Fall Folliage 2013

Fall Folliage 2013

I blog for many reasons. One of those reasons happens to be to document those moments that I wonder about year to year. When was the first snow last year? Was mud season this horrible in 2012? Is this a late foliage season? Every year I wonder these types of things, and I have always looked forward to the day when I actually have it documented to look back on. I began last year with the first snow of the season. I was surprised looking back on it that it was as early as November 5!

Anyways, foliage season started last weekend with this weekend seeing A LOT of changes. On Saturday we got up bright and early to make it to the last Mad River Valley farmer’s market that the brewer of Lawson’s Liquids would be at to sell beer. Bright maroons were beginning to explode from the tree lines as we zig-zagged down route 100 towards Waitsfield. By the time we made our way back that afternoon, the tree line seemed to be even brighter and more magnificent before. Then, the very next morning we noticed more colors outside of our window. So, I believe this week will be the peak foliage, and hopefully, I can get some more pictures. I am planning on climbing Mount Elmore, as Pup and I do every year (this will be our third year!), just her and I. That should give me a good opportunity for Fall Foliage pictures.

 

Zwanze Day in Vermont

Zwanze Day in Vermont

Have you ever heard of Zwanze Day? Every year, beer enthusiasts celebrate the release of a special sour beer made by Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, Belgium. In Flemish, a zwanze is actually a joke, and Zwanze Day is meant to be fun day of drinking this rare beer that is different each year. Cantillon actually hand picks the bars and breweries across the world that they would like to participate in Zwanze day. Then, they send the Zwanze beer over to be tapped at the same time around the world (3 PM EST for us).

Zwanze Day Tickets

Zwanze Day Tickets

Here in Vermont, we were lucky enough to have a brewery that was picked by Cantillon to participate – Hill Farmstead. Hill Farmstead aka Shaun Hill (the brewmaster) really knows how to throw a party! Only ticket holders were allowed at the brewery for the day, and a tent was set up complete with five different beers: 2 Grassroots beers & 3 Cantillon beers (including Zwanze). They decided to approach the festival in a different manner than usual, handing out colored tickets that corresponded to each beer. Each person received one ticket per beer. This gave each drinker a guarantee that they would be able to try all of the beers so that they didn’t have to worry about waiting in any lines. For once, a beer event wasn’t all about getting a beer and drinking it in line so that you could get your hands on the next beer. Instead, we were able to hang out on Hill Farmstead’s beautiful land, enjoying each and every beer in a civilized manner. Shaun Hill mentioned that he is always trying to think of better ways to organize beer events, and I really thought this way worked well.

After the Zwanze event, we headed over the “Zwanze After Party” at a local restaurant, Parker Pie. This is one of our favorite hang outs in Northeastern Vermont. I’ve actually mentioned it before here. Parker Pie had some great Cantillon bottles and I was hooked on their Kriek as usual!

Post Zwanze Day at Parker Pie

Post Zwanze Day at Parker Pie

Burlington Brewers Festival 2013

Burlington Brewers Festival 2013

It’s July 19, just before 11:30 am, and beer enthusiasts from across New England, and beyond, crowd behind a single white string, their empty sample glass in hand. When time changes to 11:30, the white string instantly disappears beneath the crowd, and the beer tasting commences. This is the scene as the Vermont Brewers Festival begins, and although this year began much the same as previous years, 2013 introduced new breweries and beers to the thirsty visitors who were able to get their hands on completely sold-out tickets.

Burlington Brewers Tents

Burlington Brewers Tents

Tickets sold out, to all sessions, for this year’s festival in just 34 hours. The three sessions saw more than 7,000 visitors this year and for good reason. As New England’s oldest and largest beer festival, the Vermont Brewers Festival consistently showcases the best of what Vermont beer has to offer in addition to highlighting Quebec brews. This year, lines began forming early for certain breweries, quickly displaying what breweries had the beers highest in demand. Some Vermont breweries with longer lines included: the Alchemist, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Hill Farmstead Brewery, Kingdom Brewing, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids. In addition, a number of Quebec breweries saw long lines including Brasserie Dunham, Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, and Micro-brasserie Le Trou du Diable.

