Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel

A Gastronomic haven in Vermont

I do not make six figures a year but I get compensated with so many wonderful experiences through the people I meet in my food career.  Last weekend, my colleagues and I made a 3 day trip to Vermont, making a visit to a cheese cellar, in time for maple syrup sapping season, beer tasting and to burn it all, well partially off the calories with cross country skiing.

March 18, 2011 (Day 1 Saint Johnsbury & Greensboro, Vermont)

Our weekend getaway started with us meeting at 5:30am on the Upper East Side.  The 6 of us included Lisa and Orion (who drove us), Ava, Alen, Avery and me.  After 6 hours drive from New York City, we made a stop in St. Johnsbury for lunch at Dylan’s Cafe, which recently reopened in an old US Post Office building.  It was a typical lunch spot with sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads on the menu selection.  As soon as we had replenished we made our way to Greensboro, Vermont to visit Cellars at Jasper Hill which was how the trip to Vermont had conceived.  Through the scenic drive in the mud terrain where most of Vermont was still coated with snow and a hint of Spring in the air and passing through barns to farms, we arrived to Cellars of Jasper Hill Farm.  This is where their award winning Cabot Clothbound Cheddar was created, along with my personal favorites the Landaff and Constant Bliss cheese are made.  We started with the tour given by cheese resident expert Vince Razionale, with the “Man Cave” where the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar ages.  This is the pride and soul of Cellars of Jasper Hill and it is an incredible space with giant wheels of cheese after wheels stacked neatly in rows. The cheesemongers at Cellars of Jasper Hill takes a lot of care into a fine aged cheese with precise graphic charts that measures its acidity, ph, temperature and all that mad science.  What is delicious and admirable about Cellars of Jasper Hill is the Jasper Hill Farm works with many local creamery and farms in Vermont to collaborate in making the cheese, such as the Cabot Clothbound Chedder with Cabot Creamery or provide the cellars as a space to age the Landaff with Landaff Creamery and the Oma with Von Trapp Creamery.   The idea of small businesses working with small businesses and the collaborative efforts is truly inspiring.

For the weekend, our friends from Jasper Hill Farm generously accommodated us with lodging at a nearby inn.  That evening we were given the recommendation for dinner at a local popular hangout pizza bar, Parker Pie Co. in West Glover.  It was essentially the only place still lively at 7pm or really the only place in town.  With a little general store in the front which the selection was very scattered and felt like a popup shop, though their trail mix of peanuts and raisins are pretty good.  We ordered three medium pies: a Pizza Margherita, a Buffalo Chicken Pizza and a Green Mountain Special.  So, what is the Green Mountain Special you may ask?  Well, it’s a cleverly well executed Vermont Maple syrup pizza.  By maple syrup it’s not drowned in maple syrup like pancakes would but more of a drizzle and everything is better with Bacon!  And of course some green spinach, cheddar, and red onions.  The pizza crust was thin and outstanding.  Parker Pie definitely have a chance to compete with the big boys in New York City.  Who would have known something so delicious exist in such a rural suburbia Vermont?!

March 19, 2011 (Day 2 Craftsbury Common, West Glover, & Hardwick, Vermont)

We woke up to a fresh coat of thinly layered snow!  Which was perfect for cross country skiing at the Craftsbury Common and the amazing deal is with rentals and entry only came to $15 per person.  It’s so nice to ski in real snow and in Vermont!  We later made our way to a family owned farmed with sugar maple trees in time for maple syrup tapping season at Ledgenear Farm. Located in the woods where all the trees had thin blue tubes through every tree and where the maple syrup gradually drips into a center port that collects the syrup.  This is the twenty-first century method and “supposedly” a much more efficient method in comparison to the drill and pail.  Once the syrup is collected it gets boiled in an impressive massive boiler in a boiling hut.  This was where the commencement of maple syrup sapping tapping boiling with family, friends and four legged friends party was held.  Beer, plain donuts to be dipped with maple syrup, maple candy, and more cheese this included the winter special Cellars of Jasper Hill, Winnimere.  With 30 minutes to spare we made a quick stop at an up and coming beer craft brewery, Hill FarmStead Brewery and best known for the American Pale Ale or aka Edward after the owner’s grandfather.  – Isn’t that sweet!  Sniffles.   That evening, Vince from Cellars of Jasper Hill invited us all over to their house party, a communal gathering of food makers and food lovers for an awesome Landaff cheese (OMG) fondue.  Beer, more cheese and more maple something.  I can get use to this lifestyle.

March 20, 2011 ( Farewell Vermont )

With a 7 hours drive back to New York City ahead of us, we packed and made one last stop at Waitsfield, Vermont for brunch at a spot our friend, Taylor had recommended to us, The Green Cup. For brunch, this place loves their eggs.  Baked eggs in ramekins?!  I went for the more traditional sunny side up but it was a beautiful presentation and it was freshly made with potato hash, chorizo with vibrant colored green slices of avocados and diced tomatoes.  With a side of fresh fruits and slice of Red Hen Baking Co. butter bread toast.  I also ordered an americano with coffee beans roasted by Vermont Bean Company. The cost was comparably the same to New York City but the ingredients are amazingly farm fresh or maybe I am just delusional because I am surrounded by the nature’s beauty of Vermont.

A lovely weekend indeed.  Thank you to our friends in Vermont.

Here is a visual recap of our 3 day trip to Vermont with selected photos courtesy of Alen Agaronov.  For a full album, please visit iluvpotato’s facebook page!  ~ yes now on facebook too.

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Dylan’s Cafe/// 139 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT 05819

Cellars at Jasper Hill /// Greensboro, VT 05841

Parker Pie Co. /// 161 County Rd., West Glover, VT 05875

Ledgenear Farm /// 2342 Andersonville Road West Glover, Vermont 05875

Hill Farmstead Brewery ///403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT 05842

The Green Cup/// 40 Bridge Street, Waitsfield, VT 05673

text and images © iluvpotato

Events, New York City Eats

Just like Grandma’s, Grandmas

For those born in 1986, it’s the year  where we groan we’re a quarter of a century old.  Recently, I went to a movie screening with a demographic survey and I was already out of the age group range from 17 to 24 instead with the age group 25-49, seriously?!  To help us get through the lament of aging, celebrating with friends, family and food is the key.

There’s been a birthday celebration every two weeks.  With my dear friend, Jesse’s birthday this past Friday (March 5th) we celebrated at The Meatball Shop on Lower East Side and we ate meatballs of course!  The Lower East Side  was the neighborhood my parents quickly settled in when they had immigrated to New York City and as they recalled the streets on Orchard or Delancey it was never glamorous.  You can learn the  history of the Lower East Side at the Tenement Museum.  These days the Lower East Side still reminiscence the past through the present cooking of comfort food.  The Meatball Shop is just like your grandmother’s meatballs, though my grandmother is not Italian I can sense if I did have an Italian grandmother, The Meatball Shop will make my grandmother proud.  The restaurant sits probably no more than 50 people with a long communal table and you’re very likely to be seated with strangers next to you.  There was a set of washable pens and a laminated menu and everything on the menu you can customize with a selection of meatballs to go with your choice of sauce to your choice of sides.  I ordered the spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce, yeah!  I was starving so, I ordered a side of risotto and my friend Cynthia highly recommended the mashed potatoes and I love potatoes!  I also went ahead and ordered an ice cream cookie sandwich.  Being that the special ice cream flavor was orange and orange is in it’s peak season I selected that flavor with my choice of cookie, meringue.  I mention the customize your menu but unfortunately not everything is customizable, the waitress thought I was weird, meringue with orange flavored ice cream…honestly I find that combination so much more appetizing than their default choice which was shortbread with orange.  Anyhow, we came for the meatballs and the meatballs we can all agree across the table that it was satisfying.  Each meatball bowl came with 4 meatballs and a foccacia breadstick, we traded each ball and I got a taste of Jesse’s chicken meatball with pesto and Cynthia’s and Michelle’s beef meatball.  It’s so great to have alternative meatballs to choose from.  They were all amazingly consistently sized meatballs and the texture of the meatballs tasted like high quality, healthy meat.  Ashley had a great looking meatball brioche sandwich with a side of delicious fresh arugula salad.  The mashed potatoes as Cynthia had quote and quote “THE BEST!” is THE BEST as far as I can recall.  It tasted like a  baked potato, except no fuss with the skin peeling.  Cleverly in the mashed potatoes were a little bits and pieces of the potato skin in the mashed potatoes and a dash of chive garnished.  It was incredibly light for a potato dish.  We ended with ice cream cookie sandwich dessert with a BYOC (Bring your own candle) and I had tried lighting the candle with the votive candle on the table but accidentally extinguished it.   GO ME!  The waiter kindly lit the candle for us but the cookie was too darn hard, he used a knife to poke a hole through it for the candle to stay put.  Happy Birthday Jesse!

Rewinding back two Fridays ago, February 18th, we celebrated Cynthia’s 25th also in the Lower East Side, revisiting my Pancake binge experience from last year’s pancake month at the Clinton Street Bakery. Somehow, I was not very hungry that day which was very unusual for me and my friends because I am always hungry.  I wanted to try their famous award winning fried chicken or the Maryland crabcakes but I was in the mood for soup and I had opted out on only the tomato-fennel soup with a goat cheese grilled cheese sandwich, which sounds amazing right about now on a rainy day.  I wanted to strategize and did not want to overstuffed myself with the blueberry pancakes and the sides of collard greens and sweet potato fries and biscuits.   My strategy managed to sort of worked, I was still stuffed despite my entree was a soup but my friends on the other hand were all diagnosed with food coma.

Flashback to two weeks earlier, we party out for Jane’s 25th in Koreatown at Pocha 32.  It’s a 2nd floor level restaurant with fish netting and beer bottle caps and random polaroid photos of customers as decor.  Street food is an integral part of the Asian cuisine culture and Pocha 32 brings that scene from Korea to indoor Ktown, NYC.  I’ve been here 3 years ago and was impressed with their squid sizzling platters and the watermelon soju was what really lured me in trying the place out but is not really worth it.  3 years later, the food had disappointingly degraded.  We had ordered a total of 6 distinctive dishes off the menu but somehow it did not appear or taste anything the menu had described it.  If not all at least most of the dishes were slathered with the red sauce, gochujang.  The combination for most dishes were bok choy, squid, and rice cake.  It was not bland for sure and Korean food is ever hardly bland but for most it was over poweringly spicy.  The best dish was the seafood pancake and to help wear off the spiciness that lingered in my mouth, for dessert Ashley bought an awesome box of generously sized macaroons I have ever seen, the size of a burger.

photo taken by: Angela Chen, thanks Angela!

Finally, skipping back two more weeks, a total of six weeks ago, January 28th I had celebrated my 25th with my friends at Brooklyn Bowl. Boy, I’m the most senior in my group.  Oddly, we didn’t bowl since we were too busy eating.  Aside from potatoes, I love fried chicken and bowling and I heard Blue Ribbon is one of the best fried chicken and one of the best it is.  The batter was light, crispy and it was not greasy- which is catered to be bowling friendly. We also ordered the rock n’ roll cheese fries, fried calamari, a greek salad,  an artichoke mac n’ cheese along with the basket of fried chicken.  The food was firework spectacular for a bowling alley/ bar but I was really disappointed with the cover charge fee and the hospitality with the audacity of wanting to charge $2 per person for bringing our own cake (Thanks for the strawberry shortcake Jesse!), plates and forks which I found was outrageous and upsetting,  I almost exploded but eventually the waitress waived it, yeah that’s right!  Thanks to Amy, Angela + Will, Anita, Anneliese, Ashley, Cassandra, Cynthia, Eno+ Tom,  Jane, Jesse, Lauren, Michelle, and Sandra  who came out to Brooklyn on a frigid, snowpocalypse evening.

Aging is not all that depressing, right?  Sort of, well, birthdays is a time to reflect our growth as a person and a celebration of people who surrounds us that has established into sincere friendship.  It’s also a great excuse to dine out.  Next week, we get a taste of  brunch, one of my favorite meals of the week and Ashley’s too.  To being 25 young, cheers.

The Meatball Shop /// 84 Stanton Street New York, NY 10002

Clinton Street Bakery /// 4 Clinton Street New York, NY 10002

Pocha 32 /// 5 W 32nd St # 2 New York, NY 10001

Brooklyn Bowl & Blue Ribbon ///61 Wythe Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211