Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Best Hot Chocolate in the World…in New Hampshire?

This weekend, in addition to candlepin bowling, I also went on a field trip.  I was being very New Englandy.

Ever since I have moved here to New England I have been told how amazing the chocolate at Burdick's is.  There is a Burdick's in Cambridge, and I can attest to the fact that it is amazing chocolate.  Particularly the hot chocolate.

And it's not just me!  A while back I came across an article that listed Burdick's hot chocolate among the ten best in the world.  So I've been meaning to visit the mother ship of Burdick's in Walpole, New Hampshire for a while.  Yes, L.A. Burdick originated in New Hampshire.  If you read that hot chocolate article, you see Paris, Vienna, Chicago, NYC, Buenos Aires…and New Hampshire.

So, in random honor of our illustrious history of U.S. presidents, I headed out to Walpole!  It's about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Newburyport, but it was a gorgeous day.  The route changes from highway to road to highway often enough that it's not boring.  Not like driving I-70 across Indiana and Illinois which is an exercise in staying awake.  It was a beautiful drive, too.  New Hampshire is a gorgeous state.

So I arrived, and discovered that Walpole is so cute!  If it wasn't so cold, I would have taken time to explore the town.  These aren't the greatest pictures, but they kind of give you the gist:

And here is Burdick's:

Unlike the Cambridge store, this Burdick's has three elements: a restaurant, a cafe, and a store.  The restaurant was closed, but I ordered a Burdick Blend Dark Chocolate hot chocolate and this lemon chocolate cake-pastry thing that was delicious.  Then I sat in the cafe and read and ate and used their wifi for a couple of hours.

Here is the restaurant and part of the cafe:

The restaurant is at the far end, and the cafe is at this end.  However, the other half of the cafe is in the store.  That's where I sat so that I could spy on what everyone was buying.

This picture only shows half of the store.  It's at least twice this big, plus has half of the cafe.  I bought an obscene amount of stuff in the store.

I definitely plan to come back with friends to eat in the restaurant.

The drive home was also lovely.  I had some favorite parts.  First of all, I passed numerous "Moose Crossing" signs.  I wanted to stop and take a picture, but there was never a shoulder to pull over on.  I would have loved to actually see a moose cross the road.  I mean, assuming I was driving two miles per hour so as not to hit it and kill myself.  I hope that, living in New England, I will at some point, probably in NH or Maine, see a moose cross the road.

I also saw several "Snowmobile Crossing" signs.  Sadly, the roads were clear so no snowmobiles actually crossed, though there were snowmobiles driving parallel to the road and down frozen rivers and across fields all over the place.  So I also want to ride a snowmobile.

I also saw mysterious "Frost Heaves" signs.  I had no idea what on earth these signs could mean.  Is the frost throwing up?  Is it heaving snowballs at people?  Today a friend explained that the frost causes the road to lift up (heave up!).  So you could be used to a road you drive all the time, then all of a sudden one day there is a huge bump.  That's a frost heave.

It was a lovely day.  Great driving weather.  Lots to look at.  And lots and lots of chocolate.

Bowling vs. Bowling

So, when I say "bowling," apparently I mean "10-pin bowling."  Who knew?  Here in New England, when you say "bowling," you mean "candlepin bowling."  What on earth is candlepin bowling you ask?  I went for the first time this past weekend.  Let me tell you what I learned.

First, I have to explain that I don't understand all of it.  I went as part of a birthday party, so no one had the time to describe every detail and rule to me.  But I got the gist.

First of all, the bowling ball is small!  It is slightly larger than a ski-ball ball.  In fact, candlepin bowling reminded me a lot of ski-ball.

The ball doesn't have holes or anything.  You just palm it and roll!

Next, the pins are, well, like candles!  Taller than the pins I'm used to, and much, much skinnier.

This, I discovered, led to several interesting tidbits.  First of all, there is a lot more space between the pins.  The pins are much less likely to knock each other down.  For me, in what I consider "regular" bowling, the perfect roll lands the ball between the 1 and 3 pins.  In candlepin bowling, a ball hitting the 1 and 3 pins will maybe knock down a pin or two.  Argh!

Second, the pin setter does NOT clear the fallen pins between each roll.

The pins just lay there.  Sometimes this is great!  One time, I knocked down a pin that laid right in front of two other pins.  On my next roll, I hit that pin and it knocked over both the upright pins behind it!  This is called "using the wood," which sounds pornographic, I know.  However sometimes these fallen pins get in the way and are a real pain in the butt.

Another odd thing is that you get three rolls per frame in candlepin bowling.  A strike is if you knock all of the pins down in two turns.  A spare is if you knock them all down in three turns.

Finally, you have to work a lot harder to keep score in candlepin bowling.  "Regular" bowling has gotten so high tech that once you enter your name, the computer does all the work.  Not so here!  First, you have to tell the lane when your turn is over.  You hit a button by the ball return.

It doesn't recognize when you have taken your three rolls.  

Second, you have to enter your total score per frame.  This required a lot of peering at the pins from different angles to figure out which ones were still standing.

Anyway, it was really, really fun, and I can't wait to go again.

Next up, duck pin bowling?  I don't know what that is, either, but I'll have to try it out.