Once I met a wise man who promised me that the world's best French toast was to be had in West Vancouver, B.C. He agreed to take me there, but would not reveal its name or address.
Breakfast is no time to be closemouthed, I say. So until I can head north and sample the Canadian contender, I'll share a New England find: Clyde's Kitchen at Hartland Four Corners, Vt.
I came upon this modest frame eatery on a drive south from White River Junction. It had an honest look, a fragrant smell and I was starving.
From the friendly counter-to-booth banter I could tell I was the only stranger there. And I was met with smiles and a tall mug of good coffee.
Vermont Maple Syrup
I read every word of the menu and then chose French toast with native maple syrup, there in the heart of Vermont.
A hand-lettered sign by the kitchen door said: "Clyde Is Here." A woman with a merry laugh and ample apron accepted my order from the waitress and then turned toward a large, black stove.
I studied my maps and guides until the plate appeared, as golden and crisp as a dream. The bread was thick and right; the eggs in which it had been dipped were farm fresh. The tastes and texture were extraordinary, sweetly enhanced by the syrup. I savored every bite and had a second mug of coffee.
As I stared around the room I noted that Today's Lunch Special would be meatballs, fries, salad and beverage: $3.25. Tomorrow's Special would be lasagna.
Clyde's A Lot Better
"My compliments to Clyde," I said with country confidence as the young waitress cleared my plate.
"Oh, he's not back yet, but thank you," she said. "That's his sister-in-law who's filling in, and she's good, too. Clyde had gallstones, you know, but he's a lot better."
"I'm so glad," I heard myself say. "Tell him I hope he's up and at 'em real soon."
"Well, thank you," she replied. "I surely will."
I waved to the sister-in-law and stopped near the door to pick up a blue-and-white brochure for the Vermont State Craft Center on Main Street in Windsor, a few miles south.
Windsor Crafts Abound
The Windsor shop, which is in a restored 19th-Century New England Greek Revival hotel, represents more than 250 craftspeople. I wandered happily through its two levels, which are chockablock with quilts and stoneware, weavings and baskets, jewelry and rocking chairs and wooden toys.
Windsor itself is rife with charm and history. It's the site of the first post office and courthouse in the United States and of Constitution House, which is called the birthplace of Vermont. Its homes are tidy, its streets are wide, its trees are lush.
At the southern edge of town is the longest covered bridge in America, a red-roofed classic that spans the Connecticut River between New Hampshire and Vermont. It has a heavy plank floor so that a rolling car rumbles like a mule train.
Painted over the arched entrance is a faded sign: "Walk your horse or pay two dollars fine."
Another sign warns that the bridge has a three-ton limit, which made me glad I had stayed only for breakfast at Clyde's Kitchen.