24 September, 2014 - by DigInVT Staff

A Delicious Collection

 

Have you noticed how many wonderful places there are to visit to experience Vermont’s food, drink, and farms?  There are many exciting road trips you can plan around visiting these places.  (Check out the trails or make your own.)  Have you ever wished that you could find some of these places all under one roof?  The Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport, VT is just such a place.  Check out the blog post from the Vermont Fresh Network’s Fresh Feed to get more information.  Another such place that is gathering the best Vermont food and drink together is the Vermont Artisan Village.  Slated to open in early 2015, the Village is currently looking for craftsmen, artisans and food producers to join the collaborative and creative community at the Vermont Artisan Village.  Read their post below to get more information and become part of the Village!
From the Vermont Fresh Network’s Fresh Feed:
On the Road - Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center
March 5, 2014
The Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport, VT opened its doors in August of 2013 enticing both visitors and locals to come taste what the Kingdom has to offer. The Center is a local food emporium featuring a bakery, butcher counter, café, maple shop, and a top-shelf tasting bar with a tempting array of Kingdom spirits and cheeses from local farms. I was lucky to visit the center last week, and explore its culinary treasures with the Center co-founders and Eden Ice Cider owners, Eleanor and Albert Ledger.
Eleanor and Albert moved their cider making, aging, bottling and distribution operations from their farm in Orleans to the basement of the Tasting Center. Guests can see the process of making the ice cider which makes the experience especially unique. Eden Ice Cider manages to capture that off-the-branch taste of a ripe apple in golden liquid form. We settled in at the tasting bar, where Eleanor poured us samples of her Orleans Bitter and Herbal, Ice Cider, and other local spirits from Caledonia Spirits, Dunc's Mill and Artesano Mead. You can try a number of different wines and spirits, pair them with cheese, or have a Seasonal Tasting Plate featuring four “bites and sips” for just $9!
We headed for lunch across the room at the Brown Dog Bistro where local specials include items like a gorgeous beet salad, Vermont Bean Crafters Burgers, and Brisket sandwiches using Spring Hill Farm’s Beef that's processed in the onsite butcher shop. Owner Stephen Breault chatted nearby with farmer partner Ben Nottermann of Snug Valley Farm as we ate our tasty sandwiches. The beer list at Brown Dog is full of local brewers like Kingdom Brewing—who grow most all their own brewing ingredients on their Newport farm. We topped off lunch with salted caramel and mocha cupcakes from Jocelyn and Cinta’s Bakery, who have also found a happy home at the Tasting Center. 
Sitting on the border of Canada, the shores of Lake Memphremegog and just 20 minutes from the awesome slopes of Jay Peak, hungry visitors surround Newport--and there is no better food than that produced by the farmers and producers of the Northeast Kingdom. “Bringing these businesses together in an attractive downtown location will create a destination for residents and visitors to learn more about locally-produced foods and beverages,” Eleanor said. “They will buy and eat more healthy local food, and area farmers and producers will benefit from a larger local market for their products.” 
We urge you to go explore the Northeast Kingdom, and there's no better place to start than the Tasting Center! They can also now accommodate groups of 20-50 for tours of the center and cidery, followed by a tastings or meal in the barrel room of the Cidery. (Reservations required at least 2 weeks in advance, contact is Tracey@nektastingcenter.com)
From Vermont Artisan Village: 
vermont artisan village is a working community of artisans and food producers that promises to be one of the top food and tourist destinations in Vermont. Located on the busy Middlebury-to-Burlington Route 7 corridor in Shelburne near some of the most visited attractions in the state, Vermont Artisan Village brings together the best in sustainable local food production and artisan craftsmanship in a combined production and retail facility.
Calling all craftsmen, artisans and food producers to join the collaborative and creative community at the Vermont Artisan Village! Do you make artisanal hard cider? Or, maybe coffee roasting is your specialty? Maybe you are a traditional weaver? We're looking for any and all types of food and craft artisans to join us at the Vermont Artisan Village. We are scheduled to open in early 2015 and are currently accepting applications for tenants. 
Come join our unique and collaborative community of artisans and producers in this beautiful new production and retail facility. Our spaces are 100% customizable to your needs. Learn about the Vermont Artisan Village, view site plans, rates and more on our website: http://vermontartisanvillage.com/.

