in.
There’s more detail about the Hidden Garden 2016 events on the Academy’s website, and you can save money by buying tickets for the tour, lecture and workshop in advance.
All in all, it’s a great way to celebrate nature in the area’s most beautiful gardens, and you’ll be supporting the Spencertown Academy Art Center, to boot.
The recipe most often requested by Inn at Green River guests is my Cream Scones. Guests frequently comment that they don’t ordinarily like scones, but they find mine light and delicious. This recipe is not complicated, and most scones recipes I have checked are basically the same, but I have a few tips about ingredients and the handling of the dough that I want to share with you.
First, you must make them with heavy cream and real butter, otherwise they will not be light and fluffy. Don’t even bother trying this recipe if you plan to substitute milk for the cream or try other ways to make it “low fat” — you will not be happy with the results.
Also, as scones are a quick bread, i.e., no yeast and no rising time required, you must take care not to handle the dough too much, or you activate the gluten, and end up with a tough scone.
You should also keep the ingredients cold, working with cold, right-out-of-the-fridge butter, cream and eggs. You could even put your mixing bowl in the fridge beforehand.
Here is the Cream Scones recipe:
- 2 C. unbleached flour
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt, or none if using salted butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 C. heavy cream
I stir the dry ingredients together, then cut the butter into the flour mixture with an old fashioned pastry cutter, or even two knives, until the butter is dispersed throughout, but is still cold and solid, and shows lumps about the size of a pea. Then, after adding the beaten egg, vanilla and cream, I quickly use my hands to gently work the liquid into the flour and butter mixture, until it just holds together. I form three balls of dough, and pat each one out in a circle about 7″ or 8″ in diameter and about 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. I don’t roll out the dough because that would again be working it too much. I just cut each circle into 8 wedges as if cutting a pie. I transfer the wedges to an un-greased cookie sheet, sprinkle with a bit of sanding sugar, and pop into a preheated, 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
If I don’t have a full house at the Inn, and don’t need 24 scones at breakfast that morning, I pop the cut circle of scone dough wedges, wrapped in the parchment paper I worked on, into the freezer on a cookie sheet, until they harden. Then I put them into a zip lock bag, and keep frozen until I need them. In the morning, I take out as many frozen scones as I need, and bake on an un-greased cookie sheet in a cooler oven for a longer time, ie. 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
You will see that although I make these scones so often I could do it in my sleep, I made a few mistakes while on camera, like measuring the 1 cup of heavy cream the recipe calls for, and adding it all at once, which I never do when making the scones ordinarily. In fact, I don’t measure the cream at all, just add a bit less than I think I need to the egg and vanilla, and after incorporating the liquid with my hands into the flour mixture, I add a bit more cream if needed. As I added it all at once, I ended up with a dough that was too wet, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more flour, which I did. I also forgot to mention the baking powder. This being on camera is tough work!
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.
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.
Hiking Tours of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop Posted May 18, 2016 | Tags: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Garden Tours, Hiking, Steepletop
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.
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.
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.
25th Anniversary Copake Bicycle Auction – April 16, 2016 Posted April 10, 2016 | Tags: auction, Copake Antique Bicycle Auction
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.
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!”
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.
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!
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.”
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.
Pasta, Pasta, Pasta – Fun Cooking Class in Hillsdale Posted March 31, 2016 | Tags: Hillsdale NY Chef Shop, Pasta Cooking Class, Pasta Making
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.
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!
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!
Dan 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!
My New Favorite Breakfast Recipe – English Muffin Bread Posted December 13, 2015 | Tags: bed and breakfast recipes, Bread, Recipes
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.”
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.
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.
So here’s Mary’s recipe:
English Muffin Bread
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
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.
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.
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.
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.