Friday, March 23, 2012

March Maple Madness Event and Recipe

Bill continues to tap our maple trees boiling down the sap into maple syrup.  When he taps 20 gallons, the process will be finished obtaining two quarts of dark amber maple syrup.  We, of course, think it's Grade A because it's sweet, thick and delicious!  It will not be ready for me to use in my Maple Cheesecake as a treat for participants in the March Maple Madness event tomorrow (3/24) from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.  I'll use the award-winning maple syrup we purchase from Fullers Sugarhouse in Lancaster, NH.

If you would still like to come up to The Buttonwood Inn for the March Maple Madness event, reserve on-line today or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

If you cannot come for the event, think of us if you make this Maple Cheesecake recipe:

Maple Cheesecake

For crust:

24 5” x 2-1/2” graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)

For filling:

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make crust:

In a food processor, finely grind graham crackers. Add melted butter and maple syrup just until combined. Press evenly into bottom and up side of a 10-inch spring form pan. Wrap bottom and side of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil to avoid leakage.

Make filling:

In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on low speed, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add syrup and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and heavy cream and beat until just combined.

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 1 hour (cake will not be set in center but will set as it chills). Cool cake in pan on a rack. Chill cake, covered, at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove side of pan. Serve cheesecake in wedges, drizzled with maple syrup.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Northern Lights at the Buttonwood Inn?

Michigan Tech Photo
Most of us have heard of the northern lights, but did you know that recent sunspot activity  may promise some of the best lights in a long while? Scientists have tried a number of different methods for predicting when sunspots will occur and to what degree. Suffice it to say that although prediction has improved since the days of Galileo who, in 1612 during the summer months, made a series of sunspot observations, predictions are not always "spot on". After more than a decade of relative calm, the sun is said to be set for an active period with this week's past activity making all the headlines..

NASA Photo

We plan on taking some "night" trips to the "notches" just north of us to see what we can see. One of them, Crawford Notch, offers some great vantage points for viewing the Northern skies, not to mention beautiful mountains and forests. The other is the Pinkham Notch area. Imagine hiking to the top of Mt. Washington and taking in the view from there.  
Pinkham Notch Blog Photo
There is no shortage of wonderful viewing locations and we hope to be able to share some of our own images with you soon. Happy exploring from the Buttonwood Inn on Mt. Surprise!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Maple Syrup time at the Buttonwood Inn on Mt. Surprise

The homemade taps are up on the trees and the sap is flowing really well today. For those who have never tried this, as was the case with me until just last year, it is really simple and the reward of fresh, dark, sweet maple syrup, that you can say you made, is just great. Here is a great website for learning how to do it your self: Make your own Maple Syrup 

Simple tap setup

 This picture is an example of how you can use everyday things from around the house to tap, collect, and make your own syrup. Of course, you can always buy the Starter Kits on line. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider how much fun you will have, and the fact that the syrup you are producing is quite expensive if you were to buy "pure" malple syrup at your local grocery store. The process is simple and the tree does most of the work. I even made the "Spiles" which are the metal tubes inserted into the 2 inch deep holes drilled into the tree at a slight upward angle. As for boiling the sap down, the quoted ratio is 40 to 1. That is, for every 40 gallons you boil down you end up with 1 gallon of sap. I usually shoot for a couple of quarts. The sap looks and flows like water initially and don't worry, the trees produce an abundance of sap and as long as you don't place more than one tap for every 10 inches of tree diameter you will be OK and the tree won't notice either.

Boiling off the first sap of the season

If you really get into it, and decide to produce gallons of syrup, then you might want to consider boiling it down the old fashioned way which is done outside or in a "sugar shack" using a wood fire. There is something to be said for "getting back to nature"!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I think I may switch to a gluten-free diet...

Because the food is equally as delicious as the wheat-based products.  I've adapted my breakfast and afternoon baked treat recipes providing a gluten-free version of what the guest's traveling partner is served.  Over the past year and a half, we've increasingly catered to our guests who require gluten-free due to their Celiacs disease.  Consequently, I refer to the cookbook, The Gluten-free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman, to mix various gluten-free flours making pancakes, waffles, quick bread, cookies, and brownies.

This morning, for example, I served blintzes filled with lemon ricotta topped with warm strawberry sauce.  I made a separate crepe batter substituting gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour.  It's a little extra work to prepare gluten-free products, but the gratification our guests express to us makes it all worthwhile. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March Winter Morning 2012

Well March has started out as a snowfilled month with two substantial snowfalls already and it is only the 3rd of the month.  This morning's view from the Inn's dining room was nothing less than magical (if I do say so myself). I could not resist snapping a few pictures of the unusual icicle formation on one of the bird feeders our guests can see as they enjoy one of Paula's tantalizing breakfasts.

 It looks like an icy little birdcage prison according to our guests this morning. Fortunately, the other birdfeeders were clear for the group of Dark-eyed Juncos . A whole group of them left tiny little 'footprints' in the snow on the front porch. It looks as if a miniature ballet took place while everyone was asleep.

From time to time, if we are lucky, we will see a Barred Owl fly from tree stand to tree stand behind the Inn and the sight is breathtaking, especially when snow is falling. The Barred Owl is familiar for its distinctive "who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all" hooting. Check out this YouTube video:

Winter certainly brings some amazing things and as we approach Spring at the Buttonwood Inn on the top of Mount Surprise, we'll be looking forward to seeing a whole host of local hawks, deer, moose, bear, not to mention the migratory hummingbirds that love our homemade hummingbird nectar. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Buttonwood Inn Astronomy Update

Although the nights recently have been cloud covered and full of snow (no complaints of course), about two weeks ago, on a Thursday night, I pointed the Inn's telescope toward the Constellation Orion, specifically looking for the Orion Nebula.

Meade 10 Inch
 I am really new to the whole digital image thing but I have always wanted to try my luck at taking pictures with a decent single lens reflex camera hooked directly to the telescope's viewfinder which is called prime focus coupling.

With today's cameras you can fairly easily see the image of the object you are trying to photograph directly in the eyepiece of the camera, or, in the case of some digital cameras with LCD screens, you can view the image directly on the screen and make some adjustments and view the "live" image before taking the actual photograph.

There are other methods, such as using the telescope's eyepiece as you would normally view the night sky and then, using a special mount, attaching the camera with it's lens so that you focus on the image in the eyepiece. Here is an example of that type of device.

When all is said and done, there are certainly other factors affecting the final image, some camera related, and others telescope related, which we I hope to discuss in future blogs. For the time being, here is a quick single image shot I took on that Thursday night two weeks ago and although it is certainly not a "Hubble telescope" quality image I was still excited about the fact that it worked. Hope you enjoy it.

Orion Nebula Canon T3i Prime Focus Meade LXD 10 inch

North Conway Named 1 of 25 World's Best Ski Towns by National Geographic

Folks in the Northeast U.S. do not have to travel far to stay and ski in 1 of 25 world's best ski towns recently named by National Geographic.  They can visit North Conway, NH in the heart of The Presidential Range of the White Mountains.  Mt. Washington is the highest peak at 6,288 feet on the East Coast.  There are seven alpine ski mountains in Mt. Washington Valley and six cross-country ski trails all within a half-hour of North Conway.  The first purpose-cut ski runs and ski schools in North America were established here in the 1930s.

Cranmore Mountain Resort located just outside of the village attracts families because of its excellent ski school.  It also has non-skiing attractions like snow tubing, a mountain coaster, climbing walls, and indoor tennis.

We're hoping that March will go out like a LION with more snow accumulation for skiing and snowshoeing opportunities for everyone. 

The Buttonwood Inn has a lot to offer everyone and we're just 5 mintues from the village.  We also have access to snowshoe trails out our back door.

We also have discounted ski tickets for our guests.  So check out our ski packages and book on-line or call us at 1-800-258-2625 today!

Mt. Pierce--An Accessible Winter Climb to the Summit

North Conway's local hiking expert, Ed Parsons, recently wrote in The Conway Daily Sun that Mt. Pierce is a good hike for your first time in reaching the summit of one of The Presidentials.  Most hikers don't climb the 4,000 footers in the winter, except for the extreme hikers, because of the bitter cold winds and sometimes harsh weather conditions.

Mt. Pierce is doable in the winter if you choose a clear, sunny day and start out in the morning.  A moderate 3.2 mile trail is accessible from Crawford Path across from the Appalachian Mountain Center on Route 302.  After passing the trail into the Mitzpah Hut, you leave the forested path to walk about a tenth of a mile to the summit of Mt. Pierce.  Here you have an astounding view of Mt. Washington from this southerly Presidential Peak.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Full House for the Chocolate Festival!

The Butttonwood Inn was full this weekend mainly for the Chocolate Festival and snowshoers.  The rest of our guests had fun on the slopes downhill skiing.  In fact, we had a group stay with us for the full week.  At the end of their adventurous skiing or snowshoeing activities, they enjoyed our hot tub to recuperate and relax their muscles.

Getting back to the Chocolate Festival, many local businesses participated giving out their special chocolate treats to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and folks who traveled by car.  Check out our Chocolate Festival package and you can reserve with us any time or call 1-800-258-2625 for this special fun-filled event.

Here's the recipe for our Diner Brownies, which I could not stop tasting to ensure their quality (a chef's guilty pleasure).

Diner Brownies

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup water
6 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9" by 13" baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and set aside.  In a saucepan, bring the butter, brown sugar, and water to a simmer.  Off the heat, whisk in the chopped unsweetened chocolate until dissolved and well combined; cool slightly.  Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Stir in the flour mixture.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat all ingredients together for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Then frost slightly cooled brownies.  The warmth from the brownies will melt the frosting slightly and coat it to a glossy finish.  Let cool completely before serving.

NOTE:  To make a gluten-free version, just substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour for the all-purpose flour.

Mount Willard Trail from The Buttonwood Inn on Mount Surprise

Weather is perfect this morning as our guests stir from their slumber. Coffee and tea are served and the oven and stove are fired up as Paula prepares another memorable breakfast.

The snowfall which started last night continues as we look to be headed towards at least another 8 inches. The trails out back of the Inn will be in great shape for snowshoeing and the local cross-country trails are all groomed and ready to go.

The photo above is from two of our guests who snowshoed up Mount Willard after I had suggested it to them during breakfast. They were definitely happy to have been able to see the beautiful panoramic views especially looking south straight down the Valley towards the towns of Bartlett, Glen, and North Conway.

What’s in the Mount Willard Area: 
Crawford Notch, one of the best examples of a glacially carved U-shaped valley anywhere in the world
•Evidence of rock slides on Mount Webster and Mount Willey
Peregrine falcons occasionally nest in the area

The trailhead for Mount Willard is located at the Gateway of Crawford Notch behind the Crawford Depot Information Center off US 302.

•From the Jackson-North Conway area, follow US 302 west at Glen where it splits from NH 16. US 302 passes through Bartlett, then heads north through Crawford Notch. At the top of the Notch, roughly 20 miles from the junction of NH 16 and US 302, the road goes through a narrow pass between two cliffs. The parking area for Crawford Depot, is a few hundred yards up the road on the left.

•From Twin Mountain, take US 302 east. Crawford Depot is on the right just beyond the turnoff for the AMC’s Highland Center, about eight miles south of the junction of US 302 and US 3.

Happy Trails!