Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three of our favorite ways to cook a potato

There are many good ways to cook a potato and we try to include them in our breakfasts here at the Bridges Inn.  They are best in the summer, when they can be bought fresh at the Farmer's Market, but they're tasty and delicious year-round.  Here are a few recipes to try (for 2-3 people):

Potato Pancakes

Peel and grate 3 potatoes
Toss with 1 teaspoon salt
Let drain in strainer for 1 hour
Heat skillet on medium flame
Fill with shallow layer of oil
Carefully put dollop of potato in pan
Flatten with spatula (it will spatter)
Let cook until edges start to brown
Slide spatula under to release from pan and flip pancake
Let other side cook until brown
Drain on paper towel

Depending on your pan size, two or three pancakes can be cooking at the same time.  We like to serve them with apple sauce.  They're good reheated, too (in the toaster oven).

Hash

Peel 3 potatoes
Cut into small cubes
Plunge into boiling water briefly, until softened (3 minutes if very small)
Drain and reserve

Small dice these vegetables as well:
1/2 onion
1 carrot
1 rib celery

Saute onion, carrot, and celery in large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add a little oil, salt, and pepper.  Cook until browned and tender.  Add potato and toss together.  Cook for a few more minutes.  It tends to stick so you may have to scrape with a spatula or loosen it with a splash of water (Julia Child calls for stock).  Serve with toast and poached eggs.

Fennel or fresh herbs give it a wonderful flavor.  There's actually not very much that doesn't do well in hash.

Home fries

Peel 3 potatoes
Cut into medium-sized cubes about the size of a grape
Plunge into salted, boiling water for 8 minutes
Drain
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Drizzle baking sheet with oil
Spread potatoes in single layer
Lightly sprinkle with salt, pepper, or dried herbs (add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking)
Bake 1 hour total, but stir twice (after 20 minutes and then at 40 minutes)

They should be nice and golden on the outside and soft in the middle.  Large batches take longer.  Sometimes we like to add a beet and/or a sweet potato.  As long as the pieces are of uniform size, they can all be treated like a potato.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Buy Local

Here in the Monadnock region, we are fortunate to have a strong local economy.  There is a great diversity of business, including manufacturing, insurance, tourism, education, and agriculture.  We also have groups that support these businesses.  One such group is Hannah Grimes, whose mission is to educate entrepreneurs.  They offer a wide variety of workshops and other assistance, providing knowledge and a chance to network .  And on Main Street they have a marketplace for local products.  We tell our guests at the Bridges Inn that no trip to downtown Keene is complete without stopping there.

Another group is Monadnock Buy Local (we like them on Facebook).  Recently, I met with Jen Risley to get some more information.  She explained that they work with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and schools.  A lot of their work can be done online, by connecting people and sharing ideas.  It sounds to me like they are building social capital and a stronger community.  She also recommended that I read a book by a local author, Antioch professor Tom Wessels.  It is called The Myth of Progress and helped me to understand some key concepts.

Wessels is concise, conveying the feeling of a deep understanding of and connection to the subject matter.  By calling into question some assumptions we may hold, he challenges us to be pro-active.  Starting today, we can begin to integrate our lives with the community, and we shouldn't wait for a law or someone to tell us to do so.  The local economy is a system, better understood as a whole rather than by its individual parts.  In fact, Wessels says, "...we are deceived into a sense that we can control things like nature, the economy, or social problems by tinkering with parts."

There is strength in diversity.  Wessels uses examples from the natural world.  In evolution, we see mutualism between species, where everyone gains and the ecosystem is made more resilient.  Looking at a system in its entirety, a cheaper upfront price often masks the true costs.  "If the price of all products truly reflected the cost in energy consumption related to their production and shipping, energy efficient products would have the lowest prices, and a market system would naturally push for energy efficiency," Wessels tells us.  Thus, the initial savings on a cheaper product are fleeting, while the premium we may be paying for a locally-produced product are actual savings in the long-run.


