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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Grill of Your Dreams

With Independence Day coming up this weekend, grills will be fired up all over the place.  Nothing says summer like the smell of some burgers or steaks cooking over a fire. 

There's something about grilling that gets us back to our primal selves--as long as there's been cooking, there's been grilling in some form or another.  At it's most basic, grilling is simple--throw something on the grill and take it off when it's done.

But grilling is much more than that.  It's not hard--in fact, it's probably the simplest way to cook.  Yet, doing things the right way will give you a lot less aggravation and stress. 

A post on Bucks County Taste that I wrote gives you some tips that will make your grilling experience a lot easier and more successful.  It also has a couple of recipes for great steak marinades that will be the hit of your party.  And there's a link to another BCT post that tells you where to get some of the best meats in Bucks County. 

Check out my July newsletter (going out tomorrow) for some delicious summer beverage recipes that will taste great with all that grilled food.  (If you don't get my newsletter, send me an email and I'll put you on the list!)

Happy grilling!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Add to Your Shopping List

We all know that eating healthy food helps to fend off disease, allows your body to work better and is a building block to an overall healthier life.  But what are healthy foods, anyway?

Well, there are fruits and vegetables that give vitamins and minerals needed by our bodies.  Milk has calcium that helps to build strong bones.  There's the cancer-fighting compounds in olive oil and red wine.  Every time we turn on the TV or radio, it seems there's another report about what to eat or not. 

Here's another one--from an article on Forbes.com by Susan Adams--Ten Foods You Should Be Eating.  In it, Adams talks of nutritionist and author, Johnny Bowden, who lists 10 foods that are incredibly healthy, but aren't eaten enough.  Maybe you don't think of them as healthy or maybe they aren't the most common foods.  They should, however, be on your shopping list if you're looking for a healthier lifestyle.

1.  Cherries--one of my favorite fruits.  They're full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

2.  Blueberries--See my post from yesterday and a previous post in Bucks County Taste.  They're also full of antioxidants and some studies show that they may even help to lessen the possibility of diabetes and heart disease.

3.  Kiwifruit.  Provides 115% of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin C.

4.  Grass-fed Beef.  Our bodies need some fat to be healthy--just the right kinds of fat.  The amount of fat in grass-fed beef is outweighed by the huge amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that it provides.

5.  Wild Salmon.  Even more than the grass-fed beef, salmon (wild more so than farm-raised) is teeming with omega-3 fatty acids.  These compounds help to give you better heart and brain health, bring down your blood pressure and triglycerides and may even improve your mood!  (I know some people who need to eat a LOT of salmon.)

6.  Flax Seed.  Another great source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as the cancer-fighter, lignans.  It's also a great source of fiber.

7.  Whey Protein Powder--a byproduct of cheese making.  It's a great source of protein and has been known to stimulate the immune system.

8.  Kale--it's not just for garnish anymore.  This member of the cabbage family is a treasure trove of healthful things: cancer-fighters indoles and sulforaphane, calcium, iron, Vitamins A, C & K and 2 nutrients that are good for the eyes.

9.  Coconut--yes, coconut.  It's high in a fat called MCT (Medium-Chain Triglycerides) that the body doesn't store, it turns it into energy, like a carbohydrate.  It also contains lauric acid, a fatty acid known to kill pathogens.

10.  Dark Chocolate--now we're talking.  It's rich in flavanol, which helps improve cardiovascular health.  Look for chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content (it has less sugar).

So there you have it--some more items to look for next time you're at the market that will help you live a healthier and tastier life!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wild About Blueberries

I was reading Lynne Goldman's piece on blueberries in Bucks County Taste today.  It is indeed time to start seeing fresh blueberries in the markets.  Yum.  Tasty, versatile and really good for you.  Just want you want in food.

Lynne talks about putting some of them in the freezer for a treat during the winter months.  Always a good idea with fresh fruit.  The seasons are so short, you have to try to keep some for later--if you can avoid eating all of them first.  Jake loves eating frozen blueberries--it's like eating flavored ice!  It makes a real mess in his mouth, too. 

