Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Yes, it’s another road trip for Laurie Katz and me.  Willie Docto runs the Vermont Gay Tourism Association (VGTA).   He is also the co-owner of Moose-Meadow Lodge in Waterbury.  Having written about that area this trip took me to Southern Vermont, namely the area centering on Manchester.   

The four hour trip took us via Albany, through Troy and into Bennington County.   As it was  lunchtime we found a restaurant called Zoey’s Double Hex at 1614 Depot Street in Manchester Center.   Double Hex means a double welcome when it comes to the Pennsylvania Dutch but in this case it’s about the structure’s shape. 

Beth, the owner, came over to say “hello” as I asked about the signature dishes. I was told that they have their own brand of soda and ordered a sarsaparilla with no added color.  Onto Hex Onion Strings: shaved Spanish onions dusted with seasoned flour and fried.  Piled high and addicting.  Soup of the day was a tomato Florentine.  Had to have it.    They are well known for their burgers.  One in particular is called, “Holy Moly”.   Starts with a bun that they make.  Cole slaw (they make it, too) on the bottom followed by the burger, cheese (I requested goat cheese being that it’s a biggie in Vermont), tomato and some thick onion rings.  Sauce with a kick.  Had to “deconstruct” it to eat.   Would you believe I had dessert?  It was a Maple Bread Pudding.  Hey, we’re in the state of maple syrup.   

We then rolled back to the car and headed for Wilcox Premium Ice Cream…just the office.   Chris Wilcox brought in some pints for use to taste.   The name “Wilcox” has been around that area for many generations; the ice cream since 1929.   Their original plant burned down.  However, Chris told me that a venue is set up to create those exact mixtures.  www.wilcox-ice-cream.com  

What did we taste?  Good old fashion vanilla, pumpkin, salted caramel, and mocha mud pie.   I brought up some ice packs and an insulated bag just in case.   As it turned out we kept dropping the ice cream off at places with freezers starting with the Reluctant Panther, the first of three places that we stayed at.

We passed a farm  on the way.

I would describe the Reluctant Panther as a luxury boutique hotel.  The lobby and hallways have great works of photographic art, many of which focused on the Brooklyn Bridge back when it was built.  

There are no accommodations on the first floor. We had adjoining rooms one of which was a junior suite called Three Sisters with a separate sitting room and tv. The other, Snowflake, was a deluxe room.  Aside from a door to each room there was a door to lock out the two rooms for privacy. Marble tub and shower in a large bathroom.  Antique furnishings and fireplaces in all of the rooms. 

There is a deck outside the dining room, equipped with a bar.  Sit along the banks of the pond, watching the fountain. 

I wasn't up for an alcoholic drink even though there seemed to be a company called Vermont Spirits that produces things like vodka or bourbon with maple syrup.  Dinner is one of elegance with “farm-to-table” cuisine. First comes an amuse bouche.  I then had:  Grilled Mediterranean Shrimp (Gulf Shrimp with a pineapple-nectarine salsa and red pepper coulis); Watermelon Salad (red and yellow) with goat cheese and micro arugula ; Seafood Risotto (was too salty and had to return);  dessert of “donuts and cappuccino”.   

Didn’t get the best night’s sleep.  I guess that I hadn’t realized that the room temperature was 72 degrees.  With a long day ahead, I was up early and ready for breakfast.  Knock on Laurie’s door and back down the stairs (elevator for me).  I had juice, a trumpet mushroom and goat cheese omelet served with bacon.   Time to check out and retrieve the ice cream from their freezer. 

A tourism office and a B and B are usually the best contacts for what is both local and places to remember.   I had spoken with Ron Mancini, owner of Mother Myrick’s confectionary in Manchester Center.  What could be better than exploring a chocolate making venue slash bakery!  

We first visited the production building to be introduced to the best (really) butter crunch candy and how it is made. Ron tells us that there are a total of 12 people running the entire operation, which is 3 more than Wilcox Ice Cream has.

