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!



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