When I was in Florida in February, I took my 82-year-old father to dinner. We went to the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Coral Gables, and my dad ordered one of those Mini Cooper-sized slabs of dead steer. We joked that this probably wasn’t good for him, but once in a while you had to indulge. A week later he had a heart attack.
I am not kidding. A heart attack. Now, he’s fine. He’s not back on the golf course yet, but he has resumed his workouts at the gym. And I don’t honestly think that one steak — even one as thick as a snow tire — was what caused his heart attack. I only mention it this morning because sometimes my judgment when it comes to food is a little suspect. And I am about to tell you about some of the most amazing desserts you can find in Vermont, and some of them are made with enough butter to clog the Holland Tunnel, not to mention an artery or two. But, well, sometimes you have to indulge.
The desserts can be found at the Lincoln General Store — the same store that is known also for crawlers, Slim Jims and bologna. But over the last few years, there has been a metamorphosis at the store, and the caterpillar is becoming a butterfly.
The big change? The arrival of Krista Patterson Jones, store owner Vaneasa Stearns’ younger cousin. Krista is not merely an immensely gifted dessert chef; she is (and I mean this in only the best sense) a culinary lunatic. Her arrival has also brought out the inner madwoman in Vaneasa, and that madwoman has never met a dessert that couldn’t be improved with a theme.
The surest indication that desserts at the Lincoln General Store were moving in a direction that was both strange and sublime occurred last month on April Fool’s Day. There for sale at the front register were roasting pans filled with burgers and fries — except that the burgers were chocolate brownies, the buns were slices of homemade cupcakes, and the lettuce was made of Corn Flakes and dried, melted frosting. The French fries? Large homemade sugar cookies, cut and dusted with fine brown sugar. The confections could have passed for burgers and fries at McDonald’s. Meanwhile, beside the roasting pan were bowls of spaghetti and meatballs, except the spaghetti was meticulously piped frosting atop a cupcake and the meatballs were chocolate truffles.
But even days before I had spied those burgers and fries, I’d noticed a tree stump that was covered in mushrooms for sale. The stump was actually a triple chocolate cake, and the mushrooms were toadstool-shaped meringues coated in white chocolate and then scored with a toothpick. In addition, I have seen cupcakes there that resembled cabbages, and sugar cookies that looked exactly like flower seed packets or vintage Valentine’s Day cards (The secret was edible wafer paper imprinted with the artwork).
Sometimes the pair get their ideas from magazines, newspapers and the Internet, but sometimes the ideas are all their own — which shouldn’t have surprised me, because Krista and Vaneasa are both members of the Goodyear family here in Lincoln. And everyone in town knows that Goodyears have something in their DNA that makes them part Little Debbie, part Dolly Madison and part Martha Stewart.
The older generation of Goodyear daughters – Linda, Lorraine, Lenore and Lisa — are renowned locally for their cakes and truffles, all of which belong on the Food Network. Vaneasa is Linda’s daughter and Krista is Lorraine’s. What they accomplish with butter, cocoa and sugar is downright alchemic, and it’s a talent that comes in the blood.
But it’s not merely that their confections are delicious. That’s a given. They are worth every calorie and every gram of fat. It’s that they are small, perishable works of art that look almost too good to ruin by eating.
So, the next time you are in Lincoln, drop by the store. Just, please, don’t follow my father’s lead and have a heart attack.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on May 2, 2010.)