Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Trip-Easy Maple Fudge

At the last minute, before leaving the Boston area I persuaded Dad to take a little side trip to The Yankee Candle Flagship store in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. I had read about it online in the weeks leading up to the trip and it just sounded so interesting that I had to mention it. Only adding an hour to the total drive, Dad agreed.

We pulled up to a massive red-sided store, not exactly sure what to expect. Once inside we discovered an area that looked like an old country store, full of baking mixes, toys, home accents and so much more. This room led to another room which led to another, etc. The store seemed to go on forever, each room with it's own theme. There was a room filled with items representing New England, a room full of gifts, toys and treats for pets, a room filled with handbags and purses, one with bed and bath linens, one with cooking supplies, one with candy, one with toys and so on. Of course in the center of the store was a large, bright and airy room packed with candles of every variety, scent, size and shape. There was even an area to make your own candles and make wax molds of your hands. But the main attraction for Dad and I was a cavernous area in the back of the building that contained every imaginable type of Christmas ornament and decoration. It was truly a winter wonderland that went on and on. One large area was dedicated to Christmas Villages, another to German decorations, another had decorative carousels and nutcrackers, and ornaments were arranged in neatly organized displays in every corner. In one section it was decorated like a castle, complete with a moat and drawbridge. It was even "snowing"! If we weren't on a time constraint, I think both Dad and I could have spent hours there (on top of the hour and a half we actually did spend). For lunch we bypassed their sit-down restaurant in favor of the Mrs. Claus Cafe and had a couple of delicious German style hot-dogs. As we ate, we eyeballed a kiosk of home made fudge, a Popcornopolis stand and another candy station where they were hand-dipping caramel apples. Knowing that we couldn't walk away without an ounce of chocolate, we opted for large marshmallows on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in candy. For an impromptu visit I think we enjoyed this pit-stop as much as anything!

Not long after crossing the Vermont border something magical happened. The trees along the highway became a majestic palette of gold, red, and orange. For the entire trip we admired the beauty of the changing trees, spots of vibrant color dappled the landscape. The trees in Vermont were different somehow. It wasn't a smattering of color but every tree looked hand painted in the most glorious of Autumn's graces. We had seen pictures of New England foliage, we had witnessed first hand the Autumn trees in the Ozarks but nothing comes close to those Beech trees, Red Oaks and Maples of Vermont in person. This may sound overly dramatic and it probably is though we drove mouths agape the way up to Stowe and Waterbury. Dad and I both hung our arms out to window to videotape the landscape and I snapped pictures through the windshield. We even pulled over a couple of times to get a closer look at what already had our full attention.

We pulled into Ben and Jerry's with no time to spare. The tour was brief and bright and included lots of short films detailing the history of the company and the production process. We were able to see the ice cream being packed from large windows above the work floor, though the videos enabled us to see the process of ice cream manufacturing from start to finish. The highlight of the tour is the end when they hand you a decent size sample of the finished product, the day we were there it was Cookies and Sweet Cream. Yum!

Next we headed down the street about a half a mile to a Cabot Cheese Outlet. Their showroom included a large table with about 20 cheeses and (yes!) more samples. They had everything from Sage to Chipotle and Sun-Dried Tomato to Chile Lime Cheddars. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch, but unfortunately we had no way to keep the cheese cold for the duration of our trip and we sadly had to leave empty handed.

Having only a half an hour before closing we drove across the street to Cold Hollow Cider Mill hoping to watch them make cider. Sadly, they were done for the day and instead we picked up a few goodies at there large general store, tasted more than our fair share of cider and headed out to Stowe.

We pulled up to Ye Olde England Inn and Dad ran inside to check us in. Upon returning to the car Dad informed me that the governor of Vermont was dining in the restaurant, Mrs. Pickwicks inside. As we lugged our suitcases, duffles and various other forms of bags inside, we took a peek inside the restaurant and spied a group of men in suits dining at what must have been the best table of the house. We never figured out which one was the governor but we knew we saw him!

The Inn was decorated and designed to resemble an English lodge, complete with fireplace, creaky wooden stairs and darkly wooded beams overhead. Our room was fairly large in size with a beautiful view of the woods behind the building. My sister J. and her husband K. had stayed at this very location (not the room, but the Inn itself) a few months prior to us. Knowing we would be visiting in October they decided to hide 3 notes for us on the upper guest levels. Quickly after unloading our luggage we set out to find these notes. The first one we found quickly, it was tucked behind an enormous mirror on a landing between the second and third floors. It was placed by K. and told us to enjoy our trip. Exhilarated by this find we began searching for the other two to no avail. We decided we needed to eat and would resume our quest later.

For dinner we decided to dine at the Trapp Family Lounge at the Trapp Family Lodge, a ski resort owned and operated by the Von Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame. In the dark of night we took our rental car through twists and turns up a two lane road that lead us right to the lodge, situated at the base of mountain. Being pitch black with nary a street lamp, we never did get a totally accurate view of the establishment but from what we could tell it was the picturesque, Bavarian retreat you would expect. The interior reflected the Black Forest motiff as well. The restaurant and bar had a pianist playing standards, jazz and the occasional Vince Guaraldi number. The menu was brief though what was on it sounded sumptuous and rich. Since we were both divided and both divided between the same two items, we decided to each order a dish and split both. We shared the Bavarian classic Weinerschnitzel and Spatzle with a Ligonberry sauce and Austrian Bratwurst and Knackwurst with sauteed Red Potatoes. Being on vacation and wanting to indulge, we topped off the meal with a shared piece of Black Forest Cake. Everything was amazing and absolutely worth the trip.

We returned to our Inn and decided to keep looking for those notes left for us by my sister and brother-in-law. We quietly walked up a level to the third floor that they stayed on and began lifting up pictures, running our hands along EXIT signs and lamps. Just as we were about to give up, I reached up to touch the top of a security light and felt something. I pulled down a small piece of paper and written on it in nearly illegible handwriting was the message "If you find this, you smell". I knew it was meant for us.

I have many recipes for maple fudge, some my own and some I've found in various cookbooks or online. This is one of mine and I choose it for it's simplicity. It's also reminiscent of maple candy, which is one of my favorite treats!

Easy Maple Fudge

2 cups pure maple syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan bring to a boil maple syrup, cream, and butter.
Boil, uncovered, soft ball stage(236-238 degrees F). Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm, do NOT stir during cool-down. Beat until creamy and pour into greased 8 inch baking pan. Let set/firm up then cut into squares.

Yankee Candle Flagship Store

Pumpkin Display at Ben and Jerry's

Ye Olde England Inn

Vermont Foliage

More from Vermont


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