During the final weekend in January I spent the day on Saturday as a guest of the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council. They planned the most spectacular day for me and a friend to explore "the other side of Massachusetts" (which is the council's tag line).
Armed with our itinerary and the Google Maps app on my phone, we headed west. As we approached the Mass Pike / 84 intersection we started discussing how neither of us could remember more than one occasion when we'd headed west on the Pike beyond the exit for 84. It's crazy to think how many cool destinations are right here in Massachusetts that we either don't know about or regularly overlook.
The first stop on our tour was Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst, MA. The last time I was in Amherst was in high school. I was visiting a friend whose father was a professor at UMass. The only time we left her house was for burritos at Bueno y Sano (an Amerhest institution). I was excited to be back in the area in full on explorer mode.
Atkins Farms Country Market is on Rt. 116 in the picturesque Mount Holyoke Range.
The market has a country store feel, but carries all kinds of specialty goodies and gourmet treats. The outside reminded me of a Lincoln Log cabin.
Inside, the market has aisle after aisle of fresh, local selections. It actually felt just like Russo's in Watertown.
Atkins Farms Country Market is nationally known for their cider doughnuts. In fact, Saveur Magazine named them to their list of the 12 best places for doughnuts in the country.
We gave our name at the bakery counter and we were presented with a dozen doughnuts - six plain apple cider and six coated in sugar.
We took our loot over to the cafe area and grabbed a table. I love that you can shop at Atkins and then enjoy your purchases right away. With so many prepared food options, it would be a great place for breakfast or lunch.
We unwrapped both packages of doughnuts, starting with the sugar coated batch. I took my first bite and felt my lips turn upward in a smile. This doughnut was everything I love about a Dunkin Donuts' version, but enriched with that signature apple cider taste. The doughnut was very light, making it easy to eat 2-3 at a time (careful!).
The plain cider doughnut was a bit ho-hum on its own, but I know it would taste excellent dunked in coffee, tea or cocoa.
Just as we were about to leave the cafe and explore the rest of the store, my friend pointed out that the stools at the cafe counter were made from tractor seats. So clever! I wanted to take a photo, but there was a family with young children sitting there enjoy their doughnuts and I didn't want to freak them out with my photo snapping.
We really enjoyed wandering around the rest of the market. Atkins has a very impressive chocolate counter. I was drawn to the chocolate and candy covered pretzels and all the unique flavors of fudge.
On the savory side of things, they have their own olive bar. You can mix and match types to create the perfect topping or appetizer.
They also have a beer and wine section. This particular weekend they were showcasing locally made ginger beer.
Atkins also has their own line of jams and spreads with flavors like red cherry, fig, orange and peach.
Towards the cash registers there is a huge display of dog treats. They come in all kinds of cute options - ice cream cones, Chipwiches and even doggie doughnuts!
Of course I got Scout one of the doughnut treats.
I loved so many things about the Atkins Farms Country Market. First, you could easily do all your weekly grocery shopping there. You can also pop in for hostess gifts or just to grab a doughnut. If you're really in a rush, the bakery has a drive-through window!
If you're headed to Amherst with kids in tow, Atkins is located just a minute away from the Eric Carle Museum. When we spied it, my friend said, "Well, today we are The Very Hungry Caterpillars!" So true.
In case you are wondering, I did continue to enjoy the apple cider doughnuts for several days after the road trip and they were just as delicious on day two and day three as they were on day one.
*This post is sponosred by the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council. All opinions are 100 percent my own.