The Backseat Gourmet-Roadtrip Through The N.E. 7 States in 7 Days!- Part 2 of 2

Oh Vermont.  If you have not been to this tiny state yet, GO!  Its gorgeous and green and they have bottles & bottles of maple syrup!  And if thats not enough to sell you, the Ben & Jerry’s factory is a short driving distance from the Cabot cheese factory.  So pack your Lactaid folks, lets get in the car and go East!

My family and I stopped at a small road side shop called Stowe Maple Products that sold pure Vermont maple syrup and other mapley delicious delights.  The owner was on hand to give us samples and educate me with my 14,000 questions.  What I learned & found to be quite helpful: Maple syrup is like a narcotic.

Besides that:

  • Grade A Maple Syrup has a light, medium and dark variety.  What makes their color differ is from the time they were harvested.
  • The harvesting season is only about 4-5 weeks, the earlier its harvested the lighter it is in color.
  • Grade B Maple Syrup is harvested very late in the season and is best used in baking or cooking as it has a hardier and more robust flavor.  While the Grade A variety is best used for drowing your pancakes (and yourself) in.
  • The nutrient content in Grade A and Grade B are the same.

Grade A fancy Vermont Maple Syrup…..its like a drug.

Mini Recipe:

Maple Mustard Salad Dressing

Whisk together 1 tsp dijon mustard, a heavy splash of apple cider vinegar and 2 tblsp maple syrup.  Whisk in 2 tblsp olive oil.  Add a pinch of sea salt & pepper. Toss over a fresh spinach salad with blueberries and thinly sliced red onion.

Our next stop the Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Of course we HAD to take the tour, however campy & brief, it was quite educational and with the promise of an exclusive flavor sample (strawberry with white chocolate chunks) one would gladly wait in a tourist shop with walls painted like a the posterior of a black and white cow.  Post tour we move on to the ice cream store.  Still full from my early morning shots of maple syrup I decide how many scoops (thats right plural) I should order.  I go with a scoop of my all time fave Chunky Monkey and a scoop of the 7 Layer Coconut.  A genius tropical pairing!  You can take the girl out of the island but you can’t take the ……..

The difficult decision…..chunky monkey & 7 layer coconut bar. Divine!

This place is like Disney World of the north.  Who wouldn’t want to take a photo in this thing?!  Our flavor…….Szunyogh-Murphy Swirl.  A creamy vanilla base , with Hungarian paprika, coconut flakes and and Irish Creme Swirl.  What’s your family flavor??

We were definitely feeling euphoric after our ice cream!

With our blood sugars at full throttle we speed onto Maine and hit up a tucked away lobster shack right on the water.     Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company in South Freeport, Maine  is THE  place to get your whole lobster lunches and lobster rolls.  They have been featured on Rachel Ray and were voted one of the top 10 lobster shacks in Maine.  Fishing boats lazily bobbing and birds searching for fall out accompany us on our lobster eating adventure. The vibe is laid back and with no silverware given (the way I like it!)  we dig into this seaside bounty.

Tasty lil out-of-the-way lobster shack right on the water.

Before this trip I had never eaten a lobster roll in my life.  And truth be told this was actually the main reason I packed my bags & left my house.  A lobster roll aficionado and friend said “Don’t even bother unless the bun is toasted!”  And indeed this was.  A toasty roll, layered with lettuce and as you can see, very large, succulent pieces of lobster bathed in a light mayo dressing.  As you can imagine this was well worth leaving the house for!

Missions eat a lobster roll complete!!

This guys life was not taken in vain, oh no, every bit of him was enjoyed.  And never mind the butter dripping down my chin onto my t-shirt, it can stay there….I’m going in for more.

Dig in, no silverware required!

Lessons learned or confirmed from this trip:

  • Even though people seem to be in romantic relationships with their Iphones it proved to be very helpful in directional assistance.
  • Eating local is where its at!  Maple syrup, ice cream, blueberries and lobster…need I say more?
  • My family is pretty functional!  We enjoyed each others company.
  • Hot tubs are awesome.
  • I still don’t need silverware.
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The Backseat Gourmet-Roadtrip Through The N.E. 7 States in 7 Days!- Part 1 of 2

Let the driving begin- 7 states in 7 days!  I was graciously invited to travel with my step-mom and sisters to journey to uncharted territories.  With ipods charged, the Prius packed and several bags of eat-with-your-hands snacks, our expedition to the north east began.  We had no reservations and no real plan…except to eat.

Road trip snacks! All to be eaten with your hands!  A little bit salty, a little bit sweet and mostly healthy.

Our first stop was on the US side of Niagara Falls in New York.  Of course the main parking area was next to a multi-level mall with (shudder) a food court.  Tourist trap food courts?!…..NEVER!!!  We passed a corner restaurant that looked suitable to our hunger needs and decided the Red Coach Inn would be our dining destination for lunch.

Our first stop in Niagara, New York.

