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…
I have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the…
I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
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
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.
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).
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.
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” 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’).
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.
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 Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 in Mahwah, NJ
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.
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
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
Every October my neighbors decorate their home to the hilt on Halloween and every year they drag out this strange scarecrow out among their other decorations. I tease my neighbor that it looks like it wants to “rape and pillage the neighborhood”. I just think the thing looks mischiefest. She just laughs at me.
So over the years I have named this decoration “Giggles the Scarecrow” and created a story line for him:
“The Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”:
“When bad boys and girls come to our neighborhood on Halloween Night ready to perform more tricks then treats, Giggles will come to life and grab’em. He will then take’em away to his haunted home in the woods. Hee, Hee, Hee.”
Okay, I had a lot of time on my hands to think on Halloween Night. It is the era of COVID.
What do you think? Do you want to test the “Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”?
“Giggles the Scarecrow” on Halloween day in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
My neighbor’s Scarecrow, Giggles. I think this thing is evil (Ha Ha)
If all else fails, watch the original version of the movie “Halloween” from 1978 on YouTube:
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
With the weather reaching now into the high 90’s and the humidity has become unbearable, it has been a chance to take a break from walking the streets of Manhattan with the uncomfortable heat (and the equally uncomfortable feel of the City) and head up to our version of “Upstate New York”. People from Ithaca, where I went to graduate school, actually laugh when I say this is “Upstate New York”. “That’s like Westchester!” some will say to me because it is so close to the City instead of in the middle of New York State.
Still Dutchess County is beautiful at anytime of the year and a nice substitute when the weather just gets too hot. The cool breezes of the Hudson River, the foliage full of deep greens and the unique little downtown’s with their ‘mom and pop’ restaurants and stores (which we need to help desperately at this time) make a nice day or weekend visit. I have also gone to college in Hyde Park so I know the area quite well but still there were many towns I had never visited before. One of them being Red Hook, NY.
I had gotten to know Red Hook quite well since 2014 when I thought I was moving to the Hudson River Valley for work and needed to find a place to live. I got acquainted with Downtown Red Hook when meeting with realtors but it was when I came across an advertisement for “Little Pickles”, a children’s store that had just opened that I wanted to visit that I got to really visit the town.
The nice part of Downtown Red Hook is that it has not been “Manhattanized” the way Downtown Rhinebeck further south has been. Being further up Route 9, the restaurants and stores are not as expensive, the feel of the restaurants are more local and down to earth and a lot less expensive. The one thing about the stores are that they cater to locals and not tourists so much, they are reasonably priced and their merchants are extremely creative in merchandise purchased for their stores and the way their stores are displayed. The service I have found in the stores here is very personal and friendly and you are mostly dealing with the owner of the store.
What is also nice about Red Hook is that the parking is still on the street with no meters and you can park right near the stores. At the current time, the town is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as is the rest of the country, so a lot of the parking directly in the center of the town is for “Grab and Go”. Between the heat of this summer (it was 96 degrees that day) and the COVID-19 pandemic still keeping everything at bay, the town was quiet the afternoon I visited.
I started my day at the Staatsburgh Historical Site of the Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY. The mansion was not open for tours yet under Phase 4 of Governor Cuomo’s plan as of yet so the park site opened programs that showcased the outside of the mansion. I started my day with a “Garden Tour” of the grounds of the Mill’s Mansion “Staatsburgh” located at 75 Mills Mansion Drive.
The Mills Mansion “Staatsburgh” (Staatsburgh State Historical Site)
The 90 minute tour took us to the back lawn of the estate where we visited the former ice house, boat house, stables and storage areas and the location to where the greenhouses were located. The mansion was once a 25 room home that was a working farm but with Ruth Livingston Mills social standing the house was added and expanded to 79 rooms to the current home of today. The original farms became lawns and Ogden Mills, her husband and a financier himself, became a gentleman farmer and animals were grown and raised for competition and for food for the estate. The greenhouses were used for flowers and fruits and vegetables for the mansion.
The back lawn of the Mills Mansion and the Hudson River in the distance
Most of the buildings have since been knocked down or in disrepair but you have to use your imagination to see how the estate once worked. The whole property was once pretty well self-sufficient.
By 10:30am, our small group of four was done for the morning and I decided to run up to Red Hook for lunch. I was in the mood for a Chicken Parmesan sandwich from Village Pizza III located in the downtown. Before I left for lunch I drove through Downtown Rhinebeck which had just closed off all their downtown parking for outdoor cafes and the place was really busy. All the restaurants were busy for the late brunch and early lunch crowds.
I drove further north on Route 9 which takes you right into Downtown Red Hook and turns into North and South Broadway which is cut at the intersection of East and West Market Street (which is Route 199). The downtown stretches from this intersection for a few blocks before leading to more homes and farms. The wooden store fronts are a combination of Victorian and multi-level architecture and brick buildings which gives it the classic downtown appearance.
Looking down East Market Street in Downtown Red Hook, NY
I parked on East Market Street and started to walk towards the intersection. I discovered that one of my favorite stores that I just featured a few months ago, Pause at 10 East Market Street had moved to Rhinebeck. It now has an online store and its new expanded location in Rhinebeck at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 .
Pause was a great store of handmade food products and whimsical toys for pets.
Pause was at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in Rhinebeck, NY
Next to the former Pause store is another unique at 6 East Market Street called Petals & Moss, a fresh and dried flower store, where the owner, Nancy Lee, designs not only the floral arrangements and the dried flower wreaths that line the walls but also cuts most of the fresh flowers in season from her own garden.
The tables are arranged with fresh floral bouquets and dried flowers designed in interesting designs. I like that the store is not overwhelmed with flowers all over the place and the look is a minimalist where you can enjoy the beauty of the flowers and they are showcased in their simplest form.