Needless to say, I had to ask what bulk chocolates are used in creating all the goodies.  Let’s just say that as picky chocoholic, I was quite satisfied to see some of the best!   

Off to another room where the baked goods were being worked on.   For those of you who love lemon bars, one special cake called Lemon Lulu is beyond the most delicious I have ever indulged in for taste, ingredients and without that acidic (but tasty) lemon cream top.  The consistency is more like eating a lemon pound cake.   Ron also boasted about his much demanded stollen that contains almonds, rum soaked raisins, and apricots topped with butter, sugar and cinnamon.  I was tempted to steal a stollen. 

The bakery itself would have been the next destination if it weren’t for the friendliness and hospitality of Ron, who took us on a local trip (in his electric car) to several places.  Okay, he grew up in Flushing so there was a connection.  
By the way, his wife Jacki is a founding member of the Women Business Owners of Vermont and Ron once served as the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. As for the name “Mother Myrick”, I was able to find out that it is a mountain peak in Manchester. 

 A company called Wagatha’s was around this particular complex.  They make organic dog biscuits.  We were introduced to Erica Olsen, the owner and got a tour of the operation.   Due to the contents of the biscuits it can cause no harm if a human took a few bites since “human grade foods” are used.   In fact, humans are known to eat the breakfast biscuits on a coffee break.   I didn’t try any or brought back a box as I do not have a dog.  However, I am going to make a request just so I can taste them.  If I start licking people’s faces, I’ll let you know.  www.wagathas.com   

Earth Sky Time is a Community Farm located in the Green Mountain National Forest.  A group of people living in a big house, creating vegetarian recipes and baking lots of crusty breads and pastry…all to sell.  Oliver was preparing a batch of breads in this awesome oven called a Llopis that rotates manually by turning the wheel. Others were preparing “Hoomoos”, the chickpea spread and what is called a “ V.T. Goldburger”.   Although there are acres of farm land, we stuck to the main house as there were a few other stops on the list.   www.earthskytime.com  

Food was not the subject of the Manchester Hot Glass Studio and Gallery on Elm Street in what is known as the Depot section.  We arrived to find owner/artist Andrew Weill giving lessons.  It was quite an experience watching what looked like a lump of glass being blown, transferred to the fiery heating element, cut, blown, etc.   I would have never thought that it would turn into a gorgeous large glass bowl.   

Andrew, who maintains a good set of lungs, told me that he opened his studio in 2000.  Looking around the examples of various glass blown products it is clear that he is quite the artist and teacher.   If you don’t have a whole day to create and blow, you can make your own personalized paper weight.   www.manchesterhotglass.com  

Our final destination was the Mother Myrick’s Retail Store at 4369 Main Street. The story goes back to 1977 when Ron was making fudge.  From there he went to buttercrunch toffee.  Learning from the Barry Callebaut Institute certainly didn’t hurt.  In 2005 the once owned ice cream parlor and café was exchanged for his production center.   I think it had something to do with the demand for his products outside of the Manchester or even Vermont areas.  Back to the tasting that included a lemon almond brittle, and Linzer Torte.  It was like a kid in a confectionery store.  I will have him send me some brownies to see how they rank with Fairy Tale Brownies.  www.mothermyricks.com

Ron brought us to quite a unique restaurant called The Depot Cafe.  It’s a furniture store with a small restaurant in the middle of it.  Not being too hungry the three of us shared a pizza with asparagus, a kalamata olive paste and a Turkish feta cheese. 

We were then dropped off at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce where we were to meet Sharon O’Connor of Backroad Discovery Tours.

Aside from us there was a mother with her daughter who was visiting from Israel.  Our first backroad stop was up on a mountain and valley vista to see the perfect view of Manchester.  

This was followed by a trip to the Norcross West Marble Quarry in Dorset.  It is said to be the oldest marble quarry in the US. The quarry has been abandoned and is now used as a public swimming hole. You can see some eroded slates.   Sharon  tells us that the marble structures in front of the New York Public Library are from this quarry. 

