December 4, 2010
Change. Not always welcome, but inevitable. I usually resist, but am almost always thrilled with the outcome. In this case, it involves coffee – not just any coffee, but our beloved French Market Coffee from New Orleans that we have been serving at our Woodstock Vermont bed and breakfast for the past nine years. This change was in the works for some time.
For many years I would call French Market to order our coffee. A very sweet woman named Michelle would answer, ask me how life is in the village of Woodstock, Vermont, and then take my coffee order. One day Michelle was gone. There was much confusion. Eventually someone on the phone told me that French Market Coffee was sold to Reily Foods, a much bigger company.
Though it was difficult at first, eventually we were assigned a new sales rep. No more sweet conversations with Michelle, but at least we could still get our coffee. That is, until Reily Foods sent us a letter in late August -they would no longer ship us coffee. Not thank you Village Inn of Woodstock for being a loyal customer for nine years, not sorry for the inconvenience, not call us if you have any questions. But, they did give us the name of another supplier, along with the owner’s phone number and e-mail address. Okay, I was a little bit annoyed, but I called the new supplier. The owner answered the phone “hello”, no company name, no introduction. I explained that I’d like to buy coffee. We had a very pleasant conversation, he said that he would send me a price list along with a product listing for everything else that he sells. He asked me to send an e-mail with my contact info. I did that – no response. I followed up with another e-mail – no response. Two more phone calls -neither were returned.
So, French Market is not the most famous coffee in New Orleans. We originally chose French Market just because it is what most of the old line restaurants in New Orleans serve. But, you already know how that story ended.
Enter Cafe Du Monde, the New Orleans institution on Jackson Square. I called them and was immediately transferred to Chris, their wholesale manager. We arranged to meet this past November. It was all quite nice, much like when we first arranged to do business with French Market. A small company, a face and a name that appreciate your business. A welcome change! And an awesome cup o’ joe to complete our Vermont inn’s breakfast. We hope that you agree, we’ll be getting our first shipment from Cafe du Monde in just a few weeks.
October 28, 2010
Feels like forever since I have had a chance to write anything on our blog, we’ve been crazy busy with the fall foliage season. Alas, leaf peeping is about finished, so David and I seized the opportunity last night to try out Woodstock’s newest restaurant, Melaza Caribbean Bistro. Melaza, a Puerto Rican, Cuban & Dominican Fusion restaurant, is just down the street from The Village Inn of Woodstock, right in the Village of Woodstock, Vermont.
We were greeted so warmly by James Van Kirk, one of the owners of the Woodstock restaurant. He has this wonderful energy and a great smile. The place is so full of energy, you can’t help but love it from the second that you walk in. It was great to see how busy they were, especially since it was a Wednesday in a pretty quiet time here in Woodstock.
We chose to sit in the bar, which like the restaurant, is decorated in warm tones evocative of the Caribbean.
The wine list features nice wines starting at about $20.00 a bottle, a bit of a rarity these days. Hard to go wrong with a bottle of Lunetta Prosecco for $21.00. It was the perfect accompaniment for the Caribbean Tapas Sampler, pictured to the left. Sorry, the pictures in the post are not the greatest – camera battery was really low and I was trying to squeak out a few pictures, no room for do-overs.
James said that we should both order the sampler, that it is one of the best small plates on the menu. Neither of us was disappointed, we both enjoyed the different flavors and textures, and were frankly glad that we didn’t have to share.
For entrees, David had the Beef Short Rib, braised in a flavorful tomato cuban creole
sauce, served with garlic mashed potatoes and braised veggies. This was melt in your mouth great, tons of flavor, seasoned just perfectly.
I ordered the Scallops “Veiras” and was equally happy with my selection. Pan seared scallops, served over risotto, with a curry coconut lime sauce, pineapple chutney, and
tamarind glaze. This is where my camera work is awful, but the presentation of the dish was so beautiful that I can’t help but share the photo. The portion was beautiful, not a whole ton of risotto, scallops really were the star, along with the wonderfully tangy sauce.
All entrees are served with a green salad with a refreshing house vinaigrette. I called today to ask what the flavoring is, James said that it is Pomegranate. Nice touch, I must say.