The beauty of Petals and Moss arrangements
In a small truck stand down the road at 33 East Market Street is the seasonal business and weekends only during the cooler months is Terry’s Country Bakeshop. Terry sets up a small table of reasonably priced baked goods such as cider doughnuts, scones, crumb cake, cinnamon rolls and small pies (prices are seasonal). Don’t miss her cider doughnuts ($1.00). They were excellent. She is also quite the conversationalist. We had a nice chat.
Terry’s Country Bakeshop at 22 East Market Street
Crossing the street at the intersection of Market and Broadway, I like to head north to my favorite restaurant in Red Hook, Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. I can not tell you how good the food is here in a few sentences. For a small pizzeria, the food is excellent, the service is friendly and the prices are amazingly fair. For a family on a budget, the restaurant is the perfect place to dine. It was unfortunately closed on Sunday.
The food and service at Village Pizza III is excellent!
The many times I have eaten here over the holiday season and on my visits to the area for functions, I really love coming here for lunch and dinner. The red sauce here is just delicious and has a rich tomato flavor that makes every dish wonderful. The Chicken Parmesan dinner with spaghetti could feed two people easily. It is loaded with gooey mozzarella cheese.
The Spaghetti and meatballs are out of this world. Three golf ball sized freshly made meatballs on top of what looked like a half pound of spaghetti. The red sauce here is amazing. The calzones are overstuffed with ingredients and the pizza has the most amazing combination of spices and cheeses. Each bite is like heaven. There is not one thing on the menu that is not delicious.
The pizza here is fantastic!
The prices here are extremely fair.
The elusive J & J Gourmet at 1 East Market Street was closed for a third time when I visited there in 2021. Oh well, I will have to wait until another time to have breakfast there.
J & J’s Gourmet Restaurant at 1 East Market Street
The last visit I made to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop, I had one of her Fruit Loop Doughnuts that was an over-sized cake doughnut topped with a thick vanilla icing and finished with lots of colorful fruit loops. Their over-sized Cinnamon Rolls on another visit were layered in sweet cinnamon in a buttery dough. On a recent visit, I had their jelly doughnuts and they are filled with the most amazing jelly.
The baker herself has waited on me and is extremely engaging and when it is okay to eat inside again, it is a relaxing experience to just sit and talk. For now, there is a tent outside for dining and enjoying your dessert.
The excellent doughnuts and cinnamon rolls
Next door to Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop is one of the most creative, imaginary and interesting toy stores I have ever seen. Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway. This colorful little store caters to the Lilliputian crowd and has all the things you need for a small child or creative tween.
Little Pickles Children’s General Store at 7505 North Broadway is out of a fairy tale book.
Little Pickles is one of those stores I wish was around when I was a kid. Even the big kid in me loves visiting the store when I am in Red Hook. One of the store is dedicated to clothing, shoes and accessories for the small child in need of everyday items. In the room is a castle to explore and wooden trains to play with while your siblings shop (these things are currently not available because of COVID-19).
The outside of the store has an whimsical candy and ice cream shop and lots of little ‘stocking stuffers’ for a quick gift. Lining the shelves in the front of the store, there are balloons, magnets, small games and puzzles that are perfect for the creative child’s birthday party.
This is where children come for that special gift
The back of the store has a assortment of games, puzzles, magic tricks, science experiments and board games. During these tough times with all of us having to stay in it has the perfect collection of items for family game night.
The back of Little Pickles is perfect for family game night.
A brand new store to the shopping area at 9 West Market Street is The Crow’s Nest, another unique gift shop that supports women artists and craftspeople and specializes in merchandise that is eco friendly and Free-Trade. Owner Sarah Carlson says that she searches the world to find items that support female artisans who offer handmade one of kind gifts and home products. The shelves and tables are lined with interesting merchandise.
Walking down North Broadway and turning the corner to West Market Street. Another store stands out for its interesting gift items and fascinating artwork Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where all things are equestrian.
The Equis Gallery at 15 West Market Street where its all things horses.
The gallery is so unique with the theme with all the artists carried in the store is all things horses. Paintings large and small line the walls and the tables are ladened with jewelry, statuary, small sculptures and gifts for the perfect host present. The store carries the work of many local and distant artists and is all unique to the store. It is always nice talking to the gallery owner, Juliet Harrison, who always greets you with a smile and makes you feel welcome.
The work here is revolving so there are always new artists to see.
Equis Gallery owner Juliet R. Harrison
A wonderful video on the Equis Gallery
Walking back down West Market Street and heading down South Broadway, I headed to Golden Wok Chinese Restaurant at 7479 South Broadway but the place had no dining area open inside. On a recent trip to Red Hook, I stopped in for dinner.
I ordered from their extensive Cantonese menu and has for dinner the Beef and Broccoli combination platter with Fried Rice and Egg Roll ($11.95). It was a nice sized portion and have to say that the Fried Rice here is excellent.
Beef and Broccoli with Fried Rice at Golden Wok at 7479 South Broadway
What was nice is that Downtown Red Hook during the summer months has a little park with tables for outdoor dining. On Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00pm-8:00pm have live entertainment. The woman guitarist that evening was wonderful and attracted a nice crowd on this warm Spring night. It was a nice way to dine with the warm breezes passing by and conversing with other people at the table.
When I was here last Summer (Pre-COVID-19), there was another enjoyable concert in the parking lot next to Village Hall that was free for the evening with local musicians. That was a nice night and people really had a nice time listening to the music and talking with their neighbors. It must be a nice place to grow up.
The Memorial Day Parade in Red Hook NY from 2008
After my walk around Downtown Red Hook, it was back to Rhinebeck for lunch. There is another branch of Village Pizza in Downtown Rhinebeck as well but I now wanted something different as it was getting even hotter outside and I wanted something light.
So I headed to Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street, a restaurant I have eaten at many times over the last twenty years of visiting Rhinebeck. The food is always consistent here and the service very friendly. Like the rest of downtown’s all over the nation, the sidewalks and streets of the Main Street have been changed to an outdoor cafes. Pete’s Famous has good amount of tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk under the trees and street which made for a nice experience.
