You Say You Have Never Been to a Wool Festival?

Pigs, really? They don't have wool.

Pigs, really? Aries the goat gives us some attitude.

Well, then you haven’t truly lived, have you? Saturday we went to the Vermont Wool and Sheep Festival and had a really good time. I can’t make this stuff up! Vermont offers so many interesting experiences and they are all within an hour drive. This one was held at the Tunbridge fair grounds – just a 45 minute autimnal drive under canopies of rust, yellow, green and gold leaves – along river banks and beneath rocky hieghts.  At the festival there were sheep, goats, alpaca’s for petting, for sale, for demonstrating how their wool becomes string, yarn and then wonderfully warm items to wear or enjoy.

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We saw how spinning wheels work as the fleece of an angora rabbit was fed and twisted into a string that gathered on a poll as the wheel spun it round. And, there are all sorts of types of spinners, some with foot pedals and then the really ancient kind that use gravity to drop to the floor and pull and twist the fleece into thread or yarn.

We watched a modern day shepherd show how his dogs work with the sheep. He used whistles, commands and sounds to illustrate how the collies understood and executed his orders. It was a special thing to see in an era of cell phones and wifi.

There were lots of items for sale everywhere including yarn, pelts, sweaters, hats, handwarmers, mittens, stuffies and christmas ornaments!

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We won’t soon forget our time at the wool and sheep festival. I’m just lucky we made it home without a new member of the family – the girls were trying to goad me into adopting another kid or some sheep.

The Tunbridge Worlds Fair

It happens every September, and has since 1845, the tiny town of Tunbridge, Vermont hosts its World Fair. The event draws people from across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. This was our first experience and we are already talking about going earlier and staying longer next year!

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Of course there are rides and fair food and entertainment, but the vegetable and animal competitions are the best part. The vegetables were huge – amazing – every conceivable kind of vegetation. img_3013

I love the cows and the sheep but to be honest, my favorite are the chickens and birds. I had no idea there were so many different kinds:

 

There were also pig races! But I can’t post video on here so you’ll have to go to our facebook page.   Check out the fair and book into the CH for next year’s round! Remember to call our new number – 802-359-7046 to avoid paying fees through VRBO or Air B&B.

 

 

 

Summer Harvest at the Norwich Farmers Market

Stall at the Norwich Farmers Market

Stall at the Norwich Farmers Market

I have been remiss for far too long and I intend to rectify that starting today. It is time to let everyone know that Norwich, Vermont is a wonderful place to live and visit. We have been here going on three years now and one of my favorite things to do is head to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning. From May thru November, the Norwich Market is held out-of-doors in the fields by the community gardens and Dresden playing fields on Route 5.

This sunny Saturday morning, stands were awash in color, brimming with fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions and all sorts of vegetables and fresh cut flowers. A local band played folk meets fiddle dee music while residents, trail hikers and tourists mixed, danced and ate.
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Fellow VRBO rental owner Peggy Allen from Savage Farm had a stand stacked with gorgeous dyed yarns made from the coats of her sheep. IMG_2946

She and I discussed recent events at VRBO that we are not in favor of – since Expedia bought VRBO they have added fees that guests must pay when they book their stay at our rentals through the website. In the past, VRBO only charged the owners and while that continues they now also charge the guests which just doesn’t feel right to us. We both want to encourage our guests to book us directly by calling us.

The rates are still listed on VRBO but if you call Carriage House at Dutton Hill we will be able to book you in and alter our calendar while taking a payment with pay pal and avoid the extra fees. I will soon publish our new phone number for anyone wishing to do it this way. In the meantime, you can always reach me on email at: tiffanypache@hotmail.com.

We have a lot of openings still for leaf season which begins in late September and peaks during the first two weeks of October. Come and enjoy the colors that I aliken to a big bowl of trix cereal and hit the farmers market for some fresh foods to make in the kitchen in your carriage house rental.

Hope to see you soon!

Browsing and tasting Woodcock Farms Cheese. Magic Mountain is my fav.

Browsing and tasting Woodcock Farms Cheese. Magic Mountain is my fav.

Foodies Next Stop: Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, VT

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Well, we finally made it to Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont. A notoriously difficult to book restaurant with a reputation for great food. Lucky for us, some persistent friends managed to reserve a table and invited us along. If you are a foodie a visit to Osteria is a must on your trip to the Upper Valley, however you should call ahead and make reservations first and then book your stay at The Carriage House at Dutton Hill!

