What I learned in New England this year
Mrs PG and I visited my parents and other family this month. Some of the time was loosely connected to my baking activities and a pleasant part of the journey.
First, we visited Orchard Hills Bakery in Alstead, NH based on an entry in the "Farine" blog from last January. Let me say that if you approach the bakery from Gilsum, NH as we did, you won't have to worry about being caught in a speed trap along the way. The roads are rough and bumpy enough that the local constabulary needn't worry about speeders as much as they do parts that might have fallen off vehicles as they traverse the roads. The bakery is located on a hard packed gravel road off the paved roads. It's worth the trip.
The bakery is sited on a farmstead that goes way back to the owner's grandparents, maybe even older than that. They had been pressing apples for cider the day before and we could smell the leftover pressings despite the rain. Inside the barn that holds the bakery is an impressive Llopsis oven from Spain. I admit to admiring the effort and vision of the owner, Noah Elbers, to go this level as much as I admire his breads. They are excellent and remind me of how much more practice I need with my own bread. We bought a loaf of the Maple-Oatmeal featured by MC in her posting and a batard of their French Bread. The cookies we bought didn't last much past the driveway of the farm.
After visiting Acadia National Park, we stopped at a Hannafords supermarket in Ellsworth, ME to do a little foodie shopping. There, I located some made in Maine mustard from Raye's and a bag of buckwheat flour from the Bouchard Family Farm of Fort Kent, ME. I don't have any experience with buckwheat flour but that didn't stop me. We always enjoy finding local foods on our trips.
Way back in Spring I posted about Rose32 Bakery in Gilbertville, MA. We stopped in for lunch on Saturday and found a busy place with lots of locals and the owners on site. The Mitchells have a good thing going on. The pastries aren't the common supermarket fare and worth the cost. They have a good selection of breads, cooked in their Llopsis oven, with excellent flavor. Breakfast and lunch is served by an efficient and enthusiastic staff. Beer and wine is available as well as the required coffee and tea. I also met the co-owner of Ruggles Hill, a goat farm that supplies goat cheese for sale at the bakery. He told me he was happy to buy his breads from Rose32 until he had time to build his own WFO. Happy locals eating, a happy staff, and happy owners, there isn't much more needed for an enthusiastic recommendation than those facts.
It's time to get back into the kitchen to practice and improve my breads after tasting what professional bakers can do. I certainly learned that much.