Ok, as much as we love our winter activities we also embrace the upcoming Mud Season (more on that in a follow up blog) and the opportunity to celebrate the passing seasons, winter to spring with the traditional “Sugar on Snow.”
What? Sugar on snow? As you may know, Vermont is the single largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. “Sugar on snow” is a delicacy here in Vermont found this time of year at many sugar houses (where they produce the maple syrup). Essentially this dish is made by drizzling hot maple syrup over a bowl of snow. The syrup congeals and hardens to create a crystallized treat. That’s right and to complete the tableaux the traditional Vermonters will have this sugar on snow with a donut and finish it off with a dill pickle.
The coming weekend, March 28, 29 is the official Maple Sugar Festival celebrated all over Vermont. There is a wonderful weekend celebration planned at our friends at Boyden Valley Winery just up the road from here. More info: http://www.boydenvalley.com/maplesugarfestival.html and http://vermontmaple.org/events .
The Boyden family has been making Vermont maple syrup for five generations in the picturesque Lamoille River Valley using a traditional wood-fired evaporator with sap collected from over 300 acres of maple trees located on their farm. Did you know it takes 40 gallons of Maple tree sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup? Vermont farms produced approximately 1.3 million gallons of maple syrup in 2014.
There is typically only a week or two where the sap runs and the optimal conditions permit the process of sugaring to occur. The sap from maple trees flows when the trees experience an abundance of sunshine (reawakening the growing season) with temperatures below freezing at night and daytime temperatures above freezing during the day.
The whole process of how we get local maple syrup to our breakfast table from those amazing maple trees is best described at the sugar house. There you will find the true Vermont sense of tradition of producing high quality, all natural, maple syrup, nothing added, ever.
If you have never experienced sugar on snow you need to add it to the list of things to experience here in the Stowe area and of course we hope you will consider the Brass Lantern Inn as your home base, independent of the season at hand.
Of the many “perks” that we feel come with this “job” as Innkeepers, certainly, one of the most rewarding is the opportunity to welcome back friends from one or many more previous stays. This past weekend we were so very fortunate to have a full house/”no vacancy” sort of weekend with six of our nine guest rooms filled with returning friends.
We had Louise (Weezie) and Allen here (all the way from southern Vermont!) returning to the Brass Lantern Inn to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. These friends enjoy Vermont so much that they actually stay here and we are so richly rewarded to have this opportunity to host them again and again. And we were so humbled that they felt that the Brass Lantern Inn was the “perfect place to be to celebrate our 40th anniversary!” Thank you Weezie and Allen.
Bruce and Sheila have been coming to the Brass Lantern Inn for more years than we have even been the Innkeepers here. They come at least once a year, typically for the winter activities of cross country and downhill skiing but have also come in the summer with bicycles in tow. This past weekend, like all previous examples of their stays, they bring their guitar, beautiful musical voices and warm, infectious laughter. This time they brought family with them taking over four of our nine guest rooms. Thank you Bruce and Sheila.
Paul and Maria made their yearly trek from the Boston area. We joked that they had to come north to great a break from the record snowfalls that the Boston and southern New England area experienced this year. At least here they can do something with the snow other than just shoveling it out of the way. Thank you Paul and Maria.
This past Friday, the main gathering room of the Brass Lantern Inn was filled with music and good times thanks to the Bruce and Sheila. We sure wish we could have them here every weekend as it was such great way for all of our guests to get to know one another gathered around the fireplace, sharing Cabot cheddar cheese, wine or your favorite local micro brew. Our music night was shared with Weezie and Allen, Anthony and Carol from Nashville, Tennessee, as well as Susan from Toronto (and family of Bruce and Sheila). I think we all made new friends this past weekend.
I miss my family back in Columbus, Ohio and our friends from our former lives in Baltimore, Maryland. While that loss can be tempered by phone calls, social media, and the occasional off-season trips to see family and old friends, our lives are so full now with so many new friends through our current position in life here as Innkeepers of the Brass Lantern Inn. We have also had the occasion to host family and friends which is even more special here in Vermont!
