Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ben's Birthday Dinner

I am coming back for my second post in the life of this blog. Deborah was in MA for my birthday, which sucked, so it is up to me to recount the night. We went to a restaurant, Tilth, that I really have been wanting to try for a while. I appreciate that they serve local, organic produce and grass-fed meat, and could be considered somewhat sustainable. Even though Deborah was gone, it was great to have my parents and friends, Kate and Jacob, at the table with me.
We almost immediately made friends with the waitress when we gave her a couple sets of rattlesnake eggs that my dad brought along. In case you are not familiar with rattlesnake eggs, they are really strong magnets that clatter together and sound like a rattlesnake tail when tossed in the air. Well the waitress thought they were really cool, so we let her take them in the back to share with her coworkers. Here is me playing with the rattlesnake eggs.
I also got a really nice set of gifts from Kate and Jacob. most notably a ticket for a free meal at their house. Judging from past meals at their house I am sure it will be delicious. After the presents we got some delicous appatizers. I am not sure if everyone got them, or they were special for us on account of the rattlesnake eggs- either way they were delicious. It is smoked fig on top of toasted bread covered with a blue cheese mousse and a little almond. The smoky-sweet flavor of the was amazing.

Next I tried a homemade tagliatelle with roasted red peppers. It was also very good. Homemade pasta is so much better than the dried stuff.

A couple people at the table ordered black cod, which I thought was really good, but my dad thought the cut of fish was too thick and felt a little mushy on the pallet.
There were a couple more courses before dessert, but I forgot to take pictures. They included mini duck burgers, hangar steak, and gnudi. I thought the steak and burgers were scrumptious but the gnudi (similar to gnocchi) was a little dense.
My desert was really yummy and topped of with the candles that my mom sneaked to the waitress while I was parking the car. We had a few desserts for the table- mine was an almond cake with fresh berries and a berry sauce. All in all it was a happy birthday and only would have been better if Deborah had been there. I thought it would be appropriate to post this in her stead.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ben Leaving & Why Northampton is so cool

Ben left on the 12, the day before his birthday. A very sad day. Hard to believe we won't see each other until October! After the last two days of my orientation and finding out about everything that I have to do, I hope it will go by quickly.

Our last dinner at the Amherst brewery. Ben had a beer sampler. We also shared some mussels and fish and chips (scrod). Not especially great

Ben won mini-golf, but I got the special hole-in-one at the end and won a free game!

It would have been ideal if Ben could spend this year in Massachusetts with me, but even though he can't I am still trying to make the best of it. I have always dreamed of living in New England and it turns out that I love it here. I love the old farm houses, small quaint downtowns crowded with people, the miles of walking trails scattered between towns for biking or walking, the many homemade ice cream shops, the rivers, the small mountains, the quirky old hippies, the library in an old stone building, the windy country roads with farm stands connecting little villages.

I don't love the mosquitos, the rain that comes pouring down with no warning, the lack of flyball, and probably the mountains of snow that will be here before I know it, and of course the lack of Ben who and my wonderful dog, Ari that loves to sleep and doesn't shove toys under my hand while I'm sleeping.

Today I was at my orientation so poor Indigo was in her kennel for 10 hours. Not taking her out wasn't an option, so we found this lovely place to go walking. It was perfect with the river on one side of the grassy trail and the backside of farms on the other, and mountains in the background.

At least I attempted to tire her!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some farms and restaurants I want to go to in Western Mass
about the restaurant -
Circa Restaurant is a quaint neighborhood bistro in a quiet corner of Northampton, MA. At Circa you will find contemporary French cuisine using all the best the Pioneer Valley has to offer. We let the local farm stands and markets drive our inspiration. What's in season is what's freshest, and what's freshest is what's best.
a local joint at heart whose mission is to provide a comfortable and friendly place with a green ceiling for neighbors, kids and visitors to enjoy. The revamped café, outdoor patio and kick ass kitchen headed by chef Brigid Moore, have continued to make the place a local institution. Cushman is a great place to meet friends, have lunch meetings, work on WiFi, and save time by picking up great gift items, wine, beer or our mouth-watering rotisserie chickens. We also can provide beautiful platters for parties or other occasions.

At the Roadhouse Café only the freshest handpicked ingredients are used. And every breakfast is made from scratch only after it’s ordered. Organic fruits and vegetables are purchased from local farmers and are carefully prepared to maintain their natural vitamins and nutrition. Alternative sweeteners may be used to substitute sugar like, honey, maple syrup or molasses.

The coffee at the Roadhouse Cafe is fair trade, which ensures the best taste and is really good for the environment as well as the workers who grow it. Not to mention that it’s purchased in small amounts to ensure that it’s not sitting on a shelf for forever.

raw milk - at Ashfield farmers market, Sat mornings at farmstand

grass fed beef - Available in Ashfield at Neighbor's Store, in Acton at Idylwilde farm, and in West Concord at Debra's Natural Gourmet.


Chicoine Family Farm

Farmers' Market

Schedule and Location:
Trinity Church, Springfield, Tuesdays, 12:30-6pm
Florence Comunity Center, Wednesdays, 2pm-6pm
Gothic St., Northampton, Saturdays, 7:30-12:30pm

Farm Stand

Schedule and Location:
116 Oliver St. Easthampton, Ma. 01027
Sunday-Saturday, by appointment

Bostrom Farm 171 Plain Road Greenfield, MA has Organic produce, raw milk, grass-fed beef, Morgan's eggs, strawberries, cut flowers, hay, compost, manure, fall decorations, vegetable plants, berry plants, hanging plants, annuals. Visit our two different stands.

Manda Farm 25 Pleasant St in Plainfield, MA Phone 413.634.5333

There are a lot more restaurants and farms I plan to go to....this is just the beginning of the list!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Indigo's tug drive

Bark in the Park, July 2008 with Joy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

saying good bye to friends, across the country in 4 days, first days in Northampton

I am, again way out of order with my blogging, so I'm trying to catch up to present time and finish posting about Europe. The best way to do this is two blog posts in one day on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

My last few day in Seattle were difficult. I really didn't want to leave and seeing friends for the last time was sad. We went to our last flyball practice, said goodbye, Polly and Rudy brought some treats to make it more festive. We also went over to Kate and Jacobs house to play games and eat dinner. Kate is a wonderful cook and introduced us to grilled pizza. She put all the toppings in little bowls and we all made our own pizzas, we also had a chopped salad with beans and a blueberry pie from PCC for dessert. I was introduced to The Settlers of Cattan, which I warmed up to and enjoyed....although Ben gets a bit too competitive with board games, which can be so ridiculous that its funny. Its nicer when you are on his team.

Then after stuffing my car with everything I expect to need for the next year, Ben, Indigo and I left on July 28. I was not happy to pull out of that driveway. I have moments of being excited, but mostly I'm frustrated that I have to leave my home.

Poor Indy only had a little space to sleep (at least I didn't try to bring a TV!)

Day 1 was Seattle to Bozeman. It was 9 pm when we got there and had just enough time to check into our hotel and go to Montana Ale works for dinner. I was surprised at how much I liked the downtown area of the cute little college town. Lots of fun shops, restaurants, people with dogs. We went to a dog park the next morning to tire out the Border Collie and then headed back on I-90 for 14 hours more of driving!

They have an impressive food co-op

Next day we made it to Sioux Falls, SD and then met up with Indigo's breeder, Ignited Border Collies the next day. We met her mom, sister, grandma. I think they had around 20 border collies in the house at that time because they happened to have two litters (one was a repeat of Indigos litter). We also met Dare, the mom that Ben wants to get a puppy from later this year.

Holding Joy's puppy Ezri (Prancer X Race)

Anyway, after spending the night outside of Chicago we headed straight for Albany and then made it to Northampton the next morning.

this explains most of our drive

I was feeling pretty anxious as we got closer to Northampton, knowing that the country roads we were driving on were going to be what I would see every day. I felt better when we drove through downtown and saw my cute little downtown. There was a crazy mix of college kids, tourists, and families. Everyone was out shopping and sitting at cafes. I signed my lease and entered my completely empty apartment.