Have you noticed how many wonderful places there are to visit to experience Vermont’s food, drink, and farms?  There are many exciting road trips you can plan around visiting these places.  (Check out the trails or make your own!)  Have you ever wished that you could find some of these places all under one roof?  The Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport, VT is just such a place.  Check out the blog post from the Vermont Fresh Network’s Fresh Feed to get more information.  Another such place that is gathering the best Vermont food and drink together is the Vermont Artisan Village.  Slated to open in early 2015, the Village is currently looking for craftsmen, artisans and food producers to join the collaborative and creative community at the Vermont Artisan Village.  Read their post below to get more information and become part of the Village!

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18 September, 2014 - by Nicole Roach, Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge

A Summer Tasting of Vermont’s Outstanding Artisan Cheese

Category: Place Profiles

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A cow named Dizzy munches on buttercups, a goat named Isabelle ruminates under the shade of an old oak tree; in Vermont, the rolling green pastures are shadowed only by the cheeses that its distinct flora promotes.
With all the marvelous European cheeses we carry, tasting through terroirs of France, Italy, Switzerland or Portugal can sometimes make it hard to remember that, here in New England, a slice of the Old World exists right on our doorstep. While Europeans are upholding some of the most important cheese traditions, Vermont’s cheese makers and affineurs (cheese agers) are bursting with creativity, blending European and American traditions with some truly extraordinary results.
Earlier this summer I awoke in a strange bed; the rattling in my head reminding me that I might have had one too many pints of beer the night before. I was at Consider Bardwell Farm, the first of several stops on a trip visiting the people and animals behind some of our favorite Vermont cheeses. My coworkers and I had been welcomed at the farm the previous evening with a feast spread by our gracious hosts and farmer friends. Now I scrambled to get dressed and greet the sun, which was just breaking through the clouds over the pasture.
The dairy was already bustling with activity before I crossed the fields to the milking room. The goats nudged each other trying to be first in line. The heifers ran to the stalls where suction would relieve their mammaries. Everyone was awake and brimming with energy. The farmers washed the equipment and prepared the udders for milking. The goats smiled, and seemed to laugh as they noshed on coveted treats, and gave their milk.
The milk traveled through sterile tubing into large vats in the dairy. The rennet was added and the process began. Each cheese has its own recipe, its own distinct needs to present itself best to our palates. While in the dairy, time, pH, and tactile impression shape the cheese before its curds are cut. Although most of the flavor in our favorite cheeses materializes in the caves, the structure of the final product depends upon the precision of the cheese maker.
After a tour of Consider Bardwell’s controlled aging rooms, we drove to nearby Twig Farm to meet Michael Lee and his goats. The area was more wooded, and the land appeared to be mainly untouched. Michael greeted us at the end of the driveway and promptly gave a tour of the grounds. He introduced us to many of the 64 goats he cared for. Michael had names for each, distinguished by the goat’s markings and the color of its collar.
As we toured his land, and moved the fences to expand the pasturing area, Michael astounded us with his knowledge of the flora and the goats’ affinity for particular plants. He explained the nuances that particulars in diet bring to the flavor and structure of his famed tommes. In his cave he enjoyed watching the milk evolve. He embraced the micro cultures, molds, and yeasts that spawn delicious cheese. Twig Farm is small, Michael does the farming, cheese making and cave management himself with only an occasional helper. His devotion to the craft is recognized in each of his products.
From Twig Farm we traveled to Blue Ledge Farm, renowned for their Lake’s Edge and fresh chèvre. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived, and we had already missed the cheese maker. A young dog ran up to greet us near the barn. Hannah was right behind him. She took us down into their cave. There curds for chèvre drained in baskets along steel tables dripping with whey. In the next room, Lake’s edge rested covered in ash.
Next on my itinerary was Jasper Hill Farm, and the Cellars at Jasper Hill. In the pastures, on the way to the Cellars, we met Dizzy. She was munching on grass and wildflowers in a field just down the road from the barn. Jasper Hill’s cows spend much of the day ruminating in the gorgeous pastures on along the hills.
We passed the barn and dairy and continued up the road to the caves. This massive underground facility was unimposing, just a door into the hillside. Matteo opened the door and welcomed us into the cellars. Vince, our guide, and former Formaggio Kitchen monger, acquainted us with the many arms of the facility. One was devoted to raw milk bloomy rind cheeses, one to alpine style washed rinds, the largest arm was reserved for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. The affineurs care for cheeses from a variety of neighboring dairies. Regular turning, washing, and tasting wheel after wheel is required by the cave managers to provide the best product possible.
After a fascinating visit at the Cellars at Jasper Hill we made our way to Cobb Hill. Cobb Hill is co-housing community who’s residents manage a vegetable farm and dairy, and create delightful cheese as well as frozen yogurt. We were given snacks of Ascutney Mountain, Cobb Hill’s signature alpine cheese and maple frozen yogurt; it was perfect on a hot summer afternoon.
I had one final stop. I was running out of time but needed still to visit Spring Brook Farm: Farms for City Kids. Here they are dedicated to educating children and impressing upon them the need for sustainability. With 100% Jersey cow’s milk the farmers create award winning cheeses like the Spring Brook Tarentaise. I was introduced to the copper kettle envied by many, and after visiting their cheese caves I took some time to wander the beautiful landscape, and pat a calf or two.
It was an incredible journey through the Vermont countryside; reflective of life ruled by the sun, the seasons, and a sincere commitment of neighbors to the highest standards of quality, community, and sustainability.
Nicole Roach is a keen kitchen experimenter and a member of the produce, register, and operations teams at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Summer may be ending but it's always the right season for a trip exploring Vermont's delicious cheese. Read this cheese adventure here and then make your own!

