Thursday, December 18, 2014
Enjoy my lecture and panel with Diane Smith, Eugene Leach, and Maryellen Fillo!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Amy and I are featured in the latest UB promotional materials for UB in Action. Our section is UB Creating. Find us and our statistics at the bottom of the page here.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
After reading my memoir, Afoot in Connecticut, Peter Everett of the Housatonic Community College library invited me to be this semester's visiting writer. I gave an open lecture about fiction and nonfiction writing for about fifty people, and enjoyed it immensely. I hope some of the students and teachers who attended did, too. You can read more about it in the article here.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Read my 'closing thought' in this season's alumni magazine Knightlines. It is called "Building a Better Argument" and could be a primer on how not to argue with people on the internet. As an example I chose Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading, which I loved during college and now feel less enthused about. So, if you're a big Pound fan, you might not like it.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
I'm hoping that this winter is not as extreme as the last one. But I'm getting ready - ordering wood for the woodstove, buying ice melt, caulking up cracks, and bringing in the lawn furniture. I've lit the candles and taken the heavy blankets out of storage. I'm ready for another winter in Connecticut.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
The advance copies of my book on the Revolutionary War, Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London, have arrived today at the publisher's. Just a few weeks ago I was in Concord, and made a pilgrimage to the spot where the Revolution started...or at least where the first shot was fired, the bridge across the Concord river by the Old Manse. When Arnold heard of the battle in New Haven, he mustered his small band of militia and marched to join the war, a passionate American patriot. Five years later he broke the hearts of his colleagues and friends and took 20,000 pounds to betray them.
Friday, November 7, 2014
Had a great meal at Concord, Massachusetts' Colonial Inn last week (Merchant's Row).
Amy had the pot pie, which was amazing (and those are potatoes not olives). I had the steak, which I rarely have, and a popover.
For dessert, the indian pudding was absolutely amazing. See our book on Connecticut Food on how that went from being a breakfast dish to a dessert...
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Stopped by the Traveler Restaurant, otherwise known as Traveler Food and Books, the other day. What a neat place.
Along with rows of books on the walls, they have signed pictures from many authors who stopped by over the years, like this one of Alex Haley below.
You get three books from the upstairs free with your meal, and downstairs they have a used bookstore with a nice selection (those cost money).
And the food isn't bad! It wasn't gourmet, but it was actually a step above what you'd expect from a 'family restaurant' of this type. Keep up the great work, guys, because you'll make it into the next edition of the Insiders' Guide.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stopped by Shoreline Meats and Deli the other day to pick up some meat. The butcher shops of the past have disappeared, and there is a hole in our culture. Places like this will hopefully fill it.
They sell a lot of Connecticut products, like Grote and Weigel and Nodine's Smokehouse.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Had dinner with friends at Wheeler's Restaurant and Taproom in Woodbridge the other day. Great meal, great conversation.
The place itself is indistinguishable from a hundred other "restaurants and taprooms" in the state, with a good selection of brews, music nights, wings night, etc. Except the kitchen is run by some sneaky foodies, who put all sorts of fun stuff on the menu, including many organic, local, and sustainable ingredients. It's worthwhile for the wings alone (get any style but the regular buffalo wings) but try some other stuff, like the Shakshuka (below).
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
by Eric D. Lehman
Our first autumn on the mountain was the hardest.
The land had not given up its secrets, and the summer work
had nearly crushed us. Our bodies cracked and creaked
their way around the craggy traprock paths, decaying
from the inside, beginning a long decline. Winter awaits
a numbed finger, a wounded hip, a dragging foot, but more –
the logs we chopped, the books we wrote, the bonds we made.
Our hands are older now. But nuthatches thank us, and cats
curl around the thought of a stretch by the roaring fire.
There is work to be done on that mountain yet, endless
work, with small success and comfort at the end, a few
bright days, a shelf of books, and the memory
of being held tightly under flannel sheets. Love
is the truest victory, but not the only one, and those
of us who toil in the high, poetic mountains
must struggle each year, and one day build not hope
but happiness—not spring, but autumn.
First published at ken*again.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Had coffee and read a book in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, recently.
The view is spectacular, but what separates this park from others is the Ping-Pong tables, the chess boards, and the reading room, where you can check in and read newspapers or books in the actual park.
I had a relaxing afternoon in this gem of a park - a model for what Connecticut might do with its greens and parks with a little effort.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Monday, September 29, 2014
Enjoyed our book signing the other day at Danbury's First Congreational Church with David Leff for Alice at Byrd's Books, one of my favorite stores in the state. The bonus was the pulpit below, which a certain Ralph Waldo Emerson preached at, lo these many years ago. It was saved from the fire that destroyed the original church.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Had a delicious meal at the People's Kitchen and Citizen's Wine Bar in Worcester, MA.
Of interest was the foie gras burger below, one of the best burgers I've had in recent years.
The dessert, a twist on s'mores, was also a treat. If anyone is in Worcester, I recommend a stop here!
Monday, September 15, 2014
In the 1860s, Jonathan Dickerman, the grandson of the man whose house you have visited or seen on Mount Carmel Avenue, planted a vineyard and built a winery on the slopes of Sleeping Giant. This startling fact, mostly unknown by town historians and certainly by the rest of us, was the trigger that led my wife and I to write A History of Connecticut Wine, in which we detail many other examples of successful vineyards throughout the state before Prohibition, as well as the modern rise of today’s booming industry.