Of course, being the Maine fanatics that we are, blueberries always make us think of Maine.  If you've never had wild blueberries from Maine, you are missing out.  These tiny berries--much smaller than the ones you find around here--are incredibly sweet.  Sort of the essence of what blueberries should taste like.

And, if you visit during the right time of year (mid- to late-summer and even into September depending on the weather), they're everywhere.  In fact, wild blueberries cover an estimated 60,000 acres in the state.  They were first commercially harvested in 1840 and today, wild blueberry production brings $250 million dollars to Maine's economy.  You can find frozen wild blueberries in most supermarkets (Wyman's is probably the most common brand).
We usually go Down East in September, but a couple of years ago, we went in July and these pictures are from a hike up a mountain in Acadia National Park.  We took a break at the summit to drink some water and eat some berries.  A nice refreshing way to catch our breath.

So enjoy the blueberries grown locally while they last.  And if you can someday, drive north and eat some local berries right off the bushes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Thanks

I just want to thank everyone for making "Take Back Your Kitchen: A Screening of Fresh: The Movie" such a huge success last night at The County Theater.  We sold out the theater--we were thrilled with that.  And I think (and hope) that everyone there had a good time, was energized by what we saw on the screen and got a little bit more informed from our panel of experts.

A huge thank you to our panel: Lynne, Henry, Tom, Christy & Ryman.  What a great group to hear from about celebrating our local foods!  They did a great job working to promote the event, as well.  Also thanks to the staff at the theater--especially Chris Collier, who really helped to make this thing happen.

It was quite a day for me.  My dad, Jake & I went to the Phillies game.  It was scorching hot, but we survived by drinking lots of water.  The breeze helped, too.  With the Phils leading 12-2, knowing that I had to get to the event, and when we saw the storm coming through Center City, we decided (about 5 minutes too late, it turned out) to leave. 

As we walked to the car, the storm hit.  Maybe you saw it on the news--straight line winds of 75 mph, incredibly heavy rain, hail, the works.  I had poor Jake on my shoulders and just kept yelling to him to keep his eyes shut and that it was going to be all right.  When the hail started, I had to walk backwards so we weren't getting pelted in our faces.  It was raining so hard, you literally couldn't see to walk.

We made it to the car--finally--and Jake was pretty shaken up.  For good reason.  He's OK now.

Then the ride home began.  Took forever to get out of the parking lot, 95 South was closed, so we tried to go on the Schuylkill, but the wind had blown over a tractor-trailer and it was backed up.  Tree branches everywhere.  What a mess.  MB met us in Doylestown with a change of clothes for me--I could not have been any wetter--and I somehow changed in her car (don't ask).  We walked out of the stadium at about 3:30 and I walked into the theater at 6:40.  That's a long drive.

But we made it through and Fresh was a success.  So thanks again and maybe we'll do something like this again someday...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good Restaurants

I just read an article from the San Francisco Chronicle that gave various people's comments (I assume that people in SF know who they are, because I didn't) about what makes a bad restaurant.  Let's just say that, although some of them made some sense--dirty floors, yucky bathrooms, rude waitstaff, etc--most of them were snotty.  You know, things like "when fried calamari is on the menu" (I know plenty of good places that offer this) or "when there's a children's menu, not children's portions--this means that the place caters to the family crowd and that's the opposite of fine dining" (try going to Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor, ME--a children's menu and incredible food).
Anyway, I thought I'd talk about what I think makes a good restaurant--and I'd love to hear what you think.  So chime in!

To me, cleanliness is a top priority.  Sure, there are greasy spoons that are a little grimy, but have good food.  But if I'm going to go out for a nice meal, I want the floors and silverware and dishes to be clean.  If it's not clean on the table, it's not clean in the kitchen.

I want a relaxed atmosphere.  Super fancy restaurants are fine--if the food is good.  But I'm much more apt to enjoy my meal--really enjoy it, if I feel comfortable and can be myself--not worrying about if I'm doing something improperly.

A good restaurant has a menu that's changing with the seasons.  If a caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil) is on the menu in December, then I'm not so sure about that place--serve me tomatoes when they're in season. 

