My best friend had plans to attend her freshman daughter’s Parents Weekend at the University of Vermont in Burlington. Her husband wanted to stay home with their high school son so they asked me if I could take time off to go. She planned to stop in Boston to visit her other daughter, a college junior at Boston University, so we could add a trip to my parents in southern Massachusetts too.
Road trip? New England in the fall? Parents? Pretend nieces? I’m in! It’s at times like these that I’m glad I’m a freelancer and can work around my life.
Stop #1: Arlington VA
I packed a chicken parmigiana sandwich and drove to Arlington where I met up with Mary.
Stop #2: Pelham NY (one night)
We left Virginia around 5 p.m. and drove to Pelham NY where we spent the night with our friend Kathy whom we’ve known since college. We unwound with a few glasses of red wine and some delicious homemade chicken and pasta soup.
Stop #3: Burlington VT (two nights)
The rain stayed with us a few hours the next morning but cleared in time for our drive along the west side of Lake George. Mary told me that my birthday buddy, Rachel Ray, grew up in Lake George. It’s a beautiful place and must be buzzing during the summer. We stopped along the way for cider donuts and cookies – the most delicious maple walnut cookie I’ve ever had.
We took a ferry across Lake Champlain, drove through the pretty town of Vergennes and ended up at Stephanie’s dorm room. Apparently Foursquare isn’t that popular with college students because I became Mayor of her dorm after two check-ins.
That evening we headed downtown to the pedestrian-only section of Church Street. Because of Parents Weekend and Homecoming it was a busy night, and since we hadn’t made dinner reservations we had to find the shortest list. Later I found out that the Farmhouse Tap & Grill with its locally sourced food and beer is THE place to go. While we waited for a table at Scuffer Steak and Ale House we browsed through the Firehouse Center for Visual Arts and a few shops. At Scuffer I had two good beers by local brewery Switchback and a good sandwich.
The next morning we wandered through a harvest fair on campus, checking out the cows, homemade wool sweaters and winter accessories — winter in Burlington, brrrr — and sampling cheese curds, freshly pressed apple juice and ice cream from Gifford’s.
After an obligatory trip to Walmart to stock up her dorm room, we headed to Magic Hat Brewery. The tour guide was funny in an irreverent way you would expect from Magic Hat but it wasn’t a walk-through of the brewery, we only looked down on parts of it from above. They weren’t brewing or bottling so it was very quiet down there. But there were samples after the tour. I got to try six different brews. Of course they had #9, their signature ale with hints of apricot. I wasn’t in the mood for the Fall 2010 Odd Notion, a Belgian style wit made with green apples, but I loved the Hex (“malty amber ale with hints of toffee and caramel and a slightly smoky finish’), HIPA (big balanced hoppy IPA), and Blind Faith (another great IPA). They also had an odd beet-flavored beer on tap in the brewery – refreshingly red, a good summer beer.
We stopped at Lake Champlain Chocolates where it wasn’t a production day either, like the brewery, but we had a few delicious samples and I revived myself with a maple latte. I can’t get enough of maple. Must be my New England roots.
We took a cruise in Lake Champlain on The Spirit of Ethan Allen. We didn’t see Champ (the lake monster) but enjoyed the views of the beautiful Adirondacks of New York and Green Mountains of Vermont while snacking from a picnic basket of cheese, meats, baguette and other nibblies from Vie de France.
Stop #4: Boston MA
On our way out of town we stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury VT. Keeping with the theme, they weren’t in production either. That’s okay, we got free ice cream after the tour.
We made our way southeast through hills filled with autumn colors and lonely farms. By afternoon we arrived on Commonwealth Avenue, aka Boston University, truly an urban campus, so different from UVM. After another obligatory shop-and-stock-the-pantry trip with older daughter and serious Redskins fan Maggie, we returned to her apartment to watch the game. But Mary plugged in a lamp that we now know wasn’t wired properly and blew a fuse sending half the apartment into the dark. No more game. After two hours of brisk walking to closed hardware stores and finally a drive to Home Depot, we got the power back on and headed out to dinner.
I’ve been reading about Sunset Grill and Tap as a craft beer lover’s destination for years and was excited to finally go since it was a short walk from Maggie’s apartment. They have a crazy good draft list and their bottle list is pages long. I had two drafts, Southern Tier Pumking and Founders Breakfast Stout, along with fish and chips that were accompanied by a really good sun-dried cranberry and scallion coleslaw.
Stop #5: North Easton MA (two nights)
We didn’t arrive at my parents’ house until 11 p.m., but they were up to greet us, as were their other houseguests — my sister-in-law Monica, her mom, and my niece. Monica had meetings along the east coast so she and her brood were staying in MA for a few days with my parents before heading to DC the next morning. Since Monica lives in California with my brother and her mom lives in Alaska, it was a thrill to see them.
The next day we picked up Maggie at the T station in Quincy and drove down to Plymouth. We bring all our out-of-state visitors to Plymouth to see the Plymouth Rock and Mayflower, although the real reason we go is to have fried clams and lobster rolls on the Town Wharf. I prefer The Lobster Hut because they have Mayflower Brewing beers on tap, but my parents prefer Wood’s Seafood, so that’s where we went.
No trip home is complete without fried clams, lobster, and one more thing – linguica pizza. Our final stop in Massachusetts was the Union Villa in North Easton to bring home some linguica, onion and mushroom pizza. I took the leftovers home to North Carolina.
Stop #6: Moorestown NJ
Tuesday we were back on the road south again, with a stop for lunch in Moorestown NJ to visit with Mary’s dad. We timed it right because in just a few days this 91 year old was heading to Russia for a two-week trip to Moscow, St. Petersburg and a Volga River cruise.
Stop #7: Arlington VA
We made it back to my old city, Arlington, VA in time for one of Scott’s famously delicious dinners. When I lived in Arlington, I was a frequent Saturday night diner at Mary and Scott’s house. Scott would spend a few hours in the kitchen, a game on TV, a glass of wine (or Rolling Rock) nearby and an open stained cookbook on the counter. This time he went Italian and made Pork Ragù al Maialino – torn pasta with a braised pork shoulder ragu. When I left for North Carolina the next morning, I was thinking, I wish I had those leftovers! Now that I have the recipe I’ll have to make it myself.
Home. The End.