Category Archives: MywalkinManhattan at the Easter holidays

Day Two-Hundred and Thirty-Two Visiting Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival April 15th and 16th, 2022

Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.

The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.

The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)

It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).

The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.

Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.

Union Station in DC at 50 Massachusetts Avenue

https://www.unionstationdc.com/

The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.

Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.

The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasus-courtyard-washington-dc-us-capitol/

I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.

F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.

Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garfinckel%27s

http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org/2010/05/julius-garfinckel-co.html

Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.

There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):

The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC.

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/10803

What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.

The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.

Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.

The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup. The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time. The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.

Chinatown Express at 746 6th Street NW

https://www.chinatownexpressdc.com/

After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again.

This is what it was supposed to look like but didn’t (Wiki)

https://www.nps.gov/articles/dctidalbasin.htm

All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!

Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.

The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.

The Jefferson Memorial at 16 East Basin Drive

https://www.nps.gov/thje/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Memorial

I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.

The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007

https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument

I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.

As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.

I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.

As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.

I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.

When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.

I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.

I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.

They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.

I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.

It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.

The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.

Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE

The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.

The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.

I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.

As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Chedder cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.

What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.

I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.

The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)

https://www.si.edu/museums/hirshhorn-museum-and-sculpture-garden

This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!

Artist Yayoi Kusama (Wiki)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yayoi_Kusama

Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.

Video on Ms. Kusama’s work

I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.

I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.

The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum

I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.

The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’

After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.

The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’

The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.

After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.

Artist Laurie Anderson (Wiki)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurie_Anderson

Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).

The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey

After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.

I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.

For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.

I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.

Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007

I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.

The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC

https://npg.si.edu/home/national-portrait-gallery

I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.

National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)

https://npg.si.edu/exhibition/watergate

The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.

It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.

It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.

After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary. When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.

Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.

I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.

I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.

Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.

You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!

Places to Stay:

Marriott Courtyard DC/US Capital

1325 Second Street NE

Washington DC, 20001

(202) 898-4000

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasus-courtyard-washington-dc-us-capitol/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g28970-d1237013-Reviews-Courtyard_by_Marriott_Washington_DC_U_S_Capitol-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html?m=19905

Places to Eat:

Chinatown Express Restaurant

746 Sixth Street NW

Washington DC 20001

(202) 638-0424/638-0425

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm

https://www.chinatownexpressdc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g28970-d450543-Reviews-Chinatown_Express-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html?m=19905

Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA

35 North Street NE

Washington DC 20001

(202) 216-0630

https://www.facebook.com/menomaledc

Open: Sunday-Monday 11:00am-9:00pm/Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Thursday 11:00am-9:00pm/Friday and Saturday 11:00am-10:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g28970-d3626008-Reviews-Menomale-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html?m=19905

McDonald’s

75 New York Avenue NE

Washington DC 20002

(202) 381-0900

https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/location/dc/washington/75-new-york-ave-ne/650.html

Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 Hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g28970-d4348371-Reviews-McDonald_s-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html?m=19905

Ribeye Philadelphia Steak

Food Truck on the Washington Mall

Places to Visit:

The Jefferson Memorial

16 East Basin Drive

Washington DC, 20242

(202) 426-6841

https://www.nps.gov/thje/index.htm

Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 Hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28970-d103436-Reviews-Jefferson_Memorial-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Independence Avenue and Seventh Street

Washington DC, 20560

(202) 633-1000

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-5:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28970-d14202089-Reviews-Hirshorn_Museum_of_Art-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28970-d107886-Reviews-Hirshhorn_Museum_and_Sculpture_Garden-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

The National Portrait Gallery

Eight and G Streets NW

Washington DC 20001

(202) 633-8300

https://npg.si.edu/home/national-portrait-gallery

Open: Sunday 11:30am-7:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 11:30am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28970-d108423-Reviews-National_Portrait_Gallery-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

The Washington Monument & Mall

2 15th Street NW

Washington DC 20024

(202) 426-6841

https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28970-d107009-Reviews-Washington_Monument-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

Butter Cream Easter Egg by Lerro’s Candy Company

Don’t miss the delicious holiday treats from Lerro’s Candy Company.

Don’t miss the sugary candies during the holiday season.

Add this to your Grocery List!

Lerro’s Candy Company

601 Columbia Avenue

Darby, PA 19023

(610) 461-8886

http://lerrocandy.com/

Lerro’s Candy Company shop

I had been shopping in the Boscov’s Department Store in Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, NJ recently and I walked into their Candy Department on the second floor to admire all their candy selections.

The shelves were ladened with products from Hershey’s Easter candies which rang true for a department store company based in Pennsylvania. So many wonderful food companies are based in the Lancaster and surrounding communities.

On one table I eyed one of my favorite holiday treats on the display table near the register, a decorated butter cream Easter Egg by the Lerro’s Candy Company. The beautifully decorated egg came in two sizes, and I preferred the larger one that would last until Easter morning.

This sweet Easter Egg was nicely decorated with all sorts of flowers and edible embellishments. The center of…

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Hotel Chocolat 441 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10017 (Closed February 2022)

Don’t miss this wonderful little chocolate shop and café in the heart of Midtown East in Manhattan.

This wonderful café and chocolate shop is near Grand Central Station.

Little Shop on Main Street

Hotel Chocolat

441 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10017

(646) 590-4400

https://us.hotelchocolat.com/

https://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/chocolate-shops/new-york-lexington-avenue.html

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 10:00am-7:00pm/Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d15660104-Reviews-Hotel_Chocolat-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I have stopped in at the Hotel Chocolat a few of times over the last couple of months and have found that the store has the most amazing candies, chocolates and ice cream creations. The store had been closed during the COVID pandemic but reopened with a nice manager with a big smile and hearty greeting. I have never been so warmly welcomed to a store before.

I had been staying in Manhattan over the Spring Break, working on updating my blog on ‘Midtown East’ for my sister site “MywalkinManhattan.com” and revisited the store again. There were all sorts of beautifully boxed chocolates for sale for the upcoming Easter holidays as well as every day candies.

The candies here are creatively made and packaged with all sorts…

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Bunny Around Town

My Life as a Fireman: Riding the Rescue for the “Annual Easter Bunny Around Town” April 3rd, 2021 (Again on April 3rd, 2022)

The era of COVID has spawned innovation in running events at the firehouse. Hasbrouck Heights had to cancel their Annual Easter Egg Hunt this year like last year because they could not bring all those kids to the football field to run around. Even though we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with COVID, and this too will pass soon we have to stay safe.

For the second year, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held it’s “Annual Easter Bunny Around Town” drive by event for the families and especially for the kids in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This type of community outreach is what makes a good town better. About twenty five firefighters loaded up the two engines, the two ambulances and the rescue truck and donned their masks as we split the town east and west with the equipment covering every street in Hasbrouck Heights. Each team visited their side of town with two bunnies greeting all the residents.

Bunny Around Town

Happy Easter at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

We had a nice crowd of people waiting on their lawns, masks on, greeting us as our Easter Bunny waved at them. We rode behind the truck that was carrying our Easter representative, waving at residents as well. For a sunny afternoon in the beginning of April, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department spread a little Easter cheer to a community that know that better times are ahead.

Happy Easter in 2021!

In 2022:

In 2022, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department made another trip around Hasbrouck Heights on a gloomy day. Still the residents of the community enjoyed seeing the fire trucks and many families greeted us on their front lawns with pictures. It was a nice way to welcome in the Spring and the Easter holidays.

The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department escorting the Easter Bunny Around Hasbrouck Heights 2022

Happy Easter 2022

Demarest Farm at Christmas

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Six: Visiting the Farms in Bergen County, NJ during the Christmas & Halloween holidays and in the Spring-A Local Journey December 18th-31st, 2020 (Again in April & October 2021)

When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.

Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.

“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project

NJ Agricultural Information:

https://www.nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/rtfprogram/

This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.

The Project “From Revolution to Renewal”:

https://bcpccom.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/from-the-revolution-to-renewal-exploring-historic-bergen-county/

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/13616

https://bergecooparc.wixsite.com/bergen

Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.

This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.

I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).

Schraalenburgh Farm in the Spring

Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of Spring

I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events. Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.

The wonderful selection of gourmet items at Old Schraalenburgh Farm

What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).

The Farm Burger

The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant

Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.

I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.

It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.

The Breakfast sandwich at the

The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent

For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.

pie cookies

The blueberry pie cookies

The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp.

To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.

The chicken coops are busy when you feed the chickens

During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.

Schraalenburg Farm pie case

The bakery case at the farm

Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.

Christmas at Abram Demaree Homestead

The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead

Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.

During Halloween, the farm was busy with visitors buying preserves and jellies, baked products for home and people eating lunch on a warm afternoon.

The Skeletons guard the farm at Halloween at Old Schraalenburgh Farm

History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:

In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.

In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).

Abram Demaree Homestead

The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months

In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).

Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburg Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).

Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.

Old Hook Farm

The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months

Old Hook Farm in the Fall

What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.

The Fall bounty is on sale at Old Hook Farm

Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.

Old Hook Farm

The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store

In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.

All sorts of decorative plants available in the Fall

In the Fall, the farm is awash with pumpkins, gourds and decorative plants for designing the house in a festive mood. There are all sorts of items for the Halloween holidays.

Blogger Justin Watrel at Old Hook Farm for the Halloween season

During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.

Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.

Christmas tree sales

The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited

From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.

History of the Old Hook Farm:

The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).

The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).

The old farm house at Old Hook Farm

I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.

Demar

The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road

The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entree items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies. Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).

Demarest Farms

Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year

Demarest Farms in October 2021

The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

Demarest Farms right before Halloween

During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).

During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.

Getting ready for Halloween at Demarest Farms

This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.

What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.

Demarest Farm at Christmas

Demarest Farm Store decorated for Christmas

The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.

Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.

The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.

The History of Demarest Farms:

The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.

The Demarest Family history at the farm

In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).

The flowers at Demarest Farm are colorful

In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).

Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event

Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.

The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.

Goffle Road Poutry Farm

Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road

I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.

The stand at Goffle Road Poultry Farm

Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.

When I returned recently to the Goffle Road Poultry Farm, I was able to buy some of their brown jumbo eggs ($2.95) and one of their frozen Chicken Pot Pies to bring home with me. There really is a difference in the fresh eggs versus the commercial ones. There is a richer flavor to the taste when you have them scrambled and in a omelet.

The Brown eggs at Goffle Farms have a richer flavor

The Chicken Pot Pie tasted more like a chicken pie, which has less chicken gravy in it, but it pretty much follows the same Bisquick recipe that I have at home with a mixture of vegetables and canned cream of chicken soup as its base. Still, it cooked up nicely and a flaky golden crust. It is worth it to stop and do some shopping here.

The Goffle Farm Pot Pie is more like a Chicken Pie

History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:

The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).

Goffle Road Poultry Farm at the Halloween Holidays

My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.

The Abma

The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff

I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.

The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.

In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.

The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.

Abma’s Farm Market & Garden Center in the Fall of 2021

The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.

Amba

The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods

Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.

What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.

The History of Abma Farm:

First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).

The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).

The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.

I love this video on the family and about the farm.

There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.

Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!

Spring and Summer of 2021:

As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.

The entrance to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road

I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Stokes Farm from the road

The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes.

Stokes Farm

The Stokes Farm Stand in Old Tappan, NJ

Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.

I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.

Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.

The History of Stokes Farm:

In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.

Stokes Farm

His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.

Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.

In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.

In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.

High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.

In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.

Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm

Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ

Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.

(Stokes Farm website)

Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was Depiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to Depiero’s Farm for years at the old farmstand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands. Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.

Depiero's Farmstand

Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue

When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the Depiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.

The original farmstand building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.

Outside the farmstand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.

What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farmstand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.

The History of DePiero’s Farm:

The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.

The family has since reopened the original farmstand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.

(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)

My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.

Secor Farms greenhouse

Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants

There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.

The Cider Doughnuts and other treats on sale at Secor farms in the Fall

Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.

Secor Farms

Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ

Ready for Halloween at Secor Farms in Fall 2021

The spooky entrance to Secor Farms at Halloween 2021

In the Fall especially around Halloween, the whole farm looks like Disneyland with Haunted Hay Rides, Pumpkin Picking, Fall decorative items for sale and the general atmosphere that welcomes in Halloween with a bang. The whole place was filled to the brim with cars ready for a long day at the farm.

Pumpkin picking at Secor Farms in Fall 2021

All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.

The History of Secor Farms:

Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.

The Secor Farm at the Fall Holidays

Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).

Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ

The Fall produce at Secor Farms during the Halloween 2021 holiday weekend

Farms to Visit:

Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead

177 Schraalenburgh Road

Closter, NJ  07624

(201) 289-3627

Open:  Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm

Homestead: Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm

https://www.abramdemareehomestead.org/

http://palisadesny.com/history/abram-demaree-homestead/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46367-d5269898-Reviews-The_Farm_Stand-Closter_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/717

Old Hook Farm Stand & General Store

650 Old Hook Road

Emerson, NJ 07630

(201) 265-4835

http://www.oldhookfarm.com/

Open: Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g46418-d23048831-r815902376-Old_Hook_Farm-Emerson_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/1404

Demarest Farm

244 Werimus Road

Hillsdale, NJ 07642

(201) 666-0472

https://demarestfarms.com/

https://www.facebook.com/demarestfarm/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46512-d4985687-Reviews-Demarest_Farm-Hillsdale_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/942

Goffle Road Poultry Farm

549 Goffle Road

Wyckoff, NJ 07481

(201) 444-3238

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 9:00am-5:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46945-d10135907-Reviews-Goffle_Road_Poultry_Farm-Wyckoff_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Abma Farm

700 Lawlins Road

Wyckoff, NJ 07481

(201) 891-0278

https://www.facebook.com/abmasfarm/

https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/381236933/united-states/bedford-hills-new-york/amba-farms/

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 9:00am-5:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46945-d9806090-Reviews-Abma_s_Farm-Wyckoff_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Stokes Farm

23 Dewolf Road

Old Tappan, NJ 07675

(201) 768-3931

https://www.facebook.com/StokesFarmNJ/

Open: Sunday-Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-5:00pm/Thursday Closed/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm (In season)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46704-d21328526-Reviews-Stokes_Farm-Old_Tappan_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Secor Farms

85 Airmont Avenue

Mahwah, NJ 07430

(201) 529-2595

http://www.secorfarms.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Secor-Farms-118514558210743/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm (In season)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46590-d17373422-Reviews-Secor_Farms-Mahwah_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Depiero’s Farm Stand

156 Summit Avenue

Montvale, NJ 07645

(201) 930-8678

https://depieros-farm-stand-and-greenhouses.business.site/

https://www.facebook.com/depierosfarm/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46638-d23326434-Reviews-Depiero_s_Farm-Montvale_New_Jersey.html?m=19905