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A Collection of Luxury New England Bed & Breakfasts and Country Inns
By Marti Mayne
Each innkeeper profile featured on the DINE blog features another amazing story about the dedication, compassion and commitment of DINE innkeepers. Having the opportunity to write these stories gives me special insight into the amazing people who make up the Distinctive Inns of New England. Truly the most amazing part about working and staying at inns are the people. Getting to know the innkeepers and the guests who stay at their inns is something that sets the B&B experience apart from hotels and resorts. Next time you’re considering a romantic New England getaway, consider a DINE inn, where the friendly and welcoming innkeepers will be as important a part of your stay as the accommodations and culinary vacations they provide.
Read on to learn about Karl Sabo and Jane Howard, whose international flair and culinary experience are just a few ingredients to their recipe for years of success at the Deerfield Inn.
Meet Karl Sabo and Jane Howard, innkeepers at the Deerfield Inn for 27 years.
Karl was born in Niskayuna, NY outside Albany. He moved to Long Island as a toddler while his dad completed graduate work at NYU until the family relocated to the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, where his love for the outdoors was fueled spent every day outside in the woods and by the streams. Karl started his culinary career at the ripe age of 14, working the night shift at Dunkin’ Donuts. From there he graduated to working as an apprentice under a talented French chef in Moravia, NY. It’s here Karl learned the meaning of “duck” as the volatile chef would fling lobsters at the staff once he had cut the bands off the lobsters’ claws. After graduating from high school, Karl talked his way into a job on an ocean cruise liner working every station in the kitchen and making ice sculptures. After his stint at sea, Karl attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and got through in only two years for experience earned through his colorful culinary career to date.
After CIA, Karl took a job as a cook in a ski lodge at Magic Mountain in Vermont. A story is told that Karl had a friend there whose father was a veterinarian. The friend knew that Karl had a very tight budget to produce varied and vast amounts of food for hungry skiers, so asked him if he would like the testicles of the bullocks that his dad was castrating as the country folk routinely cooked and ate them. Karl did his research and made something traditionally known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. The skiers declared the stew delicious. One of the skiers was a food writer for the NY Times and he wrote of his ski weekend experience and the food at this lodge.
Somebody at the “21” Club read the article and decided they needed a young man like that working for them and plied Karl from the mountains of Vermont to the Big Apple. Karl worked at the renowned “21” Club in Manhattan in a number of positions as burger chef (yes, he knows the secret of the famous $21 “21 burger”) , management-staff liaison, and finally as Director of Purchasing. In those days, purchasing was a murky cash business, occurring at night with body guards!
Jane came into the picture when she filled in as a date for a young man whom Karl was to show around the NY City restaurant scene. Jane and her date surprised Karl who was in his sweatpants watching TV, but being the nice guy he was, Karl introduced Jane and her date to the restaurants in East Village. The next day, Jane kissed her date goodbye, joined Karl at the Opera (much more to both their liking) and the rest is history.
Jane was born in Bombay, India, where she lived for the first six years of her life. From there, the family had short six-month stint in Paris before moving to Hong Kong for the next eleven years, following her father’s career with the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. Jane attended boarding school in England, and eventually, the whole family relocated there, where Jane continued her studies at Southampton University then Bristol University.
After college, Jane moved to London and worked for the BBC’s Radio Four writing concert intermissions pieces such as Letters Home from Hollywood by Charlie Chaplin, HG Wells, and Schoenberg. Here she got involved in publishing, working on specialty books offering how to’s in careers like IT, Marketing, Economics, etc. and were the pre-cursors to the “For Dummies” series. The publishing company Jane worked for was eventually acquired by Macmillan and Macmillan acquired St Martin’s Press for access to the American printing houses. This brought her to New York where she met Karl.
After being married, two children were born – John (now in graduate school in the U.K.) and Kate (a recent college grad). Even before they came along, however, Karl and Jane decided Manhattan in the early 1980s was not the place to raise children (“too many needles in the playgrounds,” said Jane).
“We used to spend every weekend we managed to get going to inns within a 3-hour drive of Manhattan as a getaway,” reminisced Jane. “We read in the Sunday NY Times of a seminar called How to Own & Operate a Country Inn run by Bill Oates. We drove to Eagles Mere, PA, and passed tests as a couple that could work together without turning into alcoholics and hating each other. We looked into how we could get a place of our own. Then Historic Deerfield hired Bill as a consultant to make one last attempt to save the money pit that was Deerfield Inn and its parlous reputation. We interviewed, we were hired with a two-year management contract, and we turned the inn’s losses around in two years,” finished Jane.
That was 27 years ago, and the plans to travel around the world then are still on hold, for the time being! In fact, Jane tells an amusing story about a couple who came to the inn shortly after Karl and she arrived there. They planned a large family event, working closely with Karl and Jane on all the details. Fast forward, more than twenty years and the same guests came back to plan another family reunion. Jane got a big kick out of the same gentleman asking Jane “what ever happened to the lovely young couple that used to work here?” Jane took great pleasure in explaining that she and Karl are still there!