How can this role as an Innkeeper be classified as a job when we have the greatest opportunity to meet so many wonderful people? Ok, when the printer breaks down during the busiest weekend of the winter or a heating valve sticks in the closed/off position on a night where it is 18 below, or the housekeeper quits on Valentine’s Day Saturday morning or any number of small issues like this you get a sense of why it might be considered a job. But truly these are all trivial matters in the larger context of this wonderful experience.
And this is all before you realize you are in this wonderful corner of paradise called Stowe, Vermont! Yes, we are so very thankful to be here and it is only through the support of our guests and friends, both new and returning that allow us this unique opportunity. We never take that for granted and hope you see that in return from us through our service and warm welcome. Thank you all!
November 26, 2014
This coming December 29th, Mary Anne and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary! We will also be celebrating our 5th anniversary as Innkeepers of the Brass Lantern Inn which will occur on the 16th of December, 2014.
In both cases it’s amazing to realize how quickly time and events pass through our lives. For our wedding anniversary, we have, in part, Stowe to thank as this was the special place where Mary Anne and I first crossed paths in that fateful summer of 1983. It was that summer where I met Mary Anne here in Stowe at the start of a week long, guided bike tour of Vermont. Who knew that 26 years later from that summer encounter that we would find ourselves back here in Stowe. And of course we never imagined at that time that we would return here as Innkeepers of the Brass Lantern Inn. Ok, to be fair, the Brass Lantern Inn, Bed & Breakfast, didn’t exist in 1983, but, you get the idea!
As Innkeepers, the stories that we have shared with so many literally thousands of guests over these past 5 years could fill pages and pages of blogs. Fortunately, I am usually so busy experiencing this life that I typically don’t have time to record it on this keyboard. Our guests provide us with a renewed sense of excitement about Stowe and this area of Vermont as we get to see this place through each guests’ unique perspective (each and every day). Throw in how very different this setting is with each passing season and you can see how life just quickly marches on with us just trying to squeeze every moment and experience all that we can from it in passing.
So, you see, these two anniversaries are really so very intertwined that it is impossible for me to respond to those guests who ask, “what brought you to Stowe?” and “what made you want to be an Innkeeper?” without mentioning our very personal connection to this unique place in Vermont.
And finally, to finish this celebratory note I give a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday – we are so very grateful for this opportunity we have had as Innkeepers over the past 5 years. We have and know that we will continue to meet funny, touching, gracious, caring and friendly guests that in many instances become our most recent friends. I am so very thankful that I had that chance meeting with my incredible wife, dearest friend, Mary Anne, and know clearly that without her I would not be living this dream today. Thank you my dear!!
Happy Thanksgiving all. Hugs to our friends,
Our family recently had the opportunity for a two night getaway to Boston (over the Easter weekend). Great time, love Boston; diverse cultures, deep history, a proud sense of place for Bostonians and we were blessed with wonderful weather throughout our short two and a half day stay. We also had our first experience at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park with the home team winning the game in a clutch, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning, kind of way. Fenway was rocking and on our first visit!
We don’t travel outside of Stowe regularly as we truly enjoy what still feels like our new career as Innkeepers in our newly adopted town of Stowe, Vermont, but this trip helped me understand how important a local, friendly concierge can be to someone who is completely foreign to the area, to feel welcomed and appreciated for making an investment in this lodging establishment, and most importantly the value of a real breakfast.
Based on our personal budget needs and the special needs of those family members travelling together, we selected a franchise hotel brand near a commuter train station just west of Boston. The location, near a commuter train line that provided easy in and out access to Boston was a prime decision maker for us. Overall, we received about what you would expect from a mid/upper priced franchise hotel experience. No major flaws, but nothing really to write home about or recommend to our friends either.
The mattresses were fine, the bed linens were fine (though it would have been nice to have an extra blanket and pillows in the closet) the level of amenities in the bathroom was fine, etc. The through-the-wall heater/ac unit was about as noisy as you would expect from these kind of devices, though, it was very efficient and I have to admit ultimately became somewhat effective as background noise to drown out the lawn mowing that started well before 8 a.m. on our last morning there. Ultimately, everything (with one slight issue that I will leave for a separate story) was “fine.”
Nothing really memorable about the entire experience and this at $200/night has me wondering.
