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Sunny Day Road Trip: Discovering Vermont Artisans

April 16, 2017 by Susan

A beautiful, warm and sunny mid-April day just begs to be enjoyed so, having no overnight guest to attend to, we set out to enjoy the afternoon and view the works of area artisans.

Our afternoon outing started in Middlebury, about 45 minutes from the B&B, where we stopped at the Vermont Coffee Company for coffee and some lunch. The Vermont Coffee Company is a small company that began slow-roasting small batches of coffee in 1979. As they note, “All the coffees we buy are organic and fair trade. While on their own these aren’t ‘quality standards’ they are standards for a higher quality of living for the farmers who grow the coffee.” (Open weekdays only, until 2PM.)

Vermont coffee Company logo.

Coffee roasting artisans create”Coffee made for friends”.

Our guests love the dark roast that we use for our breakfast coffee. Buy Vermont Coffee Company coffee, save the brown paper wrappers and trade them in for some cool stuff – a travel mug? Perhaps, but saving up for a special Vermont Teddy Bear with a “Friends” t-shirt won’t take too much longer!

Next stop was Bristol nestled at the foot of the Green Mountains just over the Gap from Warren. The town dates back to 1762. While many of the buildings date from a later time period, the entire downtown is a National Historic District. The town green has been a central part of village life throughout the town’s history. The Bristol Band has presented outdoor summer band concerts in the gazebo on the town green every Wednesday from June through Labor Day since shortly after the Civil War.

Art on Main sign.

A bright and beautiful shop.

Two beautiful shops on the main street in Bristol that are not to be missed bring to light the incredible talent of Vermont artisans.

Art On Main is a charming community supported artist cooperative showcasing the talents of artisans from around the state. This small gallery exhibits and sells an abundance of delightful creations, the work of over 80 artists both well known and newly emerging talent.

A wide variety of media are represented including hand thrown pottery, exquisite jewelry, textiles in various styles, woodenware, fine art, glass, small furniture items and photography.

The creations are attractively displayed making each item a treat for the eye. Numerous community events are scheduled throughout the year at Art On Main: rotating exhibits, featured artist series, open studio weekend, artist demonstrations and an emerging artists exhibit.

Huge elm lumber dwarfs Vermont Tree Goods artisan and owner John.

Giant slices from the ancient elm dwarf John, Vermont Tree Goods artisan and owner. Photo: Jon Varricchio

Vermont Tree Goods is an absolute joy to visit. This local company mills lumber and creates the most incredibly beautiful furniture from recycled heirloom trees that have reached the end of their growing years. Through the transformation into furniture, these magnificent beings extend their legacy by living on in homes and businesses. Using trees that are too large to fit into the usual lumber mill saws, Vermont Tree Goods artisans take the large trees and using their vision create what the tree wants to be made into.

From bedsteads to bookcases and tables to trivets, each piece of wood has a story. Each piece is hand crafted, natural-edged, Vermont grown and Vermont made. The pieces have timeless design and so stunningly finished that the grain of the wood cries out to be caressed. Unfortunately, in 2016, the largest elm in the entire northeast succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. Fortunately however, at the end of its life Vermont Tree Goods and the Nature Conservancy worked together to continue the legacy of that beautiful tree and may lovely pieces have been created from the wood of this historic tree.

All the tables, benches and home goods crafted from this magnificent red elm by the VTG artisans are branded with the unique VT Elm logo, a silhouette of the tree.

Vermont Tree Goods hand made table.

A magnificent table handcrafted by artisans at Vermont Tree Goods. Photo: Vermont Tree Goods

We are proud that our guests are able to be part of this legacy as we have four teapot trivets made from this stately elm.

Peter enjoying afternoon tea.

Enjoying a sunny afternoon tea and baked goods at the Bristol Café.

Before heading back to West Hill House B&B we stopped at a favorite, the Bristol Café, to sit outside in the warm sunshine and enjoy a mug of tea and some home baked goodies.

