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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gastronomic Adventure in Vermont's North Country

Shepard Farm in Putney, VT

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember a post from last January 2012 where we described a day trip Tara and I took to Vermont to explore its dairies.  We were so enchanted by that 12-hour trip that we vowed to return with enough time to fully experience the New England farm life.  That vow brought us to the mountains of Northern Vermont for a week (this past October) to taste cheeses, wines, maple products, apple products, and anything else we could eat.  The trip cemented Vermont’s status in my mind as the best rural vacation spot in New England because, as most food swappers can surely relate, the locale with the best food wins!

Our Vermont adventures started before we even arrived at the resort when we stopped at the Ben and Jerry’s factory for a scoop.  On our last trip, we remembered a tiny shopping center down the street with wine, chocolate, and cheese, so we stopped there too.  Between the first shopping center and the resort, we discovered the Cold Hollow Cider Mill store (complete with yet ANOTHER wine tasting on the property) where we could watch cider pressing and buy cider jugs, donuts, fudge, and hot dogs!  So, on one road in Waterbury, Vermont (Waterbury-Stowe Rd for those of you who won’t get to the end of the sentence before your GPS is programmed) we found an ice cream factory, two wine tastings, cider heaven, a Lake Champlain Chocolate store and a Cabot cheese shop!  We even heard that the Green Mountain Coffee Company is on a different street within a mile or two from this delicious strip although we didn't make it this time.  Therefore, we renamed Waterbury, VT “Mecca” because it is the holy land for your mouth.  

Throughout the week, we visited a number of actual farms across the state.  In January, we only made it to the Fat Toad Farm after dark when we couldn’t take a tour so it was our top priority this time around.  This time, we got to meet the goats as well as their cows, pigs, chickens, and dogs!  We also witnessed the humans making epic goat’s milk caramel.  The team at the farm had the stroke of pure genius to add bourbon and salt to their caramel to make a seasonal treat that is mind bending.  We did, however, learn that their incredible chevre is no longer in production.  Thankfully, we bought several tubs from the final batch!  

The most beautiful farm, hands down, was in Shelburn.  The Shelburn Farm is actually a gilded age-era agricultural estate turned non-profit farm education center.  Besides the horses and sheep, here you can also see Olmstead designed landscapes, architecturally breathtaking farm buildings, and the Lake Champlain shoreline.

Being true urbanites, we needed a few quick breaks from the rural mountain air.  To get our city on, we enjoyed a dinner at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington and even sampled poutine north of the border in Montreal.  At Montreal Poutine, our adorable French-speaking waiter noted that this was our poutine "baptism" and asked if our happiness was big! The highlight of the Canadian leg of the trip was waiting for the French speaking maple syrup pitchman at Les Délices de l'érable to do the English version and realizing from a single sentence that he was a native Bostonian!  Here, we learned to make “maple on snow” and bought syrup mixed with rum! 

Bragging just a little at King Arthur

The final leg of our edible pilgrimage led us on a two hour “hunting” expedition at the King Arthur Flour baker's store.  If you like to bake (and really, who among us doesn't?) King Arthur is essentially a giant toy store.  Not only did I leave with a bucket full of cool tools (literally, a bucket full – I bought a multi-gallon food-grade bucket!), but I also left with a fat list of Christmas ideas for my family and myself.  In fact, I think their multi-tiered cooling rack is the must-have accessory for every cookie swapper this holiday season.

So despite GPS giving us the choice of plunging down a ravine or driving over a wooded dirt pile, driving for hours to get to a closed farm, and a little hurricane you may have heard of, our bellies were happy.  And a happy belly makes for a memorable vacation.  

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