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NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

Destination: The Lion’s Den – A Ratskeller with Winter Appeal As Snow Swirls

Posted on January 24, 2018

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Listening near the tavern bar one cold December day, tales could be heard of the ratskeller below. 

Photo by Jacqueline Bennett The Lion’s Den at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA.

 

“The Lion’s Den” in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is listed as one of New England’s coziest winter bars in an article  from “Yankee Magazine.” Located beneath the Red Lion Inn,  “The Den”, as it has been dubbed, can be reached through an exterior entrance and one inside the inn’s Widow Bingham’s Tavern.

 

During a luncheon at Widow Bingham’s Tavern, I overheard some staff express perplexity when a server described “The Den” as a ratskeller, sometimes spelled rathskeller. It is a term at the same time intriguing and off-putting. Any word that contains “rat” is cause for apprehension.

 

The term has its origin in 15th Century Germany, according to what I will call bar-scholars. It apparently combines the concept of wine cellars with, well …. The oldest one cited is Bremen Ratskeller, dating to 1405.

 

So, what the heck is a ratskeller? Quite simply it is a basement tavern. Early on they were found beneath, or nearby city halls. Guess politics could always be cause for a stiff drink. 

 

It was during the 1800’s that ratskellers made their way into the American vernacular. Visualize the fictional ‘Sam Malone’  pouring drinks as customers make their way down the stairs into ‘Cheers’, which was based on a real bar in Boston – the Bull & Finch, renamed Cheers after the television series reached iconic status.

 

Ratskellers seemingly became popular on American college campuses during the 1950’s “beatnik” era and into the 1960’s era of social revolution. Given their typically dark and reclusive aura, that fits, hideaways of sorts for folks planning to change the world. Even my Alma mater, the Univeristy of Connecticut, is included in a list of college campuses that had ratskellers during this socially and culturally turbulent period. (The “Sons of Liberty” often met in taverns to orchestrate the American Revolution, albeit they were above ground.)

 

Ratskellers are far from extinct and can still be found throughout the world. That brings us back to “The Lion’s Den” tucked beneath this New England inn made famous by a Norman Rockwell depiction of Christmas along Main Street in Stockbridge, a quaint town nestled in the beautiful Berkshires.

 

Yankee Mag makes note of the “half-flight down”, 80-year old pub’s promise of live entertainment 365 days a year, brick-red tin ceiling and rosy lighting. Add to that a key element for me, a fireplace. “The Den’s” promises too, “never a cover charge.” And thanks to the food served here, such as the ultimate chicken pot pie comfort food, it is a 2015 Open Table Diner’s Choice Winner.

 

Keep in mind that an underground pub does require one to navigate stairs despite having lifted a pint or two. With a hint of clandestine, clearly this ratskeller creates an atmosphere that makes it an appealing destination while outdoors snow swirls amidst the howl of winter winds.

 

Tavern bar.

 

Listening near the tavern bar to tales of the ratskeller below: The Lion’s Den at the Red Lion Inn, 30 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA 01262  413-298-5545 https://www.redlioninn.com/berkshires-dining-/the-lions-den/

 

Why A Cheating Spouse May Be Less Upsetting Than a Rude Waitress

Posted on January 2, 2018

My New Years Day region-beta paradox cure ~ a find of seasonally decorated  fireplace matches.

By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

The pleasure of my New Year’s Day luncheon out at a favorite restaurant yesterday was dampened by a rude waitress. Although the matter was tended to by the manager, the waitress’ rudeness was still bothering me this morning. I think sometimes we do ‘sweat the small stuff’ because it can represent more, offending our basic sensibilities of right and wrong. Nevertheless, I have other important things to ponder, and in the scheme of things this circumstance was small. So I took to the Internet for refresher tips on getting over small upsets.

 

Along the way, I came across a theory that was new to me called region-beta paradox. My degree is in a different area, but I began as a psychology major at UConn and the field remains fascinating to me. Thus I ended up reading five articles on this theory, including “The Peculiar Longevity of Things Not So Bad,” by the developers of the hypothesis, T.D.Gilbert et al. There’s a lot to the theory.

 

The crux however of region-beta paradox is that more intense upsets likely trigger the mind/body response to recovery, processes that reduce stress. Whereas less intense upsets do not. As such, we may find ourselves still fuming days, weeks later, over spilled milk.

 

Now we have a theoretical explanation. What’s to be done to get over small upsets?

 

In a Huff Post healthy living piece titled, “How To Stop Agonizing Over The Little Things (Because They Are Inevitable),” written by Kate Bratskeir, she states, “Many of us allow one sour moment to spoil what would have been a perfectly sweet day.” She goes on to suggest the following coping strategies.

 

  • Just.Stop.Thinking.About.It
  • Focus on your breathing ~ which can be done anywhere, anytime
  • Be mindful (my interpretation ~ take in your moments, surroundings ~ keep yourself in the here & now)
  • Do some positive visualization ~ maybe think about a favorite ski slope or beach

Here’s a biggie in my book ~

  • Document Your Wins ~ however minor, keep track of things that go well on any given day
  • Keep an overall balance sheet of wins and losses (my approach ~ from making a green light to a winning scratch-off lottery ticket of any amount, to having a door held open, to a friendly hello from a stranger * And may I add, “Pay It Forward.”