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4 September, 2014 - by DigInVT Staff

Exploring Burlington: Home of the Art Hop

 

Burlington is a strolling city. Visit it in early September, when the air is still warm and the sun has taken an autumnal slant, and you feel like you could walk around, casually exploring forever. The city is set up to invite you to do just that. There is the Waterfront Park along Lake Champlain, City Hall Park where the Burlington Farmers' Market convenes every Saturday (it goes indoors after October 25th), and the famous Church Street Marketplace pedestrian mall with plenty of shops and restaurants. 
A newly popular area for exploring is Pine Street, in Burlington's South End. 
Pine Street is home to well-established businesses, such as Conant Metal & Light and Dealer.com, many of which involve food, including Lake Champlain Chocolates, Speeder & Earl's Coffee, New World Tortilla, Great Harvest Bread Company, and Myers Bagels (Montreal style bagels sold from a shop that opens at 4:00 am. . . nothing tastes better than a bagel - or three - straight from the wood oven at 4:00 am). The kitchen collective at ArtsRiot provides a rotating menu with a different chef each night and organizes a food truck stop on Friday nights. New eateries on the street include So-Yo Frozen Yogurt, a tangy frozen yogurt using Vermont dairy, and the South End Kitchen at Lake Champlain Chocolates, which combines a cafe and cooking class space (check the DigInVT calendar of events for upcoming classes). 
Pine Street is perhaps best known as the home to many individual artists' studios from traditional painting to rust-belt inspired clay sculpture to Strange Dolls (a studio that makes. . . strange dolls). Near the end of Pine Street are the studios of the Emergent Media Center, run by Champlain College, which creates interactive, multimedia experiences. Earlier this year, the Burlington Writers' Workshop brought their headquarters and writing space to Pine Street's Studio 266. 
The South End Arts and Business Association (SEABA) refers to this neighborhood as the place where art meets commerce. 
If you're looking for a chance to explore the arts, commerce, and food of Pine Street, then the first week in September is the time to do it. The annual Art Hop, organized by SEABA, runs from September 5th - 7th. Studios and businesses all along the street open their doors with exhibits by local artists. There are kids' events, live music, a comedy show, an artists' market, juried shows, outdoor sculptures and the STRUT! Fashion Show. 
The Art Hop is a perfect introduction to this region of Burlington. This event will give any visitor a feel for the energy of this creative corridor, which carries over into the rest of the year. After you've seen the work on display, and the number of people who come out to view it and participate in their community's annual festivities, you'll always imagine the hum of activity going on behind the walls of the Pine Street buildings. 
To get information on ticket sales, a full list of venues, and schedule of events for the 2014 Art Hop, visit the SEABA website at: http://seaba.com/ 
Looking for a place for lunch or dinner during the Art Hop? Check out the food vendors at the Burlington Farmers' Market on Saturday, the eateries on Pine Street, and, of course, all the great downtown Burlington restaurants - including some delicious brunch venues like Mirabelle's Cafe, Penny Cluse Cafe, and Magnolia Bistro. You can find more information on the DigInVT.com Places page.

