My husband and I spent Memorial Day Weekend at a gratefully cool remove from our steamy New Orleans home base. In Vermont, I signed “But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria” at Manchester’s excellent Northshire Books wearing a turtleneck cashmere sweater. Boston required long sleeves and a pashmina. I’m on a plane headed back to NOLA as I type and I’m pretty sure I’ll be rolling up my sleeves as soon as I land.
But the weather isn’t the only reason I was sad to leave. In addition to being green and beautiful, Vermont turned out to be a bit of a foodie mecca. On our first night we dined at Abby and Rogan Lechthaler’s, fabulous Downtown Grocery in Ludlow. Abby is a fellow Mississippi girl and an old friend (as well as a new mom to the adorable Mason). Rogan, a native Vermonter, is an exceptionally gifted cook who has worked at some of my favorite haunts (Blackberry Farm, Boston’s Mistral, Oxford, Mississippi’s late lamented L&M). Together they run the Grocery, which, on the night we dined, featured: an amazing flatbread with ramps, local cheese, and Rogan’s house-cured bacon; ricotta gnudi with lobster and morels; perfect soft shell crabs with lemon butter and capers; and an astonishingly delicious—and decadent—“Late Night Breakfast” consisting of French toast with buttermilk bacon ice cream and local maple syrup. The blackboard of daily specials is long and ever-changing and I can’t wait to return before summer’s end to see what’s on it.
In Boston, we stayed at my favorite Lenox Hotel, where the world’s most helpful concierges are also unrepentant gourmands. We spent an entire afternoon at Coppa, where the chief concierge’s husband happens to be chef, and where the outdoor terrace is almost as crowded with loveable mutts as people. While our neighbor’s poodle mix drank lustily from the ice bucket containing a flight of Miller ponies (what an inspired idea!), John and I shared a pitcher of refreshing Aperol spritzers and ordered a succession of small plates, including the best steak tartare I’ve ever tasted and a sublime squid ink pasta.
Best of all was seeing Boston’s Boylston Street, site of the Marathon bombings and home to the Lenox (which became police and FBI headquarters for a week), crowded with people, countless Boston Strong banners, and an extraordinarily moving make-shift memorial at Copley Square.
Next week I’ll be signing at another of my favorite bookstores, Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida, where the weather will be decidedly warmer. That’s okay. I’ll be whipping up a few pitchers of sangria to cool off the crowd—and looking forward to my next trip to the cool north. In the meantime, cheers!