Birthday Bash In Burlington

There will probably be at least two more trips to Vermont in our future.  I feel that we conquered it in a culinary sense, but there are adventures that need to take place and Autumn sights that were unable to be seen in early August.  Our anniversary is on October 16, so I think that an anniversary trip someday is pretty much a certainty.  

We arrived in Burlington via Delta Airlines, from Kansas City to LaGuardia in New York City first.  Erin’s folks were waiting for us at the airport.  They took us straight to the Bel Air Motel, a quaint little family owned motel about a mile walk from the downtown area, and the Church Street Marketplace
With our stuff dropped into the hotel room (we could unpack later) we were ready for lunch, and so we dined at the Church Street Tavern.  We may have cut off the waitress when she began to ask if we wanted anything to drink, as Heady Topper had still yet to be tried by your favorite beer connoisseurs (assuming Erin and I are your favorites).  It is definitely an amazing beer and deserves to be highly ranked.  We would have to have side by side tastings with Pliny the Elder and some others to give our own assessment, but for now, I will not argue that it is the number one beer on Beer Advocates Top 250 Beers list (which, by the way, now has 6 beers from Toppling Goliath in Decorah, IA, ranked at 16, 17, 26, 35, 82, and 94 at the time of this writing; GO IOWA!)  
Erin following Trish and Joseph past the Church Street Tavern
Erin enjoying her first Heady Topper (just in from rain)

We walked Church Street a while after lunch tasting wine from East Shore Vineyards, buying some flannel shorts from the Vermont Flannel Company, and browsing books at the Crow Bookshop.  I couldn’t leave Crow without buying something, so I got a sticker.

Switchback Brewery was a short drive away.  A simple brewery, they currently only have five different beers, four of which were available for tasting.  We went ahead and got the sampler to give them all a go, and I found both the Slow-Fermented Brown Ale and the Roasted Red Ale were my favorites.  Pleepleus (our monkey) has been forgotten on many of our most recent trips, so he was happy to come along to Burlington with us and try the different beer.  He is such a lush.  Pleepleus talked us into getting some stickers and a tap handle from Switchback. 
Roasted Red, Extra Pale Ale, Switchback Ale, Pleepleus, and the Brown Ale

We put our name in at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for dinner and our table was ready before the bartender could pour our five flight sampler.  The beer list changes almost daily.  In fact, looking at it today (only four days after this experience), I can only identify two of the five still on the list.  Erin and I split the Beer Battered Fish and Chips and the Farmhouse Veggie for dinner.  This place was amazing and we would recommend it to any future visitors.  Especially since they had both Heady Topper and Sculpin IPA available in the can.

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

Trish and Joseph left us to our own devices after dinner, retiring to the hotel room.  As we walked around, The Whiskey Room caught our eye, which apparently is an extension of Ri Ra the Irish Pub.  Enjoying another small sample of four beers they had on tap (no whiskey for us that night, please), we had a conversation with a couple named Mark and Botcheva.  They were both from Asheville, NC.  In talking with them, we decided that we would travel there for our fifth anniversary in 2015 (since Boston is planned and booked for this year).  They wrote a note that they would meet us downstairs at The Thirsty Monk on October 15, 2015 at 8pm.  We exchanged no contact information.  Will it be another Before Sunrise/Before Sunset occurrence.  Stay tuned, and we’ll let you know.

Feeling very well for the evening, we should have probably called it a night.  But then we walked by Das Bierhaus.  Erin asked, “Shall we stop for one last beer?”  Although “no” is in my vocabulary and I’ve used it many times in my life, in a circumstance such as this one, there is no possible way the synapses in my brain could have created the path that was needed to utter such a negation.  One more it was, and it was served up by one of these German bar maids.  
Enjoying a half pint at Das Bierhaus

A combination of factors including, but not limited to, the following, played a part in the headache I had in the morning that kept me in bed until 11:30: (1) the mild concussion I received during Ragbrai 6 days prior, (2) the diet Erin and I have been on since early June which has lowered my tolerance level, (3) the few waters that I also should have drank (like Erin) during the evening, (4) the two Heady Toppers I put down that day.  Erin was completely fine, which didn’t seem fair, since she kept up with me all evening it seemed.  She was able to have a morning exploration of Magic Hat Brewery among other places that I missed.

I needed air, so I walked the mile to Church Street and met Erin, Trish, and Joseph at Leunig’s Bistro & Cafe, which provided us a Parisian experience at a Vermont price.  The Mozzarella & Pesto Melt sounded good and seemed to be all that I could stomach at that time.  We even enjoyed the meal outside on Church Street.  It was a very pleasant lunch. 
That afternoon, Erin and I enjoyed a zen-like experience at Dobra Tea where we shut off our cell phones and wallowed in the calming ambiance.  I enjoyed some green tea called Long Jing Tiger Spring.  The green teas we ordered put us in just the right mood for the pedicures that would soon follow.  First, I had to purchase The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson at Phoenix Books right next door.  Then, a blissful first (and not last) pedicure.  It was like walking barefoot on soft carpet when we strolled back to the hotel afterwards for naps and postcard writing. 
Many of us experienced the highlight of the trip that evening, wetting our beak and filling our bellies at the Burlington Hearth American Flatbread, which housed Zero Gravity Brewery.  They sat us next to their earthen oven where we were entertained by the amazing efficiency of their pizza making assembly line.  Erin and I ordered a large half and half Pepperoni and Peppers/Roasted Tomato Salsa, and a small buffalo chicken style pizza.  I added a side of dry-hopped habanero-cider hot sauce to our order because it sounded like something I would like to dip my crust into.  I tried two Zero Gravity beers, the Blue Gribben session IPA and the R. Prime American IPA.  The R. Prime I had to try as it is named after the famous Indian mathematician Ramanujan and employed the use of Simcoe and Citra hops.  The entire meal was a frickin’ fantastic experience.  
Pleepleus let us know when our table was ready with this cool buzzer
The earthen oven used to cook the pizza
Joseph and Trish posing with Pleepleus before dinner

Erin and I topped the evening off at the main part of the Ri Ra Irish Pub, which at the time we thought was a completely different establishment from The Whiskey Room.  I ordered a half pint of the Magic Hat Big Hundo that I didn’t get to try earlier that day while Erin had a Heady Topper.

