Sarah came back east this past week, and up to New Hampshire with me on Thursday night. Awesome to get to sit and shoot the breeze with her, and she provided impetus for a trip to Umpleby’s, which John and I had talked about way back when, but never done.
Umpleby’s, for those unfamiliar with the Norwich Farmers’ Market, is a bakery stall named for its owner and chief baker. It’s a mainstay of the Farmers’ Market, and it motivates John and I to try to get there early enough to snag savory pies, craggy danish with their corners curled up, and croissants so big and warm you could slice them open with a lightsaber and hide Mark Hamil in them, if it were freezing outside.
We hadn’t realized that Umpleby’s didn’t just spontaneously arise every Saturday until late last season, when we asked and were told that yes, there’s an actual Umpleby’s bakery and cafe, just past Woodstock, Vermont. With Sarah’s visit, we had a perfect excuse to make the 45 minute drive.
Umpleby’s is in the oddest, saddest “Mall” I’ve ever seen. The building clearly used to be an old mill/industrial building – ancient wood floors, exposed brick walls, plaques and WWII memorabilia – but it’s been cheaply and quickly divided into commercial space. Some building conversions manage to refer to the building’s old use while convincingly showcasing the new purpose; this one looked like the ski store was only a sheet or two of drywall away from the dusty roof rafters.
Umpleby’s itself had all the baked goods we’d been hoping for, and we took three trips to the cash register (for lunch, for dessert, and for take-home supplies), each time seeming to faintly fluster the young woman running the cash register, who seemed new. On the way out, we wandered through the second floor of the building, only to be confronted with the Whisper Hill soapmakers, another mainstay of the Farmers’ Market. Their soap is excellent – the storefront was far too strongly scented for any of us to tolerate for long, so I retreated down the hall.