Sunday Drives. Destination: Barnard, VT
Last Saturday, the sun crossed above the imaginary line of the earth’s equator and the length of day and night were equal… ish. The autumnal equinox, some would argue, isn’t as momentous an occasion as the vernal equinox, but here in Vermont, I’d say it’s otherwise. Mainly because spring takes a painfully long time to kick in, while fall gets busy blushing leaves and dropping temps with compelling speed.
Which is why, on the first Sunday of fall, instead of puttering in my garden for the better part of the day, I had an itch to get in the car and go. There were things to do, places to eat, trails to hike, all that have been on my wish-list for months. With the lazy days of summer officially behind us, our family loaded into the car and set out on a Sunday drive.
With my husband at the wheel and myself in charge of navigation (a non-job, thank you GPS), we snaked down interstate 89 for an hour and a half admiring the Green Mountains, still verdant in color but waning. Miraculously, there were no fights from the back seat owing to the car snacks and audiobook on play. I even managed to make progress knitting a Christmas stocking without getting carsick before arriving at our first stop:
Worthy Burger, South Royalton.
Ever since State14 contributor Eric Hodet took a job at this famous Vermont burger joint, his Instagram feed has made me salivate over pics of towering grass-fed-beef burgers slathered in secret sauce, accompanied by crispy looking fries cooked in Wagyu beef tallow. It’s enough to make you seethe with hanger. After months of enduring this Worthy-Burger-tease, I was good and ready to try one for myself.
The restaurant is an old freight house situated on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. Or maybe we were the ones who parked on the wrong side, which made our walk to the establishment a 30-second adventure especially fun for our six- and seven-year-olds. Inside, the layout reminded me of a train car—narrow and cozy. The line moved quickly and we could see our buddy Eric in the galley busy cooking burgers over a hardwood fire.
I was tempted for half a second to order the chicken wings, but we all went with the Worthy Burger and fries. The hardest part was deciding on which craft beer I’d wash it down with. I settled on the Edward, and by settled I mean hit the jackpot. While I know there are so many Vermont beers I have yet to taste, I’m a sucker for this Hill Farmstead celebrity. The meal was most definitely worthy of the trip— thick and juicy burgers, crisp, perfectly salted fries, and all was well portioned. With bellies full, we thanked Eric and made our way back across the tracks, piled in the car and set out for our final destination:
Feast and Field Market, Barnard.
Feast and Field Market, where the Royal Frog Ballet would be performing their Surrealist Cabaret that evening, is the site of a weekly farmer’s market open on Thursdays from June through October. Typical offerings include vegetables from Heartwood Farm, pasture-raised beef and pork from Eastman Farm, Carin’s Kombucha, ice cream and milk from Kiss the Cow Farm, and last but not least, cider wine and specialty foods from Fable Farm Fermentory.
Fable Farm’s wild-fermented, raw ciders made with heirloom apple varieties and local yeasts, have been getting quite the buzz. Just yesterday, I came across a full-page write-up on the producer in Bon Appetit. Luckily, that evening, there were some Fable wines available for purchase before the show. I went with a mason jar of the Fluxion III, a cider that at first sip, hits you with its full-bodied funky pop, and goes down surprisingly easy from there. It was a delightful apply elixir that, combined with the beauty of the dimming autumn light, set the mood for an evening of live creative play on the farm
The Royal Frog Ballet, a troupe of performance artists whose work resounds with the influences of Bread and Puppet minus the heavy political stuff, began their show on the slope of the farm closest to the food tent. Three actors dressed in eastern European granny garb with paper mache masks, made their hilarious introduction to the show, with accents of the Jewish-Bronx variety. According to the grannies, we would be walking around the sloping hills to view the various acts, were told to stay closely knit together—as uncomfortable that may be for reserved New Englanders—and advised to steer clear of cow pies (a.k.a. poop).
In the middle of their shtick, a line of performers wearing black, glided out from the direction of a giant squash and pumpkin patch at the top of the hill, their faces covered in headpieces made of sticks. They moved gracefully in silence, a sublime interlude in contrast to the comedic introduction. Then, after some time passed, the grannies rang bells standing in the spot where the audience should move to next. The evening progressed in this way; we moved through the landscape to watch and listen to skits involving poetry, abstract artwork, accordions, vampires, more dancing, all done with light-heartedness and originality. After making a full circle up to the highest point of the field, the performers closed out the show, harmonizing in wordless song against the orange hue of a setting sun. My eyes kept moving to the faces of my kids, the youngest members of the mostly adult audience. They were transfixed. Once the artists of the Royal Frog Ballet gave their final bows, the fifty-or-so of us gave a heartfelt applause and walked back together, past the grand sunflowers whose heavy heads were bowed towards the rows of winter squash and pumpkins cascading down the hill.
Back at the food tent and picnic grounds, campfires were ablaze. The moon was rising, just shy of full. We stayed for a few more minutes until reluctantly leaving the magic of the autumn scene behind. It was a school night after all, and we had quite the drive ahead of us.