Vermont Cheese: Reason # 1 Why I Probably Should Have Never Set Foot in That Beautiful State
When I spent the better portion of a week in New Hampshire last year, my first time in the state, I did so much research on the neighboring state of Vermont that I decided I’d be completely ruined if I ever added the woodsy, cheese producing state to the list of ones I’d been to, it sounded so wonderful. But since there were less than 10 remaining states that my husband and I hadn’t visited, and not many more that our boys still needed to add to their lists, my family and I planned a couple of back-to-back weekend trips to Vermont. And now I’m completely ruined. I hate it when I’m right.
Cheese is only one of the reasons Vermont has just about spoiled every other state for me. Too much good, fresh dairy all in one place, but much too far from my home, which means I’m all out and pining for more. A few other reasons why I should regret discovering Vermont will be presented in the form of future blog posts. This one’s all about the cheese.
The boys and I had intended to make a day trip to Quechee Valley near Hanover last May, but at the last minute decided that since we had been renting a house in the middle of a dairy for a few months, we weren’t excited enough to make the drive all the way up from Manchester, NH, where we had been staying, to a cluster of Vermont dairy farms to learn about milk cows. For this reason, when we planned our latest trip to New England, we decided to fit as much of the southern portion of Vermont into our itinerary as possible, along with some stops at dairy farms or cheese stores, preferably both. We chose Route 9 that would take us from Bennington and on to Wilmington to Brattleboro, right through the Green Mountains and over the Appalachian Trail so my son who is planning to thru-hike the AT next year could see another stop along the trail that he will be using to get a shower, a night’s sleep in a real bed after tent camping, and resupply his trail necessities. Then we wanted to head up 1-91 to Hanover and over to the Quechee Cabot store and the Quechee Valley farms. Cabot is a decent, readily available, naturally aged cheese that is made in Vermont. I’ve eaten plenty of Cabot cheese over the years, but an entire store dedicated to Cabot bricks, with taste-testing stations? That’s not something this foodie could pass up.
Well, we made it most of the way through Route 9’s section of the Green Mountains, which were still buried under a good foot of ice and snow, including the edges of the road which had only been plowed enough to accommodate maybe the width of a car and a half. I loved every second of it. And I promise I’m not being facetious. LOVED it. So beautiful! But when we reached Wilmington, I was like the little girl Miracle on 34th Street when she saw the house she was sure Mr. Kringle had given her for Christmas, “Stop, Uncle Fred! Stop!” My husband saw my jaw hanging so after making one pass through the perfect, quaint little town that was still covered in Christmas lights, snow, and sheets of ice, he pulled a uey and motored on into the parking lot of the nearest inn, though we hadn’t planned to stop so soon for the night. More on that perfect, impromptu mini vacation in another post, but it’s possible that Vermont had completely ruined me before I’d done one bit of local cheese tasting!
We finally arrived at the Cabot store in Quechee, in the Quechee Gorge Village near Woodstock, the next afternoon after more personal wreck and ruin, on my part, from an unbelievably gorgeous drive up the western edge of the state and a good hour of being absolutley lost somewhere in the middle, completely out of cell tower range. Again, wonderful Vermont wildness that should have been nerve-wracking but just left me feeling grateful for the adventure.
The Quechee Cabot store complex was SO MUCH FUN.
We tasted from the cheese samples they had set up for visitors.
Then we had fun picking out things to stock up on for nibbling through the rest of the trip and some things to give to friends.
I knew that King Arthur Flour is located in Vermont and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream originated there, but…Green Mountain Coffee. It had never occurred to me that it came from THE Green Mountains of Vermont until I saw a display full of packages of Green Mountain beans near the register at the Cabot store.
The cheese and sausage we bought made a good late night supper when we stopped at another hotel on our trip, and for a few lunches that following week while we were still on the road.
The Vermont Farmstead Brie from Blythedale Farm was my favorite. The only problem was that I didn’t have any way to warm it up, which is my favorite way to eat brie. But since no one else in my family eats brie, I had the whole little round to myself.
We can’t pass up cheese curds when we make a stop at a farm cheese store or cheese factory, so Maplebrook Farm’s cheddar curds were one of the first things to go in our shopping basket. For those wanting to sample these squeaky, creamy cheese bites while avoiding a trip to Vermont, though I can’t imagine now that I’ve been there why anyone wouldn’t want to visit Vermont, Maplebrook Farm cheeses are available at Publix, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.
Sugarbush’s waxed blocks of cheeses were excellent.
We all oohed and ahhed over the Original Naturally Smoked Cheese, but my husband was particularly happy with the Aged and Selected Sharp Cheddar. Their Mountain Jack was also really very good. Sugarbush Farm is located in Woodstock, a town up the road from the Cabot store that I’ve never been to but am already sure I’d want to settle in after all of my research and cheese tasting! Better not head up that road on our next trip in a few weeks or I’m sure I’ll be ready to put my little Smoky Mountain farm on the market, especially since two out of four us are ready to make New England our permanent home, and the other two say they would like living in New England but are fine wherever we land if we make another move.
There are a few other shops on either side of the Cabot store in Quechee.
The most interesting for my family was the antique mall with three levels, simply named The Vermont Antique Mall.
We all got lost in there for a while and had to keep getting the family members rounded back up.
A decent little tavern restaurant with good prices, called CJ’s, is located at one end of the parking lot of Quechee Gorge Village in a weathered old building with an attached diner. But I actually liked the woodwork inside CJ’s more than the food, and kind of wished we had opted to have lunch in the diner.
I love old buildings.
So…cheese. Reason number one why I’m sure I’m ruined after visiting Vermont. I’m kind of stuck on smoked Provolone from the grocery store right now, I’m sure in an attempt to get a little flavor from what is definitely NOT Vermont farm fresh, small batch cheese. Soon, though, I’ll nibbling my way through another round of the real thing. But I just might not come back this time.