Saturday, October 29
Nancy G. and I journeyed on this road trip. Nancy was driving using her car’s GPS that she named Josephine who appears to be having difficulties. Once in the car, Nancy plotted out the first stop. Nancy does have the trip on paper as coming from mapquest, just in case….hmmm. After about 10 minutes of figuring out the GPS Josephine took us through the Midtown Tunnel, North to Route 80 as we head to Newton, New Jersey.
Our first stop was Little Brushwood Alpaca Farm, 51 Parsons Rd., where we met with owners Supanee (Sue) and Andrew (Andy) Saccoccia. (973-579-0021) Having previously spoken with them, I had decided to sponsor another alpaca (I adopted Dee Dee in Maryland). Her name is Zypher Lily. The small farm had 16 alpacas; males and females always separated. I was first able to feed and pet the male alpacas as they came to the fence.
As for the females, we ventured into their “pen” after we placed these “booties” on our feet. Feeding alpacas is the best way to have them approach you. Some will come right up to your face to check out that you are a human. Not all will let you pet them. Best is to pet along the neck.
Zephyr Lily did not know me as yet. At one point Andy put a leash on her. She doesn’t like being led around and that was okay since I have trouble walking. Now I was able to hug her. She is just soooo adorable as they all are. Zephyr has gorgeous eyes and long eyelashes.
Here is the 101. There are 7 boys: Grand Phantazmo (aka Bob); Paco Bill (aka Bill); Phoenix; Armani; Genesys; Grand Odyssey (aka Odie); Maxwell Spruce (Max). 9 Girls: Typhoon Clara (aka Clara); Typhoon Beatrice (aka Bea/ BB); Gold Kist Apricot (aka Apricot); Zephyr Lily(aka Zephy); Evening Primrose (aka Primmie); Moon Goddess; Tamarind Moon (aka Tammi); Sweet Bay Magnolia (aka Maggie); and Grand Jubilee Renee (aka Renee).
“After much research, we agreed on raising alpacas, then we added chickens and just this past summer we started our own bee hive”, Sue told me. I think after each year when we started our farm business and we kept getting popular and most visitors, people we knew started to take us seriously and saw how dedicated we were to our animals and our business.
“As for the chickens, Andy has refrained me from naming them as when we lose them to predators and get extremely upset so I only name the ones that stand out. Our sole rooster is TRex. Snowy is our eldest and PR chicken. She's a 4-yr-old hybrid of different breeds. Big Mama is my favorite and friendly Buckeye. We also have Red Sex Link hen which hatch an egg, we call the mother hen Willows and her baby is a pure Silver Laced Wyndotte, who we call Tree.”
“Our good friend's son, Joey (9-yr-old) sometimes helps at the farm and he boards 6 of his chickens at our farm. We feed and tend to his chickens as he doesn't have property or time to have chickens. He has 2 Light Brahmas and 4 Rhode Island Reds. As for our flock we have a total 20 that vary from Easter Eggers (lay Blue eggs), Buckeyes (brown eggs) and the rest are hybrids which lay light brown eggs. We also have 5 rare white and lavender guinea hens which are perfect in controlling the ticks around the farm. They are 6 weeks old and are currently in our brooder pen in the basement but they will officially be moving outside. I haven't named then as I can't tell if they are girls or boys until they start their calling noises.”
“Ranger, our livestock guardian dog is a Maremma (Italian Sheepdog) born on an suri alpaca farm in OH. His parents are great livestock guardian dogs and taught Ranger to love and protect his charges-alpacas and chickens.”
“Our farm name is derived from the love of our 2 Shiba Inu dogs- in Japanese it's translated ‘Little Brushwood Dog’, thus Little Brushwood Alpaca Farm. We are both animal lovers. I always had a dog since childhood and wanted to be a vet but unfortunately I am extremely allergic to most animals and environmental allergens.”
“I started to teach myself how to crochet and when Andy and I got married we started to search for property, deciding to look for farm property researching on livestock that was easy to care for as well as being hardy. We didn't want to raise livestock for meat, so we searched for fiber animals and fell in love of the docile alpaca. The alpaca fiber is known to be "hypo-allergenic" as it doesn't have lanolin like sheep's wool. It's pretty easy to process. And luckily I am not allergic to the fleece, so it was the perfect choice of livestock.”
