coffee

BURLINGTON, VERMONT

 

Burlington—or, the idea of Burlington—was our original draw to Vermont. We knew it was a medium-sized city that boasted Lake Champlain, a view of the Adirondack mountains, renewable energy, and pedestrian-friendly streets. We ended up two hours south of Burlington in the rural village of West Pawlet. A better situation, to be sure. The draw to see Burlington withstanding, we took a road trip north with our friends Pete (head farmer at Consider Bardwell, and our boss for all intents and purposes) and Abi (his partner, who is a Nurse Practitioner by day and a volunteer farmer by night). It seems important to mention that they are both entrenched in Vermont's food and beverage culture, rendering them our perfect travel companions.

This particular day trip was, in many ways, the antithesis of our daily existence. We switched from producer to consumer, retreating from the barn to delight in the offerings of charming diners, cafes, and shops. The earthy tones of Vermont's rural landscape were replaced by colorful murals and streetscapes. Our dirty work clothes (and their companion scents) were far, far away. It was wonderful. It was also exhausting. Make no mistake, we savored every bit of it: the world-class beers, the tacos (oh, the tacos...), the record shop, the outdoors stores, et cetera. Burlington offers as much for the day tripper to do and see as any place we have found, doing so on a manageable scale in a breathtaking setting. We are eager to visit again sometime, but not before enjoying some time back in the country. We've included a roundup of our favorite spots, very worth visiting if you are like us.

. . . a roundup of our favorite spots in Burlington

Burlington Records
Boasting a great selection of jazz and blues vinyl. If you are partial to a disheveled, semi-seedy record shop with mountains of $2 records that have gems if you are willing to look (as is our preference), this is probably not the place for you. If you want to find a mint condition Duke Ellington record (like us), stop in.

El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina
The best "farm-to-taco" joint we never knew existed. With offerings like lengua (beef tongue) and carne (beef shoulder) topped with phenomenal chimmichurri, it's worth $5 per taco. Their draught list includes Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, two of Vermont's best breweries (HF is the best).

City Market / Onion River Co-Op
A grocery lover's dream come true. With every sort of food, beverage, and apothecary provision you can imagine, it's a beautiful place to find everything rural areas would never have.

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill
Extensive local tap list and a relaxed, clean atmosphere conducive to an afternoon beer. We hear they have a speakeasy, though we did not have a chance to check it out.

. . . and the surrounding area

Fiddlehead Brewing Company (Shelburne, VT)
Second Fiddle Double IPA is, simply put, a damn fine beer.

The Vermont Flannel Company (Ferrisburgh, VT)
The name alone should be sufficient. Head here if you have dreamt of a store dedicated to flannel everything (including flannel fanny packs—flanny pack!?—and $3 flannel scrunchies that you know Sam is wearing right now).

. . . and a bit of a hike away

Three Squares Cafe (Vergennes, VT)
If you were driving south to north, stop here for breakfast. Great coffee (the light roasted, caffeine high inducing sort) and big plates of high-quality diner fare. Bonus: Vergennes is the smallest city in America!


—M&S

THE MORNING AFTER | A DOWN HOME NEW YEAR

 
a messy table
mark and george

We set up an improv stage and improv-ed for hours. We made Top 10 Best & Worst lists for 2015. We articulated to one another how we feel the world perceives us. We consumed home brew and prosecco and more wine. We taught each other our best dance moves. We conducted blind taste tests with spices. We slow cooked pork shoulder and baked mini dark chocolate cakes with from-scratch whipped cream and goat milk caramel. We dunked homemade bread into honey, and in the morning we made two French presses. It was so full; so good.

We set the table in a way that would have looked great in photos. But it was 8 p.m. before supper was ready and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was already empty. So we forgot about photos and soaked up every moment of this best friend reunion. It was the sort of unkempt party that travels into the wee hours of the morning. The sort that begs to be reminisced over while fully extended on the couch, coffee in hand.

As a couple, we have worked to create a 400 square foot space that is overflowing with music, plants, and quality food. Always good food. When we eventually washed the copious dishes and vacuumed the rugs, we found ourselves remarking on how little money we have, yet we feel totally rich in experience and in food. That's the gorgeous reality of working in agriculture + food, in knowing farmers, in investing what little money you do have in growing (and brewing) your own.

Welcome, 2016. 

coffee mug
table setting
marky
andrew in the morning
music and plants

—S

ON RETURNING HOME | A SLOW COFFEE PROCESS

 
bagofbeans

After nineteen days abroadtraversing lumpy green landscapes in Ireland & dramatic, often surreal, combinations of land & sea in NorwayI have returned home to Ohio. Counter to all of the glamor & excitement of exploring new places, I have always found the act of coming home to be one of the most satisfying stages of travel. It is a return to normalcy, to daily rituals & loved ones, and to the life you lead in pursuit of happiness.

