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NYC Recommendations from an Unqualified Insider

NYC Recommendations from an Unqualified Insider

In June, I presented my mom and aunt with a “comprehensive” list of personal recommendations for sipping and eating your way around Burlington, VT. It took me two minutes to write (no Google searching necessary) and I did it on an index card.

That right there pretty much sums up my expertise on living in cities. I knew Burlington pretty well by the end of my summer 2016 living there, and to date, it was the largest city I had ever spent any considerable amount of time (just larger than Bad Homburg, Germany where I lived for half of 2012, if you count the immediate surrounding towns).

I am approaching seven full weeks in New York, not a far cry from the ten weeks I spent in Burlington, but the depth to my local knowledge is not only shallow, it is practically non-existent. So with that disclaimer out of the way, I present my NYC Recommendations.

(Disclaimer number two: I am drawn towards efficiency, value, the outdoors, and good coffee. My recommendations may or may not reflect those tendencies.  I have also been living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so I would be the last person to ask about trendy locations in Brooklyn, for example, or anything along those lines.)

EAT

Orwasher’s Bakery

Brunch is outrageously popular in New York, but with a busy schedule and a tendency to spend my weekends outdoors, I have yet to partake in the brunch scene. A good bakery is more up my alley if I want something special for my morning. Orwasher’s is traditional, and they do it right. Hearty breads including a quinoa spelt bread that I love, great bagels, and donuts that they fill for you by hand with any sweet concoction imaginable.

Dig Inn

Fast-casual dining is definitely a movement right now, and right up my alley is Dig Inn. They feature a simple but flexible build-your-own bowl menu with a variety of grains, veggies, protein, and fun add-ons to choose from. Any combination is good in my book because they keep it healthy and fresh. Locations throughout the city make it a great stop for any occasion.

Quality Eats

For a trendy downtown restaurant on the Upper East Side, Quality Eats is hard to beat. Maddie, her parents, and I went there for her birthday dinner, and I was impressed by their creative, carnivore-focused menu and outstanding atmosphere.

Levain’s

No NYC dining list would be complete without dessert, and no dessert is better than Levain’s. They serve up the best cookies in the world. That is a fact, not an opinion. Tucked in a tiny basement off a side-street on the Upper West Side, Levain’s always brings a crowd. Try one of each, but if you have to pick, I recommend the double chocolate and the walnut chocolate chip.

DRINK

Birch Coffee

I am not exactly “branching” out with this recommendation, but having tried Birch at multiple locations, I do not see any reason to look past what is one of the ubiquitous establishments in New York’s third-wave coffee scene. The woodworking craftsmanship on display, earthy vibes, and coffee any way you like it make it a standout. They really seem to care about the product from start to finish, and that is why it is a go to for me when I want to treat myself to a really good coffee.

Irving Farm 

Irving Farm was the first coffee shop I discovered when I started visiting New York to spend time with Maddie’s family, way before I knew I would be working here. Now, I have the option of walking past it every day on my way to work, and it is always tempting to stop. The coffee is great, and I have always enjoyed passing their roastery on Route 22 in Millerton, NY when driving between Pawling and Williamstown. But even cooler is the fact that they have huge spaces, perfect to sit and read or work on a laptop. They also have a hub in Grand Central if you are just passing through.

LIC Beer Project

A hidden gem that will probably explode in popularity in the beer world within the next couple years, the brewery produces fantastic hoppy libations and features some of the coolest can art I have ever seen. They have the industrial charm going on, and they are a quick trip across the east river from Midtown if you want to drink from the source or attend a weekend can release.

Five Boroughs Brewing

I have yet to try any of the Five Boroughs offerings, but a Dudley guy named Kevin O’Donnell is one of the co-founders of the recently-opened brewery in Brooklyn. It is a hike to get down to the tap room from the Upper East Side, so I am keeping my eyes out for drafts and cans in Manhattan.

EXPLORE

Central Park’s Great Hill

In the northwest corner of the park, a bit removed from the crowds that flock to the Bridal Path and Reservoir Track, the Great Hill is my favorite place to run. The steep elevation, views of the city, wooded dirt trails, and a serene grassy oval atop the hill where I tend to see dogs chasing after tennis balls make the skyscrapers and crowded blocks seem a little further away. It is ideal for sunrises, too.

Randal’s Island

Randal’s Island is off the beaten track for most New Yorkers, but from my apartment, the pedestrian bridge on 103rd Street that crosses the East River is easy to access. The island is packed with playing fields and views of the Manhattan skyline, and running there is a breath of fresh air from the crowds that flock to Central Park.

Long Island City

I have barely explore Long Island City, but something about it feels right. It is not stuffy or pretentious like parts of Manhattan, and I appreciate how truly outstanding establishments like the LIC Beer Project can reside right next to warehouses that service broken-down food trucks. I look forward to going back, if only to try as many possible items on the John Brown Smokehouse’s menu as possible, because all of it is barbecue done right.

The High Line and Chelsea Market

For many people, walking the High Line and going to Chelsea Market are chart toppers when it comes to a New York bucket list of fun things to do. And though I am trying not to act too touristy, now that I have lived here for a number of weeks, I still find these activities to be fun and exciting. It is a bit like walking down Church Street in Burlington – I have done it a hundred times, but it never really gets old. Plus, these activities are in fact active, and shopping in Chelsea is a good way to find unique, quality items and foods.

Labor Day, Home, Two Birthdays

Labor Day, Home, Two Birthdays

No transition from one month to another is as definitive as that of August to September. Besides the clarity of the summer-to-fall weather patterns in New England (whereas every other seasonal transition seems unpredictable), Labor Day always marks the end of summer and the time to head back to school. And, of course, the commencement of another soccer season.

