Friday, November 4, 2011

Fresh Pond Seafood of Arlington Mass., Prioritizes Accurate Seafood Labeling

Editor's note: this is the second in a series of articles, at The Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Gazette, focusing on Massachusetts seafood restaurants and sellers that say that they are committed to accurate labeling of their seafood. Seafood mislabeling has been a hot topic in the news lately as the Boston Globe recently wrote about many seafood restaurants and markets in the area not labeling their seafood correctly).

I recently had a chance to talk with Marty Hagerty, owner of Fresh Pond Seafood in Arlington, Mass., about the recent seafood mislabeling controversy,  covered by the Boston Globe. He emphasized that they would never mislabel any of their seafood: "I can tell what I'm buying."

Those words have a lot of weight, given Fresh Pond Seafood in Cambridge gained a household name reputation in the area. Marty's father opened that store about 35 years ago until its closure in 2006. Marty, 48, and in the seafood business for more than 25 years, recently opened his new location -- a fish market that also has four booths for dining in -- at 75 Summer St. in Arlington.

Hagerty expressed disappointment in other seafood restaurants and markets involved in mislabeling their seafood. He cites Nantucket scallops as an example of a seafood that can be mislabeled or "cheapened."

"We sell Nantucket Bay scallops at certain times of the year -- very expensive -- but some, I'm sure, mix in cheap scallops and try to pass it off as Nantucket scallops," said Hagerty. "I think (in general) many of these people that got caught mislabeling knew what they were selling. Just my opinion."

Hagerty's main sea scallops supply comes from George's Bank in Boston -- very different than the "processed" or "wet" scallops that are quite commonplace.

"Basically, with processed scallops you throw 500 pounds of scallops into a vat with chemicals and they blow up, looking very pretty," said Hagerty. "When you cook them, though, they shrink! We use the 'dry' scallops from George's Bank that have no chemicals added."

Other properly labeled seafood sold at Fresh Pond Seafood include: shrimp, lobster meat, halibut, salmon, flounder, scrod, haddock, Bluefish, catfish, sea bass, snapper, Mahi Mahi, steamers, mussels, little necks, cherrystones, oysters, tuna, grey sole, swordfish, soft shell crabs, Maine crabmeat, crab cakes, trout, stuffed clams and shad roe.

Hagerty doesn't mind Fresh Pond Seafood being inspected, as he clearly takes pride in selling his seafood as labeled.

"I welcome any inspections," said Hegarty. "I know what I'm buying. I've been going to the pier since I was 17!"

Editor's note, part II: restaurants and fish markets in the Boston area, please write us about your business that doesn't mislabel seafood! We will consider calling you back for an interview. Thanks!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Two South of Boston Seafood Restaurants That Avoid Seafood Mislabeling

Woods Seafood, Plymouth, Mass. (photo by Eric)
A Boston Globe series entitled "Fishy Business" recently revealed alleged seafood mislabeling amongst many fish restaurants and sellers in the area. A Globe crew collected 134 seafood samples and sent them to a lab in Canada, which found 48 per cent of the seafood mislabeled.  For a quick "101," I recommend you check out a Boston Globe video here on seafood mislabeling, which explains the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of this troubling news. You can also find links to related articles on this page.

After reading about this reported seafood fraud, I thought it would be a good idea to contact local seafood restaurants and markets in hopes of finding some businesses not involved with seafood mislabeling. I think locating these type of establishments is important, as I know people that have read the articles are now suspicious of all local seafood restaurants and markets. Can't blame them -- how does one know who is on the up, and others that either knowingly or inadvertently mislabel their seafood?

I checked in with two of my favorite locally-owned and operated seafood places, Pier 18 Seafood and Grille in East Bridgewater, Mass., and Woods Seafood in Plymouth, Mass. For full disclosure, I have no affiliation, including vested interest, in either of these two seafood spots. I think the key takeaway with both of these restaurants is that they have the confidence to say that they welcome testing.

Peter Soroka, owner of Pier 18, took an immediate stand-up position and said, "We weren't tested (by the Globe), but welcome any testing. We don't have that issue (with seafood mislabeling). We're very honest and deal with reputable fish dealers. We don't lead people wrong."