Pete’s Famous Restaurant at 34 East Market Street in Rhinebeck, NY
I had a sudden craving for a Turkey Club sandwich and the restaurant did not disappoint. The sandwich was layered with freshly roasted turkey, juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce and crisp bacon lathered with mayo on toasted white bread. It was a nice combination of flavors and tastes and the fries just came out of the fryer.
The turkey club with fries here is excellent.
It was nice to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and watch people walk by. It made it almost seem like there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. I am not too sure how long all of this will last but for that afternoon everything felt okay.
I didn’t want to stay for dessert because I has passed an ice cream stand on the way back from Red Hook that I have wanted to try for years but it is closed during the times I usually come up to Rhinebeck, Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North in Rhinebeck. Do not miss coming here during the warmer months! It’s worth the whole trip.
Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Route 9 North is amazing!!
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
This little ice cream shop right near the Dutchess County Fairgrounds looks like it had just been renovated and landscaped. The back part of the building has a nice sized lawn with chairs and tables (socially distanced perfectly) that is the perfect place to enjoy your ice cream or lunch items on their listing.
Del’s lunch menu
The ice cream here is so thick and creamy and has the most unique flavors. On the recommendation of the young lady working there I tried the Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Swirl and the Honey Lavender ice creams. The Lemon Poppyseed is also excellent. I do not say this much but after biting into the Honey Lavender ice cream I thought I saw God. The ice cream was amazing!
It was just the right combination of flavors of sweetness and tartness. The Blueberry ice cream is made from fresh fruit from the farm and you could taste the flavors sweetness and creaminess from the fresh milk and cream from the farm.
The Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream here is excellent!
Del’s is Americana during the summer months. It is the place that people look like they have been coming to since the 1960’s and with a new owner and a modernized building brings it into the twenty-first century. It is the perfect place to stop with the family.
After the long and relaxing lunch, I headed back to the Mills Mansion for the “Lecture on the Portico” for a talk on the servants role at the mansion when the family was in house for the late Summer and Fall months. I have to admit with such a large lunch and dessert inside me and the weather being so warm (it was about 92 degrees at this point), I was getting sleepy and started to nod off during the lecture.
Mills Mansion “Servants Talk”
It was an interesting lecture on household items that the servants would have used to maintain the mansion during the summer months. They explained how the servants used the hand-cranked ice cream machine to make the summer treat and showed us their ice cream scoop for the perfect serving of the frozen treat.
Other items that were explained to us to run the household were a meat press for creating juices for broths, a bottle closer for opened beverages and a mop wringer for cleanups. It is interesting the amount of time it took to keep the mansion clean and the items needed to do the work at a time when electrical cleaning items did not exist. It took an army of servants to keep the mansion running.
It was so nice to relax and enjoy the breezes on the portico ( the front porch) while listening to the lecture. I think this is the reason why on top of digesting a big lunch why I kept falling asleep. The heat did not help either. Still it was a nice way to see the mansion in a different light by seeing it from the outside looking in. The grounds have so much to offer and the lecture topics are very interesting.
The portico of the mansion is a nice place for meetings.
It was just nice to be back up in the Hudson River Valley again. I had not been up here since February for the last Tea Lecture (see my review on the mansion above) and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an interesting way to still visit the mansion and tour the grounds and have a new sense of scenery.
Spending time at the holidays in Red Hook is also special. The merchants do such a nice job decorating their windows for Christmas and all the older buildings in the downtown are decorated with garland, red ribbons and white lights. It looks like a Currier & Ives print especially at night when the whole town is lit up.
During the usual holiday season, the town holds the “Snowflake Festival” the second Saturday in December (the first weekend in December is the big “Sinterklaas” festival in Rhinebeck and that gets all the people the first weekend) and that is a nice family event.
Red Hook is so peaceful on a pre or post Christmas night. I visited on New Year’s Day and most of the stores and restaurants were closed but still at twilight, the Christmas holiday with all its hope and dreams is still alive and appreciated at night. The Christmas season in the Hudson River Valley especially in these small towns is really special.
It is such a pleasure to visit the Hudson River Valley.
Since my thirty two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Duchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurant’s in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City. Don’t miss their lunch specials and interesting sandwich combinations.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Forth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious with a side of their garlic fries and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers. They also have a dessert called Galactoboureko, a sweet custard wrapped in phyllo dough, that is amazing.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (both closed for business in June 2021) for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard (Closed June 2021)
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally (now retired)
Young Fashions (now closed June 2021) is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby (now closed May 2020-online business orders) is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one of a kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and Knick knacks.
Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (now closed 2020-Online Business)
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down. They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too. Their Hot & Sour Soup is the best in town.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Playhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and cooked and seasoned perfectly. They have a nice assortment of appetizers to order when having a drink.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It is always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and their Lo Mein is the best is the best in town . Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Bill O’Shea’s Easter Open House 2021
The newest addition to Downtown Hasbrouck Heights is Ralph’s Ice Cream & Ices at 239 Boulevard that opened in the height of the COVID pandemic just in time to cheer a town up that really needed it. The store opened in the summer of 2020 to long lines and gave everyone an excuse to done a mask and meet their neighbors for a sweet treat. Check out their weekly posted specials.
Fisher’s Café at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owners grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements, their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melt in your mouth good! Don’t miss their delicious Black & White cookies and their stuffed Chocolate Chip sandwiches. The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Further down the street a new bakery opened. Two Ladies Bakery at 446 Boulevard. They specialize in Lebanese, Russian and French pastries. The bakery just opened two weeks ago so it is nice to go in and support a new business in town.
The Cream Puff I had was a little pricey for our town at $5.00. It was well baked and had a rich creamy vanilla filling. It was good but average.
The cream puffs are good but expensive
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owners wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
During the holiday season, the town really rolls out the welcome mat. People in town love to decorate and entertain. In this COVID era, some things have been toned down such as large parties and parades. All the Christmas concerts have been cancelled as school has been put into both virtual and life classes.
