Tag Archives: Scott Edwards

How To: Throw a Crockpot Party


It’s the easiest dinner party you’ll ever host. And maybe the most productive. But there is some planning involved, mostly to ensure you don’t end up with 25 pounds of chili.

By Scott Edwards

It’s a joke that I wore out a couple winters back, but it’s no less true now: Every crock-pot dinner’s good for a few extra pounds. The aroma hooks me in the morning. My brain’s confused—Is that short ribs? We just ate breakfast—but my stomach’s always prone to persuasion, no matter the hour or the circumstances. By afternoon, there’s nowhere to hide. The scent’s everywhere. It’s on my clothes. And every whiff is a distraction, to which the reply is always, Sure, I could eat.

This time of year, we’re eating crock pot three, four times a week. Why not? It’s about as low maintenance as cooking gets. Plus, the recipes skew heavily toward stews, braises and soups, the kind of piping-hot, hearty dinners that blunt the end of another gray, numbing day.

Shortly after it was discovered that many of our friends were following the same routine, a flurry of link-sharing erupted, everyone eagerly offering up their tried-and-true recipes. From that, a proposition emerged: We should throw a crock pot party.

It’s as easy to pull off (and filling) as it sounds. And unlike the potluck, which always (always) ends up turning out like a buffet of nuked and cold afterthoughts, the crock pot party ensures a smorgasbord served at its height—as long as it’s done right.

Think counter space, not seating
Not to push this on anyone unwillingly, but the host should be the one with the largest kitchen. Ample counter space is critical. (Tables count too as long at they’re within reach of outlets.) Think how much your one crock pot eats up. Now multiple that by five or six.

In that vein, include as many friends as you want—there’s going to be more than enough to go around—but limit the crock pots. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And don’t worry about seating or table settings. Lay out stacks of plates, bowls and napkins (disposable is perfectly acceptable), along with some flatware, and leave it at that.

Menu planning and parting gifts in one shot
Among the cooks for the night, coordinate recipes. This serves two purposes: Foremost, it removes the possibility of redundancy. Awesome as pumpkin-turkey chili may be, one crock pot of it is enough to cover seconds. If anyone’s left wanting more, they can make it themselves. Which leads us to the second point: This party’s doubling as a tasting, so make the recipes available to everyone. Save yourself the trouble of keeping track of who wants what and compile them in an email, either the recipes themselves or the links to them, and send it out to your guest list.

There will be leftovers, rest assured. So encourage your guests to bring their own Tupperware. Just make sure they don’t start poaching their shares prematurely. Before everyone starts digging in, make an announcement along the lines of, “The leftovers are fair game when the kitchen’s closed, and only then.” That’ll free you up from the burden of policing the crock pots all night long.

BYOB, too
Everyone not charged with bringing a crock pot is responsible for supplying the booze. Don’t worry about coordinating who brings what. People tend to gift whatever they enjoy drinking. And, really, pretty much everything pairs well with crock-pot meals. They’re easy like that. Which is kinda the point here.

Home is Where the Barn is


A retrofitted bank barn in Solebury illustrates that intimacy and wide-open spaces can coexist quite well, thank you.

By Scott Edwards · Photography by Josh DeHonney

Kristin Duthie and Scott Minnucci moved into their spanking-new home in January 2015. And then again, this time for real, a few months later. Such is the real-life experience of filming an unscripted home design show.

The construction of their retrofitted barn home was featured on “Barn Hunters,” the host of which, Sean Tracy, is the owner of the Bedminster-based Bucks County TimberCraft and an old friend of Minnucci’s. They worked together on a few prior occasions, Minnucci drafting renderings for Tracy’s clients, but the familiarity of their relationship couldn’t smooth over every awkward bend in what verged, constantly, on becoming an unsustainable pace.

On one occasion, the producers suggested they build a man cave, because it’s what their audience wanted to see. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to do it, but not right now,’ ” Minnucci says. But they pressed, so he, perhaps as much out of fatigue as accommodation, relented. What they ended up with, Minnucci is telling me as we descend a spiral staircase into the basement—and suddenly we’re upon it. “We call it The Implement Wall,” he says.

The custom-crafted, first-floor bar and living room, highlighted by the impossible-to-miss “Implement Wall” (below)

Duthie and Minnucci have adorned their home with tasteful, relatively conservative elements. That said, they’re not beyond making a statement. The Implement Wall, however, is more of a threat, or at least it would be in almost any other home. A floor-to-ceiling installation of rusted (and some free-swinging) tools, it borders one side of their bar, which also fits within the unique context: once mighty barn-turned artifact-turned modern home.

They didn’t have to make it themselves, at least. When Duthie and Minnucci think back now on the filming, the moments that still sit within reach are the late nights—midnight, 1 a.m.— when they were staining and painting, staining and painting. For much of it, it was just the two of them. They managed to lure their most compassionate (and thirsty) family and friends over on the weekends. Toward the end, they started to wonder, How much beer does it take to build a house?

Come January, the home was hardly finished, but the producers needed their gratifying conclusion. So they filled it with furniture, filmed, emptied it just as quickly and finally left Duthie and Minnucci in peace.

A most impressive hay loft
Old Bunker Hill, as Duthie and Minnucci named their home after the Revolutionary War holdout in Solebury Township atop which it sits, is constantly shifting shapes before your eyes. Turning off of Phillips Mill Road, just north of New Hope, onto a gravel driveway that meanders through dense woods, the home presents itself as a majestic estate embedded in a cliff, only to shrink down to a modest suburban home once you land at its entrance. A few steps inside the front door, the tongue-and-groove ceiling vaults 24 feet up, and the walls—hand-plastered and tinted to jibe with the dark beams—reach for it, like outstretched arms. Yet we settle into a corner that’s been cordoned off as a living room and it immediately feels intimate. And that experience repeats itself all over the home.

Occasionally, you find yourself in a position where it’s impossible to not appreciate the largeness of the perspective—the second-floor landing, the back porch that stretches across most of the rear of the home and looks down on a steep, grassy slope—but far more often, you’re wrapped in a warmth that’s missing from homes with 10 times as many walls and accessories. Duthie and Minnucci moved here from Village 2, a former resort colony in New Hope where the townhomes are notoriously cramped. Still, they barely added any furniture in the transition.

The iron-and-cable staircase at the center of the home is the lone modern accent in an otherwise rustic design scheme.

They spent a year shopping for fixer-uppers or property when they came upon this lot, just separated from the home at the base of the hill. They’re prolific DIY-ers, so they were open to starting from scratch. Minnucci already designed and built a timber-frame home in Bedminster. They had a friend who bought three-bay hay barn back then but never did anything with it. The natural slope of the land suited the barn’s bank style. Mason John Lanzetta recreated an aged stone wall that mimics a portion of the livestock pen that resided behind the barn’s original iteration and a walk-out basement was built in the area where the animals were once fed.

Tracy and his crew erected the 900-square foot barn—atypical because they generally run rectangular, not square—in a few days. The rest of the house, which Minnucci designed himself, took about a year to complete. He added extensions to the north and south sides, so the barn comprises the home’s core, which makes the large cupola its literal center. The kitchen, a dining area and a living room fill the main floor, along with an iron-and-cable spiral staircase, the home’s only real modern fixture, which winds up to a landing that provides access to a guest bedroom and bathroom and an office. Beyond the kitchen, on the other side of the barn, there’s a walk-in pantry, a powder room, a mudroom and the home’s only hallway.

“I like a lot of flow in a house,” Minnucci says. “I don’t like to interrupt it with a lot of hallways and stairways.”

Any idea how many pieces there are to the barn, I ask. “We didn’t even put them all in,” Minnucci says. “You’ll see a lot of open holes where there were probably a lot more cross-braces.” I visually measure the vertical beam right in front of me and then peer into one of those holes, and just like that, the barn expands and contracts.

Blooming Glen designer Roger S. Wright is responsible for the kitchen cabinetry and much of the home’s furniture.

Simple luxuries
Strangely, the space that feels the most expansive in the home is one of the few rooms with four walls. A dressing room segues from the main-floor master bedroom to the en suite bathroom, where a massive soaking tub anchors a far corner. There’s also a sizable shower with a stream-bed floor, which Duthie and Minnucci installed themselves. Actually, they laid all of the tile in here. The dual-sink vanity was custom-crafted by Blooming Glen furniture designer Roger S. Wright, as was the kitchen cabinetry and much of the furniture throughout the home. For now, a framed, rectangular opening stretches the length of the vanity near the ceiling. I think it’s by design—maintaining the flow—until Minnucci says that it’ll eventually be filled with a hand-blown stained glass window that’s being made by David Duthie, who operates a nearby studio called Bucks County Hot Glass.

They installed a window in the shower because Minnucci really wanted an outdoor shower, and they’re still going to add one, but the window’s a satisfying compromise for the meantime. It is the only compromise, though. The Implement Wall aside, the home’s few obvious indulgences—the spa-like bathroom, the commercial-grade cooking range, the obscenely engineered kitchen faucet—can all be credited as corrections to their former arrangement, which afforded them one full bathroom and a galley kitchen. If they want to soak and cook with room to breathe, it’s understandable.

Duthie and Minnucci laid all of the tile in their master bedroom themselves.

What hooks my attention, however, is a network of old-looking, plantation-style fans that runs across the barn ceiling, connected by belts to an exposed motor on the wall. They were made by Woolen Mill Fan Company, in York County. They seem like such a seamless fit, as do so many of the other details that almost go unnoticed. The flooring is quarter-sawed, reclaimed, re-milled pine, the grain of which is noticeably tighter than what you’ll find in today’s pine boards. And in the kitchen, they’ve hung an old wooden ladder over the island and strung a few pendant lights from it. Turns out, their electrician, Fred Vocke, gave it to them. I expected it to be part of the barn. Nah, Minnucci says. They saw a similar look somewhere else and liked it.

“The neat thing with the barn is you can’t really mess it up,” he says. “You can do just about anything and get away with it, like throw a ladder up like this.”

The heart wants what it wants
Even if they hadn’t endured the onslaught of decisions that come with crafting a home from the foundation on up under the ever-present surveillance of a camera crew, Duthie and Minnucci would be perfectly settled now. A space of their own design, nestled in the woods, all to themselves. Thing is, though, they’re not a couple who ever really wanted it all to themselves.

You must not miss Village 2, I suggest. “Well, we do, because we had such great neighbors,” Duthie says. “And I, particularly, had lived there for a long time. And Maggie [their dog] grew up there, three, four walks a day, barking at all her friends going by. So I miss that part of it. Up here, it’s so nice and private. We have space, and she doesn’t have to be on a leash. But you also miss, when you’re snowed in, I used to bake cookies all day and deliver them. Now I bake cookies and eat them.”

That’s not to imply that they have any regrets or don’t fully appreciate every grain of wood. It’s just to say that there are only so many things you can account for, the home being more than a simple structure where we seek shelter.


Drink Like You Know


A rash of craft distillers is now freckling our region, all of them making some truly elevated hooch. Reforms passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 and in Jersey in 2013 ignited a small-batch spirits boom, the likes of which our region hasn’t seen since the halcyon days before Prohibition, or even much further back in some areas.

You’ve likely heard of (and probably tried) the first to bear fruit—Dad’s Hat, in Bristol; HEWN, in Pipersville; Manatawny, in Pottstown—now the established guard of the movement. But the landscape’s filled in around them over the last year or two. Whiskey, vodka, rum, even if you’ve been a lifelong drinker of one or the other, this latest generation of artisans is finding its niche in nuance, crafting variations that are, in equal shares, truer to form and far more exotic than anything you’ve tasted before.

With some long, gray months ahead of us, the time’s come to meet the most appetizing of these new makers. After all, their spirits may become our sole salvation.

By Scott Edwards

Eight Oaks Craft Distillers | New Tripoli

After a 25-year career in the military and far too many nights spent away from his family, Chad Butters’ retirement plan was purely personal in its inception: Run a family business. Nearly a year in, Eight Oaks is, above all else, just that. His daughter oversees the tasting room, where his son tends bar. Her husband is the master distiller. His sister is the distillery’s attorney. And her husband, Jesse Tyahla, is Butters’ partner. (It took me a few passes, too.)

In the waning months of his service, Butters and Tyahla attended distilling workshops at Michigan State and Cornell universities and toured about 25 distilleries. Then, they interned at another in Spokane, Washington. When they returned home, full of confidence, Butters and his wife promptly sold their home and bought a farm, where, in short order, they began growing grain—wheat, rye and barley, along with corn—and constructed the distillery.


WHAT THEY MAKE Vodka, gin, rum and applejack (In the works: rye whiskey, bourbon, aged applejack and spiced and aged rums.)

THE LOWDOWN What you get in Eight Oaks is a self-contained process steeped in tradition. “Really, for us, it’s back to that whole concept of grain to glass,” Butters says. “That sounds simple. And it sounds a little bit like a marketing term. In reality, the application is exceptionally difficult.”