Although time away from the inn is rare, especially after the last 18 months of Post-Irene rebuilding and subsequent reopening, Karl and Jane like to hike the state parks and hills in the Deerfield Valley. Jane is an avid reader and Karl loves to putter with many on-going projects. Karl’s hobby is beekeeping. He loves to sit out by the hives when he ends his day and listen to the bees. In all her spare time, Jane is a hospice and animal shelter volunteer.
When asked to share an innkeeping story, once again, Jane’s response showed the endearing aspects of B&B innkeepers and their guests. “These are the kind of open-hearted guests that make being an innkeeper such a joy and such a pleasure,” said Jane.
“A field mouse seeking warmth crept into an elderly guest’s slipper at the inn. We never saw evidence of a mouse in the inn, so where did this little one come from? The guest put his foot into his slipper and screamed. The mouse screamed back and they both ran to opposite ends of the room. I rescued the mouse in a Have-a-Heart trap and the guest had brandy in his coffee. Every year until he died, for fifteen years – that guest sent me a mouse-themed Christmas card and a mouse ornament,” shared Jane with a smile.
Karl is the outgoing President of the Distinctive Inns of New England. Along with his fellow DINE colleagues, he agrees that it’s the innkeepers’ and their guests’ stories that make a DINE getaway the perfect New England holiday.
Jane and Karl show DINE colleagues around the newly re-built kitchen during a recent meeting at the Deerfield Inn.
Jane joins colleague Judy Heuber of the Chesterfield Inn with big smiles at a recent Distinctive Inns of New England meeting.
By now, you’ve had the chance to get some up-close-and-personal insight into three of the Distinctive Inns of New England’s members. We like to think that one of the most important things that set an inn-stay apart from a hotel or resort-stay is the chance to meet the people who are responsible for making your getaway so special. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, a culinary caper or an outdoor adventure (or all three rolled into one package!) it’s the DINE innkeepers and the behind-the-scenes work they do to make your stay so special. Getting to know you as guests is what motivates the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England; we think that getting to know their stories will make your next stay a little more special too.
So, without hesitation, meet Dave and Sue Labrie, the newest members of Distinctive Inns of New England, from the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina B&B.
Meet Dave and Sue Labrie, co-owners of the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina.
Sue and Dave were both born in Hartford, CT and grew up in East Hartford. Their mothers worked together and the two met at the young age of 14. They’ve been together ever since! Dave attended Greater Hartford Community College and Sue attended the Connecticut Institute of Hair Design with an eye on opening her own salon at one time.
After they were married, two sons were born and Sue was a stay-at-home Mom while Dave began his corporate business career working as a technology specialist in the insurance industry. Eventually Sue became an accountant at a CPA firm and then after ten years of tax preparation left there to open her own hair salon. Dave eventually moved on to become a business management consultant focusing on the healthcare industry.
Yet while they were both independent business owners they know that their hearts simply weren’t in the business world forever. The loss of some very close friends too early in life spurred a ten-year plan toward leaving the stress of the business world. As they describe it, “We were fortunate to be able to travel early on in life and would often seek bed and breakfasts and inns whenever we could. And like most inn-goers, we would often chat with innkeepers about their lives as innkeepers”. Dave credits Leslie and Brian Mulcahy of the Rabbit Hill Inn with the inspiration they needed to become innkeepers. “We had been guests at the Rabbit Hill Inn for 10 years and would welcome the insights, encouragement and advice Leslie and Brian would share each time we visited. They would always tell us we would love and be great at innkeeping,” shared Dave who considers Brian and Leslie mentors of sorts.
About eight years into their ten-year plan toward innkeeping Dave and Sue knew it was time to start looking for their dream inn, and began researching B&Bs to purchase in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, keeping them close to their family and friends. After their first choice fell through, fate landed them at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina. “Being high school kids and sweethearts who often frequented the Connecticut and Rhode Island beaches, we couldn’t have found a better place to spend time together prior to retirement,” Dave reminisced.
Ask Dave and Sue and they’ll tell you that meeting and hosting people by far is what they enjoy most about innkeeping. Many have become very close friends. A sign hangs in in the inn’s Gathering Room that reads “Enter as Strangers ~ Leave as Friends”. Truer words could not have been written.
On their rare days off, Sue and Dave like to pack a lunch and visit one of the local beaches. “ It’s just so relaxing to sit, reflect on our lives and enjoy how beautiful our quaint New England setting really is,” shares Sue. They so love the area in which they live, they deserve an award for their dedication to helping Niantic become Connecticut’s favorite town. In fact, if with you were with them right now Dave and Sue would ask if you’ve voted for Niantic and the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in the Fan Favorite Town Contest! Click here to cast your vote before May 15 2013.
Visiting family is also a priority for Dave and Sue, who are dedicated parents and grandparents. They have two sons (Chris & Todd). Chris lives in Tampa, FL. with two of their grandchildren (Erica and Nicholas) and Todd lives nearby in Manchester, CT with three additional grandchildren (Kaitlyn, Andrew and Lilly).
