Monday, September 18, 2017

Hiking Mount Avalon

The A-Z Trail (Avalon-Zealand) is part of the Appalachian Trail and leads up to several mountain summits, Avalon, and the 4,000-footers Mounts Tom, Field, Willey, and Zealand.  On June 8, 2017, my dog, Britt, and I hiked up to the summit of Mount Avalon, part of the Crawford Notch-Sandwich Range, to an elevation of 3,442 feet with a gain of 1,550 feet totaling 3.7 miles.  The day started out sunny and cool with temperatures around 65 and changed to cloudy with threat of rain midway through the hike.  It didn’t rain though and at the end of the downward hike, the cloudy sky returned to a glorious blue and sunny sky.

The trail began behind the AMC’s (Appalachian Mountain Club) Macomber Family Information Center (Crawford Depot) on Route 302.  Shortly after beginning on the trail, most people take the left turn to climb up Mount Willard that offers a great scenic overlook down Crawford Notch.  I proceeded straight on the A-Z trail.  

A few minutes later I crossed Crawford Brook continuing a little farther taking a side trail to Beecher and Pearl Cascades.  Beecher was named for “famous abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who spent many summers in the White Mountains in the latter part of the 1800’s, with his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’” 

The Avalon trail continued gradually up with a stream nearby on the left.  Later the trail passed along paper birches on the right that was the result of a fire or logging in the 19th century.  After 1.3 miles, the forest changed primarily to spruce-fir trees where I took the left junction for Mount Avalon.  

The trail ascended steeply over rocks for 0.5 miles and for 100 yards some scrambling was required to reach the narrow summit.  The views are of the glacially carved Crawford Notch valley and the mountains of the Willey Range.

Many hikers have stayed with us scaling the 4,000-footers or “52 With a View” that are not over 4-000 feet.  I have become addicted to hiking.  I like to share my adventures in the Whites on Our Blog where you can read about my accounts of them that began in 2016. 

If you want to explore the trails of the White Mountains, the AMC website offers guided hikes and you can purchase various guides and maps in the online store or on Amazon.  As a novice hiker, check out the website Hike Safe to be well prepared for your outdoor adventure in the mountains.

If you stay at The Buttonwood Inn, you have access to our hiking trails on Bartlett Mountain in Merriman State Forest and Mount Kearsarge North or Black Cap Mountain nearby.  Reserve online your next hiking adventure with us or call us 1-800-258-2625.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pierogies Project - Videos

Every year I have been asked to make potato and cheese pierogies as one of the traditional Easter dinner items.  Last year, I posted a Blog on making pierogies and how they became a tradition and a favorite in our family.  You can also copy the recipe.  I prefer this version because the dough is easily made in the food processor and is the easiest dough to roll out and pinch. The potato filling is very cheesey that remains flavorful after freezing, defrosting, and reheating.  

This year while making pierogies, I thought it might be helpful to create four separate videos of the various stages of preparing and cooking them. Admittedly, pierogies are time consuming to make, but the end product is so delicious and your family will love you for it.  If you have any questions, just ask!

Pierogies Project - Part 1

Pierogies Project - Part 2
Pierogies Project - Part 3

Pierogies Project - Pinching Method

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fall Colors – 2016


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief,
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know…”
        Robert Frost

Beguiled we were when the White Mountains were ablaze in color this autumn.  The vibrant hues of red, purple, orange, and gold were spectacular and held on for a long time in New Hampshire.  In fact, there is still a lot of color on our trees at the end of October because the Buttonwood Inn is located at the southern end of the White Mountains National Forest and they turn later. 

At the northern end of the White Mountains, above Mount Washington, leaves began turning around the last weekend in September.  We directed many of our early “leaf peeper” guests north to view the color change.  They also had the choice of going up Mount Washington on the Cog Railway or drive or take the shuttle up on the Auto Road offering a fine vantage point to see more color in every direction at the summit.

On Columbus Day weekend, Bill and I were fortunate in being able to drive up to Crawford Notch near the Appalachian Mountain Club Center and observed the fall colors at peak.  Since we became innkeepers nine years ago, we were not able to leave the inn and see the White Mountains in all their autumnal glory.  Having decided to buy sandwiches, we stopped in at the White Mountain Cider Market & Deli beating the crowd who filed in behind us. 

