Read Any Good Books Lately? Yes, I Have!

When I was growing up, one of my favorite places was the old Barron Library in Woodbridge, NJ. The architect had built churches but never a library so the Barron looked like a church. But it smelled deliciously like old books.

Step into Birchwood Inn’s spacious library, and you instantly know I’m a life-long avid reader. I love books. I love authors. And my tastes are eclectic – literature, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies. Science fiction? Not so much. And I always have book or Kindle with me.

Read any good books lately? I just so happen to have read, am reading, and will be reading a number of excellent books in the past few weeks. Here are a few of my summer reading recommendations:

Reviewd of novel Blood, Bones & Butter

 

If you think you have/had an unconventional family, think again. Blood Bones and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner/chef of Prune in Brooklyn, had a most unusual childhood and a unconventional young adulthood, which all comes to together to create this acclaimed chef and writer. Gabrielle’s “story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.”

review of the novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Ayana Mathis, a treasured guest, has written her first novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which could also be entitled The Twelve Trials and Tribulations of Hattie. This story of a black mother of 11 children in Philadelphia was Oprah’s second Book Club 2.0 selection. Each child is unique and troubled yet engaging in his or her own way. Hattie begins with a tragedy and ends on somewhat of a hopeful note. Ayana truly has an elegant way with words – dead leaves hanging like bats from the trees, and I can’t wait to re-read this book,  just as I can’t wait to see Ayana and her partner Nikki at Birchwood Inn again.

Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Sitting on my night table is my next read. Another extra-special guest is J. Courtney Sullivan, whose third novel, Engagements, is just out. Her first novel, Commencement, was set at her alma mater Smith College. Her second, Maine, was selected by TIME as one of the 10 best books of the year. Engagements captures four unique marriages and the different reasons people marry.

Prohibition Gangsters By Marc Mappen

My childhood friend Marc Mappen has written five books on New Jersey, and his latest book, Prohibition Gangsters: The Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation, has a wider focus – those fascinating gangsters of the Prohibition era.

What are you reading? What’s on your night table?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Books | Tagged , |

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Again!

Beep! Beep! The annual British Motor Car Festival is one of the most fun weekends of the year, even if you’re not a car enthusiast! And it’s coming this weekend, June 14-16.

The event, based at Shakespeare & Co., gets its motor running with a fun rally on Friday afternoon. This self-guided back roads driving tour takes motorists through the scenic Berkshire Hills.

Street party time! Many of these polished and buffed British autos, old and new, will travel in a procession to downtown Lenox around 6:15 pm and line the village’s main streets so that we can all ogle and drool, but not on the cars, please. A live British tribute band and street vendors will add to the festival ambiance.

The main event takes place on Saturday with the Concours d’Elegance, a judged competition that attracts exceptional show cards 15 years old and older. Come on out and see if you can pick out the winners.

The Berkshire British Motorcar Festival concludes on Sunday with a 60-minute morning scenic driving tour at 8:30 a.m., with a 1947 Bentley in the lead. And don’t miss the

Berkshire car show

John Parker, who honeymooned at Birchwood Inn in 1952, visits with the 1921 Roll Royce he restored himself.

Tailgate Picnic Competition, with awards for “most elegant,” “most creative,” “most British,” “best tasting,” “most humorous,” and “most Shakespearean.”

The Friday evening street party is free while the cost for general public admission is $15.00 for a two-day pass, inclusive for both Saturday and Sunday.

This weekend head for the Berkshire hills and Birchwood Inn for lots of fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in British Motor Car Festival | Tagged , |

Not Just Another Pretty Place :: Best New England Breakfast

Birchwood Fruitinis are a cornucopia of freshly picked fruit.

Birchwood Fruitinis are a cornucopia of freshly picked fruit.

Excuse us for tooting our own horn but we just can’t resist…

Sure, Birchwood Inn with its gracious porch, colorful gardens, New England stone fences, elegant library, 19th century dining room, comfortably decorated rooms, and nearly 250 years of history is beautiful.

But beauty goes only so far. There has to be substance, or in this case, sustenance. And that’s why at our Berkshires bed and breakfast we take great pride in our award-winning breakfasts.

Our daily fruit course always includes the freshest pickings, local in season, with imaginative twists – such as Watermelon Benedict, Honeydew Gazpacho, Fruitinis, and seasonal Crisps. In the summer, the raspberries and some of the blueberries are picked in our garden just before putting the coffee on.

The main course, sweet and savory on alternate days, also reflect our “farm to table” commitment and creativity – from Fondue Florentine Soufflé, Bacon-Wrapped Polenta, and Frittatas to Peach Croissant Panini French Toast, “Waffles of Insane Greatness, and New Jersey Cheese Blintzes.

