Japanese Farm Food: An Award Winning Cookbook

              “Our life centers on the farm and the field. We eat what we grow,” says Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Food which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012: USA Winner for the Best Japanese Cuisine Book. It’s a fascinating take on Japanese cuisine from Hachisu, a native Californian who moved to a small village in rural Japan more than 30 years ago, intending to live there for a year.  Describing herself as coming for the food, but staying for love, she met and married Tadaaki, an organic farmer, moved to the rural Saitama Prefecture. There she raised a family in an 80-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse  and immersed herself in both the culture and cooking. The book is so very niche that it’s almost like being in her kitchen and on her farm, giving us an amazing insight into a tiny slice of Japanese farm culture.

              Hachisu also has written Japan: The Cookbook which she describes as not an examination of regional cooking traditions, as much as a curated experience of Japan’s culinary framework from a specific moment in time. Using both fine and generous strokes, I have put together what I hopes a broad and rich picture of the food of this island nation.”

              Her other books include Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen It’s a book offering  a clear road map for preserving fruits, vegetables, and fish through a nonscientific, farm- or fisherman-centric approach. Ruth Reichl, author of Tender at the Bone and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine writes  “Even if you never yearned to make your own miso or pickle your own vegetables, this beautiful book will change your mind. It’s almost impossible to flip through these pages without wanting to join Nancy Singleton Hachisu in the lovely meditation of her cooking. This book is unlike anything else out there, and every serious cook will want to own it.”

              Food Artisans of Japan, another of her wonderful books, offers us a look into Japan’s diversely rich food landscape and includes 120 recipes from 7 compelling Japanese chefs and 24 stories of food artisans.

Pork and Flowering Mustard Stir-Fry

Buta to Nanohana Itame

Serves 4

            “Tadaaki made this one night when we had fields of flowering mustard and komatsuna. The flowering tops of brassicas, particularly rape (natane), are called nanohana in Japanese and are similar to rapini. Tadaaki tends to throw some meat into his stir-fries because he feels it gives the dish more depth,” writes the author in this simple recipe that is delicate and delicious. “I’m more of a purist, so prefer my vegetables without meat. But this dish really won me over, and I quickly became a convert (almost). Japanese stir-fries can be flavored with soy sauce, miso mixed with sake, or even salt. In this dish, I like the clarity of the salt.”

  • ½ tablespoon organic rapeseed oil
  • Scant ½ pound (200 g) thinly sliced pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon finely slivered ginger
  • 1 (10 ½-ounce/300-g) bunch flowering mustard or rapini, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) lengths
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.

Heat a wide frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the oil quickly followed by the pork belly slices and ginger slivers. Sauté until the fat sizzles and there is some minimal browning, but don’t overdo it.

Place the flowering mustard in a mesh strainer with a handle and lower into the pot of boiling water. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until no longer raw. Keep the strainer at the top of the water surface in order to scoop the mustard greens out in one brisk pass. Shake off the hot water and toss into the cooked pork belly. Toss a few minutes more over high heat and season with the salt. Cook for about 30 seconds more, then serve.

Variations: Substitute soy sauce for the salt or chopped ginger for the slivered ginger.

—From Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

Holmes County: Back to the Past

          The road to Charm—population 65– takes me deep into the heart of Holmes County, Ohio, the second largest Amish region in the United States. It’s all buggies and horses, mares and their foals nuzzling in fields and girls in bonnets and boys in black hats riding in carts pulled by ponies as I make my way south along the winding narrow road. My destination is Amish Country Riding Stables, where the horses are already saddled and ready for our hour long trail ride through the woods and fields of Doughty Valley, an expansive stretch of land surrounded by tree-covered hills. 

          The stables are located at Guggisberg Swiss Inn & Winery and afterwards, of course, sampling their award winning wines is a must. I’m admiring the scene—a large gazebo overlooking a pond when I feel a gentle nudge. I turn and am eye-to-eye with one of the horses from our ride. Allowed to free range throughout the grounds, the equines like to join the party, softly prodding an arm or a shoulder in order to get the attention—and the petting—they think they deserve.

          This is one of the delights of Holmes County, a patchwork of villages, small towns and side roads that lead to new discoveries.

