Festival Friday: The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

Jack o Lanterns

Happy Halloween! Had to highlight the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in the Hudson Valley today, which I checked out last year with friends. In a nutshell, the Blaze is an outdoor display of over 5,000 Jack O’Lanterns rigged up in all manner of ways across the historic Van Cortland Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Imagine field after field of intricate designs, plus sections dedicated to larger sculptures (there’s a Jurassic Park section, with giant “dinosaurs” all created from pumpkins). It gets busy and takes about an hour to wander through, but there’s plenty to see along the way and you can grab a hot apple cider before hand to help keep warm.

The region is also home to Sleepy Hollow the town at the center of Washington Irving’s famous “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” story. The town puts on performances of the tale about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman at the Old Dutch Church and also hosts a pretty scary haunted house at Philipsburg Manor. See all the scheduled events and purchase tickets here.

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Glorious Eats: Where to Eat and Drink in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I’ve lived in Williamsburg on-and-off for almost ten years now, and I often feel spoiled by the long list of outstanding choices within blocks of my apartment when it comes to food. There are always new places popping up and I try them out as often as possible. I do, however, have my go-to spots. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite places to eat and drink around the neighborhood.

Bakeri Brooklyn


My favorite baked goods to order at this postage stamp-sized spot on Wythe: croissants, pains au chocolat, bread pudding and cinnamon rolls. And their fresh baguette with jam and butter is simple but perfect. There’s some seating inside and on the sidewalk in front, but I like the little nook (above) on cold days and their little garden in back during warm weather.

Fada Brooklyn


As glad as I am to see all the great new restaurants coming to Williamsburg, I love the places that have been around forever, like Fada on the corner of Driggs and North 8th. Friendly service, a pretty space with a garden in back and affordable French bistro fare has kept me coming back for almost 10 years. It’s one of my favorite places to bring out of town visitors on Friday nights, when they have little French jazz bands playing. They also do fun tango nights on Tuesdays. For dinner, mussels are the way to go here, and they also do a great melon salad and croque monsieur.

Walter Foods

BRUNCH: Walter Foods

I’m all for the tradition of brunch, though I prefer spots that go a bit beyond the usual offerings of eggs and bacon. Walter Foods serves up other options like fried chicken and waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, and an outstanding French dip sandwich, alongside well done bellinis, Bloody Marys and oyster shooters. There’s also a pretty garden in back during summer months.

Diner Brooklyn

LUNCH: Diner

Housed in a Kullman car from the 1920s parked on the corner of Broadway and Berry Street near the Williamsburg Bridge, Diner has been a neighborhood favorite for over 15 years. The waits can get long for brunch and dinner, so I think the best time to go is during the week for lunch when it’s less crowded and you can usually just walk in and sit down. The menu here changes daily and waiters run down the specials, scrawling the options on brown paper covering the table.


SANDWICH: Dépanneur

We joke that you can’t leave Dépanneur without spending $40—the spreads, olives, charcuterie, cheeses and confections are just so tempting! Their sandwiches are out of this world, too. One standout: the grilled Prosciutto San Daniele Sandwich with fig jam and fresh Narragansett creamery mozzarella cheese.

Sweetwater Brooklyn

BURGER: Sweetwater

There’s a lot of competition in the neighborhood, but my vote for best burger goes to Sweetwater on North 6th, where they serve it on an English muffin with cheddar and caramelized onions. It’s another place that’s been in the neighborhood long before J.Crew got here, and the friendly staff, good music and mellow vibe are a nice respite from the sometimes frenetic pace of Williamsburg. During the winter we like to go with a backgammon board, order a beer and the burger and settle in for an hour or two.

Fornino pizza

PIZZA: Fornino and Best Pizza

Fornino and Best Pizza are a tie for best pie, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Fornino on Bedford Avenue does wood-fired versions with fancier toppings like prosciutto, goat cheese, and white truffle oil, while Best Pizza on Havemeyer keeps it simple, with excellent, straight-forward combos like cheese and pepperoni (they’ll deliver a 6 pack of Budweiser and a pie for $26).


DINNER: Allswell

I’ve never had a bad meal at Nate Smith’s gastropub on the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 10th. The cozy, country inn-like vibe is particularly nice in winter and, thanks to a menu that’s updated daily, you’ll always find something new to try.

Odd Fellows Banana Split

ICE CREAM: Odd Fellows

I was a bit late to the game discovering Odd Fellows, coming across it last Halloween while trick or treating with my godson. They were handing out hand spun cotton candy and I’ve been hooked ever since. Their homemade ice cream flavors change daily and run the gamut from the usual to unconventional (“Tequila Pineapple” for example). You can feel good coming back often despite the calories—Odd Fellows donates a portion of the proceeds from every scoop to the Food Bank for New York City.

View from the Ides Williamsburg


This bar on the sixth floor of the Wythe Hotel can get busy and for good reason: just checkout the view from its patio and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Avoid the crush by going early or during the winter when there are less tourists in town, grab a corner booth and order an Old Fashioned.

Colette Cocktail Cafe Colette

COCKTAIL: Cafe Colette

I’ve had more of Cafe Colette’s signature “Colette Cocktails” than I should admit, but the way they mix this combo of gin, herbs de Provence and sparkling rose is just sooo good. This drink is best enjoyed in their lovely garden, or at one of the cozy sidewalk tables on North 9th Street.

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Glorious Getaway: Lake Placid Lodge

Lake Placid Lodge

One of my favorites parts of the country to return to again and again is the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. When I was a kid, I used to go for a week every summer with a friend to her family’s home on the shore of Cranberry Lake, a summer community that was so small I could send my friend letters simply by writing her name followed by “General Delivery, Cranberry Lake” on the envelope.

As an adult, I’ve loved exploring the region’s hotels and Lake Placid Lodge has always stood out as a favorite. Positioned right along the water, the lodge is spectacular in any season, but my favorite time of year here is the winter. The decor is rustic and clubby, with fireplaces in rooms and in the public spaces that are perfect for cozying up around. Throughout the season, the hotel offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating and ice fishing, and guests are just a half-hour drive from Whiteface Mountain, which has the largest vertical drop of any mountain on the eastern seaboard. In the evening there are bonfires by the lake with hot chocolate and s’mores, or you can snuggle up in your own cabin with views of the lake. One definite to-do is a visit to the Olympic Center (Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and the 1980 games). You can also opt for a dogsled ride, taking in the town and the snowcapped scenery as you mush along Mirror Lake.

Here are some more shots from around the lodge:

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Lake Placid Lodge

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From Around the World Wide Web

Good Dog Garden & Gun

Here are some of my favorite things from around the interwebs this week. Have a Glorious weekend!

The new Good Dog book from Garden & Gun, a great gift for pet lovers

Also this piece on all that’s new in Charleston on Garden & Gun

How to spend 72 Hours in Philadelphia according to Jetsetter

And 36 Hours in Naples, Florida with The New York Times

This gorgeous farmhouse in Sonoma, California on Country Living

The 2014 winners of Martha Stewart’s American Made competition

And all the gorgeous photography on Nashville-based James Kicinski McCoy’s Bleubird blog, which I’ve recently discovered

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