That pursuit is pretty well tied to coffee in our household, if you couldn't tell. And some of the less glamorous elements of life on the road involve instant coffee, airport coffee, stale coffee... you get the picture. More than the quality of the joe I drink at home, though, I missed the routine. I missed my everyday coffee date. 

coffeebeans

So we planned one. If you'd like to play along, here's what you'll need:

  1. Good, whole bean coffee. (Be sure to store coffee in a way that will preserve freshness. We like mason jars. Never ever refrigerate.)
  2. A 7 g/0.25 oz coffee scoop.
  3. A coffee grinder. (Bonus points for manual and/or adjustable for fine to coarse grinds.)
  4. A kettle & French press.

In truth, coffee is and should be a very simple process. No electricity or priority given to convenience. It's all about that heavenly, full-bodied cup of joe enjoyed in good company at the end of a beloved, if lengthy, process.

scoopingcoffeebeans
grindingcoffeebeans

Usually, when I drag myself out of bed I will just have been dreaming of pre-ground coffee to wake up to. But the extra prep time in the morning is worth it for the freshness & flavor you get out of it, and I certainly didn't mind the process after missing it for the previous three weeks.

The French press method of brewing calls for an even, coarse grind. The best ratio of coffee to water isin the endwhatever tastes best to you, but a good rule of thumb is to do about 1 tablespoon-sized scoop of coffee for every 1/2 cup of water. I usually eyeball it.

You'll want the water to be about 200 degrees F, or 20 seconds off the boil. If it is hotter than that, you can burn your coffee. We use a thermometer, but it's not necessary. After all, this is a post about our process, not an advocation for dropping a paycheck at a specialty kitchen shop. Set a timer for 4 minutes, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon, and slowly press the plunger down when the time is up. Simple, intentional, and effective.

groundcoffee

The beauty of this homecoming French press is that it could be enjoyed even more slowly than it was prepared. I told some travel storieslike the time we found our address-less lodging in Norway's countryside via GPS coordinates displaying latitude and longitude, and when a particularly mischievous pigeon in Dublin decided to relieve itself on my head & shoulder. All of this over several cups of Kapsokisio, a very special coffee from Kenya that's roasted at Tim Wendelboe, a coffee shop in Oslo which I failed to track down but whose coffee I successfully found 500 km away in Bergen. 

As it was, other less pressing "daily" topics quickly found their way into the conversation. A very normal, casual ritual at home lends itself to very normal, casual outcomes. And that is exactly what I crave most whenever I come home, be it from abroad, another state, or a couple towns over. Ordinary life can be quite extraordinary when you are taken out of it for awhile.

It is one of the great and beautiful paradoxes of travel: by immersing yourself in a new place & appreciating a way of life different from your own, you almost always come away with a heightened sense of gratitude for what you do have, day after day, cup of coffee upon cup of coffee.

frenchpresswithmug

—M

FOR THE LOVE OF MORNING | ON NESTING

 
ourcatghostinwindowsill

Morning is my favorite season. Someone among you knows exactly what I mean. Ephemeral, gentle, dewy, new. I dare to say I even love summer in the morning. The roads are still, but not due to supper or retiring for the night; no, the roads are still because all are being awoken to a day anew. The birdswhen there are birdshappily awake before us, beckoning us to join them in song and forever enticing Ghost. 

Nothing makes me happy in quite the same way as coffee prepared early in the morning and made to share.  Ideally, I can take the morning slow and cook something in local lard or greek olive oil, but even when that's not the case, and even when the case is that I am sloshing coffee down my sweater as I walk out the door for work, I still feel joyful. I am addicted to caffeine, to be sure; but to only state the obvious degrades the act of coffee. It is an act, an art form. 

If one is interested in nesting, surely coffee + morning will do the trick. In my estimation they are a perfect pair. But they are not the only things that pair well. All week I have been calling to mind the earthly and unearthly pairings that materialize if we simply allow.

candlesmoking
cookingbreakfast

The scent of Autumn and the act of crunching leaves beneath your feet. A cooing child (or a purring animal) and the feeling of deep content. The warmness of your cheeks after a glass of wine and the best, creamiest cake you've ever tasted. Strumming a perfect chord and closing your eyes to hear it again. What are the things that do the trick for you? Which are the life pairings that you cannot help but feel joy over?

Sink your teeth into these things. Indulge in them, for they exist for a reason. 

The love of my life returns home in a week's time. I know he'll come with stories on frost-covered Norwegian roads, hearty beef stews consumed in Ireland, and reflections on Gabriel Garcia Marquez (our favorite author and consistent travel comrade). I am already eager in anticipation, but most of all I am eager to hear everything over coffee in the morning.

panshangingonwall
spicecupboard
breakfastandcoffee

—S