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Jun 27, 2014 06:21 AM

Norwich VT trip report

I already described the great Saturday farmers market in Norwich. Worth a drive.
A group of us gathered to take a private class at King Arthur Flour. You only need 8 to have a private class. I picked up one person at the Manchester Airport and gave her the scenic tour from Concord to Warner, stopping at School House Café in Warner/Davisville. Small but charming and everything is made from scratch. I chose a veggie wrap with a side of macaroni salad. I think this is a real test of good food because most macaroni sides are awful. I had had their cole slaw which is delicately flavored with fresh dill and knew that was good so had to try another. My friend also had a sandwich and potato salad which she liked very much.

We had dinner reservations at the Norwich Inn where we were staying. Very good dinner. I think everyone was happy with their meal and the service. I chose duck breast since it's something I rarely have. I did not care for the grilled frisee that came with it but that's a matter of taste. The fingerling potatoes were nice. Since we were staying there, I enjoyed breakfast, too. One morning eggs - heurvos style (sp) and the second morning a California eggs benedict with avocado. For overnight guests, there is free coffee and baked muffins in the morning and a lovely living room where you can enjoy them.

Lunch the next day was at King Arthur Café where we planned to meet before our 2pm class. The café was very busy. You order at one place and get a buzzer when your order is ready for pickup. No table service. Unfortunately I had a trainee on the cash register when I ordered and she needed help. I got the wrong beverage but didn't bother complaining. Most of the tables were taken so we were glad the weather was gorgeous and chose to eat outdoors at patio tables. I got the pork meatballs banh mi which was very tasty and very messy. Get a fork. This was very different to the banh mi sandwiches I get at Saigon Asia market on weekends when I can. After class, we had tons of tapas pastries to eat so some of us got salads to go and just ate and talked outdoors again. I got a pre-packaged kale salad that was very good.

That was dinner. We gathered back at the Norwich Inn for wine and talk.

Saturday morning breakfast at the Inn but we should have just had coffee and a muffin and then eaten our way thru the farmers market. Next we went to St Gaudens where there does not seem to be any restaurants. Tried to find the gas station Chinese restaurant which we had passed on Friday when I took a wrong turn out of downtown Hanover but of course, couldn't find it again. No one in the car wanted to eat at a chain restaurant so we ignored rumbling stomachs and I headed to White River Junction.

We lucked out! The Tuckerbox looked good and turned out to be a Turkish restaurant, counter service only. If I'd been smart, I would have studied the menu first before ordering because I had no idea what a lot of things were. I decided to order a sausage and cheese wrapped in phyllo and deep fried plus Salad Istanbul. The sausage was yummy. The salad was beautifully composed: marinated onion rings, carrots, greens, etc but I didn't think there was enough dressing. It was very light, maybe mostly lemon juice.

Back in Norwich we wandered over to the park soon after 5pm for the solstice celebration by Revels North. This was a family event with a lot for kids to do and looked like many families were enjoying picnic suppers.

Dinner was at Carpenter and Main right across the street from the Norwich Inn. Walking distance was easy and good since much alcohol was enjoyed. My drink was the Sailor's Special which feature some rums and some orange flavored liquors. Slightly tart/bitter but good. I was impressed that some who lived on the Cape enjoyed plates of oysters. I did not expect great oysters so far inland. This restaurant offers a lot of tapas but the servings are quite small - nice so you can try a variety but too small for much sharing. I ordered some barbecued pork belly sliders (2), tea smoked chicken lettuce rolls with hoisin sauce (three leaves DIY plate of ingredients), and golden beet salad. The only complaints I heard was the chicken in the evening special chicken tagine was a little dry. Taste avocado fries for the first time, interesting and tasty. Also thought the cod cake was good. Definitely a great place for a group of friends to sit, eat, talk and drink.

Next morning very early departure for an early flight so after leaving my friend off, I had breakfast at the Airport Diner. Adequate and cheap but not where I would go for a good breakfast.

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  1. What a great review! Thanks for sharing your adventure. I know so little about this part of Vermont. :)

    1. Sounds like a well-rounded, food-filled good time trip with your friend. Nice report!

      If you posted info on your group class experience at King Arthur Flour I may have missed it (if so I'm sure I'll find it soon), but if you haven't had a chance yet I'll keep my eyes open for it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dave B

        Dave B, the class was an excellent experience. One member of the group had taken a class on her own last year (flat bread) and thought a shared cooking experience would be a great meet and greet for a bunch who have been exchanging recipes and what's for dinner on a travel forum (non-travel topics forum was closed to new registrations over a year ago). Since it only took 8 to have a private class, we picked a date and made arrangements with King Arthur Flour. We chose a Friday and tapas.