Still the spirit of the town can be felt from Halloween to the New Years as people decorate their homes and businesses welcome people to open houses and will cater to small parties of people.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Every year I look forward to the Downtown Merchants Open Houses with their bright creative display windows and small indoor entertainments as people come to shop and converse with their neighbors.
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bill O’Shea Flowers had their annual Open House with Christmas music and lots of pre-wrapped goodies to enjoy and take home. The store was beautifully decorated with all sorts of treasures that customers could buy, I love just walking around and grabbing a snack while shopping every year.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is a delight at the Christmas holidays
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts welcomes you at Christmas
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Heights Flower Shoppe had their Annual Open House and it was just as spectacular. One tries to outdo the other in a friendly rivalry.
Heights Flower Shoppe has the most interesting merchandise
Heights Flower Shoppe pulls out all stops to welcome you at the holidays
My twenty one years on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association has done a lot to my back after years at Macy’s selling rugs as well. The Annual Christmas Tree Sale was a HUGE success this year. We sold out in less than two weeks, ending the sale on Friday night, December 11th selling a record 375 trees. We want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns for their support on our Scholarship Fund event.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at the set-up being COVID safe
As we ready for Christmas 2020 next week and the coming of a new and hopefully better New Year, the town has done its job to cheer us up. The Annual Christmas Tree lighting was not advertised but happened anyway and welcomes people at our western border of town.
Our town Christmas tree at the Circle
The Neil Parrot playhouse is even decorated at the Circle
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights welcomes you at Christmas
Even though the Annual Holiday Parade was cancelled, we will still be welcoming Santa at Santa Around Town the last Sunday of December before Christmas. This Annual tradition on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department has the whole town in the Christmas spirit as Santa visits them in their own neighborhoods.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2019
The Brothers of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020!
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
I can’t believe that Halloween is over again! It comes and goes so quickly and I can already see the traces of Christmas on its way. There are times that I can’t believe that July and August go by so fast and then there are the holidays.
Halloween, as you can see by the last few years of this blog, have become more than just handing out Halloween treats to kids at my house. In fact, even when I have been home I rarely see trick or treaters, the most being 14 kids about ten years ago. Kids today at least in my part of the neighborhood have little interest in doing this anymore.
Halloween started for me on the first weekend of October with the ‘Pumpkin Blaze’ at the Van Cortlandt Manor (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Last year I saw the Blaze on the last weekend it was open on the first weekend of November and the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and I said never again. I wanted to see it when it was warm out and I could take my time to really see the displays.
So I asked my Aunt Deloris to attend with me as a delayed birthday present to her and on October 7th we headed up to Croton-on-the-Hudson to see the Annual Pumpkin Blaze. It was unusually warm that night at 62 degrees but there was the threat of rain later that evening. Still for the entire time we were at the Van Cortlandt Manor, it was mild and pleasant. Since we attended on a Monday night long before Halloween, the crowds were not as large.
It was a spectacular display this year with many new displays to ohh and ahh at while walking the paths around the manor. To let you all know, the Pumpkin Blaze is a volunteer event and major fundraiser for the Hudson Valley Historical Society. Thousands of hand-carved pumpkins are illuminated all over the grounds of the estate and the light makes it quite intriguing.
The pumpkin carving starts in late August and early September
As you enter the path into the estate, they are lined completely with lit pumpkins. That lead to the Circus train display and the Tappan Scream Bridge, both made from a combination of real and plastic pumpkins, The train had gotten longer and more detailed over the years with detailed ghostly animals arriving at their destination.
The spooky Circus train
Another display that was amazing was the Museum of Modern Art display that had with copies of famous works in pumpkins. It was in honor of the renovation and extension of the museum.
The Andy Warhol Soup Can
The Headless Horseman Scream
As we exited the ghostly museum, you pass the musical carousel and the Albany Post Road that was lined pumpkins. There were pumpkin jack in the boxes, pumpkin dinosaurs and pumpkin mummies. The displays were bigger, more detailed and more elaborate then years past.
The pumpkin carousel
The paths leading to the Van Cortlandt Manor were lined with a pumpkin cemetery and then the dinosaur displays. This lead to the light show at the Van Cortlandt Manor that was lined with pumpkins and a light show that illuminated the house. The house was surrounded by pumpkins of all faces and expressions along the path around the house. This lead to another cemetery that had the Van Cortlandt family names as you exited the property.
Van Cortland Manor at Croton-on-the-Hudson
As we exited the property it lead to a series of tents that carried all sorts of gifts and Halloween items, two different food concessions with hot dogs, cider, homemade doughnuts and popcorn. It was very active after everyone had walked the show.
Then my aunt and I came across this giant pumpkin that was craved out of wood that everyone was taking pictures at and we pose for our own Halloween portrait. That was a lot of fun dodging the other families to take the shot.
My Aunt Deloris and I at the end of the Annual Pumpkin Blaze
Just as we were leaving the site and heading to the car, the heavens opened up and it started to rain. We just made it to the car as it started to pour. As we headed back to New Jersey and crossed over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the rain started to let up to a light dizzle. When we reached Paramus, it was just a light mist.
We stopped for dinner at the Suburban Diner at 172 Route 17 North in Paramus, NJ ( see review on TripAdvisor) for a snack. The snack ended up being a large Turkey Club Sandwich with a side of fries, cole slaw and a pickle. This thing was huge! My aunt ordered a BLT that was just as large and for two people who just wanted a ‘snack’ we devoured everything. I guess it was all that walking.
I continued my Halloween activities to where it all took place, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY, where the months of September, October and early November are very busy. Historic Hudson Valley has lots of events this time of the year, one of them being the Pumpkin Blaze.
Another event I attended was the “Home of the ‘Legend'”, a tour of Washington Irving’s home, ‘Sunnyside’, which is located at 3 West Sunnyside Lane in Irvington, NY (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited the house years ago but they now had a Halloween tour of the house.