With so many variables at play in the distillation, not to mention the farming, Butters defers to the historical precedent as often as it’s appropriate. And science when it’s not. In fact, the very first spirit that came out of Eight Oaks’ still was a nod to the craft’s history.

As rum grew scarce during the Revolutionary War, farmers stumbled upon applejack, which Butters describes as “the original American spirit.” It’s basically fermented cider—that grew more potent as the winter wore on and the farmers removed the ice. When we talked, Butters was favoring a far more subdued version, an applejack hot toddy, as a cold remedy.


Skunktown Distillery | Flemington, NJ

Like so many other great ideas, Skunktown Distillery was born during a liquor-fueled night around a bonfire. “I said, ‘We’re smart guys. Let’s figure out how to make this.’ We both kind of laughed it off,” Caine Fowler says, referring to himself and longtime friend Paul Hyatt. “The next morning, he called me up and said, ‘You know, you had a really good idea last night.’ I said, ‘No. That was a stupid idea.’ ”

Fowler (pictured, left) is an IT project manager in the pharmaceutical industry. He’s traveled all over the world for his work and drank just about everything there is to drink in the course of it. But Hyatt (pictured, right), a tile-setter, has the far more sophisticated palate between them. He comes from a long line of drinkers. Not happy-hour mainstays. Drinkers.

“He can say, ‘This is what’s good. This what’s pretty good,’ ” Fowler says, “Everything does the right thing to me but tastes kind of harsh.”

Once they began to realize just how well they complement each other, the idea of a distillery started to sound a lot less, well, drunken. They founded Skunktown in September 2015 but only received the last of their licensing this month. When you’re the first distillery to launch in the county in 200 years, the scrutiny’s relentless, apparently.


WHAT THEY MAKE Vodka, whiskey and rum. (They’re expecting the first bottles to be available by Christmas.)

THE LOWDOWN The official line: Fowler and Hyatt are aiming for simple and pure, just as they regard the town in which they both live and after which they named their distillery. That would be Sergeantsville, NJ, formerly known as—I kid you not—Skunktown. No one’s entirely sure why. The obvious answer seems to be the most plausible: Lots of skunks at an unfortunate time, when naming rights were still up for grabs. But I digress. They’re using basic, local ingredients, doing little to them and distilling in a copper still, which is the oldest way, and still the truest.

The unofficial line: These are two old drinking buddies basically egging each other on. (Read: This could get fun fast.) They’re already working through the recipe for a scorching pepper vodka. Fowler, a lover of all things spicy, grows the Carolina Reaper, the hottest variety there is. “But that’s not the recipe that’s going to be bottled,” he says. “Don’t worry.”


Boardroom Spirits | Lansdale

Boardroom launched 10 months ago as an escape plan from corporate life, fueled by a renewed appreciation in heritage. Brothers Marat and Vlad Mamedov are Armenian. Zsuzsa, Marat’s wife, is Hungarian. Both are strong brandy cultures. Trouble is, ours isn’t. Another obstacle: Distilling brandy isn’t as forgiving as distilling the likes of vodka, gin and whiskey.

“If you mess up picking the wrong fruit, if you mess up fermentation, if you mess up distilling, you’re pretty much done,” Marat says.

So they opted to build their brand with the basics and revisit the brandy in the near future, being the experienced strategists that they are. With the help of a distiller in Europe, they spent a year working through recipes—85 in all. Once they settled on a line, they hired a master distiller here. Marat, Vlad and Zsuzsa stick to their strong suit: managing the operation. If a single, prevailing thought came out of the recipe trials, Marat says, it’s this: What I like doesn’t really matter.


WHAT THEY MAKE Vodka (straight and infused), gin, rum and a beet spirit. (In the works: whiskey and brandy.)

THE LOWDOWN Precision-crafted. No eyeballing here. The Lansdale distillery is the North American showroom for Hagyo Distilling, a Hungarian manufacturer with a reputation for state-of-the-art innovation. Where most small-batch makers will build their brand around the handcrafting, not here; everything’s fully automated.

Boardroom’s aim is to cherry-pick spirits from all over the world and turn them into household names here. “But at the same time, we want to make sure that we’re very precise in our distillation process”—it came up more than once—”so that they ring true to the category,” Marat says.

Example A: Their beet spirit, which was introduced this fall. They hauled in 2,000 pounds of beets, ground them down, then fermented and distilled them like a brandy. It’s the first installment in their periodical table-themed series. Thus, the capital B on the label. Next up: apple (A) and carrot (C).

“We want to keep things simple and let pure, natural flavors shine through,” Marat says. “When it comes to crafting our spirits, it’s all about, how do we derive the flavor naturally?”


Thistle Finch Distillery | Lancaster

Curiosity compelled Andrew Martin to follow his friends into home-brewing. Soon after, he happened upon distilling, and he immediately understood why they were all so entranced. He dropped brewing then and there and started reading everything he could find on distilling.

Martin grew up in Lancaster County and moved back to Lancaster proper 16 years ago. Every distiller in this portfolio carries a profound appreciation for the craft’s roots and their regions, but only Martin’s built his own still from scratch. And he named his distillery after a bird that’s become synonymous with Lancaster. Among the countless hex signs that appear in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, known as fraktur, you’ll often find a bird. That bird is a thistle finch, and it’s meant to represent happiness and good luck.


WHAT THEY MAKE White rye whiskey; black pepper rye whiskey; black coffee rye whiskey; straight, two-year-old rye whiskey; gin and vodka

THE LOWDOWN In case it wasn’t already obvious, Thistle Finch specializes in rye whiskey. The white rye whiskey, an unaged whiskey that Martin describes as “kind of like a high-class moonshine,” was the first spirit he bottled three years ago. Cut to present day, Thistle Finch just bottled a two-year-old, straight rye whiskey, becoming only the third distillery in Pennsylvania to offer it. “That’s definitely the biggest milestone since we opened,” Martin says.

“We’re doing rye whiskey because that would have been the historic spirit made here in eastern Pennsylvania,” he says.

Typically, farmers around here planted rye in the winter to help preserve the soil. As such, back in the day, it was the cheapest grain that distillers could get their hands on and why rye whiskey was so prolific. But those distillers fell off the map with prohibition. This latest boom has brought a new wave of them, but few are like Thistle Finch.