Saroka cites the fish in a fish and chips meal as a classic example of taking a short cut, with many restaurants using cheaper pollock instead of haddock or cod -- something Pier 18 will never do.

"They (other businesses) get away with it, it's much cheaper,"said Saroka. "We don't do that here."

Jay Kimball, who bought Woods Seafood at Plymouth Harbor 23 years ago, prides his restaurant on being reputable.  The presence of a public fish market on the premises authenticates the restaurant seafood, says Kimball.

"If you came in off the street and saw on the menu our swordfish, scallops, bluefish, or salmon and asked staff where it came from, they could point to our fish market where you can see everything clearly labeled. We're transparent in everything we do."

A virtual walking encyclopedia of his inventory and where it comes from, Kimball prides himself of knowing his New England seafood suppliers, as well as those from outside the area. As examples, his scallops come from New Bedford,  farmed raised salmon from Canada, wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, crab meat from Maine, and swordfish from the outer banks of Nova Scotia and Maine.

Kimball said he wasn't contacted by the Globe, but would always welcome any kind of official testing. Regarding his business, Kimball says that Woods Seafood receives routine inspections from the local Board of Health and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's it for now! Please check back in often as I will be writing more in the next month or two about Boston area seafood restaurants and markets that say that they don't have an issue with seafood fraud -- and welcome any testing.

Editor's note: restaurants and fish markets in the Boston area, please write us about your business that doesn't mislabel seafood! We will consider calling you back for an interview. Thanks!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Meat House in Walpole, Mass., to Add Sit-Down Dining Area

The Meat House, a national butcher shop chain specializing in meats and gourmet grocery items, will bring a sit-down dining area to its Walpole, Mass., location in the next few weeks.

I spoke last night with Jeff, the general manager at the Walpole Meat House, who told me that the dining area will feature chairs and tables, a couch, wide screen televisions and free WiFi. Customers will be able to order from the deli sandwich menu at the counter. Additionally, an extensive salad bar will also be part of the new cafe. A partition will separate the cafe from the butcher shop, thus helping create more ambiance and definition to this elongated storefront.

The Meat House is a local success story, opening its first store in Portsmouth, N.H., in 2003 and eventually expanding to 30 stores in nine states (and with more on the way). The Walpole Meat House is located at 655 Main St., and is open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tel. (508) 668-2250.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass., is More Than an Apple Picking Orchard

Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Apple picking season is over at Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass., but you can still "pick your own" fun activity at this fourth generation Central Massachusetts family-run business.

A great variety of apples is still available in the main indoor store. We bought a peck for $10 last week, and they are all gone -- the taste of the Cortland, Macs and Red Delicious we bought were absolutely fresh with that "just picked" taste! You can "mix and match" apples from the bins.

The snack area offers one of the most amazing apple dumplings, with the option to add some deliciously dense and creamy vanilla ice cream as well as Vermont-like cheddar cheese. Do not fret about adding the cheese to the dumpling, it is a surprisingly good combination.

Apple dumpling (photo by Eric)
What makes Brookfield Orchards a "must visit" destination beyond apple picking season, however, is the country store. One would not expect a country store that goes beyond an afterthought or "window dressing" an at apple picking destination, but Brookfield Orchards offers an authentic country store. We love browsing the antiques, collectibles, crafts, toys, books, cheeses, cider, maple syrups, jams, honey, etc. The country store starts out looking like a big garage and then turns into a quaint, charming, moderately-sized shop.

Finally, the fresh air and views of the apple orchards and rolling hills make Brookfield Orchards a visual delight. It's a scene that makes people linger, not wanting to leave this peaceful, idyllic paradise. So, yes, there is life beyond apple picking at an apple orchard in the New England fall!

Brookfield Orchards
12 Lincoln Rd.
North Brookfield MA
Tel. 508- 867-6858

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

American Planning Association Chooses College Hill in Providence, R.I., in its "America's Best Neighborhoods"

A pleasing scene at Prospect Terrace Park, College Hill,
Providence, R.I. (photo by Eric)
Congratulations to the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, R.I., for making USA Today's "America's Best Neighborhoods", as designated by the American Planning Association (APA).