I want a place that gives you food that makes you feel good--fresh ingredients, homemade pasta, food made to order.  You know what I mean.  Real food--not something processed or pre-made.

I want to feel welcome in a restaurant when you walk in.  Have a server who genuinely wants to make your meal a good experience--and give you suggestions if you ask.  I want to be able to sit and take as long as I need to eat without feeling like we're taking up space for the next party. 

The bottom line with a restaurant, though, is the food.  I want good food that's worth the price I'm paying for it. 

Do I sound snotty, too?  I hope not. 

Some of my favorites...well, there are a lot of them.  A lot of great places just in our area.  But off the top of my head, here are some places where I'd go back again and again (some that I've done just that):

Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor, ME.  This may be our favorite place anywhere.  Relaxed and comfortable--you can dine in your hiking boots and shorts.  Staff that's always friendly (Tony remembers Jake from year to year--and vice versa).  A great children's menu with much more than hot dog or mac and cheese--real food.  And a menu that takes forever to order from--everything is great.

Buddakan in Philly.  Only been here once and it was probably the most expensive meal we've ever had.  But it was also the best prepared, most delicious food we've ever had--all served by knowledgeable servers in an exciting setting.  A great place to splurge for a special occasion.  Just perfect.

Domani Star in Doylestown.  Probably our favorite local restaurant.  Friendly, fresh ingredients, homemade Italian food.  Never had anything there that I didn't love.  Mmmmm....soooo good. 

Red's Eats in Wiscasset, ME.  OK, not really a restaurant, but it's universally known to have the best lobster rolls anywhere.  Basic--the lobster roll is a whole lobster's-worth of meat on a toasted hot dog bun (you can add melted butter).  But man, it's just the best.  We always stop there when passing through "The Prettiest Village in Maine". 

There are so many others, near and far, that I'm forgetting.  Help me out--where do you like to go to eat and why? 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Molten Mocha Cakes

As you may remember, Mary Beth's birthday was on June 14.  She's the cake baker in the family (and a great one at that), but I needed to come up with some sort of dessert for her.  I came across this recipe in Baker's Chocolate Classic Recipes (the first recipe in the book).  It's easy and quick (15 minutes prep & 15 minutes baking time)--perfect for a novice cake baker like me.

Molten Mocha Cakes  (makes 8 individual cakes)

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 c (2 sticks) butter
2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c General Foods International Coffee (or similar product)--any flavor
5 eggs
4 egg  yolks
3/4 c flour
Powdered sugar (optional)
Raspberries (optional)

  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Butter eight 3/4 c custard cups, ramekins or souffle dishes.  Place on cookie sheet.
  • Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted.  Stir in sugar and flavored instant coffee until well blended.  Whisk in eggs and egg yolks.  Stir in flour.  Divide batter among cups.
  • Bake 14-15 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft.  Let stand 1 minute, then run small knife around cakes to loosen.  Invert cakes onto dessert dishes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries, if desired. 
  • Make-ahead: Bake as directed above.  Cool slightly, then cover cups with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate up to 2 days.  Place cups on cookie sheet.  Reheat in 425 degree oven for 12-13 minutes.  (I know this doesn't seem like it would work, but it does.)
  • We even had a left over one and it sat in the fridge for a number of days.  A quick 30 second zap in the micro and it was good as new.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Great Stuff on your FM dial!

Have you been to a farmers' market yet this year?  If not, what's keeping you?!  It sure isn't for lack of choices--there are markets all over the place these days.  And for good reason.

As you know, eating and buying locally grown and produced food is becoming more and more trendy.  And farmers' markets are the perfect places for farmers and producers to sell the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors.  The fun thing is, as you keep coming back to your favorite markets, you'll see the variety of produce throughout the growing season--from strawberries, asparagus and spring greens in the spring to tomatoes, peppers and melons in the summer to squash, Brussels sprouts and fall greens in the autumn. 

Farmers' markets aren't just for farmers anymore either.  You'll find painters, potters, bakers, makers of jams and jellies, seafood purveyors, chocolatiers, weavers...you name it!  That's why going to a FM is such a relaxing and relatively inexpensive family outing.  It's a great educational experience for kids, too.  Teach them about farming, let them meet all sorts of different people and expose them to many delicious and nutritious foods.
Oh, did I mention that many FMs have cooking demos?  (Nice segue, huh?)  Here are the dates that I'm scheduled to appear at three different markets through September:

Ottsville Farmers' Market     Linden Hill Gardens, 8230 Easton Rd (Rt 611), Ottsville     3-7PM
Friday, June 18
Friday, July 16
Friday, August 6

Plumsteadville Grange Farmers' Market     5901 Easton Rd (Rt 611), Plumsteadville     9AM-12PM
Saturday, July 17
Saturday, August 7
Saturday, September 4

Indian Valley Farmers' Market     Marketplace at Telford Station, Main St & Penn Ave, Telford     8:30AM-12:30PM
Saturday, July 31
Saturday, August 28
Saturday, September 11

So come on out and enjoy all the bounty that our wonderful area provides for us, meet the people who work so hard to give these great products to you and stop and say hi to me!  (Get some free samples, too!)    

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Hi.  Sorry it's been so long since I've posted.  I'm sure all 4 of you readers really missed it.

Monday was Mary Beth's birthday.  We had ordered some arbors to be made out in Amish country when we were there in May and decided that since we had to pick them up, MB would get her free Shady Maple Smorgasbord birthday meal while we were at it.  We made it with about 6 minutes to spare for breakfast.  We brought a camera to take a picture of our overflowing plates, but to be honest, we forgot.  I believe that there's actually cholesterol floating in the air there and that impaired our thought process. 

The food is pretty good, though.  Just not very good for you.  I had a western omelet; bacon; some sort of quiche thing that looked somewhat healthy (had veggies), but hidden inside was a sausage patty; lotsa bacon; French toast strips; turkey and pork sausages; turkey bacon; creamed dried beef (SOS) over hash browns; and more, I'm sure.  Oh, did I mention bacon?  MB had 2 huge plates of SOS & chocolate chip/blueberry sweet potato pancakes and other sundry breakfast foods.  It's a wonder we didn't just keel over right there. 

We did find a bunch of nice local veggies for us and for the cook day I did yesterday.  One guy even had his own tomatoes!  I've waited so long for real tomatoes. 

I'll be doing some cooking demos at the Ottsville Farmers' Market on Friday from 3-7PM.  Lots of great stuff there--including a great chocolatier, some incredible seafood, veggies from Blooming Glen Farm and others, and much more.  I'll be making some stuff using the things being sold at the market.  The market is located at Linden Hill Gardens, 8230 Easton Rd (Rt. 611) in Ottsville.  Come check it out.  I'll also be appearing at the Indian Valley and Plumsteadville Grange Farmers' Markets throughout the summer (3 dates at each, including Ottsville).  I'll write a post with those dates soon.

Don't forget the screening of Fresh: The Movie at The County Theater in Doylestown, June 24, 7PM.  Check out my previous post for more information about the film, our discussion panelists and how to register for the event.  It'll be an enlightening, fun and energizing evening.  Tell your friends!  We want to fill that theater!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vermont Travelogue, Final Episode

It was our last day.  Jake literally held back tears as he said goodbye to the black bear in the lobby of the inn.  He obviously didn't want to go home yet.

Jill, our innkeeper, suggested that we drive up to Stowe and through Smuggler's Notch--a scenic mountain drive.  We were in no real hurry, so we decided to take her advice.  In Stowe, Jake was lucky enough for us to find that the Stowe Volunteer Fire Company was having an open house to celebrate the opening of their new (and incredibly huge) station.  Climbing on trucks ensued.

We passed a number of chocolate and cheese places--if we had stopped at each of them, we'd never get home.  But not far from the inn, in Waterbury Center, we stopped at Cold Hollow Cider Mill.  Their store sold all sorts of knickknacks, but mostly food items--cider BBQ sauces and mustards, jellies and jams, they're own maple syrup and much more. 