‘Sunnyside’ was the home of Washington Irving from 1835 until his death in the house in 1859. The house was originally a small two room stone house had been built around 1690 for a tenant farmer and had once been part of the Philipse Manor estate grounds. When Washington Irving bought the house in 1835, eyeing the home when visiting his son Oscar who lived in the area.
Washington Irving’s Sunnyside at 3 West Sunnyside Lane
With his friend, George Harvey, a painter, they created the home in the Romantic style with almost a fairy tale appearance. The ‘storybook’ home is covered in wisteria and has the most beautiful views of the widest area of the Hudson River. The author wrote some of his most famous stories from this house. He lived here with his brother, Ebenezer and his five daughters after his business failed so the house was a busy one.
Washington Irving’s study
The house was sold to John D. Rockefeller for the State by Washington Irving’s great grandson, Louis Irving in 1945 preservation. The house tour is really interesting as the old Victorian wing was torn down to preserve it to the time of Washington Irving so it has the original kitchen, ice house and barn. These ten acres were a working estate.
I got to see Washington Irving’s study and bedroom with the original furnishings which I thought was interesting. It does have a small kitchen for all those people and the bedrooms the rest of the family had were almost the size of today’s contemporary homes. So it must have been tight for the family.
When you exit the kitchen from the back to end the house tour, you head to the back lawn where the ice house is located, the gardens and the barn. There are ten acres to roam around with ponds and streams and again that amazing view of the Hudson River. This tour should not be missed when it opens back up in the Spring.
The last event I went to in Tarrytown was ‘The Unsilent Picture, which took place at the Tarrytown auditorium. The program was a movie based on a story line mystery that takes place one evening and the local actors play out the characters to scare a family member. I was so tired from the cold and it was so boring that I think I fell asleep for five minutes and missed a section of it. I just didn’t get the interest in the whole thing. I would bypass this in the future.
The Unsilent Movie
Here is the trailer for the movie:
One Halloween event you should look into is the Victorian Halloween Tea lecture at the Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY. These lecture teas are very interesting and the food is wonderful.
The Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive
I have been a Friend of the Mills Mansion now for about four years finding that I was going to a lot of their events it just made it easier to join and get priority on their special events which are enjoyable. This event was a tea and lecture of how the Victorians recreated Halloween from a dark more countryside evening wrapped in mystery to an engaging urban event with costumes, specialty foods and traditional events like apple bobbing that guests then made their own. Local Historian Carol Kohan discussed how the event went from a dark rural event to fun and engaging holiday.
The Victorian’s made everything elaborate and overdone and the Halloween celebrations were ‘taken up a notch’ with elaborate costumes, parties, bonfires and desserts and candies that were to be served. There were special invitations and cards that were to sent and rules of etiquette.
Following the Civil War and at a time when disease was not understood the way it is now, there was an interest in spiritualism and seances were in vague as people want to reach out to their loved ones. So having a medium at a party was part of the activity. The Victorians knew how to transform a holiday.
During the discussion, we enjoyed an afternoon tea of the specialty Staatsburg Tea blend, a variety of finger sandwiches, pumpkin and cranberry scones and many types of pastries including mini pumpkin cheesecakes, tiny devil’s food cupcakes and assorted sweet cookies. The caterer always does a nice job with the food and service here.
The food at these function are excellent and plentiful
After the tea and lecture, we took a detailed tour of the Mill’s Mansion which I had taken many times but this was with another tour guide and he gave us another perspective to the house. He mentioned stories of the Mills family that I had not heard before and we also got to see how the renovations of the house were going. It looks like the dining room and entrance hall will be finished in time for the holiday party.
All of these activities lead to the big event in my Halloween every year, the NY Greenwich Village Halloween Parade which I have been marshaling now for five years. Participating in the event this year, I got an invitation to go to Rokeby, the estate of the Aldrich/Livingston family to see the puppet rehearsals. This year’s theme to the parade was “Wild Things” and the puppets and costumes were to reflect this.
Because I had the above Afternoon tea at the Mill’s Mansion the next day, I stayed at an Airbnb for the night and that was interesting. I had a feeling that the host really did not want to meet me as she scrambled out the door that night. The room was in a small private home near downtown Kingston and the nice part was that I could enjoy all the restaurants, museums and historical sites (See VisitingaMuseum.com for the sites I visited) and go back to the room to sleep.
After I checked into the Airbnb, it was off to The Rokeby Estate which is a 400 acre property in Red Hook, NY. Most of the artists for the Halloween Parade and the Sinterklass Parade in December (see my blogs on this as well) live on the Rokeby Estate in the homes that surround the old mansion.
The Rokeby Estate in Red Hook, NY
By the time I got up there, it was just starting to get dark and trust me, the roads are not paved going up to the house and it gets dark up there. I parked by the barn where all the magic happens and they create and assemble all the puppets. This was interesting because I got to see all the designs and all the construction areas of the barn.
The rehearsal went by well and they even created music for the puppets to dance to when performing. Then the participants holding the puppets lead everyone to the Rokeby Mansion and we all assembled on the porch which was lit with Christmas lights and watched the performance from there.
The Wild Things at the Puppet Rehearsals at Rokeby
The Max’s of the Wild Things
Watching from the porch of Rokeby was a lot of fun and what a place to view everything. Before it got dark, I got to talk to Tracey and Wilt Aldrich and introduce myself (we are like 12th cousins by marriage) and we got to chat before the performance. I got to see the sun set over the Hudson River from there and it was spectacular. The colors over the mountains was amazing and you can understand why people moved up here.
After rehearsals, it was off to Rhinebeck for dinner at Pete’s Famous, a diner concept downtown that I highly recommend. I had a much needed Hot Turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes ($10.95) and a Coke (see review on TripAdvisor). The main meal was loaded with that thick turkey gravy that diners are known for when serving this dish. The meal started with a Chicken and Rice soup that really warmed me up. It was nice to warm up in the restaurant and chat with the waitstaff.
Pete’s Famous at 34 East Main Street in Rhinebeck, NY has wonderful food
After dinner, I just walked around downtown Rhinebeck, NY knowing that Sinterklass was only four and a half weeks later. I could see that the Christmas lights were being put on the trees already. Then it was off to bed and back to the Mills Mansion for the tea. The parade would be four days later.
Halloween Night was really unusual again this year. The weather was threatening rain all day and it was weirdly warm being 71 degrees and humid that night. Somehow we never saw the rain that night and as it got dark didn’t even notice the clouds.
I got the parade early this year arriving at 3:00pm to meet with the Head Marshal at the gate (and my distant cousin by marriage), Marc Schuyler. I had lucked out and had been invited to the Marshaling meeting the week before which made me better prepared for the parade. By the time I got there, most of the marshals had arrived and I got to work with the locations of people and where everyone was supposed to go.
My ‘cousin’ Marc Schuyler and myself at the parade entrance
With the exception with one pain who lived near by and snuck into the parade route, we did not have one problem this year and getting people into the parade was easy. We had no hassles this year and because it was not raining as expected, the parade route got really busy. People came out for the parade in droves and the costumes were more creative than in previous years.
We got all the bands in, all the ‘Thriller” dancers checked in and all the float people into the park on time and kept the tourists out. By the time we closed the gate at 8:00pm, there was no one left and the parade was in progress. By the time I got to Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, most of the parade was uptown.
I got to see about four floats go up Sixth Avenue and one band before the rest of the parade was people in costume. There was everything from Superheros to cheerleaders in that parade. People dressed as horses, birds and trees. Lots of Jason’s and Freddie Kruger’s and spirits of death. People were dressed like little kids and cartoon characters the list goes on.
There was a small get together after the parade but that was not until 10:00pm so it gave me about an hour to walk around the Village and watch people in action. I swear I walked all over the Village and Soho and every street and restaurant was mobbed! Because it was so warm outside all the outdoor cafes were open. All the outside tables were taken and it seemed that every restaurant was packed with people with more waiting. Even the McDonald’s and littlest pizzerias were busy. With no rain and warm weather, people were in the mood to be outside one last time.
A group of us had light dinner that night at Da Umberto on 107 West 17th Street in the Village and the food and service were wonderful. They had a nice buffet set up for us and we had a choice of a Risotto Bolognese, Penne with a Pesto Cream sauce, Rigatoni with Vodka sauce, or Eggplant Parmesan as the main dish, a wonderful salad with house dressing and a Tiramisu for dessert. The food and the service was excellent and we had a nice evening just sitting around and talking about the parade.
Da Umberto is an excellent restaurant! Make sure to try the pastas
When I left the party around 11:30pm, it was still going strong as was the street party after the parade. People were still eating outside, house parties could be seen from the windows and people were still parading around in their costumes.
When I got home just past Midnight, I felt the first drops of the storm and when I got inside around 12:15am, the heaven’s opened up and did it rain! It pounded the roof. God had really spared us all of that. It was the last night that I slept with the air conditioner on and the heat off because when I woke up it must have dropped 25 degrees and the heat went right back on.
Another Halloween over and here come the Winter and Christmas!
I have been travelling up to the Hudson River Valley much more than usual this Fall. There has been so much going on between the events up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds since the Fair in August and all the of the ‘Mansion Hopping’ and visiting to historical sites for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, which I have been concentrating on building over the Summer and Fall. I have been visiting on most weekends between September and the end of October.
Travelling up to the Hudson River Valley in the fall is an amazing time. Because of the lack of rain over the summer, the foliage turned much earlier than it usually does and the trees starting turning yellow and red in the end of September and beginning of October as opposed to last year and the year before where it was more the end of October and middle of November.
I started my journey up to Dutchess County right after the Dutchess County Fair at the end of August and continued through the end of October for Halloween events. I had bought a small Santa from a woodcarver for a small Mother’s Day present for my mom and she absolutely loved it so I had to seek him out again at events through the next three months. He was tough to find.
My first trip Upstate was for the Cornell-Marist Football game on September 21st. Because I have to teach college on Saturday mornings I left for the game later in the afternoon and I got to Marist College during the beginning of the second quarter.
The Marist College campus off Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is one of the nicest college campuses I have been to in a while. The campus sits right on the Hudson River and the nice part is that the football stadium is located right off the highway so as I was driving in I could see what was going.
Big Red Football
Long story short it was not the greatest football game I had ever been to and we won 21-7. Cornell University has not invested in its football team the way it should and it was like watching two high school teams play. The funny part was that Marist College and Cornell University have the same school colors so it was hard to see who was rooting for who in the stadium.
The one nice thing about the stadium is that on the other side of the stands of the stadium that Marist has lawn sitting and that is the best way to watch the game. It was also about 85 degrees that afternoon so it was the perfect football weather and I got tan while watching the game.
Sitting on the lawn side of the field is the best place to sit
After the game was over, I decided to explore the campus. God, the Marist College campus is gorgeous. The campus has expanded over the years since I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and our campus was beautiful as well. Marist College has rolling hills, lush green lawns and the most amazing view of the Hudson River. People should just visit the campus to walk around. The foliage was just starting to turn so the view of the river and the hills that surround it was spectacular.
Homecoming and Reunion Weekend at Marist College
The next weekend I was back Upstate again to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck for Oktoberfest. This interesting event was the smaller of the two events that I attended at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds after the Annual Fair in August. This was a smaller craft event that took up one section of the fairgrounds mostly where the craft exhibition space had been during the fair and the rides were located. I had gotten this event and the Sheep & Wool event later in the month mixed up and the wood carver was not there (later when I did meet up with him at the Sheep & Wool Festival he said that he was not invited). Still I stayed and explored the fairgrounds on this warm sunny day.