In 1872 Dickerman gave an award-winning report to the Board of Agriculture, detailing his decade of wine production in Hamden and his hope for the future of the practice in Connecticut. His rocky land had not even produced peas, but grapes thrived there. He even brought in a winemaker from Germany to help him care for the vines. Turning the grapes into wine tripled his profits in a year, and his lecture to the Agriculture Board inspired the Hartford Courant to champion the cause, encouraging farmers on rocky hillsides to grow grapes.
By the early 1900s, immigrants from southern Europe were planting vineyards all over the state, especially in the Hartford area, and some had vineyards ten times the size of Dickerman’s. However, Prohibition put an end to this in the state, until 1978 when it became legal again to produce wine for sale to the public. Our methods and technologies now allow us to grow the coveted European grapes that make superior (or at least not so sweet and grapy) wine, something Dickerman struggled with in the 1800s.
Today, wineries and vineyards are again springing up all over the state. There are two vineyards just to the north of us in Wallingford, and one on the other side of West Rock in Woodbridge. Hamden has several spots today that are even better for growing grapes, including the excellent site of Dunbar Hill. Maybe it’s time Hamden brought Jonathan Dickerman’s long-ago dreams to fruition.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Finally got a chance to try the fast casual Tikkaway in New Haven, which aims to do for Indian Food what Chipotle has done for Tex-Mex, and more. It's fresh, it's simple, and it's yummy.
I expect great things from this place - maybe it will franchise across the U.S. It has great design, easy use, and tasty food.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
In the interest of our continuing quest for the best lobster roll in Connecticut, we visited The Lazy Lobster last week. It is located near the beach in Milford, though not on a 'dock' or anything. So, the site is not very picturesque. But what matters most is the food.
And the food was good. The lobster rolls are served in a piece of French bread, which Amy loved. The only disadvantage is that it doesn't allow for enough lobster per bread bite, if that makes sense. Amy thought it was the second best roll she's had in the state. I would rate it slightly lower, at third or fourth. But totally solid - not rubbery, fresh, and just enough butter. Delicious.
An added bonus is the Lazy Lobster's roasted onion (above), which is caramelized deliciousness. I recommend this place, especially for take out (it's small and hot in the summer), and for the owner's wonderfully pleasant but professional attitude.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Driving up Whitney Avenue between Hamden and Cheshire today, we take for granted the easy passage, and most of us probably have no idea that three hundred years ago it would have been impossible. When the early settlers of the New Haven Colony explored the area, they found huge rocky cliffs barring the way. The eastern slopes of York Hill and the head of Sleeping Giant met at the Mill River just where the small dam is today, allowing no one to pass except on foot.
Called “The Steps,” the rock formation was a formidable barrier, known only to hunters, shepherds, and the remaining Quinnipiac Indians. However, shortly after Joel Munson built his mill at the spot, he carved a daunting cart path over the rocks, allowing the slow passage of horses and eventually carts. Throughout the 1700s, occasional gunpowder explosives were used to improve and widen this path. Bellamy’s Tavern was built in 1743 to provide sustenance and lodging for the Cheshire merchants who now used the road to reach New Haven.When the Farmington Canal was built in the 1820s, the rock needed to be blasted further, down to level ground in some places. Then, when the railroad came through two decades later, more rock was carved away. In the 20th century, the modernization of Whitney Avenue required more blasting, and more leveling, taking the still sizable hill on which sat Kimberly’s famous store stood and flattening it. All this took incredible efforts in the days before modern earth moving machines and nitroglycerine-based explosives.
Today, as the most modern construction finishes up at the intersection of West Woods, Mount Carmel, and Whitney Avenues, take a look around. Perhaps imagine yourself in a tunnel beneath the eastern arm of York Hill, because where the People’s Bank and Hair on Broadway are situated in space was deep underground until very recently. The difficult work done to widen the area and cut through the bedrock is only a fraction of the total done over the centuries.Three hundred years ago, your car would have never made it, even with four wheel drive.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Enjoyed a recent camp at the American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted.
It was a pleasant night amidst the pines, with seven hours of good campfire time, slowly cooking potatoes, kielbasa, hot dogs, and marshmallows. Good friends Ryan, Jenifer, and Hawk of Healium Pittsburgh joined us. Too bad it's not Healium Connecticut...we could use their incredible brand of yoga here, and I know they'd love our state even more than they do already...
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Enjoyed a meal at the tiny and charming When Pigs Fly in Sharon, Connecticut recently. Solid pork shoulder sliders (below).
Their Shoepeg corn pudding (below) was a treat unusual in this part of the country (our corn pudding is significantly different.)
And the ribs (below) were good, as well, though perhaps not as 'fall-off-the-bone' as Uncle Willie's or a couple other Connecticut establishments.
I do have a question. I know 'southern bbq' is a marketing tool. But how many great bbq places does a state have to have before 'Connecticut bbq' is a viable name? Of course, in the case of When Pigs Fly they are also marketing themselves (via their web address) as 'Hudson Valley BBQ.' That's fine, too...but make a choice. You're a Connecticut bbq place that is both Hudson Valley bbq AND Southern bbq at the same time? Hmm...identity crisis?
Friday, August 15, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Had a great time at the 18th Annual Sharon Book Signing at the library, especially meeting authors like Eve Schaub above, who went A Year Of No Sugar.
I also enjoyed meeting all the book lovers who came to see us - and discuss Tom Thumb.