Osteria is the realization of what many people dream about – a small chef-owned restaurant with one seating – dream jobs for owners Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber. They have the perfect arrangement – a two person operation that allows them to grow the food, cook it and serve it – in a small, bright, well-appointed upstairs room. Deirdre greets guests, explains the menu and, upon request, expertly chooses among the Italian wines they serve to match each dish. At the same time, Caleb cooks – the restaurant is where his talents are showcased –and he often brings out the food and speaks with the guests. They were trained in small kitchens across Italy and serve “farm style” food in that tradition. For example, they learned to make a thin crust pizza in Chianti from the owners of a small local eatery called Osteria del Circolo Ricreativo. Believers in the slow food movement, they have always worked with local farm partners, but they have also developed a restaurant garden that grows Italian varieties of lettuces, vegetables and herbs specifically for their menu. Together they began La Garagista Farm and Winery in 1999. The winery, where Deirdre reigns, opened its doors in 2010.IMG_1653

The menu is really just a launching point – it changes often and there are so many specials available that it quickly becomes difficult to choose what to order. We opted to start our meal with a Prosecco suggested by Deirdre. It was light and airy while maintaining a dry – not sweet – flavor. Three of us ordered from the prefix menu which allowed us to try a variety of items. One of the specials was similar to a calzone stuffed with prosciutto, olive oil and some herbs, but it appeared more like a quesadilla because of the thinness of the pizza crust. It was crunchy and delicious. The salumi – a plate of house cured meats was another great choice. One of our party tried the special risotto that consisted of a native blend of mushroom called a Pheasant Back because it has a feathered appearance. The mushrooms had a robust, meaty flavor and the other ingredient cheese added a silkiness and warmth to the risotto.

There were two pastas offered for the next course. I had the special pasta and it was cooked al dente. It was a beautiful consistency – a bit chewy but not crunchy – I’ve never had pasta cooked quite like this and I can’t wait to try and replicate it. The pasta with carrots and cacio cheese was especially flavorful. Caleb explained that the carrots were a surprise find in the garden. They had evaded picking last fall and wintered in the garden which gave them an intensely bright sweet flavor.

For the next course, I had cenci – two small beef cutlets sautéed in lemon and olive oil with potatoes and greens. The beef was good although not spectacular. The olive oil was obvious but the lemon difficult to note. The potatoes and greens were both tasty compliments. Another at our table had the calamari special and very much enjoyed it. The big score was the pizza – a sausage pizza with red sauce and cheese on very thin crust. It looked enormous but was easily devoured by one person! It was so tasty – the sausage was out of this world and the pizza had the perfect amount of – well, grease, on it. It is well worth visiting Osteria just to get a pizza or two and a couple glasses of wine. Oh, that reminds me – the wine pairings with each of our orders was perfect. They were all Italian wines that I had never heard of before – a region for which I lack more than a few weeks experience – but they were rich and bold when desired, light and pinot like when not and/ or mineral-ly dry and white.  The desserts were OK, but it is best to stick with the fruit based over the chocolate. The apricot pie was particularly good and tasted sort of like a kuchen which I attribute to the possibility of there being ricotta in it.

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At Osteria the dining experience is central –  no one is trying to push you out of the restaurant to turn the table. I believe there is only one sitting a night and there are about 22 seats in the house. Deirdre gracefully waits on each customer. Osteria Paine e Salute is absolutely a must have epicurean experience. I can’t wait for the next time I can get reservations.

Hot Bread Now!

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Artisan Walnut Bread

Remember that childhood feeling when you convinced your parents to go to the donut shop and as soon as the car pulled into the lot the neon red “HOT DONUTS NOW” sign lit up? That is exactly how I felt this morning when I turned onto our road and saw a sign declaring “Suzannne’s Wood Fired Bread Today.” Suzanne stopped making her breads late last fall and I have been eagerly anticipating her return. I heard rumors that it wouldn’t be until June. I had hoped it would be as early as Easter. So imagine my delight when I saw her sign today? I pulled over, parked and walked to the community oven to see what was on the docket.

Norwich Community Oven

Norwich Community Oven

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Susan building up the fire.

Every Friday through October, Suzanne shows up early with wood and kindling to build and feed a fire in the old monstrous wood burning oven. In the back of her pick-up truck are large silver bowls filled with dough that she sets out on her workstation to rise. She has a wooden stick that lists what types and flavors of breads she will be offering up. I jotted down our family favorite – walnut bread – on a brown paper bag and put $7 dollars in the tin. She told me that the walnut was rising a bit slow and that I should wait to come back in four or five hours.

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Bagged bread ready to go!

