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.

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 : )

New Zealand…they have more than kiwis!!

What does one eat when they go to New Zealand you ask?  Well, everything you can’t get in Fiji of course.  I started by eating my way through the produce section of the local market…. cherries, apricots, nectarines, strawberries and kiwi.

I wanted to cook for my host so I whipped up a brunch of lumberjack proportions & this was the menu:

Omelet with sauteed onions and zucchini

Oatmeal with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam

Fruit salad of nectarines, apricots and kiwi with a lemon juice and local honey drizzle 

I miss zucchini people, I don’t know why exactly but I go for it straight away when I can get it.  I sauté the onions and zucchini low and slow so they get soft and creamy versus burnt and crispy. The fruit salad speaks for itself, bright and tart, the honey rounds it out.  The strawberry rhubarb jam was created on the fly when I walked through a market and saw this most delightful rhubarb begging to be used.  It just so happened strawberries were on sale so the jam-idea was born.  The recipe is stupidly easy & requires no skill or technique whatsoever.  See recipe below for said tangy treat.

The brunch coming together. Strawberry Rhubarb Jam is left, fruit salad middle.

The next thing I couldn’t wait to get my hands on were the New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels.  I have had these many times before in the US and they are known globally for being some of the best in the world.  I bought some in bulk for $3.49 per kg….for those of you not familiar with the metric system that’s a meager $1.59 per pound. Score!!  A bowl of a dozen of these in a mid-range restaurant in the US is easily $18.  High 5 local seafood!!  You can make these mollusks a million different ways, but I’m a purest so I like mine steamed, straight up with nothing or at most a splash of lemon.  These were delectable.  Moist and tender, they were bathed in its own broth tasting of warm sea water, briny, mild and smooth.   The inner shell is a multi-hued mother of pearl.  This was a budget masterpiece fit for a queen.  Hands down the BEST mussels I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

The Famed New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels

New Zealand and especially Auckland is hugely ethnically diverse which makes the foodie VERY happy.  I saw kebabs, Indian, Italian and even an organic African restaurant all in one short drive.  One of the things I miss most in Fiji is hummus.  Can’t get enough of that delicious Mediterranean dip! When I was in Dunedin I asked my local host “Where’s the best kebab place?”  He replied, “Oh yeah, let’s go there now.”  A minuscule, cramped joint, but it had all the fix’ns & I was ready to build a masterpiece of meat.  I ordered the lamb kebab and after chatting with the hand-rolled cigarette smelling Turkish owner for a few minutes I think he was ready to take me back to his home country.  No worries, I used that to my advantage and out of the corner of my eye and with a gentle smile asked for extra hummus and a generous splash of the special sauce (which I later found out was a not-so-special mix of ketchup and mayo).  He obliged.  I ate it warm, parked along the beach while I watched the heavy winds push the seagulls backward.

Lamb kebab!! Sorry, I couldn't help myself before I took the picture.

And finally, the coffee.  I’m not a “don’t-talk-to-me-until-I-have-my-morning-cup-of-coffee” person.  I’m more of a “don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-meditated” kind of person.  However, over the years I have learned to enjoy the distinct flavor of a quality roasted bean.  In Fiji all you get is instant so when I land in a place that loves coffee I’m drinking it.  Even the gas stations make each cup of coffee from scratch; there wasn’t even the option of having the dreaded, disappointing cup of “drip” coffee.   But of course, you can’t drink your coffee alone, it must be accompanied by a tasty treat.  A scone, caramel slice, cookie or anything sweet, creamy, buttery, crunchy or all of the above.  I stopped for an afternoon pick-me-up in Queenstown at an outdoor café to people watch and sip a rocket-fuel strong cup of “long-black”, meaning espresso with a splash of hot water in it.   I want to taste the flavor of the bean, so I like it black, no sugar and definitely no frilly flavored cream…(shuuuuderrrr)….. I also ordered a florentine, a very thin, crisp cookie made with honey, sugar, sliced almonds and candied fruit; the underside of the cooled confection was coated with dark chocolate.  Yeah, I know, not exactly “clean eating” but I’ve got one word for you: vacation.

Enjoying the view with a long black and a florentine cookie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

1 pint strawberries, quartered with green tops removed

2 stalks rhubarb, chopped into ¼ inch pieces

1 cinnamon stick

½ cup brown sugar

2 tblsp water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat covered over medium heat stirring occasionally.  It will begin to breakdown and thicken.  Cook until thickened completely about 15-25 minutes.  Let cool and remove cinnamon stick before storing.  Store refrigerated if by some unlikely chance you have leftovers.

I also turn this into a crumble.  Take cooked strawberry rhubarb mixture and pour in a small pie dish.  Top with a mixture of oats, sugar, cinnamon and cut in butter.  Pour over top and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees or until browned on top and bubbling.