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Island Pond, VT, backdrop not necessary.

I need to make a little room in my heart. And my fridge.

I love my husband and he loves Maine. His parents relocated there after he finished high school and we dream about living in a rickety, potentially haunted Victorian mansion on the coast. (Well, I do. I think he wants something more manageable and less "spirited."). For all of the aforementioned reasons, Maine maple syrup is a staple in our household. We are never without a jug of this sugary liquid gold to pour on pancakes, waffles, fried chicken and ice cream.

But recently, a delicious threat to its dominance in the form of Island Pond, Vermont-based the Maple Guild’s Grade A syrup has entered our domestic space, only disturbing if you take into account the famous Island Pond Raid. I accepted an offer of a sample as well as an opportunity to speak with the Guild’s VP of sales and marketing, John Campbell, with some suspicion. Although I was determined to give the product a fair shot, I would not let Campbell sweet-talk me (yes, I’m channeling Carrie Bradshaw today) into liking or even loving this syrup more than it deserved.

In our pleasant but not saccharine conversation, Campbell educated me about the Guild’s sustainable agricultural techniques, its commitment to its small-town roots, and most interestingly, its new-school technical methodology (reverse osmosis) that allows for syrup that is less processed yet produced much faster than many others on the market.

Although I could try The Guild’s syrup alongside any number of different foods, I decided that at the end of the day the true test of its quality, at least for me, would be its compatibility with waffles. (If "no," there was no way I would move on to chicken.) What followed demonstrated not only that the Green Mountain State makes some pretty great syrup, but also, incidentally, the importance of not holding back with the butter.

I whipped up a no-frills batch of pumpkin spice pancakes, greased up my waffle maker, turned it on, and waited for the annoying but necessary beep, indicating it was sufficiently hot. I poured the batter into the waffle mold, clamped down the lid, and waited until I saw the waffle puff just slightly up under the cover. Beautiful!

Unfortunately, this genius did not add enough butter to the bottom of the waffle grid and what emerged was less than pretty.

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The cat does not approve.

“If it tastes good, that’s all that matters,” I said to myself and a passing judgmental cat, and by the way, given the frequency with which I have to tell myself this at the conclusion of cooking projects, it should be the title of my memoir.

Unsurprisingly, a pre-packaged pumpkin spice pancake mix was limited in true squash flavor though improved via the inclusion of hearty notes of nutmeg. But what really rescued these flapjacks was ultimately the syrup. The Maple Guild produces a lighter blend that is honey-like yet with a distinct woodsy rather than floral background element. Unlike our favored Maine variety, which should be applied judiciously to prevent it from becoming cloying, this syrup’s more tempered sweetness enables liberal doses that feel refreshing rather than liable to propel you into a diabetic coma.

In short, like me with Wyatt, the syrup married well with the pancakes. So, while Maine maple syrup due to its ties to my inamorato may be our mainstay, this stuff The Maple Guild is making in Vermont is the sweet salutatorian.

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