 

My win yesterday was finding the last box of seasonally decorated fireplace matches while shopping after lunch. Small – but no less a win. I plan to think about my win.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Posted on December 25, 2017

Photo by Jacqueline Bennett A White Christmas in Connecticut – photo taken about 5 a.m. Christmas morning 2017.

By: Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

I watched “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney three times this season on the AMC channel. I never tire of it. Oh that Vermont lodge! The train ride to New England. The late night scene with Bing and Rosemary by the fire -“when I get weary and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.” The scene when the retired general arrives in uniform. Of course the story culiminates with the singing of “White Christmas”, and at last – the beautiful snowfall! Oh, old Hollywood – thank you for this classic.

 

Sending Merry Christmas wishes to the readers of newsandviewsjb! “May your days be merry and all your Christmases be white.”

Mom’s Recipe Box: Kathleen Shares “Grandpa Frank’s Spaghetti Sauce”

Posted on December 24, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy photo: Her great-niece Kathleen, has shared “Grandpa Frank’s Spaghetti Sauce” and it has been added to Mom’s Recipe Box.

 

 

 

In Time For the Holidays – “Grandpa Franks’s Spaghetti Sauce” from Kathleen

 

It has been awhile since I’ve made an addition to  “Mom’s Recipe Box” and this is one I know my mother would love. It comes from Kathleen Pope, who is married to my second cousin Brad on my dad’s side  (my cousin Betty-Jane’s son). Thus Kathleen is Mom’s great-niece. As I’ve said before, Mom was all about family. She adored hearing about what was going on with each family member. Looking forward to every new recipe, I know Mom would have been so pleased to learn about Kathleen’s blog “The Fresh Cooky”  http://www.thefreshcooky.com/ 

 

Kathleen noted that years back her grandfather had, at different times, owned several Italian restaurants in the Denver, Colorado area. Here’s a bit of what she wrote on her post about “Grandpa’s Frank’s Spaghetti Sauce, ” “Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m sharing one of our treasured family recipes. Ohh are you in for a treat….” She went on to say that she grew up on this “robust” red sauce which her mother often made.  To read the post    http://www.thefreshcooky.com/grandpa-franks-spaghetti-sauce/

 

After the turkey and all the fixings are gobbled up on Christmas Day, and leftovers have been turned into turkey sandwiches or turkey soup, it will be time for a change. Seems like a perfect chance to try this special recipe.  Thanks Kathleen! – Jackie

 

Kathleen has shared …

 

For the complete recipe click on this link.

… a treasured family recipe            

 

Grandpa Frank’s Spaghetti Sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Recipe Box began on newsandviewsjb.com as a temporary weekly series each Friday, and is now published occasionally, adding to the Cecelia G. Bennett Collection. 

Donation Weary? Here’s An Idea

Posted on December 9, 2017

My sister’s downstairs workshop where she creates holiday pine sprays adding ribbons and small decorations.

Article & Photo By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Recently, I overheard a conversation while at McDonalds about donation fatigue. The exchange was about the seemingly constant request for donations – so much so that it had negatively affected the desire for these folks to toss coins into the Salvation Army buckets, that are a part of the Christmas season landscape.

 

Granted it does seem as if the requests are endless – everywhere one goes – from the grocery store (where any number of families may be putting nickels together to place food on their own tables) to newscasts asking viewers to help with collection drives. Last year near where I live, an enormous and certainly costly light display by a private resident, added a request for donations of  non-perishables for those who came by to look at the set-up.

 

With the number of natural disasters that have plagued folks all over the United States through 2017, the needs keep growing – far  beyond the annual holiday toy drives, coat drives and red bucket drives. There are many worthy causes and much genuine need.

 

With that in mind, here’s a simple idea to help avoid donation weariness. Wish those in a position to do more well. Then pick one or two charities and make a small donation of money or items. Or, give the most precious gift there is – give of yourself. Bake cookies to send to our troops or volunteer to read to children. Each Christmas my sister Candy creates her own holiday sprays to place on family member’s graves, as well as, a few graves of strangers that would otherwise go unnoticed. She turns her downstairs into a holiday workshop – it has a wonderful pine scent aroma -then puts together her own sprays with ribbons & small decorations. It is a beautiful gift of love – done quietly without fanfare.

 

Rather than allowing yourself to become donation weary, do something meaningful to you. Consider making it part of your holiday traditions.

 

Appreciation for “State Electric Corp.” Mutual Aid Utility Crew Out of Boston & Navy Seabee Memory

Posted on November 5, 2017

Courtesy photo by Lance Bennett as posted on Facebook.

 

Commentary by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Having a lineman in the family we are keenly aware of what it means for these folks to be called to serve on mutual aid crews out-of-state away from their families, for days, sometimes weeks at a time, working long hours often in dangerous weather conditions. With that in mind, the Bennetts would like to express our appreciation to a State Electric Corporation crew out of Boston, Massachusetts which restored power to relatives in Windham, Connecticut.  