The South End Art Hop is coming this weekend Friday, September 5 - Sunday, September 7.  While you are taking in the art don't forget to take in some food too.  Check out this great article to get a taste for what Burlington and the Art Hop have in store for you!

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28 August, 2014 - by Sheila McGrory-Klyza, The Vermont Epicure

Island Time

 

When most people think of Vermont, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Green Mountains, thanks to their popular ski slopes and hiking trails. But an equally notable natural resource, and a highlight of the state for me, is Lake Champlain. Friends from out of state are often surprised to hear that it’s the sixth largest freshwater lake in the country, after the five Great Lakes. Spanning 120 miles along Vermont’s western side, it’s flanked by New York’s Adirondack Mountains and also offers spectacular views of the Greens.
We live about 20 minutes due east of Lake Champlain, so in the summer it’s a big draw for swimming, kayaking, and sunset viewing. Learning to sail on the lake is at the top of my bucket list. It’s home to 70 islands, the largest of which are ideal for biking, so last weekend Chris and I decided to explore the southern part of Grand Isle, an area known as South Hero. To get there, we biked across the Island Line Trail, a narrow causeway that crosses the lake, joining a suburb of Burlington with South Hero. The ride across is a spectacular four-mile trek over the water, with sweeping views in all directions.
The Island Line Trail used to be a railroad line with a swing bridge that allowed boats to pass through. Since the swing bridge is no longer there, a 20-passenger bike ferry now transports cyclists and pedestrians across the 200-foot gap. 
The ferry’s affable captain told me that he makes the crossing around 50 times on a typical day. Chris and I hopped aboard with a handful of other people--locals, Québécois, and out-of-staters--and were on the other side in less than 10 minutes.
Grand Isle County lays claim to the state’s longest growing season, which makes for a thriving agricultural region and good food and drink to be had. We pedaled along dirt and two-lane roads, past orchards, 
cows, 
and small-scale farms,
never far from a glimpse of the lake. For lunch, we stopped at the Accidental Farmer Cafe, a modest roadside stand tucked in between an orchard and a farm.
The Accidental Farmer himself, Mike, hand rolled some local, grass-fed burgers for us as he talked about life on the island.
Although he’s not an actual farmer, he says he “cultivates the farmers” by using as much of their produce, meat, cheese, and other products as he can in the tasty fare he serves up. We couldn’t resist ordering one of his juicy cheeseburgers, but his other more creative, global offerings—such as nachos served not on chips but on local fingerling potatoes—were very tempting.
After lunch, we walked next door to Allenholm Farm for a classic Vermont dessert—a maple creemee.
Back on our bikes, we looped around to the western side of the island to take West Shore Road hugging the coast. The wind picked up and it started to drizzle just as we were approaching Snow Farm Vineyard. Perfect timing!
The first commercial vineyard in the state, Snow Farm was established by its forward-thinking owners in an effort to retain agricultural land in the face of pressures to develop. The island’s more temperate climate allows Snow Farm to grow French hybrids, along with Pinot Noir and Riesling, under the direction of a winemaker who studied with the best at the University of Dijon in Bourgogne, France. (I also studied there while in college—not winemaking, although I did my share of extracurricular sampling.)
Chris and I shared a tasting, which they nicely let us split since we would be getting back on our bikes.  I was impressed by the smoky Baco Noir and also the Gewürztraminer, whose minerality is balanced by lush peach.
Back outside the drizzle had stopped, but we still had to ride against the wind back to the ferry. We pedaled hard up a couple hills, and then we rounded a bend and came upon a field edged by trees. On practically every tree, someone had placed a colorful birdhouse. Hundreds of them.
In this technological consumer age when we’re constantly bombarded by corporate efforts to “surprise and delight” us, this simple display made us literally stop in our tracks, genuinely surprised and delighted. And it was just one of several instances that afternoon, during the course of our twenty-mile bike ride, that had this effect on us.

