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sugarbush_farm_575_190If you are in the Woodstock, VT area, you might want to check out the Sugarbush Farm. I did not get a chance to go there yet, but they seem to have a lot of interesting fun and interesting things to show you. They make maple syrup and cheese, and have a number of farm animals: a new baby calf called Oscar, our twin goats, Rhode Island Red chickens and of course Larry’s huge Belgian draft horses. Sounds like a tasty back road adventure to me!

While it’s only 3 miles off US Rt 4 in mid Vermont, those 3 miles take you from the busy town to an out of the way working maple syrup, cheese and animal farm. The town-maintained road is gravel not black top and the views of the Green Mountains are spectacular, they say.

Sugarbush Farm is a 550-acre family farm started in 1945 by the Ayres family. Their 2nd and 3rd generation children and grandchildren are now running the farm, tapping 7,000 maple trees, selecting, aging and smoking 15 varieties of cheese, and welcoming visitors from all over the world who want to learn more about farming. The 1865 farm house has become an area for cheese packaging, sampling for cheese & syrup tasting, shipping for thousands of gift packages. The kitchen and living room of the original family is now converted into a farm house store!

Folks say when you step into the back door of the cheese sampling room, you feel like long lost cousin coming back to the family farm. Each family is welcome to a personal tasting of all the cheeses, along with explanations of how it’s made, how to keep it while traveling and at home, and how to serve it. Right now they still have some of that 8-year old Super Wicked Sharp Cheddar Cheese (what a name!) and they say it’s “great”!
And there is also maple syrup sampling. You can all 4 grades and experience the difference in taste as the syrup season progresses. Maple sugaring was much better this year than the previous two and so they still have plenty of each grade.

During the warmer months of the year there is lots of learn outdoors. The maple sugar house is busy with actual syrup making in the spring and during the rest of the year it’s converted into a educational building with lots of graphics, machinery, and a video so folks can learn how syrup is made and how it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. You can also walk the maple trail to see where trees are tapped in the spring. When weather is warm, Luce’s farm animals are brought out. There is also plenty of room for a picnic and room for kids to run and play. While many farms in Vermont have been lost to development, it’s the Luce’s goal to keep the family farm a successful working farm by welcoming visitors and educating them about local products.

Sugarbush Farm is open every day from 9 to 5.

591 Sugarbush Farm Rd
Woodstock, VT 05091
1 800 281 1757
www.sugarbushfarm.com

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Vermont foliageFall is definitely here in Vermont! A couple of fresh nights this week and the first maple trees turned red and tonight frost will have more leaves turn red, no doubt. A nice premise for a nice week-end.
And to celebrate Vermont foliage season so dear to all of us, there are many things to do here. Of course you can go canoeing and kayaking on lakes and rivers (I will write about it next week) or hike or do a lot of other outdoor activities. But there are also some special events and festivals this week-end:
Apple picking : You are invited to participate to the annual contest « Apples to iPods » which takes place in many orchards again this year. If you find a wooden iPod in a tree at one of the participating orchards, you’ll win a real iPod. More info at: Vermont Apples.
Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival – Mount Snow Valley –September 25-27, 2009: It’s the second year of this event, where you can participate to cooking demonstrations by local restaurants, wine and cheese pairing presentations, wine pairing diners at some local restaurants, etc. Specialty food makers, cheesemakers and craft artists will show their products. And of course, there will be music, jazz trio and acoustic roots band… Don’t miss a Vermont style breakfast on Saturday or Sunday morning, with maple syrup (I am sure) and products (bacon and sausages) from local company Vermont Smoke and Cure, or the BBQ and Blue Grass diner on Friday night. The event is listed as one of the top ten Fall events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce this year. More info at Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Annual Fall Foliage Festival – September 27 – October 3, 2009 – Towns and villages of the region offer a variety of activities during this week : food events, visits, music, etc. More info on the site of the Chamber of Commerce.
5th Annual Burlington Book Festival – September 25-27, 2009 – A book fair in Burlington is always a good excuse to come and wander the nice streets of this nice little Vermont town we all like (see our last year’s article on Burlington). Many authors will be there, there will be new and used books, free appraisal of rare books and more. More info at Burlington Book Festival.
6th Annual Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival – September 26-27, 2009 – In the Southern part of the state, woodwork and nice furniture lovers won’t miss this event. More than 50 furniture makers and woodworking artists are expected. You can even watch Barre Pinske carve a bear on site. More info at Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum – Archaeology Week-end – September 26-27, 2009 – South of Burlington, near Vergennes, it is the annual archaeology event at the museum. You can do a tour on the lake to see a shipwreck (Saturday 1pm), or enjoy presentations, movies and more. More info on the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum website.
Biking tour – South Hero and Grand Isle – September 26, 2009 – And for cycling amateurs, the Montpelier Section of the Green Mountain Club organizes a 25-mile loop in this beautiful region of Lake Champlain Islands, north of Vermont. For more info, contact: Mary Garcia at (802) 229-0153 or Mary Smith at (802) 505-0603.
– And don’t forget to read the last issue of Vermont Life magazine (we are not paid to promote it), for more info on a lot of outdoor activities you can do this Fall here, or just for the pleasure of looking at the beautiful photos they have throughout the magazine! Vermont Life Magazine Current Issue.

