Just so you know: I ate at least one waffle per day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. At least one, because Jean kept bringing out more and more waffles, cut into quarters, "for the table." Oh the melted butter. Oh the powdered sugar. Oh the Vermont Grade Fancy nearly-clear syrup that seemed to crystallize on each individual square.
Not to mention the giant cheese plates we ate every night, or the endless supply of bourbon and apple cider, or the eight kinds of dessert available to us every night beginning with Thanksgiving. Eight. It was a Salute to Pie
, of sorts:
- Mince pie
- Apple pie
- Apple Cheddar Crumble pie
- Pecan pie
- Chocolate Mousse pie
- Chocolate Roll Cake (aka Buche de Noel)
- Ice cream and various sorbets, available with any of the above as well as alone
- Hot cocoa, available with any of the above as well as alone
Plus many types of seasonal beers from McNeill's Brewery in Brattleboro. Plus the Thanksgiving dinner itself, including turkey (Jean made three of them for 17 people, all of which were local and one of which was even Slow Food Certified!), two kinds of cranberry sauce, sourdough bread and rolls, sweet potatoes with apples, stuffing with dried cherries, cranberries and apricots as well as pecans, three kinds of bread including hot dog buns, chestnuts, and who knows what else, all cooked in the bird, brussels sprouts, cream of shiitake soup, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. The only thing missing was pumpkin pie, which was NOT made by Jean upon special request by Ham. Evidently he hates it. He is insane.
We ate that Thanksgiving dinner for two nights, waffles and bacon for three breakfasts, and had another enormous dinner of Thanksgiving proportions on Saturday night.
Aside from the eating, or perhaps enhanced by the eating, it was one of the most idyllic weekends I have ever had. We walked down to the co-op in Brattleboro on Friday and bought bulk goods. We bought books at a book sale benefiting a literacy group. We saw the Harry Potter movie. We got snowed in on Saturday and sat in the living room in front of the fire all day, reading, talking or not talking, napping, drinking cider, and eventually venturing out into the still-falling snow for a refreshing walk down to Marlboro College and back. We cleaned the kitchen and set tables. We tucked ourselves into bed under old quilts and had strange dreams due to our overeating. We listened to teakettles whistle.
On Sunday, Andy and I visited his friend Christian, who gave us yet more cider, took us on a snow hike all around his property (with a red barn on it), and came with us to Mass MoCA
, which had a Mark Dion piece on exhibit that made my year. It is called Library for the Birds of Massachusetts
and consists of a black steel aviary, a reconstructed tree, many bags and hats hung from the tree's branches, a fantastic selection of books that foreign birds might need in order to make their way in the Wilds of Massachusetts, and many adorable tiny live finches making their homes, tearing pages out of the books and dragging them around, taking naps together, flying all over the place. It was the BEST!
Then we had dinner at the Gramercy Bistro
in North Adams with Christian and his friends Monika, Joy, and Joyce, and I ate some sweetbreads, and then Andy and I drove home along small and quiet back roads in the snow, looking out at the Christmas-lighted houses that reflected off of the glowing white yards and trees. I love New England! I love the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I love everything!
And also to mention
1. We tailgated at the Haahvahd-Yale game on Saturday. We brought clam dip made from a recipe in The WASP Cookbook
and Martini fixings, but no one seemed in the mood for gin at 10:00 a.m. At least not in our grownup tailgate area. Over in the undergrad area, where tailgating energy has been pent up for an entire football season, they had probably already consumed at least a bottle of gin per capita by then. The crowd was everything you imagine a tailgating crowd at the Yale Bowl to be. Mink coats, pearls, duck shoes. I wore my "go-to-hell" orange pants with embroidered bees on them just to be in the spirit of things.
Photo by Jen.
2. I sliced a pretty good chunk out of my finger the other day while making this
delicious eggplant recipe. Fortunately it was a very, very sharp knife that made a very, very clean cut. Unfortunately it means that I am a little knife-shy at the moment and am very glad to not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner, for the first time in many, many years.
3. Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, thanksbegiven to Harry and Jean Boardman, who are our hosts at the Whetstone Inn in Marlboro, Vermont this weekend. They are Ham's parents and have agreed to feed us (and Siobhan and Jeff) in exchange for keeping their son out of trouble after the big meal. Even more than a giant turkey feast in a Colonial inn, though, I am excited about breakfast the morning after. You really have not lived well until you have eaten one of Jean Boardman's waffles, served with two pitchers: one of warm maple syrup from the tree out back; one of melted butter. Andy described her waffles as being like the first time you eat a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut and suddenly an entire new world of doughnut possibility opens up before you. If I could pick a day of last meals, Jean's waffle would be among the breakfast offerings. I am getting weak just typing this, so I'll stop now. Drool. Droooool.
Last night we went over to Ted and Sonya's house for a delicious summery dinner of meatloaf patties and Zucchini Appetizer and most of a bottle of Sambuca. It was a particularly appropriate dinner given that once we went outside, we realized that the first furtive snowflakes of the season were falling. This morning when I got up, I found the cats at the window, totally transfixed. Now it's stopped, and it is a gorgeous clear crisp sunny day, but the earlier flurries put me in mind of one of my favorite excerpts from Anne Sexton:
I am younger each year
at the first snow.
When I see it,
suddenly, in the air,
all little and white and moving;
Then I am in love again
and very young
and I believe everything.
Eating Like a Stuck Pig
Despite Northwest's complete reaming of our travel schedule, changing my beautiful nonstop reservation to one that included TWO LAYOVERS between here and Little Rock, it was not so bad getting there. Corky's BBQ
of Memphis has a branch in the Memphis airport (as does Interstate BBQ), so we looked forward to a big rib lunch there. It wasn't as good as the set we had in Memphis proper -- these had a sauce on them instead of a dry rub -- but who are we to complain? We live in Connecticut! These were the first ribs we'd had since February! They made the long journey much easier to bear.
When we got off the plane, we jumped into the rental car and headed for Hot Springs, where we had heard of a magical place called McClard's
. They are renowned for their barbeque, but we had heard of a specialty of theirs called a "Whole Spread" -- two hot tamales (different than the filling-wrapped-in-masa kind -- in these, the filling is mixed with the masa, then steamed) on a plate, covered in chopped beef, Fritos, onion, and cheddar cheese. This came accompanied by half a packet of Saltines. They make a "Half Spread", too, with one tamale, but we foolishly thought that since there were two of us, a Whole Spread made more sense. WRONG.
We couldn't finish it, but we tried hard. Our 80-something waitress kept coming over to refill our iced tea and make sure we had enough of everything. I was literally WOLFING this down -- remember, I had ribs a mere two hours earlier -- because I wanted to make sure I got my share before Andy could annex any. We were wordlessly fighting by swallowing much too quickly, dumping McClard's own incredibly delicious barbeque sauce all over the mess, shoving more and more of it into our mouths, nabbing the moistest morsels of tamale for ourselves. It was one of the best meals I have ever had, in one of the warmest and most comfortable settings. This was by far the high point of our trip.
We waddled back to the car after buying two bottles of the sauce (for $3.50 apiece! I LOVE ARKANSAS! It is so cheap to eat there!!!) and drove as fast as we could to Mena (where Andy's brother's wedding was to take place) so we could make the, um, dinner reservation that Andy's mom had changed to fit our schedule. Needless to say, we couldn't eat anything. I ate a salad, but that was it.
The next morning, we drove with several relatives up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park
so we could have breakfast on top of the mountain. They had a breakfast buffet -- words that I usually cringe over, thinking of rubbery eggs and limp sausage links -- but for $5.95 (!!!!!!) I didn't complain. And I needn't have worried -- Arkansans know how to eat breakfast. I had:
- one and a half biscuits with cream gravy
- several strange fried potato patty things that had clearly been fried in lard, they were so crisp and salty and perfect
- deep-fried french toast sticks
- several pieces of very thin and crispy bacon
- grapefruit (as penance)
They also had a dessert buffet -- all you could eat for $2.25. I will post photos of the amazing rainbow of creamy desserts as soon as our computer at home starts working again. They must be seen to be believed. I didn't eat any, though, because I knew that that night was the Hoedown (aka rehearsal dinner), catered by a Texas camp chef who had been smoking his brisket for two days. I had to save some room. Often when I travel, I get a little bit... overfull... because things do not move the way they should. Ahem.