Of course, their main item is apple cider.  They weren't in production since it was Saturday, so we couldn't see it being made, but they had a huge tank of cider where you could fill a sample cup (or 2 or 3 or 6, in Jake's case).  I have to say that it was the best cider I've ever tasted in my life.  Just enough sweetness and tanginess, crisp and clean.  I regret not buying some.  It was that good.  Cider is one of Jakester's favorite drinks--always has been--and he loved it. 
We didn't buy any cider, but we did buy a couple apple cider donuts.  Now, I don't know if you ever had anything like these before (someone told me that they have them at Tabora).  They don't look like much.  Just a donut.  But they're warm, a little crispy on the outside, wonderfully soft on the inside and filled with apple flavor.  Man, it's a good thing I don't live around this place.  I could have eaten a dozen of them (only had 1, though).  (Oh boy, I just realized that they sell their donut mix on line!)

A beautiful last drive through the beautiful Vermont mountains took us back toward Shelburne, where, a little south of there, we drove onto the ferry to take us across the lake to New York and home.  As we floated across, we pointed out to Jake that behind us was Vermont.  He again got teary and said that he didn't want to go home yet.  I don't think any of us really did. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vermont Travelogue, Continued...

We move on to Friday--a beautiful day.  Sunny, breezy, about 80.  Perfect weather to visit Shelburne Farms.

Shelburne Farms is a 1400 acre working farm (circa mid-1800's) on the shores of Lake Champlain.  It includes an inn and is also a non-profit environmental education center.  The buildings are simply gorgeous.  Stonework, cedar shingles, copper roofing.  And the barn building (shown here) is immense.  Really impressive.

The farm houses farm animals of many kinds--chickens, goats, alpacas, horses, cows, miniature donkeys, rabbits, turkeys.  You know how sometimes you go to a farm and the animals seem, well, kind of shabby?  Not the case at Shelburne.  These animals are cared for by a staff that loves to share their knowledge and love of farming with the visitors. 

With our little farmer-to-be, we were there literally all day.  But there was plenty to do.  By the end of the day, most of the crowds had left and that opened it up for Jake to do all sorts of cool things--holding and feeding 2-day old goats, feeding a baby cow, milking a cow and a goat, feeding the horses, holding a bunny.  He was in heaven.   

During the day, we took a long walk around the grounds on some of the many paths.  We visited their "market garden" where they raise all the vegetables served in the inn's restaurants.  The gardens were impeccably cared for and really colorful with the many varieties of vegetables they grow. 

After the long walk, I was hungry and, luckily, they have a food stand there offering all sorts of delicious sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods, etc--all made from local ingredients (some from the farm).  I had a delicious local turkey sandwich with pesto and fresh greens on homemade bread and a wonderful salad.  Jake snacked on a soft pretzel made with the farm's own cheddar cheese (the cheese was mixed in the dough, so he didn't know it--we told him later). 

Speaking of the farm's cheddar, it's some of the best you'll ever taste.  They make it right there on the farm using raw milk from their purebred herd of Brown Swiss cows.  They offer a number of kinds: aged 6-8 months, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years.  The youngest cheese is mild and creamy.  As the aging gets longer, the cheese gets sharper and more complex.  They also have hickory smoked, something they call tractor cheese (cheese that sort of takes on a mind of it's own as it ages and doesn't come out the way it's expected) and another kind (I'm forgetting what they call it) that's made in a much more labor-intensive way, so it's much more expensive (about $21/pound).  It is incredible.  A little hard with a crunch (sort of like Parmesan) and an intense taste.  Really amazing stuff.  In 2009, they earned Best 12-month Cheddar, Best Smoked Cheddar (3rd year in a row), Best Cheddar Spread and 3rd Place Best Mature Cheddar (their 2-year) from the Amercan Cheese Society.  Read more about their cheeses and how they make them here.

In the picture above, the cork-shaped curds are in the molds ready to be pressed into 40-pound blocks.

A bakery also is right there on the farm.  A wide variety of artisan breads and pastries are made by hand.  Man, it smelled good in there. (Forgot to take a picture.  Sorry!)

So do you need to have an animal-crazed kid to enjoy Shelburne Farms?  It helps, but it isn't necessary.  It's a wonderful place to visit, learn, relax and eat.  Well worth the trip.

