Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taste of Vermont: More than Maple Syrup!

While Vermont is famous for its maple syrup, the Taste of Vermont proved there were so many more great things to eat and drink from the Green Mountain State.

Distler's Pretzels come in five different flavors: maple, ranch, spicy with cayenne, x-tra spicy, and fiery with a kick of habanero.  Created by Alec Distler in 2008 as part of his school's 8th grade challenge, the pretzels are broken into bite-sized pieces, mixed with seasoning, baked again until crisp.  The maple flavor was light and not overly sweet.  The crunch is great and the variety of flavors makes this an excellent party snack. 

Eden Cider Company, Shelburn Vineyard, East Shore Vineyard and Vermont Spirits Distilling Company were present, showcasing the great wine and cocktail tasting opportunities in the state.  Vermont's great breweries including Magic Hat, Long Trail Brewery, Otter Creek Brewing and Wolaver's Fine Organic Ales offered tastings of their specialty brews including seasonal beers like Wolaver's Wildflower Wheat.  I really enjoyed the mild creamy flavor; this is a great beer for summer, sitting on the porch or on a hot day.

If it’s not maple syrup, then it’s certainly cheese that Vermont is known for and we weren’t disappointed.  Over ten different cheese makers presented a full spread of styles of cheese: Cellars at Jasper Hill, Jasper Hill Creamery, Spring Brook Farm, Shelburne Farm, Crowley Cheese Company, Vermont Shepherd, Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Jericho Hill Farm, Cabot Cheese, and Consider Bardwell Farm.  I loved the Tarentaise, a semi-hard raw cow milk cheese from Spring Brook Farm and Invierno a semi-hard mixed sheep and cow cheese from Vermont Shepherd. 

I was lucky enough to taste a fantastic salad with Olivia’s Croutons, which held up in the warm room and stayed crunchy.  They also added extra flavor of garlic without overpowering the salad or the dressing.

There was chili from the Vermont Yak Company, which smelled of onion, garlic, and pepper.  The yak is grass-fed and while I’ve never had yak and I was very pleased with the taste of the chili.  The meat was flavorful and tender and made the chili quite hearty.  It was warming and fulfilling, just as any good chili should be.

For dessert, the first thing that comes to mind from Vermont is Ben and Jerry’s.  If you haven’t yet, try their greek yogurt flavors.  I’m a big fan of the peanut butter banana flavor.  I was also lucky enough to try a dark chocolate with sea salt turtle candy from Bert’s Turtles.  The chocolate shell broke into a gooey bite of caramel and pecan crunch.  The West Meadow Farm Bakery also had their Donut Muffins, rolled in cinnamon and sugar and their chewey Pecan Tassies, both certified gluten free.  I enjoyed dipping them in the fresh brewed Green Mountain Coffee.  Other desserts included the apple crumb pie from MaBean’s Vermont Pie Co. and Almond Buttercrunch Cake from the Bakery at the Farmhouse Kitchen.  I really enjoyed the chocolate cluster from Laughing Moon Chocolates; it was a great balance of chocolate and crispy crunch while the dark chocolate truffle was rich and creamy.

I was happily overwhelmed with the great food and drink. After a tasting like this, I can’t wait to travel to Vermont to experience the state first hand!

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