Rose Gold (Pt. 1)

Rose Gold (Pt. 1)

Whenever I’m around farm animals, I turn into a 5-year-old. I love their playfulness, their curious demeanor, their soft little tongues and noses, their single-minded determination to have all the delicious snacks. That’s why I was unable to tear myself away from the goats when visiting North Branford’s Rose Orchards Farm, where I spent quality munchie time with (and 100 percent of my pocket change on) Margo and her triplets, born in January. The 25-cent grain pellet dispensers were giving off smoke by the time I was through.

I also met handsome Beaux, a shaggy, mid-sized Scottish Highland steer—one of the farm’s newer residents—who mostly showed me his butt. If Hollywood ever decides to film Chewbacca: The Early Years, this bovine’s a shoo-in for the lead. He and Rose’s other animals shelter in a gray barn with a functioning water wheel.

Of course, there’s more to Rose Orchards Farm than charming, frisky animals—in this case, a lot more. The farm was established in 1644 by Robert Rose, a Puritan who, in 1634, emigrated from England with his wife and eight children aboard the Francis. Over 12 successive generations, it’s evolved from an orchard into a more comprehensive produce farm, though the devastating New England hurricane of 1938 prompted a nearly 40-year-long shift into dairy farming. That phase ended when a 1975 fire destroyed several cow and hay barns. These days, the farm’s 50 acres grow everything from blackberries to sweet corn, offering visitors seasonal opportunities to pick their own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins.

My first destination was the main building, a gambrel-roofed, converted dairy barn established in 1981 that houses three signature attractions: a farm market, a creamery and a restaurant. Produce is just one part of the bounty at the farm market, which also features farm-baked fruit pies in 13 flavors ($19.75), meats from Guilford’s venerable Salt Marsh Farm ($9.50-$25) and a variety of specialty foods and condiments including Ground Up baking flours from Massachusetts ($10/bag), Belmont Peanuts from Virginia ($9/can), Butternut Farm Maple Syrup from Vermont ($13/bottle) and, sourced by The Farmer’s Plate of North Grosvenordale, peach halves ($15/jar), coffee ($15/bag) and artisanal honey ($16/jar). I also enjoyed browsing the shop’s charming inedible options, from toy trucks and children’s books to T-shirts, buffalo plaid blankets, goodies for pets and a wide range of country-style homewares.

While many of these often regionally produced items seemed pricey, I scored what I thought was a pretty good deal by purchasing four farm-baked muffins—a mix of corn and coffee cake—for $9.25, since each muffin looked nearly as big as my head. They were rich, flavorful and more than worth every penny, especially when warmed in the oven and combined with a cup of tea or coffee.

My next stop was the restaurant: Buck’s Grill, serving breakfast and lunch daily from 7 to 3. I enjoyed a luxe and tender grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwich ($9) finished with bacon, asiago cheese, lettuce and tomato and a side of humongous waffle fries ($4). The featured meats are local and the veggies mostly farm-grown when in season, and all sandwiches can also be made as wraps.

I also wanted to try the Jalapeño Popper Burger ($10) stacked with Salt Marsh Farm beef, bacon, jalapeños, cheddar cheese, an onion ring and homemade Buck’s Sauce and the Hot Dog “loaded” with peppers, onion and cheese ($5). Next time I’ll arrive for breakfast and order the challenging Recovery Wrap, a mélange of eggs (from Soffer Farm in Guilford), hash browns, bacon, cheddar, sauteed onion, tomato, jalapeños and more of that Buck Sauce ($8).

I took a short rest before lining up at Rose’s frozen custard stand. The custard flavors are limited to chocolate, vanilla and a “twist” of the two, but the farm manages to turn these into a bonanza of creative cold treats: pie a la mode and brownie sundaes ($7.50), dipped cones and cups ($5-$6), soda and slushie floats ($4.50-$5.50), ice cream sandwiches ($3), razzles—a blend of custard with your mix-in of choice, from gummy bears and M&Ms to Oreo chunks ($6.50 & $7.50)—milkshakes ($5.50 & $6.50) and, of course, sundaes topped with hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, sugar on snow (made with maple syrup) and fresh fruit in season ($5-$6). I indulged in a medium-sized classic chocolate sundae drenched in caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream and walnuts for $5.50. If you prefer to satisfy your sweet tooth with frozen yogurt, that’s available too, in vanilla and strawberry, and can be substituted across the board.

I ran out of time and stomach space to try the farm’s pick-your-own experience and the fruits of its winery, opened in 2017, which also features a farm-to-table restaurant offering seasonal dishes. All of that will have to wait—until tomorrow’s edition.

Written and photographed by Patricia Grandjean.

More Stories