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vermont-institute-for-artisan-cheese-575Photo: Courtesy of Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese.

We have to confess: we like cheese and Vermont cheese! Last month, we brought the news to you about the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival. It was unfortunately sold out so we’re glad to tell you that you can still attend an evening on Cheese and Wine Pairing, at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, at 255 Carrigan Wing Building, University of Vermont: it’s on September 22nd from 6 to 9pm.
More information at: Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese website.
To learn more about Vermont cheeses, you can also listen to the recent Vermont Public Radio interview of Allison Hooper, from Vermont Butter and Cheese Company and Paul Kindstedt, from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. They are both authors of books on cheesemaking. You’ll learn the definition of artisan cheese, farmstead cheese and much more!
And finally don’t forget that cheesemakers in Vermont always welcome you to visit them: you can consult the cheese trail map or read “The Vermont Cheese Book” to plan your visit.

Related articles:
First Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
Award-winning Vermont Cheeses

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cheesemaker_festival_575It’s this Sunday, August 23, 2009 from 10am to 5pm.
A great looking event which unfortunately is… SOLD OUT!
So clearly everyone noticed the quality of the activities presented (seminars, cooking shows, cheesemaking demos, over 100 cheeses to taste, etc) and of the presenters… and the tickets went like hot cakes!
The organizers were planning for 500 to 1000 attendees and 85 people maximum for each of their seminars (Cheesemaking 101, Cheese Pairing Beyond Beverages, Cheddar and Beer Tasting, Cheese and Wine Pairing, Explore Shelburne Farms) and every seminar and general entry ticket is sold!
But you can still enjoy the Vermont Artisan Foodmakers Open Studios, on Saturday, August 22 (the day prior to the festival). On that day creameries, wineries, breweries and artisan foodmakers across the state will be open for special tours and tastings. A map showing location of all the participating foodmakers as well as all website addresses can be seen on the event website.
And for the festival, as the organizers say: “See you in 2010”.
Related articles:
Award-winning Vermont Cheeses

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laughing_moon_chocolates_575
Photo Credit: Paul Rogers.

Known for culinary delights such as maple syrup and specialty cheeses, Vermont also has its share of superb chocolate makers.

Lake Champlain Chocolates
The state’s largest chocolate producer, based in Burlington, started small. In 1983, restaurant owner Jim Lampman began making hand-rolled truffles for his staff and select patrons. Demand was so great he soon turned to chocolate full time.

The company now owns three shops and cafés in Vermont, and sells its wares – truffles; raspberry, orange and cherry creams; hazelnut pralines; peanut butter cups; and Chocolates of Vermont (Belgian chocolate combined with rich local ingredients) – in over 1,200 independent specialty stores across the country.

The selection is diverse and delicious, but don’t take our word for it. Watch their chocolates being made, and enjoy discounts on factory “seconds” – slightly imperfect chocolates – at their factory store in Burlington.

In winter, the cozy, sweet-smelling café is THE place to sample the company’s four varieties of hot chocolate. And don’t worry, there’s a comparable summer ritual: locals and visitors welcome warm weather with a scoop of their sublime chocolate ice cream.

Laughing Moon Chocolates, Stowe
Owner and chocolate maker Leigh Williams has been creating artisan chocolates and old fashioned sweets in Stowe for over fourteen years, with an increasing commitment to local ingredients and the environment.

Hand-rolled truffles incorporate all kinds of rich liquor: Boyden Valley Wines, Green Mountain Distillers Sunshine Vodka and Maple Liquor, Flag Hill Farm Pear and Apple Brandys, and Rock Art Vermonster Beer. Their popular chocolate cookies, covered with milk, dark and white chocolate, come from the Sweet Crunch Bake Shop in Hyde Park.

And Laughing Moon makes more than chocolate – they recently started to candy fresh organic orange slices in Honeygardens of Vermont honey.

