Last week was Spring Break, only there was snow on the ground and I was stuck at work. Mulling over the lack of a break, and the lack of Spring, in my Spring Break, I made a very quick realization: hey, I should take a break!
In honor of the school holiday happening around us, Coop and I set out for a day adventure out of the city, and what a needed break it was! We started with (of course), a delicious and nutritious breakfast of scrambled eggs with chives and some crispy bacon while pouring over our well-perused New England travel book. We then grabbed coats and hats (and another coat, just in case), and headed out in Joe Silver* for a full day of crispy, sunny sunshine.
*For those who don’t know, Joe Silver is our trusty wagon
First stop: Cafe Fixe! We couldn’t very well start our day of fun without first popping into our favorite cafe for two of their creamiest cappuccinos! Sitting on their bar stools, relishing the warm sunshine coming through the window, we plotted our course for the day and watched all the dogs go by. Brookline, more than any other place I have seen yet, is full of people who look like their dogs. While sitting at that window we saw a big, red haired man with a beard and a belly walking a round, fluffy, loafing red-furred pooch. No joke, this is a regular occurrence.
From Cafe Fixe we hopped in Joe Silver and set out on 95 North towards Ipswich, headed toward destination number two: Tendercrop Farm. Even driving on the ever-busy highways felt like a break, listening to music and chatting as city faded into New England countryside.
Tendercrop Farm is a magical place, complete with cute animals and a fully-equipped ‘country store’. If we lived near the farm we truly wouldn’t have to shop anywhere else; they have everything! We have a tendency to overdo it when we go to Tendercrop, getting carried away by the beautiful, often-local produce and the freshly butchered meat. Tuesday was no exception! We filled our cart with sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, parsnip, swiss chard, fresh thyme, lettuce, broccoli, squash (whole squash!), cilantro, mushrooms, thick-slab bacon, chicken wings/thighs, ground beef, spicy house-made sausage, and eggs. We loaded up that cart so full we weren’t sure we’d be able to fit it all in our little apartment!
There are few things that lift my spirits like grocery shopping with Coop. By the time we loaded up our car I was happy, and hungry! Next stop: Newburyport, MA.
Newburyport is a small, coastal town just a short drive from the farm, which I had heard good things about, but had never seen. From what I have experienced of them so far, New England beach towns are a thing to behold, with their worn brick city centers and their old, sagging, beautiful mansions. ‘Beach town’ really isn’t the right way to refer to these places. ‘Beach town’ is what I think of when I go to the small towns on the coast of Washington and Oregon: salty, charming, laid back, and little run down. ‘Coastal residence’ might be a more suitable term for towns like Newburyport.
It is a lovely place, replete with charm, heritage and old wealth. We walked through town, admiring especially the number of ice cream and gelato shops. Too bad it was so darn cold that day! We sat down at Loretta’s Restaurant for lunch right on the main street, which turned out to be an excellent choice. We had,
Grilled romaine salad with blue cheese, sweet onion relish, tomatoes and croutons
Poached pear, gorgonzola and candied walnut salad
2 cups of New England clam chowder (our first ever!)
Next stop: the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. Now Plum Island is more what I would call a ‘beach town’ (de-emphasis on the ‘town’). I was excited to go out to Plum Island because, weird as it may seem, I had not actually seen the ocean from Massachusetts. Yes, I’d seen the water, but only in bays and harbors, not the actual coast. Unfortunately, much of the Refuge was closed for storm damage and bird nesting season, but we were able to walk around some of the boardwalks and breath in salty fresh air. It was gorgeous! We saw hawks, a beaver damn… and the ocean! (From a distance, but still.)
After Plum Island we headed for home, with a car full of goodies with which to make a creative dinner. We decided on:
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
4 whole portobello mushrooms
3 cloves garlic diced
1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup swish chard chopped
2 shallots diced
1 Tbs fresh thyme diced
2 Tbs diced sun dried tomatoes
Parmesan cheese (garnish)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
1. Prep the mushrooms by pulling off the stems and scooping the inside of the cap to make a deeper cavity. Chop up the discarded mushroom pieces and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Lightly sauté the garlic, shallots, ground beef and thyme, until the beef is just cooked. Add to mushroom mixture.
3. Sauté the chard just enough to soften it, and add to the mixture, along with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
4. Toss the mixture, and scoop into the prepped mushroom caps.
5. Bake the mushrooms at 375 for 40 minutes, until slightly browned on top. Grate a little Parmesan over the top, and bake another 2-5 minutes until melted.
Yum! Next time I would recommend adding a little bit of goat cheese or feta to the mixture before stuffing the mushrooms, just to make them a little more decadent. Bread crumbs on top would be good also.
Making that farm-fresh dinner was a splendid way to end our spectacular (if not too-short) Spring Break. I look forward to our next chance to go on an adventure!