Friday, September 7, 2012

A Culinary Day Trip (NH and VT)

Earlier this year, we ventured out to do a little "research" on day trips in the area.  Our initial goal was to go to Walpole to have lunch at L.A. Burdick's.  (We have been to Walpole in the past, and have had guests that have eaten at L.A. Burdick's, but we had never eaten there ourselves.)  But as we got to planning, we decided to turn the whole day into a sort of Culinary Day Trip in New Hampshire and Vermont!

First stop... Walpole, New Hampshire.
Walpole is a charming small town, north of Keene, with several restaurants, retail stores, and an artisan's gallery.  It is also home to Walpole Creamery (ice cream) and Alyson's Orchard (apples and other tree fruits).  The L.A. Burdick's Cafe and Chocolate Shop on Main Street is their flagship location (other locations include Boston, Cambridge, MA and New York).  Their restaurant in Walpole is one of a kind, serving lunch, a late afternoon bistro menu, dinner, and brunch (on Sundays).  The food, described as fine gourmet with a French-inspired menu, includes soups, appetizers, salads, and main courses with a good selection of daily specials as well.  The atmosphere is definitely upscale, but not stuffy.  For our lunch, we started with a selection of local, artisanal cheeses and had roasted chicken with risotto (a special that day) and an omelette for our main courses.  It was delicious!  We resisted the temptation however, to indulge in any dessert (although for the record, the pastries, chocolates, and hot beverages looked amazing!) but made a brief stop in the Walpole Artisans Cooperative and then headed north to our next stop.

Second stop... Rockingham, Vermont.
Not far off of I-91 in Rockingham, Vermont is The Vermont Country Store.  If you are not familiar with the Vermont Country Store, they are like an old-time general store... on steroids.  They describe themselves as "purveyors of practical and hard-to-find products", but what drew us to the store on this day was their huge selection of food items.  Nostalgic candy, jams, cookies, crackers, mixes, and a huge selection of local cheeses, many available for sampling, are all there.  Given that we had just finished lunch, we didn't do much sampling, but browsed the store and bought a little old fashioned red licorice for the road.

Next stop... King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont (just across the Connecticut River from Hanover, NH and Dartmouth College).
With their recent renovations substantially completed when we visited, the new King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont was a must-see on our culinary day trip .  The new Baker's Store, bakery/cafe, and education center are now all under one roof, designed with warm, natural materials and a modern feel.  Although you still enter into the old round-barn store location, it is now the central bakery/cafe and you really need to use your imagination to remember the former space.  The new store is bright, with a completely different layout, but it is still filled with incredible baking products and supplies.  If you are planning your own trip to King Arthur Flour in the near future, you may want to go during their official Grand Opening!  The festivities will take place September 20-23, 2012 and will include tours, free samples, baking demonstrations, prizes, book signings, guest celebrity chefs, and more!

As we finished up our shopping at King Arthur Flour, we had some serious decisions to make.  When we are in this area, we would typically stop at Lui Lui in West Lebanon, NH.  Lui Lui is located in the old Powerhouse and offers classic homemade italian food, wood fired brick oven pizza (the oven is shaped like a bright red tomato) and oodles of whimsical ambiance.  Unfortunately for us, it was too soon for dinner.  We considered starting the drive towards home via I-89 and stopping at Peter Christian's Tavern in New London or The Common Man in Concord, but in the end we decided to drive over towards Lake Sunapee and see if we could find any place on the water to grab something light.  We ended up in Sunapee Harbor, browsing the local shops and stopping at The Anchorage for an appetizer and salads.  Sitting on their screened porch, overlooking the boats in the harbor, our focus here was less on the food and more on the location.

For the drive home, we continued around the lake.  Not really looking for anything in particular, but taking in the area.  But then it happened!  First we saw the cows... then we saw barn with large letters "ICE CREAM".  We had to stop!  Sanctuary Dairy Farm on Route 103 in Sunapee is a family-run ice cream shop, open May to October, serving their own farm fresh ice cream and other quality products from regional producers.  Their brochure summed it all up!
"Where an ice cream cone turns every day into the perfect day."

In the end, our route took us 182 miles with 4 hours of driving time (according to Google maps).  We had left home 11:00 AM and were back by about 9:00 PM.

Good food, good sites... not bad for a day's research!


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