We spent the next few days racing around to find furniture for my room. It was tiring, but fun to still sort of be on vacation and tour around Western Mass. It was nice to finally meet Danielle, my new roommate and her boy friend. I think we will be a good match as roommates!

The outside of my new apartment

Also, Ben went with me to Great Barrington, MA where I will be doing my community rotation. I've been there before and remembered that they have a super food co-op. It was just as good as I remembered. Its a cute town and Im excited to spend a few days a week there, not excited about the 1 hr drive each way though. The place is called " The Nutrition Center" They have lots of fun programs with kids, gardening and nutrition. They hold a farmers market, house the local WIC office, do nutrition counseling and are in the process of getting new grant funded community food programs. Two of the people there are also Bastyr grads, so Im excited to get to know them.

A bakery in Amherst that uses all local, organic ingredients.

Downtown Noho

My Hotwire (the coffee shop I frequent in Shoreline) replacement, Woodstar. They have free wifi, good coffee and vegan cupcakes. What else could I want?

Finding a place to take our crazy, high energy Border Collie off-leash has not been easy. This place is seemingly really dog friendly. But official off-leash areas are nowhere to be found. After asking around we found out the the old Northampton State Hospital, apparently previously an mental hospital. Aside from the creepiness of this place, most of the grounds are beautiful wooded walking trails along a river with off-leash dogs running free everywhere. Indigo was in heaven and so were we, except for our fear of her getting Lyme disease.


Area restaurants: so far we have been to:
Thai Garden (northampton) - not especially impressive, watery curry, bad peanut sauce
Paul and Elizabeths (northampton) - a natural foods restaurant that was almost good, a little too healthy
India House Restaurant (northampton) - very good, a bit overpriced.
Northampton Brewery (northampton) - pretty good fish sandwich, Ben like the beer, nice outdoor seating
Herrells Ice Cream (northampton) - holy shit, this is worth coming to visit me here for. they make their own sprinkles and the line is out the door every night.

We drove down to Brooklyn (Redhook) on Wednesday night to visit Carly and Fritz. I love their big open warehouse that has been modified to be a living space. We had lots of fun hanging out with them and their two dogs Gus (french bulldog) and Otto (German Shepherd). We stayed in Brooklyn the whole time cruising around with Carly to Fairway (the best grocery store ever), Prospect Park (the biggest dog park ever on Sat mornings). The highlight of our trip was Marlow and Sons, a restaurant in Williamsburg that makes the most simple food taste amazing. I tasted raw oysters for the first time and love them! I highly recommend this place if you are in the area! Then we met up with Rus and went out the the local Beer garden for one too many beers. I was the designated driver and had the pleasure of driving Carly's massive Mercedes G500 SUV that is sort of like a Hummer back to her apartment.
Carly surrounded by adorable dogs

The farmers market at Prospect Park on Saturday morning

Last night we went to see Pineapple Express, the newest stoner movie. It was funny and sad with lots of slapstick comedy and lots of blood for a movie about pot. Dazed and Confused was better. For Bens birthday we are going out for sushi at Osaka and then to Springfield to see Hellboy2. He also wants to play mini-golf ,which is right down the street. We'll see if we can fit that in before he leaves!

Monday, August 4, 2008

More of our trip to Europe

Now that it has been a few weeks and a lot of new things have happened, my memory of the details our our trip are getting a little bit fuzzy, but there are plenty more photos to share so here it goes....

After Arles we spent a day driving through Provence. The highlights were Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Baux-de-Provence, Cavaillon, Gordes and then to Grenoble to sleep.

Baux-de-Provence (hard to believe that this is a combination of houses and rock formations)

We saw the scenery that inspired Van Goghs paintings, but skipped the walk to see the asylum where he spent the end of his life. We stopped often to take photos and marvel at the endless purple fields of lavender.

Some photos of Gordes....

What we ate in Gordes (we didn't actually eat this ice cream...I saved myself for Italian gelato)

We did eat this sandwich, which was nothing too exciting (cheese, tomato, greens, balsamic vinegar and olive oil) but was nice and cheap and kept us going until dinner.

We finally got to Grenoble at around 6 pm, drove in circles for 1/2 hour, found our hotel (Hotel Del Europe) and enjoyed some delicious food. I would have liked to have spent more time here, riding the cable car, checking out the museums...but we had to make it to the small village of Sinio, Italy the next day.

