If you have never been to Vermont in the fall, it is certainly worth the trip.
It isn’t just about the leaves changing color or the crispness in the air or the depths of blue in Lake Champlain. It’s that Vermont comes alive in the fall. In the North Country, winter is not something to fear, but to anticipate happily. Skis, snowboards, snow shoes, hats, gloves, scarves, wool socks, and hard warmers are the coveted accessories, and these start to sneak their way to the front of the closet come fall. While the rest of us are prepping to go into hibernation, it’s as though Vermont is prepping to bask in the warmth of the seasonal change.
While filming in Vermont with Chef Matt Jennings, Food Thinkers encountered beautiful sights and also learned about the craft of cheese, chocolate, beer, and salumi from artisan food producers who relish Vermont in the fall and year-round. We thought we’d share a few of our favorite moments.
On Twig Farm, Michael Lee has approximately 50 Alpine goats grazing, and about half are used for dairy production.
The goats eat grass, thistles, lemon balm, goldenrod, brambles, burdrock, and more. Lee says, “They do discriminate. Imagine a forager going out to make a wild salad — that’s kind of what they’re doing. They’re looking for just what’s right for them.”
Goats are incredibly friendly. They can be a little bit rambunctious and wild, and they remind Jennings of giant cats.
This goat got friendly with our camera operator, Griff.
The cheesemaking process can take 7 hours, and the room gets very steamy. Here Jennings wipes off the foggy lens for our camera operator, Derek.
Lee is nothing if not meticulous. Outside the cheese room, he keeps copious notes every day of temperature, milk production, and more. It goes back years and years and is as detailed as an Almanac.
Jennings uses Michael’s cheeses at Farmstead, both in the retail shop and also in the restaurant. He says, “We’ve made things like custards and desserts as well as selling them on our cheeseboards. They’re versatile and incredibly delicious.”
Sourcing the best cocoa beans is important to Andy Jackson of Middlebury Chocolates. “We’ve had some really great fortune in finding people who have been in the industry for decades and have far more knowledge than us. We get great beans from a cooperative in Belize, Maya Mountain Cacao, cofounded by Alex Whitmore the founder of Taza Chocolate.
In the chocolate factory, chocolate is in all stages of production, from cocoa bean roasting to grinding to tempering to shaping.
Say no more.
John Kimmich of The Alchemist is surprised and delighted by the cult-like status his Heady Toppers have achieved. “When we opened this place, all we wanted to do was just put a dynamite IPA in a can. And thankfully other people agree.”
The mecca. Kimmich says, “I designed Heady Topper so it would just be a beautiful, drinkable experience, with as pleasant a hop experience as you could get.”
Pete Colman of Vermont Salumi admits that after three years, he is still learning. “When I go back to Italy and tell the guys what I’m doing, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re still a rookie, come back in 20 years.’”
Colman applies his spice rub to bacon before smoking it. He sources the spices regionally because he wants to work with the best raw ingredients. “You’re only as good as your worst vendor.”
Vermont Salumi sits on the site of an old dairy farm, and then Goddard College owned it, and then Colman’s stepdad turned it into an organic vegetable farm.
Vermont Salumi sits on beautiful, quintessential New England property in Plainfield, Vermont.
Jennings enjoys a snack of Vermont Salumi bacon and Twig Farm eggs while filming.