With explorations over for the day we headed back home and across the Gap to Warren.

If you are ready to escape from your usual routines for a while, your explorations can be just around the corner. We invite you to come stay with us at West Hill House B&B, adjacent to the Sugarbush Resort and Golf Club and just a few miles from the town of Bristol. Let us work with you to plan your road trip in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont.

Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies

November 24, 2014 by Susan

Stirring it up:

These peanut butter cookies could be called by any number of names: I Can’t Believe It! Magic!, Too Simple To Be True!, the list could go on and you are welcome to make up your own name for these delicious, miraculously quick cookies. Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies will have to do for now. Perfect to whip up if unexpected guests drop in and, like Old Mother Hubbard, your cookie cupboard is bare. Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies can be created in 5 minutes and cooked in 15 minutes fresh cookies can be ready by the time the coffee is perked or the tea kettle is boiled.

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Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 measures of tender loving care!

Measure the peanut butter, sugar and egg into a bowl.

Mix together until smooth. The batter will be slightly thick.

Using a scoop or teaspoons, scoop out dough about the size of a walnut.

Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

If desired, pattern the dough by pressing with a fork or by dressing it up with a chocolate chip. If you are making larger cookies use a Hershey’s Kiss- unwrapped of course! I leave the cookies in their rounded state prior to cooking so they flatten out while they cook becoming crackled on top and slightly chewy in the center.

Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F. Keep an eye on them.

Cool on the pan for a few minutes then remove to racks to continue cooling.

Serve with tea, coffee, milk or just a plate!

Makes about 24 amazing peanut butter cookies. They freeze well so you can stock up for the holidays.

Dishing it out:

My Dad would have loved these cookies – peanut butter was a favorite; on toast, with carrots or celery, with a spoon!, with just about anything. I remember as a child we always had peanut butter in the pantry and in two or three pound jars. We even had peanut butter in large bear shaped glass jars and I still have a couple of these jars, empty of course!

Peanut butter is a staple many North American kitchens but not so in the United Kingdom or Europe. When growing up in Scotland, Peter seldom had peanut butter and when living in France we only found peanut butter in pricy, small containers.

This recipe is from amazing peanut butter lovers like Carol and Colin who were guests here at West Hill House B&B while attending the 50th year reunion of Vermont College and Norwich Military Academy respectively. Carol mentioned that Colin liked peanut butter cookies and she proceeded to give me this recipe. I’m not prone to disbelieving recipes which are shared with me, and I’m usually ready to experiment, so I made these cookies then and there and about 20 minutes later presented Colin with a plate of his favourite amazing peanut butter cookies. Give the recipe a try, I’ll bet you say, “I can’t believe it, these are amazing peanut butter cookies!”

Learn more about things that include peanuts – check out the information on George Washington Carver.

Soft Ginger Cookies

June 29, 2012 by Susan

A yummy treat.

Stirring it up! While cleaning rooms the other day I clicked on the TV and found The Barefoot Contessa featuring a batch of the Ultimate Ginger Cookie. They looked absolutely scrumptious so after finishing the rooms I cleaned up and headed off to the kitchen to cook up a batch for our weekend guests. Unfortunately I didn’t have all the ingredients called for in that recipe so I made my own version of ginger cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c. all purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg ( I grate nutmeg so  just eyeballed the quantity)
  • 1/2 t.  ground ginger (I used a tiny bit more than this)
  • 1/4 t. fleur de sel
  • an additional 1/3 c. granulated sugar for rolling cookies in before baking
  • 1 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1/3 c. unsulfured molasse
  • 1/4 c. to 1/3 c. crystalized ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 c. raisins (optional)
Preparation:
Set the oven to 350°F. The cookies will bake for about 12-14 minutes. I made 22 cookies.

Put the first 7 ingredients into a large bowl and set it aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer,  mix on low speed, the brown sugar, canola oil and unsulfured molasses. Note that the dough is fairly stiff so I don’t recommend using a hand mixer. With the mixer still on low speed add the egg, mix for about 1 minute and remember to scrape the sides of the bowl – stop the mixer first. Without changing the mixer seed, very gradually add the dry ingredients which are in the first bowl. If the mixer is going too fast you will find yourself and the mixer covered in a fine white dusting of flour! Increase speed and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the crystalized ginger and raisins (optional) and mix until incorporated. Make dough balls about 1 T. in size and roll in the reserved 1/3 cup of sugar. Place dough balls on a parchment lined jelly roll pan or cookie sheet and flatten slightly with your fingers.

Bake until the cookies are crackled on top but still soft to the touch. Cool cookies on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to complete cooling. These freeze well if they last long enough for you to get them into containers!

Dishing it out!  One sunny summer day, my dad and I decided to take a drive along a nearby lake so stopped off first at the grocery store for sustenance for the journey. While I choose a well aged cheddar cheese, my dad went off to find crackers or so I thought but back he came with a box of gingersnaps. Supplied with these items and the thermos of tea from home, we set off on our adventure. This was the day that I learned how well cheddar cheese and crunchy gingersnaps go together. While these ginger cookies are soft, they are still pretty darn good with a cup of tea and a chunk of strong cheddar cheese.

Enjoy!

A Gem of a Restaurant

March 28, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

A kitchen with space to work.

Today Peter and I (Susan) had a marvelous lunch at MINT, a local vegetarian restaurant in Waitsfield.

In the wake of  tropical storm Irene, which flooded the restaurant with 5 feet of muddy water, MINT has been reborn through the hard work of  it’s owners Savitri and Iliyan. The restaurant now boasts a new layout, including an open kitchen, comfortably cushioned chairs and a colorful, relaxing and inviting ethnic decor with much of the decoration having been done by the owners themselves.

Thinking we would just stop for a pot of one of their many tea varieties, we were enticed by the menu and chose lunch instead; mushroom and flava bean soup, a tomato-mozzarella sandwich, and yes, a pot of tea, White Darjeeling. The soup was as tasty as it was aromatic (I should have ordered a large bowl!) and was accompanied by a lightly grilled slice of hearty artisan bread.

A tempting tart.

A small salad of mixed greens was served with our toasty warm sandwich making it hard to decide which to start on first. Tea of any kind hits the spot with me so enjoying a pot of perfectly steeped tea at the end of our meal was delightful. Unfortunately time was ticking away and we had to forego dessert but the Pumpkin and Chocolate tart with Belgian chocolate and crunchy crust sounded awfully good!

The lunch and dinner menus are inventive and delectable so don’t expect a vegetarian menu of plain-old pasta with tomato sauce. Using an abundance of local produce allows the creativity of both Iliyan and Savitri to shine through in both menu and presentation.

Whether an omnivore or vegetarian your appetite is surely to be tempted and satisfied at MINT,  it is a gem of a restaurant in the heart of the Green Mountains.

Tell them Susan and Peter sent you!

Photos taken from the MINT website.

Cinnamon Crumb Cake

November 13, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Cinnamon Crumb Cake

A great breakfast starter.

Stirring it up! Here’s a never fail coffee cake which is quick to make and yummy to eat.

  • 2 c  all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c  butter
  • 1 c  white sugar

Rub these three ingredients together to the crumb stage. Put 1 cup of the mixture aside to use as topping

Mix the remaining mixture (from the above) with the following:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. sour milk
  • 1/2 t  baking soda
  • 2 t  baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t  ground cloves
  • 1 c  raisins, dry cranberries or dry cherries -add these to the dry ingredients before adding the egg and this will help keep the fruit distributed throughout the cake rather than sinking to the bottom.

Pour the mixture into a well greased 9″x13″x2″ (33cmx23cmx5cm) pan and sprinkle the 1 cup of topping over the batter.
Bake at 375• F (190• C) for about 25 minutes. Cool slightly and serve or can be served cold and goes very nicely with an afternoon cup of tea. Freezes well.

