One of the challenges of planning one of my “Death March” 20+ mile hikes through is city is figuring out a route of the right length. Some cities (like New York) this is pretty easy, but for the more compact cities (like Boston) this often means taking some interesting loops through the city. In the case of Seattle, I wanted to do a basic “S” curve, starting near the center of Seattle, looping up through University of Washington to Phinney Heights, down through Downtown to Georgetown, and over to Alki Beach (we didn’t quite make it that far…). The map had a nice, fairly intuitive route if I started from Volunteer Park, but looking over the map, Volunteer Park and the surrounding part of Capitol Hill is still strongly residential. But I did notice one place that had fairly consistently good reviews: Volunteer Park Cafe.
A second day hanging around Tysons Corner Center in Northern Virginia sent me out in search of a good breakfast. After a walking loop of the area, I settled upon a spot I had spied the previous evening; across from Earl’s Kitchen + Bar is Barrel & Bushel, the in-hotel restaurant of the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner. Instead of being the bustling, over-crowded joint that it appears to be from the start of happy hour through closing, at breakfast time it’s actually a fairly pleasant restaurant that is primarily catering to hotel guests. But as a walk-in, I was promptly greeted and settled into a nice window-side table with a nice giant pot of French press coffee.
Like always, a trip down to the NYC area almost always involves a pit-stop in either southern VT or western MA for breakfast. Luckily, both Brattleboro, VT and Greenfield, MA have quite a good selection of places. In Greenfield, one places has been calling our attention for a while; The Brass Buckle. Located on Main Street just west of the main corner of downtown (Rte 10 and Main), the place itself is quite simple: it’s a quiet little breakfast coffee shop. But since it consistently gets good online reviews, and often has a line out the door when we come by, on this visit, we got there early enough to avoid a rush (and being a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowd).
In general, I really enjoy that each part of the country has food specialties that they excel in, it gives me something to look forward to when I travel, like a good proper posole in New Mexico, or a proper Cuban sandwich in Miami. But it also leaves me with the occasional hard to satisfy craving. Like when I want a good, quality biscuit. Nominally, this shouldn’t be too hard, considering that within a 50 mile radius of me are about a dozen places that have biscuits on the menu… But I’ve learned that, like the phrase “New England Barbecue”, “biscuit” is a term to be treated with a certain amount of skepticism in these parts. I could get a nice, flaky, buttery biscuit with a bit of crumble… but I’m much more likely to get some sort of stale, leaden lump of dry dough that’s only vaguely suitable as a substrate for a biscuits and gravy. In short, most New England biscuits, well, suck. It baffles me a bit, since biscuits aren’t that hard to do… when I lived in the South, the vast majority of kitchens were able to put out a decent biscuit, without any products labeled with “Bisquik” or having any sort of canned dough being involved. But it’s something that most New England kitchens haven’t mastered, enough so that I’ve joked many a time about opening “Rich’s Remedial Biscuit School” and inviting local chefs. I was in that frame of mind when I was checking out reviews for some new places in Montpeliers, and I had noticed several good reviews for Philamena’s, a new Italian place that opened this year on Montpelier’s west side. Most importantly, more than one review mentioned great biscuits. Hopeful, but still skeptical, we decided to check them out for breakfast.
As I mentioned several times, one of our annual traditions is to get together with friends, find a random city with decent walking routes and good food, and hike about 20 miles across the city, eating and drinking as we go. We call it a “Death March”. This year was our first “international” one, in Montreal, picked because it’s familiarity to us (we go to Montreal at least once a year), ease of travel, and the rather impressive array of restaurants, bars, and cocktail clubs available across the city. We also (not completely by accident) managed to book our trip to coincide with Mondial de la Biere, the Montreal beer festival. But like any of our Death Marches, about half of the eating and drinking happened on the days before and after the march. And thus, after settling into our hotel (the very eclectic, but affordable, Hotel Kutuma, complete with zebra-print sheets), we set out in search of a great breakfast, settling on the nearby plateau location of Universel Déjeuners et Grillades (one of two in the city, the other on Rue Peel down by McGill).
I’ve always enjoyed the little town of Hartland, VT. It’s a nice quiet little town, just off of I-91 and down the road from Windsor. It’s a bit funny, since it really has three village areas: Three Corners (where Route 5 and Route 12 intersect, and basically the main part of town), Four Corners (to the west, where Route 12 and Brownsville Road intersect), and North Hartland (a quiet little village nestled in between I-91 and the Connecticut River, and home of the North Hartland Dam, a rather nice little recreational area). As small Vermont towns go, Hartland is nice in that it’s actually got enough basic amenities: a gas station, two convenience stores, a library, several churches (including the host of the Famous Roast Beef Supper) and the like. And a diner, the Hartland Diner.
I recently found myself doing a lot of testing for work down in the Northwest Boston suburbs. Driving down there from NH generally, well, sucks, unless you can time things to avoid rush hour (which is actually the better part of three hours long). This means that I have to time things to arrive either before approximately 7am, or after 10am. For those times that I need to be someplace at 8am or 9am, that usually means getting down there early, and finding someplace interesting to get breakfast. In this case, the place was Vic’s Waffle House in Tewksbury, MA.
I had one firm recommendation for a meal in Grand Junction from my friend Ariane (whose wedding I was attending): that I go get breakfast at Las Marias, and in particular try their tamale. Apparently, the place has been a favorite of her and her brother for quite some time, so we decided to check it out. Like a lot of smaller cities, Grand Junction has a downtown that’s been through an initial heyday, a contraction as people move out to the suburbs and transitioned their shopping from local stores to large box stores and shopping malls, and finally some redevelopment. Grand Junction has done a good amount of development, and seems to be really pushing to make downtown an eating and entertainment destination, and they’ve also installed quite a bit of artwork. At the East end of Old Town Grand Junction is the latest location of Maria’s, across the street from the old (and currently being renovated) Avalon Theater.
Last month had us visiting Grand Junction, Colorado for a friend’s wedding. Aside from (many) trips through the Denver airport, and two trips to Golden, CO for work, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Colorado, despite many childhood trips there, so I was rather enjoying the chance to fly into Denver, drive through the Rockies via Loveland Pass and Glenwood Canyon, and check out some of the scenery in Western Colorado. It was a lightning fast trip, but after arriving in Denver extremely late on a Thursday and crashing in a hotel. The next morning, the first order of business was, of course, finding breakfast. Seeing that we had pretty much the entire Denver metropolitan area between us and our destination, I figured I’d try for one of the better places in the area, Snooze.
As a celebration after completing our Washington, DC Death March (10 hours walking, 22.9 miles), we decided that a celebratory brunch was in order the next morning. It’s not particularly easy to score brunch reservations for a large party, but one of our Marchers, Jeff, recommended LIA’s in Chevy Chase. Part of the Chef Geoff group of restaurants, LIA’s is one of the places focusing on “Posh American” cuisine: American classic dishes done up with quality ingredients and with interesting twists. But, most importantly, they were easily able to hand a group of 12 with last minute reservations, so we found ourselves traveling up to Chevy Chase for brunch.