Tag Archives: Travel

Very French, or Nearly So

There was no dinner at the country house last night; we’d gone over the river and through the woods to have lunch with her beloved Nana, and to deliver furniture to a refinishing shop. We stopped for gas on the way home at a dairy store where she worked during college breaks. Dinner, such as it was, was a double-scoop cone for each of us. 

Brunch today, however, was another matter. Open-faced tomato and mozzarella sandwiches on really good bread, sliced hard-cooked eggs over lettuce with a mustard vinaigrette, and an apple-cider donut, sliced and grilled. She had a wide-brimmed mug of sweet, light tea; I had coffee. I discovered that a beach umbrella fit perfectly into the table on the deck and provided just enough shade.  It might not seemed authentic to a Parisian, but brunch on this late August Saturday felt very much like I remember simple meals at homes in the south of France on a trip long ago.

She broke off a big piece of romaine, wrapped half a of a mustardy hard-boiled egg in it, and mmmmmmdd contentedly after taking a bite. “When you serve meals like this, I don’t want them to end,” she said. “I can’t decide what I want the last bite to be.”

That’s compliment enough for any cook.

Some days you grab a bagel on the way out the door. When there's time for a proper breakfast, you take it.

Some days you barely grab a bagel on the way out the door. When there’s time for a proper breakfast, you take it.

Road Trip #1

Absent official guidelines for this journal, it was unclear whether only meals consumed in the Country House should be recorded. So, when there’s time to write and something interesting, we’ll try to include away-games, too.

* * *

The alarm rang at 4:15 AM. “Do I even like these people?” I mumbled. And then realized that, yes, indeed, I do. So this long-awaited road trip to Massachusetts was not unreasonable, even considering the painful wake-up call.

The wedding that occasioned the trip was lovely and unconventional—exactly like the couple who were celebrating their marriage, right down to the church-supper-style reception in the church hall: simple, hearty, tasty fare: vegetarian chili and brown rice; angel-hair pasta with chicken and a variety of sauces; salad and crudités so fresh they might have been harvested that morning; a beautiful, single-layer, white-frosted chocolate cake; apple-cider donuts; seltzers and juices: a rainbow of flavors served on tables clothed in the same rainbow.

Our route passed through Hartford, where another friend has recently taken a teaching position. Since the Massachusetts festivities would be concluded by early afternoon, the perfect opportunity presented itself (and Siri provided directions) for a visit.

I’ve seen Hartford mostly on foot, having run the Half Marathon there for the past couple of years. During one of those races, I saw a restaurant that looked especially interesting, and meant to try it sometime. I didn’t recognize it by name when our friend suggested dinner there, and was delighted when we pulled into its parking lot last night to meet and I realized we were at that very spot.

Tisane is like three shops in one: a tea-and-coffeehouse, a bar, and a restaurant with a small but eclectic menu. We had a comfortable outdoor table, great conversation, and quite good food. I don’t much care for chicken wings (too much skin and bone, and not enough flesh), but like the “Buffalo” flavors: the Buffalo chicken sandwich was lightly breaded breast meat, a splash of hot sauce and a blue cheese aioli, lettuce, and tomato on a ciabatta roll; served with fries sprinkled with blue cheese. (The traditional celery and carrots were missing, but I had plenty of vegetables at lunch.) She ordered an espresso-rubbed  steak and I tried not to drop my jaw at the confirmed tea drinker ordering something that involved coffee.  And ate every bite, including the spinach, mushrooms, and garlic mashed potato sides.

When the food is great and the company even better, it is not surprising when the evening stretches a little longer than expected; we left for home at the time we anticipated arriving, but such is life.  And life is good.