Friday, July 30, 2010


What a week! What a night! Not only was it a great Open Mic Night session--they're ALWAYS good, thanks to our local musicians and our friends who come to support them--but moreover, it just got better and better the later it got...I'm still recovering from how it ended! Our regular musicians and hosts--hey, you know who you are, and THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for all you give to our community week after week--were so inspired by Mike Pfeiffer's solo performance, that after he played his sets, no one wanted to let him stop!

Oh no, not only did we all want him to keep playing, we had one musician after another just running in and taking the mike, taking the floor, joining in, participating, sharing, laughing, singing, our daughters would say, "OMG!" It brought chills down your spine, it inspired, it motivated. It became an incredible jam session that allowed all of the musicians who were willing and able to join in, to enjoy the night to the last little minute we were able to stay open. And for those of us in attendance, again, "OMG!" I've just finished uploading just 4 of these impromptu jam sessions (3 are embedded here) to our "The National Hotel NJ" youtube channel. I can't wait to share these with you! And I have other clips that I'll post to our youtube channel featuring other musicians from our Open Mic Nights. The talent just keeps pouring out!

And the funny thing, is that last night was probably one of the MOST enjoyable nights at The National Hotel, simply because of how naturally and organically it happened. Thank you, Mike. I know you're coming back next Thursday night for our weekly Open Mic Night, and then again on Sunday, August 8th for our Sunday Musical Afternoon Series. One of our very own, regular and local musicians already nicknamed him, "The Rhythm Machine." All I can say is, we cannot wait!

On that note, do check out our updated roster of artists who will participate during our Sunday Musical Afternoon Series through September. They'll be performing upstairs in our Restaurant & Bar, from 5 - 7 p.m. Pete and I are buoyed by the support, the enthusiasm, and the encouragement that we receive from our local artists, and in turn are thrilled to be the venue of choice for them to perform and share their talent. You have to realize that having the arts be an integral part of The National Hotel is one of the key reasons Pete and I just love our relationship with Frenchtown, love having taken this giant leap of faith, and being a part of the breathing fabric of The National Hotel.

And don't worry, now that we've finished a successful 3 Sunday series of dinner theater in conjunction with our own local River Union Stage, we will continue to look for opportunities to bring different artistic talent to the building. We have a few things "in the works" now that we'll share later in the month...stay tuned!

Do post a comment if you have any suggestions, ideas or feedback. And keep on finding information on us by becoming a fan of The National Hotel on facebook, follow us on Twitter, or just visit our website regularly for updates. I've come to terms with all the technology--it really just means that everyone has the choice of retrieving and accessing information in the manner that he/she wants. It's no longer "fed" to us; we search and retrieve it the way that we want, when we want. Now that's empowering! So follow us, find us, visit us...I hope we've covered all our bases!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Coming up for air after another great weekend! We hosted the People's Poetry in the Rat from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. on Sunday, and followed that with our 2nd dinner theater program in conjunction with River Union Stage, Boxing with Gaia (or love your mother), at 4 p.m. in the Restaurant. The building was filled with the arts, with people who enjoy performing, as well as those who love to be a witness to creative talent unfolding before their eyes.

And it was Frenchtown's Bastille Day weekend celebration too! The town was filled with people from the surrounding areas, and from distant places. People were walking around, shopping, enjoying the sunny (albeit HOT) days. We enjoyed having so many guests stopping by to cool down, have something to eat, and have a refreshing drink. Kasey Goyette, our lead bartender, made so many of her St. Germain cocktails, lychee martinis and pomegranate margaritas that even I got tempted and opted for a taste of the latter. But the St. Germain cocktails, made from a liqueur of elderflower blossoms, are an absolute hit. There was even a fabulous New York Times article recently about it, which even has the basic recipe at the bottom of it:

Two parts Champagne or dry white wine, two parts sparkling water or club soda and one-and-a-half parts St-Germain, garnished with a lemon twist.

The additions to the menu were outstanding! I kept hearing such great comments from our guests, that I just needed to share that statement, because it came from many of you...everyone seems thrilled with the new menu that our executive chef, Ron Rittenhouse developed, taking advantage of seasonal items, and maintaining our commitment to support local and sustainable farmers. It's so important for us to keep the community ever-present in everything we do. And this is just one way we've been able to "stay local."

I know that Ron is already thinking ahead to what he can change for the fall season...I can't wait for that!!! It seems so far away, and yet, I suspect these hot summer days will end soon enough given the speed at which all our lives travel these days. Soon we'll be welcoming Labor Day, planning our wine tasting dinners and martini nights, and gearing up for the start of that busy fall season.