Tom & Sally’s Handmade Chocolates
Tom and Sally (yes, those are their real names) arrived from Manhattan nearly 20 years ago to live their dream of making chocolate in beautiful southern Vermont. Their line of sweets includes hand-crafted Luxury Chocolates; chocolate bars wrapped with vintage art; and old time pleasures, peanut brittle and almond toffee.

Our favorites are the 100% Organic Skinny Bars – rich in flavor, low in fat. These single serving size dark chocolate bars, made from 100% organic dark Belgian chocolate, with cocoa contents ranging from 66 to 78%, are infused with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee, ginger root, peppermint leaves, and raspberry.

The yummy confections weigh in at 1.5 oz, and average about 200 calories a bar – which you can burn off in the one-hour guided factory tour in their Brattleboro headquarters.

Touring the state?
Visit these other Vermont chocolate makers, located a bit more off the beaten path:
Snowflake Chocolatiers, in Jericho
Daily Chocolate, in Vergennes
Vermont Chocolatiers, of Northfield
Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, of Grand Isle
Nutty’s Steph’s Chocolate Factory, of Montpelier

And last but not least, discover these fine chocolate makers – and others – at the Chocolate Festival, the 3rd Annual Festival of Sweets, Nov. 21-22, 2009 at the Doubletree Hotel in Burlington.

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maple_sugarhouse_575Spring is in the air and it means it is time to enjoy Vermont maple syrup. There are a few activities taking place throughout the state for all to participate. We just need to hope for cool, freezing nights and warmer days for the next few weeks, for the best maple syrup!

Vermont Maple Open House Weekend – March 27-29 – The big event is the 8th annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, March 27-29, 2009. A number of sugarhouses throughout Vermont participate and activities are different at each sugarhouse. You’ll watch maple syrup being made (weather permitting), can taste maple syrup on the snow, see how it is sapped from the trees, and often sample and buy maple products.
More information: List of participating sugarhouses

St. Albans Vermont Maple Festival – March 24-26 – It’s the 43rd annual maple festival in St. Albans, and it is one of the “top 10 winter events” according to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. This year, there is a special theme to the celebration, for the 400th anniversary of Lake Champlain. The website mentions “Samuel de Champlain was in St. Albans at the time of maple sugaring” which of course could be a stretch of historical facts, as Champlain discovered Lake Champlain in July! But who knows, may be he came back at a later date…
In any case, there are a lot of friendly activities at the festival: pancake breakfast, Fiddlers’ variety show, Vermont maple buffet dinner, “sap run” – an 8.5 mile run, sugarhouse tours, Vermont maple festival parade, antique show, and much more…
More information: Schedule of events

Lunenburg Maple Festival – Lunenberg – March 28 – This is a smaller local event at the Lunenburg Elementary School, but it does offer some of the traditional activities: pancake breakfast, Chicken’N Biscuits supper, tree tapping, and maple syrup making (weather permitting), pie contest, and more.
More information: Top of the Common; Schedule of events

Breakfast at Eaton’s Sugarhouse – Locals know that this is a great place to enjoy breakfast with maple products, all-year-long – right off exit 3, of highway 89, on the east side of the highway. You can even see the place from the highway! Feel free to leave a comment and tell us of other such places, but this is the one we know!

New England Maple Museum – Pittsford – Located on route 7, and open starting mid-March, the museum is promising a trip through over 200 years of maple sugaring, starting with its discovery by Native Americans. Did you know that we owe maple syrup to Native Americans, who had discovered that boiling the tree sap gave a deliciously-tasting syrup? Native Americans were heating rocks on the fire and dropping them in wooden bowls filled with maple sap. The rocks were hot enough to make the sap boil. It was and still is a slow process.
More information: New England Maple Museum

Related articles: Who makes the best maple creemee?