And we bake our own breads, both sweet breads and breads for toasting.

A number of years ago, our guests voted Birchwood the best New England Breakfast two years in a row (in “Arrington’s Magazine,” which is no longer published).  And then Ellen’s San Francisco Bay Mud Pie – made with homemade chocolate chip cookies, homemade chocolate and coffee ice creams, and luscious lava-like fudge sauce – won first place in the green grocer’s Mud Pie Contest, making her the Mud Pie Queen of the Berkshires.

But we don’t rest on our laurels!

In April Birchwood and bedandbreakfast.com facebook friends voted our “Kiss My Grits” as the best savory recipe in the Great Breakfast Recipe Tournament 2013. We combine Carolina stone ground grits with Italian turkey sausage, cheese, eggs, and our inn-grown herbs to create this prize-winning dish.

And then just a couple of weeks ago, The Daily Meal website published its Top 50 Bed and Breakfasts for Food, with Birchwood Inn, yes, us, at #7!

Add in, of course, our Fun for Foodies’ packages and our enthusiastic participation in the Eight Broads in the Kitchen’s blog and you’ll know why we like to think that we continually and consistently put the “and” in bed and breakfast.

Quinn and Charley note: Whatever drops on the floor in the kitchen is ours, and it is always heavenly!

 

Posted in Birchwood Inn, Food, Recipes | Tagged , |

The Berkshires are Blooming :: Lenox MA Weekend Getaways

…and not just with a blaze of spring colors but also bursting with festivals, dance, theater, music, races, exhibitions, and more! There is no shortage of temptations to sneak away for Lenox MA weekend getaways!

Author Edith Wharton's Restored Estate

Author Edith Wharton’s Restored Estate

One of my favorite signs of spring is the opening of The Mount, author Edith Wharton’s Close Encounters with Music presents Nordic Lights – Grieg Revival, at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, with special guest Tina Packer as narrator. www.cewm.org

Norman Rockwell Museum’s summer feature is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The Creation of a Classic, June 8-Oct. 27, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Disney’s pioneering feature-length animated film. This exhibition offers a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of this classic. The Rockwell is the only other than the Walt Disney Family Museum to present this exhibition. www.nrm.org

The Mahaiwe presents the Paul Taylor Dance Co., featuring the New England premiere of Perpetual Dawn. Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26. The Mahaiwe presents London’s National Theatre in HD The Audience, starring Helen Mirren, June 13. www.mahaiwe.org

Shakespeare & Co.’s Summer Season opens with Master Class, Terence McNally’s Tony-Award winning play based on the infamous Maria Callas, starring company favorite Annette Miller, May 24-Aug. 18. Heroes takes the stage June 13-Sept.1, winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, and is an irreverent story of three WWI veterans confined to a nursing home in their twilight years. www.shakespeare.org

The Clark focuses this summer on Winslow Homer: Art, Making History and provides an opportunity to appreciate the full range of Homer’s artistry through the lens of the Clark’s more than 200 works by one of America’s most important artists. Opening June 9. Clark Remix immerses you in a gallery filled with paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts objects from the Clark’s permanent collection. It’s both a physical reality and a virtual space, featuring a dynamic salon-style installation and two new digital applications that offer exciting ways to engage with the collection. Now through January 2014. www.clarkart.edu

Berkshire International Film Festival, May 30-June 2. The 8th annual event brings the best of world’s films to the Berkshires. Four days. 70 films – documentaries, shorts, and features – from 15 countries. It just keeps getting better and better. At Great Barrington’s Triplex and Pittsfield’s Beacon Theaters. www.biffma.com

Memorial Day Marathon Races: May 25-26. www.memorialdaymarathon.com

Rhubarb Festival: Rhubarb Pies, Rhubarb Chili Contest, fun and games for all in Roche Reading Park, next to the Lenox Library. May 25. www.lenox.org

Berkshire Cycling Event: June 9. www.lenox.org

Lenox British Motor Car Show

One of our guests found this vintage Austin Healy in her father’s garage,restored it, and drove up to Lenox for the festival.

The Third Annual Lenox British Motor Car Festival: Back by popular demand! June 14-16. Join the hundred of residents and guest ogling (no drooling, please!) the brilliantly polished British cars, old and new, Mini-Cooper to Rolls Royce, lining Lenox, MA’s main streets near our Berkshires bed and breakfast. Last year’s Best in Show was Birchwood Inn guest Dave Hutchinson and his red 1961 Triumph Italia 2000 Coupe. www.lenox.org

And summer is just around the corner:

Tanglewood: www.tanglewood.org

Shakespeare & Co.: www.shakespeare.org

Williamstown Theatre Festival: www.wtfestival.org

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival: www.jacobspillow.org

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center: www.mahaiwe.org

MASSMoCA: www.massmoca.org

Berkshire Theatre Group: www.berkshire theatregroup.org

 

Call us today to reserve your favorite room at our Berkshires Bed and Breakfast. We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Berkshires, British Motor Car Festival, Events, Festivals | Tagged , |

Yummy April Fool – No Joke!

I’ll admit it — for me, food is fun! And as the first of April is nearly here, it’s time for one of my favorite — and easiest — Afternoon Tea recipes at our Berkshires Bed and Breakfast. April Strawberry Fool.

A fool is an old English dessert made by mixing pureed fruit, whipped cream, and sugar. Traditionally rose water or another flavoring agent is added.

Fruit Fool

According to Joy of Cooking, long ago the word “fool” was “a term of endearment,” and the dessert (or foole in its original spelling) dates back at least to 1598 and possibly to the 15th century. It’s not clear why the dessert is called a “fool,” although some think it may be from the French verb fouler, to crush or press.

Gooseberries were originally the most common fruit fool. Although today fools incorporate any seasonal fruit, in the UK gooseberry fool remains the perennial favorite.

APRIL FOOL

Wash and cut two cups of luscious strawberries. Add two tablespoons of granulated sugar and mix. Let the berries macerate for 10-15 minutes. Whip two cups of heavy cream and fold the cream into the strawberries. For a bit of a “kick,” you may wish to add a couple of tablespoons of kirsch, brandy, or port. Chill well.

What can be easier and more delicious! No joke!

 

I haven’t seen gooseberries at the green grocer, but here at Birchwood Inn, our favorite is strawberry or raspberry fruit fool.

 

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , |

Downton Abbey Was Inspire by Lenox Author

Downton Abbey Julian FellowesDownton Abbey fans — and aren’t we all? — are you aware that Historic Lenox, MA has ties to the series to which we are all addicted?

According to Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, his writing is very much influenced by author Edith Wharton, who lived and wrote in Lenox (I’m quite sure that most of you read Ethan Frome in school). Her restored home The Mount is at the top of my must-see in Lenox list I share with my guests.

Says Fellowes, “I think I was in my thirties when someone gave me a copy of The House of Mirth (which was written at The Mount) and I was instantly impressed by the extraordinarily contemporary feeling of Wharton’s writing. Her dialogue was so immediate, her understanding of emotional predicaments was so vital.”

Fellowes is the recipient of the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award. He suspects that the reason for the success of Downton Abbey is that he “is kind to them in their weaknesses, kind to them… in the error of their ways.” If he has achieved this, Fellowes went on to say, “It is a lesson I learned directly from Edith Wharton… I feel most fortunate to have made her acquaintance.”

You, too, can experience Wharton’s aura and era by visiting the home and gardens she designed when The Mount reopens in the spring on your next trip to our Lenox, MA bed and breakfast.

 

Posted in Historic Homes, Lenox MA | Tagged , , |

The Berkshires: One of the Top 10 Unexpectedly Romantic Places

Looking for a romantic getaway? For Valentine’s? For an anniversary? Birthday? Proposal? Elopement? Head for the hills, the Berkshire hills of western MA.

The most recent issue of Forbes Travel Guide, Discover the Most Outstanding Places, named The Berkshires one of the 10 unexpectedly romantic places. Intimate restaurants. Cozy bed and breakfasts. The Boston Symphony in summer and fireplaces in winter.

The Berkshires love lovers all year round. And of course Valentine’s Day is especially romantic.

Strawberries - Berkshires B&B Valentine's DayThis year many of us are celebrating “Chocolate Berkshires,” with chocolate-themed events hosted by local businesses throughout February. Here at Birchwood Inn, February is Chocolate Passion Month, with totally decadent chocolate on every menu.

Since the way to one’s heart is through the stomach, our renown chefs are pulling out all stops to create memorable Valentine menus.

What could be almost as romantic as chocolate? Paris, of course! The Clark Art Institute — admission is free!!! all winter — opens its winter exhibition, Exposition Universelle, this month, focusing on City of Light’s most romantic period, the turn of the century.

Barrington Stage Company hosts 10X10 Upstreet, a new play festival Feb. 14-March 3, with a new play every 10 minutes.

There’s laughter galore at The Colonial Theatre, with The Official Blues Brothers Revue, Feb. 17, and Popvich Comedy Pet Theater (Charley and Quinn are looking forward to this!), Feb. 19.