Ask any of the Distinctive Inns of New England members to share a meaningful story about being innkeepers and inevitably the story will be about an incredible act of hospitality. Tenaciously dedicated to the art of hospitality, it’s going the extra mile for guests that really stand out in DINE innkeepers’ minds. When asked to share a special innkeeping story, Dave and Sue shared this one…
“As you may or may not recall, a Blizzard hit the northeast this past February 8th & 9th whereby nearly 40” of snow fell in areas of CT. Based on predictions, we thought all our guests would call to cancel. To our surprise 8 rooms of guests still made the trip and arrived before the heavy snows began falling. Anticipating the severe impact of the snow, we had stocked up on food just in case. By late Friday afternoon, the snow really started to fall and all local restaurants, shops and grocery stores closed early allowing their employees to get home safely. So, as an inn that doesn’t serve lunch or dinner, what do we tell our guests?
As a family tradition when major snowstorms are predicted, Dave likes to get a big pot of something cooking (he LOVES to cook). Usually it’s a big pot of Chicken Soup or Chili, but this time it was a big pot of Italian Tomato Sauce. As daylight gave way to dusk, and the snows started to grow outside, we informed our guests we would be offering dinner for everyone seeing they could not get out, and even if they could, everything else was closed. We proceeded to have a wonderful Italian dinner including wines, salad, pasta, fresh baked bread and desert. It was so nice to have everyone get to know each other and share a wonderful evening. If this were the whole story, it would be like many other innkeeper stories and special times, but our took on another twist [read on}.
As dinner concluded at approx. 9:30 p.m., guested decided to go to their rooms and we began cleaning. Just as everyone began leaving, we unfortunately lost our power, and don’t have a generator. It didn’t seem like a big deal for our guests who were all going to bed for the night.. Neither did we if it was only going to be for a short period Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The next morning, we awoke to no power. The inn began getting a little cold, but guests didn’t seem to mind as many of them were staying in guestrooms that feature gas fireplaces which provided heat. So, during that Saturday, with over two feet of snow already on the ground, and the snow still falling, we asked ourselves, what do we offer the guests now? Well, we managed to make hot coffee and a warm breakfast on our gas stove, and proceeded to make a Vegetable Soup for lunch. However, based on the fact we had yet to see a snow plow down our street and knowing we would more than likely have to prepare another dinner for our guests, what next? Well, Dave brushed off the gas-grille outside, pulled out our cast iron skillets and began cooking Chicken Marsala, Rice Pilaf, Broccoli, Salad, and oh yea, more wine. This Saturday night, in a candle-lit only dining room, we as a group again, ate, drank and shared good conversation. Another night with no power, and still no sign of snow plows (so many trees and electrical lines fell that plow trucks were unable to do their job as quickly as they would normally do).
In closing, the Feb 2013 Blizzard caused the governor to close all the roads in the state, and it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon before streets were cleared and guests we able to leave. When these guests left, many said their stay was made more special by not having power and by sharing in the experience. We couldn’t agree more.”
Leave it to a DINE innkeeper to be touched by the appreciation of guests for their own incredible hospitality. Tune in next week to the DINE blog for a new tale of another DINE innkeeper.
Dave and Sue at a recent Distinctive Inns of New England meeting held at the Deerfield Inn.
Here is the third in our series of Meet the Innkeeper stories. We at DINE believe that one of the key differences between staying at a distinctive New England inn and a hotel is that you get to meet the innkeepers. Whether via armchair travel and stories in blogs or an actual visit to any of the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England, you can get to know those who provide the romantic getaways and outdoor adventures you’ll enjoy when you visit any DINE inn. When’s the last time you got to know the general manager of the hotel you stayed at. Better yet, did he or she even know your name? We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know James and Jill Meyer of the Captain’s House Inn, quite possibly among the youngest innkeeper couple in New England!
James and Jill Meyer at a recent Distinctive Inns of New England meeting.
Jill was born in San Francisco, CA and James was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Both were raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey where they grew up just three blocks apart and became high school sweethearts. While two years older than Jill, James played the saxophone and Jill was in the color guard in the school band. They met at 14 and 16 years old, and as they like to say, “We have been “dating” ever since!”
Their hospitality careers were born at Boston colleges. James graduated from Boston University with a degree in hospitality management, and Jill graduated from Babson College with a degree in marketing and entrepreneurial studies. James worked at the Boston Harbor Hotel where he started fresh out of college as a front desk receptionist and worked his way up into several management positions including front desk manager, reservations manager, and sales. Not quite ready for hotels, Jill tried office management at several Boston companies including Putman Investments and Tower Perrin, but could never quite find her calling in office administration. The couple finally found their niche in innkeeping.
Growing up together, James and Jill always dreamed about owning their own inn. Their university studies gave them the business background they needed and James’ hotel experience gave more hands-on experience. When Jill saw a listing for the Carriage House Inn just next door to the Captains House Inn they presently own, she showed it to James, half joking. But with encouragement from family and the willingness young couples have to take risks, the pair spontaneously made an offer on the property which was accepted. Before they knew it, they were running a six guestroom bed and breakfast at the ripe age of “under 25”. In two year, they brought the struggling business from 19-precent year-round occupancy to 62-percent and while learning all the jobs associated with running an inn first hand. Most of all, they knew they loved innkeeping.
When the larger Captains House Inn came on the market right across the street in 2006, James and Jill knew it was the perfect next step in their innkeeping careers. “It was a logical next step for us after successfully running a smaller property,” said Jill Meyer. “We knew we wanted to make a career of innkeeping and buying a larger, luxurious property afforded us the ability to do this,” she finished. They have never looked back!