We passed through the “Quintessential historic village of Dorset” as Sharon put it, then onto Merck Forest and Farmland Center, a 3100 acre preserve & maple sugar center in the town of Rupert.  Having difficulty walking, Laurie got the tour of the building where the maples syrup is made. You will find that information in her blog.  I did go into the Visitors Center where we all sampled various grades of maple syrup.  Like sampling wine.  Pass me the pancakes!!!

My favorite stop was to the Marlee Farm in Pawlett to visit the alpacas.  There were two separate groups:  the teenage males and the young and adult females, the ones were bid a “hello” to. This group was friendly enough to approach us but backed off when being pet.  They were all so cute! Then there was one name Carolina Blue.  She actually came right up close to everyone’s face and allowed us to pet her.  I was so tempted to kiss her on her cute little nose.  Lauren and Lee seemed to enjoy this as well.

Unfortunately, we had to leave for the next site, Mach’s General Store, also in Pawlett.  The building itself is about 200 years old and has the Flower Brook running underneath.   You can view the depth of it in the back of the store through an opening in the floor (covered by glass) or go outside and around the corner to see the brook itself.   Mach’s is one of those stores that has just about a little of everything, if you get my gist.  You can even bring in your clothes to get cleaned.  Surprisingly I bought a cold bottle of Blue Moon beer for $1.74.  There are chairs in front so you do a people watch or simply “chill”.  A few other stores to check out on the block if time allowed, particularly one that makes lampshades from materials that you give them, such as a nostalgic blankie.

Back into the van!
We then looped back via the pristine Mettowee River Valley to “Isham Corners” where Vermont declared itself a separate entity in 1776 then passing the Marble House Project (an artist enclave and retreat) in Dorset.  FYI Sharon’s hubby does an historic civil war tour.  www.backroaddiscovery.com/#

Laurie and I thought that we said “goodbye” to Lauren and her mom…stay tuned for more on this.  Back at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and off to check into our second place. 
Most motels are a series of connecting rooms.  Casablanca Motel, in Manchester Center, was the most unusual as they were modern efficiency cabins (10 individually themed cozy cottages).  Laurie and I each had our own cabin.  Best sleep I had the entire trip…not because we had separate cabins…the serenity and no noise from neighbor.  Also, no flight of stairs or elevator.  There is no food plan here so you can put something in the frig and heat it up in the microwave.  Traveling ice cream now sitting in my frig.  What really stands out is the premises with lots of open land, two screened gazebos and a fire pit.  Each cabin has a porch with some chairs.   Free wireless internet, charcoal grills.  Pets are welcome.  Linda Benway and Diane Pouliot are the owners.  www.casablancamotel.com

Relaxed on the porch, freshened up to go to dinner at the Arlington Inn, an 1847 Village Estate. Willie Docto joined us.  I was unable to tour the inn.  You can learn more from Laurie’s blog. Loved the room and antiques.  I started with a lobster bisque that wasn’t creamy but topped with crème fresh and pieces of lobster meat.   It was obvious that the shells were used for the broth.  Loved the flavoring in it.  I tasted Willie’s appetizer of grilled shrimp wrapped in pancetta. With many entrées to choose from, I ordered the Mixed Grill of filet mignon, duck breast and loin lamb chop.  I love when these meats are cooked to my taste…I’m not one for rare lamb chops or duck breast and I like my beef “medium”.  Most unusual was the accompanying “Eggroll Potato”.  Mashed potatoes in an egg roll wrap, dipped in egg and panko and deep fried.  Dessert was skipped since the ice cream awaited me.   Owner Elizabeth Berger brought out her pet hen.   Something about her thinking that I have rubber chickens.  That was a joke on me! www.arlingtoninn.com  

We decided to give up the ice cream to the owners of Casablanca Motel.  Bidding a goodbye to Linda, Diane and their dogs and cat, Berta Maginniss gave us our next tour first stopping at The Manchester Gourmet Deli. Although they have outdoors seating, we breakfasted inside.  Laurie and I each ordered a half stack of blueberry pancakes. My reason was to have maple syrup. 