Back on the road, Route 302, we followed cars in a stream of traffic at a leisurely pace passing cars from the opposite direction.  Usually this mountain road has very few cars on it.  It all seemed orderly with folks pulling over at various stops to capture images of the beauty of the colorful deciduous trees against the deep green of the conifers.  We pulled off onto Mt. Clinton Road in the area above Crawford Notch and found the last parking spot at the base of Mount Eisenhower

Sitting high above the road, we relished our delicious sandwiches while delighting in the views of the fiery White Mountains surrounding us.  We were in awe of the expansive array of color in the quiet of the mountains filling our hearts with nature’s beauty.  We continued onward to capture the view of the Omni Mount Washington under the back drop of the Presidentials in their full regalia of orange and deep coniferous green.  I felt this was God’s reward for us to experience having worked so hard and long for our guests this past October.

There were so many leaf peepers this peak Foliage weekend from New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and other parts of the United States.  This by far is the most popular month to reserve your vacation in advance viewing the magical colored forests of the White Mountains.  If you spend three or more nights, we can suggest other tours on the Kancamaugus Highway (a national scenic highway) over to Franconia Notch to Sugarhill then north to Route 2 which skirts past the northern part of the Presidentials.  There are many short walks through the forest to waterfalls and covered bridges along the way to experience nature.  We can also recommend scenic mountain hikes to the summit with views of the valley and surrounding mountains.  You can reserve at the Buttonwood Inn on-line or call us at 1-800-258-2625 for the next Fall Colors – 2017 vacation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

HIKING – 1ST 4,000 Footer – Mount Pierce (Mount Clinton)

If you’ve read either of my previous Blogs about our hiking adventures up Mount Kearsarge North and South Moat Mountain, you would know that Pennie, my hiking partner, and I would summit our first 4,000 footer (47 more to go).  Mount Pierce bestowed upon us 60 degree weather as we headed out on the trail at 10:35 am last Thursday, September, 1, 2016 climbing to the summit at 4,312 feet.  It is the longest and continually maintained trail in America.

Mount Clinton was originally named for the New York governor and senator by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) in 1837.  In 1913, the New Hampshire legislature instead renamed it Mount Pierce in honor of Franklin Pierce, who was the only New Hampshire resident named the fourteenth president.

It’s preferable to climb Mount Pierce from the trail head on Mount Clinton Road which is the Crawford Connector, Crawford Path, then Webster Cliff Trail with a 2,400 foot elevation gain at 6.4 miles round trip.  Pennie armed us with information she obtained from the AMC Highland Center the previous day.  She purchased the book, “The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains,” and waterproof trail map.  Pennie created a cheat sheet of the various connections and turns on the trail that we followed based on trail map.  She also packed “TheTen Essentials” highly recommended by the AMC for a safe hike.

The White Mountains are part of a band of boreal forest that spans the globe from North America through Eurasia.  It’s characterized by the biome of trees in each zone—pines, furs, and spruces are climax trees; deciduous like birch and maples are subclimax.  A local naturalist goes into greater detail about the various boreal zones on Mount Pierce.

As we forged up the mountain, we climbed a narrow boulder trail that initially passes along the Gibbs Brook for about a mile before connecting with the Crawford Path.  We were captivated by the bright green mosses on fallen trees and small open areas of velvety green carpeted flora among native wildflowers, like dogwood plants.  It was magical because the forest was not harvested by logging in the early 1800’s and has yellow birch, red spruce, and hemlock between 250 to 500 years old.  After 2.5 hours, we entered the alpine forest comprised of miniature pine trees that hugged the slabs of rock near the summit.  This is where we caught glimpses of the surrounding mountains and valley and became anxious to reach the top. 

Once we came out of the alpine forest, we were rewarded with an astoundingly beautiful view looking north at Mount Eisenhower over to Mount Washington (the highest peak in the photo).  What a great feeling of accomplishment Pennie and I both felt after training several months for this climb.  We both also felt very happy on the mountain top that fed our souls soaking in the sky and nature surrounding us.  We spied a hawk flying by as we ate our lunch.  At 2:35 pm, we headed back down the trail.

