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A Weekend Trip to a Baker's Paradise in Vermont

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Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer from coast to coast.

Photo by Alex Citrin

I adore baking, as most Food52 frequenters (you?) probably do as well. There’s something wholly cathartic about spending hours crafting a thing that takes minutes to disappear and never come back. There’s no contest to win (unless there is) or concrete reward, just the abstract joy of sharing it with whomever you choose, a joy you might completely forget about next time you’re stuck in traffic. So that’s why I keep doing it again and again and again; it’s like putting coins into a machine that replenishes one’s individual quota of good feelings.

I also adore weekend trips, for similar, good feeling quota–replenishing reasons. So combining the two, like I did on a trip to the King Arthur Flour factory in early July, made me so happy that I’m still, a month later, relishing in its memory. The employee-owned company (which means that anybody who works there for over 9 months immediately gets shares in stock) has a sprawling campus in Norwich, a village in Vermont that’s a stone’s throw from Dartmouth College, which is on the other side of the state line in New Hampshire.

A weekend trip is ideal if you live in or around New York City (5 hours), Philadelphia (6 hours), or Boston (2 hours), and I’d urge any other Northeastern-er to look up the driving distance to see if a weekend getaway or day trip is feasible. That being said, at my baking class, I met a grandfather-and-granddaughter duo from Kansas and Indiana, respectively, who made the factory one of their stops on a larger East Coast road trip. So really, wherever you are, if Vermont is a possibility, seize the opportunity to spend some time at King Arthur Flour. Just try not to spend too much money on the gift shop, like I did (no regrets).

The following suggestions are designed for folks interested in taking a baking class at King Arthur Flour (see the full course schedule here), where classes range from Middle Eastern flatbreads to 2-day sourdough intensives to the cleverly-titled “If the Choux Fits.” But it’s just a snippet of what’s available in the area, especially when you consider the many hiking trails and picnic spots that could slurp up at least 3 hours of your day.

A Baker's Paradise awaits

The class I took—on "How to Make Croissants and Brioche"—was modest in its title, because from those base dough recipes, I also learned how to make cinnamon rolls, quiche, brioche nanterre, egg rolls (not what you think, but more of a toad-in-a-brioche-hole situation), doughnut holes, and crème fraîche. The class helped me spot the exact moment when dough might become overworked, and conquer my fear of baking anything that requires using a pastry bag (DO NOT overfill).

Over our lunch break, I spoke with fellow bakers of all experience levels, some of whom had taken classes at King Arthur Flour before and wanted to return to expand their skill set. By the end of class, I had so many leftovers that I offered them to the hotel staff back at the Norwich Inn, where I was staying; they told me that everyone taking a baking class does this. The leftover laminated dough, though, came with me, for future croissants or croissant-like cinnamon rolls; we bought a cooler just so we could tote it with us on the drive back to Brooklyn.

what to eat and explore in norwich

The Mill at Simon Pearce

You may recognize the name Simon Pearce from the hand-blown, understatedly beautiful glassware we sell in our Shop. The restaurant at the company’s HQ takes a bolder stance on beauty, with views that overlook the Ottauquechee River. From caramelized broccoli to a Vermont cheese plate, this seasonally-changing menu makes good on local produce, not unexpectedly (see also: maple crème brûlée). A meal here is best paired with a visit to this awe-inspiring workshop.

Carpenter & Main

Just across the street from The Norwich Inn, the small plates–focused Carpenter & Main seems as though it was, at some point, a classic French restaurant, but has since loosened up and gotten more creative. You’ll still see classics like steak-frites or trout à la meunière in their entrees, but they’re forwarded by Southern (e.g. scallop BLT with fried green tomatoes) and pan-Asian (e.g. the best Thai larb lettuce wraps I’ve ever eaten) inflections.

White River Junction

A once-bustling railroad town a 10-minute drive from Norwich, White River Junction fell into decline in the 1970s, but has recently seen an uptick in real estate value thanks to its burgeoning arts scene (which locals seem to support). It is home to the prestigious Center for Cartoon Studies and Northern Stage, a theater showcasing playwright-forward performances. Arts, here, includes the culinary.

Kindred's Milk Bread

Kindred's Milk Bread by catherine margaret o'donnell

Hokkaido Milk Bread

Hokkaido Milk Bread by cynthia | two red bowls

Genius Flour Tortillas

Genius Flour Tortillas by AngelinaLaRue

King Arthur Flour's Never-Fail Biscuits

King Arthur Flour's Never-Fail Biscuits by Genius Recipes

Elixir, a restaurant housed in a 1930s freight house, is known for its creative cocktails (try the tequila-Campari duo called Chupacabra). Brick-walled Tuckerbox, a coffeehouse-meets-Turkish-restaurant, and the energetically-vibed Trail Break serves tacos with local beer. My favorite stop in this town was Piecemeal Pies, a British pie shop and hard cider bar with the best brunch in town (fried rabbit and waffles, for a change), in no small part due to designer-and-chef Justin Barrett’s woodsy and airy space.

Dan & Whit’s

The motto of this general store is: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Well, they’re not wrong, if you take the word "need" more literally than I do. But no matter your interpretation, the aisles of Dan & Whit’s are completely engrossing. The store seems to go on and on in a way that feels almost surreal; walk up the staircase and you’ll see winter coats, go around the deli counter and you’ll see all the hardware you need to build a treehouse. I put about 15 items in my cart, from hiking boots to enamel serving plates to a cookbook to local hot sauce, and then put them all back, because I realized the pleasure here for me was not necessarily in purchasing, but in exploring (but I would recommend buying some kind of Vermont paraphernalia; there’s just so much).

Quechee Gorge

Part of the Queechee State Park, this gorge—formed by a glacier 13,000 years ago—is sometimes referred to as “Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon.” An easy, 1.5-mile more-walking-than-hiking trail will take you along the crest of Dewey Pond to the gorge, which stands 168-feet above the Ottaquechee River. Alert: A picnic facing the waterfalls is a great place to enjoy all those things you baked at your King Arthur Flour class.

5 Bakery-Borrowed Secrets That Made Me a Better Baker
5 Bakery-Borrowed Secrets That Made Me a Better Baker

Convinced? Here's where you can stay

The Norwich Inn

This 35-room Victorian-style inn, veranda and all, has been a Main Street fixture since 1890. Eclectically curated paintings and photos cover the walls, and owner Joe Lavin told me that the hotel is rumored to house a ghost, albeit a friendly one (just a former owner who periodically checks if everything is running smoothly—which it most definitely is). The rooms are very cozy, almost too cozy, given how much effort it took me to wake up from my post–baking class nap. I’m glad I did, though, because the house-brewed beers I enjoyed at their lobby-located Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse—and the local Cheddar that features their Whistling Pig ale as an ingredient—was the perfect toast to my flour-dusted day.

Woodstock Inn & Resort

Roughly a 30-minute drive from King Arthur Flour is the picture-perfect-at-any-season town of Woodstock, Vermont. New England Today magazine calls this hotel its “grand dame.” Conceived by the nature-loving power couple of Laurance and Mary Rockefeller, the resort and spa faces a national park and boasts four different restaurants that serve farm-fresh dishes consulted on by the property’s Master Gardener.

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Hungry to hit the road? Check out more of our summer travel guides here.

Tags: Hit the Road, Snack