As the children got older, their summers shifted to include working as camp counsellors or other summer jobs, and Glenn and I began to spend more time in Cape Cod on our own. Through Victoria Magazine and Antiques for the Table, I learned about Blantyre, a country house hotel in Lenox, where they use antique tableware in the dining room. Intrigued, we booked ourselves in for a couple of nights to give us an opportunity to explore the Berkshires in more depth.
Blantyre is quite an experience; the service is impeccable, the staff very friendly, and the food! On our first night, I was excited to discover they had a tasting menu. To me, it meant the maximum number of changes of china and crystal, and an opportunity to try different foods that we might not otherwise choose on our own. I was all for it. Glenn had a different view. My husband is many wonderful things, but food-flexible is not one of them. He can be a shade fixed, shall we say, where it comes to his meat and wine choices. As our friend Julia says, “just serve him red on red”, so it took some persuasion to convince him to partake in the seven-course meal. In spite of my waxing eloquent over the delights in store for him, it was glaringly obvious to Glenn that chicken featured in the main course. The meal was outstanding, even the chicken, which Glenn grudgingly acknowledged was divine. They served it with a succulent summer succotash, I’ve been trying to duplicate ever since.
I learned from the owner of Blantyre, Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, that the supplier of a lot of their antique tableware was Elise Abrams. I had noticed her store, Elise Abrams Antiques, on one of our earlier trips to Great Barrington, but as I was “on the clock”, so to speak, we hadn’t had time to visit until now. So after breakfast the next day we set out to do some exploring and soon spotted the shop. The signage was quiet, discreet even, and we noticed some lovely coloured stemware in the window as we pulled into the parking area. The understated nature of the façade did not prepare us for the fantastic variety and breathtaking quality of what met our eye when we entered. If antiques are to tableware what ballgowns are to wardrobe, Elise could supply every attendee at the Oscars, for several seasons, and every participant would look phenomenal.
Elise could not have been more gracious or helpful, which I’ve come to know are her signature traits, and over the years we have become fast friends. Always thoughtful, never in the slightest bit pushy, she carefully considers her recommendations with an unerring eye. She knows my collection better than I do, and certainly understands the history of each piece with a staggering depth of knowledge. She has co-authored a book on Hand Painted Porcelain Plates: Nineteenth Century to the Present, the Punch Bowl, by Dan Searling and Dishes by Shax Riegler feature many treasures from her collection.
My collection has grown steadily over the years, in no small part to the confidence I’ve gained through dealing with extremely reputable individuals like Elise, in whom I can place a high degree of trust. The antiques market, like any other, has its share of less savoury suppliers, so caveat emptor applies whether dealing in antiques, cars or financial services. I made a few mistakes in my early purchases from other places, but as my knowledge has built, and I’ve assembled a group of trusted advisors and friends, mistakes are far less frequent. For anyone just getting their feet wet, I would encourage you to do your homework, read up as much as possible, and form your own “tribe” of like-minded collectors and reputable suppliers such as Elise Abrams. Come on in, the water’s fine!