Along the main path, there were all sorts of arts and crafts vendors and gourmet food vendors selling their wares and there were a few food vendors towards the back of the event but the lines were so long that I decided to eat outside the fairgrounds. So I took a trip up to Red Hook, NY which is located just north of the fair grounds and had lunch at Village Pizza III at 7594 North Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some lunch.
The food at this Village Pizza is just excellent and so reasonable as well! I had the most delicious Calzone ($6.95) that was just loaded with mozzarella, Parmesan and Ricotta cheese and was a gooey delight with every bite. Their red sauce that I have mentioned in my of my Upstate New York blogs, is just excellent. Well spiced and loaded with flavor.
Village Pizza III at 7594 Broadway in Red Hook, NY is just excellent for lunch and dinner
I came back two weeks later for the Sheep and Wool Festival which was a whole different experience in both 2019 and 2021 (the festival like everything else was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID).
The Sheep and Wool Festival which takes place the third week of October was a much bigger festival, larger than Oktoberfest but just a little smaller then the Fair. In the back by the animal pens there were displays from people in the 4 H with their sheep, alpaca and goats showing off these amazing animals. So many of the them were friendly and let you pet them. Most looked bored and tired of people taking their picture.
It was a lot of fun walking through the rows of yarn, specialty crocheted and knitted hats, blankets and baby items plus all the handcrafted items for the upcoming holidays. These took up most of the display pens that during the Dutchess County Fair are used for the animals. There are a lot of talented crafters and artisans that come to the Fairgrounds.
The Sheep and Wool Festival in 2019
The Sheep and Wool Festival in 2021
I did find the wood carver, Joe Gleeson, on this trip and was able to buy to small Santa’s that he had in stock. It seemed that he had a good sell through at the Dutchess County Fair and there was not much left and he was just trying to keep up. I love Mr. Gleeson’s surrealist designed Santa’s. Another creative carver was Bill Kypreos from Bill-Lin Woodcarving, who I bought another Santa from in 2021.
After making that purchase, I walked all over the fairgrounds looking over the displays and all the crafts people. There were a lot of interesting vendors offering the most beautiful and interesting items.
Carapace Farm Puppetry by Susannah White
Mr. Gleeson has the most beautiful wooden carvings of Santa’s, Elf’s and Snowman. Bonnie’s Beast’s offered the most creative felt and knit play animals from felt wool. Artist Patricia McGarth created homemade all natural doggie treats that tasted like an all natural cracker. They were not bad to eat for a human. Utopia Bath Ltd. has an interesting bath line and lotions.
Artist Susannah White builds and creates puppets through her Carapace Farm Puppetry. She carries the most interesting hand and finger puppets and masks. She works with her mother, artist Amelia McIsaac who also does felt art and works on the “Star Babies” sculptures and other children’s art.
Artist JoAnn Clark is a fiber artist who specializes in Needle felted folk art. She created the most interesting animal art and figurines. Amelia McIsaac created flowering art through her Flowering Art Homestead company.
For lunch, I discovered that Janek’s, the Food Truck vendor I had eaten lunch at during the Fair was at this festival as well and I made the ‘B-Line’ to have lunch there. For $15.00, I got their special again. This was a half pound freshly ground beef patty that was juicy in the center and caramelized on the outside. Then they top it with Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Glazed Ham, Pulled Pork and homemade pickles with a side of freshly made potato-cheese porgies cooked in butter and sweet onions with a side of sour cream.
Don’t miss Janek’s Food Truck at all Dutchess County events
Okay, yes it is not for the cholesterol minded person but I eat this twice a year and do I enjoy it. I walked the Fairgrounds twice just to work it off. I had the exact same thing in 2021 and it was just as good but the price went up to $18.00.
Do not miss the Hamburger and pierogi special at Janek’s Food Truck
In 2021, I spent the night at the Courtyard by Marriott in Fishkill, NY (see TripAdvisor review below) after the Sheep & Wool Festival so that I could revisit a lot of the businesses and small towns that I had been to in the past to check out the businesses and the status of the towns during COVID. What started as a specular day with a beautiful sunrise over the Catskills from my hotel room ended in a most gloomy cold day of driving around the Hudson River Valley.
The Courtyard by Marriott at Fishkill in Fishkill, NY at 17 Westage Drive
Almost all the businesses in Red Hook, NY were closed on Monday with the exception of Little Pickles, a small toy store that I have featured many times in my blogs (see LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com), The owner and I talked for awhile about the stores being closed on Mondays and how hard that is on customers.
I left Red Hook and my next stop was Downtown Wappingers Falls, NY where the Meisner Homestead was located. Everything was closed here and about six or seven stores had closed in its unique downtown. Even the Falls were dripping as there was no water coming down the river. I could not believe how much was empty since my last visit almost a year ago. This was the up and coming downtown.
My last stop on my journey was Beacon, NY where a lot more of the stores were open for the day and the weather had gotten nicer. The foliage was a little nicer here but most of the trees were pretty much still green.
I walked the whole downtown twice visiting stores that had interested me in the past. Colorant at 146 Main Street is such a unique clothing store in which all the clothes are made of all natural fibers and dies (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
Another store that caught my attention was Flora Good Times, a very interesting flower and gift shop at 197 Main Street. They had all sorts of interesting handmade pottery and a nice selection of seasonal flowers beautifully displayed.
Before I left touring all of downtown, I stopped at my ‘go to’ pizzeria, Pizza & Stuff II which has the best pizza. The slices are really large and the sauce is so well spiced and gives it wonderful flavor. The service here is really nice (see my review on TripAdvisor below).
After touring all the towns in search of new material, I headed home on a rather chilly night. I ended up having to turn the heat on in the house. The rain really had dropped the temperature.
In 2019, after the time at the Sheep and Wool Festival, it was next to the ‘Pie and Punch Evening” at the Kearney House in the Palisades Interstate Park. I had been to the Kearney House two weeks early on a Sunday but it was closed due to a Square Dance fundraiser they were running so I saw this on the Internet and thought it sounded fun (Please see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house would all be lit by candles and fireplaces as there is no electricity in the house. What could be nicer?
