Gorgeous!

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Ausable Chasm, NY
Best of Show: 
Soft-shell crabs at the Shore Acres Inn

Ausable Chasm, NYWe started a "gorgeous" day  with breakfast by Quechee Gorge, and then explored along the White River and across the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain to Ausable Chasm before dinner. It was a beautiful day on the cusp of spring turning to summer and we knew we would have enough daylight for this ambitious expedition.

Sadly, our trajectory brought us across virtually no interesting new markets or farms. the mountain path was too rugged for most Vermont-style agriculture, and the Champlain Valley has been well-explored by us. The New York side of the lake is less populated, bounded by the lake on one side and the Adirondack State Park, so there are few markets for agricultural products anyway.  I didn't even get the local specialty, a Michigan Hot Dog.

The view from Shore Acres InnBut we did end the day with an excellent dinner at The Shore Acres Inn in North Hero, VT in Lake Champlain.

The special was soft-shell crab, another of the classic harbingers of spring like asparagus and peas. I had been hoping to sample this springtime classic before summer arrived, but they are not really a New England specialty.

Old Vermont

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Quechee Gorge and the Justin Morrell House
Best of Show: 
the maple kids

Justin Morrill HouseUS Senator Justin Smith Morrill was the Vermont visionary who created the legislation for the Land Grant colleges in 1862 that opened up higher education to many middle class students, and then another version in 1890 that ensured these colleges would educate black students as well.

Morrill was a blacksmith's son who was formally educated only to age 15. He made a small fortune in local mercantile trade, and build this fine house in Strafford, VT. He became an accomplished speechwriter, and was elected to Congress at a young age. He became one of our longest-tenured Senators.

We enjoy visiting historic houses, which often bring us into otherwise unexplored pockets of New England.

Maple Cream PieWe had another reason to be in east-central Vermont: I know that the  Quechee Gorge Village includes a variety of sizes and grades of Maple Syrup. Having just succeeded happily with a Maple Cream Pie  for another event, I wanted to make it again, but I was out of maple syrup and unwilling to pay Boston supermarket prices for it when I knew we would be in Vermont.

 What I did not take into account was the Memorial Day Weekend crowd of tourists from all over.

Sunset in Stonington

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Stonington, ME
Best of Show: 
Stonington Granite goat cheese at Sunset Acres Creamery

Stonington SunsetWe drove to Stonington, Maine, which is one of our longer trips at 660 miles. On the long trips we get less time for exploring, but we still did pretty well; we visited two farms and two excellent markets, and got some fresh Jersey cow cream, fresh fiddleheads and two artisanal goat cheeses, and finished up with local crab and lobster and a hard-to-find microbrew from Orono, ME.

(We nearly got a ticket too, but escaped that. You don't cover as many miles as we do by driving slowly!)

It was dusk before we got on the road again for the long, long drive home, but that was good luck too. We saw many views of a gorgeous sunset as we worked our way back to Coastal Route 1.

BillyBest of Show has to go to the Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy in North Brooksville, not far from Stonington. "Fahmah Bob" Bowen welcomed us and found for us the first Stonington Granite cheese of the season, then he introduced us to the new baby goats!

The goats live in big airy barns with a lot of space. We love seeing goats because they are so curious, even mischievous. They react to visitors much more than sheep or cows do.

Exploring the Lower Cape and P-town

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Provincetown, Cape Cod
Best of Show: 
Russ & Marie's Marconi Site BBQ

The P-town Monument from in front of town hallWe spent Mother's Day exploring the Lower Cape (that's the section beyond Orleans and the rotary, along the Cape Cod National Seashore up to Provincetown). We finished up with dinner at Bubala's and a leisurely drive home while the Sagamore Bridge traffic subsided.

Between the time we crossed the canal eastbound at 10am and our westbound return at 10pm, we covered a lot of ground: down to Hyannis, past Stage Stop Candies and Marion's Pie Shop to Chatham, along the shore to Orleans and onto the Lower Cape.

It was well past noon and we had eaten nothing all day, but that was no oversight - after a failed attempt at breakfast in Hyannis, we opted to save our appetites for a barbecue lunch at Russ and Marie's Marconi Beach Restaurant, with the active smoker right out front. I had the smoked brisket with a fresh, local Cape Cod Blonde Ale, and Lorna had the barbecued chicken with a baked sweet-potato and cinnamon butter.

The Wine of Atlantis

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
The drowned towns of the Quabbin
Best of Show: 
The Giles Warner White Wine at the Hardwick Winery

The Quabbin Reservoir in MayWe left the Brimfield Antiques Fair with plenty of time to explore central Massachusetts, so we headed out Route 9 for the Winsor Dam at the Quabbin Reservoir. It is a beautiful place, the water serene and sparkling  on this perfect afternoon. So it was a little creepy to remember that four towns were disincorporated in 1938 so Boston could have water.

This means the roads that led to those towns are now blocked off long before you reach the water, but it is fun driving the rugged hills described in Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space.  

Hardwick WineryThe old town of Greenwich is no more; the remains are part of Hardwick. So it was that we drove up Greenwich Road in Hardwick, MA and came upon the Hardwick Winery. It's a pleasant place, in pretty country, with locally made wines. We only tasted a couple of them, but I found the Giles Warner white to be very refreshing and crisp with explosive berry and herby flavors like a $20 Pouilly Fuisse.

The Brimfield Antiques Fair

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Brimfield, MA
Best of Show: 
Attractive, smaller cocktail glasses

Shooping for Kitchen Suuplies at BrimfieldWe spent a glorious May morning shopping at the thrice-annual Brimfield Antiques Fair.