Looking to explore a beautiful of region of Vermont?  Look no further than the Champlain Islands.  There are many things to do and many things to eat!!  Enjoy!

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19 August, 2014 - by Marino Pawlowsk, Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge

A Cheese Trip to Vermont: Consider Bardwell, Blue Ledge + Twig Farm

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Four years ago, when I first moved from New York to the Boston-area, I can only describe it as a collision of worlds. Although the change of pace is less noticeable for some, it took me extra time to adjust to the relatively gentle mobility of Beantown as compared to that of the Big Apple.
After finding work at Formaggio Kitchen, and as I established a comfort zone with my newly adopted environment, I was given the opportunity through the shop to visit a series of farms in western Vermont. I had never traveled that far north in the United States before, so I jumped at the opportunity.
The trip offered a wonderful introduction to a region extremely diverse in sights, flavors and experiences. Growing up, my grandparents would seek solace from the city life in the mountains of central New York but, as a child, I never appreciated the clarity that environment could impart.
My fellow staffers and I visited three farms on our trip: Consider Bardwell, Twig Farm, and Blue Ledge. During our visit, Twig Farm’s owner and veteran Formaggio Kitchen cheesemonger, Michael Lee, gave a simple, yet nuanced perception of his art. He posited that cheese bears a striking similarity to bones; dependent as they are upon the bonding of calcium and on moisture levels during cooking, curds can be molded into a soft and pliable cheese, or a firmer, more crumble-prone cheese. Michael’s analogy became a sort of leitmotif to reflect upon as we visited other farms in this unspoiled terrain. Each cheesemaker gives life to a different bone in their “body” of a repertoire, and each farm was its own sort of self-sustaining organism or ecosystem.
The final, striking aspect of our trip was the use of the honor system, and the collective bartering between farms that eliminates any sense of competition. Cheesemaker Hannah Sessions of Blue Ledge Farm explained that this is a byproduct of the comparative youth of artisan American cheese production, married with the fact that there is still plenty of business for everyone involved.
The sense of place and charge that each of the farms we visited has with their land and livestock is extraordinary. I believe that it is safe to say that this region will continue to serve as a large, untainted sandbox for artisan cheesemakers to create their own corpus and a place where natural city-dwellers like myself can learn to appreciate a different kind of order for many years to come!
Photos by: Kim Beaty
Marino Pawlowski is a romance linguist, enchanting dinner guest, and a cheesemonger and buyer at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge .

With so much great cheese in Vermont, it's difficult to know where to start.  Here are three cheesemakers to start with.  You can visit other cheesemakers and make your own cheese trail!

