We all know Vermont to be a foodie destination, but when attending the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival this year, I learned that Vermont produces more than 150 varieties of cheese. These cheeses are made from cow, goat and sheep milk, and come in a variety of styles, texture and age. It was only after walking through this festival that I realized just how many great cheesemakers we have, and as a self-professed cheese lover (it is literally the one food I would be lost without in my diet), I felt compelled to attend this years festival and share with you all my experience. Below is a brief review, with some advice for anyone who wants to attend next year.
Bring Your Appetite
The morning before the festival, I had a big brunch to celebrate the impending arrival of two new babies in my friend group. I was still a little full by the time I arrived, so I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted. That was a mistake. There were so many great companies offering samples, you could easily fill up on cheese, crackers, jam, pepperoni, sausage, salsa… not to mention the food trucks outside the main tent. I still ate plenty of cheese samples, believe me, but I think of what might’ve been…. mmmm.
Also, there was beer, wine, cider, spirits and other artisan products available to sample. Just to keep my sampling as diverse as possible, I tried a breakfast stout, prosecco, old age whiskey, and Sap! (you have to pace yourself).
Because this is a popular event, it was pretty crowded in the main tent, though less crowded in the Coach Barn. There was some maneuvering through the crowd that was needed, but I didn’t have to wait any longer than a couple minutes to try any of the samples. In most cases, I didn’t wait at all.
Some Advice For Next Year
Bring water. I started my drink samples with a stout. No one seemed to have water to rinse out the glass, and some vendors were hesitant to put their product in a glass with remnants of another product. I definitely can’t blame them either, because you want a clean sample of each product. Plus, you can never have too much water, especially if you plan to spend the day outside.
Bring a blanket to lay out on the picnic area. The festival was held at the Coach Barn on Shelburne Farms. It’s a beautiful location, and the picnic area is set up right on a grassy field with a view of the lake. Take your time to enjoy the day and sample casually, if you can.
The main tent, which is set up just in front of the Coach Barn, can get pretty crowded. However, there were less crowds inside the Coach Barn, so it was suggested that we start inside and work our way out, which was great advice. We eased our way into the festival and caught our bearings with the layout.
Samples are free, but bring some cash. While you don’t have to buy anything, and could fill your belly with almost endless sampling, you’ll likely want to purchase some of the products being sold. None of the tables we went to were pushy to sell their product, but it’s all on display to tease you, so you’ll probably get excited to buy something like I did (gin, sausage and blue cheese… it’s going to be a good week). Plus, it’s nice to support our local producers if you can. I made my rounds to all of the tables first, so I could decide what I really wanted, and then made my purchases only before leaving so I didn’t have to carry them for long.
Consider a babysitter. The event is marketed as adult-oriented. Kids under 3 are free, and I would certainly have brought my toddler if I needed to, but with the crowds in the main tent, I think it would have been a challenge to maneuver and manage an active toddler at the same time. If you do bring you kid(s), the picnic area is a great place to set up a “home base.”
Overall, I am eager to attend the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival again, now better prepared for an afternoon of indulgence. The location is hard to beat, the tables were all beautifully decorated, and the food and drink were delicious. This could be a great date day (I’m talking to you moms and dads).
Next year, I’ll be bringing my picnic blanket and a plan to lay out for the afternoon with some casual sample snacking, sun gazing, and an end of day product purchase. I hope to see you there!