We pull up to downtown Hartford in the Greyhound bus and are quickly whisked off by one four-legged, black, furry friend, and my aunt Angie and her boyfriend Dave. First stop: Jamaica. Well, Jamaican food at least. We pull into the parking lot lining a short strip of stores and duck into this small Jamaica take-out place Dave’s friend has been raving about to grab lunch. We picnic on the beautiful, quiet lawn of UConn’s law school and then hit the road to begin our trip.
After a beautiful drive through the crimson tree-lined Connecticut roads, we make a quick stop at Nodine’s Smokehouse to buy some bacon and check out their smoked turkey for Thanksgiving. Their selection of bacon is impressive and the taste is unrivaled. We each enjoy a few thick and meaty slices with our blueberry buckwheat pancakes the next morning.
A short drive later we pull into Thorncrest Farm – a dairy farm with a freshly built barn only a few years old. Dave and Angie introduce us to the owners, Clint and his wife Kim, two of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet. A half hour old calf lays on the ground beneath her mother’s legs as we watch in awe as she struggles to stand. What miracle of life that animals mature so much quicker than humans! In a year or two she’ll be having her own calf.
We meet Kim in her chocolate shop – Milk House Chocolates – which she started just under a year ago after teaching herself how to make homemade chocolates using her cows’ own milk. Kim lets us sample the chocolates and tells us her story – how she sometimes finds inspiration in the middle of the night and has to test out her idea or how she tried using both Jersey milk and Holstein milk in different chocolates to get just the right flavor. After an amicable chat with Clint and Kim, we buy a few boxes of chocolate, see the barn, and head out. Turns out they sell some of their milk to Cabot to make their cheese!
The next stop: The Dutch Epicure Shoppe – an old fashioned store selling Dutch and European products, cured deli meats, cheeses, and homemade goodies like the mocha mouse (Dave’s personal favorite, which he kindly shared with us). We buy a few cheeses, a mocha mouse, and head to our next stop – Arethusa ice cream.
Started by two Manolo Blahnik executives (designer shoe company for those who don’t know) Arethusa is a pasture-raised dairy farm that now sells all of their dairy products in their ice cream shop. They believe in making milk and ice cream “like they used to taste,” in other words, without any unnecessary added ingredients. We sample some cheeses they had out (delicious!) as well as their ice cream (of course) and take some butter and cheese with us. We even run into the owners on our way out – who say “hey” like we are old friends! Who knew this tour involved celebrities!
After our brief encounter with stardom, we head back to Dave and Angie’s to rest and find some dinner, well stocked with meat, cheese, and desserts (Dave and Angie were smart enough to bring a cooler to keep everything cool and out of reach from Jackson, the dog’s, hungry snout).
We dubbed the tour Dave and Angie’s Fat and Happy Tour thanks to all of the goodies we indulged in. And thanks to Angie’s reminder, we remembered to take some of Kim’s delicious chocolates back to Boston with us. My personal favorites were the sea salt caramel and the almond truffle, though the chocolate mint made with fresh mint from Kim’s garden has an amazing fresh mint taste that you don’t usually find in chocolates.
When we left Sunday afternoon, Angie asked when we’d be back again. Unfortunately, not until Thanksgiving, though now there are plenty of reasons to go back sooner.