Tony and I had a wonderful long weekend in the greater New Hope area the first weekend in November for what was the 40th and final Thanksgiving in the Country house tour.
I wanted to show Tony some of the sights outside of New Hope and Lambertville, so I had planned to rent a car and drive down. Tony saw there was an Enterprise office just outside New Hope not far from the bus stop, so he suggested we take the Trans-Bridge bus down and back and rent and return the car down there. So that's what we did. It would have worked out perfectly except the rental office closed at noon on Saturday and wasn't open at all on Sunday, so we could have the car for only a day. Gatdammit.
We stayed at the Aaron Burr House, which is named after the U.S. vice president who fled to New Hope after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. (We didn't encounter his ghost while we were there.) The ABH is owned by the same couple who own Umpleby House, the B&B where we stayed two years ago.
We had lunch on both Friday and Saturday at Sprig & Vine, the vegan restaurant I so wish were near our Union Square instead of in New Hope's Union Square. S&V's slogan is "Pure Vegetarian," so we initially forgot that every dish is vegan. Which meant that Tony could totally have the soup of the day on Friday, the Cauliflower Bisque, even though the chalkboard mentioned "cream" as an ingredient. Because it was almond cream. The soup featured fennel seed as an ingredient and was topped with little sprigs of dill and a drizzle of beet oil. It was out of this frackin' world.
Tony had Grilled Oyster Mushrooms for his main, and I had Grilled Shishito and Jimmy Nardello Peppers.
Both kinds of pepper were sweet. About one in 10 shishitos is mildly hot; none of mine was the least bit fiery.
For dessert, I had an almost certainly tofu-based Chocolate Mousse Pie. The pie wasn't amazeballs, but I very much enjoyed the scoop of Peppermint-Cacao Nib Ice Cream, made from coconut milk, that came on the side. And Tony really liked the Blackberry Sauce he tried along with a bit of the pie.
For Saturday's lunch, I had the White Sweet Potato and Parsnip Puree, which I didn't photograph, and the Sauteed Local Greens With Garlic, Gold Raisins, and Pine Nuts. Lemongrass-infused coconut milk contributed some of the liquid to the soup, and it was topped with Basil Peanut Pesto.
Tony got the Marinated Castelvetrano Olives With Black Garlic, Chinese Five Spice, Orange, and Chile and the Grilled Cauliflower and Baby Arugula Salad, the latter of which is photographed below.
The food was as terrific as the day before, but our server wasn't. All of our plates arrived at the same time, and I had to tell the runner who brought them that the server hadn't given me my beet lemonade. Which turned out to be the highlight of the meal. It was perfectly balanced between sweet and tart and pretty to look at.
After lunch on Friday, we walked back to the B&B and then drove to Doylestown. Nadine, the B&B's co-owner, had told us when we checked in about the Grace Kelly exhibit that was going on at the Michener Art Museum. My priorities for our time with the car were Doylestown, probably my favorite town in the area, and Peddler's Village (which really should be called Peddlers' Village, since there's more than one peddler of goods there). Specifically, the plant shop in PV that always has loads of Christmas trees set up at this time of year.
I parked on a side street between the main drag in Doylestown and the museum. I've gotten to the point, after so many years in Brooklyn and Manhattan, where I really don't like driving. I feel like it's a hassle. But I made out OK on this trip.
The exhibit was very enjoyable. It featured a lot of GK's clothing as well as video footage of the princess and her family. Even though Kelly won an Oscar for The Country Girl, people like to say her greatest role was as the princess of Monaco. She dressed well for that part. All of the clothes on display would pass muster with today's fashion critics except for two things Tony and I found to be surprisingly tacky: a rainbow-colored caftan that she wore frequently, according to the museum's description, and a huge headpiece, including some fake hair, that she wore with an orange dress. The description said she had to hunch down on the floor of a van on the way to the event where she wore the headpiece. Tony said his greatest role would be wearing the headpiece and the caftan, which looked like it came from Endora's closet, together—in a wind tunnel. Hee hee.
The museum also had an exhibit on the Bucks County Playhouse, which is where Kelly made her stage debut. The BCP has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years. The longtime owner's bank seized the property from him, and the new owners brought in Broadway producer Jed Bernstein to run the theater and manage productions. (Bernstein is next heading back to New York to become the president of Lincoln Center.) The BCP had some impressive talents appearing on its stage and working behind the scenes during Bernstein's tenure. In June, the theater hosted the world premiere of Mothers and Sons, a new Terrence McNally show starring Tyne Daly. And later in the summer, Summer of '42, a musical with a book written by Broadway veteran Hunter Foster and also directed by him, ran for two and a half weeks. I wish I could have seen it.
That evening, we had dinner with Pat at The Blue Tortilla, which is where we had our Saturday night dinner with Pat, Paul, and Dan two years ago. (The house tour was canceled last year because of freakin' Hurricane Sandy.) Paul and Dan couldn't join us this year because Paul's mother was visiting from Oklahoma.
We walked around town a bit afterward, and I took photos of the bridge to Lambertville:
And the playhouse:
The next morning after breakfast, I drove us to Peddler's Village. I was disappointed to see that the Village Flower Shoppe had shrunk in size. And the Christmas ornaments on display didn't appeal to me. But I enjoyed the plants in the VFS's greenhouse, as always:
And the turtles in the greenhouse:
I bought a couple of birdseed-covered bells to give to Granny at Christmas.
