by Sandra Hutchinson
A couple of my favorite destinations are located in the vicinity of central/east Vermont — Simon Pearce, with two locations, and King Arthur Flour headquarters. I recently was in the area for a few days and was happy to be able to stop in.
If you’ve ever browsed hand-blown glassware in higher-end shops, you’ve likely come across pieces made in the Simon Pearce workshops. Simon, born in 1946, is an Irish-American glass artisan who came to the United States and opened a glassblowing studio in Quechee, Vermont in 1981. He’s expanded his line over the years to include bowls, glasses, serving pieces, lamps, and more; he’s also added a ceramics line of tableware.
The Quechee workshop has grown over time to include a glassblowing studio, a retail shop, and a restaurant. The facility is housed in an old mill perched on the edge of the Ottauguechee River. Situated next to a covered bridge, the setting is picture postcard-worthy. About 20 minutes away, in Windsor, Vermont, is another glass studio, and the ceramics headquarters. Visitors can watch the glassblowers at work in both Quechee and Windsor.
In the lower level of the Quechee location, visitors can watch glassblowers make gorgeous pieces out of molten glass. The fir tree is a popular item during the holidays.
The restaurant is acclaimed for its menu, wine selection and setting overlooking the river. Here’s a view of the interior, just before it opened for lunch. Information on dining: https://www.simonpearce.com/our-restaurant#dine-with-us
The other Simon Pearce location is about a 20 minute drive from Quechee, in Windsor. The retail store here has a larger selection of “seconds,” and also sells some decorative items like the French ceramic guinea hens by La Pintade Caillard. There’s also a glassblowing studio on the first floor of this location. The ceramics studio is in another building next to the retail shop and glassblowing studio, but it was closed to the public when we were there, due to the pandemic.
Hopping on I-91 north near the Simon Pearce location in Windsor, it’s about 19 miles to Norwich, Vermont, home of the beloved-by-bakers King Arthur Flour. The sprawling complex houses the company headquarters, its famous baking school, a retail store, and a cafe. Click here for a link to the baking school.
Within the retail store is an area for demonstrations. The baking classes are held in a separate area.
About 15 years ago, I took a baking class at King Arthur Flour. In just two days we made croissants, bread, pies, rolls and I can’t even remember what else. I was privileged to learn from one of the longest tenured and well-known bakers at the company, PJ Hamel. It was a blast, and my family was thrilled when I brought all my baked goods home.
The classes now offered in Norwich run the gamut from short, half-day workshops to week-long professional baking classes. There are also classes for kids, although the availability of these may be affected by restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. There is a location in Washington state, as well as in Vermont, but I know nothing about that site. Many online classes are available as well. If you go to the baking school website, you can search a calendar for classes and availability. The classes fill up quickly, so plan ahead.
There’s a nice cafe within the complex as well.
If you visit King Arthur Flour in Windsor, consider stopping by the nearby Montshire Museum of Science, a fun, science museum particularly good for kids. It’s also just a quick hop across the bridge over the Connecticut River to Hanover, New Hampshire, home to Dartmouth College. I attended law school nearby in the late seventies/early eighties, and spent a lot of time in Hanover. I was happy to see on my recent visit that some of the same shops and restaurants I frequented still exist, like Lou’s, on Main Street!