Thursday, June 24, 2010


Father's Day was not just a beautiful day outside, but also a stimulating and enjoyable day The Rat, The National Hotel's cellar pub. What a great way to spend a Sunday, enjoying the People's Poetry (our poetry open mic, now officially the 3rd Sunday of EVERY month!). It was supposed to be just 2 hours (2 p.m. - 4 p.m.), but we had so many participants, so many poets "in the house," that it ran past that hour, and everyone happily lingered until the last poet read the final poem of the day. We had writers reading poems that dated back to their school days, to others sharing poems remembering their fathers in honor of Father's Day, to poems about deeply moving and personal topics, life-altering experiences, and tragic losses. From laughter to having a knot in your throat after listening to some of the poems, the People's Poetry did NOT disappoint.

I'm uploading some webclips and more photos to share in another blogpost, of last Sunday's People's Poetry. Next time...

We're nearly a week away from The National Palooza, an all-day live music celebration in honor of The National Hotel's 160th anniversary and its "official" grand opening. Each day that passes, brings us closer to this special day, Saturday, July 3rd. Pete and I can hardly believe that it's been nearly one year since we signed the papers that put this grand old lady of a building in our hands. Nearly one year since our lives changed course and we experienced a new dimension--a new depth--to how we became a part of the fabric of the community of Frenchtown. This community, this circle of friends that is always open and welcoming of outsiders, has filled our days and nights with stories, laughter, and wonderful challenges that have allowed us to demonstrate to ourselves and those around us, the value of integrity and character. That is the essence of The National Hotel--it's all about the community, the people who fill its many rooms. This has been a unique part of its history, and today, its future.

[Ray McGeehan]

The artistic community in Frenchtown and the surrounding areas, have brought the arts to the building, very organically, not forced, not conjured. See what some of the artists who have participated in the many cultural programs offered at The National Hotel have shared with us:

[Chuck Schaeffer and the Chuck Wagon]

[Jeffrey Fadden--Guitar, & Suzan Bartels, Marie Scodari, Lori Ingwerson, and Ren Porter--vocalists]

[Jay Wilensky and Marie Trontell]

Mark your calendar for more music--12 hours of it!!--on July 3rd. As the day nears, we remember the months it took to take the boards off the facade of the building, clean and restore, polish the brass and bring the bar back to its splendor. We remember the many, many friends and neighbors who helped us, who stopped by to help clean, to plant flowers, to weed, to provide professional assistance here and there. We remember the break-neck pace at which we renovated and restored, fortunately mostly cosmetic at the core, but the weeks that became months, until November 3rd rolled around, and we quietly, without any fanfare or comprehensive marketing plan, opened our doors.

Then: And Now:

July 3rd will mark eight months to the day, eight months of having our establishment breathing, welcoming new patrons and old friends, eight months of sharing our lives together. Even today, when I had scheduled a meeting with one of our very first supporters, Chris Poh, editor of American Public House Review and Pub Talk, at 8:30 p.m. and he called to confirm but also to alert me that it might be later than that...he said, "I know you like to be home for your children, so if tonight doesn't work for you, perhaps we can find an earlier time another day to meet." This is why I know that our friends, our patrons, are so in tune with our lives. They know that we are parents and that our children come first. They know that I can do certain things from home, by computer, or in the building during the day, but that Pete is always on hand, every day, to make sure all the details are looked after, all the pieces falling into place. Our patrons know that Pete is in the building not because he has to be there, but because he just loves being there. He loves the conversation, the energy, the spirit of community.

So on July 3rd, The National Hotel will pull all the elements that are important front and center: great food, live music, companionship, and drinks to boot. Oh, and let's not forget about the 10 p.m. - 12 a.m. dancing-under-the-stars session. Right there, in our back area--the parking lot will be converted into a tent-covered area, where people can dance, eat, drink, and just enjoy a wonderful Saturday in Frenchtown. And why not stay 'til the bitter end: bring in July 4th and help us celebrate our great nation's Independence Day as we close out The National Palooza.

Do call 908.996.3200 or email Pete ( directly for information on tickets or day's performers. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Frenchtown National Night Out over the summer.

The National Palooza will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, quickly followed by numerous live performances, including Chuck Schaeffer and the Chuck Wagon, Top Soil, Rainbow Fresh, among other local entertainers, that are sure to delight and bring people out to the dance floor.

The National Palooza is an outgrowth of The National Hotel's cultural events, including a weekly Open Mic Night on Thursdays in our Rathskeller Pub and our Sunday Musical Afternoon series, in addition to our poetry open mic (The People's Poetry) the 3rd Sunday of every month, in addition to other cultural events (e.g., dinner theater in July, Boxing with Gaia) in conjunction with River Union Stage. It's going to be a great way to start the 2010 summer season!!!