When asked to reveal one of their favorite stories about innkeeping, Jill shared this memory. “We do elopement weddings at the Captains House Inn. We have done dozens of weddings, many with beautiful love stories, but my favorite was a couple who was getting married on the one-year anniversary of when she professed her love to him. At the time, they had known each other for ten years. He was her brain surgeon and had saved her life. Over the years, she would see him for follow-up work, tests, etc. and they got to know each other but due to patient/doctor protocol, they could never date. Finally, she decided her feelings had to take president over work rules and she confessed how she felt. The feeling was mutual and one year later, the couple was married, just the two of them, in a beautiful outdoor summer ceremony at the Captains House Inn”. What a wonderful love story!
Both James and Jill describe themselves as “foodies” and love cooking and dining out. You’ll often read about their favorite restaurants on their Facebook page. James is an avid cook and fills in as a chef at the inn when needed, in addition to cooking gourmet dinners at home nightly. James follows sports and is a diehard New Jersey Nets fan. Jill enjoys writing and is in the process of writing a book about behind the scenes of innkeeping. Both are avid travelers and even while juggling the inn and raising a family they try to find time to see as much of the world as possible.
Taken a few years ago, here’s a family photo with James, Jill and the two girls.
James and Jill have two girls; Abigail is five, and Paige is three. They are in the process of adopting Kaleb, a beautiful little boy from Ethiopia who will be two in August. Just a few weeks ago James and Jill took a trip of a lifetime to Ethiopia to meet Kaleb for the first time. Life is exciting and very busy in the Meyer family household.
Check back to the Distinctive Inns of New England blog weekly as we will highlight a new innkeeper profile each week. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can check availability at your favorite DINE inn from one easy page on www.Distinctiveinns.com .
This is the second in a series of stories which allow you to get to know the innkeepers who own and bring you the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England. While you may never see the manager and especially the owner behind the scenes at a hotel or resort, the people who make all the decisions about your favorite distinctive inns can make or break that stay. One of the unique and wonderful aspects of visiting any of the Distinctive Inns of New England or any other inn or B&B is that the owner is on site and can be an integral part of a perfect New England getaway. While your DINE innkeepers are often behind-the-scenes, getting to know their stories makes your time at their inns just a little more fun. Thus, we’ll bring to you a series of stories over the next few weeks highlighting interesting tidbits about each DINE innkeeper, and what they love about being your hosts.
Meet Judy and Phil Hueber of Chesterfield Inn
Raised on a dairy farm in Hardwick, MA, Judy attended and graduated from Smith College with a degree in English. Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Phil attended Princeton University and earned an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics, then later added a graduate degree in Accounting from New York University. Judy and Phil met at the New England Conservatory when they were both 16 years old while playing the trombone in a state-wide high school wind ensemble. “I thought he was the cutest guy I’d ever seen with his long blonde hair down to his shoulders,” confided Judy recently. “He thought that I was such a good trombone player that he was afraid to talk to me,” she added. They married and pursued very different careers before getting into innkeeping. Judy was in customer service at TIAA-CREF and Mutual of New York. Phil was in sales and marketing at Majers Corp in Stamford, CT.
Both Judy and Phil sought out and stayed at inns ever since they were in their twenties. They both loved to entertain, and realized that after two home renovations where they completed most of the work themselves, they had what it took to be innkeepers. Phil and Judy attended an innkeeping seminar with innkeeping experts/consultants Bill Oates and Heide Bredfeldt. Then they began traveling around New England looking for the perfect inn to buy. Bill Oates introduced them to the Chesterfield Inn and they purchased it in 1987.
They had two sons, now aged 21 and 23. Both were raised at the Chesterfield Inn and have been seen from time to time completing various snow shoveling and other maintenance jobs.
When asked what they like best about innkeeping Judy will speak for the two of them explaining it’s the people; both guests and staff, and the fact that every day is different. Judy has many favorite stories about what makes innkeeping so special, which we’ll share with DINE travelers. Like the stories shared by Claudio and Roberta in the MEET THE INNKEEPERS story about the Camden Maine Stay, many of Judy’s favorite moments involve kindness shown to guests.
“One of our happiest days was when we brought our first born son home from the hospital, with all of the staff lined up at the front door so that they could see the newest member of the Chesterfield Inn family. Later that night, Phil took the baby into the dining room and introduced him to everyone having dinner. What a proud papa!”
“Then there were the people whose car broke down at the beginning of their long weekend with us. We loaned them our car and they were able to enjoy their time in New Hampshire while their car was being repaired.”
We had a long time regular guest, an older lady who travelled on her own. She would take up conversation with whoever would sit near her in the dining room. We had to be careful where we seated her because some of our guests were there to be together and didn’t want to have to talk to anyone else. Anyway, she was had very liberal views and loved to talk about politics and religion; she sometimes made outrageous statements just to get people involved in the conversation. One night, she was seated near some local friends of ours, they started talking and she ended up joining them for dinner and paying their bill.”