Having already viewed much of the area, Berta took us to view the ski resorts of Bromley and Stratton as the tourism office covers: Arlington, Danby, Dorset, Jamaica, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Pawlet, Peru, Rupert, Sandgate, Shaftsbury, Sunderland, Wallingford, Weston and Winhall.  


The original Norman Rockwell’s artist studio is located on the property of the Inn on Covered Bridge Green in Arlington.   Bridge at the Green is the name of the covered bridge that crosses Battenkill said to have been built in 1852.  


Although we were able to get a glimpse of Equinox Mountain the 5.2 mile road climb was out of the question.  My fear of heights alone! 

Time passed and lunch was in order as we headed for the Equinox Resort and Spa in Manchester Village where we spotted Lauren in the parking lot.  Lauren and her mom were staying at the resort.  Will we see them again?

We lunched with Kenny Valenzuela from Venezuela.  He is the Conference and Catering Manager whereas Gerry McFarland is the Director of Sales and Marketing.  Out came the best “bread plate” ever.  It was like a bento box.  There were two different breads, corn and jalepeno muffins, jalpeno jelly, butter and a dish with carrots and a plum.  


I began with a Cheddar Ale Soup (Vermont cheddar) and a lobster roll for an entrée that came with freshly made potato chips.  Due to it being lunch I was able to have an iced coffee and not freak out from the caffeine.  We chatted about the hotel as Kenny decided to invite us back for dinner and a tour of the hotel. 

Our itinerary now had us going to Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, located in Manchester (Yes, there is a helluva lot to do here).  Robert Todd Lincoln was the only child of Abraham and Mary to survive to adulthood as well as becoming the CEO of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation at the turn of the 20th Century.  The home, built in 1905 was occupied by Lincoln descendants until 1975.  The Friends of Hildene raised money to acquire the property in 1978.

There are 412 acres with buildings, trails and a farm to explore.  Hildene admission price includes a tour that includes the home (no photos allowed), the restored 1903Pullman Palace Car Sunbeam, two farms, gardens and about 12 miles of walking trail. Trams are  available to take you to the various spots.

We first enter the Welcome Center of which the admission desk, gift shop and two introductory videos are located.  One is about the Pullman car, the other about the home.  Laurie went to view the Pullman car while I watched the video.

George Pullman sought out former slaves to work as porters on the sleeping cars used for the upper class. These porters served American Railroads for about 100 years and are credited with contributing to the rise of black middle class in America. 

A 1928 Franklin car rests just outside of the home. This car belonged to Robert's daughter, Jessie.  Behind stands an observatory that is not functioning right now.  We enter the home and on our own for the tour.  Laurie explores the upstairs as I sit and listen to an Aeolian 1000-Pipe Organ. There was not time to stay for all 242 rolls of music. 



Didn’t get to see the goat farm with the cheese nor view the gorgeous gardens in back of the home.

We meet back at the Welcome Center to find….guess who?  Lauren and Gloria!  Who knows when we will next see them…probably in New York. www.hildene.org 

Check in time to our last night of the trip as we head for the Ira Allen House located in the Battenkill Valley. This 200-year-old historic inn was built by Ethan Allen of Green Mountain Boys fame and Ira Allen (Ethan’s brother) who was the Surveyor-General of Vermont. 

Kevin Marvelli and his partner Michael Garvey are the owners and live in the B and B.  It was actually the only gay owned and operated accommodations that we encountered.  Enter into a tavern that has been converted into a living room with lots of cozy furniture and a fireplace.   A small area in front of the kitchen is set up as “the bar”.   Through a door and passed the piano to where the breakfast (included) room is located.  Expect to have fresh local grub like yogurt made by a woman in the area.  Corn beef hash seems to be a staple as the corn beef is freshly cooked up in the kitchen.  All of the bedrooms are suites and located upstairs.  

