Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Trouble With Vermont

It had been weeks, possibly even months, since we'd spent any real time in Vermont, so we were overdue for a visit. It was also just about fall, so when it came time to pick a movie one night, I chose Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry,

fig. a: poor Harry

his bizarre and underappreciated dark comedy from 1955, which happens to be set in a small Vermont town at the height of autumn.

fig. b: Hitchcock's Vermont 1

fig. c: Hitchcock's Vermont 2

I could tell you all about the peculiar charms of Hitchcock's film, but others have done it much better already. Suffice to say that although the narrative has quite a bit in common with your average episode of Murder, She Wrote, Hitch's take on murder and mystery in a small New England town is a much cheekier affair. Plus, Shirley Maclaine (in her first appearance on the silver screen) positively shines, and Jerry "the Beaver" Mathers steals virtually every scene he's in. Vermontophiles are in for a special treat, however, because The Trouble With Harry's portrait of The Green Mountain state at its quaint and quirky best has held up remarkably well (even if its mid-1950s setting means that there's a distinct absence of fleece apparel and bumper stickers).

You see, the trouble with Vermont isn't that there's anything terribly wrong with it, the trouble with Vermont is that we love it so. The landscape, the mountains, the towns, the food, the beer. Apparently we're so addicted that when we can't actually be there, we watch films that are set there just to tide us over until our next visit. Sad, perhaps, but true.

Anyway, if you go there right now, you'll find that the Green Mountains are actually pretty multicolored. You'll also find that the colors are quite bright. Not Technicolor + Vistavision bright,

fall colors 1 fig. d: AEB's Vermont 1

but bright nonetheless.

fall colors 2 fig. e: AEB's Vermont 2

And with those colors the way they are, and temperatures at their autumnal best, now's also the great time for a Vermont hike. We're particularly fond of the Camel's Hump, but one that's a little easier and offers up some similarly impressive views is the Stowe Pinnacle hike.

You get the great views you see above, plus about 2 hours (round-trip) of lush forest

touch wood fig. f: touch wood

along a trail that ranges from easy to moderately difficult,

graffiti fig. g: VT graffiti

allowing you plenty of opportunities to look around and take in the details.

VT heirlooms fig. h: VT heirlooms

A few hours later, after a number of pilgrimages to pick up essentials (coffee, bread, beer) from some of our favorite Waterbury-area haunts, we found ourselves at the City Market/Onion River Co-op in Burlington, admiring the apples. Michelle couldn't believe the selection of heirloom apples, most of which came from Scott Farm. And she was especially happy to see that Scott Farm was growing the infamous Fameuse apple, the original heirloom apple of New France, and an apple that was the most important Quebec variety before the arrival of the McIntosh, but one that has since faded into near obscurity and is now terribly hard to find in la belle province. Which brings me back to the trouble with Vermont--they're awfully good at showing us up.

Michelle recommends using a mix of apples for most of your classic fall apple desserts (pies, crumbles, tarts, galettes). If you can locate a mix of heirloom apples (like the one you see above), all the better. If your mix includes some Fameuses, better still. Trust me.

For directions to the Stowe Pinnacle trail and other hikes in the Waterbury/Stowe region, look here. If you're not the hiking kind, but you'd still like to take in some prime scenery, try the 108 between Jeffersonville and Stowe (via Smugglers Notch), or pretty much the entire length of the 100.

City Market/Onion River Co-op, 82 South Winooski Ave., Burlington, VT, (802) 861-9700


p.s. Thanks to 1,000 Frames of Hitchcock for the screen captures from The Trouble With Harry, and thanks to Tiny Banquet Committee for turning us on to 1,000 Frames of Hitchcock in the first place.

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