“I’ll never forget the wedding of a lovely young couple. He was a Navy Seal and groomsmen were all in full dress uniform. Because the groom was away at sea so much, he had just gotten her a white bull dog puppy to keep her company during the months that he was away. The dog stood up with them and was part of the wedding ceremony. She even had a blue ribbon collar with a flower to match the bridesmaid’s dresses.”
While free time is a rarity for them, Judy enjoys yoga, hiking music, and travel while Phil likes to play golf whenever he can.
Do DINE innkeepers dine at the inn? Not always, but when they do, Judy says their favorite options are the Rack of Lamb with Dijon Walnut Crust and Merlot Demi-Glace topped off with Maple Crème Brulee.
Stay tuned for future blog postings on DINE innkeepers. Don’t forget, when you visit www.Distinctiveinns.com, you can check availability for your favorite member inns right from this one convenient location.
Jane Howard-Sabo of the Deerfield Inn & Judy Hueber pose together at a recent Distinctive Inns of New England meeting.
Judy Hueber joined by DINE colleagues Michele & Eiran Gazit from Gateways Inn and Brian Mulcahy from Rabbit Hill Inn.
Claudio and Roberta Latanza pose in front of the fireplace in the living room at the Camden Maine Stay Inn. Photo by Marti Mayne.
One of the best parts about staying at an inn is the opportunity to meet interesting people. Some like chatting with guests and from time to time guests have become very good friends after meeting at one of the Distinctive Inns of New England. Yet what we hear over and over again from those who stay at each of the 11 DINE member inns, it’s the innkeepers that guests really enjoy getting to know.
Visit a hotel or resort, and it’s not likely you will have the opportunity to get to know the owner or even the manager. Enjoy a romantic New England getaway at any of the 11 DINE inns, and you are bound to not only meet the owners/innkeepers but more than likely they will help you plan your activities or offer tips on the best places to shop or dine.
We’re out to demonstrate what’s distinctive about DINE inns. In doing so, we’re hoping to give you some insight into those that own and operate the member inns. This is the first of eleven MEET THE INNKEEPERS columns we’ll share with you. Introducing, Claudio and Roberta Latanza, owners and innkeepers of the Camden Maine Stay Inn.
Anyone who’s talked to Claudio and Roberta quickly ascertains that they were not born in the United States but came to their little corner of Camden, Maine from Italy. Stay at the inn and you’ll not only hear wonderful stories about their homeland, but you’ll share in their collections of artwork and artifacts from throughout Europe.
Roberta was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Claudio was born in Taranto but moved to Rome as a child was raised there. Roberta graduated from the German school in Milan while Claudio went to school in Rome. They met on a blind date over pizza in Rome after a mutual friend set them up. It was love at first sight! They were married in 1995 and began traveling to the United States each time they could find time away from their busy careers.
Roberta’s career started in the fashion industry then she eventually became an insurance broker and finally moved into real estate before coming to the United States to become an innkeeper. Claudio spent a stint breeding trotting horses which was very successful. After selling that business he started a publishing company which published, among other things, the Italian Hotel Directory. This was his first foray into the world of hotel and inn management. The publishing business was sold after moving to the U.S. with Roberta to pursue the mutual dream of owning an inn.
Claudio and Roberta pose at a recent Distinctive Inns of New England meeting. Photo by Marti Mayne.
With a mutual love of exploring the world together, Claudio and Roberta traveled extensively to the U.S. for many years, always staying at inns and B&Bs. “ We like to say that we know America better than most of the Americans,” says Claudio. They talked to many innkeepers, learned more and more about the job and eventually decided to “jump over the ocean, experience a new country and a new job. And we’re so happy we did it!” explain both Claudio and Roberta together.
They came to Midcoast Maine to visit another inn on the market. “It looked wonderful on the website, but when we came here we realized that the reality was different. It needed a lot of work,” said Claudio. “While travelling back to Boston to catch the plane back to Italy we noticed the Maine Stay Inn and we appreciated the beauty of the house. Roberta wrote down the name and, when in Rome, we emailed our broker asking for news about this inn and we learned it was quietly on the market”, continued Claudio. The rest is history. Claudio and Roberta purchased the Camden Maine Stay Inn in December 2008. Then came the “fun” part…working through all the immigration paperwork to establish residency.
The life of an innkeeper is nearly 24/7, but when they have a little free time Claudio and Roberta love hiking in the hills surrounding Camden. Be sure to pick their brains for the best hiking trails and photo ops, because they’ll have some great secret spots for you. Somewhat of an “exercise nut”, Roberta loves to work out and enjoys taking care of the gardening along with all the decorating aspects of innkeeping. Claudio loves watching soccer, especially Italian matches, and is quite a photographer too. Both Claudio and Roberta will tell you they love meeting guests from all over the world who come to stay at Camden Maine Stay. During the slower seasons, you’ll find them continuing their travels throughout the U.S. or traveling back to Italy to see friends and family, when they can get away.
A rainbow of colorful tulips at Camden Maine Stay are the result of Roberta’s handiwork and Claudio’s photography!
