National Treasures: Bittermilk

Bittermilk

I look forward to Garden & Gun magazine’s Made in the South Awards every year. They do a fantastic job of uncovering some of the best craftsmanship in the south. This year, they highlighted Charleston-based Bittermilk, a company founded by Gin Joint proprietors Joe and MariElena Raya that creates a line of three hand-crafted cocktail mixers: a smoked honey whiskey sour mix, Tom Collins with Elderflowers and hops and, my personal favorite, the mix for a bourbon barrel aged Old Fashioned. Just add the booze and you’re in business. At $15, they’re now my go-to, affordable hostess gift for drink lovers. Or, for a bigger gift, pair with these copper cocktail glasses, handmade in Austin, Texas by Sertodo Copper.

Sertodo Copper cups

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Glorious Check-in: Castle Hill Inn, Newport

Castle Hill Inn

A few weekends ago, we packed our bags for Newport, Rhode Island and an overnight at the Castle Hill Inn. Originally constructed as a shingle-style summer home of noted marine biologist Alexander Agassiz in 1874, the house evolved over the years, first becoming Naval officers housing during World War II, then a summer hotel and finally a year-round destination that joined the prestigious Relais & Chateau group in 2008. Like most hotels in this group, the service is top notch and the place full of charm. 

View from the lawn at Castle Hill Inn

Even if you aren’t a guest here, the hotel’s Lawn restaurant should be on your list of places to visit. Because of its position on the peninsula at the entrance of Narragansett Bay, the hotel offers a perfect view of the East Passage and the Atlantic, and the spectacular yachts that sail by. We brought a backgammon board, and parked in a pair of their Adirondack chairs, ordered a couple of rum punches and had a spectacular shot of the sunset, right into the water.

Also worth a trip: The Lawn’s Jazz Brunch, which takes place every Sunday between Memorial Day and Columbus Day.

Harbor Houses Castle HIll Inn

We stayed in the hotel’s Harbor House rooms, cozy little spaces with small fireplaces and porches overlooking the water. Just in front of the rooms are steps down to Grace Kelly Beach, a rocky little enclave named for the actress who made Castle Hill her home while filming High Society in Newport in 1956.

Bike riding Newport

One of the best things we did during the weekend was take advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and go for a ride along Ocean Drive along the southern coastline of Aquidneck Island. The rolling hills were fairly easy to navigate and, since Newport is known for its Gilded Age mansions, there is plenty in the way of gorgeous real estate to ogle along the way.

Frozen lemonade Brenton Point State Park

On our way back to Castle Hill, we stopped for a frozen lemonade along the seawall in Brenton Point State Park, easy to find from a distance as the excellent breeze coming off the water make it a popular spot for kite flying (there’s even a kite festival here every July).

Lighthouse at the Castle Hill Inn

Before heading back to our room to change for dinner, we also popped by the little lighthouse on Castle Hill’s point, built in 1890 by American architect H.H. Richardson. In addition to serving as a beacon for ships navigating Narragansett Bay, the lighthouse has also acted as the starting and finish line for many of Newport’s famous yacht races.

The Breakers in Newport

The next day we headed for The Breakers, one the Vanderbilt Family’s summer retreats and probably the grandest of Newport’s mansions. As we toured the rooms bedecked with tapestries, marble and frescos, listening to tales of the Gilded Age’s high society I kept thinking that this home and the family who inhabited it are basically the American version of the Crawleys from Downtown Abbey. Funnily enough, they used to refer to these homes as “cottages” (hardly!). I’d love to return during Newport’s Music Festival, when classical pieces are performed in the halls and on the lawns of these great homes.

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Glorious Eats: Butcher’s Paper Dinner Series at Brooklyn Grange

Brooklyn Grange Farm

I’ve been wanting to explore Brooklyn Grange — an urban rooftop farm atop the Standard Motors Building in Queens — for ages, and got my chance a few weeks back at one of their Butcher’s Paper Dinners, co-hosted with Edible Queens. We arrived just after 3pm and were greeted with a glass of cold beer from Queen’s Brewery poured straight from the keg.

The night’s dinner was prepared by Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based Pies n’ Thighs, which has developed quite a following for its fantastic fried chicken and, of course, their delicious pies.

We headed to the farm’s massive white oak communal table, which overlooks Manhattan. From there, servers came with bowls and bowls of cold fried chicken, pickled vegetables, biscuits, corn bread and corn, as well as refill after refill of beer. The table seats 150, but it felt like there was enough food for twice that. Luckily we managed to save a little room for the summer pies at the end.

While we ate, a DJ played excellent summer tunes heavy on the Motown (does it get any better than Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up“?)

There are still several dinners scheduled for the rest of the summer and fall including:

July 20: Summer Eats with Momo Sushi Shack

August 17: Rooftop Crab Broil 

September 28: One Serious Sandwich

October 5: BrisketTown presents ROOFTOP RIBFEST! 

Brooklyn Grange also hosts events throughout the week ranging from farm tours, composting classes, honey tastings and hive tours and wine and cheese tastings. The next one on my list: rooftop yoga at sunset. See their complete list of events and purchase tickets here.

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National Treasures: Enormous Champion

I’m, well, an enormous fans of Enormous Champion, a Brooklyn-based design studio from creative couple Jordan Provost and Jason Wong, whose whimsical and well-made creations like this Whales Tea Towel ($25) always puts a smile on my face. Their stationery is amazing, too. I particularly love this letterpress printed, blank “Mix Tape” card ($5), perfect for sending a note just because, and this sweet “Our Love Is Here To Stay” card ($5), which also comes as a limited-edition silk screen print.

 

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