But this year it is different. Granted, I do feel as if September is really the start for me here in New York. August was my warm up month to get comfortable in my new office, learn my way around the city, and enjoy typical summertime activities on the weekends. With the financial world ramping up after the slowest months of the year, this month has a different aura. Maddie and I are also moving into our apartment in the coming week, which, once we are settled, will feel like the real start of things. (More on the apartment to come).

Lake George, September 2017

Yet, despite these various instances of new momentum in my life, I missed the definitive end and beginning that Labor Day has always represented. I will openly admit that I feel those pangs of nostalgia as I see my friends heading back to Vermont for the start of the semester and a new soccer season. It is not immaturity or jealously, it is the simple fact that Vermont in autumn is one of the greatest things in the world.

So, Maddie and I did what felt most natural: we made the trip up to Williamstown for the long weekend and set out on adventures. By far the biggest was her final triathlon of the year in Lake George. We rose Saturday morning to temps in the thirties and wrapped ourselves in the blanket of stars above us as we made the drive north. It was awe-inspiring to step into the bustle and energy of the triathlon transition zone so early in the morning, especially with the sun beginning to rise and the steamy fog rising off the lake.

Maddie, barefooted in her wetsuit yet still wearing a puffy down jacket, prepared for her final tri of the season while I mapped out my spectating plans. I like getting out on the course, especially once the swim leg is over and the competitors go out for the bike. Being an Olympic distance race, I knew Maddie would be on her bike for over an hour, covering the 24.6 mile counterclockwise loop that rose into the Adirondack foothills surrounding Lake George before descending back down to the transition zone. So, after she finished a challenging swim due to the dense fog and glare, I made my way out. My first stop was a coffee shop where I fueled up and grabbed a maple bacon donut. Feeling content, I jogged over to a turn where I could watch bikers coming in and runners finishing their first lap. Maddie was racing on her new tri bike for the first time, and she whizzed by me a few minutes sooner than I expected. I then jogged the route for the run in reverse, catching Maddie at mile one and then again just before mile four. We both arrived at the finish around the same time, and she ended up fourth overall and the winner of the run by two minutes.

I love watching triathlons, especially when I get to do a little exploring of my own. By the end of the race, the day had warmed to seventy degrees – a perfect Saturday on the edge of summer and fall.

The tenor of the weekend shifted gears as we made the drive back to Williamstown on Saturday afternoon, from high intensity and detailed preparations to laid back time with the family. Maddie certainly deserved a rest after her efforts, and I was excited to be home for a few days. I played soccer with my brother, who just started his senior year soccer season at Mt. Greylock, and ran with Maddie and my dad, but it was the birthday celebration that topped everything else.

My family, along with both sets of grandparents and the Storey cousins from Westport, gathered to celebrate two birthdays: Maddie’s twenty-fourth and my dad’s forty-ninth. It was a blast to see everyone and to take an evening to appreciate those closest to me. We missed my sister, who was already up at Bowdoin for junior year, but the party was still a blast. I got to be the grill-master and cooked burgers over an open fire because the gas grill was not working. No complaints on my end; the little bit of extra effort made the meal all the more special.

Back in the city on Monday evening (Labor Day and Maddie’s actual birthday), we celebrated once again with a dinner at Quality Eats, a new Upper East Side favorite. I am beginning to understand how the current popularity of lower Manhattan dictates culture all over the city, and I have been pleased to find many trendy restaurants and coffee shops opening locations further uptown and closer to where I am living.

As I settle into September and prepare for the move to the new apartment, I welcome and embrace the fall vibes that are starting to creep into my life once again. It is a fantastic time of year anywhere, and though I am not in Vermont or starting up another school year, there is plenty to look forward to. This is where I will be, and this is what I will be doing. I feel as curious and excited as ever.

Pawling, August 2017
Germany Wrap-Up

Germany Wrap-Up

I am back stateside, and my one-month whirlwind adventure in Germany is over. Ever since I returned from the German Exchange in 2009, I had dreamed of leading this trip. In the months before we departed from Camp Dudley, I had already constructed a vision of what the trip would be – built on memories from my past two stays in Germany and my expectations of what the third time around would entail.

Now the trip sits in concrete details, blurred only by the occasional foggy memories due to a lack of sleep. I have not written much about the last week of Intercamp or the round trip around Germany, so I will focus mostly on those sections of the trip. They were the weeks that flew by the fastest and packed in the most fun.

Intercamp’s male leaders

The one-hundred or so campers and leaders at Intercamp 2017 really became a community following our return from the hikes. With just a week to go, we were determined to form strong friendships and make every game better than the last. As the days progressed, I was struck by the sheer effort and selflessness of the German leaders who poured everything they had into the planning and execution of each day. With such a minute support staff compared to Dudley’s operation, everything fell on the leaders to make the camp go smoothly. That dynamic created a tight-knit community among the leaders – everyone had to have each other’s back or else it would not work.

I enjoyed increasing my responsibilities as time went along – taking on barbecuing jobs and leading wacky interest groups and even running the final game of the camp. In that game, based on the classic Saratoga Morning from Dudley, campers were assigned to roles as either a horse or a jockey, and they competed in races. There were, of course, odds on each horse and betting opportunities for the campers who were not racing.

