In early April, Chris and I decided to embark on an impromptu self-guided tour of Vermont's cheese trail. For years we have enjoyed Vermont cheeses sold at local markets in Boston, but we have never ventured out on the cheese trail to taste freshly made cheese directly from the source.
1) Early April is not the best time to go. Many of the cheese makers are closed for the season and the weather is unpredictable. The first day was sunny and a balmy 70 degrees F. The second day was freezing,windy and snowy. Early May might have been a better choice.
2) Going on a cheese tour while pregnant can be a bit...well...tortuous. Much of the cheese is freshly made with raw milk - a no-no food for pregnancy. Luckily there were a couple of options made with pasteurized milk so I could partake in sampling. A tip for the pregnant ladies: you can eat raw milk cheese as long as you heat it up. So bring on the grilled cheese!
We would have been able to squeeze in two more had we planned our trip beforehand and called ahead to arrange a time at those creameries that are appointment only. But this was a last minute get-in-the-car-and-go trip so c'est la vie!
Not only is it fun to taste the cheese, but the drive through Vermont is beautiful and each property has a really fascinating history. Here is a brief recap of each:
Plymouth Artisan Cheeses: Presidential Roots
- Operating for 124 years, it's the second oldest cheese factory in the USA.
- The factory was founded by the father of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the USA.
- The factory's location has not changed since it's inception in 1890. There is a little museum above the shop where you can see the original cheese making equipment.
- Here we purchased the Sage & Herbs cheese and two bags of our favorite almonds from The Mapled Nut, a Vermont owned gourmet nut company. These almonds are so good that we finished them in a matter of minutes!
Cabot Creamery Cooperative: Strength in Numbers
- Cabot isn't just one cheese maker, it's actually a cooperative of over 1,000 dairy farm families!
- In the early 20th century, there was an excess supply of milk so farmers from the Cabot region joined forces and combined their extra milk to make butter under the Rosedale brand name.
- Although the number of Vermont dairy farms shrank in the mid 60's, Cabot retained hundreds of members supplying milk to make their increasingly popular cheddar cheeses.
- We sampled all the cheeses on display at the Visitor's Center just outside of Stowe and our favorites were the horseradish cheese and the chipotle cheese. I love the horseradish cheese so much that I've begun purchasing it regularly at my grocery store in Cambridge.
- Situated along Lake Champlain, just south of Burlington, this 1,400 acre working farm is a National Historic Landmark.
- In the late 1800's, Lila Vanderbilt Webb (Cornelius'' granddaughter) and her husband acquired this land and hired the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to develop it (the same Olmsted that designed New York's Central Park).
- The farm is MASSIVE and consists of several stunning buildings designed by R.H. Robertson.
- During the summer, visitors can stay at The Inn at Shelburne Farms. It's seasonal because heat was never installed at this summer "house".
- The farm is currently a non-profit organization that helps educators and children learn about sustainable living and farming.
- While the highlight of this visit was definitely touring the grounds (even in the brutal snow and wind), the cheese was also very good. Here we purchased a 6 month aged cheddar and a horseradish mustard that pairs nicely with Chris' sautéed brussel sprouts.
If you are curious about where we stayed, we played it by ear knowing it was shoulder season in Vermont and demand would be low. We ended up getting a deal via Priceline at The Essex Resort just outside of Burlington. We booked the room on our phone a few hours before checking in. Our room was very cozy and comfortable and we were only about 20 minutes from Burlington where we spent the evening and dined at Church & Maine. Check out more photos from Burlington here.