Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vermonster & the Cheese Stalker

It is no secret that Vermont produces some of the most delicious cheese in America. Tasty curd, however, does not come easy. In Vermont, roughly 70% of cheesemakers are considered farmstead. They are managing their own herds, producing their own milk, making & aging the cheese right on the farm. It is an amazing amount of backbreaking work to create masterpieces for us to enjoy. Needless to say, this was a much anticipated leg of the GATC.

Fully equipped with the Vermont Cheese Trail & my trusty Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, I was ready to chat some cheese with the talent of the Northeast Kingdom (a term coined by former Governor & Senator, George Aiken, to describe the northeast corner of Vermont due to the insane beauty of the land...little curd of history). I contacted several farms & creameries in the area & anxiously awaited their response. Maybe it was all the nervous eating, but I started to get worried about our depleting cheese reserves as we waited...and waited...crickets. One doesn't accept visitors, a few were no longer making cheese, and others just did not respond. Included in the non-respondents was Lazy Lady Farms. If you remember back in the early days of this blog, I wrote about her cheeses after first trying it at Saxelby's in NYC. I have been obsessed with her cheese ever since & I was determined to see it's birth place. So, I tried again...leaving what I thought was a very flattering, charming, & slightly desperate voicemail. Still no answer. It was time to take matters into our own hands. Knowing that the farm was only a short drive from where we were staying, I could not resist. We did the drive by...once...twice (not suspicious at all by the way in a black 4-door sedan cruising by on gravel roads)...and by the third time Oliver had talked me into stopping to see if anyone would be available for a quick chat. The dialogue went a little something like this...

Me: "Hello. Is this Lazy Lady Farms?"

Man: "Yes."

Me: " Oh good. Well, I had emailed & called to inquire about a possible visit...and then we were in the area...and"

Man: "We are really busy right now. Feel free to look around a bit if you'd like."

Me: "Is Laini around?" (Laini is the cheesemaker & owner whose name I completely mis-pronounced, but the gentleman was nice enough to correct me immediately)

Man: "Laini is not here. We are really busy."

Me: "Is that a cheese cave you are building?"

Man: "Yes."

Me: "Where is the current cheese cave? Is it nearby?"

Man: "It's over there." (pointing obscurely to a large area of the property)

Me: "Sorry to bother you. Have a great day."

Just like that, I became a cheese stalker. I received an email a few days after our drive by that read, "Sorry you showed up. We have NO time for visitors. Drowning in work. I am at the farmers market Saturday."

Discouraged by the hunt for cheese, Oliver & I made the most of our time finding unbelievable hikes, microbrews, farmer's markets, and delicious restaurants. We even attended a Locavore dinner at the Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, VT. For those that are not familiar, locavore is a term for those interested in eating seasonal & locally produced foods (I feel a bit like wikipedia this post). The locavore movement is strong in Vermont & as luck should have it, there was an event while we were in town. The meal was tasty (left we have a pic of the meal; cheese soup, roast beef, roasted root vegetables, fresh baked bread, spinach & goat cheese salad, & some fresh apple cider) but the company was the highlight of the evening. We listened to stories upon stories from the locals about being nipped at by coyotes, chased down by moose, and of a local brewery being attacked by Monster Energy Drinks for the name of one of their beers, the Vermonster (check out this youtube video for the full story...I think Monster decided to back down after convenient stores in the area started taking Monster off the shelves). It was a great evening thanks to the friendly Vermont locavores at Applecheek Farms.

Of course we could not visit northern Vermont without a trip to the home of Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury. We braved the tourist scene (it is the single most visited attraction in the state) for a tour & taste. The tour was chock full of bad cow jokes & ice cream factoids & the taste seemed ridiculously more delightful than scooping out of a pint, but mostly I just wanted to post this picture.
Who knew you could have so much fun while cheese stalking? My luck of the curd was destined to turn around...I could feel it in my calcium rich bones.

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