French Country Inn Dining – The Silver Spring Farm French Restaurant in Flanders, NJ

French Country Inn Dining – The Silver Spring Farm French Restaurant in Flanders, NJ

Recently, the movie “Julie & Julia” has debuted on silver screens across the country and has reignited in many of us our passion for exceptional cuisine. While Julie and Julia of the movie explore the enormously challenging tasks of mastering French cuisine at home, my wife Fran and I had our palettes reignited for the equally satisfying joys of eating at a fine French restaurant.

But where to go?

Living 48 minutes from Midtown Manhattan and its seemingly endless inventory of elegant French restaurants, bistros and cafes definitely has its advantages; but this time we decided to aim our GPS West to see if we could discover a more “country inn” type of establishment to fill the bill.

We recognize that our Garmin Novi GPS is, in reality, a marvelous electronic Ouija board. We touch the screen, ask a question:

“Hermione, (that’s what we call our GPS because she speaks with a British accent) is there a fine French country inn within a half tank of gas west of our home here in Maplewood, New Jersey?”

“Re-Calculating… at the bottom of the driveway – turn – left.”

And in an instant [well, more like 45 minutes], we arrived in Flanders, New Jersey and Silver Spring Farm French Restaurant. This charming Inn is conveniently located very close to Route 80 near Budd Lake and the hamlet of Mount Olive.

Arriving an hour earlier than our 5:00 reservations, we were, none the less, greeted by the “Grande Dame” of the Inn herself, Jacqueline Ivaldi. Standing with perfect posture at the reservations station, she smiled and said, “Bienvenue! Welcome to Silver Spring Farm.”

“Thank you, we are an hour early and we’re wondering if we could get an early seating.”

Feigning, seriousness she actually walked back into an empty dining room peered around and then returned to the station. “Yes, you are in luck” she said, “We can squeeze you in.”

We all had a good laugh and knew immediately that we had made the right decision to visit with Jacqueline, her husband Chef Guy Ivaldi, and their son Jean-Jacques (who trained at the renowned Hotel School of Lausanne, Switzerland)  They have been running The French Restaurant at Silver Spring Farm since the early 1940’s. Here refugees from a devastated Post WWII France could get out of their strange and unfamiliar New York City environs and “vacation” not too far from the city for a weekend or sometimes longer with conviviality, bonhomie and, of course, incomparable French cuisine.

Silver Spring Farm has a website, so I won’t waste time here listing their unique and distinguished menu here. I will, however, give two pieces of advice. First, go there hungry. The portions are generous and irresistible; and, trust me; you do not want to find yourself full before the dessert. Second, ask about off-the-menu specials. I had a chicken, beef, lamb sampler in three different sauces that I can re-experience days later by simply closing my eyes and touching the tip of my tongue to my palate, yum.

As the owners of DinnerSmith Meal Prep Studio in Maplewood, New Jersey we must confess a touch of bias. Our mission, like “Julie and Julia” is to bring the passion, the flavor and joy of home meal prep within the reach of one and all. But even chefs need a day off now and then, and you couldn’t do better than to spend that time visiting with the Ivaldi family in Flanders, NJ. Call, Fax or click to if you are within reach of this wonderful venue. Treat yourself and make reservations; you won’t regret it.

Have a break in Umbria at a very special country inn

Have a break in Umbria at a very special country inn

Italy is a place rich of myths and legends, where you can often breath the original spirit of a landscape.

In the past, the guardian spirit of a place was called Genius Loci, now it’s the name of a relais in Umbria, where you can find the true essence of nature and peace.

Here, atop a sprawling vineyard, it’s possible to enjoy all the beauties of Umbria, the most loved region by foreign tourists: the artistic treasures, as the works of Cimabue and Giotto, the renowned wines, the tasty food and the bucolic countryside are some of the reasons.

Located between Montefalco and Bevagna (both listed by “The Most Beautiful Small Towns” Association), Genius Loci offers eight rooms for a comfortable accommodation, with a breathtaking view of rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves.

Every room has a bathroom with fine Italian marble vanities, and are included services like free Internet wireless access, LCD TV’s, air-conditioned.

This elegant bed & breakfast is the ideal location for a relaxing holiday and a base for exploring the landscape and the surroundings.

You are close to Perugia, Assisi, Spoleto and Spello (half an hour by car), and also to Tuscany and Rome (about one hour and a half, also by train), so you can visit the major points of interest and at the same time relax yourself at the country inn.

This unique farmhouse in Umbria is the result of a detailed restoration, which has brought back to their original splendor the antique stones and bricks, the hand-hewn oak beams and the terracotta floors.

Genius Loci is easily reachable because is situated in Bevagna, near the railway station of Foligno if you arrive by train, but you can also rent a car or take a taxi from Sant’Egidio airport in Perugia.

Furthermore, the guests can rely on Tacconi family to experience the luxury and the comfort of a holiday in a beautiful country estate.

The Tacconi family, in fact, is bi-lingual and bi-cultural: you can ask to Mary for cooking lessons, or discuss with Maurizio about wine and olive oil.

If you want to know the true spirit of Umbria, plan your holiday and choose a destination that isn’t only a place but “a new way of seeing things” as Arthur Miller said, just like this country inn is.