Got up this morning to another gorgeous summer day. Got a walk in, spent some time with my kitties and hit the road around 11 am. The pale summer sky has a pinky-gold wash. Ahhhh…nothing like the open road — very uplifting to a spirit with wanderlust. We pass cottagers returning home, colourful kayaks strapped to roofs, hawks wheeling over late July corn, the ever-changing wildflower palette and the beautiful, peaceful farms of Eastern Ontario. We cross the International border at Cornwall and head into Mohawk land, past mom and pop smoke shops, casino signs and souvenir stops.
We travel on and enter upper New York state’s Amish country. We don’t encounter any horse and buggies this pretty Sunday. Our progress through the state takes us to small town America, past tiny, neat churches, volunteer fire departments, dilapidated trailers, pretty houses with front porches and waving American flags, horses grazing contentedly, their long tails swishing away flies , an abundance of abandoned farm implements as lawn ornamentation and cows. Lots and lots of cows. We cruise into picturesque Rouse’s Point and cross the bridge over sparkling Lake Champlain into Vermont, the green mountain state.
My entire view is green, green, green, hazy with mountains, blue sky and pure white cloud. My only regret is passing incredible, rustically beautiful barns and livestock sheds in a variety of stages of decay, many invaded by wildflowers, and not being able to stop and photograph each and every one.
Shortly we exit from our brief stint on I-89 into downtown Burlington, a quaint college town on Lake Champlain. Hope to explore a bit of the main drag before continuing on to Portland tomorrow.
Relaxing in my hotel room, I am treated to a beautiful view of the lake, dotted with sailboats, a mountain rising in the distance and more stark, white clouds. We decide on an early dinner and head out to Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a nice walk from our hotel.
The Farmhouse Tap and Grill is immediately comfortable, with a hip college vibe, but is populated with couples young and old, and young families with well-behaved little ones. This does not appear to be a hangout for students. Maybe they come later – it’s only 6pm. We decide to eat inside as the day is still quite hot. The Farmhouse, open in front with raised glass garage doors, has a breezy, pleasant atmosphere. Decor is chalkboard hipster with distressed wood tables, chairs and padded benches. No annoying music of any kind. Good date kind of place.
The menu at Farmhouse is small, eclectic and makes use of the best local product. The beer menu is extensive and unique. It includes a $45 Brooklyn Black Ops. Our server brings us an unexpected amuse bouche of asparagus in a mustard vinaigrette, incorrectly labeled aioli. This is the only misstep in the entire meal. Our server though barely shaving, is subtly charming and very knowledgeable. The menu features Vermont cheeses and we wish to choose a combination that is not offered. Not a problem. He goes over our beer choices with us, Doghead Fish Festiva Peche, a sour wheat beer with a hint of peach, and Allagash, a Belgian white, and is able to comment intelligently. We also order the house made pickled vegetables.
Our cheese platter includes a Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain firm cheese, Green Mountain Boucher Blue and a Champlain Valley Triple Cream, a smear of apple butter and some crisps. All three cheeses are high quality. The blue is creamy, medium strength in flavour and outstanding overall. The pickled veggies are a quick pickle of cucumber and fennel. Lightly sweet, vinegary, crisp and excellent. The Doghead brew, a sipper, nicely compliments the cheese course.
We had not ordered dinner at this point and our server returns to see if we would like anything more. I order the buttermilk fried chicken with potato puree, fresh farm greens dressed in blue cheese and El Cortijo buffalo sauce (a habanero based sauce from a sister restaurant specializing in Authentic Mexican).
Rob orders the pulled pork, cornbread and apple cabbage slaw. Since we are walking, we decide to indulge in more alcohol. Rob has been actively studying the beer menu to this point and orders a $25 bottle (large) of Allagash Victoria Ale, a Belgian style beer brewed with Chardonnay grapes for me and a Scottish Crabbie’s Ginger Beer for himself.
Our meals arrive at a relaxing pace (the joint is full and there are people waiting but there is no rush). My chicken is sublime. Boneless breast meat battered and fried perfectly, pairs wonderfully with the peppery greens and light blue cheese dressing. The habanero sauce lends big heat that is tempered by the potato puree. By all accounts, a truly outstanding entree. Robs’ pulled pork received a B grade (although his high standards are shaped by the outstanding pulled pork of North Carolina). The cornbread was sweet but freshly baked in a oiled skillet with a golden crust.
We opted out of dessert but were severely tempted by what was carried to other tables. The Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a real treat, was recommended to us by a fellow Ottawa Foodie, a great community, resource and fount of knowledge. Check them out at www.Ottawafoodies.com.
We walked back to our hotel room, to be treated by the sun setting over Lake Champlain. First day of road trip 5 is in the books.