“I love the Hilltowns.”
That’s what I kept saying — to myself and just about anyone who would listen — last Saturday as we congregated outside of Elmer’s, in Ashfield, waiting for a table to open up so that we could gorge ourselves on pancakes. A shaggy-haired guy was seated on a long bench on the porch just outside the picture window with a crate of kittens on his lap.
“Did you hear about the kittens?” he said as we walked up. They were eight weeks old, one black, one gray, with big blue eyes. The black one pawed at a bowl bigger than he was, filled with kibble. The bowl overturned and, unperturbed, the little kitten began to eat.
“You sure you don’t want one?”
On the street, past slowly melting piles of snowplowed ice, the Elmer’s baker rode by on her bicycle, a wicker basket overflowing with baguettes and boules strapped to the back. Inside, she pulled more loaves from a beat up old King Arthur Flour bag and arranged them artfully in baskets on a little table.
I remembered a review I’d read online somewhere. The anonymous traveler had commented on someone handling the bread at Elmer’s — gasp! — without gloves. I smiled as I watched the baker arranging her still-warm bread and thought to myself that I wanted to eat more at places where the bread comes on a bike and is handled with love — not plastic.
Eventually we were seated and I took my own advice: I ordered the pancakes and doused them with maple syrup. As if that wasn’t enough, we supplemented with crispy-sweet french toast, eggs benedict, and what was described as an amazing corned beef hash.
Breakfast really doesn’t get much better.