A Family Affair: Davenport Maple Farm

This photo was taken three years ago, but the ambiance hasn’t changed much! (Courtesy of Davenport Maple Farm)

March is Massachusetts Maple Month, and an annual pilgrimage for many syrup lovers is now underway. Nothing beats a visit to a sugarhouse restaurant at this time of year to watch sap being boiled and consume food made with fresh, hot syrup.

At Davenport Maple Farm, high on Tower Road in Shelburne, Norman Davenport and his wife Lisa are boiling sap furiously in their evaporator and greeting crowds at their restaurant, which is open only on weekends during maple season. The farm has been in the Davenport family for generations.

“We’re actually approaching our centennial,” Lisa Davenport told me recently. “Norman’s great grandfather Walter Davenport purchased the farm in 1913. There was always sugaring going on here prior to that. And they’ve always had cows here.”

She noted that the restaurant, which opened in 1990, was the brainchild of her husband’s father. At that point the family’s old sugarhouse was in need of substantial repairs, and Russell Davenport and his wife Martha decided to expand it into to a restaurant.

Two decades later the senior Davenports can still be found at the restaurant during maple season. Russ Davenport helps Norman run the evaporator and chats with customers, and Martha Davenport runs the cash register. Lisa and Norm’s daughter Maegan runs the kitchen while daughter Daina serves as head waitress.

“Norm’s sister Barbara Goodchild comes up and helps, too. It’s really a family affair,” said Lisa. “I supervise everybody. I do all the ordering and the payroll, I go out and do the shopping, and I fill in for somebody when they stop working.”

She admitted that while she enjoys maple season she can also find the family’s restaurant weekends intense.

“It’s a short season, six weeks long, but you’ve got a couple of weeks beforehand when you’re getting ready for it. There are some all-nighters. If the sap’s really running, you’ve got to keep boiling.”

She observed that she sometimes sets her cell phone to wake her up in the morning only to hear it ring in her pocket at the end of a long night at the evaporator.

“And we still have the cows to milk and regular chores to do,” she added. “It’s a long schedule, but it’s fun. You’re right in the middle of it all the time.”

Most visitors to the restaurant order breakfast, which is served all day, although the Davenports also offer lunch items. These include hamburgers made from their own beef, corn chowder, maple baked beans, and grilled cheese.

Asked to sum up the farm’s cuisine, Lisa Davenport thought for a minute. “Good home cooking. We don’t use any mixes; it’s all made from scratch. I bake all the bread.”

At home the Davenports use maple syrup in a variety of dishes. “My kids didn’t like spaghetti sauce or the tomato sauces,” Lisa told me. “They’d just have buttered pasta with maple syrup drizzled over it.” I am NOT telling my nephew Michael about this practice!

She also tops her tuna-noodle casserole with maple syrup and crackers. And she recommends a drop or two of syrup on scrambled eggs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for the tuna casserole or even the eggs. Nevertheless, I did enjoy making and eating the Finnish pancakes that are the restaurant’s most popular breakfast offering.

The recipe below served four of my family members, although Lisa explained that she doubles it for four. Portions are generous at Davenport’s!

The pancake tastes a bit like a rich custard as it doesn’t use a lot of flour.

Davenport Farm Finnish Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups fresh milk
4 large eggs
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter and place it in an 8-by-8-inch pan or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Mix the milk and the eggs lightly with a beater; then add the sugar, the salt, and the flour. Pour the mixed batter over the melted butter and bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Serves 4.

Photo by Michael Weisblat, who helped eat!

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6 Responses to “A Family Affair: Davenport Maple Farm”

  1. Oh, that looks heavenly!!! And honestly, my husband and I were just talking about what to make for our special Saturday morning breakfast…then I came across this post!! We will be making this tomorrow. Thanks!

  2. I love maple syrup – but it is quite expensive to buy over here. I like it with scrambled or poached eggs and bacon – with perhaps a muffin.

  3. tinkyweisblat says:

    I hope you enjoyed your pancakes, EveryDay. And Frayed, when I become rich I shall send some syrup to Scotland for you!

  4. Grad says:

    I really need to invest in some real maple syrup. Since the kids grew up and left home, I don’t make pancakes anymore, but I think I might like to make some of those maple baked beans (if the Davenports would give up their recipe to you! Hint.) Imagine being able to go to a restaurant where the beef comes right from that farm! I’m not sure what kind of weather you need for the trees to produce lots of sap, but I hope it turns out to be a good season for these folks.

  5. tinkyweisblat says:

    I THINK it’s going to be a good maple season this year, although it may be a little too warm. The sap hasn’t had a good year in a while, unfortunately.

    ANYWAY, the reason I didn’t print the baked bean recipe is that it’s in my cookbook. Speaking of hints, if you ever want to add to your enormous bookshelves, you can buy it from me at http://www.merrylion.com (same price as Amazon and I get more money).

  6. DateLatte says:

    That is a Yorkshire Pudding Dan. It’s made with eggs,flour and milk and cooked in the oven in a little bit of extremely hot fat or oil. Traditionally everyone say their mum/gran makes the best Yorkshires in the world. They’re all wrong of course because it was actually MY mum! They are delicious when done right. My mate eats them with golden syrup but he’s from Yorkshire so that explains that.

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