In the meantime though, we plan on absolutely enjoying the summer months, continuing to welcome your feedback on what we're doing right and what we could improve. It looks like the People's Poetry is a big hit for our community, from your feedback. It was an organic process, completely organized and created by members of our community, Skye Van Saun and John Smith, and now features other moderators each month. And our Thursday Open Mic Night sessions are always well-attended, featuring numerous performers, each of whom have their own style--and many who have impromptu jam sessions. It really is so impressive how this comes together week after week. And that too was created through one of our Frenchtown resident's efforts, Alex Wolfson, and now it is hosted by numerous others in our musical family.

I've been neglectful in putting together the webclip that I envisioned creating from multiple video snapshots of our Open Mic Night sessions...making a note (again) to myself to do that. I'll post it on our National Hotel NJ youtube channel--there'll be additional clips from Chuck Schaeffer too! I just uploaded a couple of other clips from The National Palooza's live music festival. Those musicians absolutely got everyone in the mood to dance, linger, and enjoy a great summer afternoon and evening.

[More from Top Soil]

[More from Rainbow Fresh]

And it's only the middle of July! Wait and see what's in store for August...

Saturday, July 10, 2010


We're preparing for this Sunday's launch of "Boxing with Gaia" (or love your mother) dinner theater, in conjunction with Steven Dennis and River Union Stage. We are so fortunate to be able to host 3 Sundays of dinner theater, starting TOMORROW, beginning at 4 p.m. This has come to fruition thanks to Keith Strunk, Managing Director at River Union Stage, who helped us participate in this incredible program, which will also have a showing at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, NJ this summer. For reservations or for more information, contact Pete directly at or just call us at 908.996.3200. We do hope you'll help us celebrate and support this artistic community by making Sundays in July memorable together.

In fact, July started with Frenchtown's First Fridays with shops open later and music in the streets. It's quite a month. Especially for us at The National Hotel. We launched our brand new seasonal menu, and we're committed to continue to support our local and sustainable farmers. Take a look here for our new choices. And you'll find the same menu now at our upstairs Restaurant also offered downstairs at The Rat.

Our "official" grand opening took place last Saturday and we are still floating from the warm welcome all of our guests extended to us. We were hugged, kissed, celebrated, and lifted in more ways than one. Did you join us on the 3rd? What a day!!! Our Frenchtown mayor, Ron Sworen, the Chief of Police, Allan W. Kurylka, friends like Chris Poh, and our wonderful staff, helped us get the 12-hour marathon celebration off to a great start! We even had the support of our local businesses, as many called to let us know that they had posted The National Palooza information in their establishments for their clients to see. Thank you Frenchtown Business and Professional Association (FBPA)! In fact, the FBPA is responsible for all of the planning of Frenchtown's First Fridays and Bastille Day in Frenchtown...that's just a week away!

But back to last Saturday. First was the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Next, the conversations, the music, the St. Germain cocktails (which appear to be a favorite of Martha Stewart now, with many variations), the wonderful food (whether you stayed outside or chose to pick from our new summer menu choices inside), and the dancing! Oh yeah!! Let's not forget the dancing--all the way through midnight.

And how lucky we were to have the sun shining down on us all day, with a warm breeze making the day's temperature oh so tolerable, and a great time to be outside. 12 hours of music and fun, all progressively getting busier, getting more lively, and filling our outdoor space.

The fun really started when Chuck Schaeffer took the stage with Vern Warta and Jim Thompson. They're foot-stomping rockabilly music got everyone into the right mood. It was early in the afternoon and people were just arriving, but it certainly enticed a few of our guests to get on the dance floor and dance away all their cares. But we knew this would happen, because Chuck has participated in our Sunday Musical Afternoon series at The National Hotel, and he delivered a standing room only afternoon. He is not only talented, but also incredibly engaging; the connection he establishes with the audience is incredible. He has a rapport, an ease, that creates an incredible comfort level. Last Saturday was no different. It was fun to be on the sidelines and watch all this...and fun for those who chose to join that first couple...even the kids got in on the action and swayed to Chuck's music.

I'm still working on Chuck's Part II of the day webclip...there was so much to share & it just wasn't possible to fit it all into a clip under 10 min. Stay tuned!

A little break while the next band set up, was just the perfect chance to have a sip of our St. Germain cocktail, chilled and served ice cold. Mmmmmm, nice! Pair that with a yummy plateful of our delicious sweet potato salad and one of the main dishes served, and it was just enough time to welcome our next band, Top Soil.

