Every March, I head north in anticipation of spring. March is my birthday month, and I find that a weekend away is a nice way to gently wake my insides to the new season ahead.
Last weekend was that weekend, and between the icicles and the beginnings of buds, occasional crocuses and frozen ice patches along the hiking path, the promise of spring was made again.
Now this may surprise you, but I am the kind of traveler who does not make a plan, other than my first night of lodging. I find that plans made prior to arrival typically lead to disappointment -- a promise of something that does not deliver. So my husband and I hop in the car with a sketch, and the good sense to follow locals recommendations when we arrive.
Expectations can disappoint, but a no-plan plan rarely does.
I travel with a dog, so I've stayed -- happily -- at dog-friendly Audrey's farmhouse [www.audreysfarmhouse.com] in the past, but they were booked in early March. When Audrey recommended Bernetta's Place [www.bernettasplace.com], also in Wallkill, NY, we booked it.
And then we arrived: 3 rooms, six human guests, and six dogs. With stats like this, you might picture a furry frenzy, but Bernetta sets a relaxed tone, so that everyone from the human-sized Irish wolfhound to my pound pup behaved beautifully.
We were welcomed with warm-from-the-oven whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, which Bernetta tried to categorize as health food since she made them with whole wheat flour. They were delicious, but a little too naughty to be healthy, at least when you have three as my husband did.
That night, on Bernetta's recommendation, we found ourselves at Mountain Brauhaus [www.mountainbrauhaus.com], a popular family-owned German restaurant across from the Shawangunk Mountains that has been around since 1955.
At the Brauhaus, you'll find big beer steins and waitresses in German garb. Our barkeep. Margaret. told me that they have a full-time spaetzle chef, and after sampling some, I'm inclined to believe it. We had knockwurst, sauerkraut, beer-braised meatballs and schnitzel, and washed it all down with their wonderful jaeger sauce, a combination of mushrooms, onions, white wine and sour cream.
And for the first time in my entire life, we enjoyed this restaurant with back-to-back dinners. That's right, we ate here both Saturday and Sunday nights. It wasn't for lack of options; there are many fine restaurants in this area thanks to the presence of the Culinary Institute in nearby Hyde Park; it was just that good.
But back to Bernetta's; in the morning she served a 5-course breakfast, including something I'd never heard of before: lemon-mascarpone stuffed pancakes. Now think about that for a second. Sure, you can stuff a chicken breast or a nice thick piece of French toast, you can stuff a potato or even a cupcake. But a pancake? How does one stuff it?
Bernetta shared her secret. She used this [www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/lemon-ricotta-pancakes-with-vanilla-sauce-recipe] delicious recipe from King Arthur Flour for lemon ricotta pancakes, then made a simple filling with equal parts lemon curd and mascarpone. For each serving, she cooked two pancakes on one side, turned them over, then topped one pancake with the filling and covered it with the second pancake. She then let these finish cooking in the oven, until the batter was cooked through and the filling was warmed.
It was delicious and filling; one pancake (and four additional courses) set everyone up for the long day of hiking ahead.
If you're going to try these on your own, be sure to tell your guests that you've stuffed the pancakes, or else they might mistake the delicious filling for uncooked batter.
And make a plan to get yourself to the Shawangunks. There were lots of Jersey license plates in the parking lot; it's a quick trip for lucky North Jersey folks. Actually, one of our B&B companions had come all the way from Asbury Park. Why leave the Jersey Shore for mountains and lakes? Come visit and you'll see.
Allison Fishman is the host of Yahoo's Blue Ribbon Hunter and author of You Can Trust A Skinny Cook. For delicious humor & recipes, visit allisonfishman.com or follow @allisonfishman on Twitter.