Snowy footprints from sap pail to sap pail ...
Mid week is the perfect time to go to the sugar shack for the year's supply of maple syrup and the treat of a huge pancake breakfast. Last weekend was Maple Weekend in New Hampshire and every shack in the state was overrun with local families and tourists wanting to see how syrup is made, eat sugar on snow, chow down at pancake breakfasts, and buy up the sweet stuff. SB and I decided to wait and get our 'fix' when the lines were down and some of the excitement waned, fogies that we are. This year, we headed down the road to Mason.
Parker's Maple Barn and Restaurant is a southern New Hampshire institution ... let that be said. There are many sugar shacks in the state, but this place has the whole operation down to a science. They produce sugar, sell it in their well-stocked gift shop, market gift baskets that can be sent hither and yon, serve up platters of pancakes, waffles, French toast and the fixin's for breakfast-minded folk and maple baked beans, maple slathered short ribs and the other fixin's for the lunch-minded people in the barn restaurant! As Silent Bob exclaimed, "It's a cornucopia !"
Nestled on a back road off the beaten path of NH Route 123, over many a springtime frost heave, Parker's is a typical old log cabin complex of buildings situated in Mason, New Hampshire. There's a big old dirt parking complex and plenty of rail fences to guide folks toward the restaurant, along the path to the gift shop and across the way to the sugarhouse. The stacks of wood needed to fuel the sugar operation are piled alongside the sugarhouse and nests of pails sit under cover, waiting for 'sap service'. All very rustic, all just fitting with the home spun atmosphere of the place. The restaurant has long tables down the center of the barn fit for familes and large group seating with smaller tables around the perimeter of the room. It all very cozy, comfortable, and casual ... you get a good big carafe of coffee and an extensive menu passed to you as you sit down and then you settle back for people watching, gabbing, and smelling wonderful smells as you wait for your pancake stack to come out of the kitchen. There's a lot of bustling about as folks come and go, families walk little ones here and there to look out windows and peek at pictures on the walls, and waitresses tote huge trays of food to hungry customers.
Leftovers from a logging operation fuel the sugarhouse fires ... no waste in New England!
Most operations have gone over to gravity-fed plastic tubing systems for tapping the maples, but these old buckets are still used in places with small production.
Either way, the sap ends up boiling its way down to a thick sweet seasonal nectar that brings precious income to the rural New England economy.
SB and I spent a late morning lingering over the paper placemat and a cup of coffee, savoring scrambled eggs and French toast with Parker's maple syrup, bacon, sausage, and a slab of ham on the side, a three stack of buckwheat flapjacks and a glass of orange juice to cut the sweetness. My God, what a breakfast! We loved the place ... every waiter and waitress in the restaurant had been run ragged earlier in the morning when two busloads of folks arrived to partake, but were they grumpy? Not one bit! The food was fresh, hot and delish and the service was top notch. Our waitress even grabbed the doggie bag that I forgot and made sure I had it for the pups before I walked off in a sugar haze! Now, that's what I call kindness!
After stopping into the gift shop for our seasonal syrup purchase, we headed home and I got down to the business of maple walnut fudge ... this batch will be for us, but another batch will be put up for auction next week. Hit the link below for information on how you can bid on a pound of maple walnut fudge and a small jug of Grade A medium amber maple syrup that the folks at Parker's donated to the cause. Proceeds of the on-line bake sale and auction will go to the Second Harvest Japan - food relief for the displaced citizens of Japan's earthquake catastrophe.
Two pounds of fudge just waiting for cutting ... thank you, Parker's !
Thank you, Mother Nature !