We hope you'll join us for these events, and make The National Hotel a place where you can feel comfortable, connect with great friends, and enrich your lives with the talent that so many artists are willing to share with all of us. Share your thoughts here by posting a comment if you have a minute, or send us suggestions/ideas for future events or activities you'd like to bring to the table. Talk soon...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The National Palooza

What a couple of weeks! We are still reeling from Sunday's People's Poetry at The Rat, where poets read and shared, and left us all wanting more. It ran way past the 2 hours set aside for this, and we would have gladly kept on reading, listening, sharing. Don't miss July's session (it's the 3rd Sunday of EVERY month)! And from there, Pete and I kept going, kept planning: we have been busy finalizing our plans for our "official" grand opening, which in fact is a celebration of The National Hotel's 160th anniversary! Oh yes, 160 years since the building was re-built into its current size, structure and entity. Should we mention that it was a stagecoach stop and brothel before that??? Nah, another day...

Well, on July 3rd, we are going to host The National Palooza, from noon to midnight, celebrating, commemorating, remembering and just enjoying a special day of live music, food, drinks, and dancing-under-the stars. Call us at 908.996.3200 or click here to find out more about this special day or how to get your tickets. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the annual Frenchtown National Night Out.

But there's so much already planned...stay tuned for another blogpost on our Farm to Table fundraising dinner (TONIGHT!!), to benefit the Hunterdon Land Trust, our remaining musical performer line-up from now to the end of June, and our July Dinner Theater--3 Sundays filled with the arts!--together with Frenchtown's own River Union Stage. How's that for having the community "take over" The National Hotel with their plans, their vision, their artistic expression. And Pete and I are more than willing to host these events. Our pleasure--a tremendous grateful "thank you" from both of us to YOU!

Music is something that has become an integral part of our establishment. If you have been in attendance during one of our weekly Thursday Open Mic Night sessions, or our Sunday Musical Afternoons, you know to what I refer. We've been so blessed with the talent that has come to The National Hotel. Week after week, we are honored to host different musicians expressing themselves and sharing their talent with our community. For instance, Chuck Schaeffer and the Chuck Wagon played their rockabilly unique sound, truly foot-stomping music, in April, and we had Teri Rambo back again as well as the Dennis Thatcher Trio return for another performance, along with Ray McGeehan, and Jeffrey Fadden & Lori Ingwerson in May. So many wonderful musicians. Let's not forget The Jericho Mountain Grass ("The Grass") that returned yet again to The National Hotel, or Jay Wilensky playing with Marie Trontell, back in April. And June has also graced us with other performers, including Dan McCluskey and the Tom Hyland Trio. We greeted our dedicated patrons and made friends with new folk who came from far away just to listen to their music. And no wonder these groups have a following!

Here is just one of the many webclips of their music, that I'll soon share on another blogpost.

I'm working to finish up the editing of several other webclips...worst part of it all...b/c there is so much that can be shown, but youtube wants clips to be under 10 minutes! Still, I love reliving the experience, watching them again & again. Wait for Chuck's and other clips...Aren't they wonderful? And they performed just in time to accompany that Sunday afternoon hour that lends itself to a "slowing down" of our lives, a "let's-enjoy-Sunday" hour. And they didn't disappoint. Week after week, the musicians who have performed have lifted spirits, created joy, and helped us all escape from our daily grind if even for just those couple of hours. What a treat!

I recently got this email from Pete's cousin and had to share it...doesn't it sound like something that Kasey, Donna or Tobi might say to this individual--and actually help? Yeah...that's what I thought (and no disrespect intended to all those mental health practitioners who are our patrons...or those who are members of my own family):


'I've got problems. Every time I go to bed I think there's somebody
under it. I'm scared. I think I'm going crazy...'

'Just put yourself in my hands for one year,' said the psychiatrist.
'Come talk to me three times a week and we should be able to get rid
of those fears..'

'How much do you charge?'

'Eighty dollars per visit,' replied the doctor.

'I'll sleep on it,' I said.

Six months later the psychiatrist met me on the street.

'Why didn't you come to see me about those fears you were having?' he asked.

'Well, Eighty bucks a visit three times a week for a year is an awful
lot of money! A bartender cured me for $10. I was so happy to have
saved all that money that I went and bought me a new car!'

'Is that so?' With a bit of an attitude he said, 'and how, may I ask,
did a bartender cure you?

'He told me to cut the legs off the bed! - Ain't nobody under there now!!!


See why I had to share? Now if you come to The National Hotel, not only will you find our bar staff equally able to listen to your situation and create an atmosphere where you feel comfortable, able to talk, able to de-stress, but moreover, our very own patrons sitting around The National Hotel Bar, will be able to lift your spirits, and take away that fear or anxiety that may be engulfing you. Just come by. You'll see. And make sure that you put down on your calendar July 3rd. It's such an important date!!! It's our way of celebrating The National Hotel's 160th anniversary, our "official" grand opening--remember that we opened our doors ever so quietly on November 3rd, as our way of honoring our fellow Frenchtonian residents' support of our efforts...The National Hotel is theirs, not "ours." It belongs to the community; Pete and I just happen to be the proprietors now, but this building is just too important to "belong" to any one person or family.

