Guest Author - Kaleel Sakakeeny
When R and B master, Fats Domino, with his easy-rolling, boogie-woogie rhythm and blues vocals sang about getting his thrills on Blueberry Hill, he wasn't talking about the inn of the same name way up here in Goshen, Vermont.
Fats' New Orleans with its jambalaya, cod fish pie, me oh my oh, is a long way from the hands-on, fun, New England baking workshop this Blueberry Hill offers several times a year.
But you can still get your thrills here.
"Better grease the measuring cup before measuring out the molasses," baking leader Sherri Maxman, a Manhattan native, calls out good-naturedly to the eight of us zipping around the inn's big, bright and cozy kitchen.
"Is this elastic enough?" one of the group asks, holding out a tray of just-mixed hazelnut biscotti dough.
Maxman probes the mass with an expert finger. "Perfect!" she says.
"Did you say baking powder or soda?" someone yells from the other side of the kitchen.
And so it goes from 10-1 on a clear, cold Vermont day made warm by the sun from skylights, the convection ovens and the camaraderie of the weekend bakers.
The emphasis is on fun. Serious bakery chefs need not attend.
The spice cookies, pretzels, blueberry scones, biscotti and of all things, Whoopie Pies, were more about a spirited, friendly weekend, and not about precise measurements and arch baking traditions.
And the Blueberry Hill Inn is a perfect setting.
This is not a typical New England B&B. Sure, there's the obligatory fire in the sitting room, and day-long complimentary coffee, tea and home-made chocolate chip cookies. And the miles of x-country skiing and hiking/snowshoe trails are well groomed to help work off the calories.
But owners Shari Brown and Tony Clark cleverly created an atrium where rich, huge leafy plants line brick walkways leading to tastefully furnished, understated rooms. And all are blessed with views of the surrounding, dramatic Green Mountain National Forest.
While the ovens do their thing, and baking timers ding, the group buzzes about like anxious parents-to be, inevitably bumping into each other, putting finishing touches on trays of scones or scrubbing pots and pans. The more skilled bakers cheerfully give advice to those of us who are truly "baking challenged."
At the end of the day, perched on the pillows in our rooms, is a big, neat bag filled with our freshly baked spice cookies, scones and the like...great reminders of fun memories made with more than a pinch of pride.
While some of the goodies were a bit too sweet for my tooth, Maxman promises a rotating menu of things to bake, including savories and fruit-based goodies. And the recipes she hands out are easy to follow.
Since one does not live by baked goods alone, the inn offers an innovative menu of daily specials, including fine cheeses, wild salmon and homemade fettuccine in Truffle oil, for example. Meals are carefully served at a long table with colorful flourishes including fresh flowers and candles...and the din of up-beat conversation.
For information on the Baking Weekends and the inn, contact:
Blueberry Hill Inn
Goshen, Vermont, 05733
Blueberry Hill Inn
Kaleel Sakakeeny has provided family travel insights and observations to the travel industry and consumers for many years as the Family Travel Editor at Travel Weekly, the publication for travel professionals.
He is also senior travel writer for the award-winning Boston Parents Paper, and travel editor at Metro/Boston as well as on-air travel correspondent for Business Radio 1060, where his travel broadcasts known as Audio Postcards and Travel Minutes are heard daily.
Can't get enough Vermont cooking? Check out the River Run Cookbook, featuring recipes from the tiny River Run restaurant in Plainfield, Vermont.