We are thrilled to have such an exciting restaurant join our already wonderful dining scene here in Woodstock, VT. We look forward to returning, and highly recommend that you give Melaza a try on your next visit to our Vermont bed and breakfast!
July 10, 2010
I was going to write just about our 4th of July picnic for this post, but the month has brought other great celebrations to our Woodstock, VT B&B. So first things first, we had a great time hosting our first (maybe annual) picnic for our guests. We thought it would be fun to have a picnic so that our guests would have a chance to enjoy the terrace and relax for just a bit. We were excited that almost all of our guests were able to attend, and enjoy the fruits of our labor – pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad, deviled pickled eggs, roasted chicken salad, and coconut cake. The coconut cake, which is one of David’s favorites, was a last minute addition to the menu. I used to make it for our restaurant many years ago, but couldn’t tell you the last time that I made it just for my poor hubby. Alas, now I can tell you.
We were delighted that our friends Edward Forrest and Randy Paxton, owners of The Little Flower Shoppe and Crystal & Bark Designs, here in Woodstock, were able to join us. They moved to town four years ago, and have been providing us with the most amazing flowers ever since. I’ve never seen the same arrangement twice. They’ve delivered roses countless times to the Village Inn of Woodstock– not once has it been the classic with greens and baby’s breath. This would be far too mundane for them; they do everything with an artist’s eye. The last delivery was this past Monday – it featured brilliant red roses, blue thistles, greens, all in a tall slender vase wrapped in bark that Edward harvested from a fallen birch tree.
The delivery of roses marked another great celebration here at the inn, the first wedding of the season on the terrace. The happy couple stayed with us for just one evening eight years ago, and had dinner in our restaurant at the time. Eight years later, they decided to have their ceremony right here on our terrace, and booked our Wedding / Civil Wedding package. It is such a joy for us to be part of these intimate celebrations, and this case was no different. They arrived as guests, and left as friends, and we feel so blessed that they chose to celebrate their love here at our inn. We are looking forward to another wedding this coming week, welcoming our former guests and friends back to our Woodstock, Vermont Inn. And, I must say that I’m excited to see the flowers, which are being provided by The Little Flower Shoppe. Hopefully this time I’ll remember to take pictures and post them!
June 25, 2010
David and I had a great day canoeing on the Connecticut River yesterday. That sounds funny to me, since we were in Vermont and New Hampshire, but the Connecticut River is actually the biggest river in New England. It runs south from the Connecticut Lakes in New Hampshire, along the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, into western Massachusetts, then Connecticut and finally into the sea. The kind folks at North Star Canoe Rentals invited us to be their guests, which we did yesterday.
Before we started our canoe trip, we stopped by to visit Jake Henne. He’s the owner of Green Mountain Smokehouse, which is just down the road a bit from North Star Canoe. In our world, all things pork come from Jake – hickory smoked bacon, Vermont maple breakfast sausage, and maple cured ham. In addition to the things that we use for breakfast, he makes many other kinds of sausages, beer brats for Long Trail Ale and Harpoon Brewery, smoked pork chops, corned beef, smoked turkey and chicken, and several other goodies. Always on the lookout for new things to serve at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast, we discovered that Jake makes his own corned beef. This was great news to us, since we made our own last fall, unaware that Jake could spare us from ourselves. It was also great to hear that Harpoon Brewery is a big supporter of Jake, using his turkey, ham, bacon and corned beef (more on that later).
Our time to start our trip had arrived, so off we went to meet the nice folks at North Star Canoe Rental.
Once there, you sign a liability waiver, then they help you select the correct size paddle, provide you with a life jacket, and then drive you to your start point. We chose the shorter trip, which is 4 miles long, and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours – unless you are with my over-achiever husband – and then it takes only 1 hour and 15 minutes, with a pretty decent head wind. In any event, the trip is just beautiful. The scenic stretch of moving “flat water” is beautiful, taking you under the Cornish-Windsor bridge, which has a 449’5″ span, making it the longest covered bridge in the country. Once we were safely back at North Star, we were a little bit thirsty from the
speedy paddling that we did.
Luckily, Harpoon Brewery just happens to be on the way back home to the Inn. What a great time – we started off with a UFO Hefeweizen beer, enjoyed the company of Jo the awesome bartender, and then had some great food – beer battered onion rings, the good fat kind where you can taste the onion (we’re not going to talk about the great greasy feeling on your lips). We followed up the onion rings with a Rueben . How nice to have great bar food done just right – Green Mountain Smokehouse corned beef, layered with homemade sauerkraut, Swiss cheese
and thousand island dressing. And all served on fresh onion rye from Stone Arch Bakery in nearby Claremont, NH. This confirmed our suspicions about the corned beef from Green Mountain Smokehouse – no need to make our own. Jake is the master. Tender, tasty, just enough fat, excellent.
With just a bit of time to spare, we went off to visit the Simon Pearce factory that is just a few hundred yards from Harpoon Brewery. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the Path of Life Sculpture Garden, which is a public sculpture garden whose eighteen works of art symbolize the circle of life. We’ll have to make a return visit, and perhaps check out Great River Outfitters, located right next door, for another canoe trip. In any event, I highly recommend visiting these sights when you visit us at our Woodstock, Vermont Bed and Breakfast, it was a great way to spend the day.
June 10, 2010
Let me just start out by saying that pickled eggs are not something that I grew up with, and don’t worry, we don’t serve them for breakfast at our Woodstock VT bed & breakfast. David, on the other hand did, and he has always loved the purple vinegary beasts. The first time that I tried one I couldn’t imagine what there is to like about this – a rubbery, vinegary, hard-boiled egg. David looked almost relieved that he wouldn’t have to share with me.
Fast forward a few years. I still can’t figure out why he is so happy to eat these things, but I give it another try. The first bite intrigues me. Exactly as I remembered, vinegary, a little bit rubbery, but somehow I’m really into it. I’ve been hooked ever since. It used to be that David only got to have these at his Mom’s house (in Pennsylvania), where she would buy them from the Amish people at her local farmer’s market.
When we moved to our Vermont inn, we decided to make them ourselves, which is really quite simple. We roast fresh beets, then make a pickling syrup for the eggs, add the beets, some onions, peppercorns, a little bit of allspice, and the hard boiled eggs. The eggs need to absorb the flavors, which takes a day or so. If you leave them in the pickling mixture longer, they get more flavorful, and the vinegar does in fact start the make the eggs a bit tougher. I no longer mind the texture if they get a bit rubbery, which I find funny, because rubbery is generally not a good thing in the food world.
This week we decided to try pickling just the whites, and making deviled egg filling out of the yolks, just for something different. Well, we both agree that this is the best of both worlds, really quite nice. They made a wonderful accompaniment to our dinner – farmer’s market Boston lettuce, tossed with vinegar and olive oil, tomatoes and red onions, topped with lobster salad that we made with David’s homemade mayonnaise. Give them a try for your next picnic, and let me know what you think!
Pickled Deviled Eggs
4 or 5 medium beets
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
big pinch allspice
1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, cut in half, whites separated from yolks
Wash beets, trim ends, place in an oven safe dish that will just fit them, rub with a little bit of olive oil, cover with foil and roast in a 450 degree oven until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 45 minutes. Let cool, peel, then cut into wedges.
Combine vinegar, water, peppercorns & allspice in a small non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, then set aside. Put egg whites, beets and onions in a glass, ceramic, or stainless bowl (something that won’t get discolored by the beet juice), and pour the pickling liquid over. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, until the whites turn a deep rich pink color, about 24 hours.
Yolks from hard boiled eggs above – mash in a bowl with a fork until fine. Mix with about two teaspoons of Dijon mustard (or more or less, according to your taste), a pinch of salt, a grinding of fresh black pepper, and enough mayonnaise (we like to use homemade) to make a nice smooth mixture. You can pipe the mixture into the pickled whites with a pastry bag, but we find that a bit fussy (not to mention messy to clean the bag), so we just use a spoon.
