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Serving up pies at the Northampton Hotel

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

How about this week we continue to stay out East?

As you recall, last week I was on my way to a photography conference in Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton sits on the tree lined bank of the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts. It is home to the esteemed Smith College founded in 1871-the liberal arts college for women. The college has a beautiful Botanical Garden which hails a diverse, outdoor collection of trees, shrubs, and plants. My former landlady was a Smith graduate, so we enjoyed many a fine tour here. Of particular interest to us cooks is a 1934 graduate of Smith-Julia Childs. In her honor and memory, they celebrate Julia Child’s Day each November 15.

Northampton is loaded with great shops, coffee houses that evoke poetic imagery, and many wonderful restaurants and dining rooms. Sylvester’s Restaurant is one of them. It is located in the former home of Sylvester Graham, inventor of the graham cracker. A variety of musicians are often featured at the local venues.

Hallmark Institute of Photography is located just up the road in Turners Falls. While attending school, I had the enjoyment of attending the Hallmark Annual Alumni Conference which was held at the Hotel Northampton.

By now, you know it didn’t take me long to locate the dining areas and survey the possibilities. One glance at the menus and I knew this conference would not only be a feast for the eyes, but for taste buds as well. Featured on the menu were pies and pot pies. How can you not love pot piesthe grand dame of comfort foods and across the page was laced with lots of sugar-tempting pecan pie!

Now-a few historic details of this place. Within the hotel there are a couple of great dining areas. One of interest to me was Wiggins’ Old Tavern. Originally the tavern had been established in 1786 in Hopkinton, New Hampshire and reassembled on the hotel site around 1930. It pours forth colonial charm for its guests as they dine beneath hand-hewn beams and unwind beside massive stone and brick heaths. It is easy to imagine a captain and sailors from one of America’s majestic clipper ships strolling into a place like this.

The Hotel Northampton has a quintessential collection of early American antiques. Guests are able to mingle about these fine treasures in the hallways, restaurants, and lobby. This came about because of Lewis Wiggins, the founder of this hotel. Lewis had a great interest in preserving the colonial revival theme. In fact, he employed a full-time antiquarian-curator with a staff of 15! Get this for class-two of the staff were only assigned to mingle with the guests and discuss in great detail the hotel and its collection of antiques. He was truly ahead of his timethink of possibilities he could create with our websites today!

When I arrived in Rugby 22 years ago, I received a note from Doris Tank. It was a welcoming note, and she shared with me that she also grew up in this area at Holyoke, MA. During the years, Doris and I have enjoyed visiting about western Massachusetts. She took the time to share with me a great photograph of her parents, along with their friends, enjoying a grand evening meal at a magnificent elegant supper club. This area is known for its many fine and unique dining rooms.

I share with you two recipes that were served during the conference. If you cannot get to this fine hotel, do the next best thing-enjoy some of their recipes in the comfort of your home.

Repnow is a Rugby resident.

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