Martin may be a traditionalist at heart, but he’s not making a traditional rye whiskey. The standard recipe calls for 100 percent rye or two-thirds rye mixed with a third of corn. Thistle Finch is making its from 60 percent rye, 30 percent wheat and 10 percent malted barley, which is what’s referred to as a “high-wheat rye” by those in the know. The thinking behind the move is that, where rye possesses a dry, spicy flavor profile and corn is sweet, the wheat will introduce a smoother, more robust taste. Basically, your grandfather’s rye whiskey, this is not.


Photos (from the top): courtesy Eight Oaks Craft Distillers (2); Josh DeHonney; courtesy Boardroom Spirits; courtesy Thistle Finch Distillery


… Or Maybe You’d Prefer to Leave it in the Experts’ Hands


Everybody loves to eat these days, but the proposition of thoughtful cocktails served in antique glassware is too easy—and distinguishing—of an upgrade for your next dinner party to ignore. And we’re making it even easier by telling you how to pull it off.

By Scott Edwards · Photography by Matthew J. Rhein

Before we move forward, think back, back to your last dinner party and the way you let your guests have at your wet bar. Left to their own devices, a gin and tonic became a highball brimming with Bombay Sapphire, a glass of red became a goblet so full it needed to be sipped before it could be moved. In hindsight, their reception of each course was a little overly enthusiastic, even considering the care you invested in every morsel you plated.

Now imagine your next party, only this time, instead of saying hello and immediately retreating to the kitchen, you’re saying hello and escorting your guests, one by one, two by two, to a properly manned bar—your co-hosts for the night. You’re still dipping into the kitchen, but you’re doing so with a finely crafted cocktail in hand. Your guests are enjoying the same—in antique glassware, no less. And they’re actually enjoying them, not just getting blitzed.

Welcome to a night with Spirit Forward, a craft cocktail caterer. Yes, the “craft cocktail” part is worth noting because this is not a simple bartending service, like the kind you’re relegated to at a wedding. With all due respect, those are hired hands being paid to pour heavy (or light, depending on your budget). Spirit Forward, on the other hand, is Dan Hamm, who works as the bar manager at a.bar, which is pretty much the epicenter of Philadelphia’s craft cocktail scene, and Stephanie Smith, a consummate hostess who cut her teeth at the revered Vernick Food & Drink. Hiring them for your party is akin to recruiting Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to fill in for your next rec-league game.

Cocktail catering is such an easy and distinguishing upgrade, it seems impossible that it’s not more prolific. Because it’s not, the inquiries that Smith and Hamm field are fairly simple: I’m having a party, and I’d like to do more than vodka and sodas and wine. What can you do? We tend to marry ourselves to the same drink or two for no real reason other than it’s what we’ve been drinking for as long as we can remember. Really, the idea of sifting through prospective candidates is exhausting, and we just want a drink, our drink. But what if you had an expert do the sifting for you? That’s essentially what this is like. They’ll ask you for the details of your party—how many people? What kind of vibe?—and then they’re going to ask you what you like to drink. And even if, try as you might, all you can come up with is “vodka and soda,” they’re going to be able to dig a little deeper to flesh out a full-on flavor profile. That way, you’ll end up drinking a revelation, even if it’s just the best vodka and soda you’ve ever tasted.

Hamm possesses a rare ability to elevate both the most tried and true and obscure classics with novel-but-appropriate twists, and always with an eye toward fresh and seasonal, not unlike a French-trained chef. He started bartending in the deep end. Overnight, he was expected to memorize the recipes for and accurately reproduce hundreds of cocktails, classic and contemporary. He responded by digesting it all remarkably fast and then promptly riffing on that newfound knowledge. In short order, finicky regulars started seeking direction from him. They’re the same ones who planted the seed for Spirit Forward. Can you teach me how to make this? Can you tend bar at my wedding?

Stephanie Smith and Dan Hamm make it look easy. It’s not.

He met Smith around the start of all this. And the more he began to conceptualize Spirit Forward, the more he realized how ideal a complement she was to him. “She has an amazing palate and she has that eye for design,” he says.

Smith’s fully capable of jumping behind the bar and thinning a thirsty crowd, but her stamp’s all over everything else—booking, planning, organizing, marketing and the staging. “When we go to an event, we really want our bar to look custom-made, as custom as the drinks themselves,” she says.

That’s right; they design their own bars. In fact, the only thing they don’t supply is the booze; it’s prohibited by law. So what they do instead is provide you with a detailed list of what they’ll need. If you were doing this on your own, you were going to stock the bar anyway.

Another reason we tend not to stray from our limited repertoire is a bar of any kind can be an intimidating and pretentious place. If you don’t have the ingredients and preferred brands of your drink of choice down, there’s a high degree of likelihood that you’re going to be sniffed out as a fraud. This isn’t that. For one, Smith and Hamm also teach cocktail-making classes through Spirit Forward, so there’s a conscious, gentle way that they go about enlightening. For another, this is your home and these are your friends. Should you or anyone else ask how a drink’s made—and you will—Smith and Hamm are obliged to stop what they’re doing and write it down. Experience has taught them that “that stays with them more than any drink you’ll make them,” Hamm says. The same will be said of the night as a whole.



The Low-Maintenance, High-Reward Super Bowl Party


Spend less time prepping and cleaning up and more time gawking at Lady Gaga with your friends.

By Scott Edwards

Another entertaining season, rife with drama on the field (one step forward, two steps back for the Eagles) and off (this sport has to be hanging by a thread, right?), comes down to one last, opposite-of-entertaining matchup. The Patriots in the Super Bowl: Never saw that one coming. And, Atlanta has a team?

The silver lining: The less invested we are in the action on the screen, the more invested we can be in the action around it. After all, the communal watching experience is the real lure, not the game itself. The Super Bowl Party is more widely celebrated than any religious or national holiday in this country. Why? Because, as unaffected as a lot of us like play it, we all experience FOMO deep down, and the Super Bowl, sadly, is the most universal conversation we’re likely ever going to have. Miss out on the spectacle and you’re stuck on the outside looking in for the next week. And a week in pop culture is like five years in dog years.

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl Party, you know all of this already, have been hip to it since Janet and Justin. Less clear is how to pull off your party without losing weeks of your life to the prep and cleanup, only to end up watching all of the pivotal moments (again, rarely having anything to do with the game) later on, like a hermit. We can help with that. What we have here is a plan for the Low-Maintenance, High-Reward Super Bowl Party. It’s nothing revelatory. Just a whole lot of common sense. But when you’re planning the biggest gathering of the year, common sense can be in short supply.

Evites over a mass text or email. And send immediately. As in, make it the first thing you do after you finish reading this. It’ll take less than five minutes. Sure, everyone’s aware of the date, and it may go without saying that you’ll be hosting, but a simple head’s up is just common courtesy.

In that vein, your guest list has probably long since been established. But that shouldn’t mean it’s closed to any editing. Think back to last year’s party. Were there any odd men out? Was it too crowded? Always be aware of balance. You don’t want to invite a couple of casual observers into a pack of rabid fans, nor do you necessarily want to include a new coworker in a tightly knit group, regardless of his or their levels of enthusiasm. It’s not total harmony you’re going for. You just don’t want any wallflowers. They’ll swallow your night whole.

Food, Drinks, Ice
Yes, this is a low-maintenance guide, but wings and pizza aren’t even trying. A few simple finger foods (see below for a couple of recipes that fit the bill perfectly) and a crockpot dish or two, like pulled pork and vegetarian chili, will leave everyone full and appreciative of the effort. And they’ll keep you out of the kitchen during the party, for the most part.

As for stocking the bar, read the room. If the majority of your guest list is arriving with the intent of blacking out by the third quarter, you need new friends. Also: Buy the cheap stuff. They’ll object at first, but by the second or third beer, they’re not going to notice. If it’s a slower drinking crowd (read: adults who act their age), invest in a quarter-barrel keg of something craft-y—it’s the equivalent of 82 12-ounce cans, so it should be more than enough—along with a few bottles each of red and white wine. (Nothing over 20 bucks.) You’re never going to satisfy a liquor drinker, so don’t even try. Put word out beforehand that if anyone feels compelled to drink anything other than beer or wine, they’re on their own.

Ice: Buy a few 20-pound bags, two or three for the quarter-keg and one for a cooler stocked with the white wine. Keep both just outside the deck door. You’ll be set for the night.

Plates, Utensils, Cups
Disposable all the way around. End of discussion.

Your Super Bowl Party is not a sixth-grade recital. In other words, you don’t need a seat for every ass in the room. There’s going to be the handful of diehards who claim their posts a half-hour before kickoff and never leave them, save for beer runs and, hopefully, bathroom breaks. But everyone else is going to move around a lot and sit and stand at equal turns. So don’t fill your living room with folding chairs. They’re only going to impede that process. And, really, who wants to sit on a folding chair? Instead, toss a few large pillows around the room. It’s a much savvier use of that valuable floor space.

The TV
I never got the multiple TVs in multiple rooms. You’re inviting everyone over to watch the game together. Or, at least, hangout while it’s on. If you’re going to feed them to separate rooms, you may as well save yourself a whole lot of trouble. You wouldn’t throw a dinner party and divide the guests between the dining room and the kitchen. If there’s not enough room, cut your guest list.

The lone exception to the rule: a playroom. If there are going to be kids under the age of 12 at this thing, dedicate a separate space. That’s not to say they can’t watch the game with everyone else. It’s to say they’re not going to want to. There can be another TV turned on in this room. But if you (and their parents) have any expectation of keeping them there, something other than the game should be on.

The Super Bowl brings out the gambler in all of us. Encourage it. It’ll keep everyone at least minimally interested in the game. The easiest avenue: Set up a football squares sheet and have your guests place their bets as they arrive. Winnings are doled out at the end of each quarter. (In the evite, include a reminder to bring cash. There will be no IOUs.)

If you’re feeling ambitious, or you have a friend or family member who’s OCD- organized and dependable, open up the action to a handful or two of prop bets, and don’t limit them to the game—How many commercials will Peyton Manning appear in? Will Lady Gaga reference Trump during her halftime performance? Zero skill, infinite fun.

A few low-maintenance, high-reward Super Bowl Party recipes

By Yelena Strokin

The Deviled Egg
Makes 12.

6 free-range eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Juice from a jar of pickled beets
¼ cup mayo
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
Cilantro, minced (reserve some)
Paprika to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the eggs in the beet juice anywhere from a half-hour to overnight. If you like pickled foods, longer is better. After their bath, remove the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise, then gently remove the yolks and set them off to the side.

In a small bowl, combine the yolks, mayo, mustard and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the mixture achieves a smooth consistency, then transfer it to a Ziploc bag.

Cut off a bottom corner and pipe a bit of the yolk mixture into the hollow of each egg half. Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with cilantro or a small beet slice.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free)
Makes 12.

1 large cabbage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 tsps. fresh parsley (or dill), finely chopped
¼ tsp. paprika
1 cup crushed tomatoes
½ cup white wine
½ cup water
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully separate the leaves from the cabbage head and set aside the 12 largest ones. Cut the stems from each, then blanch the leaves for a few minutes. From there, arrange the leaves on towels to dry.

Add the vegetable oil to a frying pan and sauté the onion and the carrot just long enough to retain a little bit of crunch. Then, in a large bowl, mix them thoroughly with the quinoa, the parsley (or dill) and the paprika. Spoon the mixture evenly onto each leaf, then roll it up and tuck in the ends. Stick a toothpick through the center to hold them in place, if they need it.

Mix together the tomato, the wine and the water. Place the rolls in a baking dish, then pour the tomato mixture over them. Bake for a half-hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies
Makes about 24.

8 tbsps. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsps. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
¾ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup and 2 tbsps. coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios, 2 tbsps. reserved
¾ cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line with a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and mix them, either with a stand mixer or a handheld, at a medium speed until the consistency is smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Incorporate the eggs one at a time at a low speed, then the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add it to the other bowl, mixing at a low speed. Stir in the chocolate chips and then a cup of the pistachios and the apricot.

Place heaping tablespoons of the cookie dough about an inch-and-a-half apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios over top. Bake until the cookies set but still soft to the touch, about 10 minutes. Repeat the process until all of the dough is used.

Built to Last


Tracey and Rod Berkowitz specialize in marrying centuries-old features with the vestiges of modern industry, creating a niche of the contemporary-farmhouse aesthetic that’s all their own. In their own home, it carries the added benefit of holding up to their young family.

By Scott Edwards
Photography by Josh DeHonney

Just inside the front door sits a small, square room—10 feet by 10 feet, maybe a bit more. It’s part of the home’s original, 1,200-square foot footprint, which dates back to 1794. To the left, there’s a considerable fireplace. The rear opens to the wide-open addition Tracey and Rod Berkowitz added seven years ago. But the eye settles on the circle of four low-slung lounge chairs in the center of the room. It’s here where Tracey and Rod will settle in at the end of another relentless day, the kids in bed, the only light coming from the crackling fire in front of them. It’s also where their guests, during parties, will play a discreet game of musical chairs.