Garnish as you please. In the photo, we used chives from our garden, a chive blossom in the center, and sage flowers from our garden.
Vacations evolve sometimes. For us this year, we were scheduled to leave for France in the middle of April, but then the volcano in Iceland erupted. We were visiting family in Pennsylvania at the time. The airline rescheduled our flight, but not until five days after our original departure date.
Not that we don’t love seeing family, but we were really looking forward to going somewhere, and we really didn’t think that we would ever get to France with the doom and gloom that was being put out by the newscasters. On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a little trip to New Orleans, a place that always inspires us from many perspectives – amazing food, beautiful gardens, courtyards and wonderful antique shops. To add to our fun, David’s brother and sister in law joined us, quite a great surprise!
In New Orleans, we ate at many great restaurants. We particularly liked Restaurant Luke, owned by celebrity chef John Besh. They have amazing oysters and are known for their specialty cocktails. Three out of four of us chose the French 75, and we weren’t sorry. A great cocktail, bubbly, not sweet, wonderful cognac for depth of flavor, and lemon to really open up the palate. It is the inspiration for this month’s summer cocktail special at our Vermont inn. Here is the recipe:
2 ounces cognac
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces champagne or sparkling wine
Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker, then fill with ice. Shake, then strain into chilled martini glasses and add two ice cubes per glass. Top each glass with two ounces of champagne. If you are lucky enough to be able to find Parisienne brandied cherries from France (as we have), put one in each glass. If not, a lemon twist is lovely.
Our three days in New Orleans were filled with great meals, great company, and wonderful antique shopping. But alas, our time to leave was nearing. On our last night there, we watched the news, and a pundit on CNN assured all of America that no flights would be going into Heathrow (our stop over on the way to Nice) for at least a week. Needless to say, we were so glad that we went to New Orleans, since our vacation in Nice looked to be in peril.
When we got back to Pennsylvania the next day, we were surprised to find that British Airways did not cancel our rescheduled flight – mind you this is just one day after the dire news on CNN. So, already fat from New Orleans, back to the airport and off to Nice. Mind you, not complaining, Nice is another mecca for inspiration for us. Here are some photos of gardens that we fell in love with on the Riviera. Our inspiration for our terrace comes from both the gardens in Nice, the magnificent walled cities of the French Riviera, and the courtyards in New Orleans.
Rosé is the wine of choice for many locals on the Riviera, and it is our featured wine for the month of June. The fact that it is served chilled, and that you are in a warm place, seems to make this the perfect drink this time of year. It pairs wonderfully with the local cuisine, and it is also great just for sipping while doing some people watching! We hope that you’ll enjoy the same feeling here at our Woodstock, Vermont Bed and Breakfast on a nice summer day – relaxing on the terrace, watching the goldfish swim in the pond, and having a French 75 or glass of rosé.
June 4, 2010
New this summer, we are adding monthly drink specials to our regular Vermont tavern offerings at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast. We will be featuring wines and cocktails that we have encountered in our travels, and/or that we just really happen to like.
To kick off the opening of the garden terrace for the season, we are offering the French 75 cocktail for $10.00 each. The La Vieille Ferme rosé is offered at $5.00 per glass, or $18.00 per bottle. Cheers from Woodstock, Vermont!
June 2, 2010
Aah, the joys of early summer in Vermont. A warm sunny day, Inn chores all finished, and a few hours before guests are due to arrive at our Woodstock, Vermont bed & breakfast. Not a difficult thing for me to figure out what to do with myself- enlist a friend and make the short drive to Silver Lake State Park. For just $3 per person admission, you get to experience one of my favorite places. You can sun yourself on the grassy lawn that makes its way down to the lake, where you can go for a swim.
Another great activity at the park is to rent a little paddle boat. We did just that, and spent a lazy hour and half on the lake. In that time frame we paddled from one end of the lake to the other, looking at all of the sweet little (and some not so little) houses and cottages along the lake.
For those that have more time to spare than I did today, you can pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it. Ahhh, until next time, Silver Lake!
