For some, Christmas in Vermont is a more recognizable title, Currier and Ives images spring to mind as snow covered slopes beckon the brave. But in the town of Stowe, on a warm July night, in the sanctuary of the local JCC, part time and born and bred Vermonters came to hear me talk about Recipes Remembered. When the talk concluded, I was gifted with a copy of their cookbook entitled
, filled with homespun recipes that represent the good people of Stowe. The humor displayed by the title and the commitment to preserving traditional Jewish food gives you a glimpse into this small but vibrant Vermont Jewish community. And while the talk didn't cause a tsimmes, it brought together people from all over the country who call Stowe their summer home as well as locals
( Jewish and non Jewish alike) who came to learn more about Recipes Remembered. It was a wonderful night, a beautiful visit filled with good will and good food- my favorite combination. So, what follows in this blog entry is a little about Stowe and a lot about what my husband and I ate and drank throughout our stay. Hope you enjoy this sweet and savory trip through God's country.
We started our trip leaving from our Bedford home on what was a sweltering New York summer day. We looked forward to the scenic drive and mountain air and were not disappointed by either. Our first stop en route was a wonderful tavern in Bernardston- a town my husband pronounced using his best Winston Churchill accent. The Kringle Candle Company is home to The Farm Table
, a delightful restaurant situated on a thoroughfare in the heart of the town. http://www.kringlefarmtable.com/Home.html
If the word artisanal needed clarification, The Farm Table
could be the defining example. Everything was housemade. From the walnut raisin studded bread brought to the table, to the croissant roll that housed the chunky fresh caught lobster. The tomato soup I started with was spicy and topped with a shrimp salsa. The clean taste from the freshly grown tomatoes was sweet and acidic, with a hand picked taste.
For my main course I indulged in a clam and Vermont smoked bacon pizza that oozed provolone cheese with a crust that had the perfect chew and a sprinkling of Parmesan that livened up the edges. You know the effect when cheese escapes from a dish and just chars on the bottom of the pan- that's what dotted the crisp crust. The clams were briny and the bacon had that just cured smoky slightly maple flavor. It was perfect.
We left The Farm Table completely sated and sorry that it was located neither here nor there; not close enough to where we started or near enough to where we were going. We did promise to stop on our way back, but were lured away by another local specialty, that we discovered on the end of our trip and you'll discover at the end of this travelogue.
We arrived at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, a family Von Trapp looking structure nestled in the Mansfield mountains of Stowe. The Lodge was pleasant enough, the scenery breathtaking and the people warm and friendly- just as you'd expect.
My book talk took place Thursday night, and our first day in Stowe was spent pretty much doing nothing except unwinding and breathing in the surroundings. The air in Stowe had a gentle warm breeze in contrast to the weather we left behind which was now raining hail stones down on stranded New Yorkers who we were told were ducking into stores to avoid the barrage.
The talk was a wonderful event, where I met and mingled with an almost 100 year old Gentile town resident who had more spring in her step then most half her age. She told me she wished the Christian community were more like the Jewish, organized and collected. I had to laugh. There was a hidden child from Belgium in attendance, as well as the summer Stowe residents who came from Boca, Bethesda and Boston. No, your home city does not have to begin with a "B" to summer in Stowe. I thank the terrific members of the JCC for baking Evelyn's summer peach confection, Edith's blueberry crumb cake and more cookies than the elves could muster on a productive afternoon.
Our culinary itinerary continued Friday after a magnificent round of golf where the course meandered through mountains and terrain that challenged our golf cart and my threshold for winding curves and downhill paths.
We rewarded our game with a Stowe tradition, a maple creamee at I.C. Scoops. It did not disappoint. The sugary maple flavor was not cloying, but just sweet enough and the freshly baked waffle cone served as the perfect conveyor.
We kept lunch light as we were looking forward to an amazing dinner at Hen of the Wood, located in nearby Waterbury Vermont. http://www.henofthewood.com/
Twice nominated chef/owner Eric Warnstedt fills this little gem with an inviting ambience, simple yet thoughtful food, a friendly and knowledgable staff and local ingredients that define the Vermont culture. It was the perfect balance of eating the right food, prepared the right way, in the right place. I started with two small plates and the sous chef graciously prepared a third for us as I was on the fence as to what to order and my angst apparently was palpable. The first was chunks of locally raised ruby red chioggia beets, dotted with pine nuts, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, ribbons of fresh picked basil all sitting on a base of creamy house made ricotta that had been emulsified into a frothy texture. It was clean and simply divine. The thinly sliced cucumber offering, also from a local farm, were topped with fennel fronds, shards of sliced fennel and breakfast radishes. Pure and fresh; a great palate cleanser and perfect way to begin a meal. Our bonus starter were zucchini fritters light and puffy, just greasy enough to remind you they were deep fried, filled with chunks of zucchini. My husband started with an apt dish of mushrooms (I'm sure some were hen of the woods), presented on toast, topped with local bacon and a perfectly poached egg that ran down the mountain of mushrooms like a slalom skier. I would have loved to show you tantalizing photos, but either the champagne had already gone to my head or we didn't discover the flash on our iphone early enough into the meal, so my descriptions will have to suffice.
We sipped an interesting wine that was mellow, aromatic and slightly fruity. It was an Italian blend from Hilberg Pasquero a winery known for their biodynamic and ecologically sound approach to winemaking- no surprise that it caught the attention of this socially responsible restaurant.
