get ’em while it’s cold

She doesn’t ship during warm weather months — for good reason as chocolate melts and you wouldn’t want to waste something as special as these treasures!  Gâté Commes Des Filles the chocolate company by Alexandra Whisnant in Sommerville, Massachusetts may just be the best chocolates this side of the Atlantic.

Paris trained, Laudurée and Chez Panisse (CA) bread, Alexandra hand makes chocolates using only the freshest ingredients — often out of her mother’s garden — and highest quality chocolate that need to be consumed within days before the freshness fades. The date stamped boxes make perfect gifts but be sure to get some for yourself to make the $28 overnight shipping worthwhile.

Available in 4pc/$22, 9pc/$43 and 16 pc/$75 boxes. (shipping extra)

And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Boston area, stop by her new shop in the very hipster Bow Market. There you can not only get boxed chocolates but a giant cone of chocolate mousse or a chocolate frappe topped with fresh whipped cream!

I’m sensing a road trip!

all images courtesy Gâté Commes Des Filles

 

holiday gift guide — vermont edition 2019

Last Christmas, everybody on my list got a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup. But Vermont has lot’s of locally made goods worthy of gift-giving. Here are my top picks for the 2019 holiday season.

Clockwise from upper left:  Simon Pearce Burlington Moss Glen serving bowl. 10.5 inches. $125   |   17″ Solid Oak French Paddle by Vermont Farm Table  $115      Hand made French Ticking Half Apron by Red House Vermont  $98     A Vermont twist on the classic s’more  — Shelburne Farms S’mores gift basket contains their 2-year waxed cheddar, local liquid honey and locally produced salted maple crackers. No fire required.   $33      Stacked Shape Butter Dish with antique wooden handle, hand made by Sugar House Ceramic Company   $58   |    Waxed Canvas Weekender Bag in true black. Also available in red, brown, green and grey by Red house Vermont  $268     Jam made with all local fruits and honey (instead of cane sugar) in the cutest little 2 oz jars so you can try lots of flavors.  $6.99 each at V. Smiley Preserves

 

favorite places northern vermont

I haven’t been in Vermont all that long or done all that much but I have managed to find several gems to make up a favorites list in and around the Burlington area:

Philo Ridge Farm Market & Kitchen
2766 Mt. Philo Road, Charlotte

Home to the best breakfast sandwich in town this charming cafe & market (part of a real working farm) is my most favorite place to go hang out by the fire in the winter or overlooking beautiful Charlotte farm country in the summer. Serving breakfast & lunch, dinner during summer, the baked goods and especially biscuits, are wonderful. The accompanying little high end market stocks produce and meats from the farm along side locally produced pantry staples and gifts.

Shelburne Farms
1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne

People flock to Shelburne Farms during the summer for its educational farm program and of course to stay at the inn — a sprawling mansion that was once a Vanderbuilt summer house and the original homestead on the property. I say, skip the farm and take advantage of the several miles of walking trails that snake through the spectacular grounds between the road and lake Champlain. As a town resident, I get free admission during the summer (otherwise $8.00 a head to enter) but from November to May, the programs cease, the Inn closes and you have free reign to the property. Or visit the farm store open all year round to purchase some Shelburne Farms Cheddar Cheese — I’m partial to their beer cheese, a partnership with local favorite, Fiddlehead Brewery. One more note — skip the outrageously expensive and just mediocre restaurant at the inn. If you want to see the view and the inside of the house, grab a drink at the makeshift bar inside and sip away outside on the veranda. (open only in summer, no entry fee necessary)

Vergennes Laundry
247 Main Street, Vergennes

A charming little restaurant in the cutest little one horse town. Open for brunch on weekends and dinner Wed-Sat, the food is fresh, local and yummy!  Known for their baked goods and coffee served French style in bowls, i am partial to their weekly omelette special for $10.

LuLu
185 Main Street, Vergennes

For somewhere so cold, there is no shortage of ice cream in Vermont. No complaints here! LuLu creates scrumptious, unusual flavors in both hard and soft forms, from local farm-raised ingredients. Well worth the drive out to Vergennes for a creamy treat. Also available in pints at the Philo Ridge Farm Market.

Tomgirl
266 Pine Street, Burlington

This place is crazy expensive BUT the best place to get fresh pressed juices, smoothies, soups, salads and yes, those gluten free banana nut muffins. Everything is super fresh, healthy and the juices are all sold in glass jars. No plastics. No sugar. No packages. Just good, healthy fare. It may or may not become a habit so beware!

European Touch Spa
928 Falls Road, Shelburne

Simply the best facialist I have ever been to. Krystina, the owner of this one-woman body spa tucked into a back room of a multi-vendor house turned beauty enclave, is Eastern European born and trained. Her prices are amazingly affordable and she really knows her stuff. This is the place for hard core skin care not the fluffy, relaxation type facial. Just put yourself in Krystina’s hands, and she’ll tell you exactly what you need. Watch out though, she gives a mean (interpret: hard) foot massage.

Dedalus
388 Pine Street, Burlington

A surprisingly sophisticated wine bar and provisions shop for a town like Burlington. The restaurant decor is timber barn Vermont meets Ikea for a homey feel. And they really do know their stuff. Great for a group or intimate evening for two.

Miss Weinerz Donuts
Around Town

Like donuts you have never had before .  .  . doughy and yeasty, they’re heavy vs. fluffy, oozing of local flavors and come in both glazed and filled varieties. You can find them at only a handful of shops around town just three days a week. You can order in advance on her website or take your chances there will be any left at your local City Market. Get there early!

Honey Road
156 Church Street, Burlington

By far my favorite restaurant in Burlington and a go to for any occasion, any night of the week. Greek influenced small plates — meaning it’s not cheap because when are small plates anything but expensive!?!  The difference here is you will walk away full and satisfied. Take the advice of your server on how much to order. And whatever you do, don’t miss the chicken wings. I’m not a wings girl but these are amazingly sweet, sticky, unusually flavored and addicting. Haven’t had a bad thing yet so you are safe with anything on the menu. Book in advance if you can or be prepared to wait.

look who’s back

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve spent the past year living on a lake in a small Vermont hamlet. When I tell that to most folk, their jaw drops. “Aren’t you a city girl?” Maybe. But to wake up to the spectacular view of rolling green hills dropping off over a vast lake, surrounded by mountains in the distance. Let’s just say, it’s been special. For the few months of the year it was green, anyway. Today the ground is snow covered. It’s c-c-c-cold outside. And I’m reconsidering this journey. But that’s for another day .  .  .

In the meantime, I’m hoping to get back to posting about my travels and more on a semi-regular basis. What do you say, we start with a little day trip to the Northeast Kingdom here in Vermont:

It’s about a two hour drive to the NEK from the general Burlington area. Through the Stowe resort town and beyond into seemingly nowheresville. Miles of winding roads and endless trees — take the drive in the Fall and you won’t be disappointed!  Know where you are going and there are treasures to be found .  .  .

STOP 1:  The Museum of Everyday Life, 3482 Drypond Road, Glover, VT

IMG_0060This place is a one of a kind marvel. A self-service celebration of the mundane things you and I might, otherwise, not give a second thought to — everything from lowly dust, to safety pins, to scissors — the main exhibition during my visit.

Turn on the lights, view, read and listen your way through a selection of items from the permanent collection and highlights from past exhibitions into a series of spaces dedicated to a single subject. Objects, activities, artworks and uniquely curated experiences await. Above all, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. One curious girl in my crew saw a record player behind what we thought was a curtain of netting to keep onlookers away from objects on display. Only her willingness to crawl under this fragile barrier revealed it was actually a musical curtain of bells powered by said spinning turntable. Magical!

Give yourself a good hour here. There’s a gift shop in the corner with an honor box for cash payment. And don’t forget to turn the lights out as you leave.

 

STOP 2:  Bread & Puppet Theater Barn, 753 Heights Road, Glover, VT

This carefully organized warehouse of giant papier mâché puppets, is far more impressive than the theater they are made for. The Bread & Puppet theater is a traveling troop of performers putting on political & historical puppet shows around the country. I personally found one of the cult-like shows extremely difficult to sit through but was truly mesmerized by this barn housing 55 years of puppets, so carefully arranged on the walls and ceilings that they beg you to create your own stories to match their grandeur.

The Bread & Puppet “Family” also supports themselves through the sale of printed posters, cards and books based on the founder’s original works. Affordable, colorful and powerful artworks that make nice souvenirs if your into that sort of thing. And don’t miss the bus full of crafty treasures for sale parked along the road across the street. It’s hippy-ville Vermont at it’s finest.

Note: Stops 1 & 2 are just down the road from one another and it’s no coincidence — they share minds & resources.

STOP 3: Parker Pie Company, 161 Country Road West Glover, VT

Pie as in pizza pie with a selection of local craft beers on tap for lunch. The local watering hole/general store/gallery. But you are going to have to stop and ask directions because it doesn’t show up on any GPS — if you can even get one working up here — and is far off the main drag. Worth the detour, however, and chances are it will be packed to the gills.

 

STOP 4: Red Sky Trading, 2984 Glover Street, Glover VT

An honor system little barn of a shop with kitchy knick-knacks, local cheeses (pick up some award-winning Jasper Hill cheese — while nearby, they don’t offer tours or have a shop of their own) and home-baked sweets. If it’s a nice day, pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy a bit of dessert while taking in the scenery. If sweets aren’t your thing, make this stop 3 so you don’t have to back-track after lunch.

Stop 5: Hill Farmstead Brewery, 403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT

Voted the best brewery in the world five years running, it is a worthy stop to pick up a growler, a bottle or a few cans as it’s not available to purchase in stores — only on tap in select Vermont establishments and here onsite. There are limits to the amount you can buy, especially for limited releases. But the beer is GOOD, you can hang out on the grounds and during the summer, there are often food trucks and music on the property as well.

Note:  The brewery is closed Sun-Tues so plan your travels accordingly. This is not one to be missed. Prepare to queue.

Loaded up with local cheese, beer, artwork and kingdom culture, you are ready to head out of the NEK and back to civilization.

more cool stamps

Suddenly, I wish I wrote more correspondence that required stamps. Because suddenly, the United States Postal Service is producing all kinds of cool stamps.

Here are a few more to add to your collection produced in past years but still available for purchase online:

The Solar Eclipse — a heat sensitive ink that reveals the moon with the touch of your finger. So f-in cool!! Now I wish I’d had an eclipse party. Good news is these are Forever stamps. Buy some now and use them for the next North American solar eclipse in 2024.

How about these round (!) ball stamps. So cute for a kids party invite or just for your favorite sports fan. I so wish you could buy single balls ’cause I’m kinda partial to tennis myself. But the novelty of any of these balls adorning your mail would be charming regardless the sport.

janice

An oldie but a goodie from 2014 still available online. Nothing beats the flower power of Janice Joplin.

succulent

If succulents are more your thing, here’s another round stamp good for international postage or larger envelopes at $1.15 value.

And whether your taste in entertainment leans towards Star Trek or Disney, there are always some great options available in any given year.

These and other cool stamps are available online here.

And what are my favorite stamps I’ve ever purchased?

These Charles and Ray Eames stamps. Issued in 2008 before forever stamps were introduced. But that’s OK. They’re too cool to mail. I framed them instead.

scratch and post

Available today at your local post office — scratch and sniff stamps with the smell of summer frozen treats!

There’s just one scent for all designs, sadly. But regardless, they’re fun, fruity and oh so summery. Post one to a friend today. Perfect for those letters home from camp!

$10 for a book of ten Forever stamps, until sold out.

sale of the century

I know summer is on the way (although you wouldn’t know it here in LA). But despite the fact you won’t wear these clothes for months to come — take advantage of the winter clothing sale at what is undoubtedly the best new fashion brand to come along in ages: ROUCHA.

I am head over heals in love with these clothes.The styling is right up my alley — slightly masculine but with feminine flair. Ultimately mix and matchable in black, navy, brown, grey and the occasional pop of color –  just what we all wear anyway. These are pieces made to be worn every day and work with sneakers or heels, whichever you fancy. I’m of the former variety myself.

The quality is gorgeous. The fit slightly oversized. The look sophisticated casual. And right now nearly everything is on sale up to 50% off.  If they weren’t sold out of a lot of styles in my size, I’d seriously own one of everything right now. I have an entire closet of winter coats from my East Coast days that never get worn here in California. But i am seriously tempted to buy another, knowing that a European trip is in my future late fall. At these prices, how can a girl resist?

This brand came to me in my Instagram feed. And boy am I happy about that. It a brand with serious pedigree and serious chops. Clothes that will last a lifetime and never go out of style. Even at full price … worth every penny!

Sale ends June 3, 2018

 

new & notable in melbourne

Just a quick stay in Melbourne this trip, I didn’t have time for a whole lot of new but made a point of getting to some of the places I’ve been dying to get to for awhile. Melbourne never disappoints!

NEW

The Hub General Store:  Down a back street in Collingwood there’s a charming little brick building that houses a million and one basic treasures from around the world. Need a scrub brush? A bar of soap? A bunch of clothespins? How about a loaf of freshly baked bread and a jar of local creamed honey? Or maple syrup from America? A children’s book or miniature stuffed animal? A notebook and a pen or pencil perhpas?  You get the gist.

Piled high and a bit of a treasure hunt, the every day is elevated to the sublime. And before you get to those everyday treasures, there’s a small gallery in front where invited artists treat visitors with a different sort of sensory experience. When I was there the gallery was overstuffed with big, round, white balloons — a stark contrast to the slowly deflating black balloons creeping up and around the exterior facade. Simple objects raised to the level of art.

36 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

Higher Ground:  The new CBD restaurant brought to you by the same folks that own Kettle Black. It’s another beautiful space with unique all day dining. Located in an old power station just across the way from the Southern Cross station, it has soaring ceilings and various seating arrangements from traditional tables, to common tables and cozy lounge areas across multiple floors. Look for their signature beautiful brunch dishes like this polenta porridge offering

and some unusual and interesting fare. Expect a wait even on a weekday. But worth it.

650 Little Burke Street, CBD

NOTABLE

Lune Croissanterie:  Not new but certainly notable, Lune might just be a national treasure if that can be said of a bakery in Australia that specializes in signature French pastries. Proclaimed as being the best croissants in the world by The New York Times no less, the lines can snake out the door and around the block to purchase croissants that can cost upwards of $12+ each. Open from 7:30 AM until sold out most days, get there early, stand in line and make sure whatever concoction of a croissant you indulge in, your box of goodies (yes, you will purchase many because each looks better than the next) includes at least one classic ham & gruyere — it’s buttery, crunchy, salty and cheesy goodness not to be missed.

119 Rose Street, Fitzroy

Meatsmith:  This absolutely fabulous (and beautiful) butchery is from my favorite local chef, Andrew McConnell, where you can get the best cuts of meat from local farmers, Australian wines, spectacular condiments in simple glass jars (they make great gifts!) and other specialty grocery items. But I am here to tell you about the house made lasagna.

If you need a heat and serve meal, this one is sublime. Ready in just 30 minutes, it’s rich, meaty, creamy, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of red — or maybe that’s the other way around. At any rate, it will only set you back $22 and serves 2-3. My recommendation — leave it in the oven a bit longer to crisp the top to a crunchy charred finish. (My little heat and serve disaster actually turned out to make it that much better!)

273 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Bobbie Burns Shiraz:  No it’s not a place in Melbourne. But If you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine to pair with your lasagna, consider this 2013 vintage from Victorian winery Campbells

I am not a wine connoisseur but I do know what I like. I found this smooth and easy to drink. I liked it so much I came home and bought 6 bottles here in America. And don’t be fooled by the twist top bottle — it’s an Aussie thing.