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Vermont Farmhouse Chowder
This winter, six Vermont ski resorts (and more to come) are offering something really special on their menus: a hearty Farmhouse Chowder, featuring products locally grown by Vermont farmers. How it was conceived and developed is truly a fascinating story, but more importantly to all of you skiers, it is delicious!
We had the opportunity to taste it ourselves at the Statehouse cafeteria last week. The chowder has a really nice smoky taste and is truly the kind of hearty food all skiers want to have when they come into the lodge for lunch, after a few hours of skiing.
With this chowder, Sugarbush Executive Chef Gerry Nooney created something truly distinctive for Vermont. The soup is made with Peaslee’s Potatoes, Cold Hollow Apple Cider, Vermont Smoke and Cure sausage and of course, fresh Vermont cream, all local Vermont products. And it does have a very distinctive taste!
And at $6.50 for a bowl at Sugarbush, it costs the same as other prepared soups… but it’s Vermont-made and always fresh…never frozen!
In addition to Sugarbush, the Vermont Farmhouse Chowder is also available at Mount Snow, Bromley, Stratton, Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch Resort, and we’re being told that more ski resorts could join soon. And non-skiers will be happy to know that they can also buy it in a number of delis and local markets or make it at home (see recipe).
Finally… for those of you who are interested in the story of how it came about: it started with a simple idea of promoting local produce, similarly to the Vermont Ski Burger last year.
Chef Gerry Noonley worked hard to develop the recipe. Ski Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture worked together, along with some private businesses such as Cold Hollow Cider, Vermont Smoke and Cure, and Black River Produce (the distributor) to make it happen! “It is a remarkable example of what Vermont small community can achieve when working together” says Chef Gerry Noonley… Indeed… and the success is there to prove it: the chowder has already been produced in volumes that are twice the team’s initial expectations.

Note: The Vermont Ski Burger is available at Okemo Mountain, Stowe, Burke Mountain, Stratton and Mount Snow. It is made of Vermont-raised all-natural beef from Boyden Farm, and cheese from Cabot Creamery, with some “personalized touches” by the various ski resorts.
Ski Vermont Ale, made by Long Trail Brewery, is another Ski Vermont initiative that you can try at Stratton.

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ThanksgivingThanksgiving is about great food and family fun. For this festive time, we’ve tried to find some fun things to eat and to do in Vermont. Here are our top choices:
1- Forget all the hard work and try one of these restaurants… if you are in Southern Vermont. I am relying on this article of Suzanne Donahue, who is suggesting three local restaurants with nice food and wonderful settings: the Four Chimneys Restaurant in Bennington; Arlington Inn in Arlington and the Ye Olde Tavern in Manchester Center. Let us know what you think!
2- Discover the 19th century traditions of Thanksgiving at the Billings Farm and Museum. Enjoy a visit with costumed guides and watch their demonstration of the preparation of a traditional 19th century Thanksgiving meal in the 1890 Farm House.
3- Sunday November 30, 7 pm, at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. Attend a Gospel Choir concert in Montpelier… in the spirit of the Holidays. “The gospel choir and band combines soul, jazz, original and traditional gospel music to produce an exuberant sound”, they promise us.
4- Saturday November 29, 11 am in Randolph. Be kids again… or bring your grand-children to a delightful marionette show. The show “The Hobbit” is the newest production of the No Strings Marionette Company. The reviews are great!
5- Indulge with chocolate turkeys (for something new): Lake Champlain Chocolates has them for you.
6- Personally I prefer cheese to chocolate! Why not make your Thanksgiving supper special and discover some of Vermont artisan cheeses for the occasion? See our recent article for a list of Vermont award-winning cheeses.
7- And if you are in Putney, take part in the 30th annual Putney Crafts Tour, which happens there every Thanksgiving Week-end. The Vermont Shepherd cheese company is just one of the 27 participating “artists”!
8- And last, but not least, get some special wine for this Thanksgiving celebration. It seems that this “poor girl gourmet” blogger knows her wine and she is recommending the Apple Maple Wine and Cassis Wine from Putney Mountain Winery for Thanksgiving. Why not try it?

And on this note, happy, happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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cheese plateVermont cheese makers are getting a lot of recognition for their excellence recently! And they deserve it… So, we’ve decided to review some of the recent competitions and to identify the award winners among Vermont cheese makers.
With this knowledge, you may be interested in following the famous “Cheese Trail” we have mentioned before… possibly with the help of the new book “Vermont Cheese Book” which has followed that trail for the pleasure of all.

And if you don’t have the book, you can check this map of the Vermont Cheese Trail for the places which welcome visitors (check the little flags on the map). It has been put together by the Vermont Cheese Council.

The first competition – the 2008 World Cheese Awards – took place in Dublin, Ireland last September. Cheese makers from all around the world attended and Vermont came back with a few nice awards!

The Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. – five awards for its goat cheeses: Vermont Chevre, Vermont Fresh Crottin, Vermont Creamy Goat Cheese, Vermont Quark and Aged Cheese Bijou and one for its Vermont Quark.
Grafton Village Cheese Co. – two awards for its Grafton Maple-smoked cheddar and Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar.
Cabot Creamery Cooperative – one award for its Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (aged at Jasper Hill)
Willow Hill Farm – one award for its Butternut.

