Monday, January 29, 2018

Woodman's in Essex, Mass., the Birthplace of the Fried Clam

Woodman's Seafood Restaurant in Essex, Mass., is a household name in New England, and with good reason: its founder Lawrence "Chubby" Woodman invented the fried clam here more than 100 years ago.

Today, Woodman's is a thriving  local and tourist favorite that also specializes in lobster, lobster rolls, New England clam chowder and other seafood, but it is the fried clam that impresses me most. Yes, New England offers many great seafood shacks for fried clams, but for some reason Woodman's seems a notch above the elite destinations. They just know what they are doing, and the heaping portions further help the matter.

I think Zagat sums Woodman's up best:  "A cult classic—right up there with baseball and apple pie, this Essex icon is an enduring American cult favorite." Forbes FYI also acknowledged Woodman's as having "the best seafood in America." I'm quite sure both media outlets factored in the fried clam when speaking so highly of this North Shore of Massachusetts dining and catering gem.

While the media accolades are nice, it is the constant year-round crowds that truly confirm this seafood shack's greatness. Success surely could have gone to Woodman's head, but thankfully this fried clam destination never became a shell of itself!

Woodman's Seafood Restaurant is located at 121 Main St. in Essex MA. Tel. (978) 768-6057

Editor's note: I recently read Woodman's of Essex: Five Generations of Stories, 100 Years of Recipes. It's really a wonderful book that is not only filled with great stories and recipes, but also an ode to a hard-working family residing in a beautiful coastal, close-knit town.  I highly recommend you read the book!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Visiting My Grandmother Had That Antiques in Wrentham, Mass.

My Grandmother Had That...Antiques  in Wrentham, Mass., is one of those "hidden gem" antique stores that is jam-packed with antiques, collectibles and other items from the past.

Located in a charming, two-story old red barn at 446 South St. (Route 1A), My Grandmother Had That...Antiques certainly lives up to its name. You'll find furniture, lamps, desks, chairs, plant holders, fine China sets and just about everything your grandma had, and also didn't have -- like a web address, Facebook fan page or any hint on the Internet that this place exists! Unless you're a Wrentham native, one familiar with the antiques industry, have driven by the red barn on South St., or somebody that just reads maps of Wrentham all day, My Grandmother Had That...Antiques is as hard to find as the rarest antique. You won't even find the name, "My Grandmother Had That," on the building, just a sign that states "Antiques." The My Grandmother Had That name is on the business card, though.

My Grandmother Had That is open "Weekdays by Chance" so call ahead before embarking on a trip to this hidden gem. For the record, we went on a Sunday, and the store was open.

Yes, they do have a phone and the number is (508) 384-2874!

Editor's note: if you have been to My Grandmother Had That...Antiques, we'd love to hear your experience. Please feel free to comment on this post!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Northeast Harbor, Maine: A Quaint, Coastal Maine Getaway

Northeast Harbor, Maine, never has received much press as a premier Maine vacation destination. That is nearby Bar Harbor's job when vacationing in Acadia National Park, Maine.\

Bar Harbor is really fine as it has an interesting downtown with loads of shops, restaurants and lodging options -- as well as proximity to all Acadia National Park attractions -- but people like us prefer the quieter side at Northeast Harbor. It's a classic, quaint Maine village at its best with cars parked downtown but with very few people walking the downtown. It's peaceful, has some nice galleries, boutiques, a small market, variety store, hardware store and not much else. A few minute's walk from the downtown is a beautiful harbor, and the Docksider, a seafood shack with a small dining room offering some of the best and most affordable lobster dinners you'll find in Acadia National Park.

The beauty about Northeast Harbor is that its splendidness compares to the famed scenic attractions on the Acadia Loop Rd., just in a different way. While the Loop Road brings you pristine Sand Beach, stunning views of the ocean and mountains, and Thunder Hole where the waves crash on prototypical rocky Maine coast, Northeast Harbor complements that experience by extending the opportunity to connect with the wonderful coastal feeling of the area -- in the form of a splendid little village that you'll remember long after returning home.