We walked around a bit more and then had to head back toward New Hope to drop off the car by noon. Traffic was backed up for quite a ways coming into Peddler's Village, and I had a moment of panic when I thought I had turned onto Route 202 in the wrong direction and was going to have to turn around and join the line of cars. But then I recognized where I was and knew I was closer to New Hope than I had been.
Back at the B&B after lunch at S&V, Tony did some work and then we *ahem* saw skyrockets in flight. Then we hightailed it over the bridge into Lambertville because I saw on its website that Artists' Gallery, the gallery I most wanted to visit before our 7 o'clock dinner reservation, was closing in less than a half hour! Beatrice Bork, the artist who was staffing the gallery, told us she was in no hurry to leave, so we lingered a bit longer than the appointed closing of 6. Tony and I ended up buying a frog print of BB's:
I love the appearance of texture in the frog's skin.
We also bought a print on aluminum of Andrew Werth's Conceptual Framework:
As regular readers of Hawleyblog may recall—but probably won't—Tony was captivated by some of Werth's original works the first time he joined me for a Thanksgiving in the Country weekend.
The 11 1/2–inch–by–11 1/2–inch piece of aluminum has two holes for nails at the top, so no framing is necessary. Via e-mail, the artist told me he could have any of his originals made into an aluminum print for us, so we plan to pick out maybe a couple more that we think would make a nice grouping with CF.
For dinner, we had another wonderful meal at Hamilton's Grill Room, where we've eaten on both of our previous TITC visits to the area. Here's the candlelit menu:
Beforehand, we'd gotten a Bordeaux at a wine shop in Lambertville. Tony said it had a tinny aftertaste at first, but that sensation dissipated after the bottle had been opened a while, and we rather enjoyed it.
BYOB can be a wonderful thing. The bill was a good deal less than we'd have paid for a similarly high quality meal in New York.
Tony got the Mixed Grill of Lamb, Rosemary, and Garlic; I got the Wood-Roasted Duck With Sour Cherries and Polenta and a side of Roasted Beets With Pistachio Pesto.
I got the White Chocolate Mousse for dessert. There were lots of vanilla seeds in it, so it tasted as much like vanilla as it did white chocolate. *shrugs* I polished it off.
Back at the B&B, Tony and I turned on the gas fireplace in our room, and I posed for a photo.
We played four games of Shut the Box. Tony won the first game, but I kicked booty the next three. *blows on the dice*
Sunday morning while lolling in bed, Tony said, "Rudy's Grill Room." I said I could see Rudy slapping the meat down on the grill with his big paws. And then he'd immediately eat it, Tony said. The wait staff would have to say only the vegetarian option is available, I said. But then he'd be sleeping in that, so nothing would be available, Tony said. We miss our special basset guy soooo much.
We loved the huge, California king sleigh bed at the B&B.
Tony said it would fit three bassets.
Dad and Jean got into town from the Gerbers' about an hour earlier than we were scheduled to meet up with Pat and her sister Maureen. They had gone up to Franklin Lakes the day before for a wine-tasting fundraiser. Tony said they should take the opportunity to check into their B&B, the Woolverton Inn in Stockton. Dad called, and the innkeeper at Woolverton said it would be OK if they dropped off their bags that morning. And when they arrived, they found that the guests who had been in their room had just checked out, so they were able to stop into their room for a moment and leave their stuff before the room was cleaned.
When Dad and I were planning the weekend, he'd suggested Tony and I stay over to Monday or maybe even Tuesday, so the four of us could hang out together. When I checked the production schedule at work, I saw we were closing a special issue of the magazine the week after TITC weekend, so I couldn't really take days off that week. I told him we'd have to plan to go back to the area next year and spend some nights at the same B&B :-), even though TITC is over. :-(
I assumed this was the last year for TITC because, quite frankly, the women who organize it are getting old. And the guide on the first bus we took on the first leg of the tour confirmed that was the case.
There were seven houses on the tour this year, more than usual. We didn't make it to the seventh house. We got only as far as the sixth house, on the second leg of the tour, before all buses had to return to the parking area in Sergeantsville.
Here's the whole gang at Prallsville Mill in Stockton, which in recent years has been the site for both the crafters and the complimentary tea and cookies:
Overall, we didn't like the houses as well as we did previous years. But I was delighted to note that three of the seven homes were owned by gay couples or a single gay man (if our gaydar was working correctly). Two of the gay-owned homes were in the village of Raven Rock or, as I'm now cleverly calling it, Gayven Rock. The home(homo)owners of one stop on the tour acted as hosts for their house. One half of the couple was stationed in the backyard and spoke about their garden and the right-nearby mining of brownstone that was used as the façade for many homes in New York. He was adorkable. *heart goes pitter patter*
As has been our custom, the six of us had dinner at Rick's in Lambertville. Tony and I stopped over at the same, convenient wine store in Lambertville for a bottle of red and a bottle of white. (No, I won't be linking to anything Billy Joel related.) I got a chopped salad. I wish I had asked what the chopped salad was going to be like before ordering it. It had lots of things in it I wasn't expecting, including ham and tuna.
Likewise, my entree, Butternut Squash Ravioli, had an unexpected hit of dairy in the filling (either cream or a creamy cheese; I honestly couldn't tell) and equally unexpected roasted vegetables on top.
It was all perfectly good—but just not what I'd thought it would be.
More important than the food, of course, was the company:
Maureen and Jean:
Dad and Pat:
And me and the Sugar Boy: