Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vermont: Ben & Jerry's

One of the fun stops we made in Vermont on the way back to New Hampshire was Ben & Jerry's factory:
















For $4 per person, we went on a 30 minute tour of the factory that started with a video about the history of Ben & Jerry's and then progressed to a walk through of the ice cream making process.  Unfortunately we didn't get to see any ice cream being made because we were there on a Sunday and dammit, ice cream makers are people too and deserve weekends off!

The tour ended in the tasting room where we got to try a new flavor that hasn't been released yet:
















The "tuxedo" is coconut ice cream with shredded coconut and dark chocolate chunks inside:

















While it wasn't bad, I've discovered that I'm not really into chewing shredded coconut in my ice cream.  Meh.

We could have stopped by the ice cream shop for even more ice cream after the tour ended, but we took one look at the long line and elected to go check out the flavor graveyard instead.

The Ben & Jerry's factory is definitely out in the middle of nowhere.  While I wouldn't plan a trip specifically to go there, it's a fun pit stop.  I'm sure it's even more fun on a work day when you can actually watch ice cream being made.


Ben & Jerry's
1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd
Waterbury, VT 05676
866-258-6877
http://www.benjerry.com/about-us/factory-tours

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Vermont: American Flatbread

On our way back to New Hampshire from Montreal, we stopped by Burlington, VT for lunch.  Burlington, known as the birthplace of Ben & Jerry's, prides itself in being one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S.  The downtown area was misty and sleepy when we arrived, with hardly a person in sight. 

Apparently everyone was at Penny Cluse Café waiting in line for brunch.  When we heard that the wait would be over an hour, we turned tail and ran...all the way to American Flatbread: 
















The restaurant had just opened when we got there, so we were quickly escorted to a table:
















From where we were seated, we had a perfect view of the pizza oven and the pizza making assembly line.  A meal and a show.

The brunch menu is only offered on weekends.  Since we happened to be there on a Sunday, we figured we should take advantage and order a small eggs benedict pizza ($13.75).  Oh, wait, I apologize.  A small eggs benedict flatbread.  My bad:
















(Let's be real.  It's a pizza.)  The eggs benedict flatbread included prosciutto, eggs, roma tomatoes, and hollandaise sauce.

We also ordered a large flatbread, half pepperoni and peppers and half new Vermont sausage:
















The pepperoni and peppers side is pretty self-explanatory, right?  The new Vermont sausage was made with maple-fennel sausage, mushroom, caramelized onions, and sundried tomatoes.  All were delicious, but my favorite was the sausage. 

Halfway through the meal, we saw a handwritten sign on the wall for $5 Sunday buns with beer glaze.  Of course we had to drop everything and flag down the nearest server to make it happen:
















Best thing we had that day.

But the most memorable find was actually not edible at all.  Nope.  The most memorable find at American Flatbread was the most awful, most useless toilet paper I've ever had the misfortune of using.  It was so thin I had to quintuple layer the toilet paper for it to be even remotely usable.  There was a stack of new rolls and I grabbed one in frustrated anger to try to figure out what was wrong with the damn stuff.

Get this.  Apparently the toilet paper is made using wind power.  WIND.  POWER. 

Okay, that's fine.  I get that it's admirable to be more environmentally friendly.  Sustainable living is the goal, blah blah blah.  Great.  But how is making 0.1 ply toilet paper helping the environment when you end up having to use a yard of the stuff per trip to the restroom?  It doesn't MAKE ANY SENSE.

Love your pizza, er, flatbread, American Flatbread.  But pleasePLEASEplease for the love of bottoms all across the world, switch out your toilet paper.

Please.      


American Flatbread
115 St Paul St
Burlington, VT 05401
(802) 861-2999
http://americanflatbread.com/

Friday, August 19, 2016

Montreal: La Banquise

Everyone knows a trip to Montreal simply isn't complete without poutine.  You can find it just about everywhere, but La Banquise is known to have some of the best.  Hence the line:  






















Open 24/7, La Banquise is colorful and quirky in its décor.  Can we just take a second to admire the tree branches on the ceiling?:
















There are so many poutine varieties at La Banquise that it can be a bit overwhelming.  Thankfully, they have an English menu, which certainly helps people like me who left what little French they learned over a decade ago back in their high school classroom.

Feeling like we needed to balance all the fatty foods we had all day with something healthy, we ordered the La Raquel ($8.45 for a regular):
















It included mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.  Basically a salad.

