Thursday, December 12, 2013

The 14th Dessert

There’s no place I’d rather be for the holidays than at our home in Vermont. Even though some winters it’s so cold outside that your eyelashes almost freeze shut, Christmas in Vermont is storybook beautiful. If we’re lucky enough to have snow (and we usually do), stepping inside from a winter wonderland to the coziness of a wood stove fire and the smell of holiday baking and cooking is, to me, the essence of home.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Comfort Me with Apples...and Fettuccine Alfredo

Poor, gray November. For a lot of people, it’s their least favorite month of the year. Gone are the brilliant leaves and blue skies of October, at least here in the Northeast, and instead a bleak chill settles in over the bare landscape.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Brooklyn North

Hipster music venues, check. Burgeoning art gallery scene, check. Diverse demographic (relative to Vermont), check. Dynamic restaurant row, double check. The Brooklyn of Vermont is none other than a place called Winooski, the Abenaki word for “onion.” It even has a bridge (albeit understated) connecting it to Burlington across the river.

Friday, September 6, 2013

On Bristol Pond

Change is in the air in Vermont. Hot, hazy days of summer have given way to crystalline skies and breezes that feel like cool silk on your skin. The color palette in the meadows and mountains has started to shift from vibrant greens to deeper, muted tones. In my extended family, a lot of change has happened recently as well: a wedding, a funeral, and my oldest daughter Isabel headed off to college for the first time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If I Could Change One Thing About Vermont

Much as we Vermonters are fortunate to be surrounded by healthful, creative, and delicious foods that are grown and produced right in our proverbial, and literal, backyards, there is one thing that we’re missing: fish and seafood fresh from the ocean. Yes, we have Lake Champlain running along our western coast, with its spectacular sunsets over the Adirondacks and myriad opportunities for water fun, but I have yet to eat anything that lives in that body of fresh, not salt, water. We have some quality fish vendors like Costello’s in Middlebury, and Ray’s—who graciously park their seafood truck at the intersection just outside of Bristol every Wednesday—and excellent restaurants that turn out an array of freshly flown in fish and seafood dishes. But they just can’t compare with getting it right off the boat. For that, we need to pack up the car and head to the ocean.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dinner Under the Pergola

To me, the finest summer meal celebrates our garden, which is just coming into its own right about now.  Since it’s on the small side, I usually need to supplement with the produce of other local growers and producers, so the meal becomes a local foods fête in the best sense of the word. When the weather cooperates, I like to eat under our pergola, which feels like an airy room framed on one side by the garden, and on the other by a row of raspberry bushes, with grape vines, wisteria, and weeping larch entwining overhead. If asked to visualize a happy place, I would put dinner under our pergola at the top of my list.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Good Times Café

Back in the late 80s, Chris and I used to have a favorite pizza place in Burlington called Filomena’s. It was little dive on the side of a busy road, but they had the best pizza around and served cheap Rolling Rock. The summer we discovered it, we were both on break from teaching positions. I had come up from Boston, supposedly to take a few classes but mainly so Chris and I could spend the summer together while he finished up his dissertation.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Frosting On the Cake

My daughter Isabel graduated from high school this past weekend— a milestone that warrants all the buildup and fanfare and celebration that accompany it. Not only does it mark the end of thirteen-plus years of school, but also the end of her childhood. My feelings about this, of course, are mixed: joy at seeing her arrive shining at this threshold and sadness to be saying goodbye.

We threw a small party for Isabel, for which Chris and I made a slide show of her growing up over the years. As I was sorting through old photos, the memories came flooding back:

her baby sweetness,

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Falling In Love Over Gazpacho

It’s rare for a place to exceed my expectations. Usually when I travel, I’ve spent the previous few months reading about and planning for my visit, so that when I arrive at my destination it already feels familiar, and sometimes slightly disappointing. Every now and then, though, I come upon a place that blows me away. It’s kind of like falling in love. Granada was like this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flavors of Portugal

I’ve been on the road for the past few weeks, or actually mostly on a river, the Douro specifically, in Portugal. My mom and I took a trip together in celebration of her 75th birthday, and then I traveled down to Granada for five days to visit some friends who are living there on sabbatical (a Granada post will follow this one). While the trip was primarily a vacation, I was also happily doing “research” for a few articles I’ll be writing for Whisk on the food and wine of the region. Not bad work, I have to admit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Progressive Dinner Party

I can’t remember exactly when it started—maybe around ten years ago—but a group of friends, all of whom live within a few blocks of each other in Bristol, started having a progressive dinner party on a mostly annual basis. A few of us have been involved from the beginning: Chris and I, Porter and Dave, and Pete and Katie. Other couples have joined along the way. You’re probably familiar with the idea—you rove from one house to the next, eating a different course at each home prepared with the host’s own creative flair.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

La Bella Italia

Next to France, my favorite country to visit, in large part for the food, is Italy. Granted, many countries I’ve not yet traveled to may rise to the top of this list in the future, but for now Italy takes second place. I can honestly say that everything that passed my lips in the birthplace of the Slow Food movement was delicious, a claim I can’t even make for France (not a big fan of kidneys, glands, or brain). And if you’re interested in art, architecture, history, and design like I am, then Italy is a dream destination. Not to mention the wine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Low Tech Cooking

