Reviews

Reviews, public reviews, they are a fact of life in the inn and restaurant business. We struggle about whether we should encourage them, does this seem pushy? Is it denying a fact of doing business of we don’t invite people to review us somewhere? (On one of the seemingly kagillion reviews sites there are….) It’s a dance with the devil either way as far as I’m concerned.

“From the moment you enter the door, Molly & her team do a great job anticipating your needs. Dining in the Gastro Pub on Chef Dominic’s creations is a treat for the senses – it’s little wonder why folks living or visiting in the area flock to the Shoreham for dining.”

“The hosts are very friendly and very accomodating. The wait staff at the pub were superb, friendly and very helpful. The room was spacious, clean and comfortable.”

“The dining area where we sat was small but not crowded. The food was outstanding. New York strip steak done exactly as asked — seems like that never happens anymore. Succulent pork tenderloin. I love the low key atmosphere. This place is not pretending to be anything other than what it is, a country inn with great food and good service.”

“The food I believe is overrated.  I do not have a single bad thing to say about it.  You will never ever get bad dish here.  However I feel that the fact that it is one of the only quality restaurants in the area it gets accolades beyong what it deserves.”

“We did decide to have dessert because they had a peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting. Again, it was ok but tasted like something I could have made at home.”

….screeech……gulp.

I don’t think I need to explain how reading things like these last two make you feel like you’ve taken a serious one-two punch to the gut. I mean, maybe you’ve had a slightly less than stellar performance review at your job, but I bet it wasn’t published on the world wide web. Feedback is very welcome, we try to take it all on and make sense of the things we need to change, and we have made many, many changes over the years. We have apologized about mishaps, we have bought meal and drinks for unhappy people, we smile, we listen. We truly hate getting things wrong, but we do get them wrong. There are a lot of us, sometimes a lot of you, and we just can’t be exactly right all the time for every person.

I am not making excuses here at all. I’m trying to embrace this wide new, wide open, world we live in. I’m just musing on the whole online review situation. It’s a lot of power we all have as consumers. Its a whole lot of vulnerability we have as business owners. I guess I am asking you to understand the dread with which I read the notification ‘a new customer review has been posted on XXXX site!’

Despite knowing we can’t be perfect, you just can’t take the oldest-sibling-overachieving-perfectionist out of this girl.

Summertime

When you live in a place with seasons, one of the joys is marking the change from one to the next. Seasons are generally just long enough to get excited about, revel in and then get a little bored of, before the next one comes along. Some people have a favorite one, some wish certains seasons were longer, me, I love them all. (yes, I even love a cold, rainy day)

Anyway, since we are headlong into summer now, I thought I’d just recount the steps that lead us there, or the ones that occurred to me Friday when I picked strawberries at Douglas Orchards on their opening day of the season. Because once strawberries arrive, there is no turning back. Summer is most definitely here.

But first, there are peepers. This year’s peepers were a HUGE tease, I heard one on March 18, when we are certainly not out of the woods for a major snowstorm. (No late snow for us this year, instead it went to a crazy 80 degrees! the following week – that was a first!) Next there are forsythia, one of the earliest trees to bloom – and bloom ours did this year. Bright, bright, almost-couldn’t-look-at-it-in-sunshine bright yellow. Then, particular to Shoreham and maybe even only to Shoreham Main Street residents, one neighbor unwraps his porch furniture for a summer’s worth of late afternoon porch-sitting and another neighbor takes down the light-up Santa Claus (his deadline for himself is Memorial Day on that chore).

And then the smell of new mown grass, The Fort Ticonderoga Ferry opening, first hay being baled, manure being spread (no one’s favorite smell, but must be included in a list of summer heralds!) And finally the call, the sneaky-come-before-we-can-officially-open call from Douglas Orchards that says the strawberries have begun. And they are spectacular this year!

Here’s to a spectacular summer for us all!

Say goodbye to Irish music nights

Yes, you read that right. After three (I think?) years, we must say goodbye to our Irish music nights. I would like to say this was a well thought out plan. Or a need for a change of venue. Or major musical success for our community musicians. Or anything, really, that had an element of local control to it. But, alas that is not the case. Instead, you are going to get a little innkeeper rant.

