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Who You Calling a Sap?
It has the look and feel of an alpine lodge, but the Stowehof Inn and Resort www.stowehofinn.com, overlooking the rolling hills of the Stowe Valley, is very much a part of Vermont, the Green Mountain State.
This charming inn, remembered by many from the Alan Alda film "The Four Seasons," was our comfortable base as we went exploring in and around the village of Stowe.
Construction of the 46-room inn began in 1949, with hand-hewn beams from Vermont farms and barns. Downstairs, the living room has great views of the mountains, and there are books, board games and playing cards for passing the time.
With our reservation, we enjoyed a full breakfast in the inn's restaurant, including pancakes with Vermont maple syrup.
The grounds of the Stowehof Inn include four, all-weather tennis courts, and in winter, the inn offers private sleigh rides from the front door, including a dinner-and-sleigh ride package.
The first thing we did when we reached our second-story room was open the door to the wide terrace to take in the lovely, surrounding hills. It was a good reminder, too, of our appointment with Audrey and Lewis Coty, who have been producing maple syrup for 31 years at their Nebraska Knoll Sugar Housewww.nebraskaknoll.comin the romantic Vermont woods.
Taste This -- and That!
When we pulled to a stop on the dirt driveway, Audrey ushered us over to a picnic table near a small, shed-like building, where sap from the Cotys' 8,000 trees is transformed into syrup.
All over Vermont, people tap into their maple trees to make a little syrup for themselves, explained Coty, but every now and then, a few of them get "sugaring fever" and decide to go into the business of making Vermont's liquid gold.
Audrey led us through some tasting, starting with Vermont Fancy Grade, which has a classic maple bouquet, or what Audrey calls "the pure essence of the maple flavor." Then we moved on to the darker grades, which exhibit a more caramel flavor.
Next on our visit to Stowe was the town center itself, where just about everything seems to be located on the main street, including shops and restaurants, all of which makes for nice, leisurely explorations.
Indeed, the town has a number of standout facilities and hotels, including the legendary Trapp Family Lodge, run by descendants of the famous couple whose singing exploits and fight against the Nazi Party during World War II made for the classic "The Sound of Music."
Also nearby is the four-star rated Topnotch at Stowe, heralded by many as one of the best resorts in the country and at the foot of Mount Mansfield. (Skier alert!)
Of course, we also checked into Jewish life in Stowe and got directions to the synagogue of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe on Cape Cod Road.
The center describes itself as "an unaffiliated congregation embracing all denominations of Jewry."
Friday-night services are usually held on the first and third Friday of each month, and visitors are welcome.
As luck would have it, the center's secretary was still at work, so she showed us around the facility, including its modern sanctuary and kosher kitchen.
And talk about kosher, what would a trip to Stowe be without a stop at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream plant for a tour and a taste of the kosher treat, founded by two Penn State correspondence-course graduates, that well-known pair, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield?