Monday, April 14, 2008

Coming out of hibernation...

I begin, as I often do, with an apology. I have been remiss in blogging for two weeks--SHEESH! After the onslaught of midterms, I was in Orlando for nearly a week for the annual PBGV National (dog show and conference). Don't be jealous--the weather there was awful. It was dreadfully hot and muggy the first few days, and then they had torrential downpours after that. I was actually pleased to come home to nicer weather. When I left, there was still snow on the ground, but when I got back to Burlington (VT), I actually sat outside in the sunshine--without a sweater, mind you--waiting for my ride home from the airport. We have had 60-degree days since, and darn near got to 70 one day last week! Nevertheless, I managed to contract a nasty virus and have been battling a severe cold for four or five days now. All of this to say, I haven't had much to blog about, culinarily-speaking.

However, I wasn't going to let some nagging pestilence keep me from one of my favorite annual outings to the maple pancake breakfast at Sanger's Sugar House. It's held one weekend in April during the peak of sugaring season as the main fund raiser for a local square dancing group. It's $6.50 for all-you-can-eat pancakes and warm, fresh maple syrup, with sausages, applesauce, and either white or chocolate milk. Extra sausage will cost you 50 cents (for two) and an extra milk is a quarter (we opt for both!). It's funny, because even though it's the quintessential spring-welcoming event, it always feels like fall. Everyone bundles up to stand in line to get into a large tent lined with hay and made extra-cozy from big, portable heat-blowers. Then some kindly menfolk cook you up some grub, while the women and children run around, dishing up seconds when you're ready for them. Now that's my idea of a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!
After our pancake brunch, it was so nice to be out of the house, that we decided to continue to shake off our cabin fever with a little road trip north to some of our favorite Canadian haunts. But first, we stopped stateside at Conroy's Organics to pick up some of their own ground beef and the first greens of the season (greenhouse-grown, but still fresh and local!), then to Giroux's Poultry Farm for a flat of eggs, and then to the new bakery in Chazy for a huge loaf of bread. Finally, we headed across the border to the German butcher (Charcuterie/Metzgerei Frick) in Lacolle for their homemade sausages; we chose some called Oktoberfest, some Garlic Polish, and some Swiss that had beautiful black casings and Emmenthaler cheese inside. We also picked up a pint of homemade sauerkraut and a bag of imported spaetzle. I feel a German dinner coming on...

From Lacolle, we headed east to Noyan to our favorite cheesemaker, Fritz Kaiser. And boy, were we surprised! The last time we were there, they were selling cheese out of a carport-type structure, and now they have a big, fancy new building! And despite the early season, it was packed with tourists visiting stop #11 on the Circuit du Paysan. We bought a number of different cheeses, including: Noyan, Port Royal, St-Paulin (semi-soft), Clos St-Ambroise (beer-washed), Cristalia (with garlic and parsley), and Le Douanier (a Canadian Grand Champion cheese transversed by a gorgeous ribbon of bleu).

Finally, we headed west back towards Hemmingford and stopped at our faithful butcher (Abbatoir Viau) in Covey Hill for some bacon, ham, and smoked meat (that's a Canadian version of pastrami to the uninitiated), all smoked on the premises. At last, depleted of funds and the will to make any more stops, we transported our tasty bounty back over the border. When we got home, Cyd unloaded the car and put everything away while I mucked out the long-neglected chicken coop (now that you can get back there without having to skate on a vast and treacherous sheet of ice!). Then I had just enough time for a quick shower before heading into town to perform in the Champlain Valley Oratorio Society's spring concert, The Great American Songbook, featuring the works of Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin. Now that was great fun! In fact, so much so, that I hope we do a "Part II" in Spring '09.

So all in all, an excellent, most delicious day, and a fitting welcome to the new season!

1 comment:

Randi said...

wow, that picture of the pancake breakfast looks like it could be in one of my local towns( although I've never seen real maple syrup at a fireman's breakfast, we always bring our own)

I take it you dont have any problems bringing meat back over the border? A friend just told me she had a can of beef veg soup( she's a trucker) confiscated when she was entering the US.