Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eating the Berkshires Round 2: A Local Extract Factory, A Doughnut Shoppe and a Crazy Russian Girls Bakery

Last Wednesday's  Eating the Berkshires Round 1 post covered Cricket Creek Farm, Baba Louie's Pizza, Soco Creamery and a brief stop at The Cook's Shop to pick up some incredible balsamic vinegar flavors from Oliva di Vita.

When I was at the Socco Creamery I mentioned the ice cream I ate containing an unusual locally made extract. Let's start with my visit to the factory that makes that extract.

Baldwin Extract Company located in West Stockbridge, MA since 1912 is a family owned company founded in 1888 and currently operated by the great great grandson of the owner. The staid exterior belies all sorts of crazy, delicious and fun surprises awaiting customers inside. 

Upon entering the place, it resembles a kooky cross between an old apothecary and a penny candy store. 

Aside from the extracts and baking supplies, there are lots of fun and delicious things to buy  and old timey items to gawk at.

One specialty is their homemade table syrup which they claim is not as strong as the maple variety but still does the job on pancakes, waffles and French toast.

It takes a while to wander around the place and see everything. There are a lot of really funny and fabulous gift and novelty items to amuse yourself, and if you desire, your friends with.

A large selection of matches, bandaids and chocolate bars all carry cheeky, funny or rude branding.

Of course, this one was my favorite.

There's also  a photo booth with props if you want to have some some fun..

And a penny gum ball machine next to the register which is the original and still functions fine.

In a corner tucked away near the photo booth is an old cabinet full of boxes and bottles of antique extracts and tinctures. 

I spent a lot of time in front gawking at the old time merchandise and trying to read the labels.

The extracts are aged in oak barrels in the basement. 

As you can see, it's easy to get distracted from focusing on the extracts.

After a while, I made myself focus on gathering items relevant to baking and blogging. Baldwin's carries a hodgepodge of decorative edible and non-edible products and ingredients.

Here is what I walked out with.

Some beautiful, extra sparkly sanding sugar, lemon chips, vanilla bean powder, vanilla vinaigrette, strawberry extract and the special extract from the Socco's ice cream I ate. The name is "Cherry Heart" and it contains a mix of vanilla, spearmint, pistachio and citrus extracts.  

I also couldn't resist those cute party nut cups for a dollar and change per pack. I most likely will use them as cupcake holders. 

Speaking of dollars, I found Baldwin's prices to be extremely reasonable as compared to NYC prices.

So whether your a baker, a foodie, an antique lover or just like to shop for fun items, a visit to Baldwin's extract factory is a must. We had a blast here. West Stockbridge itself is worth at least a half day visit. 

After our thorough investigation of the extract company we stopped for sustenance at the Home Sweet Home Doughnut Shoppe in Great Barrington. The store was founded by a man who used to work at Duncan Doughnuts and believed he could do so much better. 

And he has.

There is a large selection of flavors for humans and a special doggy doughnut is also available.

It was hard to choose what to sample, so I bought an embarrassing amount for three people. to be fair they lasted us well into the next day and we all had fun sampling and comparing flavors.

As a favorite, I couldn't decide between the maple walnut and the Blueberry Buttercrunch. The potent maple glaze covered with a generous helping of raw walnut pieces was divine. However, the unusual buttercrunch flavor got my full attention.

My brother went wild over the Caramel Sea Salt and my mother, well, it was fun to see an 85 year old looking like a kid in a doughnut store.  She just loved them all and was just happy to be sampling doughnuts.

We all liked the Berkshire Bomb muffin. After the muffin is baked, it is coated with melted butter and then rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Well worth the effort on the baker and the eater's behalf.

The plain Jelly Stick had the perfect balance between raspberry jelly and cake and was dense and filling.

I admit I was a little skeptical about sampling Lulu's Delight, a chocolate coated doughnut with a Bavarian cream filling, because of all those years I lived in Bavaria. However, Lulu did not disappoint. The combo is almost teeth hurting sweet but extremely tasty.

The final flavor doughnut was Toasted Chocolate Coconut. It was a last minute purchase. After I had paid for all of the doughnuts, I realized my brother had pointed this one out and I forgot to include it in the order. So I went back for it. Chocolate nor coconut are my preferred flavors but this dense, delicious doughnut covered in flavorful crunchy toasted coconut did not disappoint. Wowza.

Home Sweet Home Doughnut Shoppe also has a lovely counter area where they serve non-doughnut food.

Don't miss this place if you are in the area. Their Yelp reviews read like a love letter. Definitely worth the stop.

After the doughnut orgy, we decided to hop over the border to Vermont. My brother wanted to take me to a bakery he knew of called Crazy Russian Girls Neighborhood Bakery. So, why not?

Located in Bennington, VT, this bright, spacious bakery is actually named for the owner's two daughters.  I loved the Russian inspired funky decor. The atmosphere is so friendly, the goods so good, this is a great place to sit, relax and sample the wonders from the bakery case. They also serve hearty peasant inspired lunch in case you've left your sweet tooth at home.

Speaking of which, I'm no chocoholic but one bite of their Better Than Brad Pitt chocolate brownie cookie and I was hooked.

The bakery is at the rear end of the store. I spoke briefly to Natasha, the lovely, chatty owner who started the place with her husband and the help of her two (crazy Russian) daughters.  She said she get's in at 1am to start on the bagels. Oy.

In addition to the Better Than Brad Pitt cookie, I walked out with a perfect challah which never made it home because we kept feasting on it in the car and a healthy grain bread I bought for my mother.

Definitely going back for lunch and more of their delicious baked goods next time I am in the area.

I am winding this post up (finally!) with a teaser. Again, at my brother's suggestion, we decided to eat dinner at Three Stones, a Mayan restaurant co-owned and operated by a stunning ex Alvin Ailey dancer who was in full Frieda Kahlo garb when we arrived. 

We did not have a reservation but since we were the first customers of the evening, they were able to accommodate us if we were in and out in under an hour. No time for pictures or for my mother to grill anyone.

All I can say for now is the food is special, interesting and outstanding. I want to go back to comprehensively cover this restaurant.

In between stops we had fun visiting antique and junk stores and various Goodwill and Salvation Army places where I collected some fun food blogging props. I am looking forward to a return trip sooner than later.

My list has gotten extremely long on where to eat the Berkshires next.

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