Welcome to Vermont: The Green Mountain State

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I have the hardest time writing about the places I love the most. Or more accurately, I have a hard time editing myself because I want to talk about everything, which would be both cumbersome and desperately dull. Vermont is a good example of this because I want to write about the really fabulous teenager I met once on a plane, and the Bennington Battle Monument, and the Latchis Hotel in Brattleboro, and about how Wilmington, this odd little enclave between Bennington and Brattleboro looks more like a movie set than a town, and the pure joy of driving through the Green Mountains in summer, not to mention the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour, Green Mountain Coffee, and the cheese we get every year at this place called Hogback Mountain…oh my the cheese!

See what I mean?

I’ve been reading Tracey Medeiros’ Dishing Up Vermont in preparation for writing this post. It’s a beautifully photographed book that celebrates the farms, dairies, and orchards that populate the state. As one of the early adopters of the farm-to-table philosophy, Vermont has much to celebrate and I want to cook everything. Well, everything except the meatloaf. I could do an entire post about how the phrase “I don’t like meatloaf” always leads to “that’s because you haven’t tried mine.” Chances are very, very good that I have tried yours, or at least a version of it because I’ve had literally hundreds of them thrown at..er, served to… me, and I can say unequivocally that I don’t like meatloaf. Meatloaves. Whichever.

I’m digressing again. A classic cheese soup is absolutely on the menu for this trip, but I’m still struggling to choose a second recipe to play with. While maple seems like an obvious, and delicious, choice, I keep wandering back to The Three Stones, a Mayan restaurant in Brattleboro. I grew up on Tex-Mex and thought I had at least an idea of what to expect, but The Three Stones took everything I thought I knew and flipped it onto its head. One of the stand-out surprises was an onzicil (pumpkin-seed) salsa with panucho–a stuffed tortilla similar to an empanada. I think I might need to recreate that, particularly as pumpkin seeds are in season.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to find a few pictures from our travels through the state. It turns out that most of my Vermont photos are either in my head or have people in them. For a minute, I thought I was going be reduced to posting the picture of a cheese sandwich that I picked up in a London train station–I have more pictures of that than I do of Vermont. I’m not sure what this says about me.

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Blue Benn Diner, Bennington, VT

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Part (only part) of the Blue Benn menu

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Bennington Battle Monument

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Green Mountains (toward NY) from atop the BBM

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Hogback Mountain Cheese, T-shirt, and effluvia shop

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Ferry crossing from Ft. Ticonderoga NY to Shoreham VT

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Bridge from Brattleboro VT to New Hampshire

 

 

 

 

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No caption needed

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Cheese sandwich, St. Pancras train station, London, UK.

Welcome to Rhode Island: The Ocean State

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Or, more formally, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In other words, it’s a teeny tiny state with a very long name. It’s also the state with the softest sand I’ve ever had the luxury of walking on.

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After our annual Maine trip last summer, we decided that it was time to go exploring and ended up in Narragansett, land of steamers, coffee milk, and johnnycakes. Narragansett borders the fishing town/port of Gallilee, and if you’re looking to book a room in Narragansett at the last possible minute during the high season, you’re likely to end up in Gallilee.

Salty Brine State Beach

Salty Brine State Beach

Also Salty Brine State Beach

Also Salty Brine State Beach

Gallilee, I can assure you, is nothing like the picturesque New England beach town of Narragansett. For one thing, there’s way too much seagull poo; for another, it smells like what it is: a port town which explains that whole seagull problem.  On the plus side, the seafood is literally just off the boat fresh and the beach is a two minute walk from any hotel in town. It’s also a friendly place where it’s pretty easy to lose a lot of time just watching the boats go by. I’m looking forward to a return trip at some unspecified point in the future.

Until then, we’ll be mixing up some Coffee Milk and an order of Johnnycakes. It’s not quite the same as being there, but it’s as close as we’re going to get here in Western NY.

I'm pretty sure I watched them pull these off the boat just for me.

I’m pretty sure I watched them pull these off the boat just for me.

Johnny Cakes

I’m going to keep this short and sweet then move on because it’s time to think about the cheesy, maple-y goodness that is Vermont. I spent weeks…weeks! trying to do something different and clever with  Johnnycake before coming to the conclusion that it’s a dish so simple, and so perfect as is that I just need to leave it alone.

Johnnycake, also known as “Journey Cake” is one of the defining foods of Rhode Island. Made of cornmeal, one might expect that they’re actually cornbread in disguise when in reality they’re sassy pancakes. The cornmeal gives them a crunch that regular pancakes are sorely lacking and they pair beautifully with maple syrup. There are thousands of recipes out there, most of them damn near identical. Thus, I’m not posting one because in this case? Google does a way better job of it than I ever will.

On to Vermont,

~Brooke