Pete and I are incredibly thrilled to be at the helm right now, enjoying the support and encouragement of the community and many who have traveled from far away. So on July 3rd, be sure to join us for The National Palooza, a music festival and commemoration of our building, beginning at noon with a ribbon cutting ceremony and running to midnight. That's right, midnight! We'll have Dancing-Under-the-Stars from 10 p.m to midnight, just in time to bring in July 4th and celebrate this great nation's Independence Day. Wow...the closer we get, the more I like this plan...really!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It's been just under 1 month since my last post and so much has happened that I'll have to pace myself and post things in smaller "bite sizes" so that it's one that you can read without it just becoming a long, run-on sentence. There's so much to announce..from our "official" grand opening on July 3rd with The National Palooza, a musical festival from noon to midnight, including a dedication of the building that marks its 160th anniversary, and Dancing-Under-the-Stars from 10 p.m. - midnight. But there's more! Stay tuned for information on dinner theater we're hosting in our Restaurant in July. For a sneak peak, click here.

Let's get back to the last few weeks: The month of May was filled with wonderful events, from Mother's Day, to the Classic Bikes and Bluegrass Festival--did you come to Frenchtown to enjoy the day?--to Frenchtown's launch of their First Friday evenings where businesses stayed open until 8 p.m. Click on the link for Art of the Bike and you'll see an embedded video that truly captures the essence of that great spring day.

If you've been to our lovely little town, you know that that is quite a departure from the normal business hours of this lovely hamlet. And what a treat for those who made the time to come by in May or this past Friday. Businesses were not open later than usual, they also gave away freebies, food, and made the town light up with life.

Our Poetry Open Mic was renamed "The People's Poetry" by Skye Van Saun and John Smith, our fearless master poets who organize, host, and lead this monthly series. Our May installment marked the 2nd month Pete and I were treated to a wonderful afternoon. And so it has become official that the third Sunday of the month will be the dedicated afternoon of poets and poetry enthusiasts. Once again, we were graced by the presence of some published authors, including Guy de Sapio (whom Pete and I had had the pleasure of seeing in April at the Hunterdon County Library in a Poetry Slam with Warren Cooper) and others. I'll have to upload more (and next time use a real camcorder and not my cell phone!) to YouTube, but here are a few samples of the wonderful presence these writers are making right here, in Frenchtown, in our community. I'll share the remaining videos I took on my next post...

We also had the good fortune of hosting several wonderful musicians. Our Sunday Musical Afternoon series has really given us so much joy. We had Chuck Schaeffer, the Dennis Thatcher Trio, Ray McGeehan, and Jeffrey Fadden. Now you know I will have to write more about these talented musicians...stay tuned! I have to say that I am truly blessed to have been PRESENT, yes, present, while they shared their immense talent, their passion, their love, with all who were in the room. Perhaps once I share some video clips and photos, you might have an understanding of what this means. The National Hotel is not just a place to work for us; it's a place, an entity that calls to us each and every day, and that beckons us "home." We just love being in the building. We love hosting these talented poets, musicians, and artists. But it's not us. The National Hotel has a history of being "The Place" for artists to congregate. Pete and I are just fortunate enough to have been...what's the cliche?..."in the right place, at the right time" and continue the legacy of this wonderful building and all the work of those long gone who established it as a cultural center of the town. What an honor! And I say it with all humility and without jest. Truly an honor. Truly something worthwhile sharing with our next generation, our children...your children.

Our devoted patrons come to enjoy a bit of entertainment by talented musicians, while they enjoy the wonderful dishes carefully prepared by our kitchen staff, led by our executive chef, Ron Rittenhouse. Pete and I are just so proud of the ownership that Ron, Lisa, Teresa, and Mike have taken in creating signature dishes, Additions to the Menu on Thursdays to Sundays, and in being absorbed into the breathing, living space that The National Hotel embodies. I mean, doesn't the thought of Shrimp Gazpacho just make your mouth water on a hot summer-like day? Well, that's on the Additions to the Menu this weekend...and pair that with our Bar's special drink choice for the weekend, The St. Germain Cocktail (St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Champagne, Club Soda, garnished with lemon), available by the glass or carafe for larger parties...YUMMMM!

There's still tomorrow (oh, I mean today...where did the time go?) if this peaks your interest, for you to enjoy these special items. But don't worry if you can't make it. We're already hard at work developing our summer menu. I'll definitely post something once we go "live" with it. If you're not yet a fan of The National Hotel on facebook, just click on the right hand side and join our family. You'll get quick posts of upcoming events and items--and don't worry, we won't overwhelm you with posts, just the things we feel the community would want to see/read.

We have so much planned for the remainder of June and the month of July. Check back on information about our "official" grand opening on July 3rd, and our featured musicians. Do post a comment here if you have any suggestions or feedback. More later...