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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vergennes Laundry

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  Maybe it's because I wake up and have a clean slate, a new day dawning with new beginnings and possibilities to dream over coffee.   My little city of Burlington has a good selection of breakfast cafes featuring locally sourced farm to table menus and delightful interiors however it's not uncommon to have an hour or more wait to be seated.   When I don't feel like joining the line I hop into my car and head to Vergennes, a sleepy little gem of a town 25 miles south.  Some people think I'm crazy for driving so far to go to breakfast but if Texans drive two hours to go to a barbecue then I'm doing fine.  My friend Lee , a somewhat recent transplant from Santa Barbara, asked me ' if you want to get out of Burlington why would you go to an even smaller town in VT?  Are there any men there?'  I couldn't admit to her that quite possibly my attraction to a pristine case full of exquisite pastries may render me useless to notice an attractive man.  I wouldn't travel that far unless I knew that on the other side of that drive was something worth the time and gas.  That something is Vergennes Laundry.

After the 30 min drive through the bucolic countryside, where my mind has had a chance to relax and be in the moment with the scenery, I arrive.  I see the tall steamy windows of the pure white 18th century building and glimpse the foggy images of those already inside buzzing with weekend community.  I enter and smell the wood-fired oven, fresh baked European style french country bread (levain) and roasted espresso.  The atmosphere is communal with three long blond wood tables end to end with benches and chairs so the chances of striking up a conversation with your neighbor are built in and natural, breaking bread with strangers and making new friends.  The interior is contemporary rustic with views of the wood-fired oven and baking as performance art.  The owner and baker in her denim bib overalls and white apron lithely moves from counter to fire wielding wooden paddles and yielding trays of pastries.  The thing I love most about this bakery/cafe is that the food is simple, rustic yet elegant and made with the finest ingredients so that the flavors stand on their own even though beauty in presentation still plays a role.

 The daily menu is handwritten on a brown craft paper roll cascading down the wall behind the counter next to a chalkboard featuring the espresso selections.   I order the granola, grapefruit, yogurt tray and I see featured 'this just in, Mirabelle (little yellow plum) jam from France!' so I add the baguette with butter and jam to my order.   The granola also has been baked in a wood-fired oven and is chock full of flavor with roasted hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts and just the right touch of natural sweetener, served with plain greek yogurt and a demi-pot of local honey it's the perfect starter.   After spending a month last summer in Paris and drinking the most delicious espresso every day I can say with pleasure that I have finally found a real European latte in VT!!  The owner-cum-barista artfully prepares the dark delicous steamy brew in a traditional French Apilco porcelain latte bowl with a heart that never ceases to please.  The baguette is beyond perfection with a crusty exterior that yields a soft tangy earthy interior with a blend of flours and for certain some secret francais.  Top that with Vermont cultured butter, using a traditional French Laguiole butter knife, and imported Mirabelle jam from France, made from lovely yellow plums, and I can guarantee that you have glimpsed heaven on earth. 

A view of the wood-fired oven is accessible from any vantage point in the cafe and it warms the heart and peaks my curiosity waiting for each delectable item to arrive in the display case.  Among the morning regulars are butter and savory meat croissants, pain au chocolat, a fruit galette, and pain au raisins.  If you are looking to prolong the experience take home with you a box of dark cocoa dusted truffles or a dozen chocolate sables cookies to cheer you up after dinner.  The latter of which inspired me to find a recipe and try them out myself , a close second when I don't have time to make the trek.  On my list for my next visit is the lunch menu for a roasted vegetable tart and for dessert le financier, a small French almond  ( and here I mean ground almond flour, yum) and honey tea cake and the petit pot a l'absinthe with candied kumquat (what?!), amen.  What I really want to do is spend the day and  start with breakfast and stay through lunch and dessert.  I may have to break it up with a walk around the town square as picturesque as any small Parisian park.  Who knows I might even see un homme or two.

Vergennes Laundry on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I think there is such a thing as design overload, design junkie, design noise.  As I check myself on this topic I fall into several traps.  I love to spend hours pouring over design magazines, interiors mostly, blogs, websites, etc.  Design* Sponge, Apartment Therapy, Pinterest, Etsy, NotCot, Lookwork, are all sources of continual inspiration, the possibilities are endless.  However, I've noticed that the more I submerge myself in this sea of design 'experts' the less I actually create.  It's like anything else 'out there', there is a lot of noise, some gems and a few icons worth noting but hours lost in weeding through them.  I'm creating virtual visual mood boards, fun, fun, fun but to what end?  Where does the addiction stop and the creativity begin?  I do not work in the design industry so there is no direct application or result of my 'research'.  I only have my small living space to design, again and again.  This leaves me feeling inadequate most of the time.   I see a new great 'space' on Design*Sponge and I experience the thrill of the new and then instantly the deflation of my own space now not as creative, cool, hip, "Design*Sponge worthy". 
 It's the old 'keeping up with the Jones's' syndrome and my pocketbook, time and energy simply can't keep up. 

Our living spaces have a certain sustainability in real life.  Our living rooms and bedrooms are not pages in a magazine or posts on a blog, really.   The beauty of our homes is in the familiarity, family heirlooms, pieces we've acquired over the years, each with a story or day spent with someone or no one in pursuit of the perfect credenza.  I can spend time moving objects, rearranging and renewing my space with the mood or the season, small changes most often.  The heart of the 'matter' is in the every day rhythms and rituals that take place in our homes and the people and animals we share our lives with.  The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans, the sound of the water from the kettle pouring into the french press and the thwump, thwump of the milk frother to the final pillowy pour into the cafe au lait bowl, ah, heaven.  The fullness of the pantry after a shop at the market, featuring a bouquet of yellow and orange carrots. Opening the blinds and shutters to each new dawn and closing them as we settle in to our beds to snuggle up with a book.  Tending the plants and animals.  I spent hours on Etsy and Ebay this weekend looking for the perfect kilim pillow to lend some color to my otherwise fairly neutral palette.  I saw 1,522 and couldn't settle on one but did narrow it down to a dozen in my cart.  Do I really want a kilim pillow or have I just seen the trend and feel that I must have one?  Getting back to basics is what is required, the heart.  What do I have a sincere response to?, what do I really like?, what inspires me? and watch for the second guessing if I'm getting it 'right'.    Real creatives don't follow, they set the tone.  Time to unplug and reconnect with my heart where the real satisfaction can be found.