Thursday, September 4, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

For me, one of the best things about taking a trip is coming home. That's not to say that the trip wasn't wonderful- it was. But home is pretty close to heaven after a dusty week on the road- camping and hiking and exploring with kiddles and hubbabubba.
The Adirondacks region of New York is where this adventure begins. Up on top of Whiteface Mountain we saw an inspirational 360 degree view. Hiking along the river at Ausable Chasm wasn't too shabby either. The Wild Center was great as well, with interactive exhibits that had the kids riveted. Camping in the evening was high on the kiddles list of fun things- especially at campfire time, which came complete with cuisine de camp- franks and beans, and roasted marshmallows for dessert. We were told repeatedly how lucky we were with the weather, as it had been quite a soggy summer. And we were lucky- the days were just great, not too hot, nice 'n dry, and gloriously bright. The sunshine was gentle and joy-inducing.
Over the weekend we treated ourselves to a stay in an authentic and rustic Inn- right in the heart of Lake Placid, a town that hosted the winter olympics twice ('32 & '80). The restaurant fare was decent and filling, although none too earthshattering. I did make one delicious discovery in Lake Placid and that was at the Bluesberry Bakery. Every morning I began my day with a fresh baked scone or a muffin or a chocolate croissant. All were scrumptious-though my favorite was the blackberry scone, stuffed with fat juicy fresh blackberries which were picked at the height of the season. It was as good as a fresh baked drop scone gets.
Every morning I would stroll Munch down to the Adirondack chairs set right at the shore of the lake, toting my decaf and yummy baked item, and sit with him and watch the ducks on the lake and the kayaks and canoes glide by. I don't get more mellow and serene than I was there.
Truth is I needed those morning coffee breaks with Munch by the Lake to restore my patience and perspective. Camping with the kiddles was definitely fun- but also challenging and exhausting. Hubbabubba and I felt like 24 hr. caregivers working side by side, so while it wasn't really much of a romantic getaway- it was a bonding experience.
After we had thoroughly explored the Adirondacks, we moved onto Vermont. I lovermont. Partially because I love New England, but also because it's such a cool state- with so much to offer the nature enthusiast as well as the food lover.
Burlington was the site for one of the best restaurant meals I've ever enjoyed. Smokejack's on Church Street. Thankfully, hubbabubba and I had the good luck to stumble upon this absolute gem. The space is clean and light-filled and casually elegant. We were greeted at the table by a basket of warm cinnamon mini muffins, which the kiddles (and let's be real, I) promptly devoured. I ordered Munch a bowl of potato soup, fortunately for me he was too enamored with the muffins to give the soup any time. Wow! it was so good, made with locally grown potatoes and half-pint scallions- creamy and seasoned just right. It left my mouth feeling the slightest hint of heat. This was the beginning of a beautiful meal.
Hubbabubba ordered a seared yellowfin tuna salad that was bright green and tangy and fresh. I convinced big boy kiddle to order the savory grilled bread and roasted garlic sandwich- made with locally made carambozola cheese and olives. He was not dissappointed, and the few bites I negotiated were a grilled cheese lovers dream come true. Kiddlette's Mac 'n Cheese with caramelized onions and crunchy crust, makes me want to be a better cook. Bliss. Joy. Revelation. My french toast made with thick slices of Red Hen Bakery bread and embellished with maple mascarpone whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup (duh)- sent my tastebuds into jubilant rapture. Smokejack's was good American comfort food, made with the finest locally made and grown ingredients, in a bold and flavorful manner. We left the restaurant happy- that's what a great meal at a reasonable price does-right?
Still chasing the sugar buzz, I prompted us all onto the Ben&Jerry's Factory tour in Waterbury, which ended in good-sized samples of Imagine Whirled Peace ice cream for all. I've always had a healthy appeciation for Ben & Jerry's good stuff- they really did change the way people viewed ice cream and their mission is admirable. It's something I'd like to do with my fledgling chocolate business- fresh ingredients, natural flavors, fun concepts all mixed in to make a yummy socially conscious dessert.
Speaking of chocolates (which I do a lot of), I conducted a brief chocolate tour during our stay in Vermont. A visit to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington kicked it off. Again, they utilize locally produced ingredients to magnificent ends. Their dark chocolate bar is what I grope for in my monthly bout of chocolate fever. In Stowe I purchased a few things from Laughing Moon Chocolates- which I haven't sampled yet, but will defintely report back with the results. That's if my little chocolate gnome and sweets fairy don't get to it first.
We camped along the LaMoille River at a really beautiful campsite. Hubbabubba was psyched to be able to fish just feet from out tent. I was psyched that we were camping on grass instead of the dirt (I did laundry twice during this trip- we all got so grimy so quick). Our campsite was just outside a small town called Morrisville. We had lunch one day in town at a cute little eatery called the Bee's Knees. The place is done up in campus cafe chic: Funky eclectic decor, mismatching furniture, local artist's work on the wall, folk music playing on the sound system, hairy legs and all, good and cheap food. Again the kids had mac 'n cheese- made with local cheddar- very tasty. I had a spicy udon noodle salad- made with thick slabs of silken tofu, a variety of locally grown greens, scallions, crunchy red peppers, udon noodles all doused in a spicy and peanutty sauce. Good stuff. Hubbabubba had the Damn Good Vegetarian sandwich, and said it deserved it's title. He also ordered a bottle of Blueberry Pop from a local soft drink company. So awesome in it's blueberry effervescence- we ordered 2 more for the road.
Alas, all good things must come to an end- who said that? Shakespeare? Hemingway? or anyone arriving at the end of a great meal? On the way back home- we stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum for some good solid Americana, as if we needed more. I know my Art History professors from days of yore would scoff, but there's something so simple and corny- yet true about his illustrations. Kinda warms your heart, especially after a week of camping and family togetherness.
Now we're home. Big boy kiddle started his first day of Kindergarten by getting on a yellow school bus this morning. I cried as I walked back to the house. The trip was a great end to our summer, but now I need a vacation.


Apples and Butter said...

I always feel like I need a vacation from my vacation! It looks like you had a good trip, filled with good food and family time. Sounds perfect! And those pictures of the river are beautiful.

Alexa said...

I feel the same way... Especially camping trips. It doesn't matter how much fun it is, I come home totally wiped out. I love that coming home, sleeping in my bed, having my coffee in my house feeling. It makes the trip worth it just to be reminded. Your trip does sound awesome... I would love to go and explore that part of the country.

By the way, I hope you are going to post your chocolate french toast... I am looking forward to it.

Katie said...

Sounds like a great vacation!