As an economics student at Keene State, I've learned that this is consistent with economic theory. Your neighbors are your customers and employees, so aggregate demand is boosted by shopping locally.  And sustainability is really just a long-term approach, in which a community is healthy because it can adapt to changes.

I was familiar with a few of the names mentioned in Wessels' book, such as Steve Keen and Al Bartlett, and I might add my own, Jeremy Rifkin's Empathic Civilization, if you want to learn more.  Wessels also taught me something about Pisgah State Park, right here in our own backyard.  At over 13,000 acres, it's second largest state park in New England and home to some old-growth trees.  I'll have to go out there and explore!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Covered Bridges Loop

Guests are always asking about the covered bridges.  There are six in the area, all quite close together and easy to visit in one loop.  The loop is just over 30 miles and can be done in an hour.


The tour begins at the Thompson Bridge, just a few hundred yards from the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House, where all the guest rooms are named after the local covered bridges.  The Thompson Bridge has also been known as the West Swanzey Covered Bridge and the Old Covered Bridge, but today it bears the name of famous Swanzey native Denman Thompson.
shown in a 1915 photo from the web

Taken in 2012, from the side
Continue west on California Street to Route 10.  Turn right, traveling north, for a mile.  Take a right onto Sawyer's Crossing Road and follow for two miles to the Cresson Bridge, also known as the Sawyer's Crossing Bridge



Continue until you reach a T-intersection with Eaton Road. Go left and soon bear right onto Route 32 heading south.  In 1.3 miles, you will reach Carlton Road on the left.  Drive a short distance to Carlton Bridge, which has the cozy feeling of an old barn.


Turn around and return to Route 32.  Take a left and continue south for a half mile. Turn right onto Swanzey Lake Road. At the end of the road, after 4 miles, you will reach a T-intersection. Proceed left onto Homestead Ave.  After three-quarters of a mile, make a sharp right onto Westport Village Road.  You will pass through the Slate Bridge, which was destroyed by fire in 1993 (left, shown pre-1993) and reopened in 2001 after being rebuilt (right, shown after 2001).

  

This road will quickly lead you back to Route 10.  Turn left onto Route 10, traveling south for a mile and a half.  Turn right onto Coombs Bridge Road and you will soon come to the Coombs Bridge.  Like many covered bridges, the Coombs Bridge is named for its original builder and owner



Turn around and return to Route 10. Take a right onto Route 10, traveling south for 5.4 miles to Winchester.  At the second traffic light, turn right onto Route 119, heading west towards Brattleboro. Go two miles and the Ashuelot Bridge will be on the left.  Considered by local historians to be one of New Hampshire's most elaborate covered bridges, it is 159 feet long, painted white with a red roof. 



Going back the way you came, turn right onto Route 119, continuing east for two miles. Take a left onto Route 10 heading north. In just over 10 miles, take a right onto California Street, go through the Thompson covered bridge, and the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House is the fifth house on the left.

Click here for additional information on The Covered Bridges of Southwest New Hampshire.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mount Caesar

There are at least three old cemeteries in Swanzey.  Today I visited the one in Swanzey Center at Mount Caesar.  If it looks cold, that's just because of the snow.  For someone moving around, it was quite comfortable.


On the right is the final resting place of Roswell Whitcomb (of Whitcomb House fame).  Here's a close up:


 He only had two children, with his first wife, and married his last wife when he was 75 years old.  Adrienne Naylor, a guest of the Bridges Inn, has been doing research on Mary Whitcomb based on an unidentified diary that she found at the Boston Public Library. Would wife number two be the same Mary Whitcomb?

Mount Caesar is a small hill in Swanzey Center.  There's a short trail up to the top of it, less than an hour round trip.  It's a very nice hike with a panoramic view like you'd expect on a taller mountain.  The Swanzey Airport can be seen on the left and the Bridges Inn is somewhere on the right, though not distinguishable in the photo.



A historical tour of Swanzey's old cemeteries along with presentations on the history of Swanzey will be part of the annual Swanzey Old Home Day program, which is scheduled  for Saturday, July 21, 2012. Mark your calendar and watch for details!