Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vermont: Casa de Prado

Talulah, a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog demands your attention.

My visit to Montpelier is winding down and we're off to La Casa de Prado for some wine and dinner before I hit the open road down to Connecticut.

On the way there, we make a couple pit stops for provisions. First to Uncommon Market where the guy behind the counter is selling New York Strip Steaks that look suspiciously like Ribeyes. We ask him about them and he reassures us they're strip steaks. All we know is that they don't look like strip steaks to us but if he insists, who are we to tell him differently?

La Casa de Prado is out in the mountainside, in the rolling hills of Vermont where living looks lovely. At least in the summer, in the winter it must be detestably cold here. While the foliage has just started to turn this past week in Maryland, the leaves are gone here. Winter is about to unleash its' fury upon Vermont. Good thing I'm leaving tonight.

Brewing coffee in an Aeropress.

Back in the house, with the grill preheating, Ray makes a little Aeropress coffee. I've never made Aeropress coffee before and it looks pretty cool. Fill the thing with coffee, pour hot water over and press it down. Evidently, it's supposed to make "espresso" but there's a distinct lack of crema and it's just concentrated, pressure-brewed coffee. Add in some hot water to make an "Americano" and it's pretty good. There's a nice clarity to the cup.

Turns out we need some textural elements for our meal so it's back down to a different country store where we find Kirkland Signature dog food, stale Triscuits and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Having stale Triscuits really isn't a big deal. Just spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at 250F for fifteen minutes and voila! Your Triscuits are crunchy once again!

Press it, Ray! Press it!

It's a simple dinner of grilled ribeye steaks, roasted potatoes and triscuits. I know this may sound like an odd combination for a bunch of food professionals but the crunchiness of the triscuits just cannot be denied. If only we had some of that Cheese in a Can that you squirt out...

It's been a quick but good time in Vermont but it's down to start heading down the road.

The mysterious ribeyes masquerading as New York strips.

Roasted potatoes.

Vermont: Gesine - A Photo Tour

Customers in the front of the house.

Gesine stretches before work.

Finishing a cake order.

Tim mixing Pumpkin Oatmeal Scone batter.

Ray and Ashley enjoying a midday snack of sausage and cheese from Jean Talon Market and the Au Pied de Cochon leftovers.

Tim rolling out some pastry.

Gesine's famous Macaroons.

Sweet like cherry pie.

Bunches 'O Stuff.

A Get Well Mousse.

The baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Scone.

Happy Birthday Gesine!

Ray's Mom.

Gesine and her older sister. I don't know who the blondes are.

279 Elm Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Confections of a Master Baker

Vermont: River Run

Bacon and eggs worthy of a Saveur cover.

After a hang at the bakery, the three of us are on our way to the town of Plainfield for a little breakfast. Amidst the construction of new street curbs is River Run, a small bar restaurant that caters mostly to locals in this small Vermont town. Ray and I don't notice it but the place stops when the three of us steps in. Gesine notices but I need a jukebox screeching to a halt to let me know that the locals have taken a notice to our motley crue of German, Japanese and Filipino ancestries. Happily, I don't hear the Deliverance theme playing in the background.

Things settle down as we take our table and our waitress brings us a round of drinks. It's coffee, orange juice and water all the way around. The menu here is varied but looks pretty tasty. There are two blackboards mounted to the wall, one for breakfast and the other for lunch. It's past 11am so lunch would be the order of the day but we still haven't eaten a proper breakfast yet.

Grits with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.

While the three of us love food and love to eat, there's a bit of a conspiracy going on. No one is willing to share grits. Evidently, they're that good here. I hoard one for myself with cheddar and chopped jalapeno peppers. Again, it's on the bland side. I start to worry again.

Seems like this whole trip has been one unseasoned experience after another and I'm still worried that maybe it's not the food but just me and my deteriorating taste buds. Am I losing my sense of taste? They assure me I'm not.

Everybody eats grits.

After a very liberal application of salt, the grits start to come to life. They're nicely cooked but could use more butter. A lot more butter would be ideal. Stir, stir, stir and mix the cheese and jalapeno and the grits become nicely rounded. Cheese and grits - what more could you ask for? Add the slight zing of jalapenos and you've got a winner.

But there's more to explore on the menu than just grits and that's the problem: there's a lot I'd like to explore. Like the bacon. And the sausage. And the fish. Oh, just give us the lot. Unfortunately, that's not possible and we have to narrow it down to just a couple of choices.

Fried catfish with poached eggs and bacon.

One thing that always annoys me about breakfast joints is their combination plates. So many great items but they're never together in the combination that you want them to be. Yes, I'd like grits and pancakes and french toast in one dish - is that too much to ask for? Do I need to always be financially penalized for a well-rounded sample from the kitchen?

Really though, it's not like I want to eat all of it. I just want a taste. A bite or two to know and understand the flavors they're presenting. Luckily, dining with friends lends the ability for a variety of tastes without having to order enough to feed Attila The Hun. I want to taste the catfish. Ray's ordered the fried catfish and I'm hoping he'll offer a bite. Gesine's ordered bacon and eggs and I've got those on my plate so I'm cool there.

For myself, I want a classic breakfast. I want pancakes with grits and Canadian bacon and eggs over easy. Our waitress cautions and asks if I want the full order of pancakes. The full order is three pancakes, which she says is a lot. Now is the moment of truth. Do I throw caution to the wind and order the full serving, ensuring that I'll moan and groan uncomfortably for the next two hours while my tummy digests all of King Arthur's Flour?

Or do I order smartly and get one pancake for the flavor and balance the meal out with the rest? Order Smart or order Stupid. Time to take bets.

Pancake, Canadian bacon and eggs over easy.

In the end, I go for the single pancake and it's the right move. Just one for a taste is all that I desire. The pancake itself is good. Slightly overcooked and crispy in spots but good nonetheless. The little pat of butter is a bit pathetic though and I wish for more. Smother the pancake with Vermont maple syrup and all is good.

The eggs are good but even better slathered with Tabasco. The Canadian bacon is good as well. What else can I say? The meal was a good one spent with great friends. What more can one ask for in life?

River Run Restaurant
65 Main Street
Plainfield, VT 05667

Vermont: Morning

My morning blog station.

It's morning in Vermont and the sunlight is streaming through the uncovered window rousing me from my slumber. It's an intense sunshine that invades your sleep and your soul refusing to allow you to return to dreamland. The kind of sun that burns a bright pink on your retinas even through your eyes are closed. I just want to sleep.

My iPhone tells me that it's past 9am and that I'd better get a move on things. I'm crashing at the apartment next to Ray and Gesine's eponymous confecterie and am in need of a coffee. The drive down from Montreal was uneventful but it's cold here in Montpelier, hovering right around 31F. A river runs past the backyard and the place is filled with cool retro furniture that they brought with them from Los Angeles when they moved here several years ago.

I'm in Vermont for a short stay on my long way back to Baltimore. I like to use road trips such as this to visit old friends and seek out interesting sights to visit. The past couple of times I toured through this area I made pilgrimages to Ben & Jerry's Factory and to Mane Alves' The Coffee Lab, this time it's more of a relaxed trip for something interesting to eat, some maple syrup and just wholesome Vermont food products that I can't find readily at home.

It warms my heart to find used Le Creuset hanging from the cabinetry.

A River Runs Through It

You know you're in the right place when food processors are just sitting on the stoop.

The first cappuccino of the day.