March 12, 2010
Lucky, that’s the only way to describe how I feel about my chance to meet Holly Williams and her husband Chris Coleman. If you haven’t heard of Holly, you will, she is bound to be wildly famous. She has an incredible voice, writes really moving songs, and just happens to be the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. and granddaughter of Hank Williams. The amazing thing is just how sweet and down to earth she and Chris are.
Holly and Chris stayed with us at the Village Inn of Woodstock for two nights this week. They had just come back from a tour in Europe, and after just a day or two back in the states, drove from Nashville to New York to start their tour with John Hiatt. This was their first night off in quite a while. We feel lucky that they picked our Inn, and that we got to spend a few hours with them. Holly and Chris were so kind to invite us to be their guests at the Lebanon Opera House, where they were performing the following evening.
I hate to admit that I had not been to the Lebanon Opera House before this event. It is a beautiful little theatre in Lebanon, NH, only about a half hour drive from Woodstock. It’s the kind of venue that just doesn’t have a bad seat in the house because of its size. They’ve had lots of great acts that I would like to see, I guess that I just never made it a point to go. Like a lot of things in life, you figure that there will always be another opportunity.
Well, David and I just happened to be free the night of the concert, so off we went. All that I can say is that I was so completely blown away by Holly and Chris. She played several songs from her new CD, “Here with Me,” including a sweet thank you to her mother titled “Mama”, and a great steamy number titled “Three Days in Bed”. I could have listened to them play for much longer. Oh, and it was so sweet and utterly unexpected, Holly gave The Village Inn of Woodstock a great plug, saying how much she loved the Inn, the food, and the whirlpool tub. John Hiatt and the incredible musicians in his band didn’t disappoint either.
There is nothing like seeing a live performance, the energy and the sound are just intoxicating. We feel lucky that we saw this show, we would not have gone except for meeting Holly and Chris. We realize how much we have been missing all these years. Check out the Lebanon Opera House’s schedule to see if there is anything that interests you while you are in our area, it really is a terrific venue.
Last but not least, thank you Holly and Chris for crossing our paths. We feel so blessed to have met you, and wish you nothing but the best. You are just the most amazing people in so many ways. We hope to see you at our Vermont Inn this summer!
March 4, 2010
We are passionate about food. We make most things that we serve for breakfast here at our Vermont inn. When we do use things made by others, we seek out the best local producers. We have a new favorite local treat – Fat Toad Farm Caramel. Fat Toad Farm is a Vermont Goat dairy that makes goats’ milk caramel, a sweet treat inspired by the traditional Mexican confection, cajeta. The farm also makes wonderful fresh goat cheese, but we are particularly smitten with the caramel.
The caramel is really wonderful stuff just by itself, on a spoon, right out of the jar. Not exactly elegant presentation, but oh so yummy. We have also found it to be great on oven roasted apples and cranberries. The sweetness of the caramel is tempered by the tang of the cranberries, and the apples and goats’ milk caramel are a nice take on a classic combo.
Fat Toad Farm is on the Vermont Cheese Trail, which is a wonderful association of artisanal and farmstead cheese makers. The cheese makers are kind enough to invite visitors. Many are very small producers, so it is best to call ahead to schedule your visit. We did just that, and with friends Dawn and Adam in tow, we made the trip to Brookfield Vermont. It was a beautiful day for a mostly uneventful drive, excepting the last mile or two, which involved some muddy roads. Once at the farm, two friendly dogs came to greet us, and introduce us to the cats and chickens wandering around.
Judith Irving, one of the owners of the farm, introduced us to the girls and gave us a tour of the farm. This is an amazing place. The goats all have names and are very friendly; one of the cats, Hector, nuzzled with the goats; baby pigs snuggled in a pile of hay; chickens roam free amongst the dogs and cats. There are acres of pasture where the goats graze in the summertime.
At the end of our visit, we sampled some of the fresh goat cheese that Judith’s daughter and an apprentice were making. The cheese was flavored with pure maple syrup – what a great combination, and nice way to end our visit. Our minds are at work imaging heavenly cheesecake made of the stuff! In the meantime, we think that you’ll enjoy the caramel if it happens to be on the menu when you are here at our Woodstock, VT bed and breakfast!