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24 July, 2014 - by Corey Burdick

For the Love of Cheese! (and chocolate)

Category: Events

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For the Love of Cheese! (and chocolate)
Vermont summers are fleeting and as people who live here year round know, it's the perfect time to get out on the lake, marvel in sunsets, and savor as much warmth as possible. One of the tell tale signs that the season is in full swing, is the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. This year, the festival marked its 6th year! If you've never attended the festival, as I hadn't until Sunday July 20th, then I highly recommend it! The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And you really do need all six hours to completely experience the myriad cheese and artisan food vendors that dot the gorgeous Shelburne Farms landscape. 
The sun was bright and hot as people lined up at 9:45 a.m. to grab a commemorative bag and wine glass which would be used throughout the event to sample nineteen Vermont beer, wine, cider and spirits producers! A program in each bag highlighted not only the forty-nine cheesemakers, forty-one artisan food producers, and fifteen artisan products and services, but also provided a handy guide to workshops (counter intelligence, vertical tasting, sweet and stinky, and European vs. Vermont), seminars, and cooking demos (cooking with cheese and ales and cheese and chocolate) being offered throughout the event. Cheesemaking demos by Shelburne Farms staff and a demo by Chef Courtney Contos were also featured. 
I won't lie, the shear breadth of vendors was a little overwhelming, but in the best way possible! It seemed, at first blush that it would be quite the feat to sample each product, but I made a go of it! I even managed to make it into one of the packed workshops which were complimentary with admission. Sweet and Stinky was my workshop of choice given my affinity for strong cheeses. A panel featuring Eleanor Leger of Eden Ice Cider, Colin Davis of Shacksbury Cider, and Gail Albert from Shelburne Vineyards graced the stage. They discussed their sweet beverages' compelling ability to pair well with cheeses from Vermont Farmstead, Jasper Hill and Twig Farm. The side by side tasting left my taste buds tingling and begging for more, which fortunately, meant stepping just outside the classroom where my cheese, chocolate, and caramel tasting continued. 
My strategy involved skipping some of the tables with my favorite, often purchased cheeses, like Vermont Creamery and Taylor Farm and hitting some I hadn't tried before. Standouts included Parish Hill Creamery blue which was simultaneously creamy, grainy, and pungent as well a Sage Farm goat cheese. Crowley Cheese Company has been around for a long time, but somehow this was my first taste and the extra sharp as well as the chive coated my palette and lingered for a considerable time. 
After tasting a number of cheeses, it was time to hit the sweets! Big Picture Farm caramels have been a long time favorite and once again, they did not disappoint. Several dishes dotted their table with a variety of caramels to sample alongside rounds of their goat cheese. I also found a couple of new chocolates to add to my roster, such as Burke Mountain truffles. This company takes the Vermont philosophy of collaboration and incorporates it beautifully into their truffles. A white chocolate truffle used Eden Ice Cider as a flavor component and another was oozing with Fat Toad Farm caramel. But, the real standout for me in the chocolate department ended up being Laughing Moon chocolates. Wow! From their peanut butter fudge to their salted caramels. Their truffles had unique flavor combinations including cardamom and blue cheese. Even their salt and pepper chocolate bar was out of this world delicious. These satiating confections topped off my sweets consumption for the day! 
It was suddenly 3 p,m. and time to visit some of the animals that make all of these delicious cheeses possible. I met baby goats, Cider and Streudel and bottle fed a month and a half old calf named Charlotte. This is one of the many reasons the cheesemakers festival is so wonderful. One has the opportunity to meet the animals that produce the milk, interact with the cheese makers, and determine ideal spirit pairings all on the shores of beautiful Lake Champlain. It truly doesn't get much better than that!
 

Vermont summers are fleeting and as people who live here year round know, it's the perfect time to get out on the lake, marvel in sunsets, and savor as much warmth as possible. One of the telltale signs that the season is in full swing, is the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. This year, the festival marked its 6th year! If you've never attended the festival, as I hadn't until Sunday July 20th, then I highly recommend it! The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And you really do need all six hours to completely experience the myriad cheese and artisan food vendors that dot the gorgeous Shelburne Farms landscape. 