Kearney House at the Alpine Landing is lit by candlelight
Well just to let all you readers know that the Palisades Interstate Park is closed after dusk and does not reopen until it is light out the next day and there are NO lights either on the roads going down the hill to the basin or in the parking lot. When I mean the park is pitch black, it is pitch black. I thought this was dangerous since the road leading to the basin is very steep, not much of a barrier along the cliff side and no lights on the signs. I had some jerk follow me at full speed racing down the hill behind me. Let’s just leave this that there was a small boulder that I did not see and it did not get out of my way. The next hour in the park was not fun!
After I calmed down and was an hour late for the event, everyone could not have been nicer to me at the get together. Once I relaxed and had some hot spiced punch and a few pieces of pie and some cheese I calmed down. The boulder aside, it was a very nice event and I had a good time.
The Kearney House is an old Revolutionary aged home that had been used by the Kearney family as Inn and resting place for sailors and shippers using the Hudson River back when it was bustling with trade. The family ended up selling it before WWI and it was bought by the parks system. The division that runs the Kearney House and fundraisers for its upkeep run these themed events.
The house was all lit up by candlelight in both rooms and both fireplaces were roaring when I got in the room. It was the pies that calmed me down. They offered three different pies, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple and Pumpkin that were from a bakery in Closter, NJ and were ‘out of this world’ delicious. The apple pie had the sweetest filling and tasted like pears were baked into it along with the apples. The strawberry rhubarb had a tangy-tart sweet filling to it and the pumpkin had a nicely baked creamy almost custard like filling all with this amazingly buttery crust. This is the type of pie that can make you forget all of your problems.
Kearney House story telling
On the table as well were wedges of sharp cheese and accompanying breads, roasted peanuts, ice cold water and served to you by volunteers in period costume. If I had not been so shaken when I entered the house (and of course the couple who helped me with the car told everyone at the party what happened so everyone was extra nice to me) and all the volunteers who helped with the event had not been so nice, it could have been a bad night.
The house lit by candle light and by the fireplace
Still there was a tour of the house both upstairs and into the attic, a musician playing songs and then a half hour of story telling all by the glow of candle and fire light that made the evening special. I ended up having a nice time talking to the other guests and getting to eat the endless slices of pie.
I left a little better than I arrived but I will tell you two things: I am NEVER going into this park again after dark, so matter what the event is and that was the last time I set foot in the Kearny House. It was so dark in the parking lot when I left I almost tripped on the barrier on side the of it.
My next trip up to the Hudson River in 2019 that next Sunday lead me to Beacon, NY to visit Pollepel Island/Bannerman Castle Island and to visit the mysterious castle in the middle of the Hudson River (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had talked about visiting Beacon, NY in my other blogs for the Third Thursday Shopping nights during the holidays and my visit to the DIA-Beacon in VisitingaMuseum.com.
When visiting Bannerman Island please remember that it is open seasonally and opens in later April and closes at the end of October so you have to plan your trip there accordingly. I got there the last Sunday it was open and please note that you do need advanced reservations to go to the island. I lucked out as there was two trips out to the island that day and there had been a cancellation that afternoon and I was able to make the boat trip.
The trip was on somewhat rough waters as it was a gloomy day with the sun peaking out only at the end of the tour. When we got to the island, we landed at the small dock and then had to walk up over 70 steps to the landing at the top of the hill. It wasn’t hard but hardly ADA compliant. We had excellent tour guide who knew the whole history of the island from when the family bought the island in 1900 to when the sons sold the island in the 1950’s.
The Bannerman Castle was actually an armory for munitions for the Bannerman company. Francis Bannerman IV bought the island to store his inventory of his military supply business and the items were stored there awaiting shipping to all over the world.
The castle itself had partially blown up in the 1920’s when the munitions caught fire and then in turn burned in 1969 and the interiors were destroyed. Recently part of the wall to the castle collapsed so the building is now being held up by metal rods to prevent further collapse.
The tour took us up the path toward the former arsenal so we could take a better look which is pretty dramatic sitting by the water with the vegetative growth around it. Mrs. Bannerman had once had the whole area landscaped with an exotic garden. Now that part is all growth and weeds.
Travelling up the path from the ‘castle’, we walked up the path that had been landscaped by the local garden clubs who have been put in charge of landscaping the old paths and gardens leading to the family mansion at the top of the hill. The mansion is going through a renovation so there is not much to see but there is a small gift shop inside and the history in the building. The outside of the mansion is being landscaped and used for theater show, movie nights and concerts. The views of the river are spectacular.
The view from the mansion on top of the hill
We exited down the back path and saw more interesting views of the Hudson River. There are more gardens on the way down and we heard more of the history of the island in that it was closed off until recently and was only visited by kayakers and adventurers. The island is now open for all sorts of activities.
On our way back, the tour guides gave us their own take on visiting the island which was pretty funny. They run these tours and can’t believe how mesmerized people are by buildings that were falling apart.
As we took the boat ride back to the dock in Beacon, I noticed that the foliage had an unusual line to it up on the hill. It was dead towards the top of the hill and the rest of the trees were combination of yellow and green. The tour guide said that an unusual early frost hit the trees and the ones at the top of the hill had already gone dormant.
It was unusual foliage in Beacon, New York
For the rest of the afternoon, I explored downtown Beacon and all the innovative stores and trendy restaurants. I ended up though eating at a Pizza and Stuff II Pizzeria at 339 Main Street. The pizza there is delicious. Those trendy restaurants prices are ridiculous and I am not too sure how the locals afford some of these places. Still it is a beautiful and quaint downtown with nice businesses set in the distance of the Hudson River mountains. The foliage around the town sets the tone.
As Halloween approaches, there will be more to do and see. Check out my blog on Halloween Again 2019.