Brattleboro is Foodie Heaven

Hello friends! I hope you are having an amazing May so far! I've been eating so much super food around here that I want to share it with the world. Three highlights just from the past few days:

One, I can't stop thinking about this pulled pork plate at Hazel. It comes with a choice of two sides--I got the collards (which also have wonderful pork bits worked in) and fries. It was SO much food and so satisfying. Hazel also has a good beer list. It's fairly new and this was my first visit. They specialize in pizza and BBQ and have rejuvenated an excellent location that previously had not been doing well. I'm going to add Hazel to my Brattleboro list, and I want to get back there very soon!

Hazel: Pulled pork, collards, fries on top, sample of chalkboard wall art below

Two, was another amazing brunch at our fast favorite duo restaurant. Also a newer establishment, this is my third brunch at duo, and each has been a special occasion (two birthdays, and this time was an engagement celebration). Duo does brunch so well. They totally get the leisurely pace of brunch, the need for coffee that is bottomless and plenty, and their crispy potatoes are perfectly tender-crisp-crunchity-amazing. Go there for the potatoes alone, really! The menu does change frequently, there's always something fresh alongside the favorites! We were a large table of 11 guests so I ran around snapping photos of some of the selections...

Clockwise from top right: Pulled chicken slider, the "Sweet Sunday" which is poached eggs over greens
and mushrooms with crispy potatoes, the "Zippy Cake" which is poached eggs over
a delightful pork-sage-sausage grit cake, and the "Brisket Crock."

Three, Curtis' BBQ in Putney is always a messy, sticky, amazingly delicious treat. This place is rightfully famous, and 'round here in Vermont we consider it our authentic barbecue that we'd put up against any in the country. The menu is pretty simple--you're looking at some combo of ribs, chicken, and/or baked potato. I'm not a ribs person (other family members mock me for this), so I usually get a loaded baked potato. This super-stuffed pulled-chicken version was perfection. Read my 2009 thoughts about Curtis' here. We also were charmed by Curtis' 3 dogs, one dachshund and two dachshund-ish. CUTE.

What have you eaten lately that delighted you? Is the month of May like the best thing ever?

Mother's Day Half Marathon Race Report

"Why do I do this to myself?" I thought. "I want to stop. I gotta stop. I can't stop. I want to stop, but then it will go on even longer. Gotta. Keep. Running. This. Sucks."

I had already run 10 miles. It was 9:30am on Mother's Day morning, and already 90 degrees and super humid. We had been running in almost complete sun for the last 5 miles. At each water stop, I started taking not one but two cups of water from the wonderful volunteers—one to drink and one to pour on my head. The occasion for the anguish? The 5th annual Western Mass Mother's Day Half Marathon, same local and awesome race that I ran this time last year.

This is my third half marathon. Each time I run the distance, I make it a little further along before the inner doubter starts to scream in my head. Each time I make a more organized and slightly more viable plan, and each time it works well enough to get me a few miles further down the road. But Sunday was not the day I conquered the half marathon. Sunday was the day I got close enough to finishing in comfort that I'm intrigued to TRY AGAIN.

Here's the rundown, for my own reference if nothing else:

5:30 AM: Up for coffee, Ezekiel muffin with almond butter and jelly, and bathroom use. My light-sleeping son joined me around 6am, which was unexpected but nice.

6:26 AM: My crew showed up to take me to the race and support my efforts! Thanks mom!!!

7:15 AM: Arrive, apply sunscreen, pick up my race bib, more bathroom use.

7:55 AM: The national anthem is sung. It always makes me a little weepy.

8:00 AM: We begin!

Miles 0-3: My plan was to stick to a 9:30 pace to warm up. SLOW. I was fairly successful--there were some downhills where I went faster, but I decided that was allowed. 9:42, 9:14, 9:29.

Miles 4-5: Speeding up a tiny bit—aiming for 9:09, which is the pace that would get me a 2-hour finish if I ran it for every mile. 9:09, 9:13.

Mile 6: The only major hill (which is short but steep) is in this mile, so I consider 9:31 great for this split.

Mile 7: I'm halfway done and slowly starting to realize it's getting hot. I also start to purposely speed up. I'm still basically keeping up with the same group of people. I had a gnawing feeling in my tummy, like too much coffee and not enough food, and easily solved it with a dried fruit ball washed down with lots of water. Better! 9:06.

