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archive for March 2013

travel: vermont and new hampshire

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

It was not long after my trip to Maine last summer when Sharon asked if I would be willing to come out to Vermont in March to learn about organic maple syrup farms. My reply was, “That’s prime ski season in Colorado.” Sharon convinced me that this would be a worthwhile adventure and she has never steered me wrong.

To be honest, I am not much of a syrup person. Most likely this is because I’m not a sweet breakfast person (or a breakfast person for that matter). However, years ago I did make the switch from “syrup” to pure maple syrup in my house because I realized how much junk there is in “syrup”. By junk I mean highly-processed, manufactured, chemical-laden ingredients. Pure organic maple syrup (what I use) has one ingredient and it’s all natural and minimally processed. It should come as no surprise that someone who titles her blog use real butter would insist on using pure maple syrup. But I wanted to learn more. It was enough to pull me away from my ski season for a weekend.

I wrote back to Sharon, “I’m in.”

A Song of Ice and Sugar

The Hand: Sharon Kitchens
Master of Coin: Arnold Coombs (Coombs Family Farms Facebook page)
The Small Council: Matt Armendariz, Rebecca Crump, Ashley English, Joy Wilson, myself, and Ellen Daehnick (my guest). [I realize The Hand and Master of Coin are both part of The Small Council, but just work with me here.]




Full disclosure: My transportation, lodging, meals, and activities were sponsored by Coombs Family Farms with no obligation on my part. All photographs, words, experiences, and opinions are my own.

Day 0: Boston to West Chesterfield: The Butcher Shop, Chesterfield Inn
Day 1: Guilford (VT), Brattleboro (VT), Alstead (NH), Walpole (NH): Ted’s Sugarhouse, Coombs Candy Kitchen, Bascom Family Farms, Burdick Restaurant, Chesterfield Inn
Day 2: Norwich (VT): King Arthur Flour Mothership
Day 3: West Chesterfield to Boston: fly home

Day 0: It took 9.5 hours to go from my house in the Colorado Rockies to a car to a bus to a plane to a car to dinner at The Butcher Shop in Boston. There, I met up with my partners in crime for a lovely reunion over multiple boards of antipasti (Prosciutt, Mortadella, Sopressata, Rosette de Lyon, Finocchiono, Petit Jésus), pâtés and terrines (duck liver mousse, gamebird en croûte, pâté de campagne, rillettes du jour), and housemade sausages. Servers loaded our table with cheeses, beet salads, hummus, pickled vegetables, marinated olives, Parmesan, Marcona almonds, breads, mustards, and honey while we did our best to clear plates and make more room. It was a divine welcome to New England and a great way to kill time waiting for the rush hour traffic to abate. Sharon navigated Boston traffic and a snow storm in New Hampshire to deliver us safely to the Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, our home base for the next few days.


three types of housemade sausages

matt and joy contemplate where to begin

this was just our half of the table

nighttime at the chesterfield inn (the night we arrived, it was snowing)



Things I really liked from Day 0
Dinner at The Butcher Shop.
Catching up with friends on the long drive to West Chesterfield.
A good night’s sleep at the Chesterfield Inn.

Day 1: The Chesterfield Inn is a quaint establishment nestled near the Connecticut River, which dictates the boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont. In the morning, I could get a better sense of the layout of the property and the neighboring woods. I met Yoda, the resident kitty who likes to perch (or curl up) in the mail tray and lazily observe guests as they come and go. We all convened in the sunroom for breakfast with our host, Arnold Coombs, a charming seventh generation maple farmer who produces organic maple syrup, organic maple sugar, and pure maple candy.


the inn by morning light

feels like new england

the inn’s mascot, yoda

yoda runs the place like a boss

every breakfast had a selection of maple syrups (and maple butter)

cinnamon maple french toast



**Jump for more butter**

good things all around

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Recipe: thai chicken, asparagus, and baby corn

It’s so good to be back in Colorado. I say that every time I return. I feel it every time I return. Vermontshire, Verhampshire, New Hampmont, Vermont, New Hampshire – they’re wonderful and I learned so much and had a great time. But my heart truly sings when I catch sight of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s bluebird skies, my cuddly Kaweah girl, and most of all my sweet Jeremy. Also, the skiing in Colorado ain’t bad!


me and mah tele betties at breckenridge last week



I’m tired despite having done not a lick of exercise on this last trip. It’s partly because I find being in social situations exhausting and partly because air travel makes me cranky. Don’t mistake me for an introvert, though! I’m a good little extrovert, but it tires me out to navigate the dynamics of several very different personalities while keeping an eye open for photos and keeping my ears open to absorb the information being shared. It might also be because I stayed up until 2 am talking with this gal…

selfie with ellen at logan airport



I invited Ellen to come with me on my trip to Verhampshire for two reasons: 1) to put her in contact with a potential maple syrup supplier and 2) because I knew I wouldn’t place a pillow over her face in the middle of the night. I know myself well enough to identify who I can and won’t travel with, which is good because it has prevented many an attempted homicide. Today’s recipe is for my awesome travel buddy and friend, Ellen, because I know she loves quick and easy Thai recipes (don’t we all?!).

Back when I reproduced my favorite Thai sizzling beef dish, I managed to trigger a deep craving for other Thai dishes that I haven’t had in a while. One of the simplest and most delightful would have to be a basic chicken and vegetable stir-fry. You can use whatever vegetables you like and tinker with the sauce to taste, but it is quick, easy, and immensely satisfying.


chicken thighs, asparagus, green onions, garlic, sugar, cornstarch, baby corn, straw mushrooms, vinegar, vegetable oil, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce

mix the sauce ingredients together

slice the asparagus on the diagonal

all of the meat and vegetables prepped



**Jump for more butter**

verhampshiring

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

The cluster of states in New England is tiny. You can drive in and out and across them in very little time if you want. I flew into Boston on Friday to meet with some good people for dinner, and then we all hauled it up to New Hampshire. So far we have jumped across the Connecticut River into Vermont, back to New Hampshire, into Vermont, back to New Hampshire. There is snow on the ground and daytime temperatures have been in the 30s (°F). I’m feeling quite comfortable. I hope your weekend is going just as swimmingly.


the butcher shop

a fabulous welcome to the northeast

snowy road that leads to good things

sugar on snow

tapping a sugar maple

layers of rolling hills

evening falls at the inn




more goodness from the use real butter archives

annular solar eclipse from new mexico backpacking yosemite in the olympics of washington state with aloha (the big island of hawai’i)