The Champlain Valley, VT

Destination: The Champlain Valley

Best of Show: Dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro, Vergennes, VT

Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth

Western Connecticut

Destination: Farmington, Ct

Best of Show: Hard Cider at a farmstand in Litchfield, a Greylock Martini at Sullivan Station in Lee, MA

We went to Hillstead House in Farmington, CT.

When you are planning a fancy dinner for friends or family, there's nothing like a visit to one of the many preserved mansions around New England to inspire you to reach for something special. I look at the grand dining room, the dishes, the kitchen, and I think "What could I do with this kitchen and a handful of servants? What would I set on that table?"

After leaving the house/museum, we headed west and made an adventure of it, including finding farm-fresh Strawberries that ended up in a Frozen Strawberry Cream Torte for Richmond's birthday!

Cherry Grove Farm, NJ

Destination: Trenton NJ Amtrak Station

Best of Show: Cherry Grove Farm bacon and cheeses

Lorna's roadtrip done, I retrieved her at the Trenton Amtrak station and took a long, leisurely drive to New Hope, PA, up the Delaware Water Gap, across NY and CT (with dinner at Elizabeth's in Tarriffville, CT) then RI and finally home to Plymouth!

Artisanal Ales at Armsby Abbey

Destination: Worcester, MA
Best of Show: Armsby Abbey

I had just set Lorna and Melissa off on a roadtrip to Florida (Lorna can tell you about those adventures) and I was at loose ends in Worcester. Of course, there's no shortage of fine foodie adventuring to be had in Worcester, but loading up the car had been thirsty work so I met my old pal Bill at Armsby Abbey.

Boynton-McKay

Destination: Mid-Coast Maine

Best of Show: Boynton-McKay Coffeehouse, Camden, ME

retro look, great local coffee, people-watching in a great location

Gypsy Sweethearts

Destination: The lower Maine coast, southwest of Portland.

Best of Show: Gypsy Sweethearts restaurant, Ogunquit, ME

Lobster Taco, for starters... people watching, too.

The Shore Acres Inn

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
North Hero, VT
Best of Show: 
Excellent dinner at the Shore Acres Inn

the view from Shore Acres to StowWe went to North Hero, VT, on an island in Lake Champlain beyond Burlington, on the NY state and Canadian borders.

It doesn't get any better than a Tanqueray 10 Martini in an Adirondack chair looking across Lake Champlain to Mount Mansfield and Stow. For dinner, a burger of local grass-fed Canamak Farms beef. The coffee is excellent too, which is a good thing when it's 280 miles home to Plymouth!

Antiquing in Central Vermont

Destination: 
Woodstock, VT
Best of Show: 
The Farmer's Table, Quechee Gorge

Farmers DinerThe Farmer's Diner in Quechee, VT is a great place for me to sit and work while Lorna shops in the huge nearby antiques co-op. The diner is devoted to local farmers and their fare, even proudly posting lists of their suppliers for almost everything on the menu.

I like to sit at the end of the counter by the window with a bottomless cup of locally-roasted coffee. When Lorna comes to fetch me, we eat and then press on with our adventure.

Getting Sicilian in Gloucester

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Cape Ann, MA
Best of Show: 
The Cassata alla Siciliana at Caffe Sicilia

Caffe SiciliaLike Boston, Portland, and many other fishing ports, Gloucester has a sizable and old Italian population, and the restaurants and markets to support it. This means you have a good chance to find real Italian products and authentic Italian specialties.

The Cassata alla Siciliana is a revelation of the baker's art. It's a Sicilian cake made from a sponge cake with a cannolli filling, covered with fondant and candied fruits, and sometimes wrapped with a band of pale green marzipan. It is difficult to make, and because it is sometimes imported frozen by Sapori di Napoli, few bakeries actually make it.

Lorna had tried the imported Cassata at La Trattoria, just a few doors down, and fallen in love with it. Naturally I decided I had to make it myself. I carefully deconstructed a slice, observed the cake in the pastry case, and asked where I could find one. The hostess directed me to the Caffe Sicilia.

Well, I spoke to the owner and it did not go well. He told me I cannot make the Cassata because I am not Sicilian! (I have a Neapolitan last name, but three of my grandparents were Irish...)

Challenge accepted.

I am not the most talented baker in New England, but I did my research and gave it the old college try.

Launching the New Year in French style

Destination: 
Portland, ME and Portsmouth, NH
Best of Show: 
Coq au Vin at Cafe Mirabelle, Portsmouth

Cafe Mirabelle, PortsmouthOur first expedition of the year was a great success.  We had a nice drive and we dined at a restaurant with good food of the sort that inspires the dedicated foodie!

It was a typically cold New England January day but we were refreshed from the previous day's holiday rest and fully recuperated from the evening that had preceded it. My birthday was fast approaching, so I got to choose that Saturday's expedition: exploring the shops and eateries of Portland's Old Port District followed by a French dinner at Cafe Mirabelle in Portsmouth.

Portland's Old Port has a number of places of interest to foodies, from the big Shipyard Brewery to the excellent Italian groceries at Micucci Market to the big kitchen store on Front Street and all the little places in the grid of shops that slopes down to the waterfront. We had a great late lunch at Norm's East End Barbecue, where I could not resist the Pepperoncini Martini (a vodka Martini made like a dirty Martini with pepperoncini juice and garnished with a vinegary yellow pepperoncini) that was an inspired complement to the rich smokey brisket I was enjoying.

Best of Show, though, has to go to the Coq au Vin at Cafe Mirabelle. I had long planned to make this dish, but was concerned because I could not picture how it is supposed to look and taste when it is done. It was fabulous with a little carafe of Cotes du Rhone! Now I have no excuse - I must make it myself!

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