Monday, September 11, 2006

Weekend in New England (Fanilows, HOLLA!)

If there is anything more wonderful than autumn in New England, I sure don't know what it might be (well...except for Disneyland any time of year--but it's neck-in-neck)! You know, when you get depressed about your life and how things aren't working out exactly as you planned, it's time to remind yourself that not everyone can just decide on a given Sunday to take a road trip through the glory that is Vermont in the fall, through the backroads and rural byways, where another postcard image greets you around each bend in the road. And that's just what we did this past Sunday. The back story is that I have been on a chicken quest lately. I keep a small backyard flock, and some of my girls are just getting too old to lay faithfully, so it was time to add to the clan. I don't hatch my own eggs as I don't have a rooster, and furthermore, I don't have the heart to "dispatch" all of the extra cockerels that result. And as I only have room for about a dozen birds, I can't order chicks from a hatchery as I don't have separate quarters for a chick nursery, plus, I can't handle 25 of them, which is the minimum order (to preserve their body heat in transit). So I usually buy a few hens each year at local fairs. But there were barely any for sale this year at the Franklin County Fair in Malone, NY, and one family bought out the whole joint (more than 30 birds!) at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction, VT two weeks ago. In short, I was out of luck chicken-wise, and it seemed that all hope was lost. But then I heard about a poultry swap to be held in Berlin, VT (near Barre and Montpelier). SCORE! I managed to acquire six new pullets, including an Ameraucana that lays blue eggs, an "Easter Egger" mix that lays green, two Salmon Faverolles that lay pink, and a barred Cochin and a Silver-Spangled Hamburg that lay plain old brown eggs, but are just so darn pretty themselves! In anticipation of our autumnal adventure/Chicken Quest, I packed a lunch for us that, I now realize, seems highly inappropriate. I made the most wonderful chicken salad sandwiches inspired by a recipe from one of my very favorite blogs . Blue cheese and walnuts in chicken salad? Inspired, I say! I made mine with a pre-fab deli chicken, so this is very quick and easy, and it makes a lot--enough for lunches every day of a busy work week. Here's the basic recipe, but feel free to add and delete things according to your own tastes and what you have on hand:

Blue Cheese and Walnut Chicken Salad

one whole roasted deli chicken, skinned, boned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted (do NOT be tempted to skip this step...you'll be sorry)
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/4-1/2 onion, finely chopped (to taste)
3/4-1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I prefer whole-grained)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (you can use regular balsamic, but you will turn everything a somewhat unappetizing greyish-purple)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon celery salt (omit in favor of chopped fresh celery if you have that)
salt and pepper to taste

Other possible additions: one chopped apple OR some halved red grapes, and any fresh herb(s) that floats your boat

After the poultry swap, we travelled on to tiny Marshfield, VT, to check out a bakery that some friends at work raved about called Rainbow Sweets. When we arrived, we realized that we had already been there some years ago, when we were travelling along route 2 on our way to either New Hampshire or perhaps Maine. And though a bit (ok, more than a bit!) overpriced, the pastries are excellent and the baker-owner is a real character who is worth the price of admission by himself! We were lucky enough to be there on a Sunday when he makes cherry-cheese Danish, so we bought two of those, along with a slice of a gorgeous fresh blueberry torte layered with pastry cream and whipped cream, and also two of the most amazing St. Honore pastries. His version had a puff pastry round on the bottom and a couple of caramel-covered cream puffs on top (like you would use to form a croquembouche--G.J., feeling you here!), with everything glued together with sweetened whipped heavy cream. INCREDIBLE! We had our eye on some of his decadent chocolate desserts, too, but as our bill for five pastries was already almost $21, we stopped there. But if you ever find yourself in Marshfield, VT, it's definitely worth stopping in.

Our final stop before we had to get the chickens back home to New York was lovely Cabot, VT, just another four miles or so beyond Marshfield, and home to the world-famous Cabot Creamery. We got a gander at their massive cheesemaking plant and sampled all of their products before purchasing some of their Private Stock sharp cheddar (very sharp, complex flavor), some Mild Reserve cheddar (great nutty finish!), a flavorful garlic and fine herbes cheddar, a habanero cheddar (yowie!), and their newest creation--Harpoon Cheddar, flavored with Harpoon IPA (India Pale Ale). That ought to keep us in cheese for another week or so...tee hee.

So that was another fabulous fall weekend in New England. And now, the apples are coming in, so stay tuned for the next tale of autumnal splendor coming soon!

1 comment:

Domestic Chicky said...

*Sigh*-I am envying you here from California-but I do live at the foot of one of the neatest little towns that grows an amazing variety of apples...and subsequently my favorite place for pie. But I think I would trade that for New England. I think maybe Disneyland at Christmas time might be as good...