Thursday, October 20, 2011

New England and Americana, the Road Trip: Part One

Lest you think that I've got Scotland-colored glasses on, I will be focusing on American travels today!
Perfect croissants in their limelight at the CIA
Here's the story of how I got to take this road trip. (You didn't think I just decided, ex tempore, did you?)
After a failed attempt at scheduling a meeting of old friends in Edinburgh, those same friends turned out to be visiting the U.S. for a holiday of their own-- in Vermont. So Sue very kindly asked if I could figure out a trip to Vermont, as it was 'in the neighborhood' and they'd be in the beautiful mountain country for over a week. Google Maps informed me that the drive from DC to Vermont would take about 10 hours. Knowing Europeans' penchant for underestimating distances in the U.S., I had thought this would probably be too far-- not to mention getting the time off work. However, I quickly calculated: the drive from Northampton to Edinburgh would have been over 6 hours, and that was what I had asked of them... so I daydreamed and got a little creative.
Witchy woods at Innisfree
During the dates they had booked, I had a large work meeting to help run in Philadelphia. This got me 2 hours closer to my northerly goal, and on the company dime-- yes! Too, I had a family member who lived in upstate NY who I would have loved to hang out with-- my halfway house! If I could engineer the schedule such that I could leave the meeting, stay with my cousin-once-removed, and take a few days off, this could work! So I sent my thoughts out to the universe and...
it worked!
So here are a few photos from the first part of the journey: staying near New Paltz with Ginny, visiting mosquito-ridden but oh-so-beautiful Innisfree Gardens, and stopping for lunch at the C.I.A.
A stone set 'just so' with its lake and lily pads beyond
 The always-fresh moss growth which had Ginny wanting to breathe it all in at a gulp
 Ginny capturing an intense red bud amid all the greenery

 After some serious stalking, we annoyed into flight what we think was a Great Blue Heron. He thought himself quite the Cock of the Walk, I must say- hard to perturb that one!

After getting eaten alive by the midges and mosquitos (wasn't raining hard enough to keep them out of our hair), we gave in and drove over Poughkeepsie way to the Culinary Institute of America.
Funny note: the CIA's grand building was originally a Jesuit novitiate seminary, which succeeded Frederick, MD for the care and feeding of Jesuits from 1903 to 1969. There is still an inlaid crest at the entry which signifies "For the glory of God" in Latin. I suppose one can cook to the glory of God as well...

The Apple Pie Bakery's Grilled Chicken Sandwich (verdict: mighty good)
 Ginny enjoying her Truffled Grilled Cheese (N.B. Apple Pie Bakery is the only restaurant at the CIA campus that doesn't have a 'dress nice' code and require reservations, so it was perfect for us garden gnomes)

 My golden standard: the chocolate chip cookie (verdict: I've had better. They couldn't decide the statement they wanted to make)
After feasting on all this (and stocking up on bakery goods as best we were able with clear consciences), we browsed the bookstore a bit and perused the gift shop items (verdict: many interesting imported gadgets and homey heartland delicacies, but the prices caused some dismay). After that, we barely had enough time to get back to town and the grocery store to pick up the lynchpin to Ginny's Master Plan for my stay: eating lobster.
I'm not sure what made her think of lobster, but think she did, and it provided quite the adventure for my palate, having never had plain lobster before (lobster bisque or lobster ravioli being the closest I'd yet come). With non-sugarplum'd daydreams of Julie Powell's encounter with Real Live Lobsters vaguely making me uneasy, I still wanted to see how it was done, in a real Yankee kitchen. And I'd tried some really sweet King Crab legs at a Washington waterfront eatery, so I imagined lobster meat would be sort of similar.
Awaiting judgment in the bag on the table
Ginny was the best of instructors, patiently waiting for photos, explaining necessary steps, and encouraging heartily to 'suck the marrow out of' the lobster'-- if only they had some! We settled for trying to get at all the joints of the little legs, 'little' being relative. And I enjoyed the cracking and popping of those legs as much as I do that of my own joints: you kind of know you shouldn't do it, but it relieves the tension.
Oh, and there was lemon butter sauce. Don't forget the expert mise-en-place!

 Like a deer in headlights...
 A little culinary fun: Scary Crustacean terrifies Vinton the Cat (notice the brandishing of the lobster, and the two eyes glowing from the cat doorway... Mr. Vinton was not best pleased.

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