        The classroom is perfect with roomy work stations. Our instructor was very thorough and professional and worked with an assistant to keep us supplied with ingredients and helped check our progress. We made two versions of empanadas (same dough) and a blitz puff pastry. Fillings and other ingredients had been made ahead for us (i.e. roasted red pepper). We were given basic measuring instruction which many people do wrong. It was only recently while visiting the KA website that I learned my drag and pack against the side of the flour canister was causing me to add too much flour to a recipe. We also learned the technique for incorporating butter and lard into the recipe. The puff pastry required a different kind of kneading technique.

        We had a very busy three hours. The instructor was either teaching and demoing or we were working. A monster oven and monster fridge make it possible for many different baking sheets to get processed in a timely manner. We put our own doughs into the fridge but the assistant handled the oven and delivered finished things to each student.

        I think we had 12 in the class with maybe 4 empty seats (back row). There is a large mirror over the instruction table so those of us in first row didn't have to go up to watch but we did have to go up to feel the dough. One person had difficulty walking due to foot surgery. We had tall chairs on wheels but we really had to stand for most of it.

        The instructor's puff pastry dough failed because it was standing so long the butter in it got too warm. We think she did this on purpose so we would see the difference. They were quick to correct each student if their dough or technique wasn't right. Since two of us shared making one recipe of puff pastry and then split it in two before refrigerating prior to final rolling, we were surprised that the final result was different. My dough puffed up nicely and hers didn't. We decided I had worked quickly while she tarried allowing her dough to get too warm. Really interesting to be able to compare that way.

        We had a different instructor than the person who took a class last year but she rated all very highly. I went into this thinking it was a special treat but not a necessity. I'm not a great baker but I've experimented. Now I think a class like this is very helpful to someone trying to learn. I noticed one person who reviewed the KA puff pastry recipe on their website thought it was awful - just a pie dough. Well, our recipe was only slightly different and it was definitely a quick puff pastry with completely different character than the empanada dough. I bet the reviewer over-kneaded and let the dough get too warm. The butter will actually leach out.

        I definitely recommend the instructor Karen O and her helper, Robin. I also plan to take another class. The entire group wants a repeat get together.

        1. re: dfrostnh

          As someone who also was in this group, I want to add my kudos for the class. It was really wonderful and fun and imparted great info for novice as well as more experienced bakers. The ingredients furnished were high quality and the instructor was great.
          Her coming around and feeling each student's dough was really helpful.
          The puff pastry was easy and worked well. I never buy it because I don't like the flavor but this is quick and relatively easy.

      2. Great report! I have friends in Hanover and have enjoyed the Norwich Farmers Market and Carpenter & Main too.

        1. Hounds- doing some research for trip to this area in a few weeks. I'm looking for a nice, relaxed dinner for a bunch of moms who rarely get to finish their dinners while sitting down. Probably not ethnic, as we're coming from Boston and have plenty of Asian/Indian options here. Price not important, we'd prefer upscale and we don't want to rush. Would you recommend the restaurant at the Norwich Inn or Carpenter and Main? Any other interesting eat tips? Thanks!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Parsnipity

            See which menu appeals to you. Carpenter and Main has a lot of small plates but we thought they were a little too small for sharing among our largish group. Three plates made for an interesting meal with one being served as a salad/appetizer. The waitress was very friendly and the bar seemed very casual. It's not a large place. I thought the Norwich Inn had a more relaxing atmosphere but they also had excellent waitresses (had two breakfasts and one dinner there). Since the Norwich Inn has both a porch where you can enjoy a drink and a small outdoor patio where you can enjoy a drink, you might like to take your time outside, talking, before you go inside to eat. I would call both places upscale because of their menus but they were also comfortable and casual. My friends thought the beer at the Norwich Inn was wonderful. The bartender at Carpenter and Main might have been more creative with mixed drinks. I would think you could also go to the outdoor patio at the Norwich Inn to enjoy after dinner coffee or drinks. The Norwich Inn also has a large beautiful old fashioned living room where you could meet and talk before going into dinner.

            1. re: dfrostnh

              Thanks- I think we'll probably end up eating at both over the course of the weekend. Made a Sat dinner reservation at Carpenter & Main and we'll probably do a breakfast and lunch at the Inn. Appreciate your feedback.