I have so many different things to talk about today, I should probably split it into several different posts. Oh well – I’m going to cram as much in as I can.
So, first – I have been on a bread kick lately. I mean, who doesn’t love homemade bread? I can tell you one thing – my dog is certainly among the bread lovers (he managed to steal two different loaves-in-the-making last week—long story). Anyway, I got this really neat new cookbook, My Bread by Jim Lahey. Lahey claims to have created a “revolutionary” new way to make bread in just five minutes day. At first, I was skeptical. Baking bread is an ancient art form that should not be messed with, right? Artisans have already had centuries to perfect it. Well, I have to tell you, this bread is awesome, and super easy to make. You basically mix the ingredients, let it rise over night, and bake in a Dutch oven – no kneading or extensive shaping involved. Below is a picture of my first loaf made with this method, just a basic white bread. I am not going to even try to be modest – this bread is amazing! An epiphany! It came out so beautifully, and is rich, moist and chewy – something right out of the Red Hen Baking Co. I had a chunk of it with a simple fried egg the other night, and it was heavenly. (I have also been on a bit of a French kick lately, re-teaching myself the language and experimenting with some classic bistro meals. Hence the title of the post.)
At this point, you’re probably wondering what the other pictures are, since they are clearly not of my homemade bread. Well, last night Danielle and I had dinner at Hen of the Woods in Waterbury, and I am still dreaming about it. It took us forever to get in – every time we called for a reservation, it was booked up. Now I understand why. The atmosphere was adorable, the service was good, and the food was phenomenal – definitely a meal in my Vermont top 5. The dining room is quite small and one wall is all windows that overlook the grist mill out back. Walls on either side are made of stone with tea lights embedded in them. The kitchen is in the front and most of it can be viewed from the dining room. Really, it was lovely – but enough of all that. Now on to the food! We had three different starters that we shared – a cheese plate, mussels, and a prosciutto dish. We let the waitress pick the cheese, and it was really good – solid and strong. That was served with crostini, a candied fennel relish (crunchy, sweet, vegetabley, and yet licoricey – very unique and compelling), toasted hazelnuts, and apple butter. The prosciutto plate came with more grilled bread, a thick, grainy mustard, fresh arugula, and onion jam. I didn’t care for the onions, but everything else was fantastic. And finally, the mussels. Now, Danielle orders mussels a lot; they are one of her favorites (and becoming one of mine, too). We have had some kind of mussel appetizer at numerous restaurants in the area. These were by far the best (yes, even better than the original Bluebird’s). The broth was to die for. It had bacon and I don’t know what else in it, but it was really, really good – perfect soaked up with the grilled bread. It was so good, we kept eating it even after we ran out of both mussels and bread. True story.
From there, we went on to entrees. We both had gnocchi, although mine was a goat cheese gnocchi served with a celery root puree and pine nuts, and Danielle’s had ricotta and lamb sausage in a tomato-based sauce. Both were excellent. Read that again – yes, that means I tried the lamb. Despite being a food, and a rather adventurous one, even I have my caveats – and veal and lamb are among them. I just think it’s wrong to eat baby animals. I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to start some kind of riot. I don’t push these opinions on others, but it’s a choice I make for myself. But yes, I tried one bite of her dish, and it was very yummy. Am I a lamb convert? No. Am I willing to sample something in the name of foodie-ness? Yes.
Finally, we wrapped the meal up with dessert. I was soooo stuffed by the end of all this that I didn’t think I would ever eat again (although I inevitably did). The meal was great, and so worth the forty minute drive.