The Back of Beyond

Not every wonderful dining spot or food find makes its home in a big city.  Which is a really good thing to remember during foliage season in New England, when the best place to be is on some small state highway that meanders through the colorful maple trees of rural Massachusetts or Vermont or New Hampshire.  Rest assured, if on a visit to New England’s back of beyond for the brief season of vivid color, carnivores and vegetarians alike will eat well.  Here are some of my recommendations after spending the Columbus Day long weekend on a three-state driving loop.

The Montague Book Mill along with its used record shop, art gallery, and two restaurants live comfortably on the Sawmill River in Montague, Massachusetts, occupying the site of a mid-1800s gristmill.

Within the book mill complex, the Lady Killigrew Cafe is open daily for casual breakfast, lunch, and supper dining.  The menu is small in scope – bagels, a handful of salads, a few pressed sandwiches – but not in taste.  My lunch of peanut-ginger udon noodles with fresh broccoli was packed with flavor, the zesty sauce as good as homemade.

The Book Mill’s fancier restaurant, The Night Kitchen (complete with a chef named Max at its helm) promises more variety, creativity, and special occasion dining Thursday through Sunday.  I’m curious enough to make the 3 1/2-hour round trip drive just for dinner.

Downtown Greenfield, Massachusetts wins the prize for most earnest and accommodating dining establishments.  From old standbys like The People’s Pint Brewery and Restaurant to newer comers like Hope and Olive, diners can count on being served sometimes adventurous but always good, honest food in unpretentious surroundings.

The best find in this hardworking town, though, is Adams Donut Shop.

Here you’ll find your morning coffee, breakfast pastries, a counter the likes of which one never sees anymore, and all the town’s old timers discussing important matters of the day.  Best of all?  Owners Kenneth and Susan Cook make real good donuts.

They make donuts that are worth any kind of drive.  Like these nutmeg-laced, sugar-coated, crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside jelly sticks.

I made mine last a good four hours, savoring each delicious bite.

Norwich, Vermont’s King Arthur Flour Baking Store and complex of testing and teaching kitchens is hardly a small, backwoods stop.  In fact, the retail store  is in the midst of a substantial expansion.

Nonetheless, a stop at King Arthur is a stop worth making if you are any kind of baker on the spectrum from novice to professional.  You can always count on finding a 25-pound bag of flour.

Or specialty flours and multi-grain add-ins.

But you can also count on finding a bakery stocked with many kinds of in-house-made breads, and a refrigerated case filled with some of Vermont’s finest small-dairy cheeses.  Grab a baguette and some Lazy Lady Petite Tomme and you’re set for a picnic lunch stop anywhere along the trail of color.

©2011  Jane A. Ward