Sugarcreek

          If you were ever wondering what the world’s largest cuckoo clock looks like, travel no further than Sugarcreek, a small village with Alpine facades and a 23-feet tall and 24-feet wide clock in the center of it all. On the half hour, a cuckoo pops out followed by a polka band and twirling dancers. To get the full Swiss experience, consider attending the Ohio Swiss Festival, held the fourth weekend after Labor Day each year. It’s a chance to indulge in all things Swiss including steinstossen (competitive rock throwing) and a yodeling contest. No wonder Sugarcreek is known as the Little Switzerland of Ohio.

          A mega shopper destination, the Village of Berlin goes from large—the 20,000-square-foot, multi-level Berlin Village Gift Shop, once a dairy barn and now packed with clothing, jewelry, handbags, home décor, garden accessories and quilts. Even larger, are the 26-000-square-foot Berlin Village Antique Mall and the supersized Holmes County Flea Market, a 55,00- square-foot building with 350 spaces featuring more than 60 vendors.

          So many goodies, so little time. Dating back almost 60 years, Troyer Country Market in Berlin carries an amazing array of foods including small batch, naturally-made jar goods ranging from the typical (but yummy) apple butters, salsas and  pickles to such intriguing food items as hot pickled asparagus, brandied peaches, Bluegoose jam (a mixture of blueberries and gooseberries) and candied jalapenos as well as their own house-made sausages.

          Just a mile north of Berlin, take a tour at Heini’s Cheese Chalet founded by Swiss immigrant Hans Dauwalder in the 1920s. The family-owned business sends its cheeses all over the country but continues to operate as it did all those years ago with early morning deliveries of old fashioned metal cans filled with fresh milk from Amish farmers. Back in the 1970s, the family also developed their Original Yogurt Cheese, a big seller as is their unique and tasty cheese fudge. Visitors can watch cheese and fudge making as well as taste before they buy, choosing from samples of over 50 varieties of cheese, meat, jams, and fudge.

          Across the road, Kauffman’s Country Bakery offers a large assortment of breads, rolls, cookies, pies and cakes at. During the holidays they make 500 different varieties of fruitcakes and their signature German Stollen Bread.  Other items include seasonal breads– Sauerkraut Rye, Irish Soda, Kolachi Poppyseed and Braided Challah and sweets like Pumpkin or Mint Whoopie Pies. Smoothies, ice cream and sandwiches are available at the café.

Mt. Hope

          Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen, north of Berlin in Mount Hope, doesn’t show up on my GPS. I ask a young Amish boy leading a big draft horse for directions and he points down the road.  Go past Miller’s Buggy Repair, he says, and turn left—it’s right across the street from Mount Hope Livestock Auction. I expect something small but it’s a big, modern restaurant with a full parking lot, hitching posts for horse and buggies and an old fashioned Amish menu– think fried chicken, beef and noodles, mashed potatoes and great pies.

Millersburg

          Hotel Millersburg opened its doors in 1847 in downtown Millersburg, the county seat, making it among the state’s oldest hostelries. Located in the Millersburg National Historic District, the hotel has a courtyard, full-service restaurant and tavern. In keeping with local history, they also offer one of the largest quilting retreat centers in the region, equipped with cutting tables and ironing tables, all handicapped accessible.

          There’s more than handcrafted beer at Millersburg Brewing Company, a cool combination of historic façade and urban element interior.  The menu is eclectic and offers a great variety including such sandwiches as their Shrimp Po Boys– cornmeal breaded shrimp and chipotle slaw served on a warm bun and Boss Hog BBQ. Savor the food and the beer while enjoying live entertainment.

          19th century time travel starts at Yoder’s Amish Home in Millersburg with horse and buggy tours, tours of their schoolhouse and 1885 barn where in the spring newborn animals including, in the spring, newborn animals—think lambs, colts, bunnies and Beagles.  Yoder’s is an Old Order Amish heirloom farm and owners Eli and Gloria Yoder are dedicated to the preservation and education about Amish culture and lifestyle. On site, there’s a petting zoo, gift shop, covered picnic area and a bakery.

Loudonville

          Nicknamed the “Canoe Capital of Ohio” because of the many liveries offering access to the beautiful Mohican River, Loudonville has other attractions as well such as the Ugly Bunny Winery featuring wines ranging from sweet to dry and bourbon barrel-aged and live music.