Though we were prepared with “The Ten Essentials,” at the summit, while eating lunch the temperature was about high 40’s to low 50’s Fahrenheit.  After half an hour, our fingers were cold and numb which lasted for another 30 minutes.  In addition to warm clothes, we also needed to bring gloves.

As we hiked down Mount Pierce, we were careful not to slip on any loose rocks and wet areas from trickling mountain streams crossing our path.  In the small pools, the dogs were able to drink water and cool down.  We were not alone on the mountain as we met other hikers both ways, some we conversed with for awhile giving us a chance to rest.  Around 4:30 pm, we returned to our car and began discussing our next big 4,000 footer hike and becoming members of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club!  If you enjoy hiking or walking to the many scenic sights in the White Mountains, you can reserve on-line at the Buttonwood Inn or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

HIKING South Moat Mountain

My neighbor and friend, Pennie, and I and our Golden Retrievers, Shawnee and Britt, hiked up South Moat Mountain yesterday.  It was a spectacular day for hiking because it was sunny with a crystal clear blue sky and a cool temperature around 70 degrees.  According to, the hike is 6 miles round trip lasting 4 hours and considered moderate to the summit at 2,770 feet.  This is confounding to us because this local hiker determined the Mount Kearsarge North trail hike strenuous, yet, by comparison, Pennie and I considered it moderate strenuous compared to the South Moat hike.  In fact, we considered South Moat strenuous because at least halfway up, the trail is steep, almost vertical, very craggy with boulders in some areas where you have scale up high steps.  Having trained four to five days a week on our nearby mountain trails, we considered ourselves physically fit.  But yesterday, we found ourselves climbing 20 yards or so to catch our breath.  South Moat encouraged us though to persevere with cool breezes and shady forest allowing our heart rates return to normal.  It took us three hours to get to the summit and two hours to come back down.  This may be a more accurate time because we were on parity with a young couple that we met on the trail and followed them or they followed us as they also had to stop and rest periodically.

I’m not discouraging anyone from hiking South Moat Mountain trail because it began with a gradual path through the forest up a wide shaded path along a drop off gaining elevation, while viewing the forest of pines below.  Eventually the trail crosses a bridge and clear running stream where our dogs drank water and cooled off.  The gentle climb continued until about halfway up where the steep boulder trail began.  It’s not constant because the trail winds through forested areas that were not as steep where we  stopped to snack and drink water.  We hiked for about two hours before we caught views of the neighboring mountains.  Then we stopped at the open rock outcroppings to take in our first glorious view looking southeast at the mountains towards Chocurua.  The dogs drank water out of a small pool in the granite slab from the previous night’s rainfall.  This view inspired us to reach the top no matter how long it took for us to get there.  Three hours later we reached the summit and were rewarded with fantastic views in every direction.

Though it was an arduous climb to the top, Pennie and I discussed how to hike more expediently on our next long climb.  Our energy stores were sapped pretty quickly when we reached the steep part of the trail.  In retrospect, we should have fueled up at breakfast with a hearty hot cereal and a nutritious smoothie drink. We also needed to eat a snack and drink water before we set off at 11:45 am.  Then an hour later, we should have had part of our lunch because it was our normal time to eat.  Afterwards, when we felt we needed an additional energy boost, we needed to snack more often on granola bars, fruit, vegetables, or peanut butter on crackers.  On the way down, we should have snacked because we were running on fumes and were just determined to get ourselves and the dogs to the car.

Pennie had the ingenious idea of filling her Camel water bladder with ice and water that  she attached to the inside of her back pack.  It lay directly on her back keeping her cool and also kept her lunch and snacks cool.  She was also able to hydrate along the way by sipping water from the tube connected to the bladder without going into her back pack.  I brought two water bottles that added weight and I only drank water when we stopped to give the dogs water taking off my back pack to get it.  I didn’t want to continually do that because I felt it would slow us down even more, so I drank less water.  I will now be using the water bladder!

