Red White & Denim

A New England Lifestyle Blog

Category: NEW ENGLAND

The Big E

If you grew up in New England, it’s likely you’ve been to the Big E at least once in your life. And if you haven’t, you’re missing out! The Big E, also known as The Eastern States Exposition, is located on the southern border of Massachusetts in the town of West Springfield. The Big E opens its doors the second Friday after Labor Day and stays open for 17 full days. It’s the biggest fair in New England and the fifth-largest in the nation. The Big E is so huge that many New Englanders and visitors alike, find themselves spending more than one day on the fairgrounds. If you a serious fairgoer, you can even purchase a 17 day pass.

This is a particularly special year for the Big E – it’s their 100th anniversary! The Eastern States Exposition was founded in 1916 with 45,000 people in attendance its opening year. One hundred years later, The Big E is expecting more than 1.5 million attendees. So whether you’re a veteran or a first-timer, be sure to join the centennial celebration that’s happening right now!

The Big E is an event like no other. I’m giving you the top 5 reasons I get excited for New England’s greatest fair, year after year.

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Shirt: Madewell | Flannel: Madewell | Jeans: MOTHER | Sneakers: Converse | Bag: Madwell | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

1. FOOD

The food is, without a doubt, the best attraction at the Big E. Everywhere you walk you’ll be tempted by the sights and smells of fried deliciousness. Along with traditional fair foods, the Big E is known for its crazy and unexpected concoctions.  A few years back, The Big E began the tradition of introducing its own signature food. The first food to be unveiled was the Cream Puff, which has now become an iconic item at the fair (so don’t leave without trying one!) As the years pass, the food items become progressively more outrageous. Here is a great list of some of the mouth-watering fare you will find this year.

This section would not be complete without mentioning my absolute favorite food from The Big E – the item I wait all year for – Fried Cheese Curds. While the name may not sound particularly appealing, I promise they taste amazing. Fried Cheese Curds are placed at multiple locations throughout the fair, so keep your eyes peeled!

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2. AVENUE OF THE STATES

If you’ve never toured quintessential New England, now’s your chance! Not really, but at least you’ll get a taste (literally) of what the northeast has to offer! Six brick buildings line the Avenue of the States, proudly representing each New England state – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each state actually owns the land on which the statehouse is situated, making The Big E the only place in the world that you can set foot on all six New England territories in less than an hour. Inside the life-size statehouses is an array of food, heritage and traditions characteristic of each individual state. I’ve listed my personal favorites from each statehouse below!

Connecticut – CT Craft Beer Works | Maine – Baked Potatoes | Massachusetts – Kringle Candle | New Hampshire – Zack’s Mac and Cheese | Rhode Island – Del’s Frozen Lemonade | Vermont – Vermont Maple Cream (get the Cream Cone!)

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3. SHOP

You could spend the entire day shopping at the Big E. With small shops lining every street and multiple vendor shopping centers, it’s hard to walk out empty handed. If you don’t have much time, I would advise skipping the tchotchkes and heading straight to my two favorite shops.

First stop is always The Vermont Flannel Company (located on Commonwealth Avenue and in the Vermont statehouse.) The Vermont-based company is dedicated to comfort and quality. All their products are hand-cut and sewn in the U.S.A. They sell a variety of products including flannel shirts, blankets, pj’s and dog coats in classic plaid patterns. Next up is the Hat Palace (also located on Commonwealth Avenue.) With country music playing loud and cow hides lining the countertops and walls, you can’t miss this place. Every year my husband and I return to this shop for two reasons: 1. The staff are the most friendly and helpful people you’ll ever meet. 2. They specialize in handmade, high-quality leather products. Pick out a leather belt of your choice and the staff will customize it to your size. Every belt they sell is made with real, American leather and smoothed by hand. You’ll be amazed how soft they are – just ask my husband, he buys one every year! The owners also appreciate your business. If you’ve purchased a belt from them in the past, bring it in for a complimentary tune-up. You’ll leave with it looking brand new!

4. BUDWEISER CLYDESDALES

We’ve all seen the iconic Budweiser commercials with six gorgeous Clydesdale horses pulling a bright red Studebaker wagon. But have you ever seen them in person? The Big E brings this American tradition to you as a part of their daily parade. The Budweiser Clydesdales have been a part of The Big E since the 1970s. They only make appearances every other year, so don’t miss out!

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5. BEER

A trip to The Big E wouldn’t be the same without an ice cold beer (or two!) Every year I look forward to stopping by the New England Craft Brew Tent and sipping a pumpkin beer served in a carmel, sugar, and cinnamon rimmed glass. If pumpkin beer is not your thing, you’ve got plenty more options to choose from. Tour the fair with your cold brew or take a break at one of the many beer gardens where you may be able to catch some live music.

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Some other attractions you’ll find at the Big E include livestock displays, horse shows, petting zoos, shopping centers, carnival rides, games, concerts and a daily mardi-gra parade. If you’re only visiting the fairgrounds for a day, be sure to give yourself enough time to see it all!

For more info on this year’s lineup, visit http://www.thebige.com/

JMD

Litchfield County Travel Guide

13 Averill Farm Litchfield County Travel GuideA few weeks ago James and I took Friday off from work and decided to drive out to Litchfield County for the day. Lucky for us, the leaves in this area of the state had just reached their peak, which made for some beautifully picturesque views as we drove through the backroads of CT. For those who have never been, Litchfield County is in the Northwest corner of CT, sharing a border with New York and The Berkshires. We had never spent much time in this area but thought this would be a fun opportunity to explore a new spot. I put together a Litchfield County Travel Guide that takes you along for the ride, highlighting our personal recommendations on where to stop along the way!

Apple Picking

For starters, if you’re going to venture out to Litchfield County, save it for the Fall. There were times we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, but driving through all the windey backroads was so enjoyable with the vibrant leaves as a backdrop.  We started off in Washington Depot and made our way through Warren, Cornwall, Goshen and Litchfield. Our first stop was Averill Farm, per a recommendation from my friend. The drive up to the farm was memorable – narrow roads lined with trees that lead us to a tiny sign pointing us down a dirt road in the direction of the farm. After traveling down the road lined with  apple orchards, we found ourselves on the top of a mountain with the most beautiful view. The small farm was virtually empty – a pleasant surprise compared to some other well-known orchards in the state where you have to sit in traffic, fight for parking and make your way through crowds.

The family farm is located on a 260-acre property, which is primarily an orchard, yielding pears and apples. In addition to picking your own fruit, they sell their own apple cider, cider donuts (made fresh daily), cut flowers, and homemade jams and jellies. They also sell pies, pumpkins, gourds, corn, mums, maple syrup, honey, garlic and gifts – all locally sourced. We couldn’t leave without trying some apple cider donuts (delicious!) and purchasing some cider, honey, honeycomb and garlic. We also left with a bottle of their dry, non-sparkling hard cider. This organic cider is made with only two ingredients: freshly pressed apples and yeast. I’m not typically a fan of hard ciders, but Averill’s still version was very tasty. We cracked it open as soon as we got home – what a perfect  way to end our day.

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Wineries

The rest of our afternoon was unplanned and spontaneous. We left the farm and headed north to Warren. Along the way we came across Hopkins Vineyard, a winery nestled in the Litchfield Hills overlooking Lake Waramaug. We hadn’t planned on wine tasting but couldn’t refuse the opportunity. Hopkins Vineyard is home to 11 varieties of grapes and has produced award-winning whites, reds and sparkling wines. While Connecticut may not be the ideal setting for growing grapes, it’s always fun to try wine made from the locally grown fruit. The tasting room is located in a large red barn which shares a space with their gift shop. We left with yet another bottle of alcohol, a Chardonnay. Little did we know, this would be one of three vineyards we stopped at – Miranda Vineyard and Sunset Meadow being the other two. Who knew our travels would have led us along the CT Wine Trail!

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Chocolate Tasting

Next stop was Thorncrest Farm. On the way to farm located in Goshen, we passed through Cornwall and crossed the Housatonic River, via the infamous West Cornwall Covered Bridge.  We continued on to Thorncrest Farm and Milk House Chocolates. We found ourselves on another dirt road, this one leading through forest to a very large and strikingly handsome structure. This barn, which houses the farm’s cows and milk chocolate shop, is quite possibly the most beautiful barn I’ve ever seen.

The farm is known as the home of “Single Cow Origin Chocolates”.  All chocolates are made using the farm’s fresh milk, cream and butter supplied by their very own cows. Their pralines and truffles are made with the best cocoa blended with only all natural flavors such as fresh fruit, herbs and honey. If you’re looking to experience farm to table chocolates, this is your place.  It’s just about as local and as homemade as you can get. After eating an entire box to ourselves, James and I agreed that this was the best chocolate we had ever tasted. I wish we bought more! Eager to try their signature milk, we also bought a bottle of Vanilla Milk, which is a pure premium Cream Line Milk infused with Madagascar Vanilla Beans. It was the smoothest, creamiest, most naturally sweet milk I’ve ever tasted – what a treat!

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While still in Goshen, we stopped by Nodine’s smokehouse – a little hidden gem that James had previously visited. Nodine’s makes their own gourmet smoked meat, poultry, fish and cheese. We picked up some jerky and a stuffed bread.

Candy Shop

We decided to end our day in the town of Litchfield – a quintessential historic New England town. Before heading home we stopped by the Litchfield Candy Company, an old fashion candy store in the center of town. This cute little building is packed full of all the candy we grew up with as children – Fireballs, Airheads, Nerds, Twizzlers, Gummy Bears and even Candy Cigarettes. Wooden boxes filled with every candy you can imagine line the walls of the store. They also offer an array of chocolates and gift baskets. We couldn’t leave without filling a paper bag full of favorite nostolgic treats. If you’re in the area definitely stop in and support this local shop.

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Ice Cream

Our last stop for the day was Arethusa Farm Dairy in Bantam. This ice cream shop was opened by the President and Vice President of Manolo Blahnik. In addition to this retail shop, they also own Arethusa Farm and restaurant Arethusa Al Tavalo. Both the restaurant and ice cream shop exclusively use the farms dairy products. All of Arethusa’s products are showcased and for sale including milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream, butter and cheese. Trying a scoop (or two!) of their ice cream in a freshly made waffle cone is a must.  Their ice cream – which is made from just milk, cream, eggs, sugar and natural flavor – is sinfully delicious. My favorite flavor is Sweet Cream with Dark Chocolate. Keep in mind they serve a very large scoop, so unless you’re really hungry stick to just 1 scoop!

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That wraps up my Litchfield County Travel Guide! I hope this helps the next time you’re in the area!

JMD