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A beehive in Harvard Square – and perhaps one for your home?

Just across the street from Hotel Veritas is a thriving, happy beehive – which happens to be in the most incredible little shop called Follow The Honey.  Actually, they call themselves a “story” rather than a “shop.”

“Follow The Honey is not just a store, it’s a honeybee-centric STORY [an adventure!] illuminating the landscape, wildlife and humanity from whence its nectar flow originates. To this noble mission, Follow The Honey travels the world bringing the finest of “transparency of source” honeys and bee-inspired offerings to you and your sweet ones. In addition to raw untreated honeys, we offer solar power created aromatherapy beeswax candles, mead kits, honey filled truffles from local chocolatiers, holiday cards, silk hexy-sexy scarves, Apis melliferous bling, books of Melissae both scholarly & esoteric,  propolis tinctures, pure pollen, with honey infused lotions, soaps, scrubs & salves. We even carry Iggy’s bread on weekends to slather your honey on with an organic local cheese to pair ~ we are your all purpose sweet gifting honeypot in Harvard Square!”

Helping tell the story of Follow The Honey and bees is Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Best Bees Company. Based in Boston, MA, they specialize in installing honey bee hives in densely populated, urban areas – offering their services to the Greater Boston area and Cape Cod.  Noah was recently interviewed by CNN for a segment on The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Bees and wrote a very interesting article for cnn.com.  He writes, “Honey bees are dying. This is a global phenomenon and a worldwide problem affecting food availability. Like climate change, the decline of honey bees is not unprecedented. There were great die offs of honey bees reported as early as the year 950 A.D. in Ireland, called the “Great Mortality of Bees”. This repeated in Ireland is 992 and 1443. The great die-off crossed the pond in 1903 when 2,000 colonies died in Cache Valley, Utah. Three years later, 100% of hives died on the Isle of Wight, UK. And then, in 1996 and again in 2006, Pennsylvania beekeepers reported alarming numbers of honey bee die offs. These die-offs are continuing today, but under the auspice of a new name, Colony Collapse Disorder.”

We’re fascinated by the story of Follow The Honey – and of the disappearing bees.  And now we’re ready to enjoy some honey.

Follow The Honey, 1132 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

 

 

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Imagine Helen Keller with an iPhone!

Helen Keller.  Anne Sullivan.  Braille classes.   Before today, that’s pretty much all that I knew about the Perkins School for the Blind.

Over a delicious lunch at Upstairs on the Square (thanks to Susan Regis and Mary-Catherine Deibel!), I joined several people for a discussion with Steven Rothstein, the president of the school.  Based in Watertown, MA just three miles from Hotel Veritas, the Perkins School educates hundreds of students on their historic 38-acre campus overlooking the Charles River.  Although the organization is 183 years old, Steven said they are “just getting started.”  The incredible advances in technology have changed everything for people who are blind or deafblind.  Perkins offers a Braille & Talking Book Library, which provides free services to Massachusetts residents of any age who are unable to read traditional print materials due to a visual or physical disability.

Global Impact

By working with parents, government officials, and educators, Perkins is able to provide training and assistance in more than 60 countries.

Some of their successes:

  • 20,000 children who are deafblind or blind with additional disabilities receive educational services
  • 52,000 family members receive support
  • 13,400 teachers and administrators are professionally prepared
  • 100 parent groups and advocacy coalitions collaborate to improve educational services
  • Successful university teacher training programs are established in 17 locations
  • 200 international leaders trained in the Educational Leadership Program at Perkins now serve as regional resource persons
  • More than 190 leaders from Africa and the Caribbean trained through the Institutional Development Program—these leaders manage organizations serving nearly 17,000 people who are blind
  • Over 300,000 Perkins Braillers® benefit people who are blind in 170 countries
  • Professional literature and education publications have been produced in 21 languages
  • In 27 countries, government polices or practices changed in relation to the education of children with multiple disabilities
  • Over 200,000 children, family members, teachers, and professionals have directly benefited from program activities
  • The teachers and professionals trained in the program are projected to serve 1.8 million people over the next 20 years
Community Programs

Perkins offers many services for people of all ages who are visually impaired as well as for vision professionals, classroom teachers, care providers for individuals 55 and older, medical professionals and family members.

  • Special classes and programs offered on and off our campus
  • Services provided by our Braille & Talking Book Library and Low Vision Clinic
  • In-home outreach efforts for infants
  • Outreach to students and teachers in public and private schools
Needless to say, the lunch “opened my eyes” to the incredible work of the Perkins School for the Blind and I look forward to finding new ways to support them.  (Steven used the “opened my eyes” line, so I’m using it, too.)
Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas

Eating (and drinking) our way to and through Montreal

We escape to Montreal every so often for a change of scenery and language.  With the recent beautiful weather, we felt the City of Saints calling us.

