During a stint in Rotterdam, I promised my then three-year-old daughter that we’d take her on the “Pannenkoekenboot,” the famous Pancake Boat. We had heard that the one-hour Maas River cruise/all-you-can-eat pancake buffet was not just a touristy favourite but also a bona fide Dutch family tradition. We arrived at the dock an hour in advance and were delighted to find ourselves third in line. We watched as hundreds of people arrived, my daughter’s excitement growing exponentially with each passing minute. I cannot describe the look on her face when boarding time began and we were told that reservations were required and the cruise was sold out. We’d have to step aside and try again next weekend.
Yeah, you try explaining that to the kid.
It was a painful lesson in parenting. As a result, we have learned to keep everybody’s expectations low when it comes to quintessential family excursions. One rule is etched in our brains forever: call ahead.
So when I heard about a place where kids can ride a tractor-pulled wagon out to a pumpkin patch and select their own Jack-o-lantern-to-be, I didn’t take any chances. The woman who answered the phone at Millers’ Farm (the “I” of their logo on their website is dotted with a pumpkin) found my first question amusing: “Yes, we have lots of pumpkins,” she assured me.
It was my first visit to a pumpkin patch and it couldn’t have been more idyllic. A peaceful, picturesque property peppered with piles of pumpkins (Sorry, I couldn’t resist but hey, at least I didn’t mention the potted plants). It’s amusing to see the bright orange orbs lazing about in a wide-open field; it’s hard not to see them as little pets just waiting to be adopted. Pick me! Pick me!
After the hay ride (cost: $1 per person, lollipop included), we stopped in the market area to fill our wagon with a few other goodies. (Love that the farm provides handy wagons for hauling everything back to the car!) In addition to pie pumpkins and several kinds of squash ($2 each) as well as gourds, there are fresh apples from Smyth’s Orchards of Dundela (apparently the home of the tree from which all McIntosh orchards throughout the world originate). I bought a huge bag of Honeycrisp apples and they are simply the best apples I have ever tasted. I am tempted to use a similar superlative to describe the homemade butter tarts — gooey, slightly oozy, and deeply caramelized with soft buttery crusts and a few raisins. Just how I like them.
Oh, and in case you’re curious, we did get a reservation for that pancake boat in Rotterdam the next weekend. We admired quirky architecture while gorging on thick Dutch pancakes topped with sliced cooked apples, strips of bacon, shredded cheese, and that dark-as-molasses sugar syrup called stroop.
Someone really ought to sail a pancake boat down the Rideau. In the meantime, I highly recommend a trip to Millers’ Farm. No reservations required.
Millers’ Farm and Market, 6158 Rideau Valley Dr. (Manotick), 613-692-2380 www.millersfarmandmarket.ca
Open until October 31; weekdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; weekends 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.