Cafe Provence!

I drove my sister back up north last week, and although the 1400 mile drive wasn’t anything to scoff at I was ready to go. After the countless hours on I-95 and the hell that is the New Jersey Turnpike there was Vermont. Ahh… Vermont, I have talked about the Green Mountain State before(and with multiple posts on this blog no less) with all due revelry and aplum. So it was I drove. I drove for a scant six hours the first day, and managed to survive eleven hours the next.  It was an experience I felt I needed to conquer, perhaps a manly accomplishment to prove my testosterone-ly-ness(sounds good, right?). I survived my harrowing tale with a few battle scars(a backache that was taken care of by a few tylenol) and enjoyed the few days away before school and before work I had while in the brilliantly vibrant Maple forests of Vermont.

First step was to replace my mug from Bennington Potters. On my spring break trip to Vermont I had bought a tea cup that since it’s purchase I had used nearly daily. With my delicately tuned and precise nerdy hands I somehow knocked it off a table, causing my hunk of fired mud to bifurcate. I had bought a factory second from the potters the first time around, and planned to do the same this time. My cup had a few small imperfections that were noticeable only if you were looking for them, but my replacement was not a discounted cup. It had passed the muster of the potter who had made it, and it seems…different because of it. It clearly says something about my character I think- I found the details of the first to make it unique, not wrong. My replacement is wonderful and it is marvelous but it seems too pristine. This is some pretty blunt percolation I know, and I would delve deeper but I have a much more interesting focus.

The next day was supposed to end my stay in Vermont(ask me about my flight back…) but I had the entire day to explore before my flight left at 9. I nearly demanded that we go to Cafe Provence. The spring break trip previously mentioned was supposed to initiate me to the small cafe in Brandon, VT. Without proper planning the first time around I missed any service and felt nearly bitter. I remedied that this time around. You may want some background of this little restaurant- it is a French cafe with the proprietors coming right from Provence (decidedly straight-forward). I had heard wonderful things about this place from everyone I had met which only fueled my nearly rabid exigency.

We get there and it is a cafe. Small tables scarce wait staff and a simple menu. We are seated and presented menus. We aren’t asked instantaneously for our drink orders, instead the waitress leaves allowing us to enjoy the menu: I am already impressed. Throughout the entire meal we are never pressured to leave quickly or to add a side, it is whatever looks good to us. It is a very casual experience with a kitchen wholly open to the entire establishment. The only complaint with this lassiez-faire attitude is that there are a few New Yorker tourists in biker shorts. I never want to have a sweaty man walk past me in spandex while I’m eating. Or when I’m not eating. Still, I’m not deterred.

I started my meal simply, with a tomato pie with goat cheese and greens as an appetizer. It was…unfathomably, unequivocally, insatiably phenomenal. With every bite I was humbled. I took one small bite and for a fraction of a second my mouth exploded, mind expanded, and I could truly understand all was well with the universe. The fact that a simple piece of dough with a few tomatoes, greens and cheese could be combined so simply into something that was so god-like made me sit in silence for minutes. My lunch companions could tell you, I was in a nearly trance-like state as I savored. It may seem melodramatic- but I can’t emphasize how beautiful this little plate was.

Alas, as is the nature of matter and energy, the food was consumed and there was no more. I had a Chicken Nicoise for my lunch. It was a simple meal of pan-fried chicken lightly seasoned served with a similar arrangement of vegetables as my tomato pie, on top of some well prepared garlic mashed potatoes. I hate how clunky the English language is when it comes to describing foods, you can only say succulent, delicious, wonderful etc. so many times before you feel like a broken record. The mashed potatoes were piped from a pastry bag, it was the first time I had seen that before, it wasn’t the most original idea ever, but it made its effect on the presentation.

We finished our meal and we sat and waited. We conversed, and were a little confused when the waitress walked past us many times without stopping, or if she did she only refilled our water and left without asking if we wanted the check. It was so very refreshing. Not once were we pressured to move, to stop enjoying our gastronomic enjoyment. Our plates were cleared and we were politely brought a small dessert menu which we looked over half-heartedly. Our table had seen quiches that were so silken you would think there were whipped cream, a simple sandwich made devine with only simple ingredients in a baguette resembling, I’m told, a genuine french loaf, and of course my little pie that caused a thousand epiphanies for me- we were in no need for a dessert as well. Still, we looked and were convinced to share their sampler of a chocolate cake, cheesecake and a creme brulee. I have made my own brulees before I thought well, but it was no comparison. The brulee was a different texture and color, I think the direct result of using some local eggs and creme, and the cheesecake was perfection, highlighted notes of maple syrup well integrated. The cake was simple, it was French afterall, containing chocolate, flour, and enough butter cause a hundred heart attacks.

It was an experience I was glad to finally have. I consider myself a technically proficient creator of some simple things to eat, but to be some throughly humbled in such an enjoyable way was mesmerizing. I hope to again be baffled by what others create, regardless of medium. If I could find a restaurant with such food and without the high brow atmosphere that usually accompanies such places here in Florida I would gain 40 pounds and go broke over-tipping. I like that others’ diversions have this effect on me. I love that there is profundity even in a small bite of food, there is a whole world, mesmerizingly beautiful just over the next hill, around the next bend.

Posted: September 6th, 2011
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