There’s something about a visit to the beautiful Green Mountain State of Vermont that always has us wanting to return before we’ve even left. Upon entering the state, we immediately sense a shift in the air and in the scenery, but surprisingly we also sense a shift within ourselves. Simply being among the pristine, New England beauty clears our minds. Bucolic open spaces dotted with quaint villages surrounded by magnificent mountains would put anyone at ease. And we always sleep better in Vermont, waking refreshed, recharged and rejuvenated.
Vermont isn’t just a special place; it’s a way of life. Vermonters clearly live what they love and love what they live. The visitor quickly discovers the striking connection between the green beauty that surrounds and the passion for all things green, which includes both philosophy and food. There is equanimity here.
In Vermont, wherever you turn, you drink up beauty like rich milk, and feel its wholesome strength seep into your sinews.
Threescore: The Autobiography of Sarah N. Cleghorn, 1936
Our attraction to things local seems endless throughout Vermont and includes farmers’ markets, restaurants, and country stores. Our recent trip was to the magnum opus of local, the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. What a fête it was, hosted on the beautiful grounds of Shelburne Farms with Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks for its stunning backdrop. With a canvas like this, we knew we would be in for a treat.
The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
We arrived as the event opened and discovered it immediately bustling with visitors. Though the festival was crowded, we still managed to catch up with fellow cheese aficionados from home – Richard Auffrey, Jennifer Ede, and Jane Ward. We also had the chance to meet and chat with the knowledgeable Nancy Gilman from Provisions International, a regional distributor that works with many Vermont producers.
The event consisted of a vast array of tables staffed by many Vermont cheese artisans and purveyors, along with a few “flatland” participants from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. There were so many wonderful and diverse cheeses to sample. Though some of the more familiar, widely available cheese producers were present (Blue Ledge Farm, Cabot Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm and Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery), we decided to focus our attention on lesser-known artisans, some of whose work we had experienced and others we had not.
Artisans & Purveyors
Aside from cheese, we also enjoyed meeting and speaking with many other passionate, hardworking, dedicated Vermonters who were proud to share their local provisions, some of which we’ve enjoyed before, some we’d heard about, and some we discovered for the first time. This included the many non-cheese artisans presenting breads, crackers, jams, syrups, brownies, candies, condiments, wines, beers, spirits, and meats.
What a rich and rewarding experience it was to listen to personal, hardscrabble stories of why, where and how these craftsmen do what they do. Such stories help connect us not only their products and Vermont, but also to New England. We look forward to following them closely as they continue to refine their crafts.
On the ride home we discussed the festival and other things that make Vermont an interesting destination. We reexamined weekend highlights, food favorites, and interesting people. Even after many, many trips to the Green Mountain State, we realized that there is still so much yet to explore not only from a food perspective, but a historical and recreational standpoint as well.
Fortunately, we always manage (figuratively) to bring a bit of Vermont home with us, and this weekend was no exception. Even better was that we did manage (literally) to bring home some excellent cheese, beer, and other foodstuffs.
-The Two Palaverers
Photos credits: The Two Palaverers
Some cheese standouts:
Ascutney Mountain (Cow)– Cobb Hill Cheese– Hartland, VT
Atwell’s Gold (Cow) & Renaissance Ricotta (Cow)– Narragansett Creamery– Providence, RI
Cave Aged Truckle (Cow) – Grafton Village Cheese Company– Grafton, VT
Cheddar Bites (Cow) & Whole Milk Ricotta (Cow)- Maplebrook Farm- Bennington, VT
Dorset (Cow) & Pawlet (Cow)– Consider Bardwell Farm– West Pawlet, VT
Full Circle Tomme (Goat)- West River Creamery– Londonderry, VT
Hayride (Cow)- Mt. Mansfield Creamery– Morrisville, VT
Kunik (Cow & Goat)- Nettle Meadow Farms– Thurman, NY
La Fleurie (Cow) & Vaquero Blue (Cow & Sheep)– Willow Hill Farm– Milton, VT
Maggie’s Round (Cow) & Tobasi (Cow)- Cricket Creek Farm– Williamstown, MA
Mixed Emotion (Cow & Goat)- Lazy Lady Farm– Westfield, VT
Mossend Blue (Sheep)- Bonnieview Farm– Craftsbury Common, VT
Mountain Cheese (Cow)– The Farmstead At Mine Brook– Charlemont, MA
Natural Rind Gouda (Cow)- Taylor Farm– Londonderry, VT
Organic Cream Cheese (Cow)– Champlain Valley Creamery– Vergennes, VT
Original Plymouth (Cow)– Plymouth Artisan Cheese– Plymouth Notch, VT
Roger’s Robusto (Cow)– Scholten Family Farms– Weybridge, VT
Square Cheese (Goat) & Washed Rind Wheel (Goat)– Twig Farm– West Cornwall, VT
Sterling Madonna (Goat)- Sage Farm– Stowe, VT
The Vermont Cheese Club presented by the Vermont Cheesemongers offers subscriptions to purchase cheese both within and outside of Vermont.
Some non- cheese standouts:
Artisan Breads– Red Hen Baking Co– Middlesex, VT
Artisan Crackers– Whitney’s Castleton Crackers– Castleton, VT
Artisanal French Nougat– Vadeboncoeur– Vergennes, VT
Chevre Brownies– Vermont Brownie Company– South Hero, VT
Goat Milk Caramel (Cajeta)– Fat Toad Farm– Brookfield, VT
Ice Cider– Eden Ice Cider Company– West Charleston, VT
Jams- Sidehill Farm– Brattleboro, VT
Maple Ale– Lawson’s Finest Liquids– Warren, VT
Sweet Hot Mustard– Green Mountain Mustard– Richmond, VT
Pickled Vegetables– Vermont Pickle– Burlington, VT
Vermont Cheese Truffles– Laughing Moon Chocolates– Stowe, VT
Please note: To the many artisans and purveyors in attendance at the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival 2010 not listed here, we look forward to meeting you and tasting your wares in the future.