Brewers Festival Goers Enjoying the View

Brewers Festival Goers Enjoying the View

I was most surprised by the lines that formed at Fiddlehead Brewing Company and Kingdom Brewing (whose line formed towards the end). These two breweries are lesser known outside of the Vermont community, but showed up with such great beers that became quick favorites. Fiddlehead’s stand out beer that brought forth the crowd was the ‘Hodad Vanilla, Chocolate, Coconut Porter’. It is described by Fiddlehead as “paradise in a glass” and did not disappoint. The coconut notes stuck out with a powerful chocolate porter punch that followed. Kingdom Brewing showed up with ‘Benedict Arnold’, a sour porter that hit all of the right notes in terms of sour and drinkability. It left me smacking my lips for more. Although I noticed quite a buzz about this beer, a later crowd formed for Kingdom’s ‘Addy Pearls Spice Maple Rum Ale’, an ale made with pure Vermont maple sap and stored in Thomas Tew Spiced rum barrels. I was amazed at the maple and rum tastes that hit my taste buds at full force as well as how much I ended up enjoying the combination of those tastes.

The Vermont Brewers Festival continues to deliver a different kind of beer festival in New England. It’s set in a truly idyllic location and features the best of what Vermont has to offer. The festival continues to reveal new and breakout brewers from across the region, in addition to groundbreaking and experimental beers, making it the most exciting beer festival in New England for both the visitors and the brewers.

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Overview of my Summer: 2013

Summer has come and gone, with little to no blogging accomplished. I have no excuses. I had every intention of displaying my favorite summer recipes that used all of the veggies out of my new garden, but instead gobbled most of these up before I had time to snap a couple of photos. No worries, though, I will be writing some more about the summer in the upcoming days. Then, maybe once I am all caught up, I can get back into current blogging.

Anyways, I really had another amazing summer. It was so great, that I feel fine with letting it go and welcoming Fall with open arms.

Trapp Family Lodge

Anth and I kicked Summer off with a visit from my parents. We were able to show them around some of Vermont including Burlington and Stowe and made sure they ate and drank the best of Vermont (maybe too much!). Trapp Family Lodge, pictured above, offers amazing views, delicious beer made on the premises, and a variety of luscious baked goods.

Young Garden

Before

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also started our first real garden this year. We have been wanting a garden for the longest time, but have been moving in and out of new places with little to no land over the past two and half years during summer. This year, we moved to our new place, that had some room for a small garden in May, and were quick to start planting. Considering the hard ships many gardeners and farmers had this year with too much rain, we had a bountiful year. Here, you can see our baby kale turning into more adult kale. It was convenient and fun having kale, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and parsley whenever we needed it. In addition, we had beets, zucchini, mint, hot peppers, and chives at other times.

We didn’t end up camping as much as I had hoped but did get a trip in at the beginning of summer. Our favorite place to camp in New England is in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This time we ended up at a cute little campground set right behind a covered bridge.

White Mountains

White Mountains

Shortly after camping, we made our way into Portland, Maine for the “Festival“, an amazing international beer event. There, we got to chat with some of our favorite brewers from across the world, while also sampling their beer. We love Portland, so we also enjoyed the weekend eating, drinking, and basking in the sunshine around the city.

Portland

As I briefly mentioned above, cooking this summer was fantastic. I had so much to cook with from the garden, plenty from the farmer’s markets, and it seemed like everywhere we went, we were ending up with more vegetables and meal ideas. Although soup is usually thought of as a savory winter meal, whenever the garden would get too overwhelming, I would end up throwing everything together for some of the best summer vegetable soups I have ever had. One of my favorite memories of this summer, is having the door wide open, Pup laying outside in the sun, while I cook up a hearty vegetable soup.

Summer Garden Cooking

Summer Garden Cooking

Summer in Vermont is not complete without a trip to see Bread and Puppet. I have other posts on here just about Bread and Puppet, so if you have never heard of it, take a look here.

Bread and Puppet Show

Bread and Puppet Show

I continued my mentorship with Jeremy this summer and we ended up having all kinds of fun, finally getting to enjoy swimming holes and hiking. One of his favorite places ended up being Moss Glenn Falls which is located in Stowe, Vermont.