          Also in Loudonville, Landoll’s Mohican Castle surely is one of America’s most unique lodging and dining venues, just as they advertise. The castle, a bold mix of cobblestone paths, cupolas, balconies, spires, pitched rooftops and wrought iron railings, surrounded by lushly landscaped gardens. Gordon Ramsey stayed here, filming an episode of his “Hotel Hell” series here. Gordon’s no longer there but you can enjoy the show’s menu he created at the hotel’s Copper Mug Bar & Grille.

For more information, Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, 330-674-3975; holmescountychamber.com  or visitamishcountry.com

4 Self-Care City Vacation Retreats

Taking Care of Yourself

Busy lives and hectic work schedules can take their toll on both the mind and the body, which is why it’s essential you try to take a break to recharge your batteries as you welcome the New Year. One way of energizing your body and calming your mind is to take a trip focused on self-care and general wellness.

Guest blogger, Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout, recommends four cities you can visit to achieve both.

Minneapolis

In 2020, Minneapolis, Minnesota was voted the third-fittest city in the country. More than 75% of residents work out at least once a week. It’s a haven for outdoor lovers, and travelers would be foolish not to visit the town of Brainerd, with its 450 lakes and year-round recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing and opportunities for relaxation.

With lower-than-average health care costs, an incredible park system, good infrastructure, and a seemingly endless stream of things to do, Minneapolis is a great place to live as well as visit.

Knoxville

Being exposed to high levels of traffic daily can lead to chronic stress. However, this isn’t something you’ll experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the world’s least congested cities. Far less traffic ensures a quicker journey to the country’s most visited national park, just 34 miles away.

The Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres and has 850 miles of trails, including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.

Besides less congestion, other benefits of moving to Knoxville include lower housing costs. Searching for rental apartments in Knoxville is made easier by visiting sites like Apartment Guide. You can set your price range and other parameters to ensure you only search for properties within your budget and meet other requirements such as a number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, and other amenities. 

San Marcos

San Marcos in San Diego, California, is a fantastic place to recharge and rejuvenate with its tranquil streets, peace, quiet, proximity to the breach, open spaces, and nature. It’s also home to one of the best spas in the world.

The Golden Door features multiple facilities including, a 2,000-square-foot equipment gym, two swimming pools, and a water therapy pool for guests to work out or relax. Discovery Lake, another place of interest, allows visitors to immerse themselves in large tracts of wilderness and connect with nature. Anyone deciding to relocate to the city can enjoy a lower cost of living and a lower crime rate than average. 

Malibu

Escape the crowds at Malibu’s Westward Beach

West of Los Angeles, California, and known for its celebrity homes and beaches, Malibu also boasts an exclusive and sought-after seven-day wellness retreat, The Ranch.

Limited to just 19 guests, visitors immerse themselves in a self-care experience that includes weight loss, fitness programs while also enjoying local plant-based meals.

Eight hours of daily activity include afternoon naps, massages, and an organic vegan diet. Living in a sparsely populated city has many benefits, such as incredible landscapes, top attractions, and a low crime rate. As expected, living costs in the city are considerably higher than the average.

A Necessary Reset

Whether it’s a relaxing massage, a 45-minute workout, or an awe-inspiring visit to a national park or an organic vegan diet, sometimes a change and a reset are not only needed; they’re often necessary. 

Yumna Jawad: Feel Good Foodie

          Spoiled by her mom’s cooking and too tired to cook herself after working all day Yumna Jawad decided after getting married to change all that. Calling her mom—there was no Facetime back then–Jawad would have her stay on the phone and tell her step by step how to make a meal. It took just two weeks and from there Jawad, who moved to Kalamazoo, and now lives in Grand Rapids, used her new skills not only to cook for her family but as a springboard to creating Feel Good Foodie, her healthy, quick, and creative food blog. She also keeps an active Instagram account with three million followers.

          I came across her blog when researching healthy recipes since I’ve moved on during the pandemic from trying all those dessert recipes I’ve been clipping and saving for years and was very impressed. Besides recipes, she also offers nutritional information, substitutions, how to videos, how long does it take to make the recipe and links to similar recipes. So I emailed Jawad and she responded within ten minutes even though it was late at night but then judging by how often she updates her blog, she may not sleep much if at all.

          It turns out that she worked in Branding and Research & Marketing for consumer packaged foods and the retail food industry and eight years ago began sharing recipes on her Instagram account. She now has over two million followers which is pretty amazing. I have like 2000. Her blog has 400,000 visitors a month. So I asked her why she thought she was so successful.

