Chesterfield, New Hampshire
November 24th, 2008 by Judy Hueber
One of my favorite things to do Thanksgiving weekend is to jump in the car and ride around on the back roads of Putney, Vermont, following the map for the Putney Craft Tour. For three days, November 28, 29 and 30, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the artists in Putney and environs open their studios to the public for this annual event. This year happens to be the 30th anniversary of the craft tour, and it is as diverse and interesting as ever.
You can follow the tour on the map, in location order, or you can look over the list of artisans and pick and choose what you’re most interested in. The artist’s work is as varied as Ken Pick’s colorful pottery and sculpture, to Penelope Wurr’s contemporary glass, to Ian and Jenny Eddy’s hand wrought iron to the Major’s Vermont Shepherd Farm cheese making operation.
The Craft Tour is a great way to spend a couple of hours or even the better part of a day. The countryside is beautiful, the rolling hills cloaked in greys and brown, bare and ready for the first snowfall. The air is crisp and clear and you can see your breath as you walk from the car to each cozy studio. Each studio is different, reflecting the personality of the artist and the art created inside. The artists are happy to have their studios open to the public and glad to answer any questions that people have about their work.
If you get tired and need a break, you can always stop at the Front Porch Bakery in the center of town and have lunch or a snack in front of the fire curled up in one of their overstuffed chairs. This weekend might be a perfect time to get away and explore the art hidden in the Putney hills!
October 28th, 2008 by Judy Hueber
When Phil and I purchased the Inn in July of 1987, we “inherited” an employee who is still with us, 21 years later! Ruth VanHouten has worked in almost all of the jobs that need to be done here at the Inn, from front desk to housekeeping to breakfast chef. A summer resident turned permanent resident, Ruth and her husband moved to Chesterfield in 1973 and raised their 3 children here, opting for the rural lifestyle over life in suburban New Jersey. Ruth has been active in the community and the schools, and has a keen memory for facts and details. She is the quintessential volunteer, and her latest volunteer job as Emergency Management Director for the town is practically full time.
When Phil and I were new innkeepers, Ruth was working as head housekeeper and filling in at whatever job needed doing. Ruth and I were always rearranging the furniture in the guest rooms, carrying things up and down the stairs until we got it “just right”. Ruth is very good with draperies and has a flair for decorating, so we spent hours fine tuning the look of each room.
When Ruth is welcoming guests at the front desk, we tease her about “interviewing” them. She has a knack with people, getting even the most reticent person to open up and share details of their life with her. Her problem solving skills are excellent, finely honed after years of working on “Destination Imagination” in the schools. She goes to great lengths to meet the needs of our guests, even to the point of lending her car to a gentleman who was stranded at the inn without a vehicle. Ruth knows everyone in town, and a common phrase at the front desk at the inn is: “let me ask Ruth, she’ll know the answer to that question! ”
When our first child was born in August of 1990, Phil gave me the gift of two months of maternity leave and Phil and Ruth worked together cleaning rooms, cooking breakfast, and running the inn. With the birth of our two children, Ruth became an honorary grandmother, staying with the kids when we were away, and occasionally picking the kids up or feeding them dinner when we were working. Even now, as high school students, the kids look forward to having Ruth stay at our home with them.
Ruth is an excellent cook, and her sour cream coffee cake is always a hit when we serve it for breakfast. Here’s the recipe:
Ruth’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Butter and flour a tube pan, Bundt or otherwise. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Combine dry ingredients, add to above with sour cream. The batter will be quite thick.
Filling: 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Put half of the batter in the pan, sprinkle filling over the batter. Put remaining batter onto the filling. Bake
40 -50 minutes at 350. Let cool in pan, then remove to serve.
September 22nd, 2008 by Judy Hueber
Cheese is my favorite food! So, I was more than pleased to hear, earlier this year, that the Grafton Village Cheese Company had opened a cheese factory and retail shop across the river in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Grafton Cheese Company is situated at the old Retreat Farm, in the West River Valley, just up the road from the Brattleboro Retreat on Route 30. The buildings, some original and some new, retain the look of a dairy farm, fitting right in to the landscape.
I drove over to explore, in search of cheeses and snacks to take on a picnic on a bright September day. The retail shop features Grafton cheeses of many varieties, all available for tasting, as well as about 80 artisanal cheeses from New England and all over the world. I tasted several of the Grafton cheeses and settled on the Four Star Cheddar that had been aged for 4 years. It had a big flavor and was slightly crumbly in texture. I also picked up a piece of creamy Westfield Farm Blue Cheese to contrast with the cheddar, and some Vermont Common crackers.
