Vicuna Chocolate

What We Miss Most Right Now…Coffee (and Community) in the Time of Coronavirus

Apr 10, 2020

By Erin Girouard

Things are strange

I’m a writer, virtual teacher, and work-from-home mom. On a normal day in the normal world, I am at home, sitting in my office, attempting progress on various projects (while trying to convince a 4-year-old to eat her darn green peppers, already). Nothing has changed in my life, but everything has. 

When I first made the switch to WFH two years ago, the thing I was most worried about, ironically, was social distancing. I imagined myself holed up in my little home office with my second-hand desk, forgetting how to talk to people and never wearing pants.

The only time I would get in my car was to pick up my daughter at preschool twice a week. Even though it was something, discussions with her teachers about whether my daughter ate the crust off her sandwich didn’t qualify as “stimulating adult conversation.”

The truth is, much of my reality is exactly like that, but I don’t actually mind it. That’s because I made a promise to myself at the very beginning. No matter how busy my week, I choose one day to make my escape. (Because my job has granted me a superpower: I can work from anywhere that has reliable Wi-Fi and a great cup of coffee.)

Luckily, our rural hamlet, the Monadnock Region, is brimming with such places. Every week is a discovery, scoping out a new haunt where writers like me gather to work/relax among strangers who are kind of like colleagues.

There’s something about the ambiance—sampling exotic coffees, eating meals bursting with local flavor, and enjoying more than my fair share of pastries. I enjoy the company of fellow creatives some days and pull up a corner table with my headphones blaring when I have to buckle down. 

The New Norm

In all this recent craziness, although the health and well-being of my family is top priority, I’m finding that I miss my local escapes so much. What’s getting me through is the reminder that it’s all still there (if we work together). What we can do right now is support these meaningful places and build them up.

To lift our spirits with the dream of days to come, I present to you a list of my top six favorite places to escape, to work, and to soak in community. These are the places I cannot wait to return to when all of this is finally done with. I have also included some ways you can still enjoy and support these local businesses while we work hard to flatten that curve

One day soon, I’ll bump into you as we both revel in our lovely little piece of New England. When that time comes, I’ll buy a round of lattes. 

Parker House Cafe 

Parker and Sons Coffee Roasting

The Parker House Cafe, a VERY popular, family-run biz, recently moved to a new location (as of 2018) in a quaint house in Peterborough, NH. Parker House serves responsibly-sourced coffees, house-roasted using traditional methods. 

What to try:

I’d recommend the Iced Blondie (it’s as good as it sounds). 

OR the Maple Latte if you’re feeling very New Hampshirey! 

I love their classic Turkey Club or Sliced Mozzarella on Toasted Ciabatta.

How to support them now:

These guys are open for takeout! You can call ahead, order online, or walk in and enjoy their outdoor (spread very far apart!) seating.

Prime Roast Coffee

Prime Roast

Prime Roast is an absolute staple in the Keene community. Located right on Main Street, it’s positively delightful to pull up a window table and people watch (when there are actual people to watch, of course). It’s a cozy establishment with delicious, house-roasted coffee and delectable pastries made daily. 

What to try:

I’m a sucker for a specialty beverage, especially when it’s Harry Potter themed. I would recommend the Butterbeer (white chocolate with butterscotch and caramel, served hot or iced)!

Add one of their homemade scones or molasses spiced cookies? I feel like I’m in Hogsmeade right now!

How to support them now:

Prime Roast is NOT open for takeout, but they are currently offering free shipping in the continental US. Head to their website to purchase coffee, gift subscriptions and merchandise. 

Buying in bulk (more than one or two pounds) is most beneficial to help offset the shipping charges this small biz is covering.

The Bagel Mill

The Bagel Mill

Just walking into this place, with its intoxicating aroma of freshly-baked bagels makes me want to live there forever. It helps that The Bagel Mill is located in a homey neighborhood surrounded by a storybook garden. Did I mention they also offer a seemingly endless list of homemade cream cheese flavors? 

What to try:

If I’m stopping in for breakfast, I LOVE the veggie omelet sandwich on a cheddar jalapeno bagel! 