Jeremy at Moss Glenn Falls

Jeremy at Moss Glenn Falls

The Festival wasn’t the only beer festival of the year. Of course, we also enjoyed the Vermont Brewers Festival that takes place right on Lake Champlain. This year the underdog breweries were the highlight, and I will be adding an article about it shortly.

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Vermont Brewers Festival 2013

Surprisingly, Anth, Pup, and I also took a trip outside of New England this Summer. We usually try to save those types of trips for the other seasons, but when my Mom invited us down to the Outer Banks for a few days, we just couldn’t pass it up this year. I was able to show Pup and Anth all of my favorite childhood spots, including my favorite Southern Lighthouses.

Inside of Ocracoke Lighthouse.

Inside of Ocracoke Lighthouse.

This year, I finally jumped the Ausable River Gorge, right outside of Lake Placid. We had toyed with this idea late last Summer, but were never able to figure out the logistics of it at the time. This year, though, I took the leap.

Me jumping into the Ausable River Gorge.

Me jumping into the Ausable River Gorge.

Most of our Summer was spent enjoying hikes, covered bridges, and brewpubs right in our backyard of Vermont and New Hampshire. As usual, the Vermont Summer activities did not disappoint.

Martin Covered Bridge - Marshfield, VT

Martin Covered Bridge – Marshfield, VT

Sterling Pond - hike from Smugglers Notch

Sterling Pond – hike from Smugglers Notch

Hidden New Hampshire Covered Bridge

Hidden New Hampshire Covered Bridge

My May in Vermont

Ramps

Things change here in Vermont very quickly once we reach May. Spring turns from Vermont from mud and maple back to the Green Mountain State. Once the snow completely melts and the grass and trees are able to breathe a bit, different shades of green seem to sprout from the valleys to the mountains all at once. Then the dandelions begin to appear. Before we know it, the middle of May brings ramps, fiddleheads, and deep green fields covered in bright yellow dandelions.

We began May in the Mad River Valley, foraging for wild baby leeks (ramps) and exploring the valley before tourist season hits. We make the trip to the Mad River Valley a couple times a year, and also enjoy driving through it on our way to the Middlebury area. I’ve updated the site with an article on Warren, but the Mad River Valley has many towns, forests, covered bridges, and swimming holes to explore outside of Warren also.

All of those green sprouts are ramps!

All of those green sprouts are ramps!

The first spotting of fiddleheads in early May.

The first spotting of fiddleheads in early May.

Anth and his ramps!

Anth and his ramps!

You have to get your hands dirty!

You have to get your hands dirty!

Hopping the Pond: Revisiting an Unlikely Friend

I’ve woken up, sweaty palmed, in a daze, just a few hours outside of Dublin by plane. That means I’m somewhere over the Atlantic, right around where I always seem to wake up, worried about colliding with the ice cold waters thousands of

Irish Breakfast en route to Brussels

Irish Breakfast en route to Brussels

feet below me. It’s funny how sweaty you can get over the idea of freezing to death.

It’s in that moment, though, that I realize I’m more than halfway there. Soon, breakfast will be served and so will preparations for landing. I’m able to trick myself into calming down, and before I know it, I’ve made my way to my favorite little spot in the Dublin airport where I can enjoy a true Irish breakfast: grilled tomato, vegetarian baked beans, over easy eggs, and of course a Guinness.

We used Dublin for the cheap plane tickets this time around. It’s a great hub for

Ryanair, and an easy stopover when it comes to transportation, language, food, and drink. On our way into Europe we only have time for breakfast here, but on our way out we’ll get to spend the night. We enjoy our breakfast before boarding the plane en route to see an old friend: Brussels.