On the way, we stopped at the incredibly charming Every Day Cafe in Contoocook, New Hampshire.  I enjoyed the “the Bup” – a roast beef and cheddar sandwich with tomato and horseradish mayo on thick white bread.  The cafe also sells many locally-made products including their branded “Tooky NH” items.

Springtime in Burlington, VT had the students flooding Church Street enjoying the warm weather.  We were happy to join them for a nice IPA at Sweetwaters.

Our friends John Delpha and Cailin Bilodeau own the Black Cow Bistro in Essex Junction, Vermont and we’ve been craving John’s cooking since he left Boston after stints at La Campania, Sorellina, Harvest and Mistral. John has won numerous for his culinary talents – especially for his barbeque:  2009 Grand Champion and two-time category champion at the Jack Daniels World Barbeque Championship competition.  I started with Smoked Chicken Wings with House Rub and Agave Nectar Glaze and finished with a tasty pork chop which was a special for that night.  An amazing dinner and a few celebratory cocktails for Cailin’s birthday made for an exceptional evening.

The next morning, we drove to Montreal and heading straight for Rue Laurier Ouest, the perfect street for meandering, dining, and shopping. Michel Brisson is a little clothing shop which lured us in with its sleek design and window displays.  I purchased a great cotton summer jacket from wings + horns, a Canadian company which draws design influence from Japan.  We stepped into L’Emouleur to look over their stunning selection of Japanese cutlery and into La Maison d’Émilie,  a shop which sells intriguing and interesting culinary items and gifts.

After a quick “welcome to Montreal” cocktail (or two) at Rotisserie Laurier, we made the tragic mistake of going to a different restaurant for lunch.  I won’t provide the name of the restaurant, but we waited 53 minutes for our meals – afterwhich the server said we should have told him that we were in a hurry.

The Jean-Talon Market was definitely worth seeing with stall after stall of produce, seafood, meats, and flowers.  We’re accustomed to paying high prices in Boston and Cambridge for fresh produce – and wish we could have filled the car with these delectables, but the U.S. customs officers wouldn’t have been so pleased.

We then checked into one of my favorite hotels, The Gault.  This hotel has almost the exact opposite design asthetic of our little hotel in Harvard Square, Hotel Veritas.  While our rooms are small with detailed woodwork, rich textiles and iridescent wall coverings, the rooms at The Gault are large and loft style with concrete floors and smooth lines.  The concierges and servers are extremely friendly and charming.  We’ve tried a few hotels over the years in Montreal, but now we stay nowhere else but The Gault.  A few cocktails in the lounge with our friends led to us missing our afternoon nap – which we’re so accustomed to when traveling.  We pushed through somehow.

The friendly bar at L’Assommoir Bernard was great for our pre-dinner cocktails.  When we walked into the Le Comptoir, I was certain our friends had selected the right place for dinner.  The neighborhood restaurant was intimate and lively – and with the restaurant descriptive of “charcuteries et vin,” we had high expectations of the meal to come.  We weren’t disappointed.  After the house-made charcuterie plate, we enjoyed the roasted beet salad with celery “à la grecque”, goat cheese, watercress, and argon oil – then the braised beef short ribs, potatoes angnoletti, celeriac purée, and red wine glazed onion.  There was much sharing of food amongst our friends – and the wine flowed well.

For some, that would be the end of the culinary night – but not for our friends.  L’Express Restaurant was the final stop of the night and Dan and I sipped on pear martinis and vodka on the rocks – while our friends had their mid-night snack of steak frites.

We collapsed into our bed at The Gault quite sated.

Monday morning brought about our stroll around Chinatown and dim sum at Ruby Rouge.  Although Boston has an vibrant Chinatown, Dan and I tend to go more often for the pho than dim sum.  We picked up some shwarmas from Marchés Adonis for the road trip home.

All in all: a great few days of eating, drinking, and laughing with friends.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


I’m not a vegan, but I can shop like one

On Sunday, we were invited to join some friends at Posto in Davis Square for brunch. The wood fired pizzas at Posto are spectacular – and they’re made to the standards of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which means that they use the same ingredients and techniques as used in and around Naples.  For brunch, I had the Ham & Eggs Pizza, which has two soft eggs, rosemary ham, Vermont cheddar cheese and served with home fries. I also nibbled on some warm sweet rolls which the table shared.  A Grey Goose and OJ rounded out the meal.

Since we don’t often walk from Davis Square to Harvard Square – and Sunday was a gorgeous Spring day – we decided to take a stroll. This stretch of Massachusetts Avenue is filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants, barely a national chain store amongst them.  We ventured in and out of a few shops – my favorite being Sudo Shoes, Cambridge’s only shoe store featuring completely vegan footwear.  While I have many friends who are vegans, I have never had the desire to remove meat from my diet.  I don’t mind, however, wearing a stylish pair of Macbeth sneakers.

Give up sirloin and bacon? Never.  Wear synthetic suede? Sure.

Posto187 Elm St, Davis Square, Somerville, MA   617.625.0600
Sudo Shoes, 1771 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA   617.354.1771

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Menton: Boston’s First (and only!) Relais & Châteaux Restaurant

Congratulations to our friends at Menton for being awarded the incredible status as Boston’s only Relais & Châteaux property.  We’ve been fans of Barbara Lynch for years – and have spent many hours at the bar at No. 9 Park (which was the first place where Dan and I met Julia Child, the second time we had dinner with her is a private story.)

Read Barbara’s personal note about this accolade on their Facebook page.

“Chef Barbara Lynch is pleased to share news of Menton’s recent induction into Relais & Châteaux. Menton is Boston’s first and only Grand Chef property.

Photo by Justin Ide

With this unique distinction, Barbara joins an elite group of 19 chefs in North America and 161 chefs worldwide who have been awarded the title of Grand Chef including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Daniel Humm. She is currently the only female Grand Chef in North America, and Menton was the only free-standing Grand Chef restaurant to be inducted in January 2012.

As a Relais & Châteaux property, Menton joins a collection of 518 of the finest hotels and restaurants around the world, celebrated for their unequalled hospitality, excellence, and ability to offer truly exquisite experiences. North American Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux restaurants include Jean Georges, The French Laundry, and The White Barn Inn.

In addition to being named a Relais & Châteaux property, Menton was the only Boston property to receive both AAA’s Five Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide’s Five-Star Award in 2012, further establishing the restaurant’s reputation as an exceptional culinary destination for locals and visitors from across the globe.”

ABOUT RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 518 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its unique art de vivre across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character.  Furthermore, Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share a passion for, and a personal commitment to, ensuring their guests are privy to moments of exceptional harmony.  To choose Relais & Châteaux is to experience an unforgettable celebration of the senses. From the vineyards in Napa valley to the beaches in Bali, from the olive trees in Provence to the lodges in South Africa, Relais & Châteaux offers a chance to explore the Route du Bonheur and discover a special place in a variety of destinations.  The Relais & Châteaux signature reflects this ambition: “ALL AROUND THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD.” For information or reservations, call 800-735-2478 or refer to www.relaischateaux.com.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


A week with the kids in Boston and Cambridge

Our 12 year old niece and 17 year old nephew visited us this week from the Atlanta area during their winter school break. They were comfortably ensconced in the two-bedroom suite at Hotel Veritas, which provided them with their own bedrooms and bathrooms: perfect for keeping the peace between two loving siblings. Grammy chaperoned from her nearby Queen Balcony room.

Finding places to eat and drink has never been a challenge for Dan and me – and we spent the week in restaurants which the kids enjoyed a great deal.

Feeding

Tory Row offers the best people watching thanks to their prime Harvard Square location and floor-to-ceiling windows. The kids devoured the sumptuous burgers, while I snacked on the veggie burger and a Fisherman’s Ale from the Cape Ann Brewing Company.

Our niece and nephew are both huge sports fan (not a trait they picked up from me), so Tavern in the Square was a great place to watch a Celtics game and eat some decent bar food. Just a ten minute walk from the hotel, this restaurant is often packed – especially during game times, owing to the fact that it’s one of the few “sports bars” in Cambridge.

Our nephew first tried mussels at Via Matta ten years ago and he’s been hooked since. This trip, we took him to the Legal Sea Food in Harvard Square for mussels and the Treasures of the Reef from the seafood bar. This branch of the seafood chain is one of their smallest, providing a more intimate experience – which we enjoy. In the summer time, they have outdoor seating in the Charles courtyard, along with Henrietta’s Table and Rialto.

Grendel’s Den has been in Harvard Square since 1971 and is great little casual neighborhood restaurant.  They had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to be able to use their liquor license – and I was very appreciative as I sipped on my Harpoon IPA.  I loved the quesadilla loaded with cheddar and jack cheeses, black beans and chicken.  The kids devoured their burgers.