I woke up early Saturday morning to journal and read.  Joseph got us Green Mountain coffees from the Gulf gas station next door.  Once everyone else was up and dressed, we went to Handy’s Lunch for breakfast.  This was an old fashioned diner that was a must while you are visiting Burlington.  Earl gave us many recommendations when we told him we were off to Stowe and Waterbury for the day.  You should take time and meet Earl by watching this short video.

On our drive to Stowe, we made a brief stop at Green Mountain Coffee in Waterbury to learn about Green Mountain and a little more about coffee.  I found it fascinating to learn that one coffee tree produces about 1-1.5 pounds of coffee beans.  That means Erin and I need the production of 46-52 coffee trees each year for just us.

On up the road we pulled over at the Stowe Mountain Resort to walk around and take some pictures.  I could only imagine what the Fall colors would look like or how alluring those ski paths would look with some snow on them.

Stowe Mountain Resort Free Gondola Ride from parking lot

On our drive back to Waterbury, we stopped at the Amazing House of Jerky which wasn’t that amazing.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some Kangaroo and Wild Boar Jerky though.  It was pricey, but at least we can check that off our list now.

At the Cabot Annex Store, we tried several different types of cheeses and I coveted their beer cooler.  Trish told me I should try some habanero infused maple syrup.  A bottle of that sits in the cupboard now waiting for my next pancake, waffle, or bowl of oatmeal.  
Ben & Jerry’s Factory was next, but we didn’t stick around for a tour.  We browsed the gift shop, at which we picked up a Chubby Hubby magnet (my favorite) and postcards I sent to some of you.  We ordered some small cups of ice cream, too.  I ordered Candy Bar Pie and Erin ordered Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream.  In doing some research after the fact, I was very glad that I tried Candy Bar Pie.  You can only get this at the scoop shops and not in grocery stores.  It is peanut butter ice cream with fudge flakes, chocolate nougat and sweet & salty pretzel swirls.  It honestly felt like it was hand crafted just for me. It was ‘sofa king’ good.

The Alchemist was right next door to Ben & Jerry’s. This is the brewery that makes Heady Topper. It is currently not open to the public, but has a photo op on the front lawn so we took advantage.  
We had quite an excursion that morning and it was time for lunch at the Prohibition Pig. I ordered a beer called ‘What is Enlightenment?’ from the Hill Farmstead Brewery, a session IPA with Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  With my stomach just a little full with jerky, cheeses, ice cream, and what-have-you, I ordered the Staff Meal salad, which had arugula, roasted brussels sprouts, grapes, and toasted hazelnuts.  The Pro Pig was another winner.  It was difficult to find a place at which we could not be pleased.  I had a draft of Heady Topper and got a trucker’s hat before we left. 
All of us needed a nap after our little adventure that morning.  I napped about a half hour before getting up to write some more postcards (that’s my thing).  Once it was 5:30, I went in and woke up Erin and told her, “Um… it’s 5:30, and we’re in Burlington for our last night.”  She agreed it was time to stop napping. 
We walked down to Citizen Cider to shake things up a bit, and give something else a try besides beer.  We ordered a sample of five ciders and found that Full Nelson was our favorite.  The description of the Full Nelson told us to “imagine an IPA, a bubbly champagne, and a hard cider sharing a totally awesome three-way high five,” so you can guess why that may have taken 1st in our book.  I’m not sure why they felt it necessary to include ‘high five’ in the description.  They seemed like extra words that weren’t really needed. 
Pleepleus agreed that Full Nelson was the best.

Following these wonderful aperitifs, we walked to have a small plate dinner at Sotto Enoteca, which is a wine bar that is attached to and owned by the Trattoria Delia Restuarant.  We each ordered a glass of wine and then shared several plates of different dishes.  It was a really fun way of having our last meal with Trish and Joseph in Burlington.  We really enjoyed the great conversation, the great wine (did I mention the bottle we ordered after dinner), and a great time.  It was a wonderful birthday celebration for Trish, who will not actually have her birthday until the 8th, and we were so thankful for them wanting to spend it with us and helping us get out there.

As they headed back for the hotel, we headed straight for the Vermont Pub & Brewery.  Yet right next door to Sotto, for the first time since we were there, the door was open for this place called What Ales You.  We had to stop for a beer.  
Pleepleus is such a trooper.

All weekend, Erin and I were excited to try the sours and a Vermont cheese plate at the Vermont Pub & Brewery.  The best looking sour on their menu, the Tulach Leis, a Flemish Style Vermont Sour Red ale, was gone.   And they were out of the Vermont Cheese Sampler.  Talk about a buzz kill.  Instead of sending us away from Burlington with a bang, The Vermont Pub & Brewery sent us away with a fizzle.  They deserve a second chance someday, earlier in the evening and one of the first things we do.  

Then we flew home the next day.  That brings me to right now… which is how these stories always end.  With now.  Now is all we really have, I guess, so we better enjoy the shit out of it.   

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