Springing into Mud Season

Vermont Mudding

Vermont Mudding

There are a few signs Spring is beginning in Vermont:1. The rest of the Northeast has already acknowledged Spring has begun (usually 3 weeks prior).2. Back roads are completely under mud. If you have never driven a Vermont mud road in the Spring, it is hard to explain, but I will try. Roads that are dry and flat in the summer, and a nice, flat sheet of snow in the winter, turn to total crap the other 2 months of the year. You get three main types of mud: 1. the thick, car trails, as seen above, 2. the giant, deep potholes, and 3. wash board divets. All try their best to ruin you car and make you drive 5 mph. When you are given advice to purchase a four wheel drive vehicle when living in Vermont, it isn’t for the snow, it’s for the 4 inch mud car trails that grab on to either side of your wheels and take you wherever they decide you will go.3. Smoke billows out of maple huts off every major Vermont road. Yes, Spring is equal to maple season in Vermont. It begins in southern Vermont and then heads to central and northern Vermont a few weeks later. During this time, you can’t drive down a Vermont road without noticing maple syrup in production. These are all very apparent right now. On my drive home from work yesterday, I first noticed three different maple farms in production. Then, once I was only four miles from home, I hit the great mud road from Wolcott to Elmore. I was successful in my journey home, although I hit potholes so hard that my CD skipped, turned my four wheel drive on during a jaunt up a hill covered in 4 inch car trails, and got a slight headache due to the endless wash board pivots. Unfortunately, this back road will stay covered in mud for at least another month, so I guess I should just get used to it now.

Thanksgiving in Vermont #2

Thanksgiving in Vermont #2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Anthony, Pup, and I live in an apartment (or room) that is under 500 square feet. It’s basically 1 1/2 times the size of my office at work with an attached bathroom. I usually describe it as cozy, and I have to admit I am quite in love with it. However, I knew that this year’s Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a bit of a challenge considering my kitchen has two stove burners, a toaster over, and a microwave (which I refuse to use). Yes, we don’t have an actual oven.

However, dinner went way easier than expected, and I am think this year may have even been more delicious than last year. In addition, this year’s meal was 98% made in Vermont. Now that I think of it, we didn’t go with a local wine, so that may drop it down to 95%. The only other two items that were not made in Vermont were the celery (maybe I should have used celery root!) and the crescent rolls. Everything else, down to the flour I used to make my pie crust, was “MIV”.

So what could have possibly been on my menu with no oven and both Anthony and I being vegetarians? Well I will tell you:

Blue Hubbard Pie

-Our “main dish” was locally made squash ravioli. Last year we made our own ravioli but since I was taking on a bit more than I thought I could chew this year with no oven, I opted for some of my favorite Vermont pasta makers who come out of Putney, Vermont – Putney Pasta. I tied it to the meal by putting the homemade gravy over them instead of tomato sauce.

-Squash Pie – I prepared this the night before. I have done from scratch pumpkin pies in the past with great results. There really is a taste difference in using real pumpkin vs canned pumpkin. This year, though, Anth had an extra baby blue hubbard squash (from his job at Deep Root Cooperative) that he was interested in me using. Even though this winter squash is usually used as a dinner item, I thought it would fit well as a substitute for pumpkin. And it did! I made this the night before and it took just over 50 minutes in the toaster oven to cook. I made a simple whole wheat crust to accompany it. The pie ended up tasting identical to a from scratch pumpkin pie with a thicker, creamier consistency. I will add more spice next year.

-Sage stuffing – We love stuffing. This year we noticed one of the farmers at the Montpelier Thanksgiving Farmers’ Market had fresh sage. I thought that might fit in our dinner well this year and boy did it ever. I prepared the stuffing first since I knew it would need the most time in the toaster oven. I sauteed mushrooms, shallots, celery, the fresh sage, and garlic. I added vegetable broth to this before pouring it over some of our favorite local bread – Bohemian Breads. I actually just put this in foil and threw it in the toaster oven for about 40-50 minutes.

-Sage gravy – Gravy is not a staple that I enjoyed at Thanksgiving in the past. I always ate my mashed potatoes plain. Whenever I was researching recipes with  sage, though, gravy kept popping up. The internet eventually convinced me it would be a good fit. I basically made it out of garlic, shallot, sage, vegetable broth and flour. The sage really popped and the gravy was a great addition to the meal since it was able to tie all of the components together.

-Brussel sprout and kale medley – We love brussel sprouts and kale during this time of year and needed some color to our meal. I steamed the brussels before added them to some local baby dino kale and doing a simple saute with garlic and spices.

-We picked up some little butter gold potatoes at the farmers’ market that made for delicious mashed potatoes. I added Italian spices and a hint of butter.

-Cranberry sauce – This was a new addition to Thanksgiving also. Neither Anthony or I have ever enjoyed cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, but we were interested in giving Vermont Cranberry Company cranberries a try. I dissolved brown sugar in a water, grapefruit juice, and red wine mixture before adding the cranberries until they popped. I then put them in the freezer until we were ready to eat. We actually LOVED the addition of these to our meal especially when paired with the stuffing and pie.