We learned a lot from this challenging and wonderful climb and know we will continue our climbing adventures in the White Mountains.  Our next big hike is a 4,000-footer, Mount Pierce.  Stay tuned on Our Blog for that story!  If you enjoy hiking or walking to the many scenic sights in the White Mountains, you can reserve on-line at the Buttonwood Inn or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Friday, July 1, 2016

HIKING Mount Kearsarge North

My neighbor and friend, Pennie, and I have been training for the last month by walking our Golden Retrievers, Shawnee and Britt, on the various mountain roads and trails for one to two hours several days a week.  Our mission is to summit the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains

Yesterday, we hiked to the summit of Mount Kearsarge North that we both see from our backyards.  Many of our guests enjoy hiking this trail because it’s located one minute away from the Buttonwood Inn on Hurricane Mountain Road and there is a 360 degree view at the top.   There is also a well-maintained fire tower with a log book for hikers to sign about their experience going up the trail. 

It is not a 4,000 footer, but a very good start because it’s a 6.2 mile round trip strenuous climb that can be achieved in five hours.  We started out at 9:30 am and were fortunate that the day was crystal clear blue sky and sunny with a cool 60 degree temperature.  We reached the summit at 3,268 feet in 3 hours, but we had to stop many times to catch our breath on the steep trail incline.  It gave us a chance to feel the cool breeze and catch the morning sunlight dappling the evergreen trees that the forest offered us. 

About two-thirds of the way up, we came out into the sunlight onto the rock outcroppings.  A little further up, we rested for a time to drink water, eat snacks, and take in the view West of North Conway, the Moats, and Cathedral Ledge and the many mountains beyond. From there, we continued climbing another hour and reached the summit at 12:30 pm.  How exciting it was for us because we’ve been talking about climbing this mountain for several year!.  

Our perseverance paid off because the 360 view was astoundingly beautiful.  We spent an hour at the top having lunch, taking photos, and climbing the fire tower signing the hikers’ log book of our excursion up the mountain.

At 1:30 pm, we proceeded down the trail which seemed much easier on our cardiovascular system as our breathing returned to normal.  The challenge was to carefully proceed down the rocky and root-bound craggy trail until we reached the gently slopping  rock outcroppings.  Back in the forest, we were shielded us from the mid-afternoon sunlight and the dogs were able to dip into several little pools of water to cool down.  The last 20 minutes of the trail rewarded us with a gentle climb down to an almost level trail on the soft pine needles.  Pennie and I reached the end in two hours and “high fived” each other on our first mountain adventure together!  We plan to summit South Moat Mountain on our next hike and will keep you posted.

Come stay with us for your hiking adventure at the Buttonwood Inn and BOOK NOW or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Pierogies are all the rage!

It’s a tradition in our family to make Potato and Cheddar Cheese Pierogies as a side dish for Easter.  It’s a Polish comfort food consisting of a noodle dough pocket encasing the potato cheddar cheese filling, our families' favorite which are consumed as soon as they arrive on the table.

Various cooking magazines and websites have been featuring pierogi recipes with novel fillings like beef, onion, and cheddar; bacon, onion, and spinach; or cottage cheese and blueberries.  My Polish cookbook contains seven different dough recipes and forty different fillings, both savory and sweet.  I also have made mushroom filled pierogies with minced mushrooms, onions, parsley, heavy cream, salt, and pepper.

Shortly after Easter, I was asked by my daughter and her sister-in-law to teach them how to make Potato and Cheddar Cheese Pierogies.  My daughter needed a refresher course having helped her grandmothers make them growing up.  Though it’s time consuming to make about 50 pierogies, I do it in two steps.  First, I make the potato and cheese filling and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to solidify.  Meanwhile I make two separate batches of the dough in the food processor and let it rest for a half hour.  The gluten in the flour relaxes making it easier to roll out this very forgiving dough.  The trickiest part is carefully lifting the filling on the dough off of the counter and gently holding it to pinch the dough shut.  Once you master this, you can make 50 pierogies in about an hour.  After the pierogies are all formed, boiling each batch of 12 takes about 3 minutes.  I serve them with melted butter and sautéed chopped Vidalia onion.  The creaminess of the filling and the soft delicacy of the dough is to die for!  Check out my recipe.  

I also invite you to come stay with us at the Buttonwood Inn for my creative gourmet breakfasts and afternoon baked treats.  BOOK NOW or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

POTATO AND CHEDDAR CHEESE PIEROGIES                       Yield:  About 48 pierogies


2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
½ cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

In a food processor, blend the eggs, water, and sour cream.  Then add the flour and salt and combine until the dough forms and moves away from the sides of the processor.  Remove the dough, split it in half, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let rest for half an hour to relax it for easy rolling.

Note:  You may have to make one more batch of dough to finish off the potato filling.


4 large Russet potatoes
1 to 1-1/2 pounds extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and boil until fork tender.  Drain and return to pot and mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill.  Add the shredded cheese to the warm potatoes.  Meanwhile, heat the butter and milk in a saucepan until tiny bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from heat and add the salt and pepper and pour over the potato and cheese combining until somewhat chunky texture,  Do not over mix to a creamy consistency like mashed potatoes because the potato mixture will slip out of the dough when pinching each pierogi.  Let the potato and cheese mixture cool to a firm texture for easy spooning onto the dough circles.

Rolling, filling, and pinching:

Unwrap the dough and slice into quarters and rewrap the three quarters.  Lightly flour a sheet pan and the table or counter and roll out the dough to 1/8” thick.  Cut out 3-1/2” circles with a large plastic drink cup. 

Drop 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of potato cheese filling and begin pulling over the dough to stick it to the opposite side.  Then pick up the pierogi and begin pinching at the ends being careful to stretch out the dough more over the filling to seal it in, then double pinch for a complete seal.  Lay each on down on the floured sheet pan until full and then tap off excess flour to avoid the dough from becoming tough.

Drop one dozen at a time into salted boiling water in a large pot and cook for about 3 minutes until they float to the top.  Give a quick stir if they don’t come up.  You can transfer them to a serving dish with melted butter.  I’ve also sautéed onions until translucent in butter or sage in butter as a sauce.

The rest can be frozen on sheet pan then put in gallon freezer bags for future use.  Note:  Do not defrost the frozen pierogies because the dough will become soft and the filling will leak out.  As soon the water boils, drop them in and cook as directed as above for the unfrozen ones. 


Monday, March 28, 2016

Maple Sugaring in New Hampshire

In late February and most of March, when the weather is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, many folks in New England begin tapping sugar maple trees.  The rising temperatures creating pressure below and above the ground in the maple tree cause the sap to flow.  The girth of the maple determines how many taps to put into it.  The sap resembles water and tastes slightly sweet. 

March is when the New Hampshire Maple Syrup Producers open their doors each weekend to visitors viewing their large scale sugaring operations where many sell maple syrup to candies.  We serve award-winning maple syrup at breakfast made by the multi-generational, family-run business Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster, NH. Their grand scale operation produces more than 4,000 gallons of maple syrup each year. 

When we moved up to New Hampshire from New Jersey, we saw that some of our neighbors tapped their maple trees running plastic lines from tree to tree emptying sap into a plastic barrel.  We decided to join in the fun and tap some of our sugar maples, including one over 100 years old.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of dark, thick maple syrup but we pressed on not caring how long it would take us to boil it down.

Bill drilled a hole into the tree and hammered in a copper spile that he fastened to an empty plastic milk jug collecting the sap.  Each day, we would empty the sap into a large stock pot, bring it to a boil on our gas stove, turn off the flame, and let the heat from the pilot light under the pot generate enough heat for condensation of water in the sap to occur.  A slower process that took about one week, but the end result was the same as if we boiled it constantly.  The sap eventually reduced down to a dark amber maple syrup that was thick and sweet.  Our small scale operation yielded over 1-1/2 quarts of syrup which we proudly bottled for our children in New Jersey.

