Saturday, May 26, 2012


As usual, I was rushing to get from Point A to Point B.  I'll never learn my lesson to slow down a little bit in order to finish things in a timely manner; seems counter-intuitive, but I know from experience the truth in this statement.  But when I took a little shortcut through the winding roads of Frenchtown and Kingwood, NJ, I found a totally different kind of rush hour:

 No choice but to sit back and let the large tractor in front of me drive as slow as need be in order to be safe.  I was definitely impressed by the maneuverability of the farm vehicle, scooting to the right to let oncoming cars pass by.  And yes, I was late, but I was not pulling my hair out, surprisingly.  It felt like a Zen moment, surrendering, and finally enjoying the lovely winding country roads that are so abundant in Hunterdon County, NJ.

So although I was a little late, I managed to make it for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Frenchtown, NJ, where the town had the opportunity to thank the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission for funding the road work improvements in town.  We were even fortunate to have good weather to boot, which made the day's ceremony an absolute joy.

It seems as though every weekend in May has brought its own reason to celebrate.  Even this past weekend, Frenchtown was in the newspapers yet again, because a brand new and lovely bocce pavilion was built and dedicated in memory of Antonio "Tony" De Sapio.

May has truly been full of exciting activities in Frenchtown, from celebrating Mother's Day with so many friends and patrons, to kicking off the town's monthly Second Saturday event sponsored by the Frenchtown Business and Professional Association (FBPA) that runs into September and which features local shops and galleries closing later while musicians perform throughout the town from 6 - 8 p.m.  It was also the month when the entire town got together to support the book launch of Home on the Range,  by one of its most famous residents, Elizabeth Gilbert--but moreover, it was truly an honor for the town to have been included in this book launch celebration, invited to participate, in fact, by the author herself.  It was a great opportunity to showcase the lovely recipes included in her newest book that weaves stories about her great-grandmother while sharing the recipes that she created decades ago.  Throughout Frenchtown, shops took on a recipe (or more) from the book, and had these goodies as a focal point for the entire weekend, while Liz Gilbert signed copies of her book on Saturday and Sunday, at the lovely and unique shop she and her husband, José Nunes own, Two Buttons.  They arranged for special parking spots, had a limousine driving guests from those spots right into town, and everyone had a wonderful time.  At The National Hotel, we planned our entire Additions to the Menu for the weekend based on recipes from her book.  These included:

Jamaican Rum, Cognac, Peach Brandy “So keep a watchful eye on any rich unsophisticated maiden aunt’s trips to the source of supply” 

Frenchtown’s own garden greens, fresh radish, spring onions, sliced tomatoes & cucumbers, with Margaret’s tangy tarragon vinaigrette 

Slow stewed country chicken served with corn fritter & basil buttered asparagus 
...and many other dishes exclusively available the weekend of May 18th.

Thank you, Liz Gilbert, for sharing your new book with Frenchtown, and for allowing The National Hotel to feature so many of the recipes in your book.  Our Executive Chef, Lisa Frederick, had a wonderful time reading the book, playing with the recipe choices, and ultimately crafting a menu that we feel paid homage to the spirit of Liz Gilbert's great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter.

Just like this though, every weekend The National Hotel features an exclusive Additions to the Menu selection that make it a favorite of the area.  Our Executive Chef makes it a point to support local and sustainable farmers, and has also started her own garden right on our premises.  Can you say "FRESH"!!

May was also the month that we learned about a resident artist who has quietly built a following that makes him one of the most sought-after tattoo artists on the East Coast.  So much so, that filmmaker Jon Reino created a film documenting Rich Cahill's work.  Whether you like tattoos or not, the fact that Frenchtown is consistently producing such talented, creative, and influential artists is very telling.  Those of us fortunate to be around these individuals know that they are passionate about their craft, that they have true talent and even a calling to continue to produce a work product that stands out and is a snapshot of their inner soul.  What's even more telling about the type of individuals they are, is the humility with which they accept and embrace their status, always caring about their town, always demonstrating that it's about community first and their own personal glory second.

We even had the good fortune to have two of our very own Frenchtown local poets, Warren Cooper (journalist, adjunct professor...oh, and yes, Mayor of Frenchtown to boot!) and Ray Brown, participate in Bill's Figs poetry festival last weekend in Raritan Township:

"The three featured poets are Adrian ThePen Bautista of Philadelphia and Warren Cooper and Ray Brown of Frenchtown. The readings will be followed by an open mic during which other poets, Spoken Word Artists and members of the audience will read their own poems."--as seen in
Looking ahead to June and July, these months promise to bring all of us many opportunities to reconnect and to renew our promises to stay in touch.  There's a dedication for the Lenni Lenape Wall Mural that was lovingly painted by Adrienne Crombie and Don Dalen.  Those of us who are in Frenchtown day in and day out, know how painstakingly they've worked on the details, on putting meaning to every creature they painted on that wall.  It's truly a work of art, and if you can stop by to see it, dwell a while, and think about the wolf, the turtle, the turkey--all representatives of clans.  On Saturday, June 2nd, there will be a special ceremony in the Frenchtown Park at 11 a.m. off Kingwood Avenue (at the end of Route 12 in Frenchtown), where there will be a Lenape story teller, a drumming circle hosted by the Mankind Project, and healthy snacks donated by ShopRite.  Definitely a day that promises to be full of memories to be made.

The warm weather months always invite people to stay out a little later, to prolong conversations, to take longer walks, and in our case, having the Delaware River as one of the center pieces of our town, to congregate together just having FUN!  There are so many activities to do in Frenchtown and the surrounding areas.  We try to update our website frequently to record Things to Do on our Concierge page.  Please continue to let us know if we should add another activity that you've tried or another event that we should feature.  And don't forget to check our Music pages to get the latest line-up of artists who will be at The National Hotel to entertain you, as well as to make plans to attend our Monthly Music Themed Nights--always the first Saturday of the month.  We've done the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, Holiday Music, and even Country--all with our patrons coming in era-inspired outfits, music requests, and cameras in hand...what will Mike Pfeiffer think of next?

As always, please continue to email us with your feedback, leave a comment on this blog, and stay up-to-date with everything being planned, by checking our website, calling us at 908.996.3200 or: 

Find us on Facebook  Visit our blog  Follow us on Twitter  View our videos on YouTube

 Thank you again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bartender of the Week, Second Saturdays, and Much More in Frenchtown, NJ

I wanted to craft a post for this blog that captured so much of what I've been feeling this last month, especially because when Pete and I read notes like these that our Hotel guests leave us, we feel so proud of our staff, and even happier that we were able to provide a little respite and an escape to these guests who chose us over so many other establishments to spend some time away from home.

I've tried to carve out time to write, but as so many of us know, it's difficult not to be pulled away by so many demands that we have, so many things that happen that need immediate attention.  But not today.  Today I am determined to start and to finish this little post, because it's something that I do for myself.  It reminds me of the days when I used to keep a journal--does anyone remember doing that or keeping a diary?--when your thoughts put on paper seemed to make the world "right," seemed to help you sort through the chaos that might have been around you?  Now, through blogs, we can actually open the lock on that most hidden journal/diary that we used to keep, and allow our friends to share our thoughts, share our emotions, share the joy (or the angst) of our lives.  And I have quite a few things to share that you might find interesting:

Bartender of the Week: Frenchtown hotel and bar
Bartender of the Week: Frenchtown hotel and barBartender Donna Sampler works her magic at The National Hotel, 31 Race St. in downtown Frenchtown.

I'm so pleased to actually share the article (and webclips) that were featured in the Lehigh Valley newspaper and online publication that named our stellar bartender, Donna Jane Sampler, "Bartender of the Week".  It features Donna preparing a couple of great cocktails detailing the "how to's" for each.

And coming up on May 6th, The Book Garden will host an Author Appearance, featuring Mary Lou Quinlan of Bucks County, who will sign her newest book, The God Box:  Sharing My Mother's Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go, 2 - 4 p.m.

With so many events being planned in town this spring and summer, we're sure to offer something for everyone who visits our town.  For instance, next weekend there will be a special exhibit by one of Frenchtown's art galleries, Dion Hitchings Outsider Gallery, featuring the theme of "Toys".  

Let's not forget about last year's delightful Second Saturdays, where the town brightened with music played outdoors in several locations, entertaining visitors and residents alike.  This kicks off on Saturday, May 12th, where the Jericho Mountain Grass (a bluegrass band) and the Mitchell Cheng Jazz Quarter will play from 6 - 8 p.m.

At The National Hotel, we have a long list of entertainers who will perform throughout this spring and summer.  Please check our website for up-to-date information.  For instance, beginning next weekend, put on your cowboy boots & best hat, because Mike Pfeiffer is getting ready to showcase a great night of Country Music downstairs in the Rathskeller Pub (a.k.a., The Rat), on Saturday, May 5th, 9:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., part of our Monthly Music Themed Night.  Make sure you wear your best Country-Western outfit, because there'll be prizes given out that night.

But looking back is sometimes as important as looking forward, and these last few weeks have been filled with incredible events that impacted the town itself through the work of these local not-for-profits.

I read the story about the Frenchtown, NJ woman who is the facilitator for the Monday Morning project focusing on the developmentally disabled, and was immediately reminded of the charitable work on which  the Frenchtown Lions Club embarks, raising money through member support and fundraisers.  They held their Casino Night Fundraiser at The National Hotel last month...I wanted to share these fantastic individuals' stories, their passion for helping those less fortunate around them.  These efforts by so many volunteers and by non-profits they serve, help the community at large--and often right here in our own backyard.  


I saw this on Saturday, when neighbors and residents of Frenchtown got together to clean up the Frenchtown Park behind the Pharmacy off Kingwood Avenue.  This is a great little park with a playground, a gazebo, a meeting place, with a creek that runs alongside it.  It can be a peaceful slice of time, and at other times, a wonderfully noisy, tumultuous area with little ones running around, playing on the see-saws and on the swing set, reminding all of us that there is so much joy in these simple activities--and in life in Frenchtown. 


We are surrounded by people who care, right here in Frenchtown.  It's that feeling of giving back, of knowing that you are part of something greater than yourself, and knowing that what you do matters in ever small ways that cumulatively make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable in our communities.  Thank you to our many volunteers, and to the organizations that raise funds to help those less fortunate!

As I walk along the streets that make up and bind this tight little Delaware River community, I feel so proud to be walking along with others, some clearly just visiting for the day or weekend, finding shop after shop lining Race Street, Bridge Street, and others, welcoming everyone who walks by.  Our strength is in our ability to be genuinely interested in our visitors and residents' experience.  I have had so many conversations with other business owners who all tell me that they feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to have found their niche in Frenchtown, to have discovered this little gem of a town that is just an hour and a half driving distance from New York City and from Philadelphia.  We're right at the center of major urban environments, and yet, oh so far.

As always, please continue to email us with your feedback, leave a comment on this blog, and stay up-to-date with everything being planned, by checking our website, calling us at 908.996.3200 or: 

Find us on Facebook  Visit our blog  Follow us on Twitter  View our videos on YouTube

 Thank you again.