Last Saturday, we awoke to a perfectly sunny (but crisp!) fall day, and I had a plan. It involved apple picking, hay rides, New Hampshire country roads to our first stop, Parkers Maple Barn. The has an adjoining restaurant, which serves breakfast all day. It is famous for pumpkin pancakes and maple glazed short ribs, which I knew would help Tommy temporarily forget that the rest of the day would entail apple picking and leaf peeping, not watching college football. Stomachs full and my bag bursting with souvenirs of maple syrup candy and a pumpkin cookbook, it was off to a nearby orchard., and lots and lots of pumpkins. In short, I was going to fit “fall” into this one free Saturday. We headed north, driving leisurely through
We arrived at Windy Will Orchard ready to pick, but the early cold front had ended the apple picking season early. There was no time for disappointment however, as the shop was stocked with pre-picked-bags. Plus I had already run off to snap photos of the idyllic setting. We were surrounded by the colors of fall—a field of pumpkins, a little red barn, the turning leaves, a green John Deere and corn mazes.
I would have stayed all day. But, I knew the next stop would be worth leaving for. We set west, along 124 through Jaffrey. The houses overlooking had amazing views, and I exclaimed once or twice, “Stop the car!”, as an ideal photo opportunity whizzed by. Parked in a stranger’s driveway, I had to laugh when another car pulled up behind us. Apparently we were not the only uninhibited leaf peepers in search of the perfect shot.
Upon entering Keene, we followed the signs to park, and jumped on board the shuttle bus to downtown. A quick few minutes later, we stepped off and were greeted with pumpkins. But, not just any pumpkins. 29,762 carved and lit jack-o-lanterns (just short of Boston's world record of 30,128). The Keene Pumpkin Festival was in full swing and was lined everywhere you turned with the orange beauties. At either end, two sky-high displays watched over the festivities.
I was eager to explore, but a sign for pumpkin beer and an outdoor patio grabbed my attention (I never say no to dining al fresco, even if it is 40 degrees outside). We sat, bundled up, below twinkling lights and enjoyed an icy glass and antics of the eccentric bartender. Slightly warmed, we stepped back onto Main Street, following the beckons of street vendors. Spiced Cider? Yes, please! Zesty Peanuts? Of course! ? I love this place!
Hours later, our bellies full, we made our way back to the car. Day light dwindled as we headed home, but I was warm, filled with inspiration from the perfect autumn day.
Maple-Pumpkin Pasta with Blue Cheese & Sage
Inspired by pumpkins, maple syrup and Whole Loving . serves 4
1 lb tube pasta (penne, rigatoni, etc..)
2 T olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
1/4 c maple syrup
4 c cubed pumpkin
1/2 c vegetable broth
2 T chopped fresh sage
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 crumbled blue cheese
1/2 c toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and boil until tender. Drain, and set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, and add onion. Sauté 6-8 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Add maple syrup, pumpkin, vegetable both, sage, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 25-30 minutes, until pumpkin is tender. Add cooked pasta, and toss until well combined. To serve, top with crumbled blue cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds.