Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Wednesday June 22
I pick up Merle at our usual time – 9:00 to try to miss morning traffic.  “Jessica” (my GPS) puts us onto the Van Wyck (traffic) to the Whitestone Bridge (traffic) onto the Hutch to 684 to the Taconic.  Most people hate to drive the Taconic because it is so windy.  (curvy, not breezy) I love the English language.  Why would you have to have two words spelled the same but pronounced differently with a completely different meaning? 

Anyway – we arrive at Fiddlehead Farm at around 11:15 to meet Louie and Gemma, two little “puglets”,  who introduce us to Mel.  Mel and her husband have owned, or shall I say, created the farm over the last 15 years.  Instead of lions and tigers and bears, they have alpacas and llamas and goats and sheep and ducks and chickens and roosters, oh my!!!  The farm is really more of an eclectic tapestry.  Like the rug that Mel created with fibers of  alpaca, llama, and lamb.  She is also cross breeding the llama and the alpacas.  She sells fresh herbs and eggs to local markets.  Mel, herself is a gem.  One of those people with a beautiful spirit that just envelops you when she talks to you. 


I wish we could have spent more time, but we had to be on our way to the Schultzville General Store and Cafe.  Owned by brothers Kameron and Kyle, it is a cute little country store and cafe.  Don't be fooled by the appearance.  The food that is served is exceptional.  The lunch menu includes specialty sandwiches, salads, and sides.  I had the Avocado BLT   with a side salad of Wheatberries with lime dressing and also the cucumber-onion with rice wine vinegar dressing.  Merle and I share a delicious avocado dip with chips.  They are going to be renovating and upgrading the store and I didn't get to try any of the home made bakery products, so I will have to stop back later in the summer to try a home made sticky bun.

We head into Rhinebeck to check out the A.L. Stickle 5 & 10 store only to find out that there was a power outage in the area and the store is closed.  We head over to Oliver Kita Chocolatier, but Oliver has just left, so we will have to come back tomorrow.

It's almost 4:00 so we decide to go and check in at the Red Hook Inn.  Merle chose this B & B because it has two rooms that are handicapped accessible.  Merle is not in a wheelchair but needs to use a walker or “Rollator” and can not negotiate stairs and bathtubs.  (See her blog for details on the room.)  Pat welcomes us and brings me up to my room on the second floor.  It is a large, beautifully decorated room with its own bathroom.  The Inn is in an 1841 Federal Colonial and is exceptionally well kept and clean.  We spend a little time in the “parlor” and then head out to dinner.

There is a little “miscommunication” with the restaurant we were originally supposed to go to, so we go to Fosters Coach House Tavern instead.  It is a nicely decorated Pub so we decide to order traditional Pub food and share.  We have the Teriyaki wings which were perfectly seasoned and very tasty.  We share the Chopped salad with avocado, cucumber, bell peppers, and Bleu cheese dressing.  The main dish is the London broil with sides of coleslaw, potato salad, and string beans.  The meat was cooked perfectly and very tender.  Our server, Frank, is the most pleasant young man.  He was very helpful in giving us information about the food and conveying special requests to the Chef. 

None of the desserts really interest us so we ask Frank about ice cream and he sends us back toward Red Hook to the Holy Cow.  Merle has the soft “ice cream” and I have a hot fudge Sundae with coffee ice cream.  We both enjoy our choices.  The prices are about half of what you pay in the five boroughs.  Back to the B & B for a good nights sleep.

Thursday June 23

Of course, one of the best things about a B & B is the home made breakfasts.  Pat really knows how to do a breakfast.  There are a dozen things to choose from.  I have a nice little dish of fresh fruit, the home made banana bread with fresh fruit compote and bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel.  The eggs were plucked from the chicken house five minutes ago.  Nothing tastes like fresh fresh eggs.  I know there is a push in the City to be able to keep chickens for eggs and I would support that. After breakfast Pat shows me to the back yard where there is a nice hot tub, gardens, and the “chicken house”.  It's really more of an upscale chicken condo.  There are two more eggs hatched and they are warm to the touch.  Can I have another egg sandwich?  Well, maybe not.

We say our goodbyes and head to Hudson Valley Pottery for our class.  Judy shows us around and gets us settled for our projects.  There are other women there today using the wheel and working on their own projects.  Merle decides to do an Alpaca and I attempt to create a kayak.  Judy helps us through the details and mine almost looks like a kayak!  We won't be able to finish the piece and fire it today, so Judy will complete that for us and send us the finished piece.  

We head back to Oliver Kita Chocolatier for Merle to talk with Oliver and make arrangements for him to be on her internet radio show.  While we are there, of course, we have to sample of few of the individually created artisan chocolates.  I can't talk right now, my mouth is full of delicious chocolates.  The chocolates are all certified organic.

We head down to Mt. Kisco to check in at the Holiday Inn.  Merle was supposed to have a handicapped accessible room but there was some miscommunication again.  They are very accommodating and we check in and relax for awhile before dinner.  Dinner is right at the hotel in “The Hub”  We decide to check out the Buffalo Wings here too and are not disappointed.  I have the Shrimp Taco appetizer for my main dish and it is more than enough to fill me up. 

