Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pretty. Fall. Colors.

Right now I am in the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College. It is Family Weekend here, and even though my brother graduated last year, he loved the place so much he decided to work here, breaking my family's heart because he decided not to come back home even though we tried to lure him in with offers of free rent, personal laundry service, and weekly trips to In-N-Out. But his mind was made up, and having visited him here now for the third time, I can see why. There's something about this place that makes you feel happier. I don't know what it is.

Okay, okay, I know what it is. There are actual seasons here. And that great small-town feel. And *real* General Tso's chicken. And people are liberal without being horrifyingly close-minded. (That's right you San Francisco hippie bubble, I'm talking about you!) And there are stores with Mo's Bacon Bar in stock. The most excellent americano I've had. The best, spiciest chai I've had sweetened with honey, not sugar or corn syrup. Pizza with exotic toppings that doesn't cost an arm and a leg for one slice. (The night I landed I tried spicy chicken with sour cream, guacamole, and black beans. Tonight I'll have the pesto tortellini.) And did I mention the pretty fall colors?[*]

Having attended college in New England, fall colors are not a new thing for me. In San Francisco, there are two seasons. Foggy season and rainy season. Trees pretty much stay the some color, and if they do lose their leaves, it's overnight. Here, the tree leaves turn shades of gold and orange and red. When the sunlight hits the leaves and the breeze rustles them a bit, they sparkle. And then there's that nip in the air. It smells like wood-burning fireplaces, and you can walk around in cute scarves and hats and boots and stay toasty but not have to walk fast because you are still cold.

I adore fall. I wait for summer to be over so that I can drink pumpkin spice lattes and hot apple cider. Except it is already November, and last week when I was in SF it was downright warm. We had a few nippy days and I eagerly tried to live it up fall-style. I baked pumpkin biscotti, which was a disaster because I substituted whole wheat flour and some agave nectar for the sugar. I made a beef and guinness stew. I ate the most delicious pork chops with crispy polenta at Park Chow. Okay, actually, the pork chops at Nopa are better, but I think I would sell my soul if I could eat that crispy polenta every day without having a heart attack. But the weather was cruel. It became warm. Then super foggy. Foggy is NOT fall. Fall is crisp and clear and cold.

The pictures I took don't do any justice to how beautiful it actually is here, so I leave you with some from visits past...

See those trees in the back? Right now they are all red and gold and orange. *So* beautiful.

There is an old mill about half an hour away from Amherst, and there is a lovely bookstore, cafe, and restaurant. This river makes a wonderful rushing sound, and the food is awesome. I took my brother to The Night Kitchen last night and we ate the most tender duck breast I have tasted ever. It came with a roasted vegetable medley that had fennel. I love fennel.

[*] Okay, I fully realize that I am visiting here on vacation, and that a few days of being away from the stress of work and school might be clouding my judgment. And *yes* I realize it snows here, and that in order for me to go to work in the winter I do *not* have to scrape the snow off my windshield, for which I am truly grateful.