My room, the Abigail was large with a television and sitting area.  The suite, with a shared bathroom, was connected to the Norman Rockwell, the second much smaller bedroom. 

Back to the Equinox Hotel for dinner at the Marsh Tavern.  The bread “bento box” was only a bit different as an orange was added.  We each ordered a cup of the clam chowder which was unexpectedly delicious considering that Vermont is not on the coast.   A description of the Mussels look great: Fregola Pasta, House Cured Vermont Bacon, Beurre Espelette, Crostini.  Our waiter said that there were some pepper flakes and didn’t think it would be much until I tasted it.  Pass me the milk!!!! 

More sharing as I couldn’t pass up the burrata.  It was accompanied by heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, EVOO, and crispy prosciutti, topped with basil seeds.  This was a locally made product and you can certainly taste the creaminess.  The restaurant does make their own fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses (I did taste this).  Yum!

Entrée time as I order the Vermont Rack of Lamb with melted Leek Farro, Charred Peppers (not hot ones), Spring Foraged Mushrooms, in a “Basil Demi”.  The lamb was cooked to my liking (not rare at all) and the combination of the accompaniments gave an excellent savory experience.
I can’t pass up a dessert when a chef makes ice cream. I had a deconstructed cannoli using their fresh ricotta, chocolate ice cream and liche sorbet, which I especially loved.
Tea was from a company called Teaforte of which this was a cucumber mint green tea with blueberry.  Certainly no need to add sugar.  We then rolled back to the car and the Ira Allen House. 

Breakfast conversing with two sisters who also stayed overnight, and check out as our itinerary still had more stops before heading home. Upon leaving, these fabulous hosts gave us a box of candles. Not just ANY candles but one from Aunt Sadie's in Vermont.  Each of these most delicious and fragrant candles come in a screw top can with a heavy plastic lid.  Without even burning it, you can smell the scent.  Lots of packaging and scents to choose from. 

Weston was the first destination for two country stores.  Weston Village Store is said to be the  “Original Country Store” which was directly across the street from the Vermont Country Store with the same claim.  We first went into the Weston Village Store which was quite old fashioned and having many Vermont products.  I was able to taste various Vermont cheeses that were not from Cabot Creamery.  I also found a fabulous walking stick much needed as the one I have has gotten a bit worn and chipped.  I will use the old one around the house and store shopping: the other for “going out”.  Price was expected low at about $15…good wood, too. 

Left, and drove the car into the parking lot of the Vermont Country Store.  Quite large and parking lot also had a take-out place with sitting areas.  Not that one would still be hungry if you sampled all at the store itself.

A book signing is one reason why we wanted to be at the Vermont Country Store.  This guy Ben Sargent was demoing how to prepare a lobster roll.  He’s on the Cooking Channel and the book is called “the Catch”.  Didn’t buy the book. Tasted a piece of the lobster roll and everything else around the store.  Thinking about the upcoming winter I looked at a pair of socks from a company called Darn Tough Socks and bought a few pairs.  Will let you know how they fit and warmth as well. Says they won't itch.

We then went outside as would believe that Laurie was hungry?   I met this guy who was walking around showing off his quail.  He said he does some sort of act with the quails.  I had seen him in the store looking to swap cheese for quail eggs.  

Our last stop, so I thought, was the Sugar Shack in Arlington where they make maple syrup but sell other things in the store.  The actual highlight is a huge display of Rockwell prints, post cards, and other collectibles.  There is even a dentist’s chair and a 15-minute video on Rockwell as well.  

Time went by and we decided to grab a nosh before the long drive home.  Waiting until we crossed the border into New York, we stopped at this eatery called Big Moose Deli and Country Store in Hoosick.   

It would have been another place to explore the items here but we really just wanted to grab a sandwich eat at a seating area in the back and go home.  They are famous for their pulled pork.  Hickory smoked on site, it is stacked high on either a roll or sub and then smothered in a maple (of course) BBQ Sauce. What could be bad?  Now, we head home. 

Now that you read this you can fill in my adventures not traveled by going to Laurie's blog.