Hittin’ the Long Trail

Welcome to Vermont!

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Where the views are incredible,

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the hiking is phenomenal,

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the the good times are always flowin’,

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Though it seems like months ago, we recently hit the Long Trail to camp up in Plymouth, VT at the Calvin Coolidge State Park. This is hands down the best campground in Vermont, with fun lean-to sites and incredible views of Killington off to the east. Last year our camping trip was totally rained out but we fared much better this year. After setting up camp and fitting in a hike before sunset, we lit up the campfire and enjoyed the evening.

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campfire breakfast, complete with a jug of maple syrup

Next day was action packed (though I had vowed to ‘not make plans’, it turned into a real busy day!), starting out with a trip to the Calvin Coolidge Homestead.

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new visitor center in the mountains

I’m a historical nerd junkie so I think it is so cool to roam around the village where Calvin was born. It has been kept fairly close to its original state.

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village country store

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Coolidge’s farm equipment & horse buggy storage barn

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the one road through the center of the village

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touring the American Cheese Museum

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The Plymouth Cheese Company is a resurrengence of the original cheese factory here at the Homestead, with all new types of artisan cheese being produced by young farmer cooperatives and a new generation of cheesemakers.

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Next we headed south to Weston to visit one of the truly greatest places on earth, the Vermont Country Store. They really have everything, from old handmade toys to HABA products, a penny candy area to old tyme food products. It is an awesome place to peruse.

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this man needs his candy consumption seriously controlled

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checking out the Scale Museum; yes, a museum full of weigh scales

Later in the day it was time to relax at the Camp Plymouth campground which is right along a small lake, great for swimming, bbq-ing, and generally chillin’. They were voted ‘Best Park of the Year’ in 2011, I think because of how they bounced back after the Hurricane Damage. This is where we would’ve stayed as an alternate campsite when we came up prior to the Hurricane last year and thank goodness we didn’t stay. They had amazing images of the campground immediately following the Hurricane and how badly the site was washed away in the 6+’ rains. We would’ve drowned, no joke.  I swam for a long time in the lake; the water was perfect and I’m a fish so I didn’t want to leave, but I had a friend to meet! My friend Tracy from law school lives near by so we met up at the Long Trail Brewery for some sampling.

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No literally, we tried the sampler.

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While this is an adorable picture of us, we were warned by the employees inside that a giant T-Storm and possibly threatening winds were headed our way so we had to boogie out of there and back to our campsite.

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We made it back just in time to cook most of dinner before the skies let loose and the major T-storms rolled in. Normal people would be scared by this, but I swear in coming to Coolidge probably over two dozen times in my life, I have almost always experienced a major downpour on at least one of the evenings there (also: Hurricane Bob my family was there; that was pretty rough). It is pretty incredibly to watch lightening striking the ski trails and towers along the Killington ridgeline. So we rolled with it, tossing back a few Long Trails and watching the campfire compete with the rain. It was great.

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It was difficult for me to leave honestly. I loved living in VT and would move back in a minute if the right opportunity came up. I just can’t get enough of the laid back vibe, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. I’ll be back soon VT!

‘Vacationland’ Maine Bound & Back Again

This past weekend I headed ‘downeast’ to Maine for my best friend’s wedding. It was pretty far north of the Boston area so we stopped part-way in Portland to enjoy the evening before. How cool is Portland, right? It reminds me of Burlington, VT alot because it’s a small city with a BIG personality, both are located on the ‘water’, and it has a hip, progressive vibe that I dig.  We landed first on the back porch of Flatbread overlooking the boats in the harbor for a cool brew.

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It was past lunchtime so we headed to Duck Fat for fries and, well, duck.  We played some word games siting at the counter.

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The man ate fries like a champ, washed down with a beer, while I had the house salad with duck confit on top and a house-made ginger & grapefruit soda.