Next time, we head home...but not before eating some more goodies!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vermont Travelogue, Continued...

A little rain on Thursday made us do some indoor activities that we had planned.  (But not before we enjoyed a great breakfast--choice of omelet or incredibly fluffy pancakes; bacon, sausage and/or corned beef hash; hash browns or home fries; and fresh baked toasted bread.  No lunch needed.) 

We started with one of Jake's most anticipated events--our tour of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Waterbury.  The tour itself isn't all that much--a video of the history of the company, a look down on the productions floor as they make and package the ice cream and then a visit to the tasting room, where you get a free sample.  (We had Cho-cow-late Chip--vanilla ice cream with cow-shaped chocolate pieces.  Tasty.) 

Ben & Jerry's is one of those company's, though, that started out local and small and grew to be a giant.  But they still stand by many of their original principles--local ingredients (all of their milk is from VT farms) and service to the community.  You can add a good sense of humor and fun in there, too.  The tour guides and most everyone who work there seem to be actually having a good time.  You've never heard so many cow puns as on our tour.  It was great.  ("Please mooooove to your right.")
After B&J's, we headed to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Shelburne.  Another short tour geared more for kids, but it is kind of interesting to see how they make these bears by hand.  Of course, Jake got a dog at the teddy bear factory, but that's OK. 

We then stumbled upon beautiful Mt. Philo State Park.  The rain had stopped, so we went on a great hike--Devil's Chair Trail--with vistas of the mountains, Lake Champlain and acres of rolling farmland.  This ended up being Jake's (and our) favorite part of the day.  "Let's go find more mysteries in the woods!"  If there is rock climbing, he's happy.
All that exercise brought on a much needed nap for the Jakester as we drove into Burlington to walk around by the lake front and get some dinner.  Burlington is a very nice, very small city.  I'm not sure how it is for the arts and things like that, but there certainly are loads of interesting places to eat.

Many of them--probably most of them--are part of the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN), an organization that "encourages farmers, food producers and chefs to work directly with each other to build partnerships. Building these regional connections contributes to stronger local communities and their economies."  Their distinctive green logo is posted on many restaurants you come across--whether in the city or out in the middle of nowhere. 

Having been promoting our screening of Fresh: The Movie (see May 26 post), local farming is kind of on my mind and I love the idea of farmers and chefs and restaurateurs working together to serve the freshest, most nutritious foods all the while making the local economies prosper. 

We ate at The Skinny Pancake, a locally owned creperie in Burlington.  A member of the VFN, they even have a map of Vermont on the wall that shows where all their food comes from.  Food wrapped in crepes...we were a little worried that it might not be filling enough.  WRONG.  It was delicious and a lot of food.  We got some fries (the only thing crepe-related) and artichoke/spinach dip with fried crepe chips.  Very good.  My dinner was chicken, pesto, roasted peppers, grilled onions & VT cheddar in a scallion crepe.  MB got pulled pork with VT cheddar and a sweet/spicy whiskey sauce (that's her's in the picture).  Jake isn't one for things wrapped up, so they actually deconstructed his--ham, chopped apples and the crepe (all of which were very tasty--especially the smoky ham).  He didn't get the cheese--you may know that he's about the only kind in the USA that doesn't like cheese.  Fresh tasting, well prepared, fun atmosphere--we recommend it if you're in that neck of the woods.

Later in Burlington, we stopped at a Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop for dessert.  Obviously, Jake enjoyed his cone of Chocolate Therapy--dark chocolate ice cream with chocolate-chocolate chip cookies and chocolate fudge swirl.  I got a scoop of it, too--really good--as well as one of their new flavors for 2010--Peanut Brittle.  A good way to end the day.

Next time...baby goats, very fresh milk, more local food and some of the best cheddar you'll ever taste.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vermont Travelogue, Continued...

We stayed at the Black Bear Inn in Bolton Valley, VT--a 4 mile drive up a mountain.  The inn needs a little bit of updating decor-wise, but it was clean, the innkeepers were extremely friendly and accommodating and the food was outstanding. 