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Marketing consultants have a question they ask: if your business / organization were a person, what would he / she be like? 
No idea.
How about if your organization were a person, where would it go for dinner? 
That's easy. That question I can answer for most of the groups I interact with on any given day. 
Vermont Public Radio is one Vermont organization that appears to, as an entity, have distinct food preferences. And, like many Vermonters, it's into fresh, local, high quality food (for some reason I also think of VPR as eating more vegetables than the rest of us. .. possibly because of their Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi).
Every week VPR explores food on-air with the VPR Cafe. Once a year they really get into the food scene with their listener's picnic. 
Or, I should say, they ". . .hold the listener picnic as a 'thank you' gift to the community" as Ty Robertson, the organizer for the picnic, explains. The thank you is first priority. Fortunately, indulging in a love of Vermont food is integral to that goal.
This year the picnic takes place at Lareau Farm Inn, home of American Flatbread. While many diners will associate American Flatbread with their Burlington restaurant, and perhaps their Middlebury outpost, many of us love the original  in Waitsfield, with it's outdoor seating, big campfire, and atmosphere that's laid back to the point of feeling more like you're hanging out at someone's casual summer get together than a restaurant.
Ty's rundown of the menu for 2014: "Plenty of fresh flatbread. [Lareau Farm] will be serving local beers as well. The Burger Barn of Jeffersonville will be on hand to provide local fare, and we may get to see Southern Smoke as well, they haven't confirmed yet. We've asked these businesses to take part this year because they feature local products. We'll also be joined by the folks at Switchel, Caledonia Spirits and Shacksbury Cider for tastings.
All of these vendors are stand out foods in their own right. Caledonia Spirits makes, among other spirits, gin from local honey that's lightly floral and perfect chilled with a twist of lemon for any summer afternoon. Shacksbury Cider is reintroducing traditional cider (dry and still)  not  from Europe as well as a hyper-local variety made from apples discovered during their Lost Apple Project - which scoured Vermont roadsides and field edges for abandoned trees with fruits perfect for cider making. Vermont Switchel has convinced many Vermonters, myself included, that Switchel need not be the sour medicinal drink we remember from childhood - it's refreshing, zingy, and old fashioned in a good way.
The food offerings and locations change each year. In 2012, VPR organized a mini-food festival with samples from 45 Vermont food and beverage producers to both thank listeners and welcome special guest Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table. Last year the picnic took place at Shelburne Museum with the Burger Barn again, homemade hot dogs from The Local Grind, and creative grilled cheese sandwiches from Say Cheese! 
Ty says VPR always has something a little different to share at the picnic. "Some years Cabot Creamery will send several big boxes loaded with assorted cheeses to serve to guests, other years local orchards have donated bushels of apples to give away. . . It depends on the time of year, and location of the picnic but we can always count on the community to take part."
Local food is not the only highlight of the event. There will also be live music from the Starline Rhythm Boys (I've got my cowboy boots ready for honky tonk dancing) and a story slam with longtime VPR contributor Willem Lange (I also have a story prepared). The event is free and open to the public, rain or shine. It goes 11:00 - 2:00 at Lareau Farm Inn on Rte 100 in Waitsfield. 
 
~Helen Labun Jordan is a commentator on Vermont Public Radio. You can find her commentaries and other food writing at www.discoveringflavor.com

What do you get when you combine storytelling, music, and great local food?  Must be the VPR Listeners Picnic.  Local food is showcased at many Vermont events and what better event than a picnic?  Grab a blanket, some great food and enjoy!

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9 July, 2014 - by Helen Labun Jordan

Fresh Food and New Decorations

 

I realize that fox gloves (the orange-pink flowers in with the purple-green beet greens) are not edible. The random white flowers from my backyard in with the tatsoi probably aren't either. That's because these are bouquets, not salads. And I chose what looked the prettiest to me. It's the only time when you'll see beet greens paired with fox gloves.  
I've never been much of one for "tablescaping" - ie making my dining table look better than my normal effort of clearing off 80% of the books and papers on it, then swiping at whatever crumbs I find underneath. However, I have trouble not bringing at least some of summer inside.
I also have trouble restraining myself at the farmers' market. Big bunches of kale, giant heads of lettuce, those beet greens - they take up a lot of room in the fridge. More room than, frankly, I have. Or, if I do cram things into the back corners, they lay there forgotten until they've gone too far past their prime to save. 
Now add in to this dilemma that we have farmers' market booths filled with the most gorgeous flowers. . .and I'll buy bouquets, but to really get my fill, I'd end up spending all my grocery money on the flowers not the food. 
Farmers' market bouquets solve all these problems. I can buy a bouquet made from stems of my favorite flowers, then stretch it into bright, cheeful decoration to fill the house. The greens stay relatively fresh in the water. I won't forget about them sitting there in the middle of the table. 
A morning at the farmers' market fills the house with fresh food and new decorations. The whole house is cheerful. And if the greens begin to wilt, just rinse them, put them in ice cold water to revive, then use them (since that was the whole point, wasn't it?). And reassemble the flower stems back into their own bouquet. Simple.