 

Due to the effects of the recent storm which brought high winds and heavy rain that caused downed tree limbs and downed electrical lines, our Windham relatives were without electrical power for four days. Thankfully, they had water, a fireplace for warmth and a battery-operated radio to listen to the World Series. Nonetheless, as anyone who has been without power knows,  even a few hours can feel like life in an alternate universe – let alone the misery of being without power for days.

 

The arrival of this approximate 8-man crew from Boston was a sight for sore eyes I’m told. They are said to have worked diligently and provided cordial and accurate communication for the neighborhood. Since a transformer had to be replaced they left briefly to pick up needed apparatus but returned, as promised, in a timely manner to get the job done.

 

Their ‘drop the r’ Boston accents brought back memories of our Uncle Dick Kaine, who coincidently before his passing several years ago, had been a chief electrician for Boston Con Edison. Now is that coincidence or did the spirit of Uncle Dick send his Boston colleagues to the rescue? We wonder… 

 

W.W. II Seabee recruitment poster (Wikipedia).

 

Readers who follow newsandviewsjb may remember that for Veterans Day observances – coming up on November 11 – I have highlighted family members who served in the military. I want to make note that Uncle Dick – who was married to my father’s sister, my Aunt June – served as a U.S. Navy Seabee during World War II. Online sources explain Seabees were construction battalions for the Civil Engineering Corps, recruited by the United States Navy. They were “skilled construction workers” needed to build naval bases in “theatres of war.”  Some 325,000 Seabees were recruited says Wikipedia. Our Uncle Dick was one of them.

 

Although the role of Seabees was initially to be construction, as my older brother said was told to him, that changed as a result of the circumstances of war. Eventually he said, Seabees often worked “with a rifle slung over one shoulder and an equipment belt slung over the other.”

 

 

So, the Bennetts are sending along an enormous “thank you” to the State Electric Corp. crew for their obvious “strong American work ethic”, a job well-done, and for the reminiscing they stirred of our Uncle Dick Kaine.

 

___________________

Should you lose power here are a few tips published by our in-state utility:

  • If you must drive – never drive over downed power lines
  • Treat all non-working traffic lights as stop signs
  • Once power is restored, power-up slowly turning on one item at time to avoid a power surge

Destination: Sofia’s Italian Restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut

Posted on October 25, 2017

Sofia’s Restaurant in East Windsor, CT.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Sofia’s Restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut had been a place I went fairly often 5-10 years past. For no special reason that changed. A few weeks ago, by invitation I returned. Set on a hilltop intersection, Sofia’s remains popular.

 

The middle dining area now includes a bar located in the rear and lighting is dimmer.

 

 

 

The exterior had been under renovation the last time I was here and is now complete. The interior has also undergone change. Three side-by-side dining sections have booths and tables, however the middle section now includes a bar located at the rear of the space. Lighting in this section seems dimmer which I prefer. Large screen televisions have been added to give a sports bar feel, and on this day they were tuned to a New England Patriots game. Go Pats! Upon entering Sofia’s, the first section leads to a busy pick-up counter; the cooks can be seen preparing pizza and more.

 

 

We were seated in the third section where light streams in from large picture-style windows. Excessive light is not my pleasure so the server accommodated a request to close the blinds nearest to us. A small banquet room is still in the far right back of the restaurant and was in use.

 

Giving it a retro feel, when I first discovered Sofia’s each booth had small jukeboxes. As they seem to be from most gathering spots these days, the jukeboxes are gone. It is a shame “Generation Z” – those born post-Millenials, post-GenX and post-Boomers – will never know the fun of crowding into a booth on a Friday night with friends as everyone lines up quarters to feed a hungry jukebox, then waiting to hear your song selection. Back in the day it was known I would be looking for the buttons to press to hear Lionel Richie’s “Truly.” But I digress.

A sprinkle of Parmesan and the house dressing.

 

 

 

 

The menu is much the same as I remembered it to be with a large number of choices. They have dinners – pasta, chicken, fish as well as grinders, sandwiches, burgers, salad plates, pizzas, appetizers and desserts. Almost immediately after we ordered our entrees, a basket of warm rolls was served. From a choice of soup or salad with dinner, salads topped with the House Italian dressing were chosen. The salad was as tasty as ever. I sprinkled Parmesan cheese over mine which made for the perfect extra flavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So good, a generous portion of sea scallops.

Great reviews for the Baked Manicotti.

Broccoli & spinach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do not profess to be a food critic able to detect every nuance of seasoning. What I can say is that the main dishes we ordered were excellent -generous portions of sea scallops and stuffed manicotti served piping hot. The menu also has smaller portion offerings available to children and seniors. Dessert selections appeared to be fewer than before but it was a moot point because we opted not to order dessert.

 

Sofia’s remains conducive to conversation and good eating. Sofia’s is back on my radar!

 

Sofia’s Italian Restaurant, 136 Prospect Hill Road, East Windsor CT,06088, 860-623-9477  http://www.sofiasrestaurant.com