Vermont Oasis

There is a line in President Obama's book "Dreams from My Father" that reads, "Strange how a single conversation can change you." I love that line. To add to that I think it's funny how life has a way of reminding you of the past, and kicking your butt to make you face reality and get your act together… finally (or at least nudging you along to "listen to your intuition, already"). I am sitting on the train, heading back to NYC from Vermont where I spent about 3.5 days hanging with my friend Peter who I've known for 18 years, and pretty much hadn't seen since then.
Waaaay back in the late 80s/very early nineties we were living in the same town in Florida. I was an aspiring model. He was a successful fashion photographer and cinematographer, and my first "older man" infatuation. Knowing him then was like my initiation into the world I wanted to be a part of. He introduced me to sushi, photography, Milan Kundera, and motorcycles. And to a style I am still enamored with today… Bauhaus, he reminds me.
Indialantic was a spectacular beach town at the time. The best gothic/industrial store I've ever known (anyone out there remember the name?), skaters doing rails up and down the boardwalk, and surfers riding the albeit tiny waves and walking down the beach surfboards under one arm, glistening with sun and salt water, and flipping hair from one side to the other. The goth club 2225, previously 7th Heaven, and the BEST college radio station in the history of time, WFIT. I was a teenager and fell in love with this new world, Mom and I having just moved there from Louisiana. Now skaters are banned from the boardwalk, the goth store no longer exists, and neither does the club, and WFIT went public, meaning opera and jazz.
Both Peter and I have changed too. I'm no longer striving to be in that scene (up in age and enjoying food too much), and Peter fits the role of my older brother, lecturing me about my wayward wandering ways and poor photography skills. Well, I'm going to work on finding a goal and sticking to it, and will try to look at my subjects with a different eye. I'm also hoping to introduce the world to his more recent film realm… nature, in black & white, and not digital (he's so old school).
My 3.5 days have been a joy. Although rough around the edges getting to know each other again after all these years, I find our friendship stronger today than it ever was. And it's beautiful to see him in such a magical place. A two-story log house in the woods with his fluffy white American Eskimo that blends with the snow, and wife Jackie who spends time going back and forth between working in Montréal and snowshoeing the Vermont hills. Not too shabby.
My first stop after arriving last Friday evening was Restaurant Phoebe in Montpelier; a cozy nook in the no-billboards-allowed state capitol serving scrumptious dishes made with local ingredients. My choice, crispy polenta cake with goat cheese and a mushroom ragout. Perfect.

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It was dark when I arrived, so we headed up to the house after dinner. Quite a few winding and rocky miles later, we arrived at the Vermont oasis, a two-story log house where Snowball would bark at me for a bit until our eyes would met, I'd rub his shedding fur (all over my black pants), and we'd be bestest buds. Saturday was catch-up chatting day (after Peter's scrambled salsa eggs with maple bacon), and then continued with what's becoming my signature dish of mushroom ravioli in a wine cream sauce for dinner. Sunday, after a breakfast of Peter's famous banana pancakes we hiked up a bit around their very snowy land (note: do NOT drink two cups of coffee before hiking uphill in the snow), which was glorious. My first time in these parts, Peter swore I'd come in the worst season (mud season. But I was touched by the free & open natural beauty of Vermont; streams, deer, bunny tracks, and lots of local products (coffee, maple syrup, cheese, etc.). Wow.

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Monday, I was promised a tour of the area, and that we did. First stop, winding through the mountains and trees and frozen lakes (even saw a couple of ice skaters), was Edelweiss Bakery & Café owned and operated by Ralf LaBelle and Ken Schlegel, serving up decadent pastries and filled-to-the-brim sandwiches. I chose the Mexican Turkey burger filled with all kinds of great stuff (a daily special, and I forgot to write down all of the ingredients… oops), and Peter snagged the Reuben. A definite place to stop for breakfast or lunch, the walls and shelves are lined with colorful, fun paintings and knick knacks. Johnson's was next for a bit 'o shopping. While I didn't go for the bright plaid Johnson wool coat, I did find a couple of great hats and a green wool top (just in time for St. Paddy's Day… whew!). Caution, salespeople in Vermont are pretty friendly, so just go with it. I've been in NYC for all of one month, and I'm already in "don't talk to me, don't look at me" mode. Sheesh.

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Next stops were Ben & Jerry's, where I did enjoy a dish of Chocolate Macadamia, Coconut Seven Layer Bar, & Imagine Whirled Peace, and Cabot where I tasted a few pretty delish cheeses (Vintage Classic is a fave) and settled for Horseradish Cheddar and a tiny jar of Maple Apple Chutney.
As it was getting late, and BBC's "Top Gear" was due to come on at 8pm, we made our way back to the house, shared a cheese plate, and sat ourselves down in front of the TV with the lovable Snowball.
Now, I'm back on the Amtrak, saying goodbye to the beautiful snowy wilderness, listening to a little Peter Gabriel, and sipping on my Fair Trade Green Mountain Coffee and chomping occasionally on a chocolate croissant from Edelweiss. The snow is melting, and the architecture is changing, but I'll be back. And, besides, I've got some intuition to deal with. Happy St. Paddy's Day and Bon appétit!

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