“It was and still a learning curve for us. When we started we were very dependent on our mentor and veterinarian. But now only call for help should there be a major injury and require professional expertise”.
“Each month we have herd health, where we closely examine the alpacas, check for bumps/lumps. We weigh them to see if they need increase in food or decrease it if they are overweight. And we give them their monthly worming shots to protect them from meningeal worm that's carried by the white tail deer, prominent in northern NJ.”
Andy is an avid outdoor person and loves to be active, so he truly enjoys the farm life. For both of us, it's definitely a labor of love. Sue was helping me take photos. I wanted a whole bunch to remember the visit.
As for Nancy, here is what she had to say. “Susan and Andy are a professional couple who have merged their intellect and love of nature to create this budding entrepreneurship. Alpacas are cute, shy animals with almost human facial expressions. The females are named after species of flora, and the males have historical nicknames. This was a new experience for me…great!”
We would have stayed longer if it weren’t for the next place on our agenda. Sue and Andy invited us into their most delightful log cabin home. Sue had first pointed out the several small housing for the alpacas as they cannot stay out all of the time. Sue made some great pastries to nosh on; brownies and snickerdoodle cookies. Apple cider, of course.
As with most alpaca farms, products are available to purchase. Their Country Store is located on the second floor of their home. Alpaca wool tends to be combined with other warm fibers. That’s not to say that you can’t buy a total alpaca pair of gloves, etc. I’m fine with a pair of socks and wearing sandals in the coldest of winter.
For $125 a year, you get to choose an alpaca and receive email updates and personalized photos of your alpaca. Samples of your alpaca’s fiber are sent to you. If you desire the full blanket fleece, the annual sponsorship fee is $150.They will meet with you for an introduction to the farm and your alpaca when you will learn the lineage, history and general specifics on your alpaca. For your visit someone will be with you for the duration of your time as they will show you how to walk with your alpaca. And there is more! A dozen fresh eggs. Get first invitations to farm special events such as workshops and National Alpaca Farms Days and Shearing Day. Check it all out at www.lbw-alpaca.com
Having to tear ourselves away, we were off to Hawley, PA. Josephine did not recognize the address even though the Hawley Silk Mill is an attraction. Getting there later than we thought, my wonderful niece, Dawn Spires and her dad, Gary were there to greet us. They do not live far from Hawley. That's Gary in the first photo. Dawn is the the second photo.
The Silk Mill is quite an old and largely spread out building. As I am not much into history or working out, my interest was in the Mill Market and Art Gallery. Mill Market doesn’t take up a lot of space. There was a great deal of local products, mostly packaged. Cheeses, local beer, breads, freezer items, some produce and a small option of ready-made sandwiches and salads. I bought a bag of falafel chips and some jarred items. 570-390-4440
Nancy says: “The Mill Market is a friendly collection of shops, including a gourmet food emporium, an art gallery, a fitness center, some craft/health booths, a café, and a theater. What makes this particular venue unique is that it is all housed within the historic Hawley Silk Mill. The stately…and slightly haunted-looking…factory has been preserved on the outside, and re-purposed on the inside. So the town benefits socially, economically and historically.”
Juan H. Espino owns a gallery abutting the market. The artist is said to capture a “Slice of life” in rural America with its present day charm. His paintings are said to “noticeably capture a longing to return to the honest simplicity of childhood – street, landscapes festivities and especially people – colors of the four seasons in which he paints. Beauty, composition and architecture are always the basic background, emphasizing strongly the naivety of his people and giving the general illusion of innocence”. What does he say? “The reason for me to paint the way I do is that a painting should look joyful in its surrounding, whereby there are always more people present than could reasonably be expected in the situation inviting to a close look of the details and little jokes, so that a smile will show by the spectator.” What do I say? “A painting is worth a thousand words.” www.hawleysilkmill.com
More schmoozing and a quick lunch across the way to a place called Cocoon. Café atmosphere with sandwiches and pastries that are provided by Settler’s Inn.
