Over 50 cheese makers, 40 artisan food makers, 20 beer, wine, and spirits vendors and an assortment of artisan products and one stellar food truck. All brought together for one summer day at Shelburne Farm on beautiful Lake Champlain. I couldn’t get over the fact that all of this was just for one day. We could have spent three and still not sampled everything we wanted to try.
But in the beginning it was the beer/cheese cooking demonstration that attracted Mrs Drudge’s attention to this wonderful festival in Vermont. Conducted by Chef Steve Sicinski of Crop Bistro, the dish was Braised Pork Belly Bits with heirloom squash in cheddar/beer sauce. I love all things pork, but putting it on the same plate with a cheddar/beer topping could drive me to drink. Oh, and it did. Chef Steve has given demos in front of crowds and cameras before. Many times is my guess, because he not only did all the prep in front of us while delivering a non-stop narration, but prepared enough of the dish to serve it to all 90 people gathered in the big tent.
I’ll attempt to give you a taste of the event by highlighting a few of our favorites, but this is an event to put on your radar form next summer. Let’s begin with the venue, Shelburne Farm, Shelburne VT. The farm is “a 1,400-acre working farm, forest, National Historic Landmark and campus”. That’s right, it’s a non-profit with an educational mission. What was not so obvious from the Cheese Maker Fest promotion was that the festival venue, the Coach Barn is located on the shores of Lake Champlain. Wow, what a view!
Cheese: Twig Farm is a small goat dairy and cheese making business run by Michael Lee and Emily Sunderman, located in West Cornwall, VT. I first tasted Twig Farm cheese at a cheese restaurant in NYC called Casellula. That evening it was Goat Tomme, which was my first choice to taste again in VT. But my favorite was Old Goat, a longer aged Tomme.
Spirits: The standout for us was the Whistlepig 10 year old Rye whiskey. A special edition made with 100% Vermont rye and bottled at 102 proof. Other notables were Barr Hill Tom Cat, a oak barrel aged gin from Caladonia Spirits and a Maple Rum from Mad River Distillers.
Beer: What no photos of beer?! Too busy drinkin’ it! It was a very warm day in VT. Our best-of-show candidate was Hodad Porter from Fiddlehead Brewing Co, brewed just up the road from the fest venue in Shelburne. Promoted as chocolate vanilla toasted coconut porter, it lived up to its billing and at $5 a pint it was a big hit with the suds crowd.
Food Truck: Ok, Ben and Jerry’s had an ice cream truck and King Arthur Flour had a bakery truck. Both are Vermont originals. Personally, I don’t bake without KAF and their website is a great resource for bakers of all kinds. But for us, the hands down winner was the BBQ truck from the Hindquarter, of Burlington VT. I swear I’m going have these folks cater something!