Call me a Neo-Luddite, but much of technology is just downright scary. Take Google’s latest product, now in beta testing: Google Glass. Isabel, my seventeen year old, brought this to my attention after some of her friends were raving about it, saying that they can’t wait for it to hit the market. Thankfully, Isabel herself is skeptical and concerned about Glass’s ramifications. To me, it seems not very far removed from the 1991 Wim Wenders sci-fi film Until the End of the World, in which people become addicted to glasses that allow them to view their own dreams, as society collapses around them. I’m aware of the irony in my writing this blog post on a Google platform, using technology that didn’t exist in the not so distant past….

How does this relate to food, you may wonder? I’m a low tech cook. I don’t tend to own a lot of fancy kitchen gadgets or appliances, in part because I don’t like clutter, but also because I’m of the belief that they don’t necessarily make food taste better. Most of the time, in fact, the opposite is true. If you start with quality ingredients, the less you fuss with them, the truer they taste. Elaborate preparations often just mask a food’s essential flavor with an inferior flavor.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Birthday Dinner

I celebrated a birthday this week. It wasn’t a big one, but it was the birthday before the Big One. We fêted it as a family by going for a long cross country ski at a location we hadn’t tried before, a tradition we started about five years ago. This year we went to Mountain Top Inn, down near Killington. It was a gorgeous March day with a deep blue sky, “computer screen” blue as one of my daughters described it. That’s not the word that came to my almost-50-year-old mind.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Complexities of Being an Omnivore

I’m in the process of writing an article for Edible Green Mountains about Icelandic lamb. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this primitive breed (I had never eaten it before now), it’s a premium lamb that’s highly sought after for its incomparable flavor and lean quality. In the interest of research, I of course had to taste some. The lamb is raised at Stark Hollow Farm, a small sustainable farm in Huntington run by Vanessa Riva and Laura Smith. They ship their lamb all over the country, with some customers paying more for the shipping than for the lamb itself.

I had visited Stark Hollow Farm already and seen their happy sheep grazing on a hillside (they’re 100 percent grass-fed), but I hadn’t bought any lamb that day. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Proust and Thin Mints

Who doesn’t love home baked cookies, that crispy-on-the-outside-but-soft-in-the middle small package of sweetness? They conjure up more feelings of old fashioned hominess than just about any other food. Yesterday my daughter Isabel told me about this video that’s gone viral called The Scared is Scared, made by a Middlebury College student, in which cookies figure prominently. Isabel is a high school senior and anxiously awaiting acceptance letters from colleges, so the video spoke to her. It spoke to me too, as I think it does to anyone who is facing or has faced a big life transition. In other words, all of us.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blue Hawaii

Much as I love the charms of a Vermont winter, at about this time of year I like to get away to warmer climes. As I write, we’re in the midst of Winter Storm Nemo, but I’m still glowing from a recent trip to Hawaii with Chris. He had the good fortune to need to do some research on Oahu, so I went along and we added on a few days on Kauai. We had never been to these two islands before, just to Maui and the Big Island, but with Kauai we saved the best for last. It’s the Vermont of Hawaii, with stunning scenery, a low-key vibe, and an eclectic mix of people.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Après Ski

Some days I wonder why we live in Vermont. “Remind me why again,” I’ll say to Chris when the temperature drops below zero, causing cars to stall and pipes to freeze. Even when wearing appropriate high tech apparel, my fingers and toes still go numb. “It keeps the population down,” Chris will respond cheerfully. Callie our dog even seems to wonder why we live here as she dashes outside to do her business and then turns right around to come back in the house, lifting her paws high off the cold ground. I pack our wood stove with logs to try to combat the draftiness of our old house and drink mug after mug of hot tea.

We’ve had a string of these sub-zero days recently, with the only consolation being the bright sun and the snow on the ground. When the temperature nudges up, it’s crucial to get outside and enjoy winter. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to survive the longest season in Vermont. My preferred outdoor activity? Cross country skiing. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Garden in Winter

Although the garden is now dormant, much beauty can be found there during this time of year.

Stone wall

Tree shadow

Saturday, January 5, 2013

When My Man Cooks

I do most of the cooking in our household, which is fine by me, but every now and then Chris will prepare a meal. Usually it’s meat on the grill or “diner food.” You know, grilled cheese, omelets, pancakes and the like. He’s much better at making this type of food than I am, thanks to lots of practice during his single years. When we were first dating, though, I was under the impression that he enjoys cooking more than he does. Candlelit meals of halibut baked in parchment and bouillabaisse were not unusual but, to be fair, I have to admit that I led him to believe I like backpacking more than I actually do.

On December 29th, we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. How much or how little Chris likes to cook really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. We’re fortunate to share a happy, fulfilling marriage. To toast the occasion, Chris offered to make dinner: a lamb stew with Indian spices, perfect for a wintry evening.