Saturday, February 26, 2011

ETHNIC-THEMED WEEKENDS AT THE NATIONAL HOTEL

They say "word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising," and although I've always known this intuitively, it was proved to me quite conclusively this past weekend.  We did NO marketing...no advertising...no public relations, announcing our Thai-inspired Additions to the Menu this past weekend.  It was a test of sorts, to see if we could build enough "buzz" about the weekend's special items without actually utilizing traditional media outlets to get the word out that we were doing something truly unique for our area.

And it worked.

Photo courtesy of Lois Heyman


Lisa Frederick, our executive chef, truly outdid herself creating a sensually delightful selection of inspiring dishes that invited diners to select them based on her written descriptions of the dishes, followed by the visually appealing presentation of the dishes that appeared before them...and...wait for it...the taste.  The absolutely delightful, appealing, and excitingly exotic flavors of Thai cuisine came alive this past weekend.  Had I been a little quicker on the draw, I would have a photo of Lisa preparing these dishes to share.  My bad.  In the meantime, here's one of Pu-Ja, two soft shell crabs, stuffed with pork and crab, flash fried with Mee Ploy sauce...can you say, "YUMMMMM?!!"


Pete sat with Lisa at the end of 2010 and designed a slew of weekends that would be ethnically-themed, kicking it off in February with our Thai-inspired weekend.  We wanted to quietly promote these unique items that followed our fully-booked Valentine's weekend, without advertising it.  So much of our business comes from our local patrons, Frenchtown residents and Hunterdon and Bucks County patrons, that we didn't want to have a sold-out weekend that would exclude them.  After all, it is these same individuals that have shown up at our doorstep during the worst of our winter storms, always with a smile, and always grateful that our doors were open to receive them.

Our gratitude is immense, and our deepest honor comes in serving our patrons.  And this is why, truly, we didn't "pound the pavement" to make sure EVERYONE knew that we were featuring these special dishes.  We wanted to make sure our "regulars" were treated in a special way, and that they received the same treatment that our weekend visitors would receive.  At The National Hotel, we pride ourselves in being able to meet our clients' expectations--and exceed them.  We are so pleased with the way things turned out.

And to those of you who follow our blog, or have checked our website, or our facebook fanpage, you'll be happy to learn that this Thai-inspired weekend was just the beginning.  Oh yes, we have our second installment of our Indian Nights weekend planned for March, and a Vietnamese-themed weekend in April.  Stay tuned for more details...


But I'm getting ahead of myself.  How about our St. Patrick's Day celebration, with an authentic Irish band, Club Subheine (pronounced "Sweeney"...in case you were wondering) playing on our porch that following Saturday night, March 19th, and our wonderful and robust line-up of musicians that are listed on our website?  How about our incredibly well-attended bi-weekly Tuesday Trivia nights?  And best of all, these are all programs that have grown organically...not because Pete or I wanted to feature this or that, but rather, because you brought these programs to our attention, and you were willing to host, program, encourage, or attend these special nights.  No wonder The National Hotel has become an evening destination for so many people.  There's always something happening.  Even on the the odd days when there isn't a planned program, there's always a friendly or familiar face waiting for you indoors.  And we love that.


I think that what Pete and I love about being associated with The National Hotel is not that we "own" the building, it's not that we "run" the restaurant, it's not that we "dispense" the libations that keep patrons coming back...it's more than that.  Pete and I have been absorbed into the very fabric of the building; we love learning more and more about the building with every day that passes.  Its history is rich...and its heritage is envied by many.  Pete and I are only hoping that our minuscule moment in time with The National Hotel will prove to our next generation that honesty, integrity, and a just plain "roll up your sleeves" attitude can truly create a place that resonates with so many.  And you, who come to dine, or for a quick lunch, or to enjoy some local talent on Open Mic Night, you who boost our spirits with accolades about our menu choices and specialty drinks, continue to make sure that The National Hotel NEVER undergoes the terrible crisis it felt in 2008 and 2009 when it was shuttered.  This establishment is bursting out of every pore of its facade with joy, with happiness and with familiarity.  It is a building with such tremendously rich history that just being associated with it brings us a tremendous sense of satisfaction.  And from the feedback I've gotten from our patrons--it also brings you a familiar sense of "home."

This feedback is tremendously welcome.  So many of you have taken the time to email us, and to fill out the cards at the end of your meals with your birthday and/or anniversary dates, as well as comments on the back of the forms, that I've been amazed at the honesty with which you share your thoughts.  Again, thank you.  It is this very transparent communication, this true integrity in our relationship with our patrons, that propels us forward every day.  And boy do we have plans for 2011!  From our March Indian Nights weekend, to our April Easter brunch, to a Vietnamese-inspired weekend, to a Spanish-themed weekend...oh, and let's not forget our 2nd annual National Palooza scheduled for June 4th.  2011 is definitely shaping up to be a banner year!  Hope you'll get on board and share this ride with us.  We'll keep posting information on our facebook fanpage, our website, our youtube channel, and our twitter page.  Do continue to email me your feedback, because ultimately, our success is tied directly to you.  We are very appreciative of your support, your ideas, and your continuous commitment to making sure we "get it right."  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

WE'RE CELEBRATING VALENTINE'S DAY WITH ROMANCE AND HISTORY


With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we're so excited to announce that we will be OPEN, even though it's a Monday--and traditionally, this is the one day we give to ourselves as a day to recuperate, rest, and refresh to return on Tuesday with our spirits renewed.  But not next Monday.  We've had so many inquiries about whether we're open, and requests to please open the doors to this historic old lady of a building that has so much meaning to so many--from first dates, to high school graduation celebrations, to wedding proposals--that we couldn't say no.  We'll be open from 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. and welcome you to share this special day with your loved one at The National Hotel, enjoying a specially designed romantic Valentine's Day menu that is sure to please both of you.  Do call us to make a reservation at 908.996.3200, or contact us via email.  Here's a little sampling of what we have in store for our guests:


GREENS
WARM BING CHERRY SALAD
Warm Bing cherry, cipollini onions, goat cheese croutons all tossed in spinach and mustard vinaigrette $10
ROSE PETAL SALAD
Dried Beet chips, blood orange segments, pomegranate seeds and shaved red onion tossed with arugula leaves and blood orange thyme vinaigrette $12
MEDLEY BOBO LINK ARTISAN CHEESE
Assorted local artisanal cheese with a sweet cognac soaked apricots, pistachio honey and homemade crackers and bread $12

SMALL PLATES
OYSTERS
Market Fresh oysters – ask your server for our selection
RABBIT STEW
Sweet braised rabbit, granny smith apples, sausage, all served under puffed pastry $12
LOBSTER
½ Butter poached Maine lobster, over brandy braised leeks, and topped with a crispy pommes maxim $15
CEVICHE
Diced jail island salmon, marinated in grape fruit, jalapeno and fresh coriander $10

And our entrees (a.k.a Plates) will not disappoint, from Filet Mignon, to Scallops over creamy shrimp risotto, drizzled with a spinach Pernot sauce to marinated, grilled and stuffed eggplant rolled with macadamia nut cheese and wilted spinach over roasted tomato and pepper sauce, to braised Turbot fish with white wine and fennel over gorgonzola polenta and saute├ęd watercress with fried capers...you will find that there is something for everyone.  I haven't even talked about the specialty drink of the day...or desserts for that matter!!!  Do come by and experience this special menu that our executive chef, Lisa Frederick, has put together for all those out there who want to have a special Valentine's Day with a loved one over a delicious meal that excites the senses and sets the mood and tone for Valentine's Day.  It's sure to be a meal that will create memories you'll recall for years to come.  




But if you're looking for an entire weekend celebration, we can deliver a fabulous getaway that will be unforgettable.  From a spa session to chocolates and champagne in your room, you just can't beat a full weekend experience.  Click here for more information or call our General Manager, Marlon Aranha, at 908.996.3200 to discuss your specific needs.

This is sure to make you forget the amount of ice and snow that is still on the ground.  We've really been hammered up here in the northeast, especially with the last ice/sleet storm.  Not to complain or whine, but boy have we gotten our fair share!  Those of us living in or near Frenchtown have been dealing with school closings that have also affected our days at work these last few weeks--and future vacation plans as well.  But moving past that, the fact is most of our kids have had a blast playing outside!

And inside, we've had so many events at The National Hotel, from the Frenchtown Lions Club Casino Night at the end of January, to our weekly Open Mic Night sessions, to our beloved Wednesday By the Fireplace singer/songwriter series, to even celebrating Chuck Schaeffer's birthday as he performed during our last Sunday Musical Afternoon series.  Do you know what he wanted??  Ice cream cake!  Oh yeah.  We made sure to get it for him.

From all these events to the hear and now, post-Super Bowl Sunday life.  You have no idea how pleased Pete and I were to hear from a patron that she loves coming to The National Hotel because she "can feel the genuine warmth that the staff extends to her when she walks through the door."  She further shared that we have given her "a familiar place to just relax and unwind after a long work day, knowing that you're open late and always have music, trivia, or something else that allows me to sit back and enjoy."  Now if I'd been a little quicker, I would have asked her if it was OK to share her name along with her feedback...next time.

But one person who did share her name with me, and who surprised us with an exceptional and exquisite gift, is Melissa Maier, from Euphoria Studio.  Melissa used our home away from home, The National Hotel, as the venue for photographing models highlighting some of the romantic styles that Euphoria Studio specializes in creating for their customers.  She had these photos bound in the most beautiful book that she presented to us as a holiday gift.  Thank you, Melissa!


   

Wait...and if those photos aren't enough to get the blood rushing, how about the article in this month's 54 Magazine?  This is a magazine that truly captures the essence of the arts and culture in our area.  We are just floored by the review.

I cannot tell you how pleased we are that we are being "found" by editors and writers from different publications who are truly thrilled that The National Hotel is bringing to the community a menu that is full of new flavors, ethnic seasonings, multi-cultural offerings, and surprises in our Additions to the Menu (every Thursday to Sunday), intertwined with our traditional American fare.  We are so happy to hear from those "in the know," that we are doing "it right."  THANK YOU!




Help us to put Frenchtown on "the map," so that The New York Times readers and nytimes.com visitors can come to our town.  It's a win-win for everyone.  Please visit  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/travel/2011-places-to-go.html?ref=travel#/1265/.  The registration is as simple as adding your name and email address. 

I know that Pete and I have only been the proprietors of The National Hotel for a year and a half, but I can only continue to say thank you to each and every single one of you who have stopped by, talked to us, shared a drink, had a meal, stayed overnight, or enjoyed one of our programs.  We get up every morning with absolute enthusiasm thinking about what the day will hold in store for us.  There have been challenges along the way, but not a single one that we would take back.  Every difficulty we've faced has been rewarded with extraordinary measures of kindness and support by the community...by you.  We cannot imagine doing anything else.  The National Hotel is a treasure, and we absolutely love being in Frenchtown!