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There is just something about the food in New England that is just inspiring. Maybe it is all the fresh, local produce and the focus on organic raw ingredients that makes everything taste so refined. Maybe it is the crisp air that clears your palate and helps you to taste the flavors or perhaps it is just the ingenuity and creativity that foodies in New England bring to the plate. Whatever it is, I love it. Pretty much anywhere you go in New England you can find a good cup of coffee and delicious and healthy treat, or some inventive mixture of ingredients that makes it impossible for you not to try it. During our trip to Massachesetts and Vermont in October we really enjoyed the food New England has to offer.

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One of the things I love about New England cuisine is the intent behind using seasonal and local produce, hence the copious amounts of maple in so many things from sausages to lattes to salad dressings (this one was at Madison’s a brewery in Bennington, Vermont). There is also a plethora of pumpkin dishes during the fall in New England – 3 things I appreciate the most in this variety are: Pumpkin Spice Coffee (which is now big everywhere, thanks to Starbucks – but it originated in New England), Pumpkin Ravioli and my favorite Pumpkin Ice Cream.

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Almost every ice cream shop you go into during the fall offers Pumpkin Ice Cream –a delicious cloud of pale orange goodness. Yum! Roberto’s daughter Gwen and I became “ice cream buddies” during our trip and we delighted in our pumpkin ice cream together.

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Then there is the chocolate. In New England people are artisans of various foods who take their craft very seriously. Every time I go to Bennington VT to visit my friends Nicki and Lisa aka Lisabeeen (a Vermont coffee artisan), they always take my to the Vermont Confectionery, this amazing chocolate place where they sell candies by the pound. You serve yourself out of huge glass jars with stainless steel scoops. It is so much fun! We tried cocoa almonds, cappuccino filled chocolates and a variety of chocolate cordial balls – some filled with hazelnut liquor, some with apricot brandy, almond, etc – you get the picture.

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Nicki’s favorite is the Dark Chocolate malt balls.

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Another fantastic place to get your food on in Bennington is The Blue Benn, an eclectic diner that serves some of the craziest combination of dishes.

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On this trip to the Blue Benn I got the Southwestern Benedict. It was eggs benedict served on jalapeno corn bread with a creamy salsa hollandaise and served with a side of avocado and black beans.

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Roberto went for a pork sandwich that he claims is one of the best he has ever had. Lisa always gets their nut burger which is a vegetarian burger made from nuts and lentils with a little dash of curry. But everyday they have at least 50 specials taped up on the wall to choose from in addition to their regular menu! It is quite a great place to go.

While we were in Bennington we also enjoyed a lovely dinner at Kevin at Mike’s Place. This place is welcoming to everyone, serves big portions and the food is delicious. I had a wonderfully crisp and thin fish sandwich there and everyone else really raved about their dinner as well.

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If you ever make it to Hadley Massachusetts, just outside of Northampton you have got to try the café that has taken over route 9, Esselon Café. Esselon does simplicity in the finest way. They are known for their coffee and espresso drinks which are some of the best I have had. But their food is wonderful and always fresh. A salad is really a salad there. It is full of tender baby greens with just a hint of tangy balsamic vinaigrette and topped with fresh vegetables, delicious cheeses and nuts. They also have interesting soups and hearty sandwiches – perfect for a quick lunch. It is definitely one of my favorite places in the Northampton area – an area known for its restaurants.

Now that the fall is finally here in Florida, I am starting to get in the mood to make some delicious soups of my own. I felt inspired all over again with our trip to New England and I am still riding on that wave of pure maple syrup!