Ah, Newburyport - perhaps my favorite of all those villages, the place I could easily visit each weekend, the town which every other town should emulate. My family has a bit of history with the area, so I try to get there each summer. I'm so glad I was able eat fresh seafood at Michael's, sample fresh beer at Newburyport Brewing Company, enjoy live music in the waterfront park, browse endearing local shops, and eat raspberry chip ice cream at Gram's Homemade Ice Cream.
Gram's makes many fantastic flavors, but years (decades?) of trips have led me to zero in on this one. The raspberry flavor of this bright pink ice cream is not the diluted, overly saccharine version you usually find. Rather, it is bright and tangy, with a freshness (and occasional seed) that convinces me that real berries are in it. Imagine a sorbet's pert flavor with an ice cream's composition. Then, it has two kinds of chocolate chips! First, we have large, flat, semisweet chips. These brittle additions add a nice crunch, though they don't really melt in your mouth. Then, we have the scene-stealers. Imagine the tiniest possible peanut butter cups, but instead of having peanut butter on the inside, they're filled with raspberry jam. Such glorious nuggets were liberally incorporated into the ice cream, so that one could get tangy berry freshness, smooth creaminess, a bitter chocolate crunch, the warmth of milk chocolate, and a small burst of fruit all in one bite. A treat if I've ever had one!
Gram's always gets me going, but I was beyond excited to discover a new bakery off State Street! Buttermilk Baking Company's unassuming sign somehow caught my eye; when I walked up to their storefront and opened the door, I knew I had found the Clear Flour of Newburyport. You're greeted by the heady scent of warm, buttery dough and fresh fruit; you see cases filled with fruit tarts, pies, cakes, cookies, scones, all with that hearty and rustic look. It turns out that they're a year-old farm-to-table operation that clearly takes pride in what they've hand-made from local sources. (Thanks to Buttermilk's site [linked above] for this image!)
I took a small peach raspberry pie home, and boy, did it deliver! It made a fantastic visual impression, due to a lightly browned crust ornamented with sparkling turbinado sugar and occasional oozed filling. Also, I love the little dough heart that crowned it all!
The interior was similarly impressive. The filling had peach slices, finely-chopped peach bits, and whole raspberries, reduced by the oven into a soft and gooey mixture. I doubt any sugar was added to the filling, it was so delightfully tart. There may have been spices in there - I couldn't quite place what I'd call a faint chutney quality - but that quality didn't take away from the main event, the superior fresh fruit.
The combination of crust and filling was perfection. The crust was solid, chewy, and buttery, and it really stood up to the dense filling. Its bottom and sides did not get soggy! No flimsy flakes here, phew. The filling had mostly settled into the pie's base, but the top crust crumbled nicely (with its crunchy sugary bits!) into the filling to guarantee all bites had fruit and pastry.
Buttermilk offers a wide range of pies. I wonder what they'll have when I'm next in town. Will I bring home an apple cranberry? A strawberry rhubarb? Or even a Mississippi Mud?!
I saw a different side of Rhode Island's tony town this weekend. A past excursion involved the lovely Cliff Walk and amblings among stately homes, while this trip centered on the (unfortunately tourist-trap-like) shopping area and waterfront scene. At least there were delicious desserts among the tacky tees!
To me, fudge isn't eaten under "normal" circumstances. I won't crave it in the city or my hometown. Rather, I'll get it on getaways only. It's like it can't exist without quaint architecture, wildflower gardens, cobblestone streets, a town square, and fresh mountain or seaside air. Fortunately, such places tend to have at least one small-batch fudgery - and Newport was no exception! The Newport Fudgery's fudge is hand-whipped in copper kettles; imagine churning butter on a larger (and tastier) scale. They had at least 10 flavors available, so I left with (only) two! I ate the gooey treats over the next few days. I don't have pictures for you, but one description might get your mouth watering.
The fudge's texture was perfect - talk about incredibly smooth and consistent, entirely lacking the graininess that often spoils fudge. Flavor-wise, I'm happiest with the chocolate peanut butter fudge. It was a creamy, harmonious blend of milk chocolate and peanut butter; I really can't imagine a better expression of those two ingredients together. The only downside? It had occasional peanuts mixed in, which got soggy over time. Gross! The triple chocolate fudge was much less appealing, even though it lacked nuts. I thought of Baker's chocolate squares, fudgified - sure, you can tell it's made predominantly from semisweet chocolate (as the other two chocolate flavors stayed hidden), but there's also a waxy, chalky taste that really disappoints. I wonder if more sugar would have helped? This was my first semisweet fudge, and I won't need another.
I ate a completely different dessert on-site! Newport Cookie Company has a delightful bakery store that offers cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream in a tea room-inspired setting. Their big draw, for us, was the make-your-own ice cream sandwich. You could choose any of their varied cookie offerings, and an ice cream flavor, to create your own dessert heaven. I chose a heath bar cookie, a chocolate peanut butter chip cookie, and cookies 'n' cream ice cream.
Look at that monster! The ice cream was made by Gifford's, a Maine creamery whose distribution pattern seems to match wherever I'm allowed to have fudge. (I've seen their New England-inspired flavors before, at Woodman's of Essex - a fried-seafood institution just a short drive from Crane Beach.) Their cookies 'n' cream flavor is solid, though they use more Oreo crumbs than actual cookie pieces. The cookie "bread" was what really stole the show! The chocolate peanut butter chip cookie was lumpy and soft, almost like a chewy brownie, with a pleasantly rich chocolate flavor. The chips were sweet and gooey, obviously preferable to actual peanuts. The heath bar cookie was flatter and stronger, made of a sugar cookie dough with heath bar crumbles scattered throughout. I appreciated the cookie's (very high) candy density! I love the caramel notes and solid crunch that toffee brings to baked goods.
That said, these three parts didn't stay together too well. I spooned most of my ice cream out the sandwich's sides, and broke off cookie pieces as they crumbled away. However, those cookie bits that got soggy with melting ice cream were particularly good.
I'd stop by the Cookie Company again, though who knows if I'd get a cookie? I might have to encourage their tendency to decorate with my favorite color - seriously, all non-cookie items had purple flourishes - by buying a cupcake. :-)