Mama Duck


The past year brought much to be grateful for and much to celebrate. First and foremost, it’s been a pretty healthy year. Even the couple of elective procedures that Mom had on her hand and foot were completed successfully and with full recovery.

2013-12-21 19.40.22The last ten days of December are always a reflective time for me; especially because it’s both Christmas and My Mom’s Birthday, plus New Year’s Eve usually begs the question of a year-in-review type of sentimentality. 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of Mom’s big day, December 21st to be exact. To mark the occasion, Spencer and I invited her to dinner at a restaurant that is one of her favorites. It’s had a slight change to its name, but it’s still the same casual and relaxed space with a fine dining menu that is only an improvement to previous versions. The prices are fair, the food quality is WHOA! and the newest owners listened to regular customers and kept up with a signature dessert, which Mom refuses to skip. White Chocolate Mousse with fresh Raspberry puree served in a handmade edible bowl dusted with powdered sugar and seated next to a perfect dollop of fresh cream.

So, 70 years of amazing life, yeah! I’m very grateful for my Mom. Since I turned 33, which is the year she attained just before delivering me, I’ve been really aware of the goodness that she brings to my life and to many lives around her. She’s kind and loving in a uniquely helpful way. She’s also observant and reserved until I show up and ask questions and then the insight flows. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking on adulthood with a kind and tolerant, understanding and concerned friend. I am thoroughly pleased that I grew out of the childish “Mother doesn’t know much!” and settled into “What would my mother do?”

That’s my tribute to Mrs. Leto or Mama Leto or Kathy, as my friends who love her too, call her! 

Now, Mama’s pick of this year’s Birthday Event! The Duck on Route 20 in Sturbridge, MA makes its nest in the former hay loft of a shoemaker. Built in 1855, the room defies description with it’s candle chandelier, linens, wide-planked paneling and floors, exposed beams and overall comfort. The menu and specials had top-favorites for all of us, including lamb lollipops for an appetizer and we each sampled the three soup offerings for the day, Clam Chowder, Manhattan Seafood Stew and French Onion au gratin.  Our entrees were very different and very much specific to our personalities. Mom had Butternut Squash Ravioli with a parmesan cream sauce that was honestly the biggest portion ever seen and half of which was taken home and enjoyed the next day. Spencer selected the Frenched Pork Chop with Apple Butter, Acorn Squash and mashed potato. I had the Bouillabaisse which presented a perfect portion of shrimp, scallops, littleneck clams, mussels, haddock, pernod lobster broth and grilled garlic-herb bread. Dinner was delicious and the entire experience was handily guided by our beautiful waitress Kathleen (same as Mom) who kept everything flowing perfectly.

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Back in the day, it was The Ugly Duckling Loft at the Whistling Swan, but now it’s The Duck. No longer ugly, never really was, the ducklings supporting The Duck are always in toe and presently serve the same quality I remember from the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s been a few years since Mom’s birthday has rested itself on a weekend and being four days prior to Christmas Day, timing and reservations can be tough. This year 30 day advance notice reservations were made and arrangements to insure her dessert were completed. The evening was a mild December 50 degrees with New England trimmings of snow from the week prior.

As you know, I have a number of restaurants that are integral to me and Mom’s history. Great Big Deals over Great Big Meals seems to be a theme of our highlights.

Superlative suppers with fine food, what more could life deliver? Enjoy!

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