I have to say that the rest of the weekend was kind of a blur, with the hoedown, the wedding, the reception, the quick evacuation of Mena, the later discovery that we had evacuated just in time because a couple of hours after we left, a TORNADO touched down one mile south of Mena. Sheesh. Anyway, here is what we ate the rest of the time in Arkansas:
- smoked brisket
- amazing and delicious and incredible smoked chicken
- smoked kielbasa
- potato salad
- baked beans
- cole slaw
- peach cobbler
- large quantities of iced tea and coffee
- beer smuggled into the dry county from across the border in Oklahoma
- more biscuits and gravy
- green chile omelette
- hash browns (all consumed in a very, VERY smoky diner called the Skyline Cafe, which had been serving breakfast since 1922. The waitress told us not to believe anything we overheard because seated right behind us were several members of the Liars' Table.)
Then the wedding reception, which was utterly unlike any other wedding reception I have ever attended. No alcohol, no music. No dancing, no toasting. Baptists. Again, photos to come:
- macaroni salad
- broccoli and grape salad
- chicken salad (all salads mayonnaise-based)
- two homemade cheese balls: one ham and black olive; one pineapple-pecan
- German chocolate cake in shape of football
- white wedding cake in shape of normal wedding cake
Then Little Rock, where we could once again consume beer (too much of it, in my case) without feeling like criminals, at a restaurant chosen out of desperation in Little Rock's Riverwalk district:
- fried artichoke hearts
- artichoke and spinach dip
- grouper sandwich (left French fries uneaten)
- too much beer
Then hangover food the next day:
- Frappuccino (this really is the miracle cure, folks)
- half a pulled pork sandwich from Interstate BBQ in the Memphis airport
- half a seven-layer burrito from Taco Bell in the Detroit airport
- diet Pepsi
- several packets of powdered aspirin
Then I came home and ate four frozen Potato Latkes from Trader Joe's and another apple. My stomach is a bottomless pit. You don't have to tell me -- I'm already on my way to the gym. Right now. Ugh.
First two gray hairs spotted 11/13/05 11:30 a.m. in women's room at Little Rock National Airport. Confirmed by Andy 11:32 a.m.
Oh, why were we in Little Rock, you ask? Andy's brother's wedding in Mena, Arkansas, the day previous. Much barbeque was consumed. Stay tuned.
Le Michelin New-Yorkquoise
Thank goodness they have come out with a Michelin Guide to NYC restaurants
. It is so nice to be able to consult something with a fresh, outside perspective, instead of having to rely solely on the loyalties and prejudices of New Yorkers themselves in the Zagat Guide (hello, Carmine's?). I have to admit to some small heart-sinking when I saw two things: That Le Bernardin got three stars, and that the Spotted Pig got one. I love the Spotted Pig so much and am now afraid I will never be able to get a seat there. And Le Bernardin is another example of my stupid and ridiculous reverse-snobbery -- I always felt like it was one of those restaurants that I would go to sometime, that was slightly off the radar because it had been going quietly about its perfect business for so long.... and now, BIG PUBLICITY! But oh well. I will still go there someday. And will toast Eric Ripert.
Jen has already seen this list, but here are the fancy restaurants in New York that I most want to go to next -- a list I have been keeping for a while, but now it seems timely that I should record it somewhere other than the post-it note on my computer:
Al Di La (Janine's favorite Italian in New York)
Public (for the interiors, not necessarily the food)
Le Bernardin (because I love fish)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (because I like what they are doing)
Megu (for the spectacle)
Babbo (because Jen has recommended it so highly)
Annissa (because I have heard great things about it, and also she beat Mario Batali on Iron Chef America!)
Esca (also for the fish)
Norma's (for what is, according to Siobhan, the ultimate breakfast ever)
Wallse (because I love Cafe Sabarsky and Wallse sounds like it is even better)
The Odeon (because I have such intense never-lived-through-it nostalgia for the Bright Lights, Big City era of New York)
Jewel Bako (because Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar was so good)
This is not to mention all of the small ethnic places I want to go. Nor any of the places I have never heard of. Nor any wonderful places I want to go back to. Every time I look at Time Out New York
, I am totally overwhelmed by all of the new restaurants that are in town. So overwhelmed that I just continue to go to places that I know of, that were in New York 10 years ago and are still there now. As Siobhan put it so well, it is exhausting being fabulous. It is true. It is exhausting to try to keep up with every new thing in NYC, and perhaps it is for that reason that Le Bernardin so deserves its three stars: they never tried to keep up, because they just knew all along that they were the best cooks.