Vermont in the summer: a covered bridge (the Village Bridge) in Waitsfield; a plaque on the historic bridge built in 1833; fields of gold en route to a hike, and the Mad River.
We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Vermont for a wedding last weekend.
Our room was impeccable: a spacious suite with a bedroom, a plush couch, a kitchenette and a large bathroom with a corner Jacuzzi. There was a quaint front porch with a swing, lush perennial gardens, spectacular views of the mountains and an antique covered bridge about a mile away.
The breakfasts were incredible: fresh scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese with a side of homemade hash browns the first day; French toast with peaches and fresh cream and a tasty sausage link the next. I told the innkeeper I might actually enjoy cooking if I could turn out meals like his wife does.
But there was one problem: they served the world’s worst coffee. It was so bad that I couldn’t drink it, and for me, that’s rare. As any coffee fanatic (addict?) knows, you really can’t function until you’ve had your morning coffee. So I tried to sneak into the kitchen to find some grinds to brew in our room, only to be foiled by the cleaning crew. I went on a hunting expedition before the wedding, showing up to the ceremony with a medium cup of coffee in my hand.
“Get rid of the coffee,” The Curmudgeon ordered as we sprinted to the outdoor ceremony, slithering into our seats in the back row minutes before it began. “No,” I said. “No one can see me back here, and this is really good coffee. I’m not throwing it out.”
The Curmudgeon doesn’t drink coffee, so he doesn’t understand. But I’m something of a coffee fiend, stumbling to the coffeemaker first thing in the morning for my first mug, and then my second. I like it strong and hot, with a splash of almond milk or a tablespoon of non-dairy creamer.
I deplore weak, black or instant coffee, or the addition of skim milk, which turns it an ugly shade of gray. I cannot drink old coffee, which takes on a weird bitterness that I can’t stomach. And for goodness sake, it must be hot. I’ve thrown out tepid cups of coffee after taking one sip. I once asked a Dunkin’ Donuts worker to microwave my coffee four times, and it still wasn’t hot enough.
The most troubling part of any power outage is how I’ll get my morning coffee. Over the years, I’ve brewed it in the fireplace, gas grill and over a portable propane burner that was not supposed to be used indoors.
The worst part of losing power after Hurricane Bob for 8 days on Martha’s Vineyard in 1991 was the coffee situation. It was hard standing in line with a bunch of spoiled brats while we waited to see if there would be enough coffee to go around. Actually, that could be the basis of a reality TV show: deprive entitled people of caffeine for 21 days, and see who cracks first. It could give idiotic shows like “Naked & Afraid” a run for its money.
I’m a coffee lover, but certainly not a snob. I don’t much care what brand it is as long as it tastes good. I’ve always been a little intimidated by the whole coffee house experience, a bit out of my league in the land of baristas, lattes and cappuccinos. I avoid using Starbucks terms, saying “Give me a medium” for fear of mispronouncing “grande” in public.
I buy what’s on sale, and am keenly aware of when I’m running low on coffee. One of the best gifts I’ve received in a long time is a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate from my friend P. I can use it to treat my kids to Boston Creme donuts, and splurge on DD Keurig Cups, which I’d never get unless a friend spoiled me.
I couldn’t bear the thought of the B & B coffee on Sunday, so I jumped into the car and drove to a funky place down the road that roasts its own beans. I bought a medium coffee for $1.89 (Vermont prices!) and strolled the shop, which featured antiques with tags like “Good chair $20,” scented soaps and handmade kitchen aprons.
Taking our place in the dining room, our host said, “I see you left early this morning to get gas.” Um, no I went to get a decent cup of coffee down the road, I thought. But I didn’t have the heart to tell him, so said I took a ride.
I considered telling him that his coffee needs help, but the Curmudgeon advised me to stay silent. “He’s been running this place for 14 years, and obviously has never had a complaint about his coffee before,” he said. “You’re going to be the first one to tell him his coffee stinks?”
Well, maybe. Why not? People complain about my strong coffee all the time, diluting it with water from the kitchen faucet right in front of me. I’m not insulted (well, maybe just a little). I recognize that people prefer certain strengths of coffee, and what I like is another person’s rocket fuel. I was at a reception, and one of the biggest worries the organizer had was whether she had brewed decent coffee in one of those huge coffee makers found in church halls. For the record, she did.
So perhaps I’d be doing the innkeeper a favor by suggesting a stronger brew, or that some people prefer coffee with some taste and flavor, something a little stronger than watered down tea or dish water. I’m going to guess that he’s not a coffee drinker, that there is no way someone who enjoys coffee could serve something so vile.
But you’d think he’d realize something is amiss. No one asked for more coffee, a stunning fact given the way Americans love (need) our morning coffee. And a number of guests opted out of the entire situation, wisely deciding to make tea.
For now, I’m just happy to be home with my own coffee maker. Rocket fuel never tasted so good.