When asked to share a favorite story about innkeeping, Claudio’s answer offered great insight into the kind of spirit of hospitality that makes he and Roberta distinctive innkeepers. Here’s a story you simply wouldn’t find at a nearby hotel or resort. When the blizzard called Nemo hit Midcoast Maine with vengeance this year, all but one Camden Maine Stay guest cancelled. The next morning, the couple that that made it to the inn awoke to nearly waist-deep snow and a buried car. All restaurants and shops on Maine’s Midcoast were closed. Roberta and Claudio invited the couple into their home and created a wonderful lunch of bruschetta and pasta of Italian fame. The couple was overwhelmed with their generosity and it meant a lot to Roberta and Claudio to be able to help them. It’s not surprising that such an act of generosity would stand out in their memory as such an enjoyable day.
Cheers! Claudio and Roberta at the Chesterfield Inn. Photo by Marti Mayne.
If you’re looking for a New England distinctive inn on the Coast of Maine, the Camden Maine Stay and Claudio and Roberta Latanza top the list. For more information and online booking, visit www.camdenmainestay.com.
For a list of all 11 Distinctive Inns of New England, complete with a map to locate them, visit www.DistinctiveInns.com.
DINE innkeepers join the Red Chair in a reunion outside the Deerfield Inn.
When we read the story entitled “What I Love About B&Bs” in the Washington Post, each of the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England felt it was music to their ears. We all happen to think the author, Zofia Smardz, is pretty “smardz” indeed. As she pointed out, the breakfasts, the chatting with other guests and the hospitality of the innkeepers really make her feel at home, an experience she simply doesn’t find at hotels, according to the story. Ms. Smardz even loves the doilies she sees at Victorian B&Bs (although she may be hard pressed to find them at a DINE inn).
The membership of Distinctive Inns of New England met this week at Deerfield Inn for their bi-annual meeting. We discussed promotions for the upcoming year and we’ll let you in on a little secret. We’ll be focusing in on the differences between inns and hotels throughout the upcoming months. We’ll be helping travelers to “get inn to it” and ideally to understand all the added value and special nuances of a DINE stay.
The Distinctive Inns of New England is a marketing consortium of luxury New England inns. While the organization was originally conceived to serve as the ideal itinerary for New England visitors, it’s grown to from its initiation to include an active social media campaign to stay in touch with DINE guests and special promotions for inngoers. While the work of the organization is important, it’s not all work and no play! At semi-annual meetings DINE innkeepers enjoy plenty of convivial fun and catching up too.
The recent meeting was held at the Deerfield Inn where every DINE member got the chance to debut the fabulous renovations which have occurred in the last year after Tropical Storm Irene wiped out much of the inn’s infrastructure. Having just re-opened after an 18-month re-build, all DINE members whole heartedly agreed that the Deerfield Inn’s rebirth is nothing short of perfect. The Red Chair even joined in the fun to reunite with all the DINE innkeepers who hosted its journey throughout New England. Scroll down for some insight into the hard working DINE innkeepers at the recent meeting.
DINE colleagues discuss upcoming promotions.
Sue and Dave Labrie from the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina offer insight from their marketing experience on the CT shoreline.
Chef Matt Skobrak, along with Karl and Jane Sabo offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Deerfield Inn’s new kitchen.
Karl Sabo explains the centrifuge machine and how it creates an intense pea soup among other delights.
- Judy Hueber of the Chesterfield Inn joins the guys in the Parlor at the Deerfield Inn.
- Leslie Mulcahy of the Rabbit Hill Inn and Melissa Gullotti of the Grafton Inn listen as Nancy Stafford of the Cliffside Inn tells a funny story.
- Breakfast included a delicious Eggs Benedict dish to start the day.
The meeting concluded with a group shot of the DINE members along with the Red Chair in the newly opened Champney’s Restaurant.
The Red Chair, has finally made its way to all of the Distinctive Inns of New England. As we followed it from one DINE inn to another, we realized that many lessons could be learned from the wise armchair traveler for how to make the most of a DINE getaway. From spa escapes to culinary vacations, the Red Chair has seen it all at DINE inns in each of the New England states. Visit www.distinctiveinns.com for complete information on how you can experience a distinctive getaway and learn the most important travel lesson of all – rest and relaxation.
Read on as the Red Chair shares some lessons from its travels.
Lesson 1: Imitation is the best flattery
During its visit to the Cliffside Inn, “Red” had the chance to emulate some of the best and most unusual. Recreating the scene from Abbey Road, Red made his way across the streets in Newport, RI in an effort to show that imitation is the best kind of flattery.
Along the same vein, Red visited a topiary garden and try as that Red Chair might, it just couldn’t quite fit in.
Lesson 2: Smile and the whole world smiles with you.
Continuing along the coast, the Red Chair stopped at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina where Dave and Sue took “Red” on a trip to the Mystic Aquarium. One look at the Red Chair and the Beluga Whale broke out in a big smile. If you look carefully, you’ll see Red offering a big smile back!
Lesson 3: Never stop learning
Travel offers an open book. At each stop, the Red Chair learned about the history and culture of the region and community. A bit of a history buff itself, the Red Chair particularly enjoyed its stroll through Historic Deerfield when it visited the Deerfield Inn.
And when it visited the Rabbit Hill Inn, Red took time to visit Davies Library, the last remaining fully honor system library in the country.