Our neighbor was more ambitious. He boiled sap on a wood fire pit near the edge of the forest where he tapped the sugar maples.  This larger scale home operation was more efficient because plastic tubes were connected to taps in about a dozen maple trees dripping sap into several large containers.  The sap was emptied into metal trays and boiled over the fire at a faster rate.  The wood was replenished all day until the sap became maple syrup.  The family rotated monitoring the sap boiling process.  It’s an enjoyable way to spend the day in an idyllic setting of forest, stream, and mountains.

Outdoor photos courtesy of Brian Boyle
Bottled photo courtesy of Bill Petrone

Friday, March 11, 2016

March Maple Madness Inn-to-Inn Tour – March 19, 2016

If you enjoy maple flavored treats, both sweet and savory, come stay at the Buttonwood Inn on March 18 and 19, 2016 for the March MapleMadness inn-to-inn tour.  Participants travel to the inns and maple sugar houses sampling maple-inspired treats and  receive the recipes.  If you go to each inn and obtain the puzzle piece, you will have a chance to win first prize of a $200 gift certificate for a weekend stay at any of these inns, including other gifts in the basket.

It’s a fun event because you not only sample maple treats, but tour each inn while meeting the innkeepers.  Some folks are interested in the Buttonwood Inn history which we elucidate them on or they can read it on our wall in the Mount Surprise Room.  It’s a full day of stops at ten inns and five sugarhouses where you can view their sugaring operations.

You can reserve online or call us at 1-800-258-2625 for this fun-filled and delicious event!

Chef Paula will be making Maple Ice Cream with Grade B maple syrup that is darker amber and more concentrated in flavor purchased from  Fuller’s Sugarhouse.  We serve their Grade A Amber maple syrup at breakfast.  Try this very “mapley” and creamy ice cream recipe:

Maple Ice Cream

2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1-3/4 cups heavy cream
¾ cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl of half ice and half water.  Heat the maple syrup in small saucepan over medium heat, simmering until reduced by a quarter, about 5 minutes, and set aside.

Heat the cream and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk the yolks in a medium bowl until light in color and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Once the milk mixture is simmering, remove from the heat and pour about ½ cup into the yolks, whisking constantly.  Return the yolk mixture to the saucepan with the milk mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes (when you run your finger on the back of the spoon, the line should not run back onto itself).

Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the maple syrup reduction and salt.  Pour the custard into a strainer into a large bowl and place it over the ice bath until chilled, about 40 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Then freeze the ice cream custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

27th Annual Chocolate Festival…

…is always a popular event on the last Sunday in February because chocolate lovers can cross country ski or snow shoe the trails, while consuming chocolate treats along the way.  Other participants walk or drive to each chocolate laden stop.

The Buttonwood Inn was off the beaten path and folks came up to our Bed and Breakfast sampling Paula’s chocolate delights and toured the inn.  Our inn was open from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. A few of the participants mentioned that they had been doing the Chocolate Festival for many years skiing the trails and stopping at points in North Conway village, but didn’t have enough time to come to the Buttonwood Inn. When they heard from others that our chocolate treats were the best, they had to come up this year to sample it.  A mother and daughter who live nearby came in just under the wire and asked, “Can we still receive the chocolate treat because we heard yours was the best?”  I said, “You’ve come all the way up here, so, of course, you can try a mini blackout cupcake.”  As they ate it, their faces expressed joy of the chocolate deliciousness and said, “We are so glad we made it up here because this is the best chocolate treat today.”  Every chef likes to hear their food is the best we’ve ever eaten because you know and your guests know how much attention and love you put into preparing it.

When I researched various chocolate recipes, I thought that a Chocolate Blackout Cake, a three-layer very dark chocolate cake (almost black) with chocolate pudding layers and frosting coated with chocolate cake crumbs, would be irresistible no matter how many chocolate treats were already consumed.  We were pretty much the last stop, but it was unanimous by everyone that the velvety dark chocolate pudding coated with dark chocolate cake crumbs on top of the moist, black chocolate cake layer was exquisitely luscious.  

Later at our afternoon tea service, I served our guests a regular sized Blackout Cupcake who commented, “this was the best cupcake they’ve ever had.”  I make cupcakes every Saturday afternoon because they are so popular among everyone.  When guests see them on the buffet table, I enjoy hearing them exclaim, “Oooh, cupcakes!”  We never found any left on the plate the next morning.

