After a brief hiatus, I’m back to the recap of our trip to Europe that I promised. I just had a sneaking suspicion that you might be more interested in a recipe for the most amazing pumpkin pie ever just days before Thanksgiving. Now I’m back to Europe, so to speak.
After Brussels and Bruges, we headed to Amsterdam where we promptly set out to find rijsttafel. What’s rijsttafel, you ask? Translated, it’s rice table, but what it really means is a table full of small Indonesian samplings. Why we don’t have this in every city in the United States is beyond me. It’s the perfect way to get to try several different dishes ranging in color, level of spiciness, texture, and of course flavor. In short, you get to try a little bit of everything. We had 10 small dishes ranging from chicken satay to lamb curry, to tofu curry, plus a large bowl of rice to share between the two of us and we had no problem polishing it all off.
When we discovered several months ago that some friends of ours were moving to Belgium, we knew right away that there was no question that we would be visiting them as soon as possible. We allowed them just barely enough time to move in and unpack before showing up at their doorstep in a hungry, jet lagged stupor. Between the fries, chocolate, waffles, mussels, and beer that Belgium has to offer, I was pretty much ready to move in before we even arrived. The food lived up to my every expectation and I reveled in the frite and waffle stands dotting about every other square foot of the city, a beer selection that left me speechless, fresh, sweet mussels the size of strawberries, and chocolate shops so luxurious and decadent that I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
My biggest problem with Belgium was time because there is frankly not enough time in the world to eat all of the fries, waffles, chocolate, and Belgian beer that I wanted. Nonetheless, our few days in Brussels and Bruges were a wonderful introduction to the wonderful cuisine and we did our part to familiarize ourselves as much as possible with the gastronomic delights.
Joseph and I have been trying to get to Burlington, VT all summer. We wanted to go to celebrate our second anniversary back in June, but our plans changed when I had to go to DC for work. We rescheduled for the weekend of July 4th, but then my knee surgery was scheduled for July 1st and we had to cancel yet again. But with both of our birthdays at the end of August, we were determined to finally make it north and celebrate. We decided since this short vacation was so long in the coming, we would add Montreal to our itinerary so we could explore this culinary city and Joseph could practice his French (he’s been teaching himself!).
Burlington is not only a great town full of nice people, interesting shops, good food, and beautiful scenery, but it’s a really nostalgic place for me. My grandparents lived there and I grew up looking forward to our vacations in Vermont. One of my favorite places in Burlington (in the world, actually) is the Restaurant at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit environmental education center with a 1,400-acre working farm nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain. The ingredients that the restaurant uses come either from their own farm (they even make their own cheese!) or from other Vermont farmers, making for some incredibly fresh and flavorful new American cuisine.
We decided to eat outside, overlooking Lake Champlain and an extraordinary sunset. Joseph got a quail appetizer and a lamb entree, while I got acorn squash soup to start and a lobster and scallop dish (how could I pass that up?). Choosing dessert was nearly impossible because I wanted one of everything, but we finally settled on a peach and berry tart, which was bright and juicy. I am desperate to go back and try the raspberry chocolate upside-down cake. It just sounded too heavy after all the food that we’d had, but I can’t stop thinking about it two weeks later.
That night we settled into our super quaint, charming 18th century B&B in Williston and awoke to a steady rain (courtesy of Irene) and an enormous breakfast of Belgian waffles and fresh peaches. We had hoped to spend a little more time on Burlington’s Church St., an outdoor pedestrian shopping area full of boutique shops, cafes, and street musicians, but with the rain we decided to head to our next destination: Montreal, Quebec. We had naive hopes of trying to get there before before the worst of the rain, but the rain traveled right along with us, leaving us with a very soggy afternoon in Montreal. Continue reading