The APA chose "10 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces" in our nation that met its high standards of community excellence criteria, and they clearly thought very highly of College Hill. In the article, you'll see marvelous photos of historic Angell and Benefit Sts.

No argument here on College Hill receiving this accolade!  To me, College Hill resonates as the jewel of Providence -- an already great city, overall. The brownstone architectural elegance, stately Colonial and Victorian homes, beautiful Prospect Terrace Park, the presence of  Ivy League Brown University, as well as the Rhode Island School of Design, make for a fabulous neighborhood. And what a fantastic place to stroll to a village-like area of shops and restaurants along Thayer Street, North and South Main Streets, Waterman and Angell Streets.  In a way, you don't even feel like you're in the city; rather, it's like a bustling small college town.

Although I could think of several other neighborhoods in New England that are every bit as nice as College Hill, the American Planning Association made a nice choice here!

A "Nacho" Above the Rest at the Ninety Nine Restaurant in Billerica, Mass.

The Ninety Nine Restaurants chain set a Guinness Book of World Records achievement for building the world's largest nachos with a weight of 3,999 lbs. (notice the "99" in the total weight?) at its Billerica, Mass., restaurant. What a great idea to kick off Boys and Girls Club Fundraising month by raising $2,000 with this event.

The Boston Channel reports that four teams of five people created the larger than life nachos plate with 1,105 lbs. of nachos, 825 lbs. of Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses (melted using oversized torch guns!), 439 lbs. of cheese sauce, 451 lbs. of salsa, 459 lbs. of chili, 199 lbs. of jalapeƱo peppers, 90 lbs. of diced red onion, 421 lbs. of sour cream, and 8 lbs. of chopped cilantro.

Holy molecular gastronomy! Kudos to the Ninety Nine Restaurants Executive Chef George Tagareli and staff for creating this plate that benefits the Boys and Girls Club in their fundraising efforts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Idyllic Grafton, Vt., Rebounding Nicely from Hurricane Irene Floods

Grafton, Vt., is perhaps the most idyllic Vermont community, in my mind. There's so little here, but, ultimately, this community has everything you could ever want as a Vermont traveler looking for a true getaway -- a classic old inn (the Grafton Inn), a few shops to enjoy (including the phenomenal Grafton Village Cheese), a covered bridge, tree-lined streets to stroll and beautiful southern Vermont mountain views. Unlike some of the fabricated, superficial Vermont towns (you know, restored to look more like an outdoor museum than a real town), Grafton is the real deal.  It was so sad for us to hear how the community was greatly damaged by a flood, due to August's Hurricane Irene. Most of the downtown district escaped harm, as the outskirts received the brunt of the violent storm's damaging effects. However, Grafton has made a rapid recovery -- fantastic news for the residents as well as travelers looking for that fall foliage magic in the area. Amazing the community has rebounded so quickly, given the stories we were hearing not too long along from the local and national news.

I recently received an email from Julia Lyon, of People Making Good (a PR firm out of Burlington, Vt.) describing Grafton's comeback:

After experiencing devastating flooding resulting from hurricane Irene, Grafton Village Cheese and the town of Grafton, VT have recovered at an astonishing speed and are in the midst of a spectacular fall foliage season. Grafton Village Cheese has been the maker of world-class artisanal cheddar for over a century, and the creamery is proud to be back to hand-making their traditional cheddars as well as aging their new varieties in the cheese cave.

And here is some additional info Julia sent us on Grafton Village Cheese:

With plenty of time until Vermont’s foliage season begins, Grafton Village Cheese of Grafton, VT has fully recovered from the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene that recently affected the area. The cheese creamery and village of Grafton were able to pull together quickly to rectify any and all damages. Grafton Village Cheese’s retail stores in Brattleboro and Grafton are both open for business. The scheduled milk deliveries are now back in place allowing for both locations to be handmaking cheese, including usage of the cave aging facility at the Grafton location. 

The main points of access, Route 35, Route 30 and Route 121 in and out of Grafton, VT are open.

This is just great, great news! We hope you can check out Grafton, Vt. It's a true New England gem of a community, and we're so happy to hear that our New England neighbors up there are doing so much better!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Coastal New England during the Fall Season

Nubble Lighthouse in the early evening -- amazing! (photo by Eric)
Don't forget about coastal New England during the fall season!