I know we weren’t staying in a “Bed & Breakfast” type of lodging and the hotel truthfully advertised a complimentary “continental breakfast” but “continental breakfast” certainly can vary from passable food to “I’ll take a cup of hot tea/coffee to go please…” In this case, it was passable as I made due with creating a toasted plain bagel, cream cheese and sliced hard-boiled egg sandwich from that which was presented to me in a series of baskets on a cloth draped banquet table with paper plates, plastic spoon and fork (they were out of plastic knives on our last morning). Trying to slice the hard-boiled egg and spread the cream cheese without a knife took some creativity.
So my question is, has breakfast lost its role in our fast paced society? Why can’t a breakfast be as enjoyable, satisfying and yes, as memorable as a dinner? Most certainly we all can tell you our favorite place to have a special dinner, but why is it that breakfast seems to be left out in our current culinary experiences?
The meal termed “Breakfast” means just that, to break our fast. Thoughtfully considered I think that breakfast can, and should be, the most important meal of the day. I think we have kind of lost that notion as you see television advertisements for “breakfast bars” and oh, my goodness, “Eggo Bites” that come in a bag that you pop in the microwave oven and eat on your way to school. These Eggo Bites even have “maple flavor.” Mmmm, mmm good. Really, is that what breakfast has been reduced to in our society?
And I recognize that culturally, breakfast is experienced quite differently from guest to guest in their native homeland. We have and do happily adjust our breakfast menus to that of our guests preferences, diet and allergies. For instance, some of our guests like something “lighter” while our outdoor enthusiasts are looking for a fresh, hearty breakfast providing fuel to keep them energized while climbing, skiing, hiking, biking, etc. and are grateful for the attention we pay to this part of their lodging experience (extra buttermilk, blueberry pancakes please?, Absolutely!).
Since Breakfast is part of our lodging signature we happen to think it is critically important that breakfast is thought of as more than just a passable means of starting your day. I love to cook, and with all humility aside, I hope my passion is carried through to our guests from the variety and consideration of each day’s menu through and including the execution and presentation onto warm china plates that are all served with a bright, happy attitude each and every morning. I want someone to recognize this isn’t your standard diner fare breakfast here at the “Brass Lantern Inn, Bed & Breakfast.”
Is it a long signature name; “Brass Lantern Inn, Bed & Breakfast,” for a lodging establishment? Perhaps, but if we were just Brass Lantern Inn we could easily be lumped in with those franchise hotels that have “Inn” at the end of their names and that’s not the career and/or lifestyle I was looking for when we purchased this lovely Bed and Breakfast.
So many thoughts on this recent stay on the other side of the sheets and will post more thoughts on them soon as I’m sure we need to keep Google “happy” with our posts and keep that SEO strong and fresh!
This time of year is always somewhat bittersweet in Stowe, Vermont. While I enjoy the longer days, warming temperatures, the emergence of our garden beds, and the opportunity to bring out the bikes I recognize my ski days are coming to an end and I’m not really looking forward to that last run. I still keep the skis in the car and try to sneak in a few early morning runs when I can. This past Thursday, 4/10, was one for the books; a bluebird day, clear skies, temps. in the mid 50’s with soft snow and a wonderful sense of solitude (just a few fortunate people on the mountain able to adjust their life schedules to fit in a ski day). Now, also have to admit by noon the conditions got a bit like mash potato but that’s when the tailgating begins!
Now that the snow has finally all but disappeared from down here in the valley, I get to reconnect with the gardens that have been asleep under a blanket of snow since late November. I know this may sound strange but without our winter white we now long for some color. Yesterday, I stopped off at our local plant nursery and picked up some pansies to dress up the front entrance with some hanging baskets as the ground is still too firm for a shovel.
I know I will ultimately be happy to move the skis out of the vehicle soon to make room for the golf clubs and planned-for mountain bike! These days I like to drive past the Stowe Country Club on my way to Mt. Mansfield to “check on things” and make my guess as to an opening day for the golf season here in Stowe.
Our last run for the past couple of years, has coincided with Easter Sunrise Service at the top of Mt. Mansfield. This year, due to the generosity of a neighbor here in town, we will actually be in Boston on Easter Sunday for a Red Sox/Orioles game! So, last run, sometime this week, and look forward to another fabulous spring, summer and fall here at the Brass Lantern Inn in Stowe. Come join us for an escape from the ordinary!
Happy Spring, George