My only photos of Grenoble include the view from our dinner cafe and

my dinner - smoked salmon with ravioli and probably 2000 calories worth of cream and butter, but totally worth it.

The process of getting to Sinio was quite stressful. We didn't think about the fact that neither of us knew any Italian at all. Not even the basics. When we pulled into the first toll booth in Italy and the attendant said " "Buongiorno!" we learned to at least say "hello" and then proceeded to pay an ungodly amount of money to drive on the autostrata.

Everything was fine until we made it to Alba during siesta and were way too hungry. All towns in Italy pretty much shut down between 1 and 4:30 (my usual lunch time). So we stopped in a grocery store to get some snacks and ask find a map or ask directions. Sinio was not on our map, but we knew it was close to Alba. We got a few confusing directions and then decided to head out in no particular direction and hope for some signs. It didn't work out so well. We learned how to say "left and "right" and started stopping everywhere to ask for directions. People in this part of Italy don't speak much English, so there was a lot of guessing involved. We finally made it and it only took 3 hours to find a place that turned out to be only 20 minutes from Alba! We couldn't complain about the scenery though and Ben was starting to have fun negotiating the narrow streets with our little car.

We could not have been more happy with the welcome we received when we arrived at our Agritourismo - a hazelnut farm and vineyard. We stood around and talked about the farm, the area, and possible ways to spend the next few days. They suggested that we try their favorite restaurant less than a mile away (not before giving us a local map). We were hoping to get a small bite to eat, but were not able to communicate this to the waitress.

Patio overlooking the vineyards

Our hosts

The patio outside of our room

Even cats take a siesta

Back to the food.....This restaurant had no menu, you just eat whatever she brings. First she started us out with a bottle of vine (it was this night that I became a wine drinker), some bread sticks and two kinds of locally produced salami. It was just the right amount of food, but then she brought out the next course...thin slices of veal (vitello) with some kind of sauce that may have involved tuna? She was so excited. We had to stop this craziness, so Ben managed to communicate to her that we weren't that hungry and would maybe just like to try a little bit of pasta. He felt bad and couldn't find how to say sorry in the terrible phrase book; he was only able to find out how to say "I'm ashamed" . This made the waitress laugh at least! She served us some ravioli with sage and butter and I ate it even though I didn't think I could fit any more food in my body.

We decided that if we were ever going to get an authentic Italian meal it was going to be here. So we went back the next day with a good appetite and went for it (my only requirement was no veal). We had breaded fried zucchini flowers (only available at this time of year), prosciutto with cantaloupe (surprisingly perfect together), green salad with oil and vinegar, some weird ham pimento, gelatinous loaf, vegetable tart with cheese and spinach, thick noodles (tagliatelle) with a beef ragout. After this I was done, but Ben kept going and had the meat course which was local wild boar cooked in red wine. We finished it off with a fruit torta and a chocolatey egg dessert. This meal was 50 Euros well spent!

The first bottle of wine that I drank and enjoying without making wincing faces

No meal is complete without a late night shot of espresso (I'm not sure how people sleep in Italy!)

So we spend the next few days exploring the Piedmont area - sampling food, walking around cute little villages, churches and castles. It was relaxing and felt like an authentic Italian experience without all of the tourists that flock to Tuscany. We will definitely go back here!

This was my favorite village in the area- not sure what it was called though

a typical small grocery store in Italy (gastronomia) which sells what we would consider gourmet food and they consider every day necessities - locally made olive oils, wines, chocolate, meats, cheeses, vinegar, bread, fresh made pasta.....

We went back to Alba in a more relaxed manner to use the internet.
Fruit and Vegetable market in Alba

Our first gelato and my first dairy ice cream in at least 6 years. Mine was vanilla with chocolate shavings, Ben's was some unknown fruit. He had buyers remorse (a common problem for him) and wished he got the same flavor as me. It was so creamy and not too heavy tasting.

I obviously enjoy taking photos of cats?

a castle

The next and final post on our trip will be Tuscany, Umbria and the French Riviera.