Reserve online for next year's Chocolate Festival or anytime at the Buttonwood Inn or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Have fun trying this recipe.

Chocolate Blackout Cupcakes

Yield:  About 30 cupcakes


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Fill cupcake pans with paper liners. 

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then stir in cocoa for about 1 minute.  Take off the heat and whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and add to the flour mixture and mix until well combined.  Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake papers with the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake comes out clean.  Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.  Reserve 2 to 3 cupcakes to grind into crumbs in a food processor.

Pudding Frosting:

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, cook the sugar, chocolate, half-and-half, milk, cornstarch and salt over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 3 to 5 minutes, or longer.  Stir in the vanilla and pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap tightly to the top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight until cold and very thick.

Frost each cupcake with a ½ inch thick layer (or more) of pudding frosting and sprinkle cupcake crumbs on top.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Polar Express Excitement in December!

Tickets are now available for this year's Polar Express event. Call for details at 1-800-258-2625.

Here is what you will have to look forward to so don't delay.

As the first families began arriving for their Polar Express experience this past December, the Buttonwood Inn was decorated throughout as Bill and I had begun decorating the week before Thanksgiving.  Our own children are married and live in New Jersey, so we do not always get to spend the holidays with them.  We are transported back to those Christmas holidays we experienced with our own children when families arrive at the Buttonwood observing their excitement and wonder as the children “discover” all the Inn has to offer.  Cupcakes and hot chocolate await them on our Dining Room table at our afternoon tea service.  On Saturday afternoon, I put out my hand-decorated sugar cookies for the children and their parents to enjoy before they leave for the Polar Express train ride.  

The Journey to the North Pole - Polar Express event is a re-creation of the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg book and the 2004 animated movie starring Tom Hanks.  It originated in North Conway back in the 1990’s.  On Saturday, our families arrive at the Victorian Conway Scenic Railroad station located behind the charming New England green, which faces the decorated shops and restaurants.  The slopes of the Cranmore Mountain Ski Resort, which overlook the town, are all lit up and conjure up visions of Santa Claus and his reindeer’s impending arrival.  Everyone is ushered onto the train traveling through the forest to the North Pole where the magical journey begins.   

Back here at The Buttonwood Inn, when we are all alone, we can hear the train whistle blow several times marking the beginning of the Polar Express journey to the North Pole.  That train whistle always sparks my memory of our Polar Express experience several years ago.  We were caught up in the merriment of the passengers singing carols while hot chocolate and candy was passed out by the chefs on the train.   Upon arriving at the North Pole, we all filed off the train and proceeded up the lantern-lit path while being greeted joyously by elves.  When I looked back down the hill at the Polar Express lit up inside waiting for us to return, I felt like we were seeing the same vision of it as if we were in the movie. 

The next morning at breakfast, the children happily tell us about meeting Santa Claus and show us the bells that they received from Santa. There is joy in air as the children of the different families finish breakfast and head down to the Mount Surprise Room to play games with each other.  We had two fathers take turns on Saturday and Sunday mornings leading the children in playing “Cooties.”  The young children were laughing and squealing with delight so loudly that one of the mothers and I ran down to make sure they were happy noises…of course, they were.  This kind of merriment is what we take pleasure in most when families or other guests come stay with us because they are comfortable enough in our home to share their cheerful moments with us. 

Several families have come back to The Buttonwood Inn for the Polar Express.  If you are interested in coming back or you would like to reserve with us for the first time, please call us at 1-800-258-2625 for information and pricing.

PO Box 1817  64 Mt. Surprise Rd.  North Conway, New Hampshire 03860-1817800-258-2625  603-356-2625  Fax: 603-356-3140  Send us an E-mail!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March Maple Madness!!! Maple Meatballs Recipe

Today, March 21, 2015, from 10 am to 5 pm, we received many visitors to The Buttonwood Inn for the annual March Maple Madness inn-to-inn tour.  In order to win the grand prize, we provided them with answers to questions and a piece to solve the puzzle.  The participants also sampled maple inspired treats, either sweet or savory, at each stop.  Check out our package and book on-line or call us at 1-800-258-2625 for next March 2016! 