BUT, if I’m in the mood for something sweeter (which, let’s be honest, I am) I’m definitely going for the Apple Crunch bagel with traditional cream cheese.  

How to support them now:

The Bagel Mill is open for takeout! You can stop by or order ahead of time over the phone for curbside pickup. Saturday April 11th only, they are offering delivery to anyone in Harrisville, Francestown, Wilton area for Easter sunday! See their Facebook page for details.

Vicuña Chocolate

Vicuna Chocolate

Clearly some of the BEST writer’s fuel is chocolate! It was challenging to pick my absolute favorite place on this list, but Vicuna really has to be it. A CHOCOLATE CAFE? Need I, a woman who has an entire mouth full of sweet teeth, say more?

This place is not only beautiful outfitted and filled with deliciousness, but it’s also a working chocolate factory! Chill and work amongst the irresistible smells, and stay for a tour! 

What to try:

FACT: If I could only eat and drink one thing for the rest of my life, it would be the chocolate chunk cookies and the sipping chocolate (you heard me, SIPPING CHOCOLATE!) from Vicuña. 

How to support them now:  

Vicuña is currently closed, but will be reopening on April 15th for takeout orders only. I’ll see you all in line (6 feet apart from each other, of course) as soon as their doors open. 

Identity Coffee Lab

Identity Coffee Lab

In all honesty, I have not yet been inside the Identity Coffee Lab in Rindge, but it’s only because of the current pandemic. Our founder, Caroline, recently tipped me off to this amazing place, and I have since been ogling the coffee via Insta. (You can see a picture of their oat milk/matcha latte on our feed.)

I did manage to steal away to grab some takeout and it did NOT disappoint!  When this is all over, Identity will be my first escape. Their beautiful and modern, yet totally inviting layout features an airy atmosphere to complement their meticulously handcrafted drinks and eats

What to try:

If you’re feeling chilly, a Cortado with local raw honey!

If you’re feeling warm, an Iced Mocha made with dark chocolate from Askinosie Chocolates (drool).

If you’re feeling hungry, try a Liege Waffle (dusted with powdered sugar and meant to be eaten with your bare hands, like nature intended it!). 

Or a slice of Chocolate Babka (drool #2).

How to support them now:

Identity Coffee Lab has a very user-friendly website for mobile ordering. They are still accepting takeout orders at this time. 

Aesop’s Table

Aesop’s Table at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough couldn’t be more magical. A cafe inside a bookshop is already pretty amazing. Then you throw in a pristine park with a view of a babbling brook right in their backyard? This locale is practically BEGGING you to write your next novel.

What to try:

The New Englander: A warm, pressed sandwich with bacon, apples, caramelized onions, cheddar and maple mayo). It’s literally like New England on a plate.

The Iced Chai Latte is a refreshing pick-me-up.  

Whatever delicious pastry they have on tap (it changes daily, and they are all mouthwatering!).

How to support them now:

Although the Toadstool Bookshop is closed, Aesop’s has a takeout window. You can place and order online here and over the phone. They will also be running Easter Morning local deliveries from 8-10. Minimum $10 order, $5 delivery fee.

  1. Robin Eichert says:

    How fun to travel around to these places through your words. I can smell and taste all the experiences almost like I’ve been there! Thanks for this lovely tour!

    • Caroline Tremblay says:

      It is such a comforting daydream to read through :). Erin G did a lovely job. Thank you for your kind words. So glad you enjoyed!

  2. Terri Richman says:

    Thank you for presenting such lovely regional restaurants! Yumm!

    • Caroline Tremblay says:

      Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?! Erin G is a fantastic writer, and we’re so lucky to have her on the Owl & Pen team 💗.

  3. Patty G says:

    Oh the places I need to go! I have been to a few but I do know that one or two will be sampled in the coming weeks. A definite sparkle of life outside the (home) walls is something to look forward to. Thank you!

    • Caroline Tremblay says:

      Yes, something we can certainly all use right now! Hope you have fun checking out these wonderful local spots.

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