The leaves are turning and there's a hint of fall in the air ... ok, maybe not here in New York City, where it still feels like summer ... but its definitely fall in Vermont. The husband and I have just returned from a week spent in Southern Vermont and it was glorious. The weather was just about perfect and the change in temperature was nothing short of dramatic. It was 32 degrees on Monday night! Fortunately, I'm no stranger to the vicissitudes of New England weather - and Vermont's in particular - and I was well prepared with a light down jacket and my cashmere turtle necks. I think the full time Vermonters were mocking me, in fact, I'm sure of it ... they were out and about in t-shirts and shorts while I was practically frozen.
It was a good kind of frozen though, the kind that begs for long nights spent in front of the fireplace and hearty meals fresh from the oven. And that's exactly what we did. We had a fire every night and I even managed to produce some culinary greatness thanks to the bountiful harvest from our favorite farm, The Clearbrook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont.
Clearbrook offers a truly stunning array of organic produce, most of it raised right there on the property and the balance from other local growers. We were lucky to have chosen last week for our vacation as today is their last day before they close down for the winter season. Highlights of the week included some spectacular golden cauliflower, crisp Macoun apples, probably the best acorn squash I've ever tasted and some truly outrageous poblano peppers. I put the peppers to good use in making a really savory pot roast and promptly returned for more to bring back to the city with me. I should have bought a crate of them - they were that good! Everything at the Clearbrook is that good. We also brought home some delicious pears, more acorn squash and golden cauliflower and, of course, more apples. I wish I could have brought the whole farm home with me.
Naturally, we did our fair share of dining out as well. Highlights include two wonderful lunches at The Blue Benn Diner - I had some magnificent turkey and black bean enchiladas there on Friday, a lovely lunch with a VT friend at The Madison Brewery in Bennington, and dinner at Alldays & Onions, also in Bennington. Alldays & Onions provided me with my soup fix for the week - a luscious and hearty split pea soup that was altogether perfect. While its easy to eat well in Southern Vermont, perhaps the biggest surprise was to be found in Wilmington. Specifically pizza in Wilmington, Vermont. I kid you not.
Those of you who know me in real life are shaking your heads right now and wondering if I've lost mine. Its time to admit that I am a pizza snob of the highest order. Having grown up in the New Haven area, I can be no less. New Haven, Connecticut is home to what has been called the best pizza in the world - and rightly so. The whole area is an embarrassment of pizza riches - Pepe's, Sally's, Modern, even Eli's in Hamden - are among the top tier and even the bottom tier pies are better than anything you can get here in the city. I don't eat New York pizza, I just can't. Its not even the same food. So why, you ask, would I venture to try Wilmington pizza? Because Zuppardi's ad in a local dining guide said they offer "New Haven style pizza" and, lo and behold, its because Zuppardi's in Wilmington is owned and operated by a well known West Haven, CT pizza maker. Sweet!
We took a chance on Zupardi's on Friday night and were delighted to find a pizza that comes as close to our beloved New Haven pie as possible. Sure, this Zuppardi's doesn't have a coal fired oven, but all the other necessary elements were there: zesty tomato sauce, a savory blend of mozzarella and provolone cheese, the absolutely essential blackened bubbles which result from a properly heated oven, and a crust that actually has some flavor. It was delicious! See for yourself:
Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs that night ... we ordered the large pie and could only finish half - but not because it wasn't it good - it was excellent. But filling. I'm very sorry to say that I left the balance of it in our freezer in Vermont. Oh, woe is me. Now, to be honest I have to offer one slight criticism - the crust was a bit too thick. True New Haven pizza has an impossibly thin crust and Zuppardi's crust was a bit more generous. Fortunately, it was flavorful and did not detract from our enjoyment of the pie. Suffice it say that we've added a new "must-do" to our Vermont list. Color me happy!
All in all it was a great, tasty and much needed vacation. Now, about those magnificent poblano peppers ... I really went to town with them yesterday and out-did myself in the culinary greatness ... and I'll tell you all about it ... tomorrow. Stay tuned for a new recipe!