Dishing it out! Ever been the new kid in school and hoping to make new friends? In a family that moved numerous times, come the first day of school the big question was, “who will be my friend?”. Starting a new school in grade 7 there was little time to worry about this as I was soon befriended by Maureen. We were in the same class, went to the same church and discovered we liked many of the same things. For three years we were best friends then a new job for my parents took us to a new home across the country . Maureen and I have kept in touch by email and  have only seen each other a couple of times in all these years. All this to say, Maureen sent me this recipe hoping it might be something I could use and every time I make Cinnamon Crumb Cake I silently thank her for making another breakfast enjoyable for both the cook (me) and our guests. Thanks Maureen!

Tea Primer

April 23, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Granny's favourite.

When we moved to Texas from Canada, two new friends, knowing of our Canadian & Scottish backgrounds, offered us tea – cups with water heated (not to boiling) in the microwave and presented with a tea bag on the side. YIKES! My mission from then on was to teach them to make a good cup of tea, properly made! Both new friends, who have since become near and dear, were excellent students and can now make a great cuppa’.

Here are a few basic terms that are useful to know when reading about and making tea.

Tea pot -The vessel from which hot tea is poured. Buy a tea pot if you haven’t one. Whether from a simple Brown Betty tea pot or an ornate fine china tea pot, pouring tea from a tea pot makes the experience of having a cuppa’ all the more enjoyable. (don’t use aluminum though it reacts badly with tea).

This small 2-cup tea pot along with its wee cream and sugar was used for many years by Peter’s Granny who lived to be one week short of 100 years old. In the latter years of her life Granny was confined to bed and Peter’s mum brought her tea in this little set each morning. Looking as good as new, sadly its tea cup is missing.

Tea kettle – the vessel in which you bring fresh water to a boil. Can be electric or stove top.

Tea cup – A china tea cup or mug are my favourites – but then, I’ve also drunk tea from a birch bark cup so I’ll take tea no matter!

Infuse or Steep – the process of extracting the flavour of the tea from the leaves to the water.

Loose  leaf or Tea bag – Use good quality loose, leaf is best. Most commonly used are tea bags which contain tea dust which is known for it quick extraction. With a myriad kinds of tea, make a visit your local tea shop for advice on what to purchase. (If you are in the Mad River Valley checkout the tea shop and restaurant called MINT- they have about 50 different teas and tisanes.)

TisaneThough prepared in the same manner as tea, tisane is a combination of dried flowers, herbs and fruit and does not contain tea leaves.

One-for-the-pot – This refers to how much loose leaf or how many teabags to use. My guideline is 1 bag or one slightly rounded teaspoon of loose leaf per 10 oz of water. You preferences may vary for weaker or stronger tea.

Tea Ball or Tea Infuser  or Tea Egg – A tea ball is not a fancy dress dance, it ‘s a device into which loose tea leave are put for steeping. Once in the tea pot, the hot water poured over it  can seep through the mesh of a tea ball to the leaves.

Ready to make some tea? Stay tuned!

We know how to make tea!

April 15, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

A Ceylon tea set which was purchased by Peter's grandmother when she and her husband lived in Ceylon in the early 1900s.

Over the past few weeks I have attended two conferences, each providing various meals followed by coffee and tea,  but only if you asked for it.

My latest tea challenge came just the other day. I was brought a cup filled with very warm water (not hot enough to have been boiling) and a wooden case from which I could choose from about a dozen types of teas and tisanes. The tea bags were tucked into little cardboard boxes  1.75″ x 1.25″ x .75″ and wrapped with plastic wrap with a pull tab much like the wrapping on a cigarette package. By the time I had chosen my tea, finally removed the plastic from the box, got the box opened and the tea bag into the cup, the water had gone from very warm to warm. While the quality of tea was good, full-leaf tea in a triangular tea bag, I could only imagine what this would have tasted like had it been properly made.

It’s time tea was made and served correctly!

When you visit West Hill House, if you request tea, we will make you a proper cup of tea.Tea as it should be!

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