And boy, oh boy, did things get heated then! This local trio of "punk polka" didn't disappoint. It was a high-energy, high-voltage performance that got literally EVERYONE out on the dance floor, young and old, parents, children, grandchildren. You just can't watch or listen to this band and not want to jump up and down. Did I say "fun" already? But really, that's what it was!!! Even an one wanted them off the stage. Everyone in town knows them, and just absolutely loves them. Crazy fun!

People came in and went out, took a stroll, wandered into the Rat, or upstairs to our Bar, but they came back to listen to Rainbow Fresh, a wonderful rock/pop/alternative band, that captivated the audience, had people on their feet and many of us dancing spontaneously! I found this description on the internet about Rainbow Fresh, and it absolutely describes this band perfectly: "Rainbow Fresh represents alternative music in its most sincere and imaginative form. In their music, you can hear the best elements of 70's rock, flavored with Samba and Latin jazz influences. Their artistry lies in their ability to create beautiful songs that everyone can relate to; songs that powerfully emote expressions of love, loss, and hope." (

I have to say that Rainbow Fresh's lead guitarist and founding member, Rich Seiner, blew us away with the kindness of his words and the authenticity of his delivery. Check out what he says at the start of this webclip:

We will never forget his graciousness. Together with Martin Purcell (Bass, vocals), and John Purcell (drums), Rainbow Fresh provide a mesmerizing performance, full of tenderness, intensity, and talent. After you have a chance to look at this webclip, you'll probably want to keep watching...I separated them into manageable clip sizes, so come back to digest some more on The National Hotel NJ youtube channel if you have time.

The truth is that all of these artists are beyond talented. They have established themselves with a following, a fan base, and an area tour schedule that keeps them busy throughout the year. And they deserve our support. If you have the time, do check out their webpages to see where they'll be performing next and catch their live act, buy their CDs or download their music from their sites. It's a terrific opportunity to grow as these talented artists also grow and develop their musical styles. We wish them every success possible. One day, we'll be able to say, "Remember when they performed at The National Hotel? We saw them live back then. Shucks...should've asked for their autographs!!"

And now that we're "officially" open...ha ha...well, the possibilities are endless. We've been planning. We've been putting our thoughts on paper and plans into action. And Sunday, we'll have out first dinner theater experience at The National Hotel. We do hope you'll join us! Let us know what you think, won't you?

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Oh yeah!!! The National Palooza is today! Unbelievable, but it's just a few hours away!! Pete and I are so excited to be able to commemorate the 160th anniversary of this great old building, while at the same time honor our Frenchtown neighbors who have embraced us and demonstrated through words and actions, how much they LOVE The National Hotel.

The number of people who stopped by yesterday either to lend a hand or to just say a few words of encouragement while Pete set up the tents and tables for today's event, is still vivid in our minds. And with everyone excited about today's events, we can't wait for the kick-off at noon.

Between Chuck Schaeffer, Top Soil, Rainbow Fresh, and others, we're looking at a great day for young and old. This is going to be a true family-fun affair. And we're so pleased to be a able to share a portion of the proceeds with Frenchtown's National Night Out later this summer. The fun is only starting! Wait until we have dinner theater in conjunction with River Union Stage in our Restaurant! That's happening on 3 Sundays in July: 11th, 18th, and 25th. More information on Boxing with Gaia (or love your mother) is available here.

There's so much to which to look forward & summer has only just started. And even our "regular" programs continue to deliver fun and entertainment. Of course, I'm referring to our weekly, Thursday Open Mic Night. I recorded a few video clips that I'm editing to share next week; it was just so much fun this past Thursday! I witnessed solo artists truly pouring their hearts out, as well as impromptu jam sessions that just blew me away. Everyone was so relaxed, it was a great night for everyone who participated as well as for those who just sat back, had a drink, and enjoyed the music.

And poetry? Let's not forget our 3rd Sunday of the Month People's Poetry. (The link takes you to The People's Poetry facebook fanpage!!) Tremendous power in the literary works that people have shared. Just an unbelievable outpouring of emotions, memories, lost opportunities, joy, tragedy...all the necessary ingredients for a great poem. If you're up for sharing one of yours, do join us in July--or if you like someone else's poem and would like to read it, please do come by. It's a great day for all who attend.

If you want more information on any of these programs, or anything about The National Hotel, do post a comment or contact me at Hope to see you in less than 3 1/2 hours for The National Palooza!!!