All of Our Fixins’

I began cooking at noon and we were eating before 2 pm. It all went incredibly smoothly even though I could only “bake” one thing in the toaster oven at a time and have two things going at a time on the stove. Anthony and I were both incredibly stuffed by the end of the night. It’s been four Thanksgivings with no meet. I cannot say that I actually miss the turkey at all!

I am incredibly thankful for being able to sit here, in this moment, and need nothing more than I already have.

Vermont Livin’ November 21, 2012

Anth, Pup, and I

I’ve noticed I haven’t put a post up yet about my everyday life. I didn’t create this blog to necessarily talk about myself, but I still want to make sure I document what’s going on every once in a while.

Just to bring you up to speed, Anthony and I moved up to Vermont in April of 2011, so about a year and seven months ago. We had been living in southern New England for a bout two years, first in the Hartford, CT area and then in Western Massachusetts. We liked those areas, but had been enthralled with Vermont for a while so when Anthony found success in pursuing a sales manager position at a farmer’s cooperative, I began my own search. We had offer letters within days of each other and before we knew it we were heading north. It was exciting to know we were heading exactly where we wanted to be along with jobs that we actually wanted to be doing.

Me Above Copenhagen, Denmark

If you fast forward to November 2012, you can find us in Elmore, a town that had 849 residents in 2000. We live in a 500 square foot space in the woods. I carpool to work every day which is about a 45 minute drive through two other towns which are slightly bigger than Elmore.

My daily routine begins at a hospital in was is considered the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I usually get into work at 6:30 am which means I am out the door by 5:30. The stars at that hour are absolutely breath taking and so is the cold in the winter. After work I head into Hardwick. Hardwick is three times the size of Elmore with a population of 3,100 and has just about everything you need. In other words, I can go to the gym, buy my groceries at the coop, and rent nightly DVD’s all on one little Main Street. What more could I need?

Pup and I in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

Before I lived in Vermont, I didn’t shop at a coop. My groceries came from major chains where I was lucky to find fruits and vegetables from the same coast. If I was really lucky, I lived near a Whole Foods that sold semi-local produce. All corners of Vermont have cooperatives, however, which are member owned stores that sell as much local food as possible. Which means that most of the store is local since Vermont creates a lot more than just vegetables. Just a couple of examples of local Vermont products: ice cream, peanut butter, pasta, pretzels, bread, honey, yogurt, any type of meat product you could think of, salsa, a lot of cheeses, a lot of maple, and a lot of wines, ciders, and beer. You get the jist of it!

Anyways, Anthony and I are currently gearing up for our sixth trip to Europe together. We will be heading home for the Christmas holiday at the end of December before embarking on our 2 week journey between France and Norway with pit stops in Chicago and Dublin. I say pit stops because they are more than layovers this time around as we will be spending an entire day in downtown Chicago and a day and a half in Dublin.

Until then, I have begun writing. I’m not exactly sure why I began writing other than that I enjoy doing it when it pertains to places, people, and things that I love. So, in addition to this blog, I have begun writing for a drinking magazine and a Vermont tourism magazine. I had an article published last month and will have 2-3 articles published next month. Also, I began spending my Friday nights mentoring an 8 year old boy. We spend most of our time outside playing at the park with stints of making cookies and doing crafts. We’ve had a lot of fun so far. I’ve also been spending time learning Norwegian. I’ve made a lot of progress doing self study, but I don’t know how much I will know before I go to Norway. I am confident I will know enough to be able to read signs and menus. Conversation is most likely out of the question as they speak very fast. Lastly, I am still on track for getting my Master’s degree in Health Informatics by this time next year. I am about a year into and take two courses every semester through the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online program.

So, my weekdays are spent working, enjoying the above past times as I please, hitting the gym when I can, and cooking up dinner for Anth. We usually end our days with a movie and food on the couch now that the days are ending so early in terms of sunlight. On the weekends, we still get up and travel all over New England. So, that’s where the rest of this blog comes into play!

Pup and I During a 5k in front of Vermont’s Capitol, Montpelier