          “When I first started sharing recipes on social media, my photos were all taken on an iPhone and it was always the meals I made that day for myself or my family,” she says. “The food wasn’t styled or edited, but it was easy and approachable. I think it resonated with a lot of people seeking ways to eat healthier that was attainable and easy-to-manage. And when others tried recreating my recipes, they had similar results without ‘Pinterest fails’. That encouraged them to try more and share more, which I believe helped me establish credibility in my brand and recipes. And all of that was before I even knew that I was even building a health and wellness brand.”

The Flavors of the World

           Jawad has an international background that adds to the creativity of her recipes. She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also lived in Sierra Leone until age 11. When Civil War broke out there, the family moved to Dearborn, Michigan. After marrying, she and her husband, a cardiologist, moved several times as well before ending up in Kalamazoo and now Grand Rapids  She first learned to cook traditional Lebanese food but now has exponentially expanded her repertoire but there’s often a Middle East/Mediterranean aspect to her recipes because of their focus on vegetables and healthy ingredients.

          Her culinary inspirations, besides her mother include Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame.      

          “While not all of Ina’s recipes are low calories/low fat, I love her realness, approachability, and passion for cooking,” says Jawad. “She inspires me to be who I am and allow that passion to come through with my recipes without any fluff.”

          Curtis Stone is also another food idol because, she says, he is all about eating unprocessed and unpackaged foods as much as possible, which is actually healthier and cheaper.

          “This is something that I focus so much on with my wholesome home-cooked meals,” she says.

          And because, as the mother of two children, she likes meals that are quick to prepare, she’s a fan of Rachel Ray.

          “Rachel rally popularized the idea of 30 minute meals that made home cooking so accessible for so many people; and that is directly in line with my thinking,” says Jawad.

          Currently she adds three recipes a week to her blog—meals she’s been making for her family since she learned to cook 12 years ago. Some are inspired by tradition, others by watching cooking shows, reading food magazines, and following social media and focuses on new approaches creating healthy wholesome meals.

          “This includes, for example, trends like quinoa crust breadsticks, or cauliflower pizza or sweet potato toast,” says Jawad. “I keep up with the latest trends and test new ideas myself and then add my own twist to them, usually by making the prep easier or by swapping some ingredients to personalize the recipe.”

Recipe Data Base

          She’s also adding to the recipe data base on her blog.

          For those who wonder how to incorporate new foods into their kitchen repertoire, she has some tips. When she used to discover new produce at farmers’ markets, she’d ask the grower for suggestions. Now, Jawad uses the vegetables or fruits in a way that makes it more connected to what  she knows.

          “I recommend experimenting with it in a way that you normally eat other similar foods,” she says. “For instance, since rutabaga is a root vegetable, I would prepare it similar in a similar way to other root vegetables by roasting it because I know I would naturally enjoy that more than steaming it. I would also recommend trying something new in smaller quantities and having others to share it with. It makes the process more enjoyable to try a new ingredient or recipe with other taste testers. When it comes to kids, the same advice applies. But also, I strongly recommend having kids help in the purchase and preparation of ingredients. It gets them more excited about what they make because they feel more invested in the process. When all else fails, mask it in a smoothie or blended soup.”

The following recipes are courtesy of Yumna Jawad.

Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 3 celery stalks small diced
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 cup orzo pasta
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric optional
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
  • Fresh parsley

Place chicken and scraps from the outer layers and end of the onions, carrots, and celery along with a couple bay leaves in a large stock pot. Add bay leaves and 8-10 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and shred; then strain the chicken broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard the vegetable scraps and bay leave

Heat oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, orzo, rosemary, and turmeric (if using). Then return the broth to the stockpot and bring a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh parsley or mint, if desired.

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Preheat the air fryer to 380°F. Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice each potato into even 1/4 inch thick sticks.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.

Cook in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your basket without overcrowding the pan until they’re crispy. I recommend 12 minutes, turning halfway. This may vary based on your air fryer.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce

Quinoa Patties

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Water as needed add moisture
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

For the Avocado Yogurt Dip

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ avocado extra ripe
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in onions, cheese, garlic, and cilantro. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Feel free to add water if the mixture feels too dry. Form the mixture into 6-8 patties.

Frying Instructions:Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place add quinoa on the heated pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and cook until the patties are golden color, about 7 – 10 per side minutes.

Baking Instructions:Place the quinoa patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the oil on top of the patties. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 minutes, until golden.

To make the avocado yogurt sauce, whisk together the cilantro, avocado and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the cooked quinoa patties.

 Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days in the fridge.

Freezing Instructions: You can also freeze the patties before or after cooking them.

  • To freeze them prior to cooking, lay them on a flat baking dish in the freezer for at least 4 hours. When frozen, place them in an airtight bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight and cook per instructions.
  • To freeze them after cooking, simply store them in an airtight bag after they’ve cooled. To re-heat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through.

Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.

  • Instead of eggs, you can use a flax eggs. For each regular egg, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water.
  • Any type of shredded cheese can be used in place of mozzarella.
  • If you prefer not to use breadcrumbs, you can use a gluten-free flour like almond flour or oat flour, or you can also use panko breadcrumbs.

“Satisfy your sweet tooth with a plant-based treat in under 10 minutes,” Jawad says about the following recipe. “3-ingredient chia pudding is the perfect pick-me-up. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, this recipe is as good for you as it tastes.”

3-Ingredient Chia Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ½ cup almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
  • Strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit

Pour all ingredients into a Mason jar and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes and then stir again until it is smooth and there’s no clumping.

Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

When you’re ready to eat, top with your favorite fruit and serve.

5 Budget-Friendly Tips for Traveling in the COVID-19 Era

There’s a lot of stress and anxiety cycling around the world right now, and you need a break. Sure, you don’t venture out much, and you take precautions to protect your family and others from the spread of coronavirus. But being cooped up in your home isn’t doing a lot of good for your well-being.

Sound about right? Well, the good news is that you can do something about it. You can go on a safe family vacation that won’t blow your budget. Lisa Walker, our guest blogger, has suggested five budget-friendly tips for traveling during the pandemic.

Take a car

Though flying is an option, you must ask yourself if you’re comfortable sitting in close quarters with a bunch of strangers for hours on end. The safer option may be to drive. You can still have an exciting and relaxing vacation by taking a road trip to a destination that’s closer to home. Not only is driving safer than flying right now, but it’s also the cheaper option, even with the cost of fuel included. Just remember to give your car a little TLC before the trip, such as changing the oil or brake pads before your journey.

Stay safe if you’re flying

If you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve had a booster, flying is reasonably safe, especially with mask-wearing and the precautions airlines are taking. And these days, there are many discounted flights available. Make sure you have a contingency plan in place if you travel abroad and hit a snag. There are low-cost ways to receive funds from the U.S. if you have your valuables stolen. For example, if you’re vacationing in the Dominican Republic, you can have money sent from home in a matter of minutes for as low as $4.99 if you use a service like Remitly.

It’s also a good idea to purchase international health insurance during your trip just in case you get sick or injured. For instance, if you’re traveling to Brazil, you can purchase this insurance through companies like American Visitor Insurance to ensure you’re safe.

Visit people you know

There are still a lot of unknowns about coronavirus, and it has many different effects on different people. Therefore, it’s safest to avoid catching it. And the best way to do that is to avoid large crowds. Instead of traveling to touristy destinations or other places with a high population, consider visiting loved ones such as friends and family.

Stay in a vacation rental

brown wooden house in daytime
Photo by Ahmed Abdelaziz on Pexels.com

For over a decade, vacation rentals have been a popular choice among travelers. Online marketplaces like Airbnb and VRBO make it easy to find various types of homes to rent out by the night, week, or even month. And because hosts rely on good reviews to stay in business, you can expect a clean and attractive environment when you book a rental.

Staying in a vacation rental, rather than a hotel, will provide you with more of a private and “homey” feel. You’ll get a full kitchen where you can cook meals, and you’ll be safer from the spread of coronavirus since you’ll be interacting less with strangers. Furthermore, it’s often more cost-effective than staying at a hotel with comparable amenities.

Go camping

Finally, you can always go camping. This is a perfect option for those who love a little bit of adventure in their travel. You can stay at a remote campground, save money by bringing your own food, and enjoy all kinds of activities like hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc.

There may be a global pandemic, but you can still take a relaxing and eventful vacation with your family. And it doesn’t have to compromise your safety or budget. Along with considering the tips above, keep researching ways that you can get the most out of your trip. And plan to have the time of your life!

Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.

         Once Abra Berens, the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.

         Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titled Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.

         Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.

         Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored  Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.

         “We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”

         Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.

         “But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist.  “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”

         And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers  including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.  

         We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock.  When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”

         “The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.

         Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com

         Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”

         And she takes things very seriously.

         “Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”

         With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.

The following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
  • 1/4 cup Tajín Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
  • 1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.

Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.

Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.

Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the

chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.

To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.

Tajín Oil

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tajín

In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
  • 4 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
  • 2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
  • 4 ounces ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.

Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.

Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.

Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.

Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad

For the spoon pudding:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the salad:

  • About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt

4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

To make the spoon pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.

Exotic, Edible, and Intriguing: Last Minute Holiday Gifts

It’s very last minute but there’s still time to order some great holiday gifts. Here are a few recommendations for unique presents. So get online and get going. But even if they arrive a little late (blame it on the mail and not procrastination) they’re still be appreciated. Happy Holidays!

The Worthington Collection

Candles may have originated 5000 years ago but The Worthington Collection has upped the game when it comes to exquisite fragrances and odor-eliminating candles. Before, often used for marking time, lighting in the days before electricity, and made from such less than desirous ingredients—tallow from rendered cow and/or sheep fat and spermaceti from whales, their smell was more reminiscent to fatty meat than the aromas of The Worthington Collection.

The luxury candles that are part of TWC’s Signature Collection and include Oceanfront Dreamscape with its three stages of fragrance: First Impression: Pear, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus; At the Heart: Lily Of The Valley, Wood Violet, Cinnamon, Clove; and Lasting Memory: Amber, Vanilla, Tonka Bean.  The First Impression of the Sense of Opulence in the Luxury Collection are Jasmine and White Peach, followed by At the Heart with its notes of Hibiscus and Mandarin and then Lasting Memory: Citrus, White Musk, Freesia. The 12-ounce candles have a burn time of about 80 hours. TWC is designed as a clean burn, fragranced candle that eliminates odors from any room.

Fab Slabs

Made from the camphor laurel tree that grows in Australia, Fab Slabs are beautiful grazing and cutting boards, perfect for serving charcuterie but also environmentally friendly and permanently antibacterial. Indeed, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, camphor laurel wood exhibits a number of biological properties – such as antimicrobial, antiviral, anticoccidial, antinociceptive, anticancer and antitussive activities.

The beautifully patterned wood is milled, kiln dried and manufactured on Australia’s Sunshine Coast located about one hour North of Brisbane but available here at Macy’s, Wayfair, Lowe’s, Overstock, and, of course, Amazon. Each board is made from one slab of wood and each is unique in color and characteristics.

WINEWISK

An aerator that doubles as a wine charm, WINEWISK is a handy gift for those who want to experience a restaurant quality glass of wine in three easy steps. Attach WINEWISK to your glass, swirl the liquid around to create bubbles, and voila! you have fully aerated wine at its peak. Aerating, also referred to as letting the wine “breathe,” releases flavors and aromas not noticeable when the bottle is first opened. The WINEWISK speeds up the process. Great for whites and reds.

As a wine charm, it’s perfect for entertainment as everyone can recognize their own glass. Just rinse to re-use next time around. It’s as simple as that.

Available through Amazon

Tea Runners

For serious tea connoisseurs, Tea Runners offers high-grade loose teas with a pedigree. Encompassing many types – black, green, herbal, pu-erh (a fermented green tea that’s aged for months), oolong and white – they’re available in customized, delivered-to-your-door boxes that also contain a list of ingredients for each and steeping notes.

The types of tea include Golden Monkey, a high-grade black tea with notes of malt and honeyed peach; Ancient Pu-erh Tuo Cha, which has been aged for two to four years and comes in single-serving tea cakes; and Butterfly Mango Dragon Fruit White, a low-caffeine tea with ingredients like butterfly pea flowers, freeze-dried marigold flowers and mangos. The pea flower gives the tea a blue hue that can be turned pink with the addition of lemon juice.

Coo Moo Jams & Jellies

Highland coo cows? To see one of these fluffy, large, long-haired cows, you’d have to travel to the Scottish Highlands.

Or, more easily, you can find a drawing of one of these cute – and supposedly sweet-natured cattle – on the label of CooMoo, the name Julie Deck chose for her line of jams.

Her Peachy Mango Madness, Apricot Habanero and Wooster Sauce can add a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes.

Flavors of the Sun: Middle Eastern Ingredients from a Century Old Family Business

“Herby and garlicky, with a bright jolt of sumac, this is everything you want in a one-pan meal,” says Christine Sahadi Whelan about her recipe for Sheet Pan Chicken with Sumac and Winter Squash.