The Parish Cafe in Back Bay has long been a favorite of ours and has won numerous Best of Boston awards from Boston Magazine for their sandwiches created by well-known local chefs. I love the Schlow: roasted rare sirloin, sliced thin, with caramelized onions, tomato confit, arugula and a horseradish-cream sauce, along with a Harpoon IPA. Our niece ordered the mac-and-cheese, which satisfied her no-frills palette. Our nephew was a bit more adventerous with the Zuni Roll: smoked turkey breast, crisp bacon, chopped scallions, dill Havarti cheese and cranberry-chipotle sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla and served warm.

The Wagamama chain has three location in Boston and Cambridge, with one just a ten minute walk from the hotel. This was perfect for the noodle-loving kids. I opted for the beef cha han: stir-fried rice with beef, snow peas, carrots and leeks accompanied by a bowl of vegetarian miso soup and japanese style pickles – and a Sam Adams Lager.

With the kids festooned in their Celtics jerseys, we went to Jerry Remy’s by Fenway Park to watch the game on their dozens of large screen televisions. We asked our nephew if he’d heard of Jerry Remy and he gave us a stupid stare. He had. Along with nachos and steak tips, we enjoyed the trivia night which we weren’t expecting. We had a blast since the questions covered a variety of topics enabling us all to be involved – from the 12 year old niece to Grammy.

For some of the best ice cream in the area, JP Licks is the place. A five minute walk from the hotel, this small cafe was exactly what my gummy-bear-hungry niece wanted. I prefered the Pralines and Cream.

Back Bay Social Club was the most “grown up” place we took the kids on this trip. They loved the VIP treatment we received (thanks to my “cousin” who runs the place) and our leather banquet in the corner. I had a wonderful scallops appetizer, Dan ordered charcuterie, while the kids feasted on Chicken and Waffles with BBQ maple syrup. Grammy went southern with the Shrimp and Cheese Grits and pickled corn relish.

The 20-year-old Miracle of Science attracts a great local crowd and has a strong following of MIT students. Dan and I are here at least once a month. The kids, Grammy, Dan, and I all went with burgers and steak tips. Can’t go wrong – especially when paired with Ipswich Ale (for the adults.)

Shopping

Follow the Honey is a spectular raw organic honey store across the street from the hotel. Grammy and the kids stopped by and stubbled upon a Skype conference live from Kosovo with author, translator, educator, and beekeeper Elizabeth Gowing. She was discussing “Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo & Macedonian Honey Tasting.” Just a typical day in Harvard Square.

Of course, the kids wanted to hit some of the major stores: the Apple Store, NikeTown, H&M, Ugg Store – so we’re lucky to have those around.

The kids were particularly blown away by the service received when purchasing running shoes at the locally-owned Marathon Sports on Boylston Street. The staff here is extremely knowledgeable and patient in helping our niece find the perfect pair of shoes.

Black Ink is one of those shops where you wonder where their buyers find this stuff – and you want to purchase everything. Their tagline “Unexpected Necessities” is completely warranted. It was very challenging pulling our niece out of the store.

The Japanese shop in Harvard Square, Kofuku, is the place to go when you’re looking for that unusual little item. The kids loved it.

A quick stop by the Harvard Coop gave my nephew time to find the perfect Harvard sweatshirt that he had to have.

Educating

The kids visited two museums while in town: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

The MFA can definitely be a bit overwhelming for a couple of teenagers, so they focused on what interested them most: Art of the Ancient World. Our nephew was particularly fascinated by the Egyptian pieces – and I was happy to see his interest.

Our niece “loves giraffes,” as she told me when I mentioned that the Harvard Museum of Natural History has a fascinating, newly renovated Great Mammal Hall, “the oldest and most dramatic gallery in the museum, with a 19th century arrangement of specimens that includes a full-sized giraffe and three whale skeletons suspended from the rafters. In the balcony, you’ll find Harvard’s extensive collection of birds.” She also loved their gift shop and picked up some little trinkets for her friends at home.

Getting Around

The T was very easy for the kids to use alone. They only got lost once.

I believe they prefered when they were traveling with their Uncle Benson, who is now completely dependent upon Uber, a car reservation service which recently launched in Boston and Cambridge. For slightly more than the cost of a taxi, a black sedan or SUV will take you anywhere you want to go. I haven’t been in a taxi since I started using the service a few months ago. I’m pretty certain that the kids want me to arrange for an Uber car to take them to school when they return on Monday.

What a week. And I need a cocktail.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Bar Hopping in Back Bay

Yesterday was another night of roaming; this time in Back Bay in Boston.  We started in the afternoon with a quick cocktail on the first floor of Bistro du Midi.  We love windows overlooking the sidewalk and Public Garden.