Time to depart from the relatives and check in at Comfort Inn in Lake Ariel. Bright and clean lobby with a cheerful, helpful staff. We each had a regular sized room on the first floor as the non-accessible suites were on the second floor. I had the accessible room with a roll-in shower that had a built in shower chair. They did a great job of making it easy to use all facilities in this bathroom. Nancy is in much better shape than I am.
I found the room to be excellent in size. It had a microwave and refrigerator, which I needed to store leftovers from dinner as well as a few bottles of water. Oh, what a comfy bed! What is considered to be a “hot breakfast” for me was actually what I would call “Continental Plus”. Plenty of cold foods to choose from but hot food consisted of making your own waffle and pre-prepared bacon and scrambled eggs. All served buffet style. Not that anyone would go hungry from the list of items. Plenty of bread and pastry, yogurt, hard boiled eggs and cereals. www.comfortinnpoconolakes.com
We spent the next few hours chilling out with dinner slated for 6 pm. Josephine obviously did not want us to be on time. “You are at your destination. Your destination is on your right”. I don’t think so! A few phone calls to Der Jaeger in Lake Ariel finally got us there at 7pm.
Specializing in mostly German cuisine, that atmosphere alone would give it away. The restaurant may appear to be large in size if it weren’t for all of the historic objects and antiquies that decorated the walls and ceilings, let alone the furniture. There were rooms of this on the second floor. Much of it is from WWII collected by Janusz, the husband of Owner/Executive Chef Sylvana. Dining here is not just having a meal, but an experience as if you were at their home.
Nancy, who is of German descent, would be the most critical of the food. The menu is extensive making it difficult to choose from as we wanted to sample everything: soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts. Entrees do not come with sides and that is where we indulged. Classic sweet and sour marinated Sauerbraten was one choice of our entrée choices while the other a smoked pork chop. Just outside the building lies their BBQ Pit. How convenient to add more delicious choices to the menu.
Out came the bread, one of which was a pretzel bread the other a German version of Irish Soda Bread. Knowing what was to come I refrained from filling up but did taste. Side dishes were: bread dumplings; potato dumplings; mashed potatoes; red cabbage; sauerkraut; creamed spinach with bacon; cucumber salad; beet salad; and spaetzle.
Nancy commented that it was the best Sauerbraten she ate and I agreed. “ Inside… was something else! Antiques all over the place: furniture, military artifacts, jewelry, figurines, books, a doll house. And somehow, in the middle of it all… cozy tables, a bar, and lots of happy people. And the food! I am German, so I know German food…and this was close to the best I’ve ever eaten! The sauerbraten was classic, with fantastic dumplings, spaetzle, and red cabbage. The traditional smoked pork chops, called Kassler Ribs, were served with saurkraut, and a marvelous home-made bread that was a cross between Irish soda bread and German stollen. WOW!”
Food does not come out “fast” as Sylvana would rather pride herself on “perfection”. That doesn’t matter, though. Just take a walk around the restaurant and peruse the “chachkes”. www.derjaegeruniquedining.com
Sunday, October 30
Breakfast and checkout, we are off to Penny Lane Candies in Hawley. On the way, we came across Ritter’s Farm, located at 991 Hamlin Hway. It was so inviting looking that we had to “inform” Josephine we were about to make a me-turn. Pumpkins and other fall squash were the front features. I found this dark orange pumpkin looking vegetable called a red kuri squash in the Hubbard family. I kept it in my refrigerator for a month until I finally cooked it up. Cut it open, removed the seeds and baked in my NuWave oven. Scooped out and mashed it up with butter. Nothing else. It tasted and had the consistency of a really sweet sweet potato.
Now, I was like an adult in a chocolate store, none of which was chocolate. I was inundated with choices of locally made products. There was a cherry spread rather than a jam or jelly. Didn’t know how good it was until trying it at home, mixing it in with sour cream to cut the sweetness. Then there was this raspberry, orange and ginger spread. Need to come up with recipes. I couldn’t miss buying a bag of freshly made apple cider donuts with cinnamon and sugar. Having tried honey crisp apples at a supermarket, I wasn’t too thrilled about the apple cider version, until I tasted an apple cider “slurpy”. Nothing but the apples and totally sweet the way I like apples to be. Brussel sprouts on the vine aren’t easy to come across. Great pricing, too.