We tend to think of the mountains in New England as the place to take in the fall colors of New England. It's true that you'll get a higher concentration of fall foliage in these regions. We find, however, that visiting places like southern Maine during the fall makes for just as fun of a time. The summer crowds lessen greatly and many of the shops and restaurants are still open for the season. If you're lucky, you'll catch a fall harvest event, thus adding to the overall grand feeling of being by the coast.

Virtually empty Short Sands Beach (photo by Eric)
We love York Beach, Maine, during the fall. On a good weather day, it's nice walking Short Sands Beach or Long Sands Beach and virtually having the beach to yourself. Or sitting on the rocky coast and gazing at Nubble Lighthouse -- one of America's most photographed lighthouses. We've also seen some decent fall foliage in this area, but that's not the real star of the show. Rather, it's just enjoying the coast in some good weather -- and before the harsh winter begins. In a way, it's like holding onto the last legs of summer, and that's always a good thing when in New England!

Compare hotel prices in York, Maine

Thursday, September 22, 2011

50 Fun Travel Ideas for the New England Fall Foliage Season

Chocorua Lake. Photo credit:
Lawrence Carbonaro
Here are 50 New England fall foliage season destinations, attractions, restaurants and hotels for your trip planning purposes. Please feel free to add your favorite fall travel things to do in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont! Together, we can build an incredible list!

1. Pick apples at Belkin Lookout Farm, Natick, Mass:

2. Take a scenic New England fall foliage driving route: 

3. Discover some of New England's best fall foliage in Maine:

4. Enjoy apple picking, apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream and a general store at Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass.:

5. Visit the Shaker Hill Fall Apple Festival, Sept. 24-25 in Alfred, Maine:

6. Take a walk around Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.:

7. Get a taste of true apple cider at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vt.:

8. Take in the million dollar views at low-cost Pack Monadnock Summit, Peterborough, N.H.:

9. See an amazing pumpkin Patch at Adams Farm in Cumberland, R.I.:

10. Ride the Conway Scenic Railway in Conway, N.H., for great views of the New England fall foliage season:

11. View some of the best New England fall foliage at the famous Kancamagus Scenic Byway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire:

12. Visit the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vt., to experience an authentic New England country store in a beautiful town:

13. Hike Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, Mass., for some splendid fall foliage views:

14. Enjoy a peaceful day in Wrentham, Mass., northern Rhode Island, and the northeast Connecticut area:

15. Dine at the scenic 1761 Old Mill in Westminster, Mass., for some excellent New England fare:

16. Stay at the Stoweflake inn in beautiful Stowe, Vt.:

17. Find a hidden gem of a walk at the Walpole Town Forest in Walpole, Mass.:

18. Enjoy the sweeping views of the Mt. Washington Valley at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, N.H.:

19. Discover Vermont for its rural beauty:

20. Take a scenic motorcycle fall foliage ride in Central Massachusetts and Northeast Connecticut:

21. Visit Pleasant View Orchards, a classic roadside farm stand in Smithfield, R.I.:

22. Stay at the Bethel Inn, a charming resort in inland Bethel, Maine (the foliage is great here!) that has been serving the vacationing public since 1913:

23. Pick some apples at the Big Apple farm in Wrentham, Mass. This is an old-fashioned working American farm in business since 1950 and a rural community travel attraction on over 200 serene acres:

24. Take in classic fall travel attractions at Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire:

25. Splurge on luxurious lodging at the Wheatleigh in Lenox (the Berkshire Mountains):

26. Navigate a tricky corn patch at Jane and Paul's Farm in Norfolk, Mass.:

27. Take the Road Less Taken in the New England Autumn:

28. Enjoy Stowe, Vt., on a budget with these affordable travel attractions:

29. Get in the fall spirit at Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, N.H.:

30. New England towns perfect for staying overnight or for an extended time during the New England fall foliage season:

31. Stroll through Walpole N.H., a quintessential New England town:

32. Have fun at The Big E New England States Fair:

33. Dine by fireside at the historic Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Mass.:

34. Hike through some beautiful forest at Hale Reservation in Westwood, Mass.:

35. Gaze at the innate beauty of Echo Lake in Franconia Notch, N.H.:

36. Be amazed at the variety of pumpkins available at the Epiphany Church of Walpole Fall Fair in Walpole, Mass.:

37. Stay at the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden, Vt., with its breathtaking views: 

38. Enjoy a fall family vacation at the Red Jacket Mountain View and Indoor Water Park in North Conway, N.H. (in the White Mountains):

39. Dine at the historic, casual Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, Conn., one of New England most beautiful small towns:

40. Stay at the 4-star Inns at the Equinox in charming Manchester, Vt., at the base of Mount Equinox.

41. Visit Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, R.I., one of the oldest continuously operating country stores in the United States:

42. Dine and lodge at the historic Concord's Colonial Inn in Concord, Mass.:

43. Eat at one of the great New England diners -- the Miss Lyndonville Diner -- in Lyndonville, Vt.: Located in the Northeast Kingdom you're also sure to find some spectacular foliage in this region during the peak season!

44. Visit Jackson, N.H., a truly picturesque, idyllic New England town:

45. Stay a while at picture perfect Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, N.H.:

46. Enjoy a family resort vacation at Woodward's in Lincoln, N.H., near many White Mountains attractions:

48. Stroll the Currier and Ives-like downtown in Keene, N.H.:

49. Stop by Phantom Farms in Cumberland, R.I., for some apple picking, fall harvest events, apple cider, and a visit to the yummy bake shop:

50. Stay at the Lodge of Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine, located in a setting of unspoiled natural beauty:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Five New England Restaurants Perfect for the Fall Season

1761 Old Mill restaurant, Westminster, Mass.
Perhaps it's a mix of location, dining atmosphere and foods compatible with autumn, but I have found the following restaurants as ideal destinations during the fall season:

Salem Cross Inn West Brookfield, Mass. -- The historic home, roaring fireplace, post and beam design, rolling green fields outside and some delicious Yankee fare make the Salem Cross Inn an ideal fall dining spot, situated in the beautiful New England town of West Brookfield. Love the maple jack chicken sauteed with Applewood bacon scallions and sundried tomatoes. The chicken is then topped with Monterey jack cheese and a dijon mustard sauce. Yum!

The 1761 Old Mill, Westminster, Mass. -- This former saw mill features a waterfall, covered bridge, duck pond, long outdoor front porch and on the inside, a roaring fireplace (do I detect a pattern here?) and charming post and beam dining rooms. The steak, seafood and chicken dishes are quite good, although not up to par with the Salem Cross Inn. The best bet is the extensive Sunday morning brunch that includes some delicious popovers and some very nicely done chicken and seafood items. There's also a really good country store on the lower level!

Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, Conn. This restored 1740s farmhouse is so cozy! Owners Barry & Brian Jessurun run this restaurant with pride and joy -- the farthest thing from just another generic big box restaurant. The comfort food breakfast, lunch and dinner items are amongst the best we've ever experienced. All this, plus folk entertainment at night! The atmosphere is just right -- informal, pleasant and with rural and modern charm combined. The location is fantastic, too, right in the heart of Pomfret, a quintessential small New England town. My favorite dish is the smoked mozzarella and basil ravioli with a cream sauce, asparagus, and roasted red peppers. If I had to take an out of town guest to a local restaurant, the Vanilla Bean Cafe would be it!

Parker's Maple Barn, Mason, N.H. Rustic and located in a remote area, this busy country restaurant serves huge breakfasts, very tasty lunches and a lot of items made with maple syrup. I love the maple ribs. maple frappe and fresh roast turkey dinner here. On the premises, there's also a gift shop. The area countryside with deep forest, lakes and ponds is a amazingly scenic destination during the fall foliage season.

Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine This special "date night" caliber restaurant is not located near the ocean, but rather in some beautiful countryside. Located in a rambling, restored and refined farmhouse, Clay Hill Farm offers modern cuisine without the stuffiness that sometimes mars upscale restaurants. They source many of their food  locally, and you can taste it in the greens and other vegetables. Clay Hill Farm also offers some very pleasant piano entertainment at night.  I've had lobster bisque, roasted half duckling (with merlot blueberry sauce) and grilled salmon that makes me wish this restaurant was located closer to our Boston area home. We'd be there as often as our budget allows!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Walking Along Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass.

Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass., is a pleasant destination for a day time or evening stroll (provided it's not raining cats and dogs like today). After a nice seafood dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants like Woods Seafood or the Lobster Hut, the unmistakable coastal New England feel in the air makes for a relaxing yet refreshing time. Along the way, you'll see the Mayflower II (a replica of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America), Plymouth Rock and several spots to eat some ice cream (we like Peaceful Meadows the most), or buy a souvenir (John Alden Gift Shop is very neat!). Some boat companies offer cruises as well as fishing and whale watching tour opportunities. There are even a few hotels along the way like the Bradford Inn and Suites that provide waterfront views Although Plymouth is very famous as a vacation destination, I feel that Plymouth Harbor tends to fly under the radar as a top notch coastal spots in New England. Enjoy this special place, while the weather is relatively good!

Article and photo of Plymouth Harbor by Eric

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Boston Area Travel Ideas and Hub Happenings

Good morning from New England! Today, we'll focus on happenings in the Boston area. Let's start off the day by mentioning Coffee Sensations inside Lord's Department Store in Medfield, Mass. Coffee Sensations is actually an authentic, old fashioned luncheonette that brings back memories of the lunch counter at Woolworth's Department store. They serve lunch and dinner and know how to make great shakes, burgers, pancakes and other comfort foods. They also serve delicious homemade ice cream from the Black Cow in Millis, Mass. My favorite dish is the chopped chicken panini that features moist chicken, hots and the right touch of mayonnaise.  Lord's is in a bit of a time capsule, too, reminding us of the old neighborhood general stores that we grew up with -- no surprise, given Lord's is well over 60 years old!... Over in neighboring Walpole, Mass., The Walpole Farmers Market is still open through the end of October on the Walpole Town Common (Wednesdays, 2:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) I'm very impressed by this Farmers Market -- the mix of vendors is terrific and the setting is pure New England. The town common is beautiful with its open space surrounded by mom and pop shops, restaurants, churches and historic buildings and homes... And over in Westwood, Mass., here is some news out of the "boo-hoo" department: Bubbling Brook ice cream stand will be closing for the season on Sunday, Sept. 11, according to its Facebook Fan Page. Seems like they just reopened for the season -- shows how fast the summer has gone by. Make sure to get to this classic ice cream stand before the ice cream season ends here... Read with interest in the Boston Globe that the former Andros Diner on Trapelo Rd. in Belmont, Mass., might reopen as a new restaurant. Its current owner reportedly has some parties interested in bringing back a restaurant to this location. It broke my heart when Andros Diner closed last winter. For a few decades, I thought they had some of the best Greek-American food in the Boston area -- always loved the baked lamb and homemade Greek salad dressing. Too bad financial difficulties forced Andros to close, but looking forward to the possibility of a new restaurant spot here...Good news for Villa Mexico restaurant fans: the restaurant will remain open in its present location at 296 Cambridge St., in Boston, until December of this year, according to its ConstantContact newsletter page... The Paul Revere House reports on its Twitter page that the annual Paul Revere House September Lecture Series will feature Rick Detwiller talking tonight (Sept. 7) about Boston's Georgian landscape at the Old South Meeting House. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m... Read in the Quincy Patriot Ledger that Dave & Buster’s will be coming to Braintree (in the former Circuit City building just off Route 95 near the South Shore Plaza). Good news for those that had to trek to the Dave and Buster's in Providence, R.I., to enjoy this chain food and entertainment complex that features lots of video games to go along with a large bar and dining area.... Congratulations to Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage at Harvard Square in Cambridge for making USA Today's "10 great places to sink your teeth into a burger" article.  There are many great burger places in the Boston area, but Mr. Bartley's has withstood the test of time, always turning out some fantastic burgers. Haven't been in a while, but the article has inspired a return visit!...  That's about all for now, we'll see you soon with more information from around New England!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Traveling New England, Here and There...