Put on your dancing shoes and head to Castle St. Cafe for a Valentine dinner-dance.

There’s a romantic double feature with two of my all-time favorite films at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, An Affair to Remember (watch out for the taxi!) and Sleepless in Seattle.

Of course, you can cuddle up by the fire, snowshoe, or ski. And this is just a sampling. No wonder the Berkshires are in the top 10 of unexpectedly romantic places. Join us in our Berkshires bed and breakfast.

 

http://www.berkshires.orgBirchwood Inn - Berkshires B&B Chocolate Mug

http://www.lenox.org

http://www.chocolateberkshires.com/events

http://www.clarkart.edu

http://www.barringtonstageco.org

http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org

http://www.mahaiwe.org

http://www.castlestreetcafe.com

http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestravelguide/2013/01/30/10-unexp

 

Posted in Berkshires |

Tanglewood in Lenox, MA Adds Etheridge, Warren Haynes, Boston Pops, Jerry Garcia Music

The Tanglewood Lenox, MA Pre-Season concerts are going to be hot! hot! hot!
The Boston Symphony has announced that rock singer-songwriter, Grammy and Oscar award-winning Melissa Etheridge will be performing at Tanglewood, Lenox, MA on Friday, June 21.
The following night, Saturday, June 22, Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops. The BSO announced that this concert is a “ground-breaking orchestral adventure” and it showcases new settings of Jerry Garcia’s original music and more.

 

This event features vocalist-guitarist Warren Haynes (Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band), adding what the BSO calls his “soul-soaked, introspective blend of rock, blues, R&B, and jazz” to Garcia’s music.
Friday, June 21, 7 pm and Saturday, June 22, 8:30 pm in Tanglewood’s Shed.

Tickets ($23.50-$79) are available starting at 10 am on January 27 through www.tanglewood.org or 888.266.1200.

Get your tickets, reserve a room at Birchwood Inn, and plan a picnic. It will be a hot time in the old town of Lenox and the Berkshires in June!

 

Posted in Events, Tanglewood |

Raves for Eggnog Croissant French Toast Panini

Birchwood Inn in Lenox, MA, guests loved the Eggnog Croissant French Toast Paninis we served on Christmas Day. But why wait for Christmas?

Recipe serves 8

Ingredients

8 large cEggnog French Toast at a Lenox Bed and Breakfastroissants
4 cups eggnog
1/4 cup bourbon
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
10 large strawberries plus 10 for garnish
Whipped cream
Maple syrup with a shot of bourbon, heated

For the batter, whisk the eggnog, bourbon, eggs, nutmeg, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Slice the croissants in half horizontally. Spread the cream cheese on the middle. Slice strawberries and place on the cream cheese. Close the croissants and set aside.

Preheat the panini press.

 

When the press is hot, dunk two croissants in the batter and cook for approximately 4 minutes.
Top with whipped cream, a fanned strawberry, and powdered sugar and served immediately with the maple-bourbon syrup.

Enjoy this incredible eggnog French toast recipe.

Posted in Food |

I Saw Charley Kissing Santa Claus in the Berkshires!

Charley Kissing Santa Claus in the BerkshiresSays Quinn: My little brother Charley gets all the laughs! And I think all of us need a laugh this week whether you’re in the Berkshires or anywhere else in the US. It’s been a rough week for all of us!

This week Ellen bought him a Christmas collar with little, really quiet bells. What did Charley do? He hid under Ellen’s Charley hiding eggs in the Berkshiresdesk at our Berkshires bed and breakfast. It took all of us awhile to figure out that this little Fearless Fosdick aka Curious George is afraid of his collar!

Charley just loves his little stuffed “eggs.” He has turtle eggs that were hiding inside a turtle that is now in shreds. Charley is really hard on toys. He also has dinosaur eggs although the dinosaur is no more. And for Christmas, I know he’s getting a fish with fish eggs. That fish won’t be swimming for long. And I think that Charley is getting his holidays wrong. Just yesterday he hid a few eggs under bushes in the garden. Hey, Charley, wake up! It’s not Easter!

He went to the movies for the first time with Ellen. Forget the story, but the moral is: If you don’t want to share your popcorn, don’t take Charley to the movies!

And then there was Santa Claus. Most young ones sit on Santa’s lap and face the camera, either smiling or crying. Not our Charley. He jumps on Santa’s lap and gives him a big kiss and nearly took off Santa’s beard.

Yes, Charley gets all of the laughs, but I still don’t think he’s funny. Ridiculous? Maybe. But not funny at all.

Happy Charley Days!

 

 

Posted in Charley, Christmas | Tagged , , |
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