Then I started looking for the rest of the picnic. In the cured meat section and I found some Ridgeway Venison Summer Sausage to go with the cheese. I grabbed a loaf of fresh bread from the Orchard Hill Bakery , and then went over to the wine section where I chose a bottle of Pine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of Freemark Abbey Cabernet that would be perfect with the bread and cheeses.
I browsed through the shop, looking at the maple syrup and maple products, the handmade cheese boards, Reidel wine glasses, Mocha Joe’s coffees, and even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! I wandered over to the imported section and happened upon quince paste imported from Spain. A spread of that on the baguette with the cheese would be sublime!
I couldn’t resist stepping up to the section of the store that overlooks the cheese making area and watching the cheese makers hard at work for a few minutes. Cheese really is a miracle! It was a perfect day for a picnic and I couldn’t wait to spread the old quilt under a maple tree in the meadow and feast on all of the goodies that I had found at the Grafton Village Cheese shop!
September 4th, 2008 by Judy Hueber
Curtis Tuff owns Curtis’s Barbecue in Putney , Vermont. Curtis has been cooking ribs and chicken slathered with his famous barbecue sauce in Putney since 1965. He set up shop in an eye catching blue bus just off of Route 91, and is known all over New England for his barbecue.
Yesterday, I made the 10 minute trip to Putney with my teenage son for lunch at Curtis’s. We feasted on chicken and ribs and sat around at the picnic table enjoying the sunshine. As we were talking, I happened to glance over at Curtis who was cooking at a grill loaded with half chickens. A movement in the small pen behind him caught my eye. There was a pig in there!
I walked over to get a better look at the very round black and white pig. He came right over to the bars of the pen and stuck his nose through to smell my hand. I asked Curtis what his name was and he said ” C.J. : for Curtis Junior”. He handed me a handful of baby carrots to feed to C.J., who was waiting patiently for the snack. He delicately took the carrots one by one from my hand, never touching my fingers.
Curtis went on to tell me that the pig weighs 185 pounds, and is 85 pounds overweight, because he’s had too much junk food. He lives with Curtis at his house, about 400 yards behind the barbecue, and comes to work every day with Curtis. Just then, the pig was whimpering at the gate just behind Curtis. I asked Curtis what he wanted, thinking that he wanted more carrots. Curtis said the pig wanted to be let out of the pen so he could be near Curtis. He lifted the latch and C.J. opened the gate himself and walked over to stand directly behind Curtis. Curtis said he lets the pig out of the pen as long as he stays out of the way: imagine trying to push a 185 pound pig out of the way while turning 20 half chickens on the grill!
Curtis works at the barbecue from 10:00 in the morning until dusk every day and the pig walks over to work with him every morning. At 6:00, C.J. walks back home and waits for Curtis to come home. If Curtis stays late at work, the pig goes back to get him. C.J. is housebroken and has his own bed to sleep in at Curtis’ house.
Such is the life of the most famous pig in Putney Vermont!
August 25th, 2008 by Judy Hueber
My visit to Walker Farm today yielded a big bag of vegetables and fruits, and lots of inspiration for dinner.
I started with dessert, of course , which was minted peaches and blueberries. It just took a minute to blanch the peaches, peel and and pit them, and slice them up in a glass bowl with the blueberries and fresh mint in a simple syrup. It helps to make them a few hours ahead so the flavors have time to blend.
Then on to the main part of the meal: I sauteed some red onion and garlic until the onion began to caramelize, and added shredded zucchini, summer squash, and carrots. I stirred and sauteed that for another 5 or 10 minutes until the vegetables were soft and added salt and pepper to taste.
Then I took a handful each of green and yellow beans, tossed them in salt, pepper and olive oil, and put them on the grill until they were cooked through and slightly charred.
The corn on the cob at the farm stand was still damp with the morning dew, so I scooped up 6 ears and took them home for a little corn salad. I boiled the corn until it was tender, scraped the kernels off of the cob, and added it to onion, garlic and red pepper that I had sauteed in olive oil while the corn was cooking. I added some finely cut ribbons of basil, and salt and pepper and it was ready to eat!
The main dish for dinner was a frittata, made with fresh eggs, boiled new potatoes, onion, green pepper, black beans, cumin, cilantro, and fresh tomatoes. I started in a coated pan on the top of the stove, and finished it in the oven, adding grated cheddar at the end for a flavor jolt.
What a luxury to be able to prepare and enjoy an entire meal made with food that was grown within 10 miles of the inn!