Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's like Mr. Rogers went to Vermont with us!

A couple weekends ago we had a long weekend away up at Killington and given a special someone's recent knee surgery we opted for non-skiing activities. As the title may suggest, we learned a lot that weekend. If you might remember watching Mr. Rogers at a very young age, our weekend was sort of like that - learning how to make various things. My favorite Mr. Rogers was when he did a behind the scenes look at how to make crayons! On this particular weekend we learned how to make beer, ice cream, goat cheese and dulce de leche at a cute little farm, and cider/cider donuts. It was such a nice Vermont-y, local weekend!
On the drive from Boston up to Killington, one of our first stops was at the Long Trail Brewery. In Bridgewater Corners, open daily from 10a-7p, they have a quick self-guided tour and on weekdays you can see them actually making beer. Since we visited on a weekend we didn't get to see anything in production, but it did explain the beer making process very well and they have a fun sampler from the bar that gives you 6 smaller samples of their beers so you can try more but still drive afterwards! Definitely worth a stop.

The next day our first stop was Ben and Jerry's for their Factory Tour in Waterbury (a little over an hour from Killington). I had been here once before when I was much younger and I'll admit I didn't remember any of it, so it was like going for the first time again! Similar to Long Trail, if you go on a weekday you'll get to see the ice cream actually being made! This time of the year they're open 10a-6p and it's $4 for adults, and completely worth it.

Everyone's favorite part is easily the tasting at the end! We got to taste a flavor from their testing lab that wasn't on the market yet - Polar Bearry, a raspberry ice cream with a raspberry swirl and white chocolate polar bears. Our tour guide was entertaining and friendly, and it's amazing to see how small friends Ben and Jerry started.

Along the way back from Stowe we made a last minute decision to swing into Cold Hollow Cider Mill (in Waterbury Center, 8a-6p) where we tasted cider right from the barrel, watched them make fresh cider donuts, and of course, ate a cider donut, still warm! This tour, like Long Trail, is self guided and you definitely learn how simple making cider seems, though I'm still not sure I understand the difference between cider and apple juice. A quick google search solves that problem though - fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment, whereas apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove those solids and pasteurized so that it stays fresh longer.

Our last stop was Fat Toad Farm - probably one of our favorite stops of the weekend. When we called before stopping by to make sure they were open, their response was, "Of course we're open, just waiting for you here!" After making what seemed like 20 different turns, we finally pulled into the driveway of this little country house and working farm. The directions on their website are perfect though.

The farm hand came out the front door, introduced herself, and said, "Let's go see the goats!" They had just two males and over sixty females, since they're in the goat milk business after all, and the goats seemed so healthy and well taken care of. The females will all give birth to twins or maybe even triplets in March - and they'll only keep the daughters of the best milkers. They have a very small scale production, keeping their goats milk cheese in Vermont and getting their goats milk dulce de leche into just a handful of states.
After getting a tour of the farm and being introduced to the goats, we went inside for a tasting! They have four types of caramel (also known as cajeta, originally from Mexico) - original, vanilla bean, cinnamon and coffee bean. The cheese tasted amazingly fresh and had so much flavor - with five kinds to pick from: fresh chevre, maple chevre, sundried tomato and basil chevre, ginger cilantro sesame chevre, and olive lovers' chevre. My favorite was definitely the sundried tomato basil.

So next time you're taking a drive through Vermont or heading up there for a long weekend, I definitely recommend making some of these foodie stops! You can find even more stops to make too - Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington, the Cabot Visitor Center in Cabot, of course. Supporting local business, getting a little education, and tasting some yummy treats all at the same time!

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