Other folks stop by on their route home to pick up breads they ordered on their way into the office. One of the best things about living in Norwich is living just up the hill from the oven.

I suppose Suzanne’s reappearance is one more confirmation that winter is finally over and summer is nudging its way out from around the corner.

It’s Sugar Time!

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The sugar season opened sluggishly this year as stubborn cold temps stifled the flow of nature’s sweet treat. But now all is a go and gray metal buckets hang from trees around town, they are dotting maples lining long winding roads and peppering trails and pathways – everywhere sap is slipping through spiles into covered tin pails.

On a Saturday morning in late March, we climbed into the truck and drove to Elm Grove Farm’s Sugar Shack on the outskirts of Woodstock, Vermont. We used google maps to get there and what should have taken about 25 minutes took us more than a bit longer.  Having said that, we found ourselves on a beautiful, if lengthy and narrow drive to the mountainside maple harvester. (We had a big laugh when we met up with friends and learned that we could have taken a much easier and faster route.)

Smoke was billowing from the sugar shack creating the best smelling fog I have ever inhaled. I swear someone should bottle the scent of boiling maple sap and sell it as a home fragrance. My first impressions were of surprise that the building truly looked like an honest to goodness shack. It was tucked away behind the barn and to the side of an old Victorian farmhouse. Inside, the steam grew dense, the scent succulent and strong, you could taste it in the air, its source was a large, modern boiler eating up piles of wood and producing syrup. IMG_1124

IMG_1120After observing the works, we were offered a taste of the warm but not too hot syrup. I never would have thought that I could drink maple syrup but I did and I really enjoyed it.  It was just like drinking a maple flavored drink. It was very smooth. The syrup was a dark amber color and it was sweet but not too sweet. It had a boldness to it that had me reaching into my pocket for a Jackson to buy a nice sized jug of it to take home.

Living in Vermont, I have learned that maple syrup is much, much more than just a pancake topping. That is why we stopped on the way home to pick up some lemons. Both are ingredients in a very tasty beverage that we like to serve here at Dutton Hill. I’m happy to share the recipe, but please don’t use the old sticky Log Cabin, Aunt Jamima or Mrs. Butterworths that is sitting in the back of the pantry as a substitute – only real New England maple syrup will suffice.IMG_1122

Dutton Hill Sugar Shack Special

1 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice (there are about 2 oz in a standard lemon)

1 oz of fresh maple syrup

2 oz of bourbon (I recommend a low-to-mid-range bourbon– something you don’t mind mixing. Oh, and don’t use a bourbon that is infused or one on the sweeter side such as Makers as it will make it too sweet.)

Mix the ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Fill two old fashioned glasses with ice. Strain the ingredients into the glass and serve.

It is very tasty. Enjoy and come visit a real sugar shack and take home the authentic stuff.

I Scream, You Scream

Even though we are in the midst of winter up here, for some unknown reason, our children still wanted to go on an excursion to Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT?! Huh, strange, eh? The factory is open year round (except for the three Holiday biggies: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving Day) and they also stay open longer during the summer and early fall.
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The hour long drive took us through gorgeous mountain scenery – snow hung upon the mantel of countless pine trees, a shroud of white covered the voluptuous landscape – we just kept saying, “it’s so beautiful.”
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Before we knew it we arrived at B&J’s with the same anticipation that you would expect to feel driving up to the Willy Wonka Factory. Our gold tickets were just $4.00 per adult and kids 12 and younger visit for free.IMG_1330

The company has factories around the world but the HQ in Waterbury produces 125,000 pints of supreme ice cream per day! The factory tour has become Vermont’s most popular tourist attraction, according to an article in Vermont Living – the outing includes a short film outlining the history of the company and then our guide, Mel, took us to an upper level where we were able to view the ice cream making process through giant vats. At the end of the tour, each participant gets a scoop of ice cream. Both of my girls were very into it, “I liked seeing how they make the best ice cream in the country – no offense Dairy Twirl,” Sophia said. Little person number 2, a.k.a Ava-Grace said it “was neat to learn the history of it, but the best part was the ice cream at the end.”

