Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vacation Eats: Burlington, Vermont

My family loves food as much as a I do! When planning a vacation to celebrate my mom's birthday, we knew that we would do a lot of eating. We started our week-long vacation with a weekend in Burlington, Vermont. My mom, brother, the hubby and I packed up the car and headed north. After about a four hour drive we arrived at our hotel in Burlington. 

After a quick pit stop, our first dining destination was the Bluebird Tavern, recommended by my friend Jenni. This local spot is known for its local, sustainable foods and creative menu. It's located just down the road from the main downtown area in Burlington. The space is really interesting, with dark wood interior and a nice rustic feel. Interestingly enough, in its former life it was a Mexican restaurant! The current owners did a great job of changing the space and giving it a warm and comfortable New England Tavern feel. The creative menu offered a lot of choices for both food and inventive cocktails. 

We had been driving all day and were ready to eat. After ordering cocktails - a roasted orange negroni for my brother and some wine, we started the meal with two different appetizers. My mom and I shared the chilled carrot soup served with pickled eggs and microgreens. There was also a delicious oil drizzled on top (can't remember what it is now!). And the four of us shared a huge bowl of poutine with bluebird gravy and Vermont cheddar curds. 

We didn't get a picture of all the entrees, just half of my squash blossom flatbread. The dough had just the right amount of bite and was topped with fried squash blossoms, thinly sliced zucchini and Vermont Butter & Creamery goat cheese. My adventurous brother chose the Smoked Deer served eggplant, olives, and new potatoes. My mom's dry aged NY strip was surrounded with a beautiful assortment of mushrooms and a flavorful mushroom jus. The service was great and the food was fantastic. We were pretty sure that we were too full for dessert...until the menu arrived. I just can't say no to root beer floats. And this was no ordinary root beer float. This one had roasted almond ice cream (with roasted almonds) and was topped with Rookie's root beer. Rookie's is a local Vermont brew. According to their Facebook page, "Rookie's Root Beer is hand crafted in small batches in our Burlington, Vermont since 2005.We use premium ingredients such as licorice, wintergreen, sassafras, vanilla, molasses, and evaporated cane juice."

After tasting this delicious combination of roasted almond and handcrafted root beer, it will be hard to go back to plain vanilla!

Next time you're in Burlington, be sure to stop in to Bluebird Tavern! Bluebird Tavern on Urbanspoon

The next morning we got up bright and early to head to a day full of dairy delights - the 3rd Annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. The sun was shining and there were hardly any clouds in the sky. The festival takes place on the beautiful grounds of Shelburne Farms. As we drove toward the Coach Barn we passed grazing cows, the manicured lawn of the Inn and along the edge of Lake Champlain.

After arriving at the festival, we had our hands stamped and started our adventure. The festival was set up in a large entry tent as well as various rooms in the Coach Barn. My mom and brother purchased tasting glasses to sample out the local beers, wines and spirits. For just a few dollars, plus a few more for samples and they were  happy!

Maple syrup shots

Cheers! Maple Cheesecake minis.
After a sweet treat, we settled in for an entertaining grilling demo from Steve Atkins
Chef and Owner of The Kitchen Table Bistro.My only complaint was that he only showed us how to make the recipes and there were no samples. Since they sounded so good, we adapted one for our most recent cookout. Grilled bread (whole grain baguette) with grilled flank steak, thinly sliced Montegrappa cheese and arugula. It was a perfect appetizer and easy to customize for non-cheese eaters and non-arugula lovers.

After sampling cheeses, pickles, jams, sauces, and more we were ready for some solid food. There were two lunch vendors set up just outside the tent. We opted for the grass-fed burger topped with Vermont cheddar and a side of Asian slaw. We added on some Root Cellar bread and butter pickles that we purchased for a perfect pairing (try to say that three times fast!).

I think the hubby is thanking this little guy
for the delicious goat cheese.

The festival was a lot of fun! The tickets were reasonably priced and we had a great weekend in Burlington. It did get crowded as the day went on, but everyone was polite. There were a huge number of samples to be had - I only wish we could have bought more! Our next destination was Montreal and we weren't travelling with any refrigeration. I did get a lot of brochures to remember what we liked.

For links to all of the vendors, including the ones below visit the official festival website at http://vtcheesefest.com. It's hard to describe everything we tried, so here are some of our tasting highlights:

Root Cellar Pickles: In addition to traditional bread & butter, they also had sweet & spicy and apple cinnamon!
Red Hen Baking Company: They had a delicious assortment of breads to pair with the cheese samples. We didn't move quickly enough and they were sold out before we could get a loaf.
Maplebrook Farm:  Fresh ricotta sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, fresh mozzarella, and deliciously creamy burrata cheese.
Sage Farm: This small family run dairy produces a number of delicious goat cheeses. We tried the Sterling and the Madonna. They were creamy, a little tangy, and delicious.
O Bread Baking Company: This bakery is located on the property of Shelburne Farm and has been turning out pies, baguettes, and more since 1979. We bought a deliciously buttery brioche for a road trip snack.
Vermont Spirits: Tell me this doesn't sound incredible: "Vermont Gold Vodka is pure, delicate, unflavored vodka, handmade in small batches from the sugar of maple sap". This unique distillery produces three vodkas: two from maple sap and one from milk sugars. This results in a smooth vodka. Each year is different depending on the sap.
Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm: Of course everything that gets aged at this facility is worth noting! I especially love the Cabot clothbound cheddar.

We left the festival full and happy!

We had a few other stops in Burlington before heading north. We found a little more room in our stomachs for a tasty locally sourced dinner at The Farmhouse Tap and Grill downtown. How can you go wrong with a restaurant that offers biscuits as an appetizer! Their menu was full of tempting items and I hope we can get back there again to try out more. Farmhouse Tap and Grill on Urbanspoon

On our way out of town we stopped into local favorite Penny Cluse Cafe for a hearty breakfast. I enjoyed a hearty omelet full of fresh vegetables. The hubby opted for the special french toast and we had a gigantic fresh fruit bowl to start us off. The coffee was fresh, hot and refilled often. A great start to our day. Penny Cluse Cafe on Urbanspoon

Next stop....Montreal!


  1. I'm so jealous you went to the cheesemaker festival!!! I love VT

  2. I have been having a serious love affair with Maplebrook Farms' mozzarella this summer.  I love that you will always travel for food!

  3. Love the pics! That cheesemaker's festival must've been so fun. And I want some poutine too!

  4. Great post and beautiful photos!!

  5. Thanks for the tips & great to see you there! And thanks to your friend for taking that last group photo of us :)

  6. Hi Doris, happy to hear you enjoyed your time at Bluebird and thank you for the lovely post - best wishes! Sue


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