New England Travel Thoughts
It's a rainy day here in the Northeast, a good day for travelers to visit some of Boston's best museums like the Museum of Science, New England Aquarium and Museum of Fine Arts Boston... Congratulations to Bondir restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., chosen by Bon Appetit Magazine's in its "The Best New Restaurants in America in 2011" (September 2011 edition). Bondir bills itself as a restaurant serving "Sustainable Modern American Cuisine."... Today, we give shout outs to Attleboro, Mass., for its great community and patriotic spirit; Narragansett, R.I., for its wonderful ocean beaches; Old Lyme, Conn., for a remarkable sense of preservation; Dover, N.H., for bringing its downtown back to life in a big way; Woodstock, Vt., for its postcard picture perfect look; and South Berwick, Maine, for just being itself, a sleepy, friendly little town... It's amazing how Davis Square in Somerville, Mass., has gone from a rather nondescript neighborhood to an eclectic, interesting area loaded with restaurants and locally-owned stores. In a certain regard, it's now more interesting than Harvard Square in Cambridge. The centerpiece is, still, of course, the old-school Somerville Theater with some great movies playing at low prices...If I had to choose five Boston area towns to live for families, they would be Cohasset, Wakefield, Walpole, Franklin and Ipswich. All of those towns have a friendly close-knit, small town feel, very good to excellent schools, real downtowns, and plenty of activities going on for all ages. Ipswich and Cohasset have the advantage of being located by the ocean. And it's amazing that Cohasset, for all its wealth, has much less of a snob factor than other towns of its class... Best small city/town downtown district for college kids? I'd have to say Burlington, Vt., with its colorful, four-block downtown pedestrian shopping area, walking and bike paths, myriad restaurants and shops and boat rides along Lake Champlain...Looks like there are still some very good "Best Value Red Sox Tickets prices for upcoming games against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles. The Sept. 19 game against the Orioles has tickets starting at $15, through Ace Tickets!... Some close friends tell us that the indoor "wave pool" at the Cape Codder Resort and Spa in Hyannis, Mass., is a lot of fun, adds to a great family hotel destination... I really like Everything But Anchovies restaurant in Hanover, N.H. (5 Allen St.), A wide menu selection (including pizza), salad bar, and good prices not only make it a favorite amongst Dartmouth College students, but anyone else with a hearty appetite and thrifty spending habits. They actually do serve anchovies here on the pizzas... When the fall foliage season arrives, one place I'd highly recommend walking is Walden Pond on Route 126 in Concord, Mass. The hike around the pond is about 45 minutes and, more or less, level. The foliage colors are typically outstanding and the scenery so pleasing around the pond...Boston Bruins Tickets are now available. Here's hoping to a season as successful as last!...We stayed at the Henniker Motel in Henniker, N.H. a few weeks ago, and have to say that we were pleasantly surprised. We had a nice, clean room with cable television and views of the surrounding hills and open land. We also enjoyed the indoor pool. Additionally, they have a cozy gathering room with fireplace and television. The staff was very nice to us, too. The Henniker Motel is probably made more for the winter, as it is located at the base of Pat's Peak Ski area, but this summer visit was sure nice. By the way, Henniker is becoming one of our favorite New England towns as we find the downtown old fashioned and pleasant -- really quintessential New England. It's walkable, has a few nice restaurants and shops, an independently owned pharmacy and general store, nice views of the Contoocook River, and New England College with its attractive campus. We'll be back and look forward to another stay at the Henniker Motel!...Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, Conn., reports on Twitter that its apple picking season has begun with Gala and McIntosh available... That's about all for now, check in again soon for more New England travel thoughts!

