Question: My husband and I were in New England this past fall and stayed at The Sugartree, which is a bed-and-breakfast inn in Warren, Vt. For breakfast one morning, we were served the most delightful Ginger Pancakes with Lemon Sauce. Would you please see if you can get that recipe from the innkeepers?

- Caroline Larsen, Woodbury, Minn.Answer: A sense of our nation's past pervades Vermont, where steeples of white wooden churches rise above minuscule mountain-bound towns and dairy cattle graze sloping mountain pastures. The state's tree-lined lanes, brilliant with the red-gold leaves of autumn, and covered bridges, weathered remnants of our heritage, have become symbols of rural America. Ed Barna, author of "Covered Bridges of Vermont," writes, "If it's lonely farm wives you're looking for, go to Iowa; if it's covered bridges you want, try Vermont."

The Green Mountain State has the greatest concentration of covered bridges - more than 100 - in the United States, and although many are still in use, most American haven't the foggiest notion as to why the bridges were covered. For many people the romantic notion that the covered bridges were built to provide privacy for a sneaked kiss is sufficient explanation. Actually, the covered bridges are the result of Yankee practicality, because the roof and siding, which in most covered bridges create an almost complete enclosure, protect the wooden trusses from the weath-er.

In the Sugarbush-Mad River Valley area of central Vermont, head to Waitsfield to explore the oldest continually covered bridge in Vermont, dating from 1833. It is one of four bridges that are a pleasant day trip from the Sugar-tree Inn in Warren. Reminiscent of a European hotel, the saltbox-style inn is tucked into a mountainside, a quarter of a mile away from Sugarbush Mountain and 30 miles southwest of Montpelier, the smallest U.S. state capital. Locals will pinpoint the inn as being in "Ben & Jerry" country, because Warren is in the neighborhood of Waterbury and the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream factory.

Exploration requires sustenance, so innkeepers Frank and Kathy Partsch rise early to fork-stir the batter for the Gingerbread Pancakes that are served with sweet-tart Lemon Sauce.




Gingerbread Pancakes:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup molasses

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Lemon Sauce:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup hot water

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pancakes: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg and milk. Beat in molasses. Beat in oil. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and hand stir with a fork until just combined (batter will be lumpy, but lumps will cook out). Let the batter "rest" 15 to 30 minutes before using. Grease a griddle or frying pan and preheat to very hot. Use approximately 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. Turn when the pancake appears to be dry and bubbles appear on the top. Flip and cook the second side until lightly browned - watch closely, these burn easily. Yields about 1 1/2 dozen small pancakes.

Lemon Sauce: Place sugar and cornstarch in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add hot water, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and clear. Add butter, lemon peel and lemon juice and stir until butter melts. Serve warm. Yields about 1 1/3 cups.