One of the best parts of being in the Red Sox organization is the incredible opportunity for community service. The Red Sox work really hard to reach out to the entire Red Sox fan base, whether you live in Boston or in the outskirts of New England. This year we are lucky enough to be on the Red Sox Holiday Road Trip and traveling to Vermont, Connecticut, and outer Massachusetts. It’s Ryan and me, Pedro Ciriaco, and a great group of Red Sox staff. We are visiting children’s hospitals and some of the cultural landmarks in each city- a perfect start to any new place. There is a fun social media element added to this year’s trip: we post on twitter questions about each city- where should we eat? What’s the best thing to do in this city? Who wants to see Ryan and Pedro and where? The most responses for one particular place means that we are going to visit. It’s kind of an exciting way to meet enthusiastic fans. I’ll be posting throughout the week of our adventures, the people we’ve gotten to meet, and of course the food we’ve eaten along the way! First stop on our Holiday Caravan: Burlington, Vermont.
If you’re going to visit Vermont, I’d suggest weather-wise to visit in the summer. It’s FREEZING! If you want to visit and enjoy some of Vermont’s best local foods, visit right around now- late fall and early winter. The trees and snow are a beautiful combination and I’ve heard the skiing is excellent. We arrived late Monday night just in time for dinner. We sent a twitter message asking where to go and immediately we were directed to Church Street. Church Street is one of the main centers of Burlington. The street is blocked from cars, so you are free to walk around from shop to shop, restaurant to restaurant and can find just about anything there. During the holidays it’s lit up and beautiful. Our group headed to Sweetwater, a highly recommended restaurant from the twitter responses. Sweetwater has quite a few locally-sourced menu items and tons of choices for any food lover. We tried the nachos, spinach dip, and bacon-wrapped scallops as appetizers. No complaints from me! I had the salmon with tomato caper sauce and Ryan had the New York strip steak. Both were cooked well and served with hearty portions. The perfect meal to start our trip in the cold.
Tuesday morning was full of events right from the get-go. We went to the Vermont Children’s Hospital and were able to meet a few kids and avid Red Sox fans. It’s really nice to bring some light to a child’s day, especially when they are going through such a difficult time. We met one girl, a junior in high school, who was diagnosed with leukemia just 5 days ago. She was so animated, wearing head to toe Red Sox pajamas, and talked to Ryan and Pedro about playing rugby. So inspiring for someone who was just thrown into this scary situation. After visiting the various wards throughout the Children’s Hospital we went to Orchard School to see some very excited elementary students. You would have thought Justin Bieber had walked in the room based on the volume coming from the gymnasium. The kids asked some great questions about what Pedro and Ryan like about baseball and what it’s like to play in the big leagues. Lots and lots of commotion and excitement. The assembly ended with everyone singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and was a huge success.
All this activity and nothing to eat? I don’t think so. A few of my Cooking in Red Socks fans highly recommended to go to The Farm House Tap and Grill. Yes! I have fans! Not only do I have fans, but they recommend awesome places for us to eat! Thanks everyone! The Farm House has a menu and bar that is 100% locally sourced. The restaurant has an open atmosphere and a plethora of local beers to help get conversation flowing. I’ve been to a few restaurants like these, and while the food is delicious, the menu isn’t that large. Not at Farm House. There were about 30 menu items to choose from; everything from dry-aged burgers to cheese platters, kale and arugula salad to chicken meatball subs. Want tomato on your burger? Sorry, they don’t have it because tomatoes aren’t in season. I LOVE THAT!!! Don’t let it deter you, winter is a great time in Vermont for local foods. I ate the delicata squash salad which was served with apples, blue cheese, pumpkin seeds, and mixed greens. It was perfect. We also ordered two cheese plates for the table to share. I didn’t realize that local and homemade cheese was such an enterprise in Vermont. They have everything from bleu to goat, brie to cheddar. Almost any store or restaurant has wheels for purchase as well. Ryan ordered the dry-aged cheeseburger topped with fried onions, bacon, and horseradish aioli. Normally Ryan eats in reverse order, fries then salad then burger. Not today. I barely got one bite in before he’d finished the whole thing. I think it goes without saying that it was tasty. When food comes in locally it tastes fresh and the quality is unbeatable. You can never go wrong eating the food grown around you. Not only do you support local business but you also get to “taste a city”. It was the best recommendation for our group and I was thrilled to eat there!
Two more quick stops before we left Vermont. This first was to the State House in Montpilier to meet Governor Peter Shumlin. We raised the Red Sox flag with the Vermont state flag, and the Governor was proud to tell everyone that Vermont is “Red Sox country.” That’s one thing about New Englanders… they love their sports. It’s amazing to see the anticipation for baseball already starting on a late day in November. There aren’t too many teams that can boast that kind of a fan base. After our rather cold meeting we headed to Cold Hollow Apple Cider Mill, which is just a few miles outside Montpilier. I have to say it’s worth freezing your butt off in November in Vermont if you get rewarded with hot, homemade apple cider and freshly made apple cider donuts. Cold Hollow is the epitome of a mom and pop shop. Lots of locally made goodies including maple syrup, jams, cheese, and peanut butter. I could have spent hours there, but it was time to hit the road for New Haven! More to come about our adventures in Ryan’s old college stomping grounds!