Monday, September 5, 2011

New England Travel Thoughts

I can hardly wait until The Big E New England States Fair, running Sept. 16-Oct. 2 at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds in West Springfield, Mass. Love the midway, animal exhibitions, parades, musical entertainment and comfort food vendors... Was driving up Route 495 in Hopkinton, Mass., the other day and already saw some leaves changing color. Scary thought, as it seemed like Memorial Day Weekend was just a few weeks ago. I'm looking forward to the peak colors, though, later this month and in October (depending on location in New England)...To answer the age old argument -- which is better for pizza in Boston, Santarpio's or Pizzeria Regina? The answer is "yes!"... Coastal Newburyport, Mass., has a near perfect downtown. The choice of stores, restaurants, the water views, brick sidewalks, historic old buildings and homes make for an ideal, walkable central district... Come to think of it, though, coastal Portsmouth, N.H., is just as nice and a great way to spend some time visiting New England. Portsmouth has a boatload of cultural activities going on near or at the waterfront and Market Square locations, as well as offering lots of locally-owned shops and restaurants. The harbor here is  really beautiful... If I had to choose a Massachusetts town that maintains a quintessential classic New England small town feeling, it would be West Brookfield. The town common is amazing, the surrounding old "front porch" homes so beautiful and the people quite friendly. For a meal, go to the historic Salem Cross Inn on Route 9, just outside the downtown, for tasty New England fare as well as some very nice local ambiance... If you like lodging with waterfront views without the hefty price tag, I would recommend the Katahdin Inn in York Beach, Maine (Ocean Ave. Ext., at Short Sands Beach). I don't know how owners Bob and Rae do it, but the prices are half of what some other similar lodging establishments charge for just being on the water... I think many New England towns have become either generic-looking or overgrown, but Hanover, N.H., remains just as nice as ever. Fantastic, little downtown and with Dartmouth College to add a lot of tree-lined campus appeal... I could watch the Mystic Drawbridge in downtown Mystic, Conn., go up and down all day, only to be interrupted, of course, by some delicious homemade ice cream at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream. I always get the lemon chocolate kiss... Speaking of ice cream, the landmark Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass. , is as good as ever. Had a delicious ginger snap molasses ice cream the other night and was it ever good! The place has expanded over the years with two fantastic mini golf courses, an animal area, batting cages, bumper boats, an "outdoor seafood shack and grill," country store and arcade games. It's all so fun and not tacky at all -- everything seems to fit in nicely to make for a great morning or afternoon itinerary... One of the highlights of the summer was dining on lobster and lobster rolls at around $10.00 a dish a Markey's Lobster Pool in Seabrook, N.H. (Route 286, just off Route 1A). How they keep the prices down, I don't know but I'd certainly recommend going there is you love lobster and low prices. Of course, the market value changes the prices, but we've always found the dining bill to be quite low. The outdoor waterfront dining is a real plus, too... I love the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vt. (3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd.). Cold Hollow makes apple cider the old-fashioned way with a rack and cloth press built in the 1920s. The taste is amazing! Cold Hollow is not just a cider place, however. They have a bakery (including delicious homemade donuts), Green Mountain Coffee, Vermont-made wines and a toy store. This always makes a pleasant fall foliage season destination... The Raven's Nest in Walpole, Mass. (998 Main St.), is what I'd call a "major league" restaurant.  Mark and Maura McCauliffe have gone through painstaking efforts to make the Raven's Nest look like an Irish pub (Mark is from Ireland). The bricks on one dining room wall were even hand-painted one-by-one! It's a ultra cozy place with fabulous contemporary cuisine and upscale pub fare, lots of draft beer selections, open air windows, an outdoor patio, seven plasma televisions to watch the game, and a nice fireplace for the winter. My favorite dishes: the baked mac and cheese, Shepherd's Pie, fillet of salmon with a soy ginger glaze, and the pesto chicken sandwich. Everything about The Raven's Nest just looks and feels right. Love this place; every hometown should have a downtown restaurant like this... All country stores that I have been to in Vermont are worth a trip, but my favorite is still the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vt. (right in the heart of the quaint downtown). The place is huge and full of everything you could ever want in a country store. They haven't gone "Hollywood" either, keeping the authentic feel well intact... We started this post with a mention about a local fair, and we'll end it that way, too: the Topsfield Fair will be held this year from Sept. 30 to Oct. 10 at the Topsfield Fairgrounds in Topsfield, Mass. Not as large as The Big E, it's still worth a trip. The Topfield Fair is the oldest agricultural fair in the United States has a wonderful mix of agricultural exhibits and presentations, a good midway area, and entertainment (Phil Vassar, Sean Kingston and Ayla Brown are a few of the scheduled performers this year)... That's about if for now. Come back soon as we'll post some more New England travel thoughts not too far down the road!



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