The 5th annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival was held on July 21, 2013 and for the first time, I was able to go! This event sells out every year, so I ordered my ticket online before I left California. The day turned out to be the most perfect Vermont summer’s day that I can remember! Held on the magnificent grounds of Shelburne Farms, with views of the Green Mountains as well as the Adirondacks from the banks of Lake Champlain, this is a foodie’s dream come true. A limited number of tickets are sold so that everyone can enjoy tasting over 200 cheeses from 40 cheese makers, as well as artisan foods, craft beers, and local wines.
After the first tent, there were more tents and rooms in the Coach Barn filled with foods to be tasted and beverages to sip. A customized wine glass was included in our goodie bag, so the festival felt like one big party as participants walked around holding their wine glasses and munching on goodies. An army of volunteers kept things going during the day…recognizable in their orange shirts.
The beautiful barn looks more like a castle than a barn! The day was a perfect day to be on the lake, and it was tempting to just side on the shore to enjoy the sailboats, the breeze, and the beautiful Adirondacks of New York State on the other side of Lake Champlain.
I couldn’t resist taking a walk up the gravel road past the Coachman’s House…several other folks were strolling…and just below these chairs were a few who jumped in the lake for a swim! I was tempted to sit here for the rest of the afternoon, but there were demonstrations and classes offered back inside the festival area.
I had never seen or heard of burrata. Maplebrook Farm has introduced me to a delicacy that I will never forget!
“This is made exactly as they do in Puglia by stretching curd into mozzarella and filling it with a luscious creamy center to create burrata. The soft buttery center is made from fresh cream and stracciatelli (shreds of mozzarella). When you cut into the burrata, the center oozes out.” – See more at: http://www.maplebrookvt.com/index.php/products/burrata#sthash.p1tsayIv.dpuf
We were each given a burrata to eat…the creamy goodness inside the fresh mozzarella was heavenly! These are made fresh every day and sold in specialty markets. I was sitting next to a couple who planned to try to make some themselves, as it takes a team of two: one to stretch the mozzarella, and one to place the measure of creamy filling on top.
It was nice to rest in a comfortable chair under a tent, with buckets of fresh garden cut-flowers and ice cold water available to drink. I was happy to spend some time waiting for the next event, which was a cooking class by Shelburne Farms’s Chef David Hugo. “Beyond Fondue: Cooking With Cheese” was the name of his demonstration. I wondered what he would do with cheese.
Chef Hugo gave us a layman’s explanation of the difference between the three kinds of cheeses: the ones that melt, the ones that don’t melt, and the ones that get stringy when they are heated. He explained that cheese made with rennet will melt. Cheese that doesn’t melt is made with acid, and the cheese that gets stringy and stretchy is made with both rennet and acid. He explained how the proteins behave, giving us a bit of an understanding that chemistry is something cheesemakers and chefs must know and understand. Then he proceeded to create two different risottos using fresh vegetables grown at Shelburne Farm, and different cheeses too. He showed us that any fresh ingredients can be used, cooked or uncooked, and that any of the three types of cheese are wonderful in risotto. The one on the left is a vegetable risotto made with veggie stock. The risotto in the blue pot is made with chicken, chicken stock and tomatoes. Each one had several different cheeses. It’s all part of the creative process…using seasonal vegetables from the garden and cheeses that are on hand.
The day flew by…a magical day with the perfect breeze, lots of cheese, tastes of Vermont flavors and views of some of the most beautiful country in the world. As I drove away I stopped to photograph the cows, whose milk is made into the cheeses. I would be driving to the other side of Camel’s Hump, a beloved landmark for all Vermonters, back to my parents’ home where I grew up watching the sun set behind that beautiful mountain. I lived in Vermont for all my growing up years and have come back to visit many, many times, but this was the very first time I had ever been to Shelburne Farms. I truly enjoyed everything about my day at the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival and will eagerly look forward to coming again next July! Maybe someday The Farmer and I can come together…and stay at the beautiful Inn at Shelburne Farms.
Shelburne Farms is open to the public for tours, and there are many different events held there throughout the year. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to spend a day while visiting Vermont, just south of Burlington and not far from the famous Shelburne Museum. I stopped at the Visitor’s Center and Farm Store before leaving Shelburne Farms. Beautiful cookbooks, artisan foods, and farm gifts are available…and samples of food too! I won’t wait until the next Cheesemakers Festival to return to this spectacular Vermont treasure!