I created a low fat recipe of Maple Meatballs that are my riff on Swedish Meatballs made with ground turkey.  I've been obsessed lately with incorporating toasted and mashed juniper berries in sauces for various meats and fish.  When toasted and mashed, juniper berries are complex and smell like the forest with honey, pine, berry, and bitter at the end.  I added them to the sauce, while adding garam masala to the meatballs.  Here's the recipe which is great as an appetizer or entree served with creamy polenta, rice, or pasta.

MAPLE MEATBALLS                                           Yield:  About 50 1-inch size

2 pounds ground turkey
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 large clove fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon juniper berries, toasted and mashed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Form into 1-inch meatballs and drop with a 1” cookies scoop into a hot saucepan in 2 tablespoons of canola oil until browned on both sides.  Fry in several batches (may need to add more oil to the pan) and place on a sheet pan until all are done.

In the empty sauce pan, add chicken broth, maple syrup, juniper berries, bay leaf and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile mix the corn starch and water until dissolved and add to the pan to thicken the sauce.  Salt and pepper the sauce to your taste.  Then add meatballs and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes until completely cooked.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Shoeing and Trail Mapping

All of us who live on Mount Surprise and Abbot Brook Roads that border Bartlett Mountain have been reveling in the fact that we can strap on the snow shoes and hit the trails.  The soft snow this winter has also been perfect for downhill and cross-country skiing. 

This afternoon, Bill and I strapped on our snow shoes and “bootied up” the dog to map out the Buttonwood Inn and Mt. Surprise Loop Trail beginning in our back yard. This is the first of many more trail maps on Bartlett Mountain we will create for guests to download on their Smart phones and follow without getting lost. 

It was a balmy 39 degrees Fahrenheit with a crystal clear blue sky with not a cloud in it.  The sunlight revealed the glittery snow in the field and the shaded path reflected blue on it.  Britt’s (the dog) coat exposed its pinkish red hues that complemented his red booties, so I nicknamed him “Ginger.”  We were taking in the view of the Moat Mountains at our favorite spot on the Buttonwood Inn trail.

Along this loop trail, we observed a lot more deer track paths intersecting the snow shoe trail this year.  We also noticed the hollowed out snow where they slept.  It’s a good sign that the coyotes have gone deeper into the Whites for the winter allowing the deer population to flourish.

All along the trail, we periodically stopped listening to the quietude of our enchanted forest.  Once along it, we heard a bird chirping in the distance, otherwise nothing but peace.  This is the attraction not only for us to enjoy the serenity, but for our Buttonwood Inn guests and neighbors too.

If you want to explore these beautiful, peaceful trails behind the Buttonwood Inn, you can reserve online or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Valentine’s Day – a celebration of love…

And romance in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.  It is believed that Valentine’s Day may have originated in the 5th Century in Rome, while there are other versions on how it may have begun at

The first time I became intrigued with this holiday, I was in grammar school in the 1960’s and our teacher encouraged us to handout simple Valentine’s cards to each member of the class.  When I went to middle school, this tradition ended.  In high school, I met my real Valentine in my late teens and we’ve been exchanging cards and chocolates since then.  We like to keep it simple because we both feel it’s more important to show our love and appreciation for each other every day with modest gestures.

Valentine’s Day weekend is also fun for us as innkeepers because we are fully booked at The Buttonwood Inn and have a lot company.  During this cold winter weekend, Bill has both fireplaces roaring in the Living Room and Mount Surprise Room making it cozy for everyone.  It gives me the chance to bake chocolate confections for afternoon tea service and make more creative gourmet breakfasts.  Since I’ve been making breads lately, I plan to make a new sweet breakfast of Cinnamon Swirl French Toast stuffed with Hazelnut Chocolate, Slivered Almonds, and Bananas.

If you would like to join us next year, check out our Valentine Weekend Lovers Package and reserve online or call us at 1-800-258-2625/

For family, friends, and guests we will not see on Valentine’s weekend, we wish you a lovely and romantic one with your sweetheart.