Next, a stop at The Bristol Lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel.  The tone and crowd at the Bristol can be hushed, as it was this late afternoon, or buzzing later in the evening.  One of our favorite nights here was Christmas night a few months ago when the bar was packed with many friends who stayed in town for the holidays.  The Bristol is popular amongst  noted Bostonians – and yesterday was no different, with Joseph Kennedy III a few seats away. He didn’t ask for our advice on his campaign which he just announced the day before.

We moved to Post 390 for a quick cocktail. The chef, Eric Brennan, is an old colleague (we both worked at the Four Seasons and Mistral)  and a great chef.  Guy Neil, the general manager, is really one of the nicest guys in world.   The bar was packed with the post-work crowd. There’s a big bar downstairs and a roaring fire to warm us up on the cool day.  A smaller bar is upstairs, when we occasionally go to hide out.

We were so close to Mistral, the we had to swing by for dinner.  Dan had a craving for their renowned tuna tartare with crispy wontons, ginger and soy.  I started with the French onion soup with a towering gruyere pastry crust.  We then shared the Black Burgundy Truffle Macaroni with Madeira and Parmesan, which was worth every calorie – not that we try to count on nights like this.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Chili for a good cause

Tonight took us to foreign land: Fanueil Hall in Boston, but for a very good cause.  For Bostonians and Cantabrigians, Fanueil Hall isn’t someplace we visit often.  From a historic and architectural standpoint, we love it and it’s worth a visit.

We went across the Charles for the third annual Chili Cup with the battle including Ned Devine’s, The Harp, Game On!, Dillon’s, Church, The Greatest Bar, Cask n’ Flagon, Anthem Kitchen + Bar, Flat Iron Tapas Bar & Lounge, Porters Bar and Grill, The North Star, Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar, The Grand Canal, the culinary team from Community Work Services, and Joe Sent Me.  Congrats to Flat Iron Tapas Bar & Lounge for their win!

All proceeds benefited Community Work Services, a nonprofit organization formed in 1877 which helps people find employment through job training and support.  CWS has an At Your Service training program which focuses on the hotel industry.  We’re hired several AYS graduates at Hotel Veritas which has been life-changing for them and incredibly rewarding for us.  I sit on the Board of CWS, so I am a bit biased – but still, I love a good bowl of chili.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Wednesday Tacos at Green Street

Central Square is a ten minute walk from Hotel Veritas, but about a million miles from Harvard Square.  Dan and I met at Green Street, a back-street, one-story, brick-front building which we would absolutely avoid if we didn’t know how great it was.  The restaurant opens at 5:30pm –  not 5:29pm, we’ve tried – and the bar is sometimes packed by 5:31pm.

I had my usual Grey Goose with a splash of soda and a wedge of orange.  As much as I love Green Street, they still don’t serve Bully Boy or Ice Glen, but they have some of the best bartenders in Boston and Cambridge.  Dan started with with classic gibson, then segued into an aqueduct.  Wednesday is taco night (for Tuesday Taco night go to Tremont 647 in Boston), so Dan snacked on the mahi, steak, and pork tacos.  I loved/hated the chicken wings with nuoc cham, basil, coriander. By hated, I mean loved.

We left early in order to get home in time for a new episode of Modern Family, the best comedy currently on television.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas


Valentine’s Day and Fencing

We’re not ones to go out to restaurants on Valentine’s Day (we prefer the 13, or 15th, or practically any other day), but we found ourselves back at the Russell House Tavern for an early cocktail.  When we arrived, a bartender from another restaurant in the neighborhood was sipping a bourbon in preparation for the busy Valentine’s night which he would soon face.

Shortly after we arrived, two proud MIT parents (she in jersey proclaiming “MIT MOM”) who were extremely engaging sat by us.  As they had been married for 37 years, they were perfectly content toasting their Valentine’s Day with two random strangers at a bar.  We had a blast chatting with them about children, failed romances, small business ownership, New Jersey, Central Square vs. Harvard Square, paying for college education, and on and on and on.  Cocktails extended into dinner at the bar.  Dan and I shared a House Charcuterie Board and a steak tartare, while our new friends enjoyed a Dirty Caesar and an Angry Queen Pizza (if I remember correctly.)

Cocktails, dinner, conversation, and laughs were so enjoyable that we tagged along with the parents to Harvard’s Maklin Athletic Center to watch their son compete in the Beanpot Tournament for fencing: Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, and Boston College.  We watched with great pleasure at all of the thrusting and parrying – which has us tempted to take fencing lessons.  We’ll keep you posted.

Posted by Benson Willis, General Manager of Hotel Veritas