Though we are now in the cool, crispy days of fall, I have reflected back on the food discoveries and adventures we had this summer!
Our summers always involve a fair amount of indulgence. With all of us home for the summer months, we find plenty of excuses to eat out, barbecue, host gatherings, and get creemees. And when we still don't have our fill we hit the road to look for more good eats out there. Though the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is the time when most folks find themselves over-consuming food and drink, for us the belt-busting happens in the summer season.
In typical fashion we had many gatherings here this summer. With a blue pool and a hot grill, we are happy to host and feed our hungry friends. The first annual Taco & Margarita Cook-Off was one such gathering, and it was by far the most elaborate! For this cook-off we had no grill going, but plenty of tacos, sides, drinks, and desserts.
It is a great time of year to host a cook-off with friends: beautiful weather, and no worries about how clean the inside of your house is, because everyone is outside!
And the tacos were freaking awesome.
Besides the gatherings at our home, we did hit the road for food quite a bit this summer. I came across this list on OnlyInYourState.com right at the start of the season: 12 Great 'Hole In The Wall' Restaurants in Vermont That Will Blow Your Taste Buds Away. Though we made it our mission to get to all twelve during the summer, we are now fully ensconced in fall and find we still have five to go. (One of these however was not our fault because we drove 2+ hours to get there only to find it closed! Sad face.) We had some amazing, local food thanks to this list, and here are the holes we did find:
This restaurant is just minutes from us, in downtown Burlington: the East West Cafe, where we had sumptuous and spicy Thai food.
I wouldn't call it a 'hole' but it is a tiny, brightly decorated space and the folks there are friendly and warm.
This restaurant is just a tiny, little shack in an unassuming lot! Nevertheless, their burgers are enormous, juicy, flavorful and wonderful!
Choosing just one of the enticing varieties was difficult, but we were very satisfied with the locally sourced beef burgers and all the trimmings.
Though we were not able to make it to Tim's Deli in St. Johnsbury (that was the one that was closed) it was only a short drive from there to get to Auntie DeeDee's Homemade VT Baked Goods in East Burke.
This is the cutest little bakery ever, though at first we were confused because the address brought us to a ranch house on a road leading up to Burke Mountain. As we pulled in, the owner Danielle Ekasala came running out her front door (she had just been doing dishes) and opened up a door on her garage to reveal a tiny bakery in the converted space!
I just fell in love with the little business, and the baked goods were just as enticing. Get there early if you can, because her creations are very popular.
We arrived too late to try her gourmet sandwiches but we were happy to gobble up sweets like lemon bars and chocolate chip walnut cookies.
After Auntie DeeDee's we had our lunch at the St. Johnsbury House of Pizza. My husband insists that "house of pizza" pizza is always amazing no matter where you have it. And his theory tested true: the pizza as well as the sandwiches were really tasty! We are always on the lookout for houses of pizza.
This restaurant in Mendon is another local eatery located on the way to the slopes, in this case the slopes of Killington Resort. They're famous for their rich breakfasts and baked goods.
My son chose pork sausages baked in golden pancakes: pigs in a blanket-style!
We met our cousins at this little eatery, which my husband says has been there since he was a kid growing up in Rutland.
Their menu was UNbelieveable... it covered three entire walls, written in chalk, ceiling to counter (including the little bits of wall that go over the tops of cabinets and doorways!) I thought making a choice at the Burger Barn was hard... it was nothing compared to The Sandwich Shoppe.
The staff there is so friendly and kind, quick to share a joke, calling to us from the counter as we ate to see how we liked everything.
The sandwiches were as monstrous as the menu, quite a value and quite delicious!
This hole-in-the-wall was one of the first hole-in-the-wall places we went to, while in Bennington for my brother's graduation.
My mom had told me for months to give it a try, and it did not disappoint. I had a savory bangers n' mash and my son had his first ever fish n' chips. It was a massive-sized portion of fish too! We both loved our meals.
I was tempted to try the mushy peas, but instead we opted for dessert in the form of a package of Jammy Dodgers... our little nod to Doctor Who!
We made it to Eaton's Sugar House on our way to Maine to eat pie!
Eaton's is a fascinating stop, a huge, rambling barn that sits right at the intersection of Routes 14 and 107 in South Royalton. The interior as you walk through has that great, aged wood smell, and plenty of creaks and squeaks characteristic of a structure that's been around awhile.
In the entrance there is a map of the U.S. and abroad filled with thousands of pins, showing from whence visitors to Eaton's have traveled.
The Eaton's Sugarhouse menu is that of a classic Vermont breakfast and brunch spot: several pages long, and serving several varieties of waffles, pancakes, French toast, and omelettes.