We head out to Caramoor  to see the Akropolis Reed Quintet in  the Spanish Courtyard.  It is a beautiful night and I really enjoy the performance.  During one piece, the audience was asked to participate during various points in the piece.  It was a lot of fun.  Back to the Hotel

Friday June 24

Breakfast is at the Hotel and I have Mini Waffles with fresh berries and whipped cream.  Exceptionally delicious. 

We head over to Little Creek Alpaca Farm.    This is a completely different operation than Fiddlehead.  This is a large working farm where the alpacas can be bred.  As a matter of fact, we got to see a baby that was born in the morning.  They are pretty big and can get a round pretty well for just being born.  Little Creek also has a collective and collects fibers from other farms for sale. Little Creek is not an open visiting farm.  

We head back to Caramoor for a tour of the Rosen House and High Tea.   The house has much art which although worth viewing does not really interest me. 

We head down to Scarsdale for our next project at FunCraft but “Jessica”  (the GPS) is being uncooperative and will not give us the address in Scarsdale but send us to Yonkers.  GPS.  Can't live without them – Can't throw them out the window.  We finally get to FunCraft at around 5:00 and Ashley, who has been asked to take over from her mom does a fantastic job of getting our projects done.  These are preformed plaster pieces that we just have to paint and we will be able to take them home today.  While Merle finishes her piece, Ashley shows me around the rest of the studio and explains some of the party packages available.  There are private and semi private  rooms where the kids can do a plastercraft, disco dance, play video games, eat, among other stuff.

Head back to Queens.

Monday, May 30, 2016


Please read Merle's blog before you read mine.  www.merleswhirls.blogspot.com

Thursday May 5

I pick up Merle in Woodhaven at around 8:45 to head out for the press trip to Annapolis MD.  I have a new GPS since “Clarice” passed on to the heavens beyond “the cloud”.  I named the new GPS “Jessica” for Jessica Fletcher as she is my favorite person in the world, because she would never do anything so stupid, like going into a dark basement all alone at 3 in the morning.   So hopefully she will not lead me into a dark alley or be sarcastic like “Clarice” was.  We head out to the Verrazanno Bridge via the Belt Pkwy and onto I95 toward Baltimore.

We make great time and arrive at Baltimore Coffee and Tea in Annapolis at around 12:45.  They have a huge variety of teas (loose and bagged) and coffee, including more than 100 varieties of coffee beans that are roasted at their main facility each weekend.  There are 6 varieties of freshly brewed coffee available at all times.  Kim and Becky provide us with a wealth of information.  They also have a nice variety of sandwiches and salads along with muffins, scones and other bakery products.  I have the cranberry chicken walnut salad and an iced mocha coffee. 

We head to the Westin Hotel, which is just a few miles away, to check in and freshen up before an early dinner.  Merle is handicapped so she always gets the handicapped room which has easy access to the shower, rather than a step in tub and shower that most facilities have.  My room is a large room with two double beds.  

Dinner is at Carpaccio's Tuscany Kitchen which is right across the street from the hotel.  Merle and I share several delicious appetizers:
          Burrata salad which is fresh mozzarella
          Carpaccio di Tonno which is thinly sliced filet mignon, baby arugula, fancy capers, shaved Parmesan cheese dirzzled with Dijon mustard aioli.
          Shrimp Arugula which is 4 nice sized shrimp roasted in garlic sauce over arugula and cannellini beans.

For my entree I have the Branzino Mediterraneo. Fresh Mediterranean Branzino (fillet) grilled and drizzled with lemon infused extra-virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and escarole.  Really delicious and tasty. 


We get a couple shots of the “West Chicks.”  The story behind the chicks, that are large decorative chickens set up along West Street in Annapolis, is that in 2012 legislation was passed allowing Annapolis residents to have up to six chickens in their backyards for fresh eggs.  A  few of the local owners of farm-to-table restaurants “hatched “ the idea for the public art campaign.   Check out Merle's blog and her rubber chickens blog to see more.   

Now it's on to Wine and Design  where I will embarrass myself by trying to paint a pink rose. The easels are set up and they have drawn the pencil design of the rose for the participants.  Megan leads the group through applying the different colors and instructs us how to do the shading and highlighting.  While painting, you can purchase a nice wine and cheese platter and are instructed to try not to dip your brushes into the wine instead of the water cup.  I opted out of the wine as I can only focus on one thing at a time and my flower was already looking more like a turtle, or hedgehog, or something.  The final product was not horrible, but trust me, the photo of the painting looks much better than my painting.  But I had a great time and it was a lot of fun.


We were going to check out one of the local pubs, but chose to head back to the hotel instead.  There was entertainment in the bar lounge so I stopped to check it out, while Merle went up to her room.  Aaron Yealdhall , or “Skribe” was playing his guitar and singing a variety of songs, a kind of bluesy folk rendition.  A really nice way to end the evening. 

Friday, May 6

Breakfast is at the hotel.  They no longer offer a buffet so you can select from the full a la carte offerings off of the menu.  I had Chibatta French toast.  The Westin offers several healthy food options including fresh juice blends and smoothies.  I had the pineapple, lime, cucumber, coconut drink which was really refreshing. 

