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We had a great time this fall in New England this year visiting family and friends. Thanksgiving is over, and posted, and so now the time has come to share some of the highlights in eating and visiting that we enjoyed in New England. We traveled from Connecticut to Vermont and back again. In fact we drove up to New England from Florida, stopping at my Aunt’s house in VA both on the way up and on the way back. We got to spend time with Roberto’s daughters Rachel and Gwen as well as many friends along the way. It was a wonderful time – a time I have looked forward to every year since we moved to Florida.

We spent a large portion of the trip in Western MA. I lived in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts for over 10 years. I came to live there by way of education, and then after 4 years of college, decided to stay. I was just so enamored of the place – the quaint towns, historic buildings, and good food, as well as all the cultural activities taking place due to all the colleges in the area. I made a lot of lifelong friends while I lived there and was definitely part of a community. When I think about that time in my life, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling – and I always enjoy spending time there. I have moved away from New England twice since I lived there, once to go back to my home state of Maryland for a few years, and the other when we moved to Florida three years ago. Each time I move away, I find myself missing it, and it doesn’t take long before New England re-claims me. I guess I am a New Englander at heart, and I am proud of it! :)

People in New England are just nice. It is a very eclectic kind of place sometimes, and so it is typical to have friends from all walks of life. People are just more accepting of paradoxes, creativity and uniqueness. I don’t know how to describe it, but I always find myself gravitating towards New Englanders wherever we are, and that is how we met Valley Writer and Mr. Valley Writer.

We met them, almost 2 years ago, when we were all newlyweds, spending our honeymoon in Jamaica. We originally met them at a social for newlyweds and then ended up running into them at breakfast one morning. So we decided to sit together. We found out we had a lot in common. She and I are both writers (this was before her now famous blog), we both have black cats with asthma, and we both were practically neighbors at one point without even knowing it, in a small New England town called Hatfield. She met her husband the same way I met Roberto – online, and in the same time frame. So likely I ran across Mr. Valley Writer’s profile in my searches…who knows. But there was just so much in common (besides the love of food and cooking) that we knew we were meant to be friends. We visited with Mr and Mrs. Valley Writer last year when we were in New England . Then this year, they graciously invited us to stay with them for a few days.

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When we arrived, the first thing we did was take a quick drive to a local farm, and pick up her last CSA of the year. We picked out some nice root veggies to make some roasted roots – my favorite – to go along with dinner that night. The plan for dinner that night was to make duck. Neither of us had ever made a duck before, so we were both very excited at the prospect. We were worried about the method of cooking, we didn’t want it to be dry.

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So we decided to do it beer can style, and used a raspberry wheat beer in the preparation. It turned out really delicious – although it did make the house a little smoky – all that delicious duck fat (which of course was reserved for later use)!

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We enlisted Roberto to cut the duck – and of course he had to wear Amber’s Flirty Apron that she won a few months back from The Foodie Blogroll.

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(Mr. Valley Writer likes to keep his identity hidden….just WHO is HE?)

The food was really good that night, but the company was the best part! We all had a great time getting re-acquainted with each other and getting to know each other better – and it was a breeze. Sometimes you just really hit it off with another couple, and this was one of those times!

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Unfortunately Mr. And Mrs. Valley Writer both had to work while we were visiting. So the next night, to thank them for their hospitality, Roberto and I decided to get some extra ingredients, and cook them dinner. There was already a pork tenderloin in the fridge, so we decided to add some wild rice, glazed carrots, and miniature carrot cakes from Whole Foods (which used to be called Bread and Circus in that part of the world) to complete the meal. We prepared the pork in a fresh apple cider and dijon mustard sauce, and it was delicious. When they got home from work, we all started working together in the kitchen! What else can you expect from a bunch of foodies? This time we had Mr. Valley Writer do the honors on cutting the meat.

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Again the food was great and the company spectacular! We had a wonderful few days spending time with them, and look forward to continuing our friendship when we move up to Vermont this spring!

Thanks Valley Writer family for your hospitality and friendship! Please check out her post about our visit together on her blog, Adventures in the Pioneer Valley !

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In addition to Finest Foodies Friday, I am also phasing the Royal Foodie Joust Winners and New Ingredients posts over to Foodieblogroll.com. So if you want to read about the winners and the new ingredients. Please visit Foodieblogroll.com.

Also for more foodie fun, don’t forget to join us at my friend Ben’s blog for a Homemade Party!