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.
Pickled deviled eggs
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.
Beautiful balconies in New Orleans
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!
A wonderful little creole cottage in the garden district in New Orleans
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.
Beautiful gardens in Villefranche
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.
Terra cotta pots line the beautiful alleys in St. Paul de Vence
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.
Wonderful iris garden in Villefranche
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
Summertime and the living is easy!
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
Our cute little paddle boat
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.
Pristine Silver 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 Williams and Chris Coleman
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.
Holly and Chris
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
Dawn, Adam and goat
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 and her goats
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!
February 24, 2010
Bring your snowshoes
We’ve not had very much snow in Vermont this year. Until today, that is. I would guess that we have at least 12 inches as of 10 a.m. today (Wednesday) at Vermont Inn. I took this photo of the terrace just a few minutes ago. The forecast is for the snow to continue until about 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, with accumulations up to 20 inches.
For those of you that are joining us this weekend and early next week that asked me to work on the snow situation, here it is. Vermont winter activities await you – snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing, should be just terrific. Looking forward to seeing you soon at our Vermont bed and breakfast!
February 16, 2010
Here it is, our latest find in Vermont Antiques. Nothing we would ever need, but what fun. We spied it in an antique shop in Montreal on a recent visit. It called to us from a whole lot of really beautiful things. Although neither of us had ever seen one before, it just looked like something we should have at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast. Somehow, we both knew what it was – a duck press.
Our wonderfully weird Presse a Canard
Sure enough, the tag on it said Presse a Canard, 1800’s, made in France. We really didn’t plan on buying the press, but we took the dealer’s card, just in case.
That afternoon, we talked about the duck press a lot, how it would be fun to re-create the classic French dish, pressed duck. Neither of us had ever eaten it, but we remembered Julia Child writing about it. So, here you have it, two suckers for French food and beautiful things – we really don’t mind if they’re useless, almost makes it better. Dinner talk was all about the duck press, how fabulous it would look in the dining room, what a sweet addition it would be to our little collection of antique culinary stuff.
So, after a good night’s rest, it still wasn’t out of our systems. Waiting for David to get ready to leave our hotel, I Googled the duck press. Funny how wrong you can be about something. We assumed that the press would be used to extract the juices out of the roasted carcass, to make some heavenly sauce for the duck meat. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s not close to right either. At the risk of offending anyone that might ever read another one of my blog entries, the press is all about getting as much blood out of the barely cooked carcass as possible. It all starts with strangling a live duck so that as much blood as possible remains in the carcass. It doesn’t get better from there. Organs are involved.
After David finished showering, I shared the news, he was not deterred. Good news, a phone call to the antique dealer revealed that no one beat us to the punch. It was all ours, he could have it boxed up within the hour. So, off we went back to the antique quarter in Montreal to pick up the presse a canard.
Oh we were so excited to get this beauty home. We had its spot in the dining room all picked out, just had to make the three and a half hour drive home. Only one delay – US customs. Being the honest folks that we are, of course we declared the duck press. Well, you can’t imagine how excited these folks got over this thing. They asked: “A duck press??? What does it do??? You have to strangle a duck??? You make a sauce out of the blood?” We provided our receipt, but they were really more interested in the purpose of the press, and in getting a look at this thing. Three separate agents questioned us, including a supervisor. They kept asking if we planned to use it, with a certain horror on their faces as they awaited our response. It had to be unpacked from its big box for inspection. (We weren’t allowed to help in this process, had to wait inside the custom’s office, very high security.) I guess that they eventually concluded that it was in fact a duck press, we weren’t terrorists, and they cleared us to bring it into the country.
It now happily resides in our dining room at the Village Inn of Woodstock, probably not to be used anytime too soon. Oh don’t get us wrong, we thought about trying to use it, but where on earth are we going to get a duck and strangle it, and who on earth would want to eat this with us? Heaven forbid we got our hands on a live duck, next we’d have to negotiate who is going to strangle it. Luckily this sort of treatment for animals is outlawed in our country.
For now, I think that I’ll stick to my recipe for slow roasted duck. If you’re afraid to cook duck, or have not had great results, this method really is the no-fail ticket. Stay tuned for the recipe.
February 12, 2010
Hi, I’m Spanky
Hi, I’m Spanky. Let me just say welcome to our blog! Alfie and I have no idea what mom is thinking, we’ll just have to wait and see. (What’s next, she’s going to learn to text????) In any event, we look forward to sharing some of our behind the scenes moments at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast with you. Mind you, our idea of a great day is pretty simple – like today, we got to go for a walk to the bank, and the nice ladies there gave us cookies. I got to go behind the teller line to make an extra cookie withdrawal. What a great day here in Woodstock!
This is Alfie