It’s that time of year when each and every weekend beckons for a day trip. It is time for a new adventure to a destination that you’ve never been to and that has a plethora of hidden surprises tucked into the trip.
Here is my recommendation for a day trip that is about an hour and a half outside of Kansas City — Hamilton, Mo.
That’s right, Hamilton! You may be thinking, “What?” What could possibly be in Hamilton? If you are a diehard quilter then you know Hamilton by heart, but for the rest of us, let me explain.
Hamilton is the home of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. This business has grown to almost 500 employees and 13 shops on the main drag of Hamilton.
Don’t stop reading this yet. I know you are thinking it is not for me. Well, yes it is! Let’s talk food and specifically let’s talk about baked, delicious treats from the local bakery/cafe.
Quilters have long referred to Hamilton as a Disneyland for quilters. Based on this fact, Mama Hawk’s Kitchen is the Cinderella story of this quaint town. Liz Hawkins is the owner of the local bakery/cafe. Allow me to share a bit of her story. It is magical!
Liz was very happy living in Pennsylvania with her family and enjoying life. Then one day she attended a quilting retreat in Hamilton with several of her friends. (See note below on the retreats.)
She had a blast quilting and making memories but was upset that the bakery in town had closed. She mentioned to the folks at the retreat that she loved to bake and guess what? A few weeks later she was back in Hamilton discussing opening a bakery.
The glass slipper fit and a few weeks after that Liz was back in Missouri looking for a place to live with her husband and teenage daughter.
Her daughter definitely has her mom’s genes for adventure. What 16-year old do you know that would be willing to risk it all, pack up and move to Missouri?
OK, I digress, which is easy to do when you are talking about Liz. You are probably wondering what credentials she had to open a successful bakery in a quilting town. Plenty!
While not known as the greatest cook or baker in her family when she was growing up, Liz lived in France and Switzerland for 10 years after she married. The European destinations were filled with fabulous butter, cream, chocolate, pastries and more. She honed her culinary skills and found a new passion for all things baked.
I mentioned early on this was a fairy tale story. There is more. Liz was already a successful quilt and fabric designer before she moved to Hamilton. Check out her website here. When you walk into Mama Hawk’s Kitchen you will see that Liz studied art in college. She is definitely living the dream and combining her love of baking with quilting and fiber art.
The bakery is filled with delights. She serves breakfast and lunch. Pizza is offered all day from her oven that hails from Italy. Pizzas are ready in a flash! In 90 seconds to be exact.
I enjoyed a delicious breakfast panini the day I spoke with Liz. On a prior visit, I became enamored with the turkey, cranberry and cheese panini … another winner.
Did I mention the sugar cookies? Of course not, because I am trying to forget how wonderfully delicious they were. They have quite the reputation. A neighbor friend knew that I would be going to Hamilton and she insisted that I buy a sugar cookie.
She said that quilters far and wide, locals and many of the visitors from the tour buses that visit Hamilton enjoy the cookies on a regular basis. She was right — I’m hooked. Perhaps Mama Hawk’s Kitchen is most famous for the cinnamon rolls. They looked spectacular and are on my must-taste list.
Liz loves small town life.
“Being in a small town lends itself to knowing the people you buy your goods from and getting them local is pretty awesome,” she said.
Mama Hawk’s Kitchen is the only place in town to offer gluten-free baked goods, paninis and even gluten-free pizza.
This all began with my suggestion for a day trip. Here would be my plan. Get to Hamilton early and enjoy a treat from Mama Hawk’s Kitchen. Allow time to browse the stores.
If you are not a quilter, you probably will be before you leave. In addition there are a few gift shops that may have that special gift you need. I recommend the lotions that are made in neighboring Jamesport.
I can see your wheels turning. You are probably thinking there isn’t a thing for my husband to do while I mosey through town. Wrong! There is a store front that is specifically for men. Recliners, large-screen televisions and a pool table! What more could you ask for?
There is no discrimination here; women are welcome, too! You may want to treat your love to a cup of Mama Hawk’s Kitchen’s coffee. Liz says it is, “the best darn coffee” and folks clamor for it. She uses a local Kansas City coffee roaster.
When your stomach growls for lunch, visit Mama Hawk’s and perhaps share one of the scrumptious sandwiches or wood-fired pizzas. To quote Liz, she is always “cooking up ideas” to keep people coming back … like the 3 pound cinnamon roll that she created on a whim one Saturday.
Liz says it is in high demand now every Saturday. Browse and walk a bit more and if you are so inclined plan an early dinner at Blue Sage. (https://www.facebook.com/bluesagedining)
It is a wonderful food experience that lends itself to another fairy tale story. That one is for another time. One more thing, if you plan your trip this summer, you just may be able to enjoy Italian gelato and homemade edible cookie dough. What are you waiting for? Plan your trip today.
In the meantime, Liz was gracious enough to share a recipe for her Be Cre8ive Cookies:
Be Cre8ive Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crushed pretzels
In a large bowl, mix together butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Add flour, oatmeal, salt, baking soda and all other desired mix-ins. The mix-ins is where you get to be creative! Use up to 2 1/2 cups of any combination you like. If you use 1/2 cup for each mix-in, you could choose 5 different ones! Try raisins, chopped nuts, trail mix, different types of chocolate chips, crunchy granola, or even popcorn. You really can’t go wrong, these always turn out amazing!
Use a 2-tablespoon dough scoop to drop onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper; flatten slightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. (For a soft chewy cookie, make sure you take them out of the oven before the middle looks completely done. They will finish “baking” outside the oven and you’ll get a nice crunchy outside and soft chewy center. Perfect!)
Note: I was lucky enough to attend a retreat at the Missouri Star Quilt retreat center. There were approximately 30 sewing enthusiasts of all ages. (That’s right — all ages! Get rid of the idea that quilting is for old ladies. Millennials are hip to the fact that quilting is cool.) At the retreat there were 16 states represented. Our group was the only one that didn’t fly or drive 10 hours or more to attend. The retreat was 5 star. You can check out the retreat schedule here.
Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “Delicious Dump Cakes.” Other recent books include “Slow Cooker Desserts, Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious” and “The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After.” She develops the recipes for the Eating for Life column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com.