Berlin, July 2017

Saying goodbye to the Intercamp community was challenging because it felt like it came too soon, but we quickly turned our thoughts to the excitement of the round trip. The week was stressful, especially for the leaders, because we were tasked with taking forty-seven kids from four different nations around Berlin, Dresden, and Munich. Every step of each day took coordination, which left little time for relaxation. Through determination and plenty of problem solving, the round trip ended up a success. We played beach volleyball in Berlin, ate Indian food in Dresden, toured the Dachau concentration camp, and spent an afternoon wandering freely in Munich – not to mention all of the guided tours and typical sightseeing activities in each city.

I rarely experienced the free-spirited feeling of exploring new cities that I had come to love during my gap year, but the few moments I had for myself were all the more refreshing and rewarding. I went on one sightseeing run in each city, found the best cup of coffee ever at The Barn in Berlin, snagged a few hyperlocal craft beers as a gift for my dad, and spent quality time with the other leaders on the trip. We spent the final day of the trip with only the Dudley / Kiniya crew, and traveling with fourteen instead of sixty-four was fun and much more relaxing.

Dresden, July 2017

Throughout the entire month, I was impressed by the maturity and general awesomeness of my Dudley group. I knew they would be great, but they blew me away. I felt really good knowing that I could help reward such a great group of kids with a month unlike any they have ever experienced.

On Sunday, we woke up early and began the last leg of traveling – from Hannover to Paris to Montreal and finally back to Dudley. As we neared the Montreal airport, knowing that the stress and responsibility of the trip was basically over, my body started shutting down. I heard a quote once along the lines of: “The best compliment your body can give you is to get sick the moment you finish a task into which you have poured every ounce of yourself.” I kept that in mind as I arrived back at Camp, weak and exhausted but beyond happy about how the month had gone.

That evening, I mustered up the energy to play in Dudley’s Sunday night brass quartet alongside my brother Sam. The moon and stars were out in full splendor, and I felt so lucky for everything Dudley had given me. Hopefully, my efforts in Germany could serve as a small way of giving back.

Munich, July 2017
Stick Bread and “Hiking”

Stick Bread and “Hiking”

Mountain Day at Camp Abbensen has come and gone, marking the halfway point of Intercamp. I can describe the past week or so as nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, simply because of how much is asked of each leader at the camp. Camp Dudley has a model that is relatively sustainable for an entire summer; Abbensen does not. But because of the intensity of being a leader here, the teamwork and camaraderie among our leadership group is unique and special. Sure, there are moments when all I wish for is to simply coach a soccer match instead of having to learn a plethora of new extravaganza style games and take on different roles two or three times a day, but it is also refreshing to not always know what to expect each day.

My highlight so far was the “hike.” Three days off campus – two walking through farmlands and tiny villages, and the middle day paddling the Leine River. Everything was flat, except for the swamp on the first day, which was probably at a negative elevation. It was a far cry from the Adirondack hikes I am used to doing through Dudley. Still, it is a unique way to see Germany, and for me, I was actually revisiting places I had already traversed, because I did the same trip eight years ago. I remembered the swamp, the lake where we stopped for ice cream, the campsite locations, and all the rest.

Being out and about, especially with a few Dudley guys to chat with on the canoe segment, we did a lot of reflecting on differences between Germany and back home. For me, the single most frustrating difference has been the food. Bread, bread, and more bread. As someone who limits my gluten intake most of the time, I have struggled a bit with energy level and feeling healthy, and I attribute most of that to the bread at every meal. Nothing epitomizes Germany’s love of bread more than their campfire tradition: not S’mores or hot dogs, but “stick bread.” One wraps dough around a stick and bakes it over the open fire. Despite how sick I was of eating bread, the end result was actually pretty cool, and tasty too.

I know that the second week of camp, which is week three of being in Germany, will fly by. Soon we will be leaving Hannover for the round trip. But for now, I am loving that I was “thrown into the deep end” here at Abbensen. With a little flexibility on my part, it has been an exhilarating challenge trying to float.

Big, Bold, and Beautiful: The Boys Take the West Coast

Big, Bold, and Beautiful: The Boys Take the West Coast

I have safely returned from a whirlwind road trip on the West Coast. Though traveling finally got the best of me during my return flight home, each day during the trip presented innumerable sights to see, new adventures to take on, and well-deserved opportunities for the six of us to enjoy this unique, fleeting moment in life as we transition from college to the real world.

Brett, Carlos, Hank, Alex, Nathan, and me at our final destination

We all took different paths to get to where we are today, and that was epitomized by the various locations that the six of us came from and departed to. Nathan had been in Peru two days before launching the trip, Hank was on his way to Hawaii afterwards, and Alex was meeting his family in Vancouver. I am off to Germany in a week. We will all settle into different cities – Boston, New York, Washington D.C. – to begin jobs over the course of the summer. But for one week, we were all together on a grand adventure.

In total, I saw two iconic American cities, explored three national parks, grilled out and slept in my hammock three times at various campsites, and covered nearly 900 miles. I will describe the highlights in chronological order, and between the six of us, we did well documenting the trip.

Las Vegas

Vegas was the most superfluous stop of the trip, even though it was the first for me. I knew that whether I loved it or hated it, the twelve hours I spent there would have little impact on overall experience. I would describe it as a pleasant surprise – everything from flying in over the desert, settling into a gorgeous six-person suite in our hotel, and even making a few dollars at the casinos. I can also see how it is such a trap. But the most defining feature of Vegas was the heat. It was 111 degrees when I landed, and even though West Coast heat had been described to me as more bearable because of lower humidity, the high temps hit me like a wall the moment I left the airport. I was happy to be out and about during the night when things were cooler, and happy to leave for California the next morning.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Electing to camp for three of the nights during our travels through California’s National Parks was the best decision of the trip, and two items made my experience truly outstanding: my hammock for rest and relaxation, and my Aeropress set-up for freshly brewed coffee each morning. Though the rest of the crew slept well in an enormous tent, I was happy to create space for myself – be it elevated between two trees or during the early hours of the morning before everyone else woke. Our campsite in Sequoia was on a river that rushed loudly from all of the snow runoff, and the clean water made fantastic coffee.