Miles 8-11: I pull out my secret weapon, my ipod loaded with a pumping RACE DAY playlist. I feel amazing. I start sailing past other runners. This works for an amazingly long time. 9:01, 8:55, 8:45, 8:53.

Miles 12-13: Kachunk, kachunk! That's the sound of the wheels falling off the bus. I am suddenly so very drained, tired and overheated. My brain seems to scramble in an instant. A guy I passed recently passes me again. The miles tick by in painfully miniscule increments. Time slows to a crawl. The final hill is absolutely nowhere in sight. See inner dialogue quoted above. 9:41, 9:38... almost as slow as mile one. Ugh.

Mile 13.1: Uphill. The race finish is on the opposite side of a highway overpass, so you have to run UP it, and then down a bit to the finish. I passed a guy on the down part who was going inexplicably slowly, so that was something. 8:10 pace for that tenth of a mile!

So here's my recap. I'm really happy with how 10/13th of this race went. I've never felt so good during a race before! I think for a few miles I was actually experiencing Flow, as described in the excellent Runner's Times article Locking Into Flow. I also knew, from some other magazine, that peaks of feeling great are generally mirrored by troughs of feeling awful. I managed to hit my trough right before finish, and I believe that's part of what made this my slowest half ever. I trained for this for 10 weeks, but never in infernal heat!!

Official Time: 2:01

And then... dim sum!!! It is a requirement that I refuel with this Chinese tea lunch after every half marathon. I made a collage for you!

Clockwise from top right: chili oil, lotus leaf rice wrap, pork siu mai, char siu bao (bbq pork bun), shrimp har gow. (We also had an order of wu gok (fried taro roll)--love that one!)

Poutine for One: 14 easy steps

In a wonderful place called Canada (the land of the big snowball), they enjoy a delicacy called Poutine.

Poutine is an inspired combination of French fries with melted cheese curds and gravy. I find it deeply satisfying and yummy... though some people think it sounds horrible. It's like haggis that way, a savory regional dish that people love or hate. I love them both!

I am fortunate to live in a town where poutine can be ordered at not one but two locations. (Where, you may ask? Flat Street Brew Pub and Hazel.) But I've never made poutine myself and it seems SO simple. This stuff can be made at home, right? Knowing only that there are three ingredients and that they must be piping hot, I invented this "Poutine for One" recipe. Of course it is easily doubled or tripled or more.

Step 1: Assemble your three ingredients. I used frozen straight cut fries, fresh local cheese curds, and boxed organic beef gravy that I'd never tried before.

Step 2: heat your oven according to the fries instructions. These Cascadian Farm fries cook for 10-15 minutes at 450˚F.

Step 3: Portion out fries on a baking sheet. For one person I used half a package of fries.

Step 4: Place fries in oven to bake. Set timer for 10 minutes.

Step 5: Warm up about 1/2 cup of the beef gravy on low heat.

Step 6: After 10 minutes, remove fries from oven and flip them (or flip as many as you can before losing patience) with a spatula. Return to oven.

Step 7: Bake for another 5-7 minutes until most fries are nice and golden brown. NOTE: You must get the fries as brown as you want at this step, because browning opportunities later are limited.

Step 8: Remove fries from oven and transfer to an oven proof serving dish, if you have it, or just a brownie pan. Goal: to melt the cheese curds in a controlled manner.

Step 9: Change oven heat to broil. Use HI if that's a choice.

Step 10: Sprinkle fries liberally with cheese curds. I used half of my container, so about 2-3 ounces.

Step 11: Broil the cheese and fries, keeping a close watch on them until the cheese is very melty. This could take about 8 minutes. More melty is better than more solid (poke the cheese curds to find out).

Step 12: Slide the mass of stuck-together together fries onto a plate.

Step 13: Pour hot gravy over all.

Step 14: Serve!

A few notes: Not having a commercial kitchen with salamander, I was proud of how my first Poutine turned out with broiler. If there's one thing to work on, it's the gravy. The store-bought gravy tasted fine, but it has a very watery consistency that is not ideal for Poutine. Perhaps simmering it more vigorously and/or for longer would render it more velvety.

What do you think? Do you like Poutine? How about haggis?