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.

ice cream challenge

Today’s Contender:  McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream
Location:  Santa Barbara, CA
Flavor:  Vanilla Bean

This not so boring Vanilla Bean ice cream may just be the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had. I have in fact, tried a few of McConnell’s flavors and think the texture of their ice cream to be exactly what I love  — rich and creamy, smooth beyond compare made with premium, all natural ingredients. Which makes their vanilla bean to die for. Just as the carton says, a perfect accompaniment to pie!  But it’s damn good alone as well.

McConnell’s ice cream is a Santa Barbara, California tradition going back over 70 years. But of late, they have joined the Los Angeles ice cream boom with scoop shops downtown, in Los Feliz and Studio City. You can also find them in nearly every grocery store here in town for those that don’t live on the east side — at the premium price of $9.99/pt.

There may be more trendy ice cream shops everywhere here in LA these days but I’d pick McConnel’s over any of them to be honest.

ice cream challenge

Today’s Contender:  Nancy’s Fancy by Nancy Silverton
Location:  Los Angeles, CA
Flavor:  Butterscotch Budino

The Butterscotch Budino at Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza is undoubtedly one of my favorite desserts in town (one she stole by the way from restaurant Jar and then made famous) and now she has interpreted that same amazing dessert into a gelato version. WOW!  Just WOW!  It’s f-in amazing. Rich and thick and smooth and creamy.  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!  And it’s available in your grocery store — although I hear scoop shops are in the works.

There isn’t anything Nancy Silverton does that isn’t the best in class. I dream of her pizza. Now she’s tackled my other favorite food and it too is worthy of dreams. Even though super rich, I couldn’t stop eating it. You will be marveled at the texture — and let’s face it, ice cream or gelato is all about the texture. This version is like nothing I’ve ever had in the smoothness category. In the richness category, it’s akin to Magee Beer’s ice cream from Australia (another grocery store favorite). The flavor is deep yet subtle, sophisticated and luscious. Well worth the $8.99 price tag for a 4 oz container.

Next her Roasted Banana flavor . . .

Not from LA?  For mail order Fancy Nancy’s go here.

 

 

go bananas

When you don’t want sugar or dairy but you do want creamy goodness try some Hakuna Banana. Happened across this perfectly lovely frozen treat in my local Whole Foods store. Turns out it’s the creation of two Angelenos and while only available in the general Los Angeles area for now, look for it to go wide one day soon. It’s the no fuss nice cream you’ll love at first bite. Available in four tempting flavors:

join the club

sqirl

Yummm!  Yummm!  Yummm!

Join the Sqirl Jam Club:  2 jars of scrumptious jam made in Los Angeles, delivered every other month for 4, 6 or 12 months. Yes it’s $15 for each tiny jar but it’s the bomb!

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best meal in town — seriously!

Petit Trois, Los Angles
718 Highland Avenue, West Hollywood

No Reservations

Petit Trois_MrsRopersMusingssIt’s been voted the #1 restaurant in LA. That’s because it’s seriously good! I ate there. I dreamt about it. I woke up wanting to go back. Need I say more?  Ok, I will:

  • The drinks:  Fresh and imaginative and curiously strong.
  • The Bread & Butter:  They say a restaurant is judged by its bread offering. This is perfection. Crusty warm baguette served with salty salty French butter.
  • The Moules Frittes:  That broth! And the best part, a piece of broth soaked bread waiting for you at the bottom of the bowl.
  • The French Onion Soup:  Oh so rich and full flavored. Cheese, cheese and more cheese. Quote of the night,  “There’s no going back to Trader Joe’s onion soup now.”
  • The Omelette:  The stuff dreams are made of. This may sound strange but it tastes like buttered popcorn only with the texture of smooth and silky, perfectly cooked eggs filled with creamy cheese. And the bibb lettuce accompaniment — exactly the salad I ate in France every day when I summered there in ’85.
  • The Chocolate Mousse:  Sickeningly rich in a good way. Not too sweet and decadently smooth, topped with copious amounts of freshly whipped cream. My insides were shaking (that’s no lie)

And you wouldn’t guess it being in LA, but the restaurant is wholly unpretentious. It’s all about the food here. Just 20 stools, in a simply decorated, dark space (pictures are hard to achieve but skip that part and just eat) with a bustling open kitchen. You’re greeted with hellos from the bar tender and kitchen staff when you walk in like you’re seeing old friends. The portions are more than ample — actually quite large —  and the prices fair.

See you there because I will definitely be a regular.