Friday, October 22, 2010

Daddio in Vermont

My dad came to visit me in Vermont from Texas last weekend. We had a great time, exploring the area, watching Lord of the Rings, and most importantly, eating. My love of food most likely originated with my father, who I share the passion with. He has always been an eater – and an excellent cook. My dad helped expose me to a variety of cuisines at a young age, including his passion for Cajun and Creole cooking. I can remember watching Emeril on TV (BAM!) with dad, and us discussing the various merits of this dish or that. I was eating jambalaya while most kids were still in the PB and J stage. In fact, I have been able to visit New Orleans with my father on several occasions, and we eat our way across the city – Mr. B’s Bistro, Mulate’s, Irene’s…yum. Besides going out to eat, my dad also helped develop my own skills in the kitchen. He taught me to make the most flavorful mashed potatoes ever (the secret is adding sour cream), smooth gravy, low country boil, crème brulee…it took awhile, but he is finally out the point where he is able to accept my tips as well. The year we stuffed a turkey with lemon wedges, onions, and fresh herbs at my insistence was a huge success, and from that point forward, my comments held a little more weight.
Anyway, I digress. He came to visit for the weekend, and it was a blast. We visited some tried and true favorites of mine, as well as some new places as well. Let me break it down for you:
I met dad for lunch on Friday, and we went to the Apollo Diner in Milton. I go here a lot for breakfast with my co-workers, but they have a great lunch to. I had a hot open-faced turkey sandwhich and a milkshake; dad had an open-faced roast beef and a cup on clam chowder. We both left extremely satisfied. Friday evening we visited the Magic Hat factory and learned about brewing beer, complete with samples. I stuck with #9, but dad really enjoyed the IPAs. From there, we made our way to the Vermont Pub and Brewery. I had a smoked beer, which was delicious – I could really taste the smoke it in, which provided a totally different flavor. I also had a Woodchuck cider, which they have on tap and is always good. Finally, we ended the evening at the Bluebird Tavern (big surprise, right?). It was extra neat, because the executive chef Aaron had just been featured the day before in TastingTable, a daily foodie e-newsletter that I receive. We shared a cheese board, of course, and then I had a beet salad and ricotta gnudi – I just had to have some more of that delicious ricotta. Everything was exactly as good as I expected it to be (in other words, excellent). I finished with an olive oil cake, served with rosemary ice cream and cranberry jam. It was really good, and unique. I liked it because although it was definitely a dessert, it wasn’t too sweet, and the flavors all complimented each other really well. I also had a hot chocolate, which was good, but not as perfect as the traditional hot chocolate at Champlain Chocolates.
Saturday morning we went to the Burlington farmer’s market and found some goodies. Dad got some maple syrup to bring back to Texas. We did some shopping, and then had lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings – chosen so that we could watch the Michigan State football game. We also stopped at the Healthy Living Market for a Misty Knoll chicken (more on that in a sec). While there, I sampled some of the best apple pie I’ve ever had, served with cinnamon ice cream. It was so authentic, you know? Dinner that night was at L’Amante, an Italian restaurant that I had not been to yet. It was very good, and the service was great. We shared a salumi (a selection of Italian meats), which was really good. Their house bread is served with homemade hummus and chicken pate. The hummus was really yummy, but I didn’t really care for the pate – it was a little too rich to start a meal with. Then I had a shrimp and lobster carbonara, made with house-made pasta. That was really good, and nice and peppery.
Sunday morning, dad made me French toast (a specialty of his), and some Vermont Smoke and Cure Bacon. Best. Bacon. Ever. The star of that day was dinner, though. I think I mentioned my passion for Thanksgiving dinner. It should be said that it is pretty much my favorite meal, and throughout the year I like to have what I call “mini-Thanksgiving”: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Complete perfection. This time, we used a local Misty Knoll chicken and a foccacia-based stuffing mix from Williams-Sonoma. Both were excellent. I made the cranberry sauce from scratch – no cans here – and used some ginger and orange juice, and that came out really well. Dad made crème brulee for dessert. Enough said.
Finally, Monday morning we went to Magnolia’s downtown for breakfast. This is my favorite breakfast place in Vermont. Their fresh OJ is really good, and the oatmeal pancakes are to die for. We finished the dad’s trip with a pizza from Junior’s. Trust me, you just can’t get good pizza like that in Texas.
The whole trip kind of focused on food, from the meals I described above to the Sunday drive that took us to Stowe for apple cider donuts. No complaints here, though – that’s my favorite kind of trip. Love you, dad!

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