September 13th, 2010

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New England Roadtrip, July 11, part 3: Dottie's Diner

After some antiquing in nearby Woodbury, we arrived at Dottie's Diner at 2:30, half an hour before closing time. (We would have done a lot more antiquing if we hadn't called ahead.) Dottie's may be the only place that we visited on this trip that had "Diner" in the name but didn't have any stainless steel showing on the exterior.
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Inside, though, it looks completely dineresque.
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We were pretty full and we had plans for dessert, so we split an order of the chicken pie. (Dottie's offers both a traditional chicken pie with just chicken, or a pie with chicken and vegetables; we ordered the version with vegetables.) This was superb. The crust was crisp, just softening under gravy. The filling was sumptuous and savory. The pie brought back fond childhood memories of my great-aunt Lois's chicken pot pie; she would have used a single biscuit crust instead of a double pie crust, but the filling is much the same, pure comfort food.
The mashed potatoes were also very rich and savory, with warm broad flavors of garlic and butter. The vegetables were excellent, but perhaps overshadowed by the chicken pie and the mashed potatoes. This was definitely one of our favorite dishes.
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We had made plans for dessert from the moment that we put Dottie's on our itinerary, because the Sterns' book 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late mentioned the donut bread pudding. Mm, donut bread pudding. How could that be anything but decadent and delightful?
Unfortunately, I found it too rich and heavy; I would have preferred a bread pudding made from bread. My theory is this: if you feel that a cake donut is improved by being dunked in milk, then the donut bread pudding might be a winner for you.
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We followed up lunch at Dottie's with more lengthy shopping at a nearby antique store. The proprietor was watching the World Cup game, which led to this interchange:
"Could you open this case for me, please? I could wait for a commercial, if that would be more convenient."
"There are no commercials. This is a real sport."
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New England Roadtrip, July 11, part 4: Tulmeadow Farm

Rural Connecticut makes for some very pretty driving, but I'm not in the habit of stopping to take pictures. Ah well.

Our next destination was Tulmeadow Farm, in West Simsbury, CT. Tulmeadow farm has apparently been operating as a farm since 1768, though only making ice cream since 1994.
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One curiosity about Tulmeadow Farm: it's under an easement from Simsbury Land Trust that requires it to stay as a farm. I'm not a real estate lawyer, but my layman's understanding of the easement is that the Simsbury Land Trust has essentially bought the rights to use that land as anything but a farm, and intends to hoard those rights in perpetuity, so that this farmland never gets turned into condominiums or whatnot. I don't feel qualified to evaluate whether this is a good thing or not, but it is at least interesting as a means for people who want to preserve local farming to put their money where their mouth is.

Of the three farms where we got ice cream on this trip, this was the only one that smelled strongly of farm (where by "farm", I probably mean "ruminant digestion".)

We were still rather full after Dottie's, so we split a single cup of black raspberry ice cream. I think I was too sated to really appreciate it, though I remember that it was good. The late afternoon sun gave me an inadvertently artsy photo:
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One last photo of the sign over the counter:
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Up next: Judie's
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New England Roadtrip, July 11, part 5: Judie's Restaurant

Scenic overlooks help me a lot, because they tell me "this is where you should stop and take a picture of the goodness you've been seeing." This is from western Massachusetts, near Hadley.
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We'd picked a hotel in Hadley to position us in striking distance of the knitter's mecca Lori wanted to visit the next day. A miniature golf course nearby tempted me. I'm fond of miniature golf, since it evokes childhood memories of playing with my grandparents. We decided that we were still full enough that we could play a round before dinner. I've mislaid the scorecard, but I believe that Lori won the first nine, but I won on the back nine.
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For dinner, we drove into Amherst in hopes of finding an Italian restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk. Unfortunately, it was closed - and it seemed that most of Amherst's restaurants were closed on Sunday evening. By Hobson's Choice, we settled on Judie's Restaurant. On entering, we quickly decided that this was a restaurant where the faculty ate, instead of students; it was nicely appointed, with handpainted tables and classical music playing. "Classical music playing" may not give exactly the right impression, though - this is the first time I remember hearing Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" playing over a restaurant sound system. It definitely added a certain something to the soup course.
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Judie's specialty is massive popovers with the volume of a loaf of bread and the mass of a muffin. Lori ordered a cold sundried cherry chicken salad sandwich on a popover. This was pretty good; the dried cherries and toasted almonds made it taste very summery.
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I ordered the gumbo popover. I might have enjoyed this more if it had a slightly different name. The gumbo was reasonably good; I believe the mushrooms are nontraditional for gumbo, but the nature of gumbo makes it hard to declare that any ingredient is utterly inauthentic. But because it was called a "gumbo popover" (instead of a name like "gumbo with popover", which was how it was served) I kept trying to put the gumbo in the popover and eat the combination. And this didn't work very well; the popover was tough enough that it needed special attention to cut or bite, and doing that special attention made any gumbo in the popover spill out. I would have been happier leaving them separate.
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A view of the inside of the popover:
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For dessert, we shared a "Summerberry Stack", made with layers of cake, berries, and cream. I wasn't wild about it, but Lori was delighted.
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Up next: Webs yarn store