Of toast tongs and truffles

I am so full.

It started with the poached eggs and smoked salmon – two of my very favorite things, and together, no less – during our first Boston breakfast, then continued with popovers and truffles (chèvre and cognac; rosemary, citrus and caramel) and supremely fresh red snapper in Portsmouth. There was maple syrup over whole-grain pancakes in a tiny town called Jackson, followed the day after by maple ice cream, more smoked salmon (this time hot-smoked) and pot de crème in Québec.

Every day, after every meal, it’s the same refrain: I’m so full. I am stuffed, bricked, almost staggeringly satisfied, always crumbs and morsels and a bite or so beyond content. I really am attempting my typical strict efforts at portion control. I keep thinking I’m surrendering my fork when I’m full, but there’s a part of me that’s playing at being the survivalist, on the road as we are, not knowing for sure whether the next meal will be truly good or just bordering on decent. What’s getting me is the constant service of restaurant-plate proportions, coupled with this ineluctable vacation mentality, the one that convinces me I need a three p.m. treat on a daily basis. There are just so many worthy treats to be had.

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I’m out of town, in parts both known and unfamiliar, where old favorite cravings have equal pull with fresh temptations. We came to see fall foliage and old friends where we used to live, but in our book, travel is made for copious tasting. Yes, taste-testing is every bit as essential as sight-seeing. It doesn’t help that for every town and city we hit, I have a long list of restaurants to try, of menu items I’ve scouted out online and from books. Modern Pastry’s tiramisu. L’Ardoise’s mussels. Olive+Gourmando’s goat cheese and house-ketchup panino (a kick of apple cider vinegar, I think). All of these are must-tastes, equal to must-do’s like trekking The Flume in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and teaching our girls to blow dandelion fluff on the Plaines d’Abraham in Québec and apple picking in Vermont’s Champlain Valley (oh, yeah, that one also happens to involve eating).

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And then there’s my constant menu scrutinizing for novel ingredient pairings, for new cooking techniques I’ve got to give a whirl. Amateur cook though I am, I’ve collected more than my share of cook’s tools along our way.

So while I’m “conducting research” in restaurants, I’m also looking forward to testing the toast tongs (of Vermont maple – who could resist?) with my very own toaster. As much as I love having real chefs prepare my meals, I’ll still enjoy going home to fill my souvenir salière and poivrière from Montréal. Then I’ll grind them over salmon filets before slathering the fish with the maple-champagne mustard I picked up somewhere during my travels, and call it good to be home.

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