Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hampshire County Brew + Bike

We spent this past weekend exploring towns in the heart of Western Massachusetts and had the BEST time. "The Other Side of Massachusetts" as their tourism board nicknames Hampshire County, swooped in like a breath of fresh air to claim my affections. I came to the conclusion early on after we'd checked into our hotel on the quaint Amherst Square and set off biking on the picturesque Norwottuck Rail Trail that I'd been missing out all this time.

Along the former Boston & Maine Railroad The Norwottuck Branch Rail Trail is an 11-mile path linking Belchertown, Amherst, Hadley and Northampton. It weaves through beautiful green farm land with grazing cows and poignantly crosses the Connecticut River via a massive steel lattice truss bridge. We biked the trail for 8 miles and then a mile through Northampton streets where we stopped in for lunch at Northampton Brewery, scoring a seat on the sun-drenched top tier of their spacious beer garden. Our lunch was solid - we shared beer battered Catfish Bites ($9), the Green Mountain Burger ($12.25), and a beautiful Chopped Kale + Cranberry Salad ($10) with cabbage, green apple, garbanzo beans, blue cheese and bacon, alongside thirst quenching pints: Spring Fling IPA, Blue Boots IPA, and a Deckbier Pale Ale.

Easthampton’s Manhan Rail Trail connects to Northampton’s city system and the Norwottuck Rail Trail so from here we continued the journey with ease for another six miles to check out Easthampton's brewery scene. Located in a 1910 historic mill building - Abandoned Building Brewery was a challenge to find. In thinking that keeping it hidden / underground was the point - we were assured by the lovely Kimaya who poured our beers that it's actually the landlord who has been stalling to put a proper sign out front for the last year. Thankfully there is a sign in the back parking lot and the brewery entrance doors are just around the main vestibule. Entering into a dimly lit - open concept interior, a mismatch of furniture from upholstered couches, futons and even a papasan chair lends a college apartment feel to the lofty space. A small reclaimed wood tasting counter fronts the shiny brewery tanks.
Incorporating hops from their own local hop yard, barley malts from Valley Malt in Hadley, plus the high quality Easthampton drinking water - brewer Matt Tarlecki specializes in crafting Belgian farmhouse ales and hoppy American beers. We were big fans of the Dirty Girl IPA, Lola's Saison and the spring seasonal: Trap Door Tripel. Fun Fact: Matthew named his brewery prior to locating the space after his love of exploring abandoned buildings. I guess it all worked out well for him, these old mills are about as abandoned as you can get (the space next to them is a recording studio, but the five floors above are empty.)

You encounter quite a few buildings like this out here in Western, MA - driving in from off the Pike and along certain parts of bike trail - the deserted, mysterious, Walking Dead type vibe really transports you.

I had spotted New City Brewery from the Manhan bike trail so I knew our next stop was a just across the parking lot. Here, in a game changing effort Brewmaster Sam Dibble crafts a flagship alcoholic Jamaican-style ginger beer. We arrived to the bustling, light filled, exposed brick tap room and snagged two stools in the corner of the reclaimed Fenway Park (!) bar, where manager Devin The signature ginger beer mimosa flight really took our day to the next level: ginger beer straight up - orange - grapefruit - passionfruit - lemonade - and a mule (lime). The distinctive zip of ginger lends a spicy, effervescent bite, complimented by subtle notes of pineapple, lemon and molasses with a clean, crisp finish. New City's crown jewel is a fantastic brew. With an increase in demand, look for bottled four packs now being distributed throughout New England. 

We had a delicious beer flight as well: Connecticut River Kolsch - Minuteman Pale Ale - Signature IPA, Fenway Froth - King Phillip's Imperial Stout - and Hand Crafted Ginger Soda (non Alcoholic). My favorite was the CT River Kolsch - a light bodied and true easy drinker with a pleasant bitterness lent from German noble hops. We also loved the Fenway Froth - a single malt, single hop (S.M.A.S.H.) bright, golden ale featuring Golden Promise Scottish Barley and Equinox Hops. 
We cruised back through Easthampton by a nature preserve and over little truss bridges - taking not necessarily a wrong turn but continuing straight along the same path once we reached Northampton instead of turning where we needed to double back to pick up the Norwattuck Trail. (In-spite of all the ginger beer-mosas consumed, the trail junctions here do get a little confusing....) Nothing whatsoever looking familiar in our five miles off course, it wasn't until we hit a waterfall and a gravel trail that we pulled out the GPS and knew we had to backtrack. Mostly laughing at ourselves as we peddled back, we reached our home base in Amherst clocking in a total of 36 miles biked. 

Without the detour (Florence, Leeds) it would have been 24 miles, which is more manageable / more my speed. If you were hesitant to take on 24 but still want to experience the rail trail there are parking lots in Hadley and Northampton that get you closer to the breweries! Additionally, if you don't have your own bikes or need bike assistance: Laughing Dog Bicycle in Amherst / Northampton Bicycle / Manhan Bicycle in Easthampton. 
We had such a happy, gorgeous day discovering The Other Side of Massachusetts! Hampshire County makes for an easy day trip from Boston and surrounding suburbs. I was glad we decided to stay longer though - more on our overnight up next! 