Exploring Sequoia and Kings Canyon consisted of a series of short hikes connected by an epic “scenic route” drive on Generals Highway.  We rose to over 7000 feet on precarious switchbacks, barely wide enough for our large Ford Expedition, to access the Moro Rock trail, and then hiked it to gain 360 degree views of the park. Perched above the valley where we camped, the sequoia tree forest where we hiked, and with snowcapped mountains in the distance, I was amazed that it was all real. That feeling of disbelieve at the scale, scope, and variety of California never left.

No feature of the park filled me with more awe than the giant sequoia trees. We walked through the Giant Forest and saw the General Sherman Tree – the biggest tree in the world. As I learned, it is not the tallest or the largest in circumference, but the volume of its trunk and branches beats out all other competitors. I was most impressed by the immense variety among the giants: some had massive root systems, some sat in dense groves, some had large burn scars, and some had hollows wide enough to walk through.

The scale of everything in these parks, and in California in general, remained larger than life from start to finish. Even driving around, we passed through so many different climates and landscapes: deserts reminiscent of South America, hills like Scotland, rolling fields like Kansas on one side of the road and rows of orange trees like Florida on the other. The largest solar and wind farms I have ever seen. Mountains that will remain snowcapped all summer long. Each new landscape spelled out a new chapter of our adventure.

Yosemite National Park

Some of the best moments of the trip came around the campfire, grilling up a well-deserved dinner. I attribute my willingness to attempt to cook just about anything over an open fire to my many years at Dudley, where I had regular opportunities to grill out for campers. Plus, any food cooked out in the woods just tastes better.

We grilled three consecutive nights, and each time the feast grew larger and more delicious. I got the group hooked on sweet potatoes that we cooked by wrapping them in tin foil and nestling them among the embers, but the highlight for me was chicken smothered in a local California hot sauce.

Yosemite required the earliest wake-up of the trip, but beating the crowds and the heat was well worth the effort of rising before the sun. It was especially important because of the hike we had planned: Upper Yosemite Falls, one of the most iconic and strenuous ascents in the valley. The image of the falls above does not do justice to the scale and sheerness of the rock formations and waterfall. Our hike began at the valley floor, traversed switchbacks, descended close enough to the falls to feel its mist, and then rose again through a narrow crevasse between steep cliffs on either side. In an hour-and-a-half, we were a top the falls. We watched the rushing snowmelt drop 2,500 feet to the valley floor and witnessed the morning sun casting shadows and highlighting the rock formations around us.

360 degree views atop Yosemite Point

Alex, Hank, Nathan, and I decided to push further to Yosemite Point, which was a mile and about 300 vertical feet above the falls. Again, we found the trek to be worth the effort. From the high point, we had sweeping vistas of all of the park’s iconic landmarks – especially Half Dome, North Dome, and Sentinel Dome – and we could also glimpse Yosemite Falls and the rainbow that emerged from the mist.

The descent turned into more of a run than a hike, as we sped around hairpin turns and cruised past tired-looking hikers on their way up. As the day continued to heat up, we were thrilled to have knocked out such a challenging and spectacular hike in the morning and that we would be returning to the lake by our campsite in the afternoon.

San Francisco

San Francisco, June 2017

After a wild and exhilarating series of adventures in California’s National Parks, San Francisco came as a welcome final destination. We took the scenic route into the city by circling the bay and crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge, but not before we stopped to explore the Marin Headlands and glimpse the town of Sausalito, which climbs the hills surrounding the bay just like some of the most iconic villages on the Mediterranean.

San Fransisco became just as much an exercise in culinary exploration as it was an opportunity for sightseeing. In fact, the two went hand in hand. Half the crew had to leave the night of or the morning following our arrival, so Alex, Nathan, and I decided to spend our full day in the city walking and consuming as wide a range of gastronomic offerings as we could find. Our list included Pork Buns from a street food stand, Sand Dabs and Sole at Soto Marre, a cannoli, coffee at Sightglass and Reveille, oysters, and a few divine craft beers at Cellarmaker. In doing so, we covered a large number of miles and did our best to burn off all of the outstanding food we were eating.

I was inspired by the San Francisco coffee scene, and though it was expensive to have baristas hand-brew a single origin cup of coffee right in front of me, I appreciated the quality and craft that went into each coffee shop and each cup they served. On the other side of the coin, I also loved a feel for the local crowd at The Tempest, perhaps my favorite dive bar ever.

Of all our stops, San Francisco did not quite fit into my “big, bold, beautiful” mantra as neatly as the other locations, but we found plenty of beauty nonetheless. The trip left me breathless in more ways than one: I was equally astounded by all that I saw and exhausted by all that we packed into our days.

I left San Francisco with no regrets about committing to such a wild adventure and plenty of newly instilled desire to continue to travel. I would love to get back to the West Coast and do it completely on my own terms, but for now, I will have to “settle” with a month in Germany.

I am not quite ready to wave goodbye to this month-long graduation celebration that I have crafted for myself, and I still have almost a week to enjoy in Westport. But when the time comes, I will be more mindful of my fortunes, and I will have all of these memories preserved to savor again later.

Marin Headlands, June 2017
Norway Recap

Norway Recap

OR, WHAT I DISCOVERED IN THE LAND OF SKINNY SKIS

I remember a reoccurring internal struggle when I was keeping my gap-year blog over whether, after completing a noteworthy travel expedition, I should pen my thoughts as soon as possible so as not to forget any of the details, or let the experiences and memories simmer for a few days to allow for a more distanced, thoughtful reflection. Both types of writing inevitably produced successful and unsuccessful posts, so I remain undecided on which side to take.

Today, after returning from Norway fewer than twenty-four hours ago, I feel that same debate pulsing in my fingertips – both urging them to write onwards and pulling them back from the keyboard. But the decision to write, in this case, is in part made for me already. In the next two days, I will travel from New York to Pawling to Williamstown to Middlebury, I will sort out my life when I return to school, I will catch up on emails ignored while abroad, I will (most likely) ski if Sunday evening’s Nor’easter brings snow to the Green Mountains, and I will commence my final semester at Middlebury – the fifteen weeks between now and graduation that I have prefigured as the ultimate culminating experience of my college experience. The unique (and now imminent) nature of this time excites me in a way that prohibits me from allowing this Norway blogpost to linger.

Of course, I’m contradicting myself. I want to share all of my recent travels, to unload my thoughts and photographs, and to happily share my reflection with any who ask, “So how was Norway?!” And yet, I’ve spent these first paragraphs writing about a topic that has little relevance to that ski trail I discovered, that cup of coffee I sipped, that piece of fish I tasted. Perhaps it was my subconscious attempt to allow space for reflection, even if it was only half-an-hour instead of half-a-week. But now, I really must begin.

Clear air, snowy forests, frozen lakes

I’d never traveled to Europe in the winter, or for such a short trip. This made the trip feel very different than anything I’d previously done, but having Maddie traveling with me made the whole thing comforting and exciting. The compressed timeframe allowed us to push through jet lag, plan specific adventures each day, and not feel bad about missing out on some of the more typical touristy sights and activities.

Cross-country skiing was the priority, and we departed content and thrilled about the three mornings of skiing that we completed. It was an inspiring feeling to be dressed in full ski attire waiting for a tram in the middle of the city and not get looked at as if we had three heads. Everyone skis, and we were especially inspired by number of young kids and elder folks we saw out on the trails. They were well prepared for the cold and eager to be skiing. We found that most people were friendly, engaging, and excellent at English, but they were not at all sympathetic when we got cold. And it was quite cold. The forests surrounding the city received an inch or so of snow to refresh the trails each night, and we were often skiing through a mix of flakes and sun.

We based ourselves out of Frognerseteren on the first and third days that we skied – a train stop at the end of the metro line overlooking the city and the Oslofjord. There we found numerous trails, frozen lakes, and a handful of ski huts interspersed throughout the Nordmarka forest. We got first tracks (occasionally), got lost a few times, got passed by old women, and got to know some unique, fun terrain.

Our best day of skiing came in the middle of the trip, when we navigated an A-to-B route from Fossum to Sorkedalen west of the city. We passed through a multitude of different landscapes: dense forests, frozen lakes, open farmland, forested hillsides, mountain streams. It was both a test of navigation abilities and endurance, but we made it to our destination proud of and exhausted by our efforts.

I realized two things about traveling during the trip: first, taking photographs in cold weather is hard, and second, mustering up the energy to sightsee when it’s cold outside and we’d already skied for a good part of the day is also hard.  But the city exploring that we did do was exceptional. We listened to our bodies as best we could, and in the instances that we did get out and about around Oslo, we found coffee shops at every street corner, many unique secondhand stores, and Scandinavian design shops. What impressed us the most was the city’s cleanliness and punctuality – though waiting for busses and trams in the cold was never pleasant, at least we knew that the public transport system operated on schedule, without fail.

We stayed in the hipster neighborhood of Grunerlokka with Roy, who hosted us in his apartment. (Side note, although I haven’t used Airbnb often, every experience I’ve had with it has been positive and so much more fulfilling than staying in a hotel). Roy was happy to answer questions about Norway, give his opinions on American politics, and share his space with us. We found the kitchen was a great place to experience authentic Norwegian cuisine. Though we ate out very little, we found great fun in picking up an interesting piece of fish from the local fish market and cooking it ourselves. I even tried a cod roe dish that looked like a mixture between liver and tongue. It was fantastic fried up with onions and mushrooms.

The gastronomic highlight was the coffee. Oslo’s coffee culture is perhaps the city’s most striking feature. We couldn’t walk a block without finding a coffee shop, and even the chains served drinks that were much better than your average Starbucks. Decaf was non-existent. We tried to make a point of visiting the most authentic, single location shops, and at these we were served some of the best cups of coffee that I’ve ever tasted. I particularly enjoyed Henrix Ibsen, Supreme Roastworks, Fuglen, and Java, but the best shop by far was Tim Wendelboe. This tiny but elegant shop had two seats, roasting machinery right in the middle of the room, and a menu of six different single-origin coffee beans, which would be ground and hand-brewed right in front of you. The caffeine kept us going, but the quality of the coffee was what kept us coming back for more.

A few inches of snow in the city greeted us on our final morning. Walking the city streets reminded me of my final days in Germany during my gap year, when I was forced to ask myself: when will I be back to Europe? This trip was much, much shorter, but the excitement I felt was the same. And it’s nice to know that I won’t have to wait four+ years before I again make the trip across the pond. But more on that later.