The 2nd competition – the American Cheese Society’s Competition – took place last summer in Chicago.
And the winners are:

Blythedale Farm Inc. – Vermont Farmstead Brie
Bonnieview Farm – Ben Nevis
Cabot Creamery Cooperative – Cabot Monterey Jack Cheese; Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese; Cabot 3 Year Old Cheddar; Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Aged at The Cellars at Jasper Hill; Cabot Extra Sharp Wheel; Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar
Consider Bardwell Farm – Pawlet; Manchester; Dorset
Dancing Cow Farmstead Cheese – Bourrée
Franklin Foods, Inc. – Hahn’s Neufchatel
Neighborly Farms of Vermont – Organic Jalapeno Jack
Shelburne Farms – Shelburne Farms Smoked Farmhouse Cheese
Thistle Hill Farm – Tarentaise
Vermont Butter & Cheese Company – Vermont Mascarpone; Vermont Feta; Vermont Fresh Crottin
West River Creamery – West River Creamery Marinated Feta

Other awards were received there for butter, cream cheese, creme fraiche, and cottage cheese.

The 3rd competition is the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest, organized by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, not truly international though.
Both Cabot and Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. received awards but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to say precisely for which product.
Cabot Creamery Coop. – medium cheddar, low fat cheddar and cottage cheese
Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. – Vermont goats milk feta

And last but not least, the cover story of the September issue of “Wine Spectator” featured picks for the world’s top 100 cheeses with 10 from Vermont… by cheese makers including Jasper Hill, Cabot, Shelburne Farms, Grafton Village, Thistle hill, and consider Bardwell Farms. I did not read the article, so if you have, feel free to leave a comment with the precise list of cheeses who made the list, that would be great. I just know from a press release that Grafton Village Cheese clothbound cheddar and premium cheddar were on that list.

Finally, at the Summer Fancy Food Show, last summer, Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. was recognized for “outstanding product line”… quite a year for this artisanal cheese maker!

Well, with all this information in hand, I just have to wish you nice touring and good shopping (Christmas is coming afterall!).
For directions to Vermont Cheese Makers: Cheese Trail map
For more information:
Vermont Butter & Cheese cheese reviews (scroll down the page at this link to see the reviews)

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Vermont Granite Museum - BarreWith Fall approaching, the buzz here in Vermont is definitely about foliage, but we’ll have a special article on foliage activities in the next few days.
For this week-end, still lots of things to do for the pleasure of all:

11th annual Barre Granite Festival – Barre – Saturday September 13, 10am – 3pm – Stone carving, music, history lectures, photography exhibit, Chicken BBQ lunch, tours of the Hope Cemetery are all on the program! We are definitely going to check it out! Afterall, people come to Barre from far away to see the delightful granite sculptures of the Hope Cemetery and the granite quarries. And Barre is – to our knowledge – the only Vermont county with a published article in National Geography!
More information at: Vermont Granite Museum – Granite Festival

7th Annual Small Farms Food Fest and apple picking – Shelburne Orchards – Sunday September 14, 11am – 5pm – You can enjoy 80 acres of apple trees, 10 acres of which have organic apples, you can enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Champlain, and you can enjoy the special activities on that Fest day: live music, haybale maze and special foods. Sounds like a fun Sunday afternoon!
More information at: Shelburne Orchards and Small Farms Food Fest

14th Annual Burlington Latino Festival – Burlington – September 10-14 – Lots of Latino music. The main event is Saturday 13, at the Boathouse, downtown Burlington, starting at 10am, with music bands from 6pm to 10:00pm and even a boat cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III at 10:30pm to 12:30am!
More information at: Burlington Latino Festival

42nd Annual Bennington Car Show – Bennington – September 12-14 – 100 acres of antique and muscle cars for antique cars’ lovers!
More information at: 42nd Annual Bennington Car Show

Puppets in the Green Mountains – 10 locations in Bellows Falls, Putney, and Brattleboro – September 12-21 – Looks like an amazing event. It is the 6th edition of this international festival of puppet theater, with 8 groups from 7 countries – Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Sweden, Taiwan, and Vermont – 22 performances in total!
More information at: Puppets in the Green Mountains

Vermont Humanities Council events – Windsor – Sunday September 14 at 3pm – For history lovers like me, the Vermont Humanities Council is presenting 400 Miles Down the Connecticut River by Michael Tougias, author of fourteen books about New England.
More information at: Vermont Humanities

Lake Champlain through the lens – Lake Champlain Maritime Museum – September 6 to October 29 – A juried photography exhibit with participating professional and amateur photographers. Admission is included in the admission to the museum.
More information at: Lake Champlain through the lens

Hey, don’t forget to write to us with your comments!

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