There is an area with cooked food to go. We spotted a few long tables. On weekends you can either take out or eat in at their buffet area. The cost is $8.99 lb. and you can be sure that it’s all fresh. Website advertises: Stuffed Cabbage with ground beef topped with fresh tomato; roasted chicken thighs and red potatoes in fresh garlic and sea salt; and fresh seasonal roasted vegetables in olive oil. Check to website www.rittersfarmmarket.com for their monthly farm to table events that includes wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, five courses and entertainment.
Back on the road we continue in to Hawley for this candy store with old fashioned candies from way back when. I might have grown up on this stuff, but nothing even tempted me. Bins of candies at $8.99 per pound. It is worth a stop for the nostalgia. Nancy’s thing was the various black licorices. They are located on Church Street a main road in Hawley. Good to walk around the town as take in some of the stores.
Nancy says. This cute store in the center of Hawley is a quaint throwback to simpler times. It is chock full of all that old fashioned candy that was not so old fashioned when I was a kid. I’m a black licorice freak, and I found TWO excellent taste treats: a soft licorice from Finland, and a not-too-strong salt licorice. YUM! Once you get past the candy, there are also lovely candles and vintage holiday decorations.
Moving on to the height of our stay, if only Josephine can get us there, we are headed to South Sterling for the romantic French Manor Inn and Spa, located atop Huckleberry Mountain. Run by the sisters Bridget Weber and Genevieve Reese, this is one elegant Bed and Breakfast country inn and probably the most romantic place in the Poconos. No, you’re not going to find a room with a private pool shaped as a champagne glass. Nor will you encounter even a tiny mass of people. You will see old stone chateaus and accommodations such as one newer building that houses six romantic suites each with a fireplace, Jacuzzi, frig and a private balcony with a view of the Northern Pocono Mountains. www.thefrenchmanor.com
Nancy and each stayed in a Spa Suite, of which mine had a walk-in shower and accessible. Just in case you are with someone who has no problem getting in and out of a tub, the Jacuzzi is the room. Enjoy a complimentary plate of cheese and crackers along with a carafe of sherry. Turndown service revealed a square of Godiva chocolate.
The main building houses the formal dining room, complete with a fireplace and baby grand piano, which leads to a balcony overlooking the gardens of flowers and perfectly trimmed grass. If you walk down the hill you can see the herb garden that Executive Chef Adam LaFave takes advantage of when preparing his meals.
There is a second much less formal dining room dubbed the “café” where you can still enjoy the same menu as well as stopping by for afternoon tea with a few pastries and apples. I had rooibos tea.
Nancy describes: “The French Manor is an enchanting stone chateau with an elegant 5 star restaurant. It was built around 1935 with both German and Italian influences housed with beautiful imports.”
My private suite had a balcony overlooking the countryside, a relaxing Jacuzzi, and a spacious living area surrounding the king size bed. Dinner was a work of art…for the eyes and the taste buds. The Spa housed a pool and hot tub, and was staffed to provide massage, facial, and beauty treatment. I was truly Queen for a Day. After a delicious morning breakfast, a brisk walk in the fall air capped off a wonderful stay at this beautiful place.”
Sous Chef Keegan Merchand was on hand for dinner. A glass of an Italian Pinot Grigio set the mood for this French cuisine. The menu gives enough options and is changed on a seasonal basis. I love an amuse bouche. Chef Keegan sent out a savory pan seared diver scallop. As an appetizer I chose one of their specials, Carpaccio with portabella mushrooms and quail egg topped with roe. Nancy chose Élan Wellington, Duxelle aux Champignons et Échalotes:
Elk Rack Wellington, stuffed with roasted shallots and Mushroom Duxell; finished with an arugula pesto.
Both Nancy and I passed on a salad opting for the Lobster Bisque. It couldn’t have been more satisfying as the broth was velvety with the added pieces of lobster, sherry, crème fraiche swirl, and lobster powder.