And of course we had to get the classic ($7.25 for a regular):
















For those of you who haven't had poutine before, I'll break it down for you.  Take some fries, drop some cheese curds on it, and then smother everything in gravy.  And voila!  Poutine. 

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of cheese curds.  There's something about the texture that's a bit too eraser-y for me.  All that squeaking between my teeth weirds me out.  The gravy and the fries though?  MOAR PLEASE.

The fries at La Banquise are soggy, but in the most delicious way possible.  I would be okay eating a whole basket of those fries without any condiments at all. 

Make sure to bring cash to La Banquise if you don't have a Canadian credit card.  Otherwise you'll find yourself washing dishes in the back to pay for your poutine.  


La Banquise
994 Rue Rachel Est
Montreal, QC H2J 2J3 Canada
(514) 525-2415
http://labanquise.com/

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Montreal: Schwartz's

Apparently you can't leave Montreal without getting some smoked meat.  Schwartz's is the most famous place for it, but peoples of the Internet warned about long lines and food not living up to the hype.  We decided to swing by and check it out regardless.  When we saw that there was no line, we thought what the heck and stepped in.

Only to discover that Schwartz's is cash only...of which we had none.  So off to the nearest ATM we went.  By the time we returned with cash in pocket, there was a bit of a wait, so we had to stand outside until a table opened up:






















Soon, a line formed behind us.  It was no wonder we had to wait outside because Schwartz's was packed:
















When it was our turn, the three of us were led to the back where we shared a table with another party of three.

The bread came quickly:
















As did our sweet pickle ($2.10):
















Instead of getting a sandwich and struggling to split it between three people...or getting three sandwiches and struggling to finish one per person, we ordered a large plate of smoked meat to share ($17.25):
















Fatty, of course.

The key is to take a slice of bread, slather it with mustard, and then gently lay a piece of smoked meat (preferably a particularly fatty one) on top.  And when you start to feel full, ditch the bread and apply the mustard directly onto the meat. 

Sometimes in life, you just have to prioritize.

Is Schwartz's worth the hype?  As I haven't tried smoked meat anywhere else in Montreal, I can't really make any comparisons.  I can say, however, that the smoked meat was pretty darn tasty.  10-15-minute-wait tasty though...not over-an-hour tasty.  And while service is a bit brusque, let's face it, who cares when the food is good?


Schwartz's
3895 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Montreal, QC H2W 1X9 Canada
(514) 842-4813
http://schwartzsdeli.com/

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Montreal: Cafe Vasco da Gama

The drive to Montreal from Hanover, NH took about three hours and passed in a blur of trees and farmland.  Before we knew it, we were across the border, checked into our Airbnb home, and out exploring the town.  We stumbled upon a Chatime in Chinatown and treated ourselves to some pearl tea before making a brief stop at Café Vasco da Gama:






















After being on our feet for so long, it was nice to take a break in a cheerful little café:
















And nibble on some pasteis de nata or Portuguese custard tarts ($2.30 each):






















Took me back to Portugal for a moment there.

We couldn't resist adding on this tiered beauty:






















Brownie at the bottom followed by a layer of some kind of cream and capped with caramel.  The brownie was a bit dry, but who cares when you can spoon creamy caramel directly into your mouth?

Café Vasco da Gama is cute, but a little too pricey for me.  I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to go there again.


Café Vasco da Gama
1472 Peel Rue
Montreal, QC H3A 1S8 Canada
(514) 286-2688
http://www.vascodagama.ca/home

Thursday, August 11, 2016

New Hampshire: Four Aces Diner

We took advantage of our proximity to Canada and made a little side trip to Montreal during our weekend at Dartmouth.  First thing we needed to do was to get our car rental from the closest airport, Lebanon Municipal Airport, which turned out to be the tiniest damn airport I've ever seen.  Virtually no security, only one departure gate, and only one airline.

But let's back up a bit.  First things first, breakfast:
















Partly made of a converted diner car, Four Aces Diner is about as classic as a diner can get:
















Lots of little knick knacks to spot all around and plenty of quirky signs to read and chuckle over.

Suddenly feeling nostalgic, I ordered myself a glass of chocolate milk.  I may have squealed a little when my milk arrived, because lookit!:






















When was the last time you had some good old-fashioned chocolate milk made from milk and chocolate syrup?

As per usual, we ordered three dishes and then rotated them around the table.  We got The Joker ($7.99):
















Which consisted of two pancakes, one sausage patty, two pieces of bacon, two eggs, and homefries.  That's a lot of food.

We also got the breakfast bowl ($9.99):
















Prepare yourself.  The breakfast bowl contained a mix of regular and sweet potato tater tots, all topped with chili, jack cheese, two eggs, and jalapeno bacon. 

Guh.  Tater tot heaven. 

Last, but not least, we ordered the woodland omelet ($8.99):






















Forget the toast and homefries for a second.  Tucked inside this beautiful baby was spinach, mushroom, pancetta, and garlic confit:
















Let me repeat.  GARLIC CONFIT.  YAAAAASSSSSS.

If I went to Dartmouth, I would be finding excuses to go to Four Aces all the time.   The food isn't fussy, but by no means is it boring.  There were quite a few things I wanted to try, but alas, my stomach isn't as elastic or as resilient as it used to be.  Portion sizes were huge and prices were reasonable.  There was a bit of a line by the time we left, but I'm not surprised.

Ugh.  Just looking at the photos is making me hungry.


Four Aces Diner
23 Bridge St
West Lebanon, NH 03784
(603) 298-5515
http://www.4acesdiner.com/

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Vermont: Carpenter & Main

A hike up the Gile Mountain Tower Trail and a tour of the Dartmouth campus later, it was time for dinner and back to Vermont we went.  Being from the Bay Area, to be able to hop state borders so nonchalantly was a novel concept.  You would definitely never hear anyone say, "Let's go to Nevada for lunch!" or "I'm just going to grab some coffee in Oregon."  But with the Vermont border merely a couple minutes drive from Dartmouth, crossing between states there is just an everyday thing.

Anyway, AF wanted to take us to a little French restaurant with slightly fancier fare.  Carpenter & Main was located on the quaintest little downtown street in what looked like a converted residential house:    






















We didn't have any reservations, so we had to wait a while for a table to open.  We took a walk down the street, we talked politics on the picnic table outside the restaurant, and then when it got too cold, we tried to find a spot at the crowded bar inside. 

Eventually, we got our table:
















It's not a nice restaurant unless you get complimentary bread:






















We wanted to try more dishes so we stuck to the small plates section on the menu, but Carpenter & Main also has full entrees such as steak, chicken, and trout.  We started with the house charcuterie plate ($14):
















It came with bread, smoked pork, duck pate, some kind of spread, pickled olives, and mustard. 

We also got the house grilled flatbread ($10):
















The toppings apparently change according to what is fresh that day.  We lucked out and got mushrooms.  I love mushrooms.

The warm salad ($10) was probably one of the most interesting dishes:
















Even though it clearly said "warm salad" on the menu, we were still surprised by the fact that parts of the salad actually were not typical salad temperature.  The aged cheddar, semi-melted by the roasted cauliflower and toasted pecans, added an interesting yet slightly strange texture.  I never realized how pungent cheddar can get.  The bursts of sweetness from the grapes helped cut through the stinky cheese taste, but I ended up wimping out and picking out what large pieces of cheese I could identity.  I got it wrong quite a few times.  Who knew cauliflower and cheese could look so similar?

The braised kale with pinenuts, golden raisins, and apple ($5) was one of the least memorable of the night:
















While the Moroccan lamb meatballs in spicy tomato glaze ($6) were memorable in their tininess:
















They were delicious, but we wished there were more of them.

Just as we wished we could have had more of the avocado fries with sweet and sour tomato sauce ($5):
















What's not to love about fried avocado?

Carpenter & Main has a very intimate vibe and while the food was delicious, it's definitely somewhere you would save for a special occasion type of meal.  But not super special occasions, if you know what I mean.  Hm...let me try to explain myself.  Carpenter & Main isn't a restaurant where you would feel underdressed in jeans and the prices aren't so outrageous that you can only justify dining there to celebrate something momentous.  Yet it's not really a restaurant you would think to go to just any day of the week.  The prices are just a tad too high and the portions just a smidge too small for an everyday meal.      

Does that make sense? 

Basically, it's a little too nice for my cheapass, hole in the wall loving self.


Carpenter & Main
326 Main St
Norwich, VT 05055
(802) 649-2922
http://www.carpenterandmain.com/
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