I think there’s a lot we can learn from a country like Norway, especially at this hyper-political time. America does not have a relatively small, relatively homogeneous population, and Norway isn’t void of issues, either. But it was nice to see a place that seems to run smoothly, where the kids are all happy and bundled up in their full down winter outfits, where there is cleanliness, punctuality, and quietude, where people are cheerful even in the cold, dark winter months. We left with all smiles, knowing that we’d discovered a place that aligns with so many of our passions, interests, and opinions.  Perhaps we’ll return down the road and travel even further north, skiing under the northern lights or running in the midnight sun.

Prepping for Norway

Prepping for Norway

Tomorrow, Maddie and I will depart for a week in Norway. It is now officially our February Break, and we will soon be five time zones away. This is by far the biggest trip we’ve taken together. I’ve had my fair share of adventures during my college years, but this is my first time returning to Europe since my gap year. All of my travels have been memorable, trips I would gladly take again – Florida, Colorado, and Cape Breton Island to name a few – but there is something irreplaceable about navigating a European city, deciphering a foreign language, and experiencing a place where everything is new and exciting.

Though we probably won’t see the Northern Lights, explore the furthest reaching fjords, or backcountry ski in the remote and rugged Norwegian mountain ranges, we look forward to cold days of outdoor adventures and cozy nights with good food and world-class coffee. As we discovered when looking into a Norway trip, the country is known for two of our favorite things: cross country skiing and coffee. Perhaps no where else in the world is there such an accessible location that offers such an ideal combination of urban and rural. We’ll be in Oslo most or all of the trip (our flight is direct from NYC), and from the city center, we’ll easily be able to take a train or bus up into the hills, where there are miles upon miles of cross country skiing trails. It’s Norway’s national sport, and subsequently, all of the trails are free to access and maintained regularly. There is even night skiing if we’re feeling up for it. Daylight is scarce this time of year, so we’ll have plenty of time in the mornings and evenings to visit cafes and food destinations.

I’m still coming to terms with the idea of taking a “quick trip to Europe.” The last time I was there was for five months, and the only other time was for four weeks. This will feel very different, but it is equally exciting. Hopefully we have smooth travels, an easy adjustment to the time-change, and a week of unforgettable days. No matter what, it will be an adventure, and I look forward to posting a recap upon our return.

Winter Essentials in the ADKs

Winter Essentials in the ADKs

I spent time in the Adirondacks recently, and the hours were filled with spontaneous adventures, homey comforts, and good company. Having my grandparents’ farmhouse just a forty-five minute drive from Middlebury has been one of the greatest blessings of my college experience – one that I feel incredibly lucky to have. Westport is the gateway to the Adirondacks for me, and looking west from Middlebury at snow-covered ridges or glowing sunsets stirs in me the desire simply to go. Go to Westport for an overnight, clean laundry, and a home-cooked meal; go to Camp Dudley for a visit with my cousins or a good conversation with whomever is around; or go to the mountains for old stomping grounds or new discoveries.

For me, the Adirondacks in the summer are synonymous with my quest to become a 46er – to climb all forty-six peaks above 4000 feet. I’m two-thirds through, although most of the remaining mountains are more remote than those I’ve already summited.

But in the winter, the Adirondacks present a different challenge: finding fun and warmth in the sparseness and cold. It is the quiet of the Adirondacks in winter that will always remain with me – a quiet that I often seek out, but one that can also feel so foreign. When I go, I am both reveling in the silence and constantly seeking to fill it.

By now, I have my essentials figured out – my preferences, tricks, and tips. These essentials help me evoke feelings of summer, when the Storey Farm is often a busy, multi-generational community in constant flux. More importantly, they allow me to reflect with the hindsight the cold provides and to anticipate with the promise of the seasons. Compiling this list makes me mindful of what is meaningful to me – distinguishing between what I want and what I need.

ADIRONDACK WINTER ESSENTIALS

  • Eggs fresh from the Storey Farm chickens – I am happy to brave the icy morning air to collect warm eggs from the chicken coop. The “girls” are also happy to eat any and all of our vegetable scraps, which makes the eggs taste even better.
  • Good coffee – Sipping a warm cup of coffee is the perfect way to start a winter weekend day, whether I’m fueling up for an adventure or preparing for a cozy day of reading. I like making my own coffee, but I also highly recommend SubAlpine Coffee in Keene Valley and Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams!
  • Skinny skis and fat skis – Despite occasionally uncooperative snow conditions over the past two winters, nordic and alpine skiing have become two of my favorite activities. I have a good coach in Maddie, which makes these sports even more fun for me. When in the ADKs, visit Mt. Van Hoevenberg for nordic and Whiteface for alpine; both venues played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics!
  • A good pair of trail shoes – There’s always the possibility that Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and skiing becomes impossible or too unpleasant. When this happens, I turn to the trails. Hiking and trail running can be a fantastic winter activity, as the bare trees open expansive views of high peaks. Good shoes or boots, wool socks (DarnTough all the way!), micro-spikes, and trekking poles are all useful tools to have.
  • Evenings by the fireplace – After a cold or wet day of adventuring, or if I’m just in the mood to sit and relax, a fire in the fireplace welcomes warmth into the farmhouse.
  • Cozy slippers – Besides a fire, the coziest thing about winter is slipping into a pair of slippers. I received Haflinger wool slippers for Christmas, and they are everything good slippers should be and so much more.
  • Good company – Sharing with others a place I love makes me happy, and unequivocally, the best way to stay cheery and warm is to be surrounded by friends.
Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto

Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto

INTRODUCTION

I think I subconsciously became hooked on Vermont craft beer years before I sipped my first Vermont IPA, when my dad reported enthusiastically about a new beer he’d found in the Burlington area. It had a strange name and came in tall silver cans.

Heady Topper.

I liked the originality. I liked the hyper-locality. I liked the idea of discovering something new.

Fast-forward to my gap year, when I was living in Germany. I was exposed to a drinking culture vastly different than what college social life is portrayed to be in the U.S. I could explore and discover good beer when I was hanging out with my teammates, when I was traveling throughout the country, or simply when I was passing by the local Getrankmarkt a few hundred yards from my homestay residence. My time in Germany gave me a glimpse of what a reasonable drinking culture looks like – one that I appreciated both for its general good-naturedness and its attention to quality.

Thus I began my four years in Vermont. I feel lucky that my budding interest in craft beer aligned with a location that is leading the craft beer movement in the U.S. It’s been a fantastic way to learn about the state and its people, and especially since turning twenty-one, I have thoroughly enjoyed detouring to breweries and tap rooms when traveling. I’ve driven the extra miles, waited in line a few times for longer than I’d care to admit, and planned my days around deliveries, but it’s all been worth it. Having some of the best beer in the world easily accessible is one thing, but being able to share these beers with family and friends and give gifts that truly make someone’s day is what it’s all about.

Before I offer my recommendations on craft beer – which should be useful for any Middlebury student, Vermonter, or visitor – I do want to share a few personal opinions on alcohol that might not be easily inferred from this post.

First, I have never and will never condone drinking and driving. Second, when it comes to alcohol and athletics, the immediate allure of drinking with your teammates after a victory should be tempered with the knowledge that any amount of alcohol, especially binge drinking for one “big night,” is incredibly detrimental to the technique, strength, and endurance that an athlete works to improve in practice week to week. The single healthiest choice an athlete can make is to eliminate alcohol, or at the very least avoid binge drinking at all costs. Third, alcohol consumption doesn’t only decrease athletic performance, it also hinders mental acuity. If operating at a high level and/or reducing stress and anxiety are your goals, drinking will prohibit your ability to achieve them. I aspire to be someone who works hard during the day, sleeps well at night, and doesn’t need alcohol to have fun. Lastly, and along those lines, it’s not only acceptable but truly awesome to be the sober one among friends. Having gone dry for both work and soccer-related reasons for long stretches over the past few years, I can attest that the stigma of not drinking is overwhelmingly surpassed by the feeling of supporting a friend in need. Plus, there are so many ways to reach life’s “highs” – friendship, laughter, and dancing to name a few – that alcohol should never be considered a necessity.

With that, I introduce my Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto – recommendations for how to make the most of the state’s epic craft beer scene. And remember, quality over quantity.

Image courtesy of the Winooski Beverage Warehouse, the best beer store in the state.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Listed alphabetically, not ranked unless otherwise noted; ** = top pick per category

Top 10 Vermont Craft Beers That I’ve Consumed

  1. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Sunshine (Double IPA)
  2. Hill Farmstead Juicy (Barrel Aged Saison)
  3. Hill Farmstead Damon – Double Barrel Aged (Russian Imperial Stout)
  4. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  5. Fiddlehead Overstable (Double IPA)
  6. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  7. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  8. Foam Imperial Teen (Imperial Stout)
  9. The Alchemist Focal Banger (Double IPA)
  10. Hill Farmstead Abner (Double IPA)

I like my Double IPAs. I love this list, but it doesn’t reflect the wide varieties available.

Top 9 Gateway Beers – Baby Steps into Vermont Craft Beer

  • Drop-In Sunshine and Hoppiness (Belgian Pale Ale)
  • Harpoon IPA
  • Magic Hat #9 (Fruit Beer / Pale Ale)
  • Otter Creek Over Easy (Pale Ale)
  • Rock Art Bohemian Pilsener
  • Switchback Ale (Amber / Red Ale)
  • The Shed Mountain Ale (Brown Ale)
  • Von Trapp Golden Helles Lager **
  • Zero Gravity Green State Lager (Pilsener)

Cost-effective and easy to find. Making your foray into Vermont craft beer easy!

Top 8 Regulars – Ubiquitous, Awesome Beers

  • 14th Star Tribute (Double IPA)
  • Burlington Beer Company Chasing Rabbits (Pale Wheat Ale)
  • Fiddlehead IPA
  • Long Trail Limbo IPA
  • Lost Nation Gose
  • Otter Creek Free Flow IPA
  • Stone Corral Trailblazer (Vienna Lager)
  • Zero Gravity Conehead Wheat IPA **

Best to keep some of these in the fridge at all times.

Top 7 Pale Ales / IPAs / Double IPAs – Epitome of Hoppiness

  • Foam Build to Spill (Double IPA, brewery only)
  • Foley Brothers Pieces of Eight (Double IPA)
  • Fiddlehead Second Fiddle (Double IPA)
  • Hill Farmstead Edward (Pale Ale, draft only)
  • Idletyme IPA
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine (Double IPA) **
  • The Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)

Vermont is best known for its hazy, citrusy IPAs, and these are all worth seeking out.

Top 6 Porters / Stouts / Imperial Stouts – For the Cold Days of Winter

  • Burlington Beer Company Barista (Porter)
  • Fiddlehead Hodad Porter **
  • Foley Brothers Hawaiian King (Imperial Stout)
  • Hill Farmstead Everett (Porter)
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids Fayston Maple Imperial Stout (all variants)
  • Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout

Vermont’s stouts don’t quite rival its IPAs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great!