We look forward to your posts on your Northeast Harbor, Maine, travel experience!

Read more about Northeast Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park, at

Research and make reservation at hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts at Acadia National Park


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Commander's Mansion in Watertown, Mass. Becomes Site for Social, Corporate Events

Commander's Mansion, Watertown (photo credit:
Commander's Mansion web site
I remember quite well the commander's quarters, now called the Commander's Mansion that today specializes in weddings, special events and meetings, in Watertown, Mass.

The late Col. Donald Kenny, my boss in the late 1980s, lived at this grand installation home while commanding the U.S. Army Materials Technology Lab -- otherwise known as the Watertown Arsenal. After his retirement in 1989, the living quarters became increasingly unoccupied, leaving it open for public and private tours, upon request.

Framed by the Charles River, a grape arbor, tennis courts,  landscaped open space and gardens, and a stately historic brick office building, I, as a civilian employee, always loved giving tours here as the bracketed style mansion with hip roof, Victoria veranda, marble fireplaces and one-of-a-kind moldings created this wonderful, old world charm, and plenty of fascinating architectural nooks and crannies within the 26 rooms. From congressmen and dignitaries to curious local residents and media, they all loved the tour.

Long story short: then Capt. Thomas Rodman (inventor of the Rodman gun at the Watertown Arsenal) commissioned a commander's quarters to be built during the American Civil War. This 12,700 sq. ft. home became one of the largest commander's quarters of any U.S. military installation. Congress expressed displeasure over the wasteful spending ($63,478.65) but, nevertheless, eventually promoted Rodman to brigadier general at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. Guess what he did there? Why, he had built an even larger commander's quarters! File this one under, "Do we ever learn from history?"

The commander's quarters was eventually placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in  January 30, 1976, and included in the Watertown Arsenal Historic District in 1989.

After the U.S. Army closed the installation in 1995 from a Base Realignment and Closure mandate -- and during the last stages of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup project -- commercial entities eventually moved into the with one of the most notable being the Commander's Mansion. Now it is a showpiece for social and corporate events.

I am so happy to see this property put to such good use. The mansion had sadly fallen into disrepair when I was giving tours, and it impeded the innate beauty of this home. On one hand, visitors were awed by the enormity and charm of the home, but somewhat mystified why the commander's quarters wasn't, at least, well-maintained.

Now it is once again a central attraction that retains its glorious origins while staying up to date with what people look for at a wedding, event and meeting site. I strongly encourage any interested parties to check it out -- the building is unique, charming, fully restored, and convenient, too,  within minutes of Boston. This is clearly not your typical cookie cutter venue site and one with such a storied history!

Commander's Mansion is located at 440 Talcott Ave., Watertown MA. Tel.  (617) 926-7755

Related articles:
Seven New England restaurants beyond 100 years old
A wedding and reception at a Newport, R.I., mansion
Dining at the historic Salem Cross Inn, West Brookfield, Mass.
Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Mass.
Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Goldenrod in York Beach, Maine, and Summer Vacation Memories

People flock to watch the salt water taffy making at the Goldenrod. Inside, it's even more crowded! (photo by Eric)

Ever have one of those days when you're day dreaming about summer vacation and a certain memory comes to mind? Today, I woke up with summer thoughts of the Goldenrod in downtown York Beach, Maine -- the salt water taffy making on the premises, the New England clam chowder, the soda fountain with yummy homemade ice cream and Short Sands Beach right across the street.

We never visit York Beach Maine with The Goldenrod as the top thing to do, but it certainly serves as an integral part of this fun beach town that is synonymous with summer vacations in New England. I can hardly wait until York Beach is in full swing and the Goldenrod bringing smiles to virtually everyone that  goes here!

Making the salt water taffy (photo by Eric)
And right across the street is Short Sands Beach! (photo by Eric)



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