We are lucky to live in a state that has so many wonderful farmers' markets to choose from AND we are lucky that those markets provide us with many wonderful products to choose from...fresh produce, fresh flowers, cheese, meat, eggs, crafts, wine, beer, ice cream....the list goes on and on.  To find the market closest to you or to find a new market you've never visited before check out this list and enjoy!

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25 June, 2014 - by Mari Omland, Green Mountain Girls Farm

Slice of Life Workshops Dish Up Farm-Fresh Learning

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Want to connect with food, people, and the land?  Look no further than this wonderful series of classes and workshops organized by the Floating Bridge Food and Farms Cooperative.  If you didn't make it to their Market Day last weekend, there are many great learning events to take part in throughout the summer and into the fall.  Check out these other great events, classes & workshops happening all over the state!  

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20 June, 2014 - by Healthy Living Market & Cafe

Floral Chèvre: An Easy, Beautiful, and Sophisticated Appetizer!

Category: Recipes

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Love chèvre and looking for a new way to serve it?  We have an idea for you: think edible flowers!
Last month at the Demo Counter, we sampled out a local chèvre rolled in edible flowers and herbs and topped with local honey.  Sounds easy, right?  It is!  It’s extremely easy to create and makes a beautiful presentation; it’s so lovely, in fact, that it looks like more work than it actually is (making it perfect for parties, showers, celebrations, and gatherings of any kind!)  We didn’t print up a recipe for the demonstration so for those looking for step-by-step instructions, we’re providing them now!
First, prepare your flowers and herbs.  Coarsely chop about 2 Tbsp of dried rosemary, remove the petals from about 2 Tbsp of dried calendula flowers, coarsely chop about 2 Tbsp of dried rose petals, and crush about 1 Tbsp pink peppercorns using a mortar & pestle or even just a rolling pin (note: all of these ingredients are available in our extensive Bulk Department!).  Mix all these together on a flat surface such as a cutting board.  Next, take a 10-oz chèvre log (we used one from Vermont Creamery) and roll it in the floral mix, pressing gently to make sure the flowers stick.  You may need to do this a couple times to coat the chèvre completely.  Then, to serve, spread a little bit of the floral chèvre on crackers, topping each with a touch of honey.  Tada!
And here’s a friendly warning for you: putting it together is fun!  It reminded us of being children, for some reason.  Perhaps because it felt like playing; picking petals off flowers, crunching pepper, mixing everything all together, and watching distinct piles of pink, green, and yellow become a beautiful mess, rolling the chèvre log in the floral mix… even dolloping the honey onto each cracker felt a little playful.  But trust us, this isn’t a child’s treat.  It’s very sophisticated and makes an elegant presentation, and the flavors take time to develop in your mouth.  It’s a delicate and surprising snack that requires you to take your time and really taste what you’re eating, much like a high-quality chocolate or artisanal cheese.
Feel free to follow these instructions specifically or use them as inspiration: there are lots of edible flowers available, some fresh, some dried, some possibly even growing in your garden, and all with their own unique and under-utilized flavors, so do some research and go wild!

This piece was originally posted on Healthy Living Market & Cafe's blog.  If you are entertaining and want to make a beautiful (and delicious) centerpiece, look no further than this great suggestion from Healthy Living.  Check out other VT cheeses that might enjoy playing with some flowers!  If you love good cheese, don't miss the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival coming up in July.

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