Lesson 4: When in Rome, do as the Romans Do
During its visit to the Captain’s House Inn in Chatham, MA, the Red Chair had the chance to catch up with a few of its brethren at the Red Nun Bar & Grill. Fellow Red Chairs bellied up to the bar and compared stories about Red Tide and Red fish. They did, however, get caught red-handed trying to sneak pass a brown chair off as red, but apologized and all was fine!
Lesson 5: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
Try as it might, the Red Chair wasn’t able to convince those at this impromptu gathering at the Camden Maine Stay Inn to change their colors. While some were green with envy at the prospect of the Red Chair’s travels, and another was blue he couldn’t join Red on the rest of the trip, most in the group were tickled pink to meet the famous Red Chair.
Lesson 6: Climb every mountain
During its visit to the Inn at Thorn Hill, Red hiked to the top of Kearsarge Mountain for a beautiful view of Mt Washington Valley, New Hampshire and couldn’t help but break out in song with “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music” and “Climb Every Mountain”.
Lesson 7: Always take time to belly up to the bar for the most interesting stories
Red has learned from its journey to DINE inns that the best stories are usually found at the bar. Never one to miss the chance for a cold one, Red couldn’t resist some time in the new Piano Bar at the Gateways Inn & Restaurant.
Lesson 8: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Mama always told us and Red agrees. Start the day out with a great breakfast, which you’ll always find at your favorite DINE inn, and the day will simply get better and better. Red followed that rule at the Grafton Inn and every other DINE inn it visited.
If you’re a little red with envy of the Red Chair’s DINE journey, there’s no reason you can’t plan the same trip yourself. Close by design, each DINE inn is only a three or less hour drive from the next. Many are much closer. Map your itinerary and share some of the lessons you’ve learned from visiting DINE country too. Be sure to share your inights with us here.
One of the reasons that Distinctive Inns of New England are so well loved is because of the fabulous food guests discover upon each visit. Afterall, the don’t call this group DINE for nothing! Of course, if you’re looking for a spring getaway, the best idea is to get out of the kitchen and into one of the 11 DINE member inns. However, since we all know you can’t be on holiday all the time, here’s the next best thing. A DINE getaway at home! Here are a few wonderful recipes for either Easter dinner or to usher springtime to your dinner table. They make great ideas for your spring entertaining too.
Crispy Duck Breast with Orange Asparagus Bulgar, Asparagus Puree, and Orange Reduction from Rabbit Hill Inn ( serves 4)
Ingredients for Duck:
4 6oz Duck breasts
Method – Duck:
- Score duck breasts through the fatty side of the skin, but not all the way through the meat.
- Place large skillet on medium heat. No oil needed. Pan-fry duck breasts, skin side down, until skin browns and fat renders out.
- Turn breasts over, cook till golden.
- Remove breasts and set aside to rest.
Ingredients for Orange Asparagus Bulgar:
½ cup bulgar
1 cup of fresh orange juice
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, stems removed.
1 bunch of asparagus, break stems. Set 5 stalks aside for puree.
Side note about bulgar: Bulgar comes in a variety of sizes of grain, often referred to in a system from #1 to #4, varying from finest grind to the most coarse grind. The finer the grind, the less cooking time. The coarser the grind, you may need a bit more water in cooking process.
Method – Bulgar:
- In medium sauce pan, bring orange juice and tarragon to a simmer.
- Add bulgar, stir and cover. On low heat, cook for approx. 15 minutes or until bulgar has plumped up like a rice. Add more orange juice if needed.
- Slice asparagus thinly, on bias. Add sliced asparagus and stir.
- Set aside, off burner. Keep covered.
Ingredients for Asparagus Puree: Need blender/food processor
5 stalks of asparagus break stems. Chop.
Salt & pepper to taste
Method – Asparagus Puree:
- Place chopped asparagus in salted boiling water, boil till tender. Strain.
- Place asparagus in blender/processor. Puree.
- Add salt & pepper to taste
- Set aside for plating.
Ingredients for Orange Reduction Sauce:
1 cup of fresh orange juice
Method – Orange Reduction:
- In sauce pan, bring juice to boil. Reduce to syrup consistency. Set aside, off heat. Keep covered.
Putting it all together: Set oven to 350 degrees
- Flash the Duck breasts: Place duck breasts on baking pan with rack – skin side up. Place in oven for a few minutes to heat through.
- Slice breasts. Place each serving on plate.
- Add bulgar, surround with asparagus puree. Drizzle with Orange Reduction Sauce
Now, time for dessert! Top it all off with a decadent concoction of everyone’s favorite spring treats…maple and bacon!
Maple Pecan Sundaes with Candied Bacon from Chesterfield Inn
4 bacon slices
2 Tablespoons maple sugar or brown sugar
¾ cup maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup pecan halves, toasted
vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Set rack in pan, lay bacon slices on rack. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon maple sugar evenly over bacon. Bake until sugar is melted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle remaining sugar over bacon. Bake until deep brown and glazed, 12 to 14 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil bacon until sugar bubbles, watching closely so that it doesn’t burn. Cool on rack. Cut into ¼ inch dice.
Combine maple syrup and cinnamon sticks in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and reduced to 1/2-3/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks. Mix in lemon juice and ginger. Let stand at room temperature. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Garnish with toasted pecans and candied bacon.