Now I know in my About Me page it says that you will find, clean, fresh, local, organic foods and 99% of the time that will be true.  BUT I just got back from living in Fiji for over 2 years and there are certain things that I have been craving with inexplicable fervor.  One of these things was a reuben sandwich.  And behold on this blessed menu was just such dish.  Yes, I know, you are right.  It’s not local and it’s not really all that healthy either, but they are my rules and if I make ’em then I can break ’em.  Plus,  I’m on vacation in my own country, everything is new again!!  The toasted rye bread is crunchy, the meat is salty, cheese gooey, kraut tangy and the light shmear of thousand island dressing makes my eyes roll back in reuben bliss.

Gooey goodness.

With the weight of the reuben reminding me the next day of why I don’t usually eat that way, on day 2 I suggest a picnic lunch.  Of course I love gourmet, innovative menus, exotic food pairings and layered desserts dripping in syrup.  But honestly I’m even more happy with a good old fashioned picnic.  We ran into the supermarket picked up some fruit, veggies, hummus, olives, avocado and bread and built ourselves a lovely little picnic in the woods of upstate New York.  I like indulging, but not everyday and especially not when I’m sitting on my rear end in a car for hours on end. Keeping it light and local makes me happier.

Picnic lunch in the woods. Fruits and build your own sandwiches. Yum!

On to our next spot, Lake Placid, New York.  The remnants of the Olympic rings still hang and vacationers saunter up and down the main thoroughfare of small boutiques, cafes and shops filled with outdoor gear for the weekend warrior.  My step-mom is an iphone aficionado and was on the ready to look up the latest trip adviser ratings.  And in Lake Placid, Alegria Garden Cafe was the place to be.   The food was inventive, service attentive and ambiance quiet and relaxed.  I ordered the suggested crab cakes with an orange beurre blanc.  They were indeed amazing as our hostess had said.  The crusty cakes were FILLED with shredded crab from edge to edge and the sauce they were nestled in was a creamy, citrusy delight.  Prior to my crab cakes arriving I perused the drink menu and made a tough decision: I narrowed it down to the Ginger Fizz.   Whew!! A punch to the taste buds, the fresh ginger gave my mouth a wallop and the fizz from the Prosecco nearly made me sneeze.  Calling this drink vibrant would be an understatement.  I also tried the Pisco Sour….its a good thing I wasn’t driving….there was no shortage of liquor there.  Check out the ingenuity of this drink menu, make them at home (but call me up to taste test first!)

Make it yourself!!

After New york we moved on to Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts!  Check out where we went and what we ate on my next post.  I’ll give you a hint…..maple syrup, Ben and Jerry’s factory, wild blueberries and lobster!! (but not all mixed together : )

The Happy Haitian-Skillet Fish, Dirty Rice & Fried Plantains

You can take the girl (me) out of the islands but you can’t take the islands out of the girl.  I met with a friend from Haiti who is also a fellow salsa dancing-foodie, for the afternoon at the market and in the kitchen.  I’ve never been to the Caribbean but the food sounded similar to Fiji and to be honest I’ve been feeling a little Fiji home sick.  So off to the market we went to buy a whole fish (heads are yummy!), plantains, a coconut (yeah!) and our culinary accoutrements.

My Happy Haitian Friend, Anderson, teaching me some Caribbean cooking techniques.

While scraping my first coconut in America (awesome!) my friend prepped the fish.  Generously rubbing it with lime juice and swimming in a blend of green pepper, green onion and garlic, it quick cooked in the skillet while our dirty Haitian rice was simmering away.  I have never had rice like this before.  An unusual grey hue and full of flavor- why? Dried mushrooms.  The dried mushrooms are reconstituted in water and the rice is cooked in the shroomy water sans fungus.  Then in goes lima beans, shredded coconut and cilantro making it super vibrant and earthy!

Scoring the fish helps it from curling in the heat of the pan and it gives you a place to put more juice.  Rub that lime in!!

Our side for this most tasty Haitian lunch was…wait for it….fried plantains.  I don’t usually do a lot of deep fried foods but these are a guilty pleasure.  I don’t feel too bad though (not at all actually) because the rest of the meal is so healthy and  light.

Frying plantains using a traditional plantain masher.

Anderson used an interesting technique which included frying the sliced plantains on both sides, smashing them, then dipping them in salted water before they get fried a second time to give them that exquisite crispness. Upon my salted water inquiry his response was that it helps it from getting too dry. Duh.

I know they’re fried but they are so delicious!!

Citrusy fish, dirty Haitian rice and beans, fried plantains and sliced avocado- I’m happy to be kicking back island style in Cleveland.

Doesn’t get more Caribbean then that.

Haitian Skillet Fish

1 1-1.5 lb whole snapper (or other hearty white fish), scored on both sides

2 limes

1 medium onion, sliced into rounds

2 garlic cloves

1/2 small green pepper, core removed and roughly chopped

2 green onions

Sea salt to taste

Sauce:

Add garlic, green pepper, green onions and a pinch of salt in a blender or food processor with enough water to make it blend and form a thick but slightly watery paste.  Set aside.

Fish:

Slice limes in half and rub every square inch of the fish inside and out with lime juice.  Salt fish inside and out.  Place fish in a skillet (cut in half if needed to fit)  add 1/2 cup of green pepper sauce and sliced onions to the pan.  Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes then flip and cover for the remainder of the cooking for another 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness.  Add cilantro for garnish if desired.  Then put on some Caribbean tunes and dance!