We are onto the entrée as I select the Pan Roasted Duck, Sweet Potato Hash, a root vegetable combo to substitute for broccoli rabe, topped with a pomegranate duck juice. Nancy continued with seafood choosing the Espadon Grillé, Couscous, Courge Spaghetti. In other words, grilled swordfish, cous, cous, spaghetti squash with corn and black bean salsa.
As full as I was a chocoholic dessert sparked my taste buds with their signature Chocolate Napoleon: chocolate meringue coated in a chocolate ganache, with chocolate mousse, topped with a white chocolate Chantilly. Nancy had the pleasure of a deconstructed Tiramisu that certainly tantalized her taste buds and tummy. “Dinner was a work of art…for the eyes and the taste buds,” Nancy added. “The Spa housed a pool and hot tub, and was staffed to provide massage, facial, and beauty treatment. I was truly Queen for a Day. After a delicious morning breakfast, a brisk walk in the fall air capped off a wonderful stay at this beautiful place.”
Monday, October 31After a much needed relaxing sleep, I made use of the walk-in shower. It’s the following morning as we have a hearty breakfast in the café beginning with a combination of two juices: cranberry and pineapple. A fresh fruit cup and coffee cake square are presented as I order the Eggs Benedict. Eggs poached requesting Canadian bacon vs. spinach with added bacon. The Sherry Hollandaise sauce compliments the poached eggs as I cut into it and allow the egg yolks to ooze into the English muffin. The cottage fries are perfectly seasoned. Rooibos tea, of course. Nancy opts for the French toast.
Oh yes, the spa. What can be more relaxing and rejuvenating than the Huckleberry Mountain Signature Spa Facial. Their 6 step signature spa facial “starts with an organic herbal facial steam and a gentle cleansing of the face. Huckleberry powder is added to our facial for its super antioxidant powers and helps us fight off free radicals naturally. It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Next an application of a toner is applied to balance the skin. Your skin is then gently exfoliated with a soothing polisher to prepare the skin for your custom facial masque. As you relax with your masque, we will give you a soothing 20 minute neck and shoulder massage. Lastly, your treatment will end with a nourishing and hydrating application of our delicate organic facial crème.” Aside from the huckleberry powder you get to choose 3 other additions. The list tells you what each ingredient will enhance.
What perfect timing with the cast of Happy Days having a reunion and my having experienced dining at Chatterbox Drive- In in Newton, NJ (973) 300-2300. Old trucks and motorcyclists weren’t present during lunch nor do you have to drive either vehicle to grab some grub. We are looking at the 50s and 60s regarding the décor with 45 inch records and posters near the ceiling and a baby blue 1968 Cutlass in the middle.
Despite the word “box”, the restaurant is round, specious with loads of booths as well as having the old fashioned ice cream parlor look of tables and chairs. You are also welcome to sidle up to a counter and sit on a red covered stool. Red and yellow are the décor colors with huge black and white checkered flooring. You don’t have to put a nickel in the juke box as this era of music plays on.
Don Hall is the owner of this nostalgic restaurant made even more famous by the Cooking Channel when they challenged them to a “healthier” prepared sandwich known as “Big Bad John”. Standing 6.6” and weighing 2.45 lbs. the chef places the homemade Mac and Chz atop their pulled BBQ pork, fried onions and cheddar cheese onto grilled sourdough bread.
Thank goodness I wasn’t alone in eating. “What do you want to drink?” We both chose an old fashioned egg cream made with Fox’s Ubet syrup; vanilla for Nancy, chocolate for me.
Chatterbox has an extensive menu that specializes in burgers, smoked meat, chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and fries, of course. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get a “Down East” Lobster Roll if that’s your thing.
A hamburger made with fresh ground 100% Angus beef sounded fine, especially when topped with portabello mushrooms. A bit rare in the in the middle made it quite juicy. Baked beans are not out of can and cole slaw is created a bit different from the one you may usually have. Don’s background in restaurants got him a few ideas of his own.
How about a deep fried hot dog that is twice the size of your average one? With choices of toppings, one is called “All the Way”. It’s a term known in New Jersey for a particular type of sauce of which includes onions and mustard. What can I say about the side of fries? They are deliciously addicting and not oily.
My idea of a dessert was a true malted milk shake. Chocolate, of course. Hmmm....how did they get there? www.chatterboxdrivein.com