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I snagged a fry or two and while they were definitely tasty, eh, I think it is a bit overhyped. I like the concept but for the offerings on the menu, they could perhaps be a bit more creative maybe? Duckfat crepes w/nutella maybe? Duck eggs fried in duckfat? I don’t know. Call me, DF, we’ll brainstorm. After a short hiatus/seista at our hotel, we headed back downtown to Portland (I booked about the furthest away hotel from dwtw Portland, HoJo Plaza; it was ‘ok’), for dinner. We really struggled to pick a dinner option. At first, I had wanted to try Street & Co., hearing great reviews, but thought maybe it was a bit pricey/fancy for our mood that evening, and we wanted to be near the water. We picked 51 Wharf but after hearing a review about the place turning into a dance club mid-meal (and sadly, this has actually happened to us before!), I had my doubts. We parked and then hoofed around a bit, passing 51 Wharf, where the poor employees were literally begging for business off the street. And it was completely empty and sad looking. We kept walking and ended up at our second choice option, Portland Lobster Company.

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This place ROCKED. It is definitely the local scene-y spot but with a cute cafeteria-style dining area, live (awesome) music, and great, great prices on legit Maine-caught and fresh, local seafood, we knew we made the right choice!

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cute lobster lights

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We sat with a brew, anxiously awaiting our lobster pager to go off.

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So good! I ordered lobster bisque in a bread bowl, something I NEVER get, and Maine fried baby shrimp while the gentleman had fish & chips.

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We housed it. If you are in Portland, GO HERE. A wicked fun time; I even had a great time waiting in (the long) line for the ladies restroom. There were some hilarious, fun people there on a Friday. I would go again for sure.

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View from the ‘cafe’ back towards the pick-up window and the historic Old Port

We sauntered around Portland a bit after dinner but called it an early night knowing we had a long drive early the next morning. After getting up and a quick run to Panera, I made full use of my HoJo reservation by running some speedy miles on the hotel gym treadmill. I would have preferred running outside but we were in the middle of industrial parks and I didn’t want to figure out where to go. Easy, peasy. I ran between 6.0-6.8 pace for 3 miles; fast for me! We had to hit the road though, with a three hour drive north to Castine. It was a beautiful drive on some parts.

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Fort Knox Narrows Bridge

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We finally made the journey, changed quick in our adorable bunkhouse (thanks L.T.), and made our way to the harbor for the outdoor ceremony at Fort Madison.

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The couple had a very special ceremony; perched right above the water, with schooners and sailboats cruising by, the untraditional ceremony was beautiful and touching.

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Under the pews were bottles of Moet Chandon for toasting the nuptials!

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Loved that and so, so THEM.

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Folks sauntered around the lawn, with imposing cloudy skies, for a while and then everyone headed across town to the reception site, the golf club. They even had a mini-putting green!

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Her overly talented sister made this funky, cool farmhouse banner with the types of foods served on-site. Also, LOVED this.

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We danced our faces off, dodged massive T-storms under the tent (eek!), and then made it to a fun after-party but it was all over so quick! Next morning, we soaked up the views from our bunkhouse cabin and had to pack it up to join brunch at her family’s new GORGEOUS sea-side home across town.

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Our accommodations

The views from ‘back shore’ beach were absolutely incredible. The entire ‘island’ of Castine was so charming and gorgeous but we were hardly there very long :( We already have plans to go back and camp.

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Can you see the most iconic farm across the bay here?Image

Congrats to the newly married couple & cheers to many great times ahead! 143

Hyper Local Somerville Saturday

I massively apologize for the hiatus. I moved (across town/in with the ‘man’), have about 2-dozen weddings (and related parties) to attend, and have just been too darn busy! Sorrrrryyyyyyy.

It was a ‘hyper-local’ Saturday for me in Somerville this past weekend! I attended the mid-day session of the first annual Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest held at the Arts at the Armory Building in Somerville. Apparently, the same people who brought you the Boston Local Food Festival put on this event with the help of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce/Sustainable Business Network. I tasted, networked, and enjoyed the atmosphere of this event – this will likely be a huge sell-out event for years to come!

Views of the upper tier breweries

Crowd shot from upstairs

Local brewery ‘Slumbrew’ may have shared some exciting news that they could be expanding operations in Somerville very very soon!

I love this company; I met one of the owners at the event and not only was she a doll, but you can tell they are incredibly passionate about their product and have a creative lilt that reminds me of successful big craft beer companies like Magic Hat.

Slumbrew’s logo is the ‘Tower’ in Somerville, perched above Union Square, where the first flag was flown in Somerville and the views of downtown Boston can’t be beat!

Nightshift Brewing – first off, so local (Everett), cool logo (it’s  a ‘late night owl’ shaped like a hops bud!), and tasty! The Pomegranate brew I sampled was one of the first (of several) fruity, flowery brews that seemed to be heavily prevalent in rotation throughout the event.

Bryce found his family ‘tree’

Even entertainment. The duo playing the early session sounded a lot like the White Stripes!

There were some great food vendors there as well but I left it to the guys to house some cupcakes from Kickass Cupcakes (they sampled the green monster!) on my behalf. SPOILER ALERT: a) they are delicious; b) Kickass is moving in across the street from my new place! I have never eaten a ‘designer cupcake’ so I am waiting for the shop or production kitchen (they aren’t yet sure how the space will be used) to officially open before I take the cupcake plunge. They already have a steady shop just a mile down the street from us in Davis Square; how many cupcake shops does one city need I ask?!

Tasty Taza chocolate! Mmm

You could make your own pretzel necklace along with the folks from Yelp.com for muchies later but I passed on that as well. I guess I’m kinda a bum when it comes to sampling; gotta step it up! I did try the guajillo chili chocolate from local company Taza, which was not really spicy, but had a mellow ‘heat’ to it. For me, brew samples that topped my list were ironically from Sam Adams (I know, I know), including their ‘Porch Rocker’ lemonade (so good!) and a blueberry summer beer that is only released in July. It may  have rivaled Long Trail’s ‘Bluebearry Wheat’, a long-time fav!

Earlier in the day, I hit up the Union Square Farmer’s Market as well. I’m waiting for the really great, early-summer produce to arrive!

Kombucha Man’s drink-mobile

In other, adorable local (as in, on MY block) news, check out this cute ‘home farm’, set up last year at the Cambridge Health Alliance hospital campus.

For the second year, it is already up and running! I never actually see anyone over there tending to these plants but they look incredibly healthy!

Are you planting anything? Got a hyper-local connection?

Things I Cook Very Well

It is spring! I know because I repotted and planted a bunch of cute flowers, and now my allergies are going nuts.

This post is a random smattering of “Things That I Cook Very Well” for the purpose of starting a business someday, for which this post, living in the interwebs for infinity, will serve as a reminder/inspiration/launching point. Okay.

PIZZA – 

Probably my signature ‘best cooked everytime’ dish. I mostly like veggie pizza, or ‘za, with cow’s cheeses, and little to no sauce on whole wheat dough. I make sure to coat the pizza baking sheet with olive oil and brush the crust edge once I have rolled it out; I also always use flour to stretch the dough (I don’t make my own dough…yet)

Baking – 

I can bake; not saying it is my strong suite though. These were plucked  from a recipe on Fit Sugar and marketed as “high protein, low sugar”; they were delicious with the homemade lemon icing I added to several of them (which caused them to be more like cupcakes but whatever!).

I made peanut butter, chocolate chip, banana bread for a baking contest and won the ‘non-cookie category’! I had seen the picture around Halloween time floating around Pinterest and decided it must be done. I super-modified the recipe though, opting for whole wheat flour and about a cup less sugar. It was fantastic that way too.

Savory Dishes – 

Curry, as a specialty. I learned how to make curry from someone else and eventually, grew to outpace their spicing and culinary skills, making the crispiest tofu, perfectly cooked brown rice, and creamiest curry sauce around Somerville. I like using red curry paste but dabble in green too; yellow is a bit mild for my liking/overly desensitized taste buds.

Cooking Vegetables – 

Vegetables are only as boring as you let them be. I love cooking leafy greens for their ‘volume’ effect; you start with a big handful and they cook down to reasonable volume, leaving you full with healthy fiber for hours. Spinach and Rainbow Chard are tops.

Vegetables are also fun cooked in varying textures. Something like Zucchini boats is all veg (with some cheeeeeeeese, please) but fun to eat and super satisfying.

Unpictured but in heavy rotation – POPCORN. I learned to make popcorn from my dad, using a stove-top and pot with hot oil, old-school style. I add all kinds of different toppings to my popcorn, making both sweet and savory versions, but if I had to open one food-related business, it would be popcorn sales.


I almost took this goat home from a farm the other day; he acted more like a puppy than a goat and I wanted to keep him as a pet! I also almost bought a bunny and then remembered I wouldn’t be home for four days straight so it seemed cruel to keep them.

I think his name was ‘Buddy’. I don’t cook goat BTW!

What is your best dish?

I ate a bunch of ice cream in Columbus, Ohio

 

I owe this post to several people though it is late!!!

Over the holiday weekend (Easter/Passover), I headed to Columbus with the bf to visit his family for Seder and Passover. After a quick pick-up from the airport, we lunched at a pub in downtown Columbus. I had the baked salmon over spinach salad with blue cheese and strawberries. The combination was great but I don’t believe the salmon was baked; more like fried as it was pretty greasy.

We hit up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream within the first hour of landing.

Jeni’s is pretty famous in Columbus because they use a host of local ingredients like local cream and honey in many of their signature and wildly creative flavors.

I had seen an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate the other day on Food Network that featured ‘Best Spiciest Foods’, and Tim Allen’s pick was the Queen City Cayenne at Jeni’s so I HAD to try it. First, there was a faint taste of gingerbread/cocoa, followed by a quick blast of hot hot spicy cayenne pepper. Like a five alarm fire going off in my mouth! I loved it!

The entire shop was so cute inside and you can sample a bunch of flavors before narrowing down your pick.

Jeni's delivers and ships all over the country

I was in Columbus to celebrate the Seder with the bf’s family. His sister hosted two nights in a row and I even made (and tasted) my first matzo balls for soup! People actually liked it too, which I hear is a high compliment! We had great company both evenings and amazing food cooked up by her husband; seriously impressive cheffing skills!

Seder table night #1

On day 2 of our visit, we ventured to the Short North Arts District area of downtown Columbus to do some sightseeing and wandering, my favorite part of visiting new places.

We popped into a few stores. This place Tigertree was too hip to be square, with adorable clothing and local artists goods; it was like walking through a real-life Etsy store.  I could have bought everything/anything and been happy. My bf’s sister and I were seriously oggling some cute dresses and housewares stuff.

I liked this chicken-egg machine too; it is so cool that I didn’t even grasp what its purpose was.

Later in the day we took to the streets and sidewalks in a biker gang to explore the Franklin Park Observatory. This park is comprised of sprawling grounds, walking paths, outdoor kitchen and function areas, a butterfly atrium, an apiary, community gardens, and an arboretum.

Wooden suspension bridge

Bike path

Arboretum

being weird posers; I look distracted

Apiary...BUZZ BUZZ

Hives inside the open air apiary; bees are so smart

Cold frames growing starter veggies

Guys 'hangin'' in the grapevines and hop trellises; get it?

French-style low-growing gardens lined the outdoor kitchen patio

On Day 3 we took a self-guided tour of the Ohio State campus.

Architecture building on Ohio State Campus

The legendary 'U' Horseshoe Stadium

And then we ate more ice cream. We hit up yet another famous ice cream shop, Graeters. This place is a bit more old-school style than Jeni’s and reminded me of Friendly’s Ice Cream  maybe. 

I had a good-old standby, Black Raspberry Chip, with jelly beans (as it was Easter Sunday, which in my book, requires candy). We had a great time in Columbus and it was so much more than I expected! I guess I thought it would either be more rural or suburban but the city/suburban line is much less defined than in other cities I have been to; the areas seemed to blend together more seamlessly. Plus while we were there, the flowers and trees were in peak bloom and everything was green, so it truly felt like the official ushering in of spring.

Cohasset 10K Road Race Recap

This past Sunday, I ran the Cohasset 10K Road Race. I have very mixed feelings about how it went.

I had practiced, so I felt as physically prepared as possible (possibly too prepared; knowing it was a hilly course made me more hyper-aware of the upcoming hills than was beneficial to my brain). I ‘executed’ well, meaning I did everything technically right before, during, and after the race. I had fun and saw a bunch of people I know from the area. I didn’t feel that I challenged myself enough though. By the finish, I had a little fuel in the tank left, and I didn’t run a consistent pace so I came in about 5:53 over my goal time. Boo. I blame…the wind. I know I can run faster because I have been running faster all winter outside but my friends who obsessively run assure me it is normal especially since this was a first race I was taking very seriously.

Our ‘race crew’ – wear black & red or you aren’t cool. My brother came in at a pretty sick placement with a time of 45:14, 113 overall. He should be running to compete I think!

I had read that Tina of Carrots N Cake was running the race and sure enough, as I spaced out staring at the race results board, I spotted her right there and went to say hello. She had a great race and she and her husband were very friendly. After the race, we all headed to my parents’ for a massive meal…

Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns...

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, banana bread

I washed down a full plate with a liquid order of water, Vitacoco, low-fat chocolate milk (kids sized), and a Smithwick’s Ale.

I’m proudly wearing my race shirt, with the 1-4-3 lighthouse (Scituate fact: the lighthouse used to blink in a succession of 1-4-3 flashes as a sort of SOS to tell the sailors and lobstermen out at sea that they were loved, as in I (1) LOVE (4) YOU (3). The Minot Lighthouse featured on the shirt is actually located off the shores of Scituate not Cohasset but this is a larger dispute).

I REALLY want to run another race now (of course) to prove that I can run faster than I did. I DO NOT have a desire to start running marathons though; I don’t think I want to be that much of a specialist. But I do enjoy running now more than ever before, especially since I am getting it down to a science for my body and watching myself improve my speed over the past winter, which is tough to do regardless because of variable weather conditions. I just may be a runner (albeit a slow one) after all. Know any good 10K I should sign up for?!!!

Friend of Harpoon Beer: Maple Catamount Wheat Tasting & March is Maple Month

A few days ago, I was invited to a Friend of Harpoon Beer Tasting! I have been to one other tasting for the 100 Barrel Series, when they made the Island Creek Oyster Stout and served Oysters out of a rowboat (I was loving it!), but this tasting was for the 100 Barrel Series Maple Catamount Wheat. The beer was named ‘Catamount’ because the Harpoon Windsor Vermont sister location used to be known as the Catamount brewery (GO CATS GO! UVM!). Made with real maple syrup from Vermont family farms it was delish! YUM! A few pictures were snapped:

Brewery is named 'Harpoon' for the whaling hook in their logo

During a 'Friend Tasting' there is open bar for about an hour, then the makers of the featured 100 Barrel Series beer talk about the creative and brewing process for a bit, then the bar opens back up for an hour while people mill around the tasting room

The Brewery is open for tours! The Brewing chamber smells ammmazing. I LOVE the smell of hops and apparently, hops are used aromatically for relaxation

This was my favorite sample of the evening, the Red Rye IPA. We took a growler home with us

Sail away (upside down?) with Harpoon!

The star of the evening. The brewers told us that the maple syrup had to be added after the beer was brewed otherwise it kept evaporating out of the mixture and leaving behind the concentrated sugars, thus upping the alcohol content to unreasonable levels. By adding it in later, there was a subtle layer of taste within the beer; you taste the maple first, beer second, and then the maple again as a finish

Canned beer wall-o-fame

Proud to take my growler home

You can drink in the bathroom too I guess

Harpoon rides again

After, we were starved so we headed down the street to Atlantic Beer Garden. It was nearly empty and I was equally suspect about the food but ended up with a pretty impressive looking (and tasting!) Asian-inspired Ahi tuna salad. It was incredibly fresh with a multitude of textures like Wasabi peas, cucumber runway-length strips, and crispy tuna bites, which made it fun to eat. Thanks for dressing on the side also; although, I used it all up, I still appreciate having the choice to do so. Good job ABG!

Did you know that March is Maple Month? I have been doing my part to indulge in the liquid gold myself in my morning coffee and I’ve almost tapped out (no pun intended) my HUGE glass jug of syrup from David Marvin’s Butternut Mountain Farm in Vermont. In Mass., I’ve heard through farmers that the maple sugaring season was obviously brief this year because there were so few consistently thawing days and nights below freezing between mid-February and mid-March (ideal syrup ‘running’ conditions). I also learned from the Mass Maple Producers Association that the syrup on shelves and for sale right now, much of it is from 2010 when there was a phenomenal sugaring season. PSA: If you typically use sugar to sweeten your food, make the switch, BUY LOCAL and support your maple syrup producers. End of PSA.

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