Friday, August 21, 2009

Even Without Snow, Stratton, VT is the Place to Go

By Millicent K. Brody

While the traffic inched its way toward the Jersey shore, we chuckled as we cruised to the village of Stratton, Vermont. Once there, I was totally mesmerized.

Stratton is, essentially, a bit of Switzerland a mere five hours from my Westfield doorstep. Located in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont, Stratton is ready to provide whatever Vermont has to offer.

From Thanksgiving to Easter, the area is perfect for skiing. If you’re more of a fan of warm-weather pursuits, head up there during the summer months for golf, tennis, swimming, hiking, canoeing, biking, kayaking, or even a game of paintball. For golf and tennis enthusiasts who want to take their game to the next level, there’s Stratton’s renowned Golf University or the Cliff Drysdale Tennis School. And for those of us non-sporting types, there are plenty of shops to peruse, local theatrical productions to check out, and, of course, pastoral landscapes wherever you turn.

A favorite summer pastime is a gondola ride to Stratton’s summit, then a climb to the top of the fire tower for 360 degree views of the White and Green Mountains, the Berkshires, and the Adirondacks. And while you may not be up to hiking all 270 miles of the Long Trail, (the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States), you are welcome to join other hikers and explore the spine of the Green Mountains.

Lucky for us, friends have been visiting the area for more than twelve years, so we were in good hands from the moment we arrived.

Cynthia Knowles, a local rental manager, was able to book a two bedroom/two bath condo replete with lovely furnishings, and a delightful deck for two weeks in August. However, I’ve subsequently learned that for as little as $69 per night, you can stay at the Inn at Stratton Mountain and walk to nearly everything the resort has to offer. You can also create your own home-away-from home at the Long Trail House where premium one-bedroom accommodations, including a kitchen, deck, outdoor pool, and hot tub, start at $130 per night. And if you want to spread out in style, three-bedroom condos with chef’s kitchens at the Hearthstone Lodge, on the Common, start at $249 per night. There you can soak in the Jacuzzi hot tub, or take in the scenery from your own private deck.

If you visit, you really must take time to enjoy your favorite flavor of ice cream at Silver Springs Scoops, in Manchester. I’ve got to confess, as an ice cream enthusiast, I was a constant consumer.

Not to worry about meals. Restaurants at Stratton Mountain Village welcome families and are priced to suit your budget. Try Mulberry Street Pasta and Pizza, which offers two-for-one pizzas on Wednesday, or Mulligan’s, where lobster specials reign on Monday and prime rib on Sunday. For breakfast, swing by Partridge in a Pantry deli, where folks congregate for bagels. Afterward, you may consider a day trip to the Saratoga Race Track and other exciting local attractions.

Forget that it’s all about snow and winter: Consider Vermont for your next summer getaway.


the Inn at Stratton Mountain: Call: 1.800.STRATTON


For Rental Reservations:

Cynthia Knowles: 802.297.4572

Patty Hernandez: 802.297.4571

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scents and Scentsibility

By Judith Garfield

If you ask my family, they will tell you I have E.S.P.

Extra scentsory perception.

I smell too well. It’s a genetic condition. My mother informed me at a very early age I needed deodorant. Although this is not something a young girl really wants to hear, I am grateful she was watching out for me. Likewise, my children and husband regularly seek my opinion on all scent-related matters, and usually agree Mom knows best.

More often than not I utter those three infamous words that nobody wants to hear, “What’s that smell?” Some can ignore troublesome odors and hope they disappear on their own, and in many cases they do. But others must be dealt with. The gas leak, the smoldering cigarette, the dead animal rotting somewhere in the walls, or the banana that found its way under the bed. I cannot give up until the culprit is identified, and I am as persistent as any four-legged bloodhound.

Smell is one of the senses most deeply attached to memories. I think that is why I honestly like the smell of skunk. Well, maybe not the actual smell, but the happy memories it evokes. Summer camp. An idyllic oasis for two months where I never had a worry other than winning color war.

Smells can trigger memories both good and bad. I still don’t understand the appeal of candles that are supposed to replicate cookies or pies baking in the oven. If I come to your house and there is the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, I want a cookie. Not a candle. I only like food smells coming from actual food.

Same for shower gels and soaps. The latest claim out there is fruit-scented shower gels can help with cravings for sweets, and you can get your fix by taking a shower or bath. I don’t know about you, but if I have to choose between sinking my teeth into a piece of blueberry pie or a slurp of shower gel-I know which one wins.

I do love candles that have pretty fragrances. But sometimes I just want a whiff of pipe tobacco or new car or (and I am really dating myself here) the warm purple ink of mimeographed copies. You couldn’t read them very well, but they smelled so good you didn’t care. If you sometimes have cravings for unconventional scents, visit

So, what smells do you love? New tennis balls, gasoline, puppy breath…fess up!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dinner is Poured

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Last night I had dinner with the editor-in-chief of NJL at a very popular riverside spot in New Hope, PA. The view was amazing, and that was about it. I arrived a little early so I perused the wine list. It should have been a big red flag when I read the listing for the sparkling wine offered by the glass. The wine was a fine choice but in parentheses next to it read (served in a wine glass). This was a first for me. I thought maybe they don’t have flutes, or were they telling the guests they were getting more for their money with a larger pour? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but think this was tacky. After my dinner-mate arrived we each ordered a glass of wine, me white, she red. They came to the table filled to the brim. My initial reaction was –YUK. Again, not the actual wine in the glass but the presentation was a total put off. I laughingly said, “Dinner is poured,” not realizing this indeed would be the only palatable part of the entire experience.

