Every now and then, this site will look at restaurants and other food spots that are outside of the Boston area, mainly because they are hidden gems that can be a nice part of a road trip. And in some cases, the places aren't really all that far from Boston, but they feel far, far away because of the scenery or sheer remoteness. And this is certainly the case with a wonderful roadside spot called Rota Spring Farm, a combination store, snack shack, ice cream stand, and family farm in Sterling that feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, when it is actually less than 30 miles from Route 128 and some of the western suburbs that are found along that busy highway.
Sterling is one of a number of beautiful towns in the hilly farming and apple-picking country west and northwest of Boston that includes Bolton, Harvard, Stow, and other towns in or just outside of the Nashoba Valley region, and Sterling is particularly hilly, with winding, twisty roads that have some great views. Rota Spring Farm is located near the intersection of two such streets, with Chace Hill Road and Kendall Hill Road looking at times like they wouldn't be out of place in Vermont. The farm itself is in an area of rolling hills with lots of green in all directions and cows grazing in the distance, with goats closer by in the farm's petting zoo out back. The retail part of the business has two sections--a farm store to the right and a snack shack/ice cream stand to the left, and benches and picnic tables can be found next to both (the benches and tables to the right of the store have the best views, though on hotter days, the tented area to the left of the ice cream stand is the place to be).
The retail store at Rota Spring Farm is a great place to get local products such as jams, honey, cakes, unbaked pies, hot chocolate, maple sugar, and a few products you might not find at your local supermarket such as birch syrup. Also available are their own grass-fed beef items such as porterhouse steak, delmonico, liver, and ground beef, and some prepared meals are also offered, including lasagna and chicken pot pie. The snack shack/ice cream stand is really more ice cream stand than snack shack, but it does serve hot dogs (including an excellent chili cheese dog), turkey subs, ham and cheese sandwiches, and items on special such as meatball subs. And then there is the ice cream--more than a few say that the ice cream at Rota is some of the best within an hour of Boston (if not in the entire state), and it certainly does compare favorably to such top-tier places as Kimball Farms in Westford and Carlisle and Bubbling Brook in Westwood. It is rich and creamy and has that consistency that you can only seem to find at spots in farm country where fresh cream and milk are used, with such flavors as black raspberry, maple walnut, and mint chocolate chip being a few of the popular choices here. In addition to ice cream cones (and cups), Rota also has frozen yogurt, sherbet, sundaes, ice cream sodas, and ice cream cakes as well.
More than a few Bostonians have probably never even heard of Sterling, and it is likely that even fewer have heard of Rota Spring Farm. Indeed, it is one of those true hidden gems tucked away on a little-traveled road in the heart of one of the most scenic parts of Massachusetts, and for those in the know, it a perfect place to hit on a nice spring day when it first opens for the season, on a warm summer night in the heart of the summer, or on a fall afternoon before or after apple picking. If you like to take road trips but don't have a whole lot of time, a quick drive to the Sterling area may be a good option, and a stop at Rota Spring Farm would certainly make it an even better one. [Note: Rota is a seasonal place that is closed December through February.]
Copyright © 2015, 2016, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).