In a home filled with interesting nooks and features, this little room is Tracey’s favorite place to be, as much for its intimate nature as its unexpected presence. This is what they do. They reimagine the home. They source unusual furniture and accessories from all over the world—crank tables from England, large Moroccan pillows, a quilted-linen wing chair, huge oil paintings on reclaimed metal—that make little sense until they’re seen through the filter of their Lambertville, New Jersey, shop, Zinc Home. There, a raw, urban energy amplifies the familiar modern-farmhouse aesthetic, sharpening splintered, worn-down corners to a precise edge. And they approach their home with the same audacity.

It still needs to be practical

Over the course of a single month late in the summer of 2002, Tracey and Rod moved into their home in Sergeantsville, NJ, a few miles north of Lambertville, got married and opened their store (in New Hope, originally). It was owned by a realtor who, at least, restored the original, wide-plank pine floors that were painted blue by the previous owner.

“We loved the charm of it, but it was a beater,” Tracey says. “The outside needed so much work. It was a hideous mint green. It was peeling. But, I don’t know, as soon as we walked in, we knew this was the house that we had to live in.”

Tracey became pregnant with their first child, Noah, the following summer, and once he grew into a toddler, they finally started to feel the pinch of their precious little house on the prairie. When Tracey became pregnant with their second, Piper, in 2007, it was either move or grow the house. Piper was born in June 2008. They broke ground on an 1,800-square foot addition—about a third larger than the home itself—that November. And it was completed by her first birthday.

The two-story addition extends from the rear of the original home. On the outside, a porch wraps around the front of the home and its south side, erasing any noticeable division between old and new. Inside, two large, open rooms comprise the new space, the living room downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs, which is separated from the en suite bathroom by a partial wall, the only interior wall, really, in the entire addition.

Tracey and Rod knew exactly what they wanted it to look like before a blueprint was even rendered. “And then we worked with our contractor to tweak some things that we thought would be one way and ended up being another,” Tracey says. “But, overall, it’s pretty much like a rectangle.”

They needed the space. But they also seized the opportunity to mold the home into their own shape. The reclaimed wood beams and exposed, raw-side pine that form the ceiling grid (and tie the old in with the new) juxtapose the concrete floor in the living room. The rear walls of the entry and dining rooms in the original home were removed, turning those spaces into extensions of the addition and, in turn, creating the illusion that they’re a bit larger than they actually are. Basically, all of the old was preserved and made practical again, while the addition afforded them new leeway, physically and aesthetically.

“We love industrial,” Tracey says. “But, we wanted to make sure that we could keep that [farmhouse] vibe and not have it look too country—even though we do live in that kind of house.”

With the store as a fallback and a couple whose tastes are constantly evolving, it’s easy to envision a high turnover rate for the furnishings, but the opposite is closer to the truth. Relatively little has changed from the initial installation.

“We spent more money and more time to find just the right pieces, instead of just trying to decorate because we had the space to decorate,” Tracey says. “I get bored with how things are merchandized,” so the accessories are shuffled often. But the furniture—“actually, we’ve had three couches so far,” she says and then laughs at the realization.

The newest couch was found at the Brimfield Antique Flea Market. It’s a French frame upholstered in Japanese denim.

“I just love it. But the cushions are all down and it’s super-uncomfortable,” Tracey says. “But I love the couch so much that I’m willing to suffer.”

She is not willing to suffer for it, or any other piece of furniture, for that matter.

“It’s on my to-do list, to make sure I get those stuffed, because then it’ll be super-comfortable and we can go back to where I sit here and Rod sits over there,” on the other sofa, which faces the French one from the other side of the coffee table. “I’m infringing on Rod’s sofa. He’s like, ‘This is my space. But because you had to have this uncomfortable sofa, you have to watch TV with me over here.’ And the kids don’t care. They love it over here,” on the French sofa.

How much, I ask, do two young kids, now 12 and 8, influence what you bring into the house?

“They don’t influence it at all. Like, I don’t care what they think,” Tracey says, laughing with me at her bluntness. Sarcasm tends to not be read as well as it’s heard, so I feel obligated to note that she’s kidding. “Our house is not a museum. The kids are allowed to lay all over everything. The dogs”—there are two of them, both around 85 pounds each—“lay all over the sofas. It’s a totally livable space, which is why I think the kids like it. We don’t put restrictions on them at all.

“However,” she adds, “they do know that, I don’t know if it’s because we’re in the business, they do know that they have to be respectful of the stuff that we have, that stuff costs money, that we look for stuff that’s really special that we may never be able to replace if it was ruined. As with anything, I don’t let them sit on the back of the sofa because they shouldn’t be doing that with anybody’s sofa.”

Later, Noah comes downstairs to alert Tracey that he’s due at soccer practice soon. He’s polite and personable. He stays with us for the next half-hour or so, while we finish talking and Tracey shows me around upstairs. Throughout, he’s wearing his neon-green Nike soccer spikes. Tracey never flinches.

The thrill of the hunt

When you work long hours, six days a week, in an industry as finicky and aloof as theirs, inspiration dries up fast. So it’s not unremarkable that Tracey and Rod’s home remains a wellspring of it for them. There are two reasons for that, Tracey says. One, it took them a long time to arrive here. And two, the home, in her eyes, is still very much a work in progress. The kitchen, an addition somewhere around the middle of the last century, appears next in line. They recently covered the north wall, floor to ceiling, in white subway tile with dark gray grout. Changed the complexion of the room entirely, Tracey says. She fantasizes openly now about replacing the cabinets with a sleek, modern kind.

This is not a couple, though, that loses itself every weekend in renovation projects. The home, after all, isn’t going anywhere. And Tracey feels that in order for them to remain relevant (and feed their insatiable addiction to design), they need to be closer to the action. So, they make regular trips to New York for two, three days at a time—kids in tow.

“I just want them to appreciate what we do,” she says. “A lot of people, their parents leave for work, they don’t know what they do. But my kids have to live with what we do. At times, it stinks for them. I want them to understand that it’s hard. Like, the things that we bring into the store and the things that we bring into the house, we don’t just go to a store, normally, and buy them. We found it somewhere. It has a story.”

Sitting in one of those low-slung lounge chairs in the entry room, Tracey smiles at the memory of the late-night bidding war on eBay that played out before they finally secured them.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” she says. “Then we were like, ‘Oh, shit. I hope they’re nice.’ ”

Tracey insists that of their two kids, their daughter, Piper, is the clear favorite to follow in their footsteps, or at least, walk nearby. She’s creative and she’s already helping with the merchandizing in the store. But, “Noah won’t, for sure,” she says. “He wants nothing to do with it. He wants a nice house. He wants us to do it.”

My tour of the upstairs finishes in his bedroom. It’s the largest upstairs room in the original part of the house, but it’s modest by modern expectations. Still there’s room for a queen-size bed and a leather loveseat and a small table. The walls, up to about waist-high, are covered in square metal diamond plates, the kind you’d find on the floor of an exotic mechanic’s garage. But Noah’s grown out of them, and much of the rest of the motif—he’s 12, remember—so they’ll be coming down soon, likely with a lot of aggravation and cursing from Rod, who’ll be doing the prying. The bed was the first part of the makeover. Noah is filled with ideas for the rest of it.

“We’re gonna do a butcher-block desk. And we’re gonna mount my TV to the wall,” he says. “And we’re thinking of getting a—what’s that called?”

“An end table?” Tracey answers. “We’ll talk about that.”

“I could definitely design, like, boys’ rooms my age,” he says.

“Oh, really?” Tracey says with mock surprise. This is hardly the first time she’s heard this.

“Yeah. I’ll pay people. I’ll have people pay me. And I’ll design their rooms.”

Some of it appears to be sinking in, at least.




A New Year’s Eve Party with Heart

If you’re exhausted by the thought of digging out the formalwear and trudging to some nondescript, overly expensive party, take a cue for the Life Stylist and ditch convention.

Text + photography by David J. Witchell

Being the eternal optimist that I am, I’ve always held that how you usher in the new year will go a long way toward dictating how you’ll live with it. Which is why my New Year’s Eve is an Event—but far from the conventional sense. I shed the tuxedo and the artificial glamour a while back in favor of a simpler night, one where I’m decked out in pajamas and surrounded by my closest friends and family, all of us savoring each other’s company and a home-cooked meal.

The hosting duties rotate among us. They’re falling to me this year, and, naturally, I started planning months ago. My father was born on New Year’s Eve, and every New Year’s Day, we staged a birthday feast, so the occasion was already a big deal for me. I keep the décor simple. I’ll pare down the Christmas decorations—so last year—and trim the remaining stuff in white, silver and a touch of gold. The dinner table follows the same aesthetic. If I can find them, a few bunches of white tulips are my go-to for the centerpiece; white roses, if not. And pajamas are the extent of the required attire. (It’s proven to be a good excuse to buy a new pair for myself and few more for the guests who “forget” to don theirs.) For the cynical among us, it’s only odd to be sitting around a candlelit dinner table in pajamas if you’re the only one wearing them.

Where Christmas is meant to exude a deep-seated sense of tradition, New Year’s Eve/Day should be pure and fresh and free of such a heavy burden. I’d like to enter the new year the way I’m sure most of us would: with a blank canvas. Easier said than done, but framing it as such can’t hurt. It’s certainly better than waking up to a mess of glitter, half-filled champagne flutes and cigarette butts. Come midnight, I’ll be toasting Janus, the Roman god after whom our first month is named.

Janus presided over both the beginning and the conclusion of conflict, which is why he’s often described as a two-faced god. To Janus. May you reflect upon our year that was and gather insight to help us find our way in the year ahead.

David J. Witchell is the co-owner of David J. Witchell Salon & Span, in Newtown and Lahaska, and The Boutiques at 25 South, in Newtown.

The Case for Throwing a New Year’s Day Party

By Scott Edwards

What was your best New Year’s Eve like? Only remember bits and pieces of it?

Sounds about right. That’s the thing: Even if your New Year’s Eve plans meet your every outlandish expectation, you’re still waking up the next morning with a debilitating hangover and a spotty memory of what just transpired. All you do know for sure is that you’re a few hundred bucks lighter in the pocket for it.

This pressure, internal and/or external, to do something on New Year’s Eve is totally unfounded. It’s a holiday celebrated by twentysomethings and eccentrics who need to be penned into Times Square for hours on end. The rest of us are just trying to reenact, what, some overly glorified memory from our youth, a rom-com that led us to believe there’s magic in the air, and we just need to open ourselves up to it?

Instead of fixating on these few precious hours, let’s envision another scenario: You go to bed at a decent hour, the clock ticks past midnight like it always does. You sleep in late and wake up bright-eyed and increasingly energized as you realize you haven’t dry-heaved the day away. In the afternoon, a small group of handpicked friends and family collects in your living room and kitchen and talk and laugh, talk and laugh, over a few simple snacks and a round or two of drinks. No formalwear required. No insatiable urge to over-drink in an effort to justify your outlandish reservation. No expecting the earth to shift on its axis at midnight.

When the sun goes down, they go home and you drift off on the couch, warmed by a bit of bourbon and the satisfaction of a once-lost day well spent.


6 Holiday Home Tours to Hit


For a couple precious weeks each year, we can enter the homes of complete (and, sometimes, not) strangers and gawk at their stuff. To ensure that you satisfy your curiosity, we offer a brief guide to the prime snooping—err, tours.

By Scott Edwards

‘Tis the season to scope out some of the most inspiring halls around us, public and private. And, of course, soak up some holiday vibes. But, let’s be honest, we drag the dog out for a walk out most nights as a convenient excuse to peer through our neighbors’ floor-to-ceiling windows. These are the couple of weeks of the year when we can drop the act and walk right in. What follows is a guide to the season’s most promising house tours. Rest assured that every property will be decked out. You’re probably more interested in what lies beneath the garland, though. As are we.

Newtown Historic Assoc. Holiday Open House Tour | December 3
Six homes and seven public buildings, all in Rockwell-ian Newtown Borough, comprise this year’s self-guided walking tour, which dates back to 1963 (when admission was a buck-fifty; it’s $30 now). You’ll find some of the most impressive examples of colonial-era architecture in Bucks County among this collection.
Chadds Ford Historical Society Candlelight Christmas Tour | Dec. 3
Several historic Chadds Ford and Pennsbury township properties will be decorated and awash in candlelight—or, rather, sunlight; the tour starts at 1 p.m.; but candles will be burning, or plugged in, at least—for the self-guided tour. This one’s most appropriate for the history savant. Most of the featured stops played a role in the 1777 Battle of Brandywine.


Chestnut Hill Community Assoc. Christmas-Holiday House Tour | Dec. 3
Navigate the five featured homes on your own, by car, or aboard one of the trolleys that’ll be tracing the route throughout the day.




Fonthill Holiday Lights Meander | Dec. 10
There’s only one stop on this tour, but it’s a doozy. In broad daylight on an average Tuesday, Henry Mercer’s personal castle in Doylestown, Fonthill Museum, is akin to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, if Wonka was a freak craftsman instead of a sugar fiend. Adorned with garland, candles and designer Christmas trees, it’s sensory overload.
Haverford Holiday House Tour | Dec. 11
Five homes, the oldest dating back to the 19th century. Expect lots of wide-plank floors, short doorframes and built-in shelving and cabinetry. In other words, the kind of authentic nuances that, despite our boundless innovation since their inception, have become impossible to replicate.


Pottsgrove Manor by Candlelight | Dec. 11
On the 12th day of Christmas, the English colonists got down with their God-fearing selves—indulgent dinners, lavish parties. So, here, actors will be recreating some of those scenes throughout the 264-year-old mansion of Pottstown’s founder. There will be something on all three floors—dancing in the parlor, cooking in the kitchen and, we’re expecting, a secret rendezvous in the servants’ quarters.



A Personal Connection, for a Change


Brandi Granett’s mastered the fickle art of nurturing grassroots support for her novels. With her latest, she’s taking a different tack: turning away from her computer and trying it in her backyard.

By Scott Edwards


It’s early 2000, and everything in Brandi Granett’s world is right. She’s fresh out of graduate school and her first book just dropped. The world is opening up before her. Until it abruptly flips upside down. Her publisher, William Morrow and Company, is bought by a larger publisher, HarperCollins, and overnight, everyone she works with is dismissed. Just that quickly, she’s alone and adrift.

“So, I didn’t want to do it again for a very long time. I walked away from it. I was saying, ‘I’ll just be a teacher,’ ” Granett says. “But then I started competitive archery on a lark.”

Her daughter was aiming to star in either the Olympics or a renaissance fair, so they scoped out a school in Lambertville, New Jersey, near their home, and the director confided in Granett, with a wink, “You know, women are better at this than men.” She was hooked from that moment. With writing and then publishing, everything Granett thought she knew deteriorated to nothing. But archery revealed itself to be surprisingly profound. The more she practiced, the further it grounded and focused her in the rest of her life, including the writing.

“There’s a coach that I admire, Jim White, out of Georgia,” she says. “And he teaches his people, relationships determine results.”

It became a kind of mantra for her as she gradually worked her way back to the thought of taking a run at writing another book. The rules are different now; the book’s only part of the pitch. “You’re expected now to have a platform,” Granett says. “If you go to a publisher and you have two Twitter followers and one of them is your dog, they don’t want to hear from you.”

So she joined a peer group called the Tall Poppy Writers, comprised of 45 women fiction writers from across the country. And she launched an author profile series for The Huffington Post, for which she’s a frequent contributor. The aim of both is one and the same: To establish a self-sustaining community. The authors, these days, who draw a marketing budget that’ll reach mainstream America could be listed in a single breath, and there’d be some air leftover. The rest are left, largely, to find their own ways. And as with all grassroots efforts today, that means social media networking. A well-placed Retweet is as valuable to these workingman writers as a New York Times endorsement.

When it came time to promote her latest novel, Triple Love Score, published last month by Wyatt-Mackenzie, Granett was inclined to make it a group affair, naturally. Over the last few months, she’s organized what’s become quite a massive book fair, for lack of a better term. In all, 45 mostly-Delaware Valley-based authors spanning a range of genres, including children and young adult, will present themselves and their books October 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Prallsville Mills, in Stockton, NJ, as part of the event Granett’s dubbed River Reads.

[divider]River Reads[/divider]

WHAT    A book fair featuring 45 mostly-local authors. Plus, crepes and a Unionville Vineyard tasting

WHEN    Sunday, Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE  Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ


“I didn’t want it to be about my book,” she says. “That sounds so—I don’t have this mysticism about, like, oh, I wrote a book, so I’m somebody special, because thousands of people, every day, hit publish on Amazon Createspace. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. But what means something is connecting people to readers and sharing books with other people.”

Some of the authors, Granett knows—a few Tall Poppies will be there—but the majority simply answered her public call. The total number of participants doesn’t even represent the true extent of the interest. It’s only where she was forced to cap them for lack of space to accommodate any more.

Spread across both floors of the mill’s main building, each writer will have his or her own display. And there will be brief readings performed every 15 minutes or so downstairs and up-, “like a little commercial blast of what they have to offer,” Granett says. Also, nearby Unionville Vineyards will be hosting a tasting and the Bonjour Creperie truck will be stationed outside.

A community, virtual and actual, is currency in modern writing. The larger the population, the more likely you are to publish another book. But it’s also become a support system for a profession that’s notoriously isolating and disorienting. For many aspiring and established writers alike, Granett included, the former is the icing, the latter, the cake. Granett expects River Reads, if nothing else, to reinforce the following: “I know that I’m not the only person that had an agent break up with her. I’m not the only person who’s struggling to find time with writing and being a mom.” And that, she says, “kind of keeps me invested in the process.”

Photos courtesy Wyatt-Mackenzie

And Now for Something More Decadent


Our favorite food photographer is about to expose a deeper, darker side.

Pictured: “Farmer’s Table, Still Life,” 2014, photograph, Yelena Strokin.


She begins with a single object. It could be anything. Or nothing. Sometimes, it’s the perspective alone that starts stirring her thoughts. And once they’re set in motion, they’ll consume her for weeks on end. Gradually, she’ll begin to piece together a composition. Only when she knows it inside and out does she retreat to her studio. There, the process accelerates, but it’s still methodical, even though the light is fleeting. Shoot. Shift incrementally. Shoot again. And so on.

You know Yelena Strokin as the stylist, photographer and recipe author behind our Home Cooking column, the woman capable of making you crave just about anything at the mere turn of a page. But there’s a greater depth to Yelena and her photography that few beyond her own family are privy to. That’ll change next month when she’ll debut a collection of still-life photographs in the A-Space Gallery at the New Hope Arts Center. It’s Yelena’s first solo show, but not her first exhibit. In 2014, she was awarded Best of Show at the 22d annual Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibit, an affirmation for the self-taught photographer, but hardly a coming-out party.

Yelena took up photography when she started traveling—Nepal, India, Southeast Asia. But fine art has had a strong grip on her since she was a little girl in St. Petersburg, Russia. Its influence is clear in her coming exhibition (which she titled “A Glimpse Through the Flemish Window” as a nod to the roots of still-life painting). But over the course of the four years Yelena spent shooting the collection, it’s just as evident in those 30 or so images that she matured from awe-inspired student to an artist of her own right. —Scott Edwards

A Glimpse Through the Flemish Window,” September 2 (opening reception: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) through Sept. 29, the A-Space Gallery at the New Hope Arts Center.