I am not opposed to spending $10/ glass but I don’t want to feel like I am being served bulk wine. Quantity is not quality. I want to sip and swirl, not chug. This is not a treat and you aren’t doing your guests any favors by giving them a whopper of a headache before the first course even arrives. Which brings me to the demise of this dinner. An order of Lobster and Shrimp “Spring Rolls” was actually frozen egg rolls that left puddles of grease on our plates. These were followed by a salad of mesclun, gorgonzola, spicy walnuts, roasted beets and pears which had no mesclun, no gorgonzola, nuts that were barely salted let alone spiced, canned beets, and pears that looked to be boiled, all of which were literally swimming in a soup of unidentifiable dressing. The craziest part was the place was packed, which led me to believe that this once reputable dining establishment has gotten extremely lazy with age and no longer cares to put out good food because it draws the numbers regardless. So heed my warning and stay on the Jersey side of the river if you’re hungry. Our final landing at Deanna’s in Lambertville was the highlight of the night. Here you’ll find true hospitality, a bartender who knows how to pour--thanks Armand!--delicious food, and a vibe that will have you grinning ear to ear.

Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon, $15- This is a great go-to Cab, and after our repulsive pours from the first locale we were delighted to see that this was on the list at Deanna’s. It’s big, rich, red, and juicy as well as affordable, fun, and lively and proves a glass of wine doesn’t need to be overflowing. A little of this big red goes a long way. Cheers to good bar service and those who still believe in hospitality!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Canal Day: Not Just About the Waterways

By Brianne Harrison

For many of us, New Jersey’s canals are now pleasant places to stroll, hike, or ride a bike along a waterside towpath. It’s easy to forget that these waterways were once vital to the state’s economy, providing quick, easy transport of goods from one end of New Jersey to the other in the days before railroads came onto the scene.

To celebrate the importance of New Jersey’s canals, Wharton Borough hosts an annual Canal Day (now in its 34th year) at the Morris Canal, an extensive waterway that spans the width of the state, from the Delaware River to the Hudson. This day-long, family oriented celebration not only acknowledges the canal’s historic importance to the state; it also highlights the more recent contributions of local artists, artisans, and musicians.

If you’re an art lover or on the prowl for a one-of-a-kind gift, check out the beautiful items for sale at the juried craft fair. Take a break to gorge on Italian specialties, Cornish pasties, and homemade pastries, and check out the “Rock the Canal” Music Festival, featuring New Jersey musicians playing rock, blues, country, and traditional and contemporary Irish folk music. If you’re the adventuresome type, you can take a kayak for a paddle on the canal (for free!) and history buffs can take guided walking tours of the canal or kick back with a free mule-drawn barge ride. There will also be blacksmithing demonstrations, an appearance by the Wallaby Tales Traveling Zoo, pony and hay rides, and presentations of poems written about the canal era, from 1820 to 1900. The day will cap off with fireworks at 7 p.m.

Canal Day will take place this Saturday, August 22, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (raindate Augist 23) at Hugh Force Canal Park, 270 West Central Ave., Wharton. The event is free. For more information, visit

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Jersey & Julia Child: Perfect Together

By Pat Tanner

With the opening of the movie “Julie & Julia,” there have been a flurry of stories about personal encounters with Julia Child. (See, for example, my colleague Maureen Petrosky’s blog from last week.) So I am tossing my own story into the ring and am proud to say that it concerns that great lady’s intimate connection to the Garden State.

About a decade ago, having more or less fallen into food writing as a sideline, I was contemplating leaving my “real” job to write full time. To help me decide whether to make that move – one, by the way, I have never regretted – I signed up for a food writers' workshop. Among the speakers was Ms. Child.

Before our first writing exercise, each attendee was asked to stand and give a short personal introduction. Sitting in the first row – not on the dais because she wasn’t speaking that day – was that famous face and six-foot-plus frame. When it came her turn, she stood and turned to the room and without a hint of irony said, “My name is Julia Child and I teach cooking on television.” The room erupted, as you may well imagine.

But it gets better. Going down the line, a fellow from the culinary program at Atlantic Cape Community College introduced himself. The next person quipped something to the effect that he was delighted to hear that New Jersey had a cooking school in addition to oil tanks – and oh, yeah - which exit off the turnpike was it anyway.

When it came my turn, I began by saying I write food columns and restaurant reviews for newspapers and magazines in New Jersey because, contrary to popular belief, we do actually have them. After that, many of the attendees made humorous references to our fair state and their connection to it.

When everyone had had a turn, Julia Child stood up to say she had forgotten to add something very important to her introduction. To whit: She also had a connection to New Jersey. Her husband, Paul, was born in Montclair and over the years the couple visited his parents there. I seem to recall that she also attested to the merits of Montclair and the surrounding area.

One more sidelight: When it came time to do the writing exercise, Julia Child completed it along with us students. Without a hint of irony.