I’m guessing that if you are here reading this, you know me, or my Inn or my town, or all of the above. (In reality I’m guessing that about three people read these posts, but that’s OK, it’s lovely that you are here!) Back to my topic – so you get Shoreham. How small we are. What a perfect Vermont community we are (warts and all) Maybe you have been here on a Sunday night to hear some Irish music. This motley (said with the utmost fondness) group of local people who love playing Irish music together. One person in town had the idea that The Shoreham Inn would be a great location for these informal gatherings; ‘sessions’ in Irish speak. Musicians getting together, of all sizes, shapes and aptitudes, to make traditional music together. Perfect. They were right, the Inn was a perfect setting for this. Dominic didn’t get to hear the music much, as he’s slaving away in the kitchen, but when he did it would always spark the memory of being a young boy, made to go to bed in the room above the bar in his aunt’s pub, while the music and singing went on below him. Very soothing, the sound of Irish music through floorboards. If you came to any of these nights, you might have seen the young boy and his father playing together, there might have been singing, maybe you were here on one of the nights a world-class fiddler came along just for fun. I’ll stop, you get the idea.

So, why would we put an end to this magic? We’ve been contacted by the first of potentially three major music licensing companies, demanding that we pay them yearly royalties for the right to have live music on the premises. Royalties that they distribute to the songwriters of the songs in their catalog. Doesn’t seem to matter if they know whether these musicians play their songs or not, we must pay regardless. And, as I am told, the other licensing companies will be on my doorstep in moments, also demanding payment. I get the principle, I really do, but you would not believe the heavy-handedness with which they have been in touch with us here at the Inn. And the money they demand. Which, just isn’t feasible for what really feels like a tiny piece of community-building that we supported here at the Inn. I have had many conversations with other business owners and the resounding opinion is, don’t fight it, they are big and ugly and unfair and they will win. Apparently they shut down a coffee house’s music night in Rochester VT late last year. I am trying not to be too bitter but it really makes me want to stamp my feet and throw things. (Seriously, does this strike anyone else as EXACTLY identical to schoolyard bullying?)

OK, rant over. The important message for today is that we have to say a fond farewell to Irish music nights. Thank you for being such fun and putting smiles on so many faces. We wish all our musicians happy, happy playing wherever they land next.

Of course, all of this leaves me unsure as to what I’m supposed to do if someone wants to sing Happy Birthday on my premises……

Introducing our ghost, Claire

One of the events of last summer that you missed hearing about (through no fault of yours, completely me and my unplanned blog break last year!) was the extensive, detailed description of a friendly ghost, named Claire. I really, truly don’t know where I stand on the whole ghost issue. I’m a pretty practical person and so common sense rules a lot of what I think about the world. On the other hand, owning a 200+ year old building, it often crosses my mind just the shear number of people that have passed through here. Who am I to say a few of those souls haven’t lingered around? It is a lovely part of the world. The Inn was built as an inn and has been an inn most of its life. That is a LOT of people. Coming and going. Living lives, having experiences, all within these walls. Other owners (and I say ‘owners’ – if there was ever something to make you feel less like you own a place and more like you’re just taking care of it for a while, it’s owning a building this old. I know the bank would disagree, but even if we own the Inn for 25 years, which would be huge in our lives, it’s still so tiny in the life of this place), managers, staff, guests. One of the many projects I always thought I’d find time for in the ‘quiet’ season was researching more about the life and history of this building. If someone could find me the ‘quiet’ season, I’d still love to tackle that project.

Anyway, back to Claire. One morning last summer guests came down to breakfast after their first night here and one woman was quite excited to tell me about the ghost that had visited her room the previous night. She was calm, extremely thorough, detailed and pleased with the whole experience. She had spent quite a bit of time with a young woman named Claire. This guest physically felt Claire next to her, described what she looked like, told me about the conversations they had about her life. Claire even showed her photographs! Claire had lived here at the Inn and told her that she likes having guests in her house (that was a relief!).

