Mister Up’s, Middlebury VT

(Honeymoon flashback: In July 2009, Marie and I took a road trip up to Montreal and back, enjoying some really terrific meals over our ten-day expedition. I’ve selected some of those great restaurants, and, once per month, we’ll tell you about them.)

This is Marie, contributing a honeymoon flashback about a trip we took to Middlebury in Vermont. When we were planning the itinerary for this trip, it became fairly clear that a visit to Vermont and my old alma mater would be easy to work into the plan. Vermont, after all, could fit into Georgia several times over, and although in my memory of carless college days the state was inconveniently large, to my Georgia-trained eye now everything there is convenient to everywhere else.

The drive down from Montreal was a treat. The countryside in that area is beautiful. In an upcoming flashback, my husband will provide commentary on that topic, because he tells the Tale of The Spooky Hotel better than I do. We even got to stop at a little roadside fruit stand in southern Quebec (I do love those, sometimes to the apparent bafflement of my guy) and pick up some of the proprietor’s homemade jam and fruit syrup.

As we got closer to Middlebury I realized what a treasure box of memories the place is to me. Even the drive through the countryside made me happy, bringing up memories of the field I looked for on every trip where the farmer had buffalo, and the pick-your-own place where a friend of mine and I went together and I got my first chance to fill a bucket with blueberries.

Along the way from Burlington to Middlebury, we passed a little store that I’d always looked at while being driven in someone else’s car or the van pool to or from the airport, Dakin Farms. Man, I had been missing out all along, and so had the people whose cars I was using. When we left Middlebury and returned north, we stopped and had a great time shopping. Dakin Farms has some fabulous stuff, and whoever was driving me all those years ago would have done well to stop and get a jug of their syrup, or a bottle of their small label soft drinks, or a can of their baked beans which are unlike any others I’ve had. Seriously, they may be locally famous for their ham and smoked meats, but if you are any kind of BBQ fan you will want to try out those maple flavored beans. I could eat a can by themselves as a meal.

As we came into the town of Middlebury itself, I was planning on having us eat at the little sandwich place where I had spent the bulk of my college-constrained pittance of outside-the-meal-plan lunch dollars. It was sadly no longer around, although we had a fun time wandering around looking for it in case it had moved. The shopping area where it had lived was still quirky and had many local businesses, but nothing that had remained of the ones I remembered. The only place that would do for a second was Mr. Ups, of which more in a bit.

The second and third places where I spent my money (on food, that is – I did of course bring Grant to the used book stores which are delightful but there is no room for them here) were the Otter Creek Bakery and the Middlebury Market (which back then wasn’t also a cafe). The Market was just a place to pick up snacks and ice cream and black plums ripened in the sun in front of the store. To a Georgia-trained eye that seemed decadent; you could not possibly expect to keep fruit long enough to sell it if you did that down in these parts.

The bakery was a place to revel in the delights of all things sugary and yeasty. I loved that place as a college student –as I recall, they provided the bread for the sandwich place I loved– and should have bought up half the store when we stopped by. Regrettably I restrained myself to a few cookies and some moments lingering to admire the loaves stacked up on the shelves behind the counter and the cheeses they had added since my last visits. They, too, had added a cafe to their repertoire, though since the space was still very small it was a touch crowded. However, we had already decided on Mr. Ups for lunch, so I tore myself away. The raspberry jam cookies purchased on that visit would come in very handy the next day, when I would regret not having bought twice as many. Oh, I miss that place! If cheap teleportation is ever invented they will have me back as a loyal customer instantly. But on to our lunch.

It took me a moment and some directions from a local to find the restaurant, because although it was a highly memorable place it wasn’t one I actually had gone to very often. My budget was more of the $2.50 sandwich level than the (then) $7 or $10 meal variety. Still, it was the place to go for special occasions, and where I brought my folks when they came up for my graduation. Also, they had baked goods themselves, some wonderful zucchini bread available on the salad bar being a particular favorite of mine. Honestly, although I remember the food as being tasty, the memories of sitting on the deck with my guy and watching the river flow past are stronger for me from this visit – I think I was having memories for lunch instead of the sandwich that was actually on my plate.

It was deeply satisfactory to be able to provide Grant with an opportunity to have some gazpacho, since he’d had a number of disappointments in the cold tomato soup area for quite a few times that year. I can’t exactly claim credit for that since I’d no recollection at the time of any such item being on the menu, but seeing his eyes light up on noticing that was worth stopping all on its own, and luckily it was even quite good.