         Whelan, a fourth-generation co-owner of Sahadi’s and a lifelong Brooklyn resident, grew up in the James Beard Award-winning specialty grocery store that first opened in 1898. A graduate of NYU with a Degree in Finance and International Business she also trained at the Institute for Culinary Education, she also made mamoul with Martha Stewart. She brings all this to the table as Sahadi’s Culinary Director and now with her new book, Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients with its more than 120 recipes. The flavors of the Middle East are just steps away from your kitchen with this book.

         Sahadi’s is truly a family affair. Both her children as well as her husband work at the store which is an integral part of their neighborhood and the city of New York as well. Their excellence was recognized as a true American Classic by the James Beard Foundation.

         Whelan notes that the ingredients in her Sheet Pan Chicken like many of the recipes in the book can easily be substituted.

         “Kabocha and delicata squash are good options because they don’t need to be peeled, but acorn squash or butternut work, too,” she says. “I sometimes use a couple of different kinds for visual interest. Either way, you’ll have folks wanting to eat directly from the pan the second you take this out of the oven.”

         The book is an amazing introduction to the wide variety of ingredients such as sumac, pomegranate molasses, aleppo black pepper, and halvah that are best sellers in the store. Whelan shows us how to use them in easily her accessible recipes that are a great way to learn the nuances of Middle Eastern cookery.

Warm Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini-Yogurt Dressing

“We are always happy to share recipes with customers who want to try their hand at our family favorites at home, but we love it even more when customers return the favor! This recipe is a variation on one that came to us from longtime patron Steve Marcus, who devised a hearty cauliflower side dish incorporating all his preferred Sahadi’s staples,” writes Whelan in the introduction to this recipe. “It’s well-spiced and tangy, with a hint of sweetness from dried apricots, and a nice cold-weather option when there aren’t a lot of fresh green veggies to choose from.”

SERVES 6 TO 8

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, full or low fat
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped Turkish apricots

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut the cauliflower into 2 in [5 cm] florets and mound on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with ¼ cup of the oil and the za’atar, ½ tsp of the salt, and the Aleppo pepper. Spread the cauliflower in a

single layer and roast, turning once or twice as it cooks, until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, and the lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with the remaining ½ tsp of salt and the white pepper. Add 2

Tbsp of water to thin to drizzling consistency, adding more by the tsp as needed.

Add the warm cauliflower and toss to coat with the dressing. Gently stir in the parsley and apricots to distribute evenly. Serve warm.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sumac and Winter Squash

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, full or low fat
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped Turkish apricots

Pat the chicken pieces dry and, if you are using breasts, cut each in half to make 2 smaller pieces.

Whisk together 2 Tbsp of the sumac with the salt, dried thyme, dried oregano, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the oil and stir until well blended. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl, turning to coat them with the mixture, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half through the stem end and remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into ½ inch thick slices and arrange them in a single layer (or overlapping slightly) on a large baking sheet. Scatter the herb sprigs on top, reserving a few for serving. Arrange the chicken on top of the squash, skin-side up, leaving a bit of room between the pieces and tucking in red onion chunks here and there. Dot the lemon slices around the pan. Pour any remaining marinade over everything.

Roast in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken and squash with pan juices and continue to cook for 15 minutes, or until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sumac and the reserved herb sprigs. Serve directly from the baking sheet.

Sweet and Spicy Nut Brittle

“One of the best parts of working in this business is that I always have top quality nuts available for snacking or baking,” says Whelan. “This is a fun way I like to use them that also doubles as a nice holiday gift.

MAKES ABOUT 4 CUPS  

  • 2 cups roasted unsalted mixed nuts (about 1/2 lb, coarsely chopped 11/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Amaretto or bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

On a separate rimmed baking sheet, spread the nuts in a single layer and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl and cover to keep warm. (Warming the nuts helps the caramel flowover them more readily.)

In a 1 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, amaretto, honey, and butter. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, then continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300°F (hard crack stage).

Carefully pour the sugar mixture over the nuts and mix quickly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, coating all the nuts. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in a thin layer.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper and salt. Let cool completely, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

The above recipes are excerpted with permission from Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients (Chronicle Books, 2021) by Christine Sahadi Whalen. Photographs © 2021 by Kristin Teig

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.