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)

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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!

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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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13 June, 2014 - by Alyson Barrie and Jonathan Connor, University of Vermont

Meet Kate Turcotte, Head Cheesemaker at Shelburne Farms

 

The Big Cheese
In 2007, while attending UVM, Kate Turcotte began working as a milk hauler at Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit educational farm located near the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, VT. She continued on with an internship during which she learned the cheese making process. After a year at Consider Bardwell farm in West Pawlet, VT, she returned to Shelburne Farms as head cheesemaker. In a state with more cheesemakers per capita than any other, Shelburne Farms stands out as a leader because they are an educational facility. Every day people visit from all over the world to watch them make cheese and to learn about farming and food production.
How It Began
A herd of Brown Swiss cows joined the farm in the 1950s and the farmers at Shelburne Farms began to bottle and sell raw milk. Years later, the dairy realized the potential in making a value-added product out of their raw milk. This is when the production of artisan, Vermont Farmhouse Cheddar began at the farm and, as Kate puts it, “Back in the 80s, artisan cheese was this really wild thing.” As wild as the idea may have been at the time, Shelburne Farms now produces over 185,000 pounds of cheese a year.
Farmhouse Cheddar
So what is so unique about Shelburne Farms cheddar? The entire production process takes place on the farm. “If you tried to make this cheese anywhere else, you couldn’t because it’s made from this soil, with this grass, and these cows,” said Kate, “so I think that makes our product really unique.” Milking is done twice a day, morning and night, on the farm. That raw milk is then hauled directly from the dairy to the cheese making facility where it is made into cheese by hand in relatively small batches. Forty-pound blocks of cheddar are sealed, boxed, and placed in coolers at the farm to age from 6 months to 3 years. A small portion of the cheddar is cloth bound and brought to age in cellars at Jasper Hill. However, cave aging is very labor intensive, so the cheesemakers prefer to spend most of their time on making good cheese in the vat. In fact, their Farmhouse Cheddar is not just good cheese; it is excellent cheese that has been winning awards from the American Cheese Society for over two decades.
The Culture of Vermont Cheese
According to Kate, the success of Vermont’s cheese making can be attributed to the collaboration among cheesemakers. “The reason why Vermont cheese is so successful is because there’s so much collaboration going on,” says Kate. “Cheesemakers have such a great open-door policy. It’s like, if you’re a cheesemaker, then come in, see what I do, see my operations.”
Cheesemakers in Vermont are also no strangers to innovation. They are constantly trying to come up with new ways to make consistent, high-quality cheese, while still having it be hand made with raw milk. “It’s an old world tradition with new world technologies,” says Kate, “us evolving happens every single day.”
Shelburne Farms cheese will be featured at the Taste of Vermont Reception at the end of the UVM Food Systems Summit on Wednesday, June 18.
Alyson Barrie and Jonathan Connor wrote this piece for an internship during the spring 2014 semester at UVM.
Photo credits: Kate, Cows, and Cheesemaking by Vera Chang. Clothbound Cheddar by Blake Gardener. All photos courtesy Shelburne Farms and used with permission.

This piece was originally posted on the University of Vermont's Food Feed blog.  With the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival coming up, it was great to get an inside look at the people behind the cheese at Shelburne Farms.  Vermont is a delicious place to call home...not least because of great cheesemakers like Kate!

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11 June, 2014 - by Sheila McGrory-Klyza, The Vermont Epicure

Route 100 (Partial) Food Tour

This piece was originally posted on The Vermont Epicure blog at the end of May.  The Vermont Epicure is a site devoted to stories about food, place, and family.  As you find yourself traveling on the roads of Vermont, make sure to check out the great food, drink, and agricultural experiences along the way. This is a great snapshot of some delicious adventures awaiting you.  Check out the culinary and agriculture opportunities in your region!  

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Category: Place Profiles

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Dawn Boucher makes beautiful blue cheeses in Highgate, Vermont on a dairy farm that has been in her husband Daniel's family for generations. Her Boucher Blue and Gore-Dawn-Zola have become chef favorites, and inspire dishes at many area restaurants. We asked Dawn about why it's important to have her cheese on the menu.
What was your first experience like selling cheese to a chef/restaurant?
In the beginning (15 years ago) we did all our own deliveries - and would order the cheese plate at Smokejacks Restaurant afterward (dining outside) enjoying a local brew, just to see how our blues held up against all the other delicious cheeses on the menu.  So strange to pay for what we ate nearly every day.., but it gave us the confirmation that they really knew how to store and serve cheese.
How has working with chefs influenced your business or your cheese?
We have always been committed to bringing unique tastes to chefs.  Making commodity cheese is not where we wanted to go with our business.  We make 3 different blue cheeses, including aged versions (up to a year) just to fill that niche.
Has a chef ever taught you something new about your cheese?
I would have never thought of pairing our blue cheese with sweets, but I’ve seen it over and over on menus through the years.
What is the coolest, tastiest, or most interesting way you've seen your product used on a menu? Where was it?
I first had my own blue cheese at Shelburne Farms Inn during a memorable birthday dinner with friends--it was paired with honey and bread. Brilliant!

This article was originally posted on the Vermont Fresh Network's Fresh Feed.  Meet a cheesemaker who makes blue cheese in the green mountains!  Boucher Family Farm will be at the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival in July.  Stop by and say hi!  Check out these other talented cheesemakers who call Vermont home.

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