The Vareij that we enjoyed was a combination of Brachetto and Babera grapes from the Roero Piedmont region. It was a perfect compliment to my locally raised pork two ways (moist loin and crispy belly sitting atop smashed potatoes and surrounded by a blueberry reduction) and my husband's straight foward striped bass.
Our evening finished with a creamy local cheese from Mt. Mansfield Creamery called Inspiration. http://www.mtmansfieldcreamery.com/
It certainly inspired me to want more cheese, but my husband restrained me saving just enough room for the buttermilk cake topped with fresh fruit. From start to finish it was just what a dining experience should be; satisfying in all ways. We knew that meal would not be topped, so we vowed not to even try. Instead we went down and dirty for our final morning and trip home.
It started at Stowe Maple Products where we met and schmoozed with the owner of this small but productive local institution. She showed us the inner workings of making maple syrup and when we realized that a 50 gallon vat produces a 1 gallon jug of syrup- we understood why it commanded such a steep price. We explored the various grades from Grade A light to dark amber and selected several jugs of medium which is the most versatile. Mapley enough for baking and not too overwhelming for Sunday morning flapjacks. The prices here were better than at the traditional tourist traps. Give them a call and they can ship right to your waffle iron. (802) 253-2508
The maple syrup goes into my oatmeal raisin cookies whose recipe follows
Our next stop was the Cold Hollow Cider Mill
where we devoured a bag of freshly baked apple cider donuts, washed down with a cup of milled apple cider and Vermont roasted coffee. http://www.coldhollow.com/
Watching them being made right before your eyes tells you two things- they are as fresh as can be and frying food is down right good. Our takeaways included home made preserves, pancake mix, pure honey and pepper jelly for our adventurous son-in-laws who cannot make their food hot enough.
A short drive down the road led us to the Cabot Cheese
annex where we sidled up to a cheese tasting bar and used more toothpicks then a small forest could produce. http://www.cabotcheese.coop/
My personal favorite was horseradish cheddar, but I didn't want to overstay my welcome as our next stop was Ben & Jerry's. The tour of this original and still operating ice cream plant is kitschy replete with cheesy (got you) cow jokes such as: Why was the mother cow exhausted? She had just been de-calfinated! We endured such one-liners to receive the pay off at the end, a view of the plant (which was not operating that day so it was sort of like watching paint dry) and the chance to taste one of Ben & Jerry's signature flavors. We sampled Mint Chocolate Chunk my daughter's favorite which is now considered a zombie flavor- available in scoop shops but not in stores. We posed in front of a replica of their tour bus, but I will spare you the moomentous shot ( that's the last one, I promise)
With full bellies and a few mooving (sorry) souvenirs, we headed back to the car to continue our trip home.
There were two more stops in our future, one planned and one serendipity. On our trip out we noticed a small bakery that advertised the following
We assumed that was just a sampling of what they had to offer. The reality was, that's pretty much all they had - save a window display of traditional cookies and a few loaves of what was once freshly baked bread. We scored one of the two remaining pies and a frozen scallop, leek and potato pot pie so we were happy. I've yet to sample either, but I have a inkling they will be delicious.
We traveled down the street to find just what I was craving; a roadside hotdog stand. Growing up in Westchester County we are loyal Walter's hotdog fanatics. And in this small town just south of Greenfield, Mass. we found one that felt very familiar. We ordered footlongs served on a very fresh bun, with homemade sauerkraut, tangy mustard all wrapped in foil and under $3.00 each. My husband paired his with fresh pink lemonade. A Saturday in the country doesn't get much better than that.
Our trip was nearly done, and our visit to Stowe was really memorable. Some might have spent their time there hiking the trails, biking the paths and exploring the antique shops. We chose to blaze our way through the local eateries; meeting the very good people of New England savoring their singular hospitality; one morsel at a time.
When I returned I excitedly incorporated the real maple syrup in my oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. Hope you enjoy the flavor and texture and make this recipe one of your go-tos, as I do.
Here's how it goes.....
Yields 24 cookies (18 if using a
Start to finish: Under 1 hour
Must Have: large unrimmed baking sheet (15”x14” holds 9 cookies, 20”x15”holds
12), parchment paper or silpat
Nice by not Necessary: standing or hand held mixer, mini ice cream
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter,
1 large egg, room temperature
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
½ cup firmly packed dark brown
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 ½ cups old -fashioned rolled
oats, do not substitute quick cooking
½ cup baking raisins
Take the butter and egg out of the
fridge at least 30 minutes prior to baking, longer is even better. In a medium
bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with
parchment or a silpat. When the butter is soft (you should be able to easily
indent your thumbprint), beat on medium speed with the two sugars using a
standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, a hand mixer, or beat
vigorously by hand, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes scraping down the
sides as needed. Add the vanilla, egg
and maple syrup and beat for 1 minute.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, beat till just combined.
Using a spatula, stir the mixture,
being sure you bring up the batter from the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the oats and raisins and thoroughly combine. Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoons (a
mini scooper is 1 tablespoon) and place 2 inches apart on the baking
sheet. With a lightly damp finger, lightly
press the top of the cookies to slightly flatten. Bake for 10 minutes (12
minutes if you scoop 1 ½-2 tablespoons for larger cookies). They should be crisp on the edges, soft in
the center. When you take the pan from the oven, give it a light tap on your
counter to deflate the cookies. Let the cookies cool for a minute on the baking
sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack.