Eagle's Rest Farm in Hebron is the home of the most sought after hostess of North Country. The hostess-with-the-mostess if you will. A New York City resident, she moved here 38 or so years ago, and is still an outsider to the locals. But never an outsider to any inside information that will change the workings of the local socio-politics. In fact, Betty Gambee Osborne could easily have given Brooke Astor some training on how to work the social circles and also the government and private sector. Betty is a power-broker in a community where it is not easy for a woman and especially an outsider to yield much of anything.
As you look outside the front door, daylilies blooming in abundance greet you and tell you about the larger-than-life occupant of the house. Betty is 78 going on 29. And it seems she has always been way younger than her real age. Bless her! It is this boundless energy, and endless passion that makes her the treat-of-the-town. The best gift we have in human form in our midst. That she finds time to do all she loves, and do it as she wants to do it - is mind boggling. Nothing is ever simple in the Betty-World!
Arriving at Betty's home is never a simple matter of fact thing. It is an arrival for sure. It comes with a knowledge that we have landed in a place steeped in history, set idyllically, and maintained fastidiously by someone with great taste. And most of all someone with respect for yesterday, today and tomorrow, even that tomorrow which they know is not theirs to see. It is with this acute knowledge of the realities of life that Betty leads each day. It is a blessing for those that know her to be in her shadow, in her company and to be led by her. This home and the grounds could easily be the setting for paintings, movies and wedding celebrations. Betty and whoever joins her any given day are always celebrating life and enjoying it to the fullest. How could you not when in her company and surrounded by picture-perfect vistas of land, water and sky, breathing fresh country air.
Betty is cool! Betty is very VERY cool! How lucky her grandchildren are to have her as a grandma. She is so cool that I am sure all that know her feel jealous that their grandparents were not like this. And so, arriving into her home, through her kitchen, you never see Betty anyway but cool and calm. She is prepared, rested and smiling. A beautiful way to be greeted. It is as if the hours spent in preparation for an evening have given her no fatigue and no consternation. Greeting, chatting, welcoming, gossiping and joking with her guests, she does whatever if any leftover work there is, and gets the party started. Watching her host her grand parties is like watching a professional caterer orchestrate a feast that would go down in history as something beyond memorable, as an epic affair remembered forever. No wonder Betty is the person everyone comes to in our part of the world, when they want to do something special and create magic.
For starters Betty had served Hummus with vegetables brought by our very own Sally Brillon and Joe Brillon. Also with it was some fresh chevre from Sweet Spring Farm. Of course some toast at the side gave us the ability to enjoy the hummus with veggies or the toast. Not pictured here was also the rabbit terrine (the only meat offering, a leftover from a meal of the past. That is OK!) that Betty shared with us. It was also enjoyed by all. Simple fare, served without fuss, and enjoyed with gusto. In the kitchen or sitting at the porch having fun conversations, the starters gave us all the food we need to enjoy a glass of wine before moving to the dining room for dinner.
Betty was excited about the Iris arrangement that Randy Squires had created in her living room. As beautiful as that was, it is always exciting to see Betty's living room. Full of treasures acquired over a long time and also inherited from her parents who were collectors. Everything is in place, everything belongs, and everything comes together beautifully. There is a warmth in the decor of the house that matches the warmth that sings through Betty's soul and in everything she does and especially how she treats friends and family.
Randy Squires also planted and situated the kitchen-garden that Betty has adjacent to the pond and between the house and the School House. It is exciting to see from the kitchen and the porch, the little patch that shall deliver much fodder for parties that take place later into the summer.
Green Salad, Bean Salad with tomatoes and cheese, French Potato Salad and some home made bread were part of Betty's cold offerings. Well the bread was warm and the butter nice and soft to spread on the whole wheat bread. The bread was a recipe Betty replicated from her class with Zoe Francois at the Battenkill Kitchen. Betty never stops amazing all of us. Not many of us would take a class on breadmaking and come back ready to start baking and sharing the results immediately. Her lack of fear makes her compelling in ways that are hard to describe. Watching her live her life is a wonderful way to lose ones own inhibitions and fears.
Brazilian beans were also part of her vegetarian menu. Served with basmati rice, they seemed to have given each of us at the table a very comforting bowlful of bliss. Betty prepared it with love and that love sang through our tummies and sated our appetites instantly. I detected some citrus in the beans and that was a lovely addition. The beans were soaked overnight and cooked over low heat for hours. Trust Betty to be so very generous to her friends so as to cook beans in the summer. Bravo Betty!
Betty holds center-stage whenever she is at a table. Not assertive by nature, it is us friends that want her to lead, show the light and set the standards. She steps up to the challenge and delivers in ways only she can. Class, intellect, measured advice, and above all a non-judgmental look at life that never seems to get tiring for those that watch her, make her Special-Betty. At her table, people carry plates full of food, but also bring great hope and questions. Conversations take place that keep all involved and touch all sorts of topics. The chatter heals, entertains and inspires all at once. Of course it helps that Betty ensures that the tables are always set with great style, and keeping a look/theme in mind. Last night was French and White & Blue. Of course in her own attire, and through the flowers at the table, and the riches that are housed around the dining room - one never is at a loss for color or visual discovery. Not that one ever needs any distractions at her table and around her. There never seems to be a dull moment. Usually it is before one sits down at the table, or after one has finished dinner and dessert that one can take in all the visual fodder provided at her table and in the dining room.
The mirrors around the dining room offer wonderful reflections for the eye to discover. And through them, one can also reflect on what one is pondering over in life at any given moment. I love that about mirrors. Of course some may only see their face and be stuck on that thought. But there are those that look at a mirror and take it as a way of reflecting on things greater, deeper and more meaningful than beauty that is skin deep. But the mirrors alone are not the only distractions and discoveries to be made. The door into the living room and that into the kitchen offer a lot to anyone looking for a discovery. It does not stop with them either. The flowers, the antiques, the paintings and the collectibles all bring into the realm of this moment in time the energy and glory of years past.Betty loves her home, loves her collection of home furnishings, and she loves her life. This is all evident in every piece adorning every square inch of her house, and that too is a celebration of Betty and good living.
Never one to be short on choices, Betty's dinner provided us all two choices for dessert. Choices? We each took portions of both of them. And greedily ate them. I know that when we left, my stomach was very full. I could have eaten no more. Not a morsel more. Memorable meals in my book are meals where the hosts have ensured that the crescendo of tastes and flavors initiated through the savory courses is maintained during the dessert course. Way too often people show desserts with little if any deference. How sad! It is the last course, and the course that we go home reflecting upon. The sweeter (not in sugar) the experience, the more memorable and wonderful the conversations. At Betty's table, desserts sang with high notes. The buttermilk sponge cake topped with whipped cream and summer berries was light and airy, with just the perfect balance provided by the rich cream and the fruity flavorful berries. Wendy London's blueberry and almond tart turned the offerings towards France and gave berries another form and face. Together they spoke of the varied traditions with which we work on food. The buttermilk in the sponge cake made it moist whilst still being airy and light. Wendy's desserts have an ethereal quality about them. Getting to taste them is to get a bite of something rare and special. Between these two great offerings, the conversations became spare, at least for the moments that it took for us all to finish the two desserts on our plates. Silence is the best testament to the cooking talents of the chefs. Suzie (the local doctor and the creater of the berry cake) ought to be very proud reflecting on the silence that took over once we all tasted her cake and the tart.
It is easy to understand Betty and her humanity once you see the love that is showered on her babies. Her horse Sammie and Jed, the labrador. They are wanting for nothing. Perhaps she spoils them even more than she does herself. I do believe that people who can share such love and energy and time with their pets, are people who will be very patient and kind with family and friends.
What was it about this particular meal at Betty's that I felt I needed to post about it? Why now? Well to be honest, most meals at Betty's or rather all meals I have had at Betty's thus far have had meat as part of the menu. This last time was an exception. A feast was served again, but a feast of vegetarian fare. Cooked with the same reverence and care as any other meal is at her stove. And no one missed the meat. Rather, we celebrated the wondrous flavors. The great textures. The temperature contrasts and the utter simplicity and yet grand look of the dinner. Vegetarian meals are not easier to prepare. Nor are they any cheaper. They take more thought and care to orchestrate. But luckily Betty has these qualities in endless supply. People are afraid to cook vegetarian because they have never allowed themselves to understand the subtle nuances that can take vegetables, lentils, grains, beans, herbs and aromatics into a realm so high and chic that once there, nothing can match them. Great vegetarian food has a sexiness that meat-based food can never catch up with. Of course add to that the health benefits of eating vegetarian and then you would never want to eat any other way. There were indulgences (big container of butter passed around to be enjoyed with the whole-wheat bread and the two desserts) at that table that ensured no one felt they were dieting. Eating well is not a punishment. Rather, eating well is a freedom to eat with greater pride, in a more safe head-space and without worries. Once you know how to cook and enjoy healthier foods that are amazingly delicious, you have discovered the key to enjoying the world at a level very few can. Betty took us there, and kept us entertained, kept us happily captive and sent us home sated. That in itself was a statement of her talents and her brilliance. May you live as long as I do Betty, so I always have a seat at your inspiring table. How selfish of me to wish that! But if I must live and live long, I want companions on that journey that I know will give me good food, good conversations and good humor to savor along that road of life.