Here are a few additional recipes that are perfect for Easter:
English bunny biscuits from Captain’s House Inn
Kim’s Heritage Cupcakes from Deerfield Inn.
Rack of Lamb with Dijon Crust from Rabbit Hill Inn
Berry Cobbler from Gateways Inn & Restaurant
Depending on where you were in DINE country on the first day of spring, you were either welcomed with a foot of snow or flowers in the yard. The photos on Facebook were a keen reminder that from one end of New England to the other, the weather can vary dramatically. In Northern New England, ski vacations, XC ski getaways and snowmobile treks are still going strong topped off with spa getaways and candlelight dinners at your favorite DINE inns. The closer you get to Rhode Island, Cape Cod and the Connecticut shoreline, the closer you come to budding gardens and spring outdoor getaways. Let the photos tell the story. Each of these photos was taken on the first day of Spring, March 20th. (Photos left to right: Chesterfield Inn, Koty at Cliffside Inn, view of the water from Inn at Harbor Hill Marina).
They say if you don’t like the weather in England, just wait a minute. These photos help to underscore how different the Northern part of New England can be from the southern parts. They are also a good reminder of how fickle Mother Nature can be!
The Red Chair was on hand to help Brian and the staff at the Rabbit Hill Inn clear ten inches of snowfall on the first day of spring!
Disappointed daffodils at the Manor on Golden Pond curl under the weight of snowfall, yet prevail to remind us that spring will soon be busting out all over!
The first day of spring looked alot more like the middle of the winter with snowfall at The Grafton Inn. Have no fear, though, spring flowers are not too far behind!
Skiers and snowmobilers took to the mountains then found respite at the Inn at Thorn Hill afterward to welcome in spring.
Cliffside Inn was blanketed with snow on March 20th.
The beauty about travel in New England at this time of year is that it offers a little bit of everything. Die-hard skiers and winter adventure/outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of great snow throughout the next few weeks at DINE inns in the Northern part of the region. Looking for something a little warmer? Visit a DINE inn in the southern part of New England. Either way, there’s plenty of spring beauty plus quiet season rates for your hot dates throughout spring!
Don’t forget, the next DINE at 9 event is April 9th. It’s not too late to make your reservations soon!
Guess what? Your favorite marshmallow treat is turning 60 this year. Yes, those brightly colored marshmallow Peeps so popular at this time of year have been around for a whopping 60 years! The Distinctive Inns of New England join others in affectionately referring to these gooey treats as “chick magnets”, and we’re here to help you create your own personal ‘peep show’! Visit one of the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England with your peeps (or just your mate!) and you may or may not just see a few of these great ideas in action.
And remember, speak now or forever hold your peep when it comes to spring getaways. Time to mention the next DINE getaway to your travel mate!
Whether you’re a Peeping Tom, Dick or Harry, try a few of these fun ideas this Peep season.
- Create a Peep Show: If you’re a Type-A Peep, try entering the Annual Washington Post Peeps Show . The dioramas created for this show are so incredibly clever. Unfortunately the deadline to enter has passed for this year (it was February 27th), so start planning your entry now for next year. However, winners will be chosen on March 27th, then look for them online at WashingtonPost.com and in the Washington Post magazine in early April. We’re quite sure you’ll be truly entertained. Click here to see some of last year’s adorable peeps, and then get inspired to create your own vignette at home!
- Peep Krispy Treats: Any time of year, these special sweet treats are easy crowd pleasers! Simply substitute your leftover Easter Peeps for marshmallows in your Rice Krispy Treat recipes, and you’ve got a perfect seasonal dessert.
- Peepermint Hot Chocolate: This year rather than using those mini marshmallows in hot chocolate, top off your hot chocolate with a Peep of your favorite color. We promise it’ll be a real crowd pleaser with the younger set. And for the adult company, perhaps a more “spirited” version would make a nice after-Easter-dinner drink: Peppermint schnapps + whipped-cream-flavored vodka + Swiss Miss hot chocolate or hot coca from scratch (again for the type-A people)+ a Peep floating on top! Serve this and you’ll be one hot chick.
- Create a Dessert “Peepza: You’ve heard of Pepperoni Pizza; well what about a Dessert Peepza? Create your Peepza from a giant cookie made either from the kind of sugar cookie or chocolate chip cookie dough you find premade in the store. Top it with your favorite chocolate, caramel or strawberry sauce, then cover it in colorful Peeps and jelly beans. Voila, the perfect way to use all that leftover Easter candy
- Peeps’mores: If it’s warm enough to start the bonfire, grab the box of graham crackers, the chocolate bars and your favorite colored peeps. Put the Peep on a stick and brown it to the perfect gooey goldenness. This idea will work all summer long, as long as you can find your favorite Peeps in the store!
Of course, if you are not prone to peeping, have no fear. Your favorite distinctive inns won’t force Peeps on you. These ideas are meant for home. Visit any of the 11 Distinctive Inns of New England for a romantic getaway, and marshmallow is bound to take a low profile while culinary adventure will still be “in the basket”. We promise.
And speaking of romantic and spring getaways, have you booked your DINE at 9 getaway? Ten out of eleven inns are offering $9 rooms on April 9 and May 9 in exchange for a $100 donation to a local food pantry. Read all about it on the DINE blog.