So, like I said, I don’t know. You might be able to imagine the variety of thoughts that were gong through my head as I heard all of this. I certainly am not looking to become a mecca to ghost hunters but I also feel like I can’t just dismiss it. When we first got here, the hubby was sure there was someone moving pots and pans around in the kitchen for a while (I just put it down to forgetfulness. Practical, organized me.) There certainly is a LOT we don’t understand about the world and somehow the older I get, the more and more I find that to be the case.

I make no promises about meeting a ghost when you come here but I thought you might want to know, in case you run in to her, that her name is Claire and she’s happy to meet you.

Shoreham Appreciation Night

Hi there, can’t stay long, lots to do. But, I wanted to make an exciting announcement! Starting tonight, and continuing every Monday night, The Shoreham Inn and Whistlepig Straight Rye Whiskey are partnering to bring you Shoreham Appreciation Night. All Whistlepig drinks will be half price.

Can’t ever say we don’t love you!

No Whining About Wine

One of the very best parts about being a restaurant owner is wine tastings. I mean, it’s a rewarding business and customers are lovely and it provides a nice life and it’s a way to be integrally involved in the community and it’s creative to be involved in making food and you get to know all kinds of wonderful local food producers and purveyors. But, really, wine tastings are a lot of fun.

Here at The Shoreham Inn we are in the midst of making a few changes to our wine list. We ideally do this every year, usually in this quieter season, but it’s been a couple of years since we’ve done any major changes. So, we’ve spent quite a few Fridays with a wine rep and a lot of wines; sampling, discussing, choosing. And every time we do anything like this I think, how on earth are there people in the world who claim to be able to tell me what the ‘best’ wines are? Firstly, that would involve a LOT of wine tasting – you may not pay as much attention as I do, but there are wines; new wines, old wines, new regions growing grapes, that seem to appear at an alarming rate. How could anyone keep up? (hmmm, doesn’t sound like a bad job though, does it?) Secondly, isn’t taste very personal? I mean, what I really like might not appeal to you and vice versa. So, how can there be a best? Compared to what? One of the tougher parts of wine tastings (I know, ‘tough’ and ‘wine tasting’ don’t really belong in the same sentence) is trying to come up with a relatively small, manageable wine list that is still diverse enough to keep a majority of people happy. It means having to taste wines and think about things I don’t necessarily want or like in a wine. Anyway, for you, we struggle on!

Be on the look out for some new wine list items – we’re shifting a couple of old faithfuls, adding back a few Old World wines and trying to honor the growing Vermont wine industry too. Next up – we’re considering a shake up in the world of the Shoreham Inn menu too! I don’t know what’s going on, maybe this lack of snow has given these innkeepers a bit more time for plotting and planning this year – We’re excited about these upcoming changes, we hope you will be too!

For Larry

Today I am struggling with activity suggestions for guests this weekend. Admittedly, Shoreham is not generally a hotbed of guests in the winter months. We’re too far from the skiing to get big ski business. But, this winter being what it is, the whole state of Vermont is too far from skiing to get big ski business. These innkeepers went up to Smugglers’ Notch this week to find the  snow, and had one gorgeous day of beautiful snow, and one day of complete and total rain. Steady, dreary, all-day rain. I was sad for us and our ski day, but more than that, I am sad for the tourism this state needs.

Back to my guests – they’ve asked for hiking trails. In February. In Vermont. Hiking. Not a bad idea and I admire their resilience, since they made reservations expecting to snowshoe and cross-country ski. I do appreciate people who can roll with the punches, especially when you plan a trip based on your hopes for Mother Nature. I figure you just have to know that flexibility might be called upon. Suggesting they go cycling might be taking it too far. But what else to point them towards? We’ve discussed alcohol-related activities: touring local options, Otter Creek Brewery and Lincoln Peak Vineyard. There’s good old-fashioned reading, snoozing and game-playing. The Middlebury Farmer’s Market has winter hours. Eating. (News flash: We have a new Thai restaurant in Middlebury called Sabai Sabai. Word is that it’s really good. So exciting!)

If anyone out there has some other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, I’ll be baking bread. And blogging. And doing some other things that have fallen by the wayside in the past number of months. Six Grain Wheat Bread coming up. (Well, as long as my yeast hasn’t died since last time I baked with it….) And this post. Sometimes a kick in the rear comes from a surprising source. But sometimes it’s also just what you need. Thanks Larry.

Excuse us while we are experiencing technical difficulties…

So, in case you end up on this page, looking in vain for our online menu….(if you see it, let me know!) – we are currently having technical issues, which I won’t explain, because I can’t. Anyway, you might be able to imagine how much time I have for looking into this, since it’s fall foliage time in Vermont (come visit, it’s gorgeous!) – but, at least the phone is working again, which it wasn’t last week. Maybe it’s just some oogie juju, but we’ve had several incidents of technical mishaps in the past week or two, and we are trying to get them sorted out. For now, the online menu is the one that is not solved, but know we are here, there will be food, and we’d love to see you!

P.S. Does this count as a post? I know it’s been 4 (!!!) months – where has the time gone?! I will be better, I promise. Just not this week. And probably not next week either.

Vermont’s Best Foodie Tour

Happy Memorial Day weekend, happy beginning of the summer, happy day with no rain….though it’s much too early in the day for me to be saying something like that! My wish for you is just the right amount of moisture in your life. I know there are places that are in drought, which is very hard to imagine here in the water-soaked Northeast, and other places having a lot more devastation from rain than we are here. Balance. Balance would be nice. It would also be nice to have the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry open – it really is the missing element in my salutation to summer – but, minor in comparison to other’s lives. Still, fingers crossed for a drop in the water level of Lake Champlain someday soon.

Now, back to my topic. Vermont’s Best Foodie Tour! There is a group of 12 inns here in the Champlain Valley working hard to put together a kind of food tour of the fertile outpourings of this little corner of Vermont. The details are still being finalized, but the idea is that you can book a room at any of the participating inns and for a small additional fee you will get a gorgeous goodie basket of local products, a map with directions to all sorts of food and drink related sites throughout the region and a coupon book for discounts and freebies from restaurants, markets, wineries and more. Pretty cool, huh? There’s even a logo and everything. The Shoreham Inn is a participating inn (though I really have to give all of the organizational credit to the other inns involved. I’m more of a cheerleader on this one. Someone’s broken ankle and the ensuing chaos made my spring a little more hectic than usual…..)

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this offer? I will FINALLY have a special to place on my specials page on this here website. Oh, I don’t know, TWO YEARS after I had my web designer put the page there so I could put all kinds of specials and discounts on it. Shocking. Really, I’m completely embarrassed. But, small victory for me and my website coming soon. As for you, I hope you are more excited about the potential deals and way to experience the Champlain Valley. We all feel there is such a wonderful abundance of produce, cheese, wine and more being produced here in the Heart of Vermont. Come visit soon.

Spring is coming

Up here in Vermont, we’re finding it hard to believe spring will actually arrive, and stick, this year. We’ve had some gorgeous little teasers, and even a couple of days that felt more like summer than spring. But we’ve also had an awful lot of spring showers – we would just call them April showers, but they continued right into May without a pause. Today, though…..a little chilly this morning, but stunning. And, even though we love to complain about spring not arriving, it obviously has. Grass is green, trees are showing their tiny bright green leaves and our neighbor has taken down his light up Santa.

Our first cycling guests show up in a week or two and then summer will be upon us! In these last few weeks of what will hopefully be spring, while Vermont is waking up and stretching toward summer, there are some great activities and things to do. Not least of which is to just get outside. Whether you are a runner, a walker, a hiker, a biker or  a sit-in-an-adirondack-chair-with-a-glass-of-wine-and-a-booker, these first few days of really good weather always feel so good. Almost like every year we can hardly believe it will happen. And every year we forget that always will.

Unfortunately for me, this is the time of year that I can start to list all kinds of great events and activities happening locally that we just can’t find the time for. The most recent one that has caught my eye is the Vermont Open Studio Weekend. It’s May 28 & 29 and artists studios around the state are open to the public. I just think that sounds like  great way to spend a day or two – peeking into an artist’s workspace, seeing their creations and touring as far and wide around Vermont as you’d like. So, if a few of you would go do that for me, I’d greatly appreciate it. Stop by for dinner if you’d like, heck, come spend the night, we’ll be here.