You might wonder "Why does a Foodie Pilgrim care about antiques?" Well, antiques is a very broad term, especially at the Brimfield Fairs. This fair and antiques shops in general are great places to find good-quality, good condition kitchen gadgets, serving dishes, and other pieces from the past that can give your kitchen or dining room a real sense of place. I have many nice mixing bowls, serving platters, and other gear in my kitchen that I acquired on expeditions such as this.  

On this particular  expedition, I was seeking attractive, smaller antique barware. In my grandfather's day, cocktails were usually served in much smaller glasses. As a result, you could get a greater variety during an evening of cocktails, instead of getting hammered by drinking from a pail.

Fair FoodThere was food to be had, but it was Fair food, which is fair under the best of circumstances. Even the Methodist and Congregationalist pie-ladies seem to have called a detente and serve only reheated Mrs Smith's pies now. We had to travel onward to find more foodie adventures.

Needhams

Photo by Richmond TalbotSun poured into the room where Richmond, John and I sat drinking an early evening libation.  Having missed the Kentucky Derby and our yearly Mint Julep on the traditional Saturday, we had felt the need to make up for the loss on Sunday.

Richmond’s juleps are a perfect blend of sweetened mint, ice and Maker’s Mark; even a sometime drinker such as I finds they go down very easily. Several hours slipped by as we sipped and enjoyed ham-wrapped asparagus and a duo of cheeses John brought back the day before from the upper reaches of New England.  One of them, a Fiddlehead Tomme from Boggy Meadow Farm in Walpole, NH, is an all time favorite with the three of us.

Twilight began to fall, and I found my thoughts turning towards dessert.  “I need a cupcake,” I announced.  “No you don’t,” replied John, but his efforts to distract me were ineffective, to say the least.  After a few more minutes of my sighing, John remembered he had at home a Maine specialty known as a Needham.

Bennington and the Champlain Valley

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Bennington, VT
Best of Show: 
Vermont Kitchen Supply, in Manchester

The Battle Monument in BenningtonWe toured the southwest corner of the Green Mountain State from Brattleboro to Bennington along the Molly Stark Byway, and then north along Scenic Route 7a to Manchester, Route 30 to Poultney, and then the excellent Route 22a up the Champlain Valley as far as Vergennes. In Vergennes, we stopped for an excellent dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro, and then we set out across the mountains. We watched the supermoon rise over the mountains east of Mad River Glen, and took Rte 100 up to I-89 just as it got dark.

the Champlain Valley

The Champlain Valley  is justly famous as a touring destination, but the lower stretch of that side of the state has its own hilly and rural charms, from populist Bennington to patrician Manchester to scenic Lake St. Catherine and onward to Poultney. The towns are small and the hills can be rugged, but Routes 7a and 30 are lightly traveled and have enough turns and hills to keep the scenery changing.

Sole Oscar

Filet of Sole OscarI was lucky enough to get a bunch of fresh-cut Asparagus at Verrill Farm  in the morning, and then lucked into a half a dozen farm-fresh egg yolks from a friend at work who eats only the whites.

From there it was easy to suggest some sole and Jonah crab meat for dinner, and the Filet of Sole Oscar was the obvious dinner:

  1. Steam the asparagus a few minutes, then plunge it into ice-water to cool it and keep it bright green.  
  2. Melt 1 cup butter.
  3. Dip the sole in flour and then in egg and saute in 1/4 cup melted butter until golden. Set aside on a warm place.
  4. Slowly whip the egg yolks in an electric mixer.
  5. In a clean skillet, toss the asparagus in 1/4 cup melted butter to heat through, then lay the asparagus across the sole filets.
  6. Saute the crabmeat in the same skillet, and lay it across the asparagus.
  7. Squeeze half a large lemon into the yolks, then slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup melted butter. Add a pinch of cayenne, and salt and pepper if you think it needs it. This is the Hollandaise.
  8. Drizzle the Hollandaise across the crab/asparagus/sole, or just face reality and dump it all on. It's so good you'll take no prisoners!

We served this with a chilled Pouilly-Fuisse white Burgundy, a classic accompaniment that suited the dinner perfectly.

From start to finish was less than 30 minutes, but they were not relaxing minutes. You can do this after work if you are not too tired. In my opinion, it is so good that it is motivation enough to put in the work.

Circumnavigating Lake George

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Fort Ticonderoga, Lake George, and Saratoga Springs, NY
Best of Show: 
WAAWWE Market, Gassetts, VT

Excursion Boats on Lake George

We took advantage of ann early start to do one of our favorite trips: a circumnavigation of Lake George in upstate New York.  

Among other goals, I hoped to get a second example of the very regional Michigan Hot Dog, a sort of confirmation of my first sighting in 2007. What luck! Immediately after crossing into New York I screeched to a stop (I guess I do a lot of that) at Top Dogs Snack Bar, featuring Michigans! Dog-lovers can read more on that in The Dog Log.

Lake George is a very long, skinny lake on the edge of the Adirondacks. It has great historical significance from the days of the revolution and the Erie Canal system. It's shores are lined with many summer cottages, some quite expensive. Lake George Village is the kitschy headquarters of summer on the lake, full of t-shirt shops, cotton candy, mini-golf, and the like. It is a tidy town, and very nice if you like that sort of thing...but a foodie paradise it's not.  We ended up having dinner at a nice Italian place in Saratoga Springs.

Who could resist?The best foodie discovery of the day happened back in Vermont.

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