Our family package included dinner (app, entree & dessert for all 3 of us--including a large children's menu), a full breakfast each morning and passes to 3 of the attractions that we were going to visit anyway.  (More about that later.)

We settled into our room--with a beautiful mountain view--and had dinner at the inn that night.  I must admit, the menu and the quality of the food wasn't what I was expecting.  It was exceptional.  I had Wild Mushroom Soup, Orange/Nutmeg Marinated Duck Breast with Honey/Maple Glaze (even Jake tried and liked this) and Apple Caramel Torte.  MB had a nice Caesar Salad, Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce & Mountain Berry Tart.  Jake chose plain fettuccine (big surprise there) and since the veggies of the night weren't to his liking, they cut up some raw carrot for him.  He finished with Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.  Wine was not part of our package, but we still got a glass from a list of about 10 or so.

Jill, one of the innkeepers, told us how there was a bullfrog pond nearby where  moose often drank.  We found the pond and the frogs, but no moose, unfortunately.  And no, frog legs weren't on the menu.  Still, we had a nice walk and then turned in to go to bed (and watch the Flyers game). 

 Next time...ice cream, teddy bears, crepes and a great hike.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vermont Travelogue

Last week we spent a few days in the beautiful state of Vermont.  I'm sure many of you have been there to ski, but if you've not been there this time of year, put it on your list of things to do.

The best word to describe Vermont in spring is...green!  The mountains are just covered with deep green trees as far as you can see.  Really quite incredible. 

Admittedly, we were a little worried about this trip the way things started out.  We left later than we wanted to and thus, hit some major traffic.  Then, somewhere in Connecticut, MB realized that we forgot Jake's sneakers.  The same sneakers that we bought last weekend specifically so he had some good ones for the trip.  So, now he has 2 pairs of new sneakers.  Oh well.

Sorry to say, to save some time, we hit the fast food drive-thru on the way up.  McDonald's.  Haven't been to one them in a long time--years.  I have to say, though, I got some sort of chicken ranch sandwich that--dare I say it--tasted pretty good!  MB got a burger that she enjoyed, but she made the mistake of reading the "nutrition" information on the side of the box.  Something like 760 calories and 30-some grams of fat.  Yikes!  Suddenly, more hiking was on our itinerary.

We stopped at Simon Pearce Glass in Quechee, VT and saw the glassblowers working.  Fascinating--almost hypnotic.  In fact, we asked the guy we were watching how he got into glassblowing.  He said, he was visiting, watched the artists working and decided that he wanted to do that, too.  So he did.  (That's him behind Jake in the picture making the candlestick 2nd from the right.)

One of the things that Jake was looking forward to most was seeing the Vermont Yak Company farm.  Yaks are raised in VT mostly because they can handle the rough winters.  The meat is said to be sweet and healthier than beef.  We looked, but just couldn't find it.  I was disappointed, too.  I was really interested in tasting some yak jerky or something like that.

Well, that's where I'll stop for today.  Keep reading in the coming days for more!

Flint Hill Farm

Last month I visited Flint Hill Farm in Coopersburg.  Not only are they one of the few places in the area that makes artisan goat cheese, but they are a group dedicated to celebrating and educating about farming and the farmer's way of life. 

They host numerous educational opportunities for the community and local schools--horsemanship, weaving, etc.  They even have a program where a family can stay the night at the farm, collect eggs for breakfast, tend to the animals and feel what farm life is all about.

Their motto is Feeding the Spirit, Educating the Mind, Preserving the Community and they're doing just that at Flint Hill Farm!

Read more about my visit at Bucks County Taste (posted on June 2).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Seeing Green(s)

Some of the best and often overlooked early veggies are the spring greens--everything from lettuce to arugula, from fiddleheads to chard, from watercress to collards. 

For some reason, people are scared of eating or cooking these healthy and delicious foods.  Not sure why.  But it is totally unfounded.  Spring greens are chock full of nutrients like Vitamin C & fiber and when prepared properly, are some of the tastiest things around. 

Check out my article on Bucks County Taste.  It gives tips on how to choose the best greens and gives 3 yummy and easy recipes that will change your mind about cooking greens.