11 Brewster Court
Northampton, MA 01060
Northampton Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

142 Pleasant Street
Easthampton, MA 01027

180 Pleasant Street
Easthampton, MA 01027

Our lunch and beer were complimentary thanks to Hampshire County Regional Tourism + Massachusetts Office of Travel + Tourism.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Simon Pearce | Vermont

 The best of Vermont eats week - that's a wrap (3/3)!

Simon Pearce | Where: Quechee | exit 1 off I89
When: Brunch on the trip home from Killington
Simon Pearce is a famous glassblower + entrepreneur. The location of the restaurant was an addition to the hydro-powered mill glassblowing facility that defines his empire. Browse the expansive shop filled with stylish 
and elegant glassware, tableware, lighting and home d├ęcor. Watch the artisans at work downstairs, and then enjoy brunch in the airy, light filled dining rooms overlooking the river and covered bridge. 

All your food and drinks are served on / in the handmade wares. Start with an order or two of Crispy Buttermilk Beignets ($9) with maple bourbon caramel and apple butter for an instant crowd pleaser. Follow those up with a cup of savory soup like Carrot Ginger, or Creamy Mushroom, Parsnip and Pear or the Vermont Cheddar ($7). The rich velvety broths and generous flavors sing comfort. With fried eggs, prosciutto, shaved parmesan, local tomatoes, and chive hollandaise over roasted garlic naan, the Ham and Eggs ($17) exceed the brunch norm while Pork Fried Biscuits and Gravy offer a refined take on a southern classic. A homemade eggnog and rum cocktail is served in their elegant goblet stemware.
Simon Pearce Restaurant
1760 Quechee Main Street
Quechee, VT 05059

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Worthy Kitchen | Vermont

The week continues with an all time Vermont favorite (2/3)!

Worthy Kitchen | Where: Woodstock | 20 minutes from exit 1 off I89
When: Dinner heading west on Rt 4 to Killington

Worthy Kitchen in Woodstock along with their first location, Worthy Burger in Royalton, have become well known Vermont craft beer bars that serve a coveted burger. Friends, you are in for a treat. Cooked over a hardwood fire The Farm Diner Burger ($13) features Vermont raised beef on a worthy bun with lettuce, red onion, bomb sauce and American cheese. The juicy beef is flavorful and melt in your mouth tender. An all around excellent burger, my personal favorite anywhere!! (Why a photo eludes me of the burger from a place with BURGER in the name is beyond me, especially as I have pictures of so many dishes!!) 
The Cavattapi Mac N Cheese is oh so cheesy + creamy without being too heavy. The Green Curry + Coconut Shrimp Tacos spice things up one evening with green apple, cilantro, spicy mayo and heaps of pickled ginger. 
Can't miss sides include the Truffle Fries and the innovative Pickle Plate - with a rotating assortment of house pickled vegetables and fruit; our plate had pineapple (amazing), cauliflower, mushrooms and onions. And you probably don't want to miss out on their Buttermilk Chicken ($18) with superbly crisp skin encasing juicy chicken over a sweet potato puree with spoonfuls of a lust worthy pesto chevre, fire roasted veggies and garlic honey syrup. 
As you can see, we visit Worthy all.the.time. The menu changes regularly (though you will always find the Worthy Burger.) You can also get your fried chicken in sandwich form with bomb sauce, mango chutney, cilantro and pickles. An ear of street corn on the side...worthy!
Sought after local Vermont brews (18 on draft) include Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Zero Gravity, alongside New England favorites like Jack's Abby, Rising Tide and Maine Beer Co. The counter service method is easy and reliable - keep your tab open as long as you like and the kitchen buzzes you once your food is ready. No hostesses, no wait staff, just casual, comfortable, farm diner digs to enjoy some of the finest local food and beer Vermont has to offer. 

Worthy Kitchen
442 Woodstock Road
Woodstock, VT 05091 

Is it time for a road trip?! Where are your favorite places to eat in Vermont?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Prohibition Pig | Vermont

Vermont. I grew up skiing here and it is the absolute best state. This was one of the worst winters on record due to lack of snowfall (I spent a lot more time skiing in Canada), but, on the few VT trips we had some noteworthy meals alongside delicious locally brewed beer. This week I am sharing three of my continual favorites! (1/3)

Prohibition Pig | Waterbury | exit 10 off I89
When: Lunch or Dinner on the trip to or from Stowe 
In 2012 the Boston Globe featured an article on Waterbury called "The Best Beer Town in New England"Prohibition Pig plays a large part in that as it was the only spot where you could find the iconic Heady Topper on draft, alongside coveted Hill Farmstead brews like the Susan IPA and the Dorothy Pale Ale, plus Lawson's Finest Sip of Sunshine and Maple Imperial Stout. Additionally, the Pig's own tasty drafts are brewed next door - try the Downtown Piggy Brown or the Spring Break Saison. They don't offer samplers but you can purchase individual half pints two at a time which works just as well. 

With a powerhouse line up of craft beer, classic cocktails, southern style small plates and hearty BBQ served in a sophisticated farmhouse setting heralded by an apothecary like bar, Prohibition Pig has become quite the legend in the small town of Waterbury. We were instantly impressed with the Panko Fried Pimento Cheese dipped in chili pepper jam and Fried Oysters with candied lemonMy Just a Burger in its simplest rendition with ketchup, mustard and pickles was fantastic and the boys loved their Chopped Pork BBQ plates - choose from sides like roasted brussels sprouts, shoestring fries, cheddar grits or maple baked beans. 
23 South Main Street
Waterbury, VT 05676