Friday, September 5, 2008

Sampling Vermont

The slogan on the t-shirt in a Vermont Gift and Souvenir shop read:
“What Happens In Vermont, Stays In Vermont - although not much happens here!”
Quaint it is. True it isn’t. There are many and varied small businesses, many of them agriculturally based, but certainly not all. And this is the state where I dare say many of the “name” brands you use nearly every day are produced. On our two day stay in the Danville and St. Johnsbury, Vermont area, we packed in visits to as many of those specialty businesses as we could. Here’s what we did:

First, a visit to Cabot Creamery. As the name implies they use their co-op style base of dairy farmers to produce some of the best known milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products in the country. You will find them at most retail grocers and also as the dairy base providers to places like BJ’s and Costco. The plant tour includes a video production, a “from behind the glass” walk through the facility, and an introduction to the complete product line. While the tour was interesting and informative, the samples room spoke pretty well for itself. They have some “to die for” cheese products and my cholesterol levels will just have to get over the fact that I pretty much tried them all.

One good dairy tour deserves another, so off to the world renowned Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory we headed. I was expecting a quaint little ice cream joint- not the mini Disney-like venue we arrived at. But the tour was great, complete with corny cow jokes and the like. Did you know that because Vermont cattle are raised on hilly terrain they have developed two legs longer and two legs shorter- thereby rendering them as “lean” beef? Well, then, mooooooving right along…..Sample of the day was the John Lennon inspired “Imagine Whirled Peace.” Delicious! Inside the production plant photos were not allowed, in case I was writing this blog as a Haagen-Dazs spy. Or so they said. The personable guy who gave the tour was a riot and should probably fill out an application for Last Comic Standing. Not that I think he will win, mind you, but I should like to hear his repertoire one more time.

Apple Cider, once only a seasonal treat, has now become a year around drink of choice for many thanks to modern apple storage techniques. Cold cider? Hot spicy cider? Maybe a touch of hard cider? Sure. Next stop: Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Samples? Yes. Yum. Also a behind the glass tour of the processing area- but this time with a twist. The guys running the line noticed I was taking more than the typical number of shots…and invited me in so I wouldn’t have to shoot through the glass. That is a first class thing to do, and I thank them for their courtesy. The basic process involves washing the Vermont Mac apples, mashing them into a pulp, pumping that pulp onto stacking trays and wrapping it in cloth which catches the pulp, then milling the cider from the pulp through pressure on the stack. The amount of fluids that they were able to produce and capture was amazing. The pile of pulp produced juice for well over half an hour before it had pretty much squeezed everything dry. Seemed as though it should stop at any time, but just kept going and going and going. Fascinating. It was hard to tear ourselves away, but….

...a cup of coffee seemed to be in order, so down the road we went to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. If you like the smell of coffee in the morning (or anytime) you’re gonna love this place. It’s not technically a tour. You do see the plant and the café and you have a tremendous selection of their product in the store, but for sanitary purposes what you get is some interactive displays and a good video, rather than an actual trek through the plant. A cultural presentation is made on many of the areas where the coffee beans are grown and harvested. We purchased some decaf versions of specialty coffees I have not seen elsewhere- ever- for future use. Mmmm, that hit the spot.

No doubt you will notice the shot with Marilyn’s face up against the “flavor wheel.” You can spin the wheel of fortune as it were, then press the button for a “puff” of air that smells like the coffee will taste if that flavoring is selected in production. There were many flavors- but we all know Marilyn. She kept sniffing the chocolate!

It wouldn’t be fair (or forgivable) to visit Vermont without a visit to the number one Maple Syrup and candy producing company in the world- Maple Grove Farms of Vermont. So we did just that. As you will see from the pics this is NOT a behind the glass tour of the plant and hair nets are a MUST, not an option. So what looks like instruction to the line crew, is actually our group taking the tour. Never one to be big on sweets, these maple tree flavored products are sure tasty, so I enjoyed the samples that were offered here as well.

While we were here on our brief (for now) stay in Vermont, a friend of ours (Hi Alita!) wrote us from storm ravaged Florida and gave us some more places to check out in this, her home state. Good ideas all, and on the “to do” list for next time or as time permits. Never spent much time in Vermont, even though we lived in nearby Maine for most of our adult lives. It’s beautiful and filled with interesting things to do and see. Two thumbs up for Vermont!

1 comment:

Jen said...

Great blog!

Sounds like you had a fantastic time in Vermont. Glad you enjoyed the Cabot plant tour and all the yummy cheese samples. You just can't beat free cheese; I've certainly had plenty of it! :)