There are also sandwiches and soups available for lunch all day. It's a very homey spot, and you get lots of filling food for your dollar.
We are still committed to getting to the remaining hole-in-the-wall restaurants on the list. If we have to extend our challenge into winter, I'm sure we won't mind.
That same road trip to Eaton's eventually took us to Maine.
After a quick visit to the beach (had to get in a little surf and sun!), we finally found our pie. It was our last visit to Pie in the Sky Bakery in Cape Neddick, Maine.
I wrote a post about visiting this bakery a while back, and I am so excited for the owners John and Nancy: after 35 years of baking pies they will retire this year! When I heard this news earlier in the year I knew we had to get there one more time. They were as busy as ever in the toasty bakery that sits just off the main living area of their house.
The space was exactly the same as when we last visited: full of pies and other sweets, springform pans hanging from above, and what seems like the world's largest stand mixer behind the counter. Instead of buying one whole pie we chose instead to take slices of six different varieties. And we were hungry enough for all six! (Ha.) We had the following pie flavors: raspberry, lemon, coconut cream, blueberry, blueberry peach and fudge. Incredible, hand crafted, and sweet. If you can, make the trip to Pie in The Sky before they close on November 14th to get their dulcet pies, cookies, and bars.
And please be sure wish the family well. 35 years: that's a whole lotta pies, long days, and hard work! Send good wishes their way on their retirement and adventures to come.
One unexpected stop on our pie road trip was a stop at Lil's Cafe in Kittery, Maine. Thanks to our Facebook updates, my friend Annie saw that we were in nearby Portsmouth and immediately texted to insist we go to one of her favorite spots: Lil's Cafe, to try a cruller.
We are so glad that we did! That cruller was like no other, and definitely not like a doughnut. The center was incredibly light like a popover, with a delicate coating of glaze over the surface.
It was also huge... thank heavens my son and husband were willing to eat some with me.
We also had savory breakfast sandwiches and piping hot coffee. The Lil's Cafe space is as impressive as the crullers: a converted bank, complete with the massive vault door that leads to the record business next door.
The drive up teller booth outside the bank has been re-purposed as a juice bar! The cafe was hopping on that early morning and it is clearly a local favorite (and now out-of-stater favorite too!)
Our final food discoveries of the summer took place at the third annual Vermont ComicCon in South Burlington.
These were really mostly my discoveries: while my husband and son scoured the Con for comics and Pop! Vinyl figures, I hunted down the small group of food vendors on hand.
I found these impeccably decorated Nintendo cupcakes from North Country Cakes. The vendors were having fun with it too, dressed as Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. To look at their website filled with intricately decorated wedding cakes and pastries by pastry chef Nicole Maddox, you would never expect the whimsical Mario cupcakes! Check out their website: the cakes are stunning.
I also came across a table from Honeymoon Kitchens based in Vergennes, VT. They had adorably decorated cupcakes and stacks of cookies. I should have tried different varieties from what I had at last year's ComicCon, but their molasses cookies are just too good to pass up. I bought a few packs.
I thought the best find at the ComicCon was the display from Delicias Chocolates based in Morrisville, VT: their perfectly shaped and vividly-colored chocolates. On theme for the ComicCon there were chocolates for Star Wars, Doctor Who, Nintendo, Pac-Man, and more. I chose a blue box: a lovely little Tardis! I also grabbed a long package of Pac-Man and ghosts. The most impressive creation in my opinion were the Harry Potter-themed Chocolate Frogs, each in their own domed and brightly patterned box, and each with a collectible wizard's card! How cool is that?
The owner, Victoria Campomanes told me that next year they will have boxes themed for each Hogwart's house. Another cool aspect of these chocolates from Delicias is that they are made from "almond bark" chocolate which has less sugar than regular chocolate and it's gluten-free.
I picked up a copy of her charming little comic titled Breakfast: "the first installment to an on-going, food-themed, comic series." I love her illustrations in this tiny comic and the sweet story told through them of friends foraging for breakfast.
There are even two recipes at the end of the comic: for Raspberry & Elderberry Jam, and for Acorn Bread!
(I had no idea anyone but squirrels could eat acorns, but here is an NPR article confirming that, yes we humans can too!) Visit Bridget's online store to see her work: Bridget's Comics & Crafts.
All good summers must come to an end. And in this good summer we packed in a whole lot of eatin'.We visited unique and delicious eateries that we had never experienced before. There are many talented bakers and chefs out there, passionately creating amazing food and works of food art. I hope our food discoveries inspire you to hit the road, drive a little further than you might normally and seek out your own delectable destinations!