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After consuming our tasty treat we headed into Waterbury to go to the Prohibition Pig for lunch. The restaurant’s reputation precedes itself as does its craft brewery. As I’ve mentioned, Vermont is a bastion of craft beers and I am currently working on a tour guide for our guests– Prohibition Pig will most definitely be a stop on the path of righteous beer making. My official taster, Drew, said that “The ProPig Multi Grain IPA was one of the best IPA’s I’ve tasted (and he has truly tasted a lot),” then added that it had a, “perfectly balanced bitterness.” I’m not a beer drinker, I know, sad, but I do like Vermont’s hard ciders. From what people tell me, Vermont started getting into the Hard Cider business in a big way in the last couple of years. Prohibition Pig had two Hard Ciders on the menu that I tried. The first was Citizen Cider American, a Vermont cider aged in a bourbon cask with orange notes. It was very good and also complex. The second, Boyden Vermont Ice was a dry cider that was reminiscent of an easy going sauvignon blanc – something you could drink all afternoon – simple. I definitely preferred the first drink but they both had merit.

Now, for the food, we started with pimento cheese balls rolled in planko and fried – sooo good – even my finicky children enjoyed them.

Drew ordered a GLT which is a BLT sandwich featuring bacon cut “Italian style,” called guanciale that means from the pigs cheeks – the pigs are butchered at the restaurant – fried green tomato, baby arugula and roasted garlic aioli. OMG! This sandwich was the bomb! I didn’t think bacon could be improved upon, but this bacon was the very best I have ever tasted.

Both kids enjoyed their meals ordered off the kids menu and they had root beer on draft-big hit. I, on the other hand should have gone with the GLT. I ordered the pulled pig with NC bar-b-cue sauce and having lived in NC well –it’s like ordering buffalo wings outside of Buffalo. The Vermont version didn’t work with me. It was not bad, it just wasn’t what I know and love.

There are plenty of other attractions to include in an excursion to Waterbury including the Alchemist microbrewery, Cabot Creamery, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Lake Champlain Chocolates. Well, there you have it, folks, another fun day in our winter wonderland.

Ski Season is Upon Us!

Don’t forget the Winter Indulgence Package is available the rest of January and the beginning of February. After an unusually warm Holiday Season, the temperatures have dropped low enough that the ski resorts have been able to open. We expect temperatures to hover in the 20s over the next week or two with no warm up in sight which is great for winter sports enthusiasts. Ice Skating has opened up on the Norwich Town Green as well as other places around the Upper Valley. Numerous places to snowshoe and Nordic ski – including right here in Norwich – are now abundant. Below, find a list of the resorts and conditions as they have been reported this morning, January 9, 2015.

Whaleback Mountain opens this Saturday at 9 a.m. They have been making snow all week. Runs open: Spout, Lower Spout, Upper Face, Bougainvillea, Novice Area Lifts open: chair lift, rope tow, magic carpet!

The Dartmouth Skiway is open and has one inch of snow but it is still snowing. There are three lifts open, seven trails open and a base depth of 6-24 inches. It is machine groomed/frozen granular.

The Quechee Club has had two inches in the last 24 hours, 2 inches in the last 48 hours. Seven of 13 trails are open and 3 of 3 lifts are working with 16” to 24” base and the surface is packed powder.

Suicide Six has had no snow accumulation in the last two days. Five of 24 trails are open with 2 of 3 lifts working. There is a base of 2” to 36” on machine groomed trails.

Killington Resort has had 5” in the last 24 hours and 6” in the last 48 hours, 81 of the 155 trails are open. Seventeen of 22 lifts are available and there is a base of 16” to 24” on machine groomed trails.

Stowe Mountain Resort has had 1 inch in the last 24 hours and 1 inch in the last 48 hours. Ninty of 116 trails are open with 11 of 13 lifts working on a base of 20” to 48” on machine groomed trails.

Sugarbush has had no snow in the last day and an inch in the last two days. The base is 10” to 25” and 104 of 111 machine groomed trails are open and 12 of 16 lifts are working.

Smugglers Notch Resort has had 2 inches in the last 24 hours and 2 inches in the last 48 hours. Thirty four of 78 trails are open and 6 of 8 lifts are working. The base is 14” to 50” and the surface is machine groomed.

Bolton Valley has had one inch of snow, 48 of 71 trails are open, 5 of 6 lifts and there is a base of 10’’ to 25’’. The surface is frozen granular.

Bromley Mountain Resort has 3’’ in the last day, 28 of 46 trails are open, 4 of 8 lifts, base is 14’’ to 36’’ and surface is powder.

Jay Peak Resort has 1-2 inches in the last day, 5-8 in the last two days, 57 of 78 trails are open, 7 of 9 lifts and a base of 10’’ to 27’’. The surface is machine groomed.

Mad River Glen has had one inch of snow in the last day and 17 of 45 trails are open with 4 of 5 lifts working. The base is 6” to 30” and the surface is machine groomed.

Magic Mountain hasn’t had snow in the last couple days. Only 5 of the 43 trails are open and 1 of 4 lifts. The base is 17” to 21” and the surface is machine groomed.

Mount Snow has had 3” in the last day and 8” in the last two days. Forty-one of 80 trails are now open with 10 of 20 lifts working. The base is 14” to 20” and is machine groomed.

Pico Mountain has had 4 inches in the last two days and 20 of 57 trails are operating. Five of 7 lifts and the base is 16” to 24” and is machine groomed.

Burke Mountain Resort has had one inch in the last day and two inches in the last two days. There are 17 of 50 trails open, 5 of 6 lifts and a base of 6” to 24” on packed powder.

Nearby Nordic Trails, snow shoeing, skating and sledding at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center has had 0 inches in the last day but 2-3 in the last two days. Thirteen of the 15 trails are open the base is 4” to 10” on packed powder.

Embracing Winter

What do you think would be fun to do in 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather? Us folk up here in Vermont, well, we embrace the chilly weather and because of this, we find lots to do in it! First of all, don’t be afraid to step out-of-doors. Put your book down, let the fire die out and come along with me…come on, you won’t be sorry. Last Saturday, it hit a high of 22 degrees and the sun was off pouting behind a wall of fat gray clouds, but we didn’t let it keep us up inside. Instead, we hopped in the truck and drove toward a gorgeous little town called Grafton, Vermont – about an hour away. Our singular goal was to go sledding at Grafton Ponds. But, before we arrived there, we happened upon the Vermont Country Store which was an adventuresome treat sitting on the side of Route 103 in Rockingham, VT.New Years 2015 004

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A bell actually rings as you walk in the front door. Once inside, it is difficult to take in all the goods that are stocked on walls, on beams, on shelves rising up from the floor boards. We found all sorts of treats – old and new-fashioned!

There was about 15 square feet of penny candy, rows of jars, little baggies and weigh stations tempting consumers of all ages. Beyond that: homemade fudge, toys, cleaning supplies, local cheeses and foods…another wing held clothing that most outdoor lovers enjoy, brands such as Kuhl, Prana, Woolrich and such. There were shoes and soaps: New Years 2015 009

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We must have spent an hour delaying our winter adventure inside the walls of the shop. Just outside the store, near the parking lot is a covered bridge with a special message. New Years 2015 015

We returned to the road and soon found ourselves at our destination, a picture perfect New England town with a world class Cross-Country Ski area called Grafton Ponds where we would be able to sled on inner tubes. It was as if we had stumbled onto a movie set. We could not get over the “adorableness” of Grafton. Apparently, the town was originally called Thomlinson until naming rights were auctioned off in 1791 to someone offering $5.00 and a bottle of rum (sounds a bit like the song of a pirate). The winner, who may or may not have been a pirate in real life,renamed it Grafton after the town of the same name in Massachusetts from whence he hailed. There are tons of repeat names all over New England. I call it the “Springfield Effect” (there is one in every state) only here there was either a true lack of diversity of thought among our founders, or an attitude that finds beauty and comfort in what is known. grafton-vt-jf10-fea

We had barely driven through the town when we arrived at Grafton Ponds. Although we didn’t come to cross-country ski or snow shoe or ride on sleds pulled by a team of blue eyed dogs – we were heading for the 600 foot lanes built into the side of the mountain. For just $35.00, a family of four can tube (tubes supplied by Grafton Ponds) for two hours. I have to say, not one toe became too cold during the entire time. We even shed layers of clothing as we traversed the mountain. So there, 20 degrees, bring it!

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After sledding we went back to town to find some hot cocoa. We went to the pub at the Grafton Inn which was established in 1801 when Grafton was best known as a stagecoach center for those crossing the Green Mountains into Albany, New York.New Years 2015 022New Years 2015 024

The pub was in an old barn with two roaring wood fireplaces heating the post-and-beam room. We happened to be there the first day that they opened at 2pm. (We arrived at 2:10.) It was a good business decision by the owners because the entire place was packed! Drew had the bratwurst lentil soup and said it was one of the top three soups he has ever eaten. I had a burger made of local beef and cheddar cheese from the Grafton Village artisinal cheese company. It was equally good and I believe the pickles were homemade as well. Yum!
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The town began making cheese back in 1892. We ducked into the shop next to the hotel where cheese were available to sample and buy. The Clothbound Cheddar was particularly good. With a bag full of cheese for an evening appetizer we jumped into our truck and headed down the winding dirt road back to Norwich.