The Westin offers several other innovative healthy and “green” options or projects.  They offer a program where, for a fee,  you can have New Balance sneakers and running apparel available for your work out so you don't have to pack extra clothes.  The Westin Essence website gives more details.

They also offer a “Green Choice.”  If you choose not have have housekeeping service during your stay, you get a $5.00 voucher that can be used in the hotel restaurant or for morning snacks.  Why anyone would need their linens changed for a one or two night stay, I could never understand, so I think this is a great idea.  It conserves water and energy. 

The newest innovation is the Rooftop Beehive.  They have installed  rooftop honey beehives which can host up to 35,000 honey bees.  It hopes to be a haven for the depleted honey bee population and Chef Barnett plans to use the honey in a wide variety of signature dishes once it is harvested. 

After breakfast we are off to the Spice and Tea Exchange.  There is a huge selection of fresh spices, teas, herbs, salts,  peppers, rices, and sugars.  They will make custom blends for you. 

The weather isn't great and it's been raining on and off so rather than walk around we drive around the area. I love driving but a hate “roundabouts.”   Even with the GPS I always seem to miss the correct exit or turn or street or whatever they are called in different places.  I always scream “the street has to be round about here somewhere!”  In the dock area, the water is coming into the parking lot and I'm glad for my Rav4 SUV.  We were scheduled to have lunch at Sophi's Crepes but Merle wasn't told that there is no actually indoor seating.  I guess people either take out or go during the warmer months and eat by the docks.  We just picked a place that had parking close by and wound up at Moe's which is like a Baja Fresh or Chipolte's.  It turned out to be pretty good.  I have the salad with grilled chicken.

Merle has one of the blue handicapped parking hang tags which is good for any car that the holder of the tag is in.  In NY it can be used in Handicapped parking spots.  In Annapolis you can use it at parking meters for twice the allowed time at no charge, which was helpful throughout the trip.

On to the 3:00 Trolley Tour.  It was still raining on and off but our driver and tour guide Joe, did a great job of getting us around town and providing us with interesting information about the area.  I love hearing about the history of the early port cities but I never remember any of it.  Highlights of the tour include the U.S. Naval Academy, St John's College, the State House, and several Colonial mansions.  After the end of the tour, Joe drove us up to see a few more West Street Chicks and dropped us right by our car because Merle was having a hard time getting around.

Dinner is at the Hotel restaurant, the Azure. 

Merle and I share the Fried oyster appetizer which was lemon Parmesan breaded Chesapeake oysters, tomato preserve, house cured bacon and micro lettuce.  My entree is a delicious Salmon Rosti which is potato encrusted wild salmon, Brussel sprouts, and white bean ragout. 

Home made ice cream and a milk shake for dessert.

After dinner, we walk across the street to the Compass Rose Theater to see a performance of
“The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.”   I had never seen the play before and enjoyed it quite a lot.  Probably the most popular song from the play is “Who Can I Turn To?”  Be sure to read Merle's blog, if you haven't already, as she will have more to say about it.

Saturday May 7

Breakfast at the hotel again.  I have the American Breakfast of two eggs over easy, bacon and rye toast.  For my fresh juice drink I have the pineapple, cucumber, mint.

The weather is looking a little better.  It stopped raining and I can even see a little sun, which is great because we are heading out for our Harbor Cruise.  There are several cruises and tours to select from but we choose the 40 minute tour of Annapolis Harbor and the Naval Academy.  The sun was in and out but the rain held off, so it was a nice trip. 

For lunch we head to Mike's Crab House, which is a little out of Annapolis in Riva, MD.  Our waitress, Brandi is exceptional.  She helps us to select a few of the choice items on the menu.  The place is mad busy as it was Mother's Day weekend.  People cracking crabs all over the place. The most noticeable thing is it doesn’t smell fishy at all, which mean fresh fish.

The final selections are:

Fresh Oysters from Virginia Bay.  They usually have more local oysters, but they go with the freshest and most available and that was what was on the menu for today.  Very sweet and not a lot of briny taste.
Crab Cake.  Lightly broiled and pretty much only lump crab and light seasoning.  One of the best I have ever eaten.
Soft Shell Crab. I would have had the broiled, but I shared the fried ones with Merle and they were delicious.      
Large Crabs which we just cracked and ate.  Super sweet and tasty.

I have a local beer which is RAR Nanaco nectar.  I'm not a big beer drinker but this went really well with the crabs. 

Everything was really exceptional.  If I were back in the area, which I would like to be, I would make a special trip back here.

Merle loves Alpacas and I found a farm which was on the way back to NY.  On almost every farm, there is the resident “boss” cat.  Painted Sky Alpaca Farm was no exception.  A beautiful Maine Coon cat came out to greet us and show us around.  Unfortunately the owners were detained and couldn't make it back to meet with us, so we were only able to get a few shots of the Alpacas from outside the fences. 

Head back to Queens.  Pretty good trip with the exception of the always reliable traffic on the Verrazanno, in Staten Island, and on the Belt.