Ahhhhh, autumn in Vermont!  I’ve just returned from a quick visit to East Dover Vermont to visit Gastronomeg, Jason and their two girls Charlotte and Madeline.  I’ve been missing Meg’s posts on the vinartculture blog, but she has her hands full with Charlotte and Maddie, one and three.  On top of the girls, she has a large vegetable garden that feeds the extended family and they just added 15 new chicks to their coup.

We started the visit off with a Chenin Blanc fest.  I brought a Francois Chidaine Montlouis, les tuffeaux 2008, and Meg had a Champalou Vouvray 2010.  Loire chenin blanc can vary greatly according to winemaker, vintage, style and microclimate.  The Champalou was much leaner with tart apple,  mineral and bracing acidity.  A classic dry vouvray and perfect to start with.  Chidaine’s Montlouis tuffeaux is a combination of all of his vineyard sites and was fuller in body, rich and tropical, honeyed and all balanced out with great acidity.  It was a perfect companion to Meg’s roasted cabbage, slow sauteed onion, bacon and blue cheese tart.  The blue cheese was Blue Ledge Farm Middlebury Blue, a nice creamy not too salty cow blue was perfect.   The pastry crust was a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and white and the slight nuttiness was perfect with the fall flavors.  We also had a salad of fresh greens from the garden and an amazing squash/chestnut soup……recipe to follow.

The next morning we took the girls apple picking at an organic orchard, Dwight Miller and Son, near East Dummerston, VT.  Maddie got her first bee sting as we competed with the stripped beasts for the late September crop.  Charlotte was the official variety taster!  Besides the rome, gaja and red delicious apples I picked up some pears, maple syrup and eggs from the farm as Meg’s chicks haven’t started producing yet.

Meg adapted this recipe from a Jean George recipe where he used celeriac.  I’ve adapted it from her, paring down the quantity for my NYC apartment.   I’ve just discovered dried chestnuts at my Italian grocery store and reconstituted them and would probably be best soaked overnight.  I know Meg often uses canned chestnuts, I’ve seen at Wholefoods and other stores. Of course you can roast your own but for so few it is a lot of work.  The chestnuts immortalized in Christmas songs never quite live up to my imagination.  The truth is they sound and smell more interesting than they actually taste.  Last winter I picked up a cone of chestnuts from a vender in Central Park that were dry, chalky and bland.  They do make a nice blank palette to support other flavors and are a great way to add some starch and texture to a dish.  You could make this soup vegan, without the cream adding a few more chestnuts to add a great velvety touch.

Squash/Chestnut soup

4 servings

Roast an acorn/butternut or delicate squash – one large or two small.

I tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

8-10 chestnuts – jar or dried work just fine

2 leeks

1 quart chicken broth or veggie broth

¼ cup cream or half and half

salt and pepper

Roast the squash, let cool and scoop out the insides and discard the skin.  Cut two leeks crosswise into ½ inch rounds, make sure to check for dirt.  Saute the leeks in I T butter and 1 T grape seed oil.  When leeks are cooked down and starting to color, add the diced apple, cook for 5 minutes.  Be sure to salt and pepper at this stage so the salt can build, you won’t need as much.  Add the squash, chestnuts and broth and cook for 45 minutes and puree with your hand blender.  Add the cream and let it cook for a few minutes more and turn off the heat.

So long Vermont……….see you in the Spring!