Top 5 Restaurant & Brewery Combos – Emphasis on Great Restaurants

  • American Flatbread / Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Burlington
  • Bar Antidote / Hired Hand Brewing Co., Vergennes
  • Bobcat Cafe & Brewery, Bristol
  • Felino’s Wood Fired Pizza / Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Shelburne **
  • Prohibition Pig Smoked Meats & Libations, Waterbury

** My favorite pizza and one of best breweries in Vermont, and they share a building.

Top 4 Taprooms – Restaurants / Bars with Excellent Tap Lists

  • Doc Ponds, Stowe
  • Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Burlington **
  • The Blackback Pub, Waterbury
  • Three Penny Taproom, Montpellier

Bonus recommendation: In Middlebury, it’s hard to beat Two Brothers!

Top 3 Brewery Destinations

  • Foam, Burlington
    • New to the Vermont craft beer scene, Foam made a splash in 2016 when it opened at the Waterfront Park in Burlington. Foam is ideal in so many ways: easy access, a funky taproom, hazy beers that are bursting with flavor, and frequent events. Plus, their beer is exclusive – you can only get it at the brewery. Bring a growler or hope they have bottles on hand (but those sell out fast!) – there’s something at Foam for everyone. (Bonus: visit Zero Gravity or Fiddlehead on your way to or from Foam!)
  • Hill Farmstead, Greensboro Bend **
    • It’s not considered the World’s best brewery for nothing! Hill Farmstead is the ultimate destination, and a visit epitomizes Vermont in so many ways. It’s remote – dirt roads and no cell service remote. If you think you’ve driven far enough, you’re probably still thirty minutes away. Perched on a gentle hillside with expansive views of the Green Mountains, the brewery is a Mecca for beer lovers. They fill growlers and release bottles weekly, and visiting the brewery is the only way to get HF in either form. Make a day of it by planning a hike or ski, and bring friends (and your wallet). It’s a special trip to take, but it’s always worth it. (Bonus: for an even more remote destination, visit Kingdom Brewery in Newport – you’ll practically be in Canada!)
  • The Alchemist, Stowe
    • Gone are the days when obtaining Heady Topper required long lines at beer stores or planning trips around delivery days. The new Alchemist brewery and visitor center in Stowe is massive, and it enables increased production and availability of not only Heady but Focal Banger, The Crusher, and other special releases. And they always sell their beer at $12.50 a four-pack, some of the best value out there. While Heady may be less elusive, the tradeoff that occurred makes the Stowe visitor center a must-see destination. (Bonus: Idletyme Brewery is under a mile from The Alchemist, and the new Von Trapp Beerhall is only a few miles away – both are excellent food and beer stops!)

These are the pinnacle, but bottom line, visiting any brewery is always an excellent idea.

Top 2 Beer Gifts to Impress Your Dad

  1. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  2. Hill Farmstead: any bottle available

He’ll probably share it with you, too.

Top State for Craft Beer

  • Vermont!

 

Thoughtfulness, With a Kick

Thoughtfulness, With a Kick

WHAT MY NEW PASSION FOR THE THIRD WAVE COFFEE MOVEMENT SAYS ABOUT ME

I’m on a coffee kick right now. Not in your typical “I’m in college so I need to drink ten cups a day to function” kind of way, but rather as a budding interest in discovering high quality coffee and learning better brewing techniques. Full credit goes to my teammate and barista-extraordinaire James Scott for inspiring me. I’d had plenty of coffee before he gave me a pour of his Kenyan-bean brew this fall, but one sip of that made me realize that drinking coffee could be an experience that transcends the mere need for caffeine.

Now I’m fairly hooked, brewing a cup or two a day using an AeroPress or a Chemex pour-over. I’m embracing the “third wave  coffee movement” – an effort to produce high quality coffee and consider it as artisanal foodstuff rather than a commodity. As a geography buff and spatial thinker, I like learning about the range of locations that coffee is grown and harvested. I’ve tried to invest in higher quality beans and learn about different flavor profiles. I’ve also experimented with brewing techniques, so much so that I asked for a temperature controlled hot water boiler for Christmas. My skills are incredibly rudimentary, but I’m getting better.

Mostly, I’m glad I can appreciate higher quality coffee. It’s like stepping up from Busch heavies to IPAs. (This comparison is exclusively for me, because I’m also a huge craft beer nerd. I’m sure I’ll post about craft beer in Vermont sometime soon.) It gives me something to seek out when I travel anywhere new. One of the most exciting parts about my upcoming trip to Oslo is that the city is known for it’s coffee scene.

Lastly, it’s something that Maddie and I can appreciate together. Her gluten intolerance eliminates any chance of her enjoying craft beers the way I do, but coffee has become a shared passion of ours.

It’s a better fit for our personalities, too. Yes, I know that coffee has health benefits. Yes, I’ve studied that it can improve athletic performance. Yes, I believe in sustainably and humanely sourcing food. Yes, I prefer quality over quantity. Yes, I like discovering new cafes. Yes, I sometimes just need a caffeine boost.

But most of all, the process of slowing down to craft a cup of coffee is a good metaphor for how I’m trying to operate. I want to have a routine, to be able to slow down, to aspire to quality, to experiment, and to approach all that I do with mental alertness so that I can observe and produce. I’m working towards using my morning coffee routine to fulfill meditative needs so that I can attack each with a clear mind and a positive spirit. Not everything should be automatic, and I value the minutes it takes to make coffee. The result is usually something worth savoring. And oh, the caffeine doesn’t hurt, either.

Current Favorite Coffee Roaster

Brio Coffeeworks – Burlington, VT

Current Favorite Cafe(s)

Onyx Tonics Specialty Coffee – Burlington, VT
SubAlpine Coffee – Keene Valley, NY

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