Since I didn’t get to post all week, I owe you a long one… Recipes, next week!
Though I often dream of being a snow bunny, I’m not an avid skier, I don’t snowboard and while I love the flurries and snowflakes, bitter cold winter months in the Northeastern States (read: above NY) do not appeal to me. So if it weren’t for chocolate, I may have missed out on visiting the beautiful state of Vermont.
A few years before we met, the boyfriend huddled up for two winters-worth of Vermont splendor in a quaint farmhouse, logging hours as the plant controller for Barry Callebaut Chocolate company in the sleepy-yet-adorable little town of St. Alban’s. Fortunately for him, work whisked him away to Napa Valley, Switzerland, and Québec on occasion and afforded him the opportunity to pick up a little French (to this day, it still amuses him to respond, “Oui, allo?,” when he answers my calls). Unfortunately for me, his chocolate career occurred pre-moi and so I never did get any free chocolate out of the deal. But I do get Vermont for long weekends (and one heck of a chocolate education) and I think that’s the better end of the stick, anyway.
Our last minute 4th of July getaway to St. Alban’s, Stowe and Burlington was an encore vacation as we had traversed the Green Mountain state together once before, visiting his old friends at Barry Callebaut, gobbling trial flavors of ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, testing the limits of boyfriend’s altophobia on the Gondola ride at Stowe Mountain and prancing around Church Street in Burlington for some people watching, a delicious meal and a gorgeous sunset over Lake Champlain.
That delicious dinner I mentioned? Rest assured, we returned to the scene of the sublime this time around, tucked into a cozy corner of Leunig’s Bistro. Their duck frites are a must, dusted in spices and graham cracker crumbs and served with a spicy/savory/sweet chili maple dipping sauce. We split the 1/2 duck crusted in coconut and almonds stacked on top of wild rice, quinoa and pea couscous pilaf and shredded carrot gratin topped with cherry cola demi-glace. I suppose I could go on and on about how delicious it was, but a picture is worth a thousand words, no?
Our second entrée was Maine Lobster and Shrimp with shaved white and green asparagus, peas, leeks, fava beans, zucchini, bacon, pea shoots and Meyer lemon sauce served over house-made pappardelle.
The kitchen was extremely generous with the lobster as you can see by some of the menacing claw meat and lobster tail peeking out from the greens. The homemade pappardelle was pleasantly toothsome, wading in a shallow pool of the delicate lemon sauce. I could have done without the pea shoots, though. Not a pea fan to begin with, the earthy green taste of the shoots overpowered the other flavors in the dish a bit. It’s pretty hard to battle bacon, but these tenacious pea shoots overwhelmed. Despite those pesky little buggers, the lobster, the sauce and the pasta were delicious.
We skipped dessert at the bistro, opting instead to select a few Lake Champlain organic chocolate truffles: French roast, Aztec (a touch of cinnamon and a little peppery heat), Fig & Honey and the classic Champagne truffle. I nibbled them while watching the sunset, so the photo is a bit grainy, but you get the picture.
We watched an impressive fireworks display over the Lake on the 4th Eve…
…then spent the 4th day on the Lake Champlain ferry with a few beers/cocktails watching the sailboats go by.
If this getaway is beginning to sound a bit syrupy sweet to you, it’s because it really was–in a good way, of course. The weather was beautiful (though hot hot hot!), the scenery was amazing and we were surrounded by yummy things to eat and drink (our dinner at Leunig’s, apple cider and cider donuts at Stowe apple farm, coconut curry mussels in St. Alban’s, The Skinny Pancake’s yummy crepes, and Vermont’s own Barry Callebaut & Lake Champlain chocolate, Cabot Cheese, and Cabot buttered bread). Locals mostly dress like they could scale a mountain at a moment’s notice and have the bodies to prove it. There’s an awful lot of healthy and happy in Vermont and it is quite refreshing. Dorothy, we’re not in
Kansas New York, anymore. Take a look at the “graffiti” I found in a bathroom stall at a dockside restaurant. The rest of the wall was covered in grinning fishies (no matter that I just threw down mahi mahi tacos for lunch).
Sad to say the weekend eventually came to an end and I left behind the wide open green spaces and fresh air to return to the crowded, noisy streets of New York, the smell of burning kabobs emanating from street carts on every corner. Ahh, it’s good to be home. But you can bet your bottom I’ll jump at the next chance to escape to Vermont for a few days where I’ll revel in its beauty and eat its cheese and chocolate til the cows come home.