I grew up in a beautiful place. Though I have to say, it did not have nearly vibrant a fall as Connecticut. Our autumns are shady affairs, the time of year when you really notice passing under the shadow of a tree, cause almost all the trees are coniferous, and therefore voluminous and ominous and shady in the fall. Except for the maples, but they really belong to a different season, right?
This is the time of year when Rachel and I itch to strike out across the wilderness. Last fall, at just around this time, we drove to Poughkeepsie to visit Lisa at Vassar, and to whisk her back to New Haven for her week-long fall break. This year, we decided to do the same, but not before stopping off for a picnic in the woods.
We got to Vassar, hung out while Lisa’s Spiced Sweet Potato Bread finished baking, and as soon as it was done (and actually, probably a little bit before – but that’s how we like our loaves anyway) we flung it out of the pan, threw our stuff in the car, and ate warm handfuls of fall as we drove back into the country.
We stopped off at Kent Falls State Park for our picnic, in Western Connecticut near New York State. We climbed past waterfalls, hiked through the woods, and found our way to a clearing on the bank of the river where we laid out our midday meal.
It was the ideal of how we like to eat – lots of simple building blocks that we can play with and put together in perpetually new ways. A crusty loaf of bread, fresh mozzarella, nettle pesto, apples, peppers, pears, carrots, green tomatoes and kale marinated in balsamic dressing, pea tendrils, fleur de sel, mustard, maple syrup, dried currants…
Let the canapé parade begin!
Dessert: crusty bread smothered with maple syrup, sea salt, and a touch of dijon mustard. Sweet, salty, spicy, very delicious.
We lounged by the river, leisurely enjoying our meal, but as the afternoon grew late and the clouds rolled in, we decided to beat the cold and pack up. We passed the falls again on the other side, winding our way down the mountainside with lighter packs and satisfied bodies.
Before heading back to New Haven, however, we had one more task to accomplish.
We headed back into the town of Kent, parking just off the main road and following the stepping stones to Belgique Chocolaterie for a late-afternoon drinking chocolate.
It was not even in the same category as the ‘hot chocolate’ most of us know. It was rich, thick, not too sweet, and of course, intensely chocolatey. Topped with a frothy head and a dollop of Chantilly, it surely approached a full day’s calorie intake, or at least that of a meal. Luckily, we had just gone a hike, and eaten a pretty healthy lunch. Plus, chocolate’s good for you, right?
And if that wasn’t enough (which it definitely was), we got some truffles.
You only go to Kent, CT with your bestie and sister in October, 2011 once, am I right?
Now, it was really time to go home. Somehow Rachel stayed conscious and drove us all home. Another beautiful drive back through the foliage, this time in the waning light.
You might think that was enough for one day, but you’d be wrong. We got home, took a little rest, then cooked for a potluck dinner party we were hosting that night for my friends in Control Group, our experimental theatre company. It’s such a great group and I knew it would be a fun time.
Which left us no choice but to make more canapés:
Butter, carrot, watermelon radish, fried sage.
Ricotta, fried leeks, ginger, pea tendrils, sea salt.
Charlotte, my wonderful housemate and director of Control Group, made her signature devilled eggs. They are starting to make her seriously famous in Yale potluck circles, let me tell you. And with good reason.
She also made deep-fried blue cheese balls. We served them with sunflower honey. MMM.
And in case you thought we weren’t being that healthy, we had some salad too, with spicy mustard greens from the farm, carrots, radishes, and toasted sunflower seeds.
It’s hard to believe so much good food, adventure, and great company filled just one day. I guess that’s when you know you’re living the good life.