I wish I could remember where I first came across mention of the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. I do remember thinking "wow, that looks really neat." Last summer it just was not an option -- we were moving, buying a car, having a baby -- but I put it down on my list of things to try to do this year.
And we did! We went! And it was great. Even better, we got to spend the weekend with D*'s awesome sister and her husband, who moved to Burlington last year. I have driven past the city any number of times, but never spent any time there before. It looks like a really great place, and the scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
We drove up on Saturday--the last day of the recent heat wave, and when we got in the temperatures were in the 90s. We unloaded our things and hit the nearest beach. I had no idea there were beaches there, so we weren't prepared, but who needs bathing suits?
Then back home for dinner and a late bedtime for some very tired children.
Some time in the night a thunderstorm passed through and the temperature finally dropped, leaving Sunday clear and crisp and all around the most beautiful weather possible. After the baby's morning nap, we headed over to Shelburne Farms.
The place. Is. Huge. It goes on and on and on. Beautiful lake views!
Ridiculously large buildings!
And, of course, the festival!
I didn't even try to take any pictures of the interior, which was a complete zoo -- a very tasty zoo, a zoo packed with people enjoying themselves to the hilt, but a zoo nevertheless. The two older children were well and truly freaked out by the crowd, and ended up staying outside with their aunt and uncle while D* and I braved the stalls (Mimi in her baby carrier grabbed shirts and loose hair). It was somewhat overwhelming even for us, and after a while we snagged some edibles and joined everyone else for lunch on the grass.
Sans utensils as we were, it was a most primitive repast: hunks ripped off a baguette (from O Bread) with chunks of a soft white cheese (which I think was the Jack from Neighborly, but I might be getting them mixed up). On a beautiful summer day, there is absolutely nothing better than pure, simple foods!
After fortifying ourselves, we dove back into the fray, this time for proper shopping. On reflection, I think was a good approach: an initial tasting swing, and then a second to focus on picking up the ones I liked the best. If you ever get a chance to go to this event, be prepared to spend money! And bring a cooler, which I managed to forget even after I put it on my list of things to pack. After some agonizing, I ended up with four kinds of cheese (mostly cheddars, which I hoped would travel well), some shortbread cookies, chocolate, apple butter, and a second baguette. I didn't really taste any of the wines, but D* sampled a few and proclaimed them all to be on the sweet side.
After that, we took a ride on a tractor-drawn wagon up to the Farm Barn so the kids could see the animals, of which they have many -- sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, chickens.
We had another snack. (I was worried that they wouldn't have any milk available for JJ but hello... dairy farm? Duh!) L helped to milk a goat, and took part in the chicken roundup, when they put the birds into the barn for the evening. It may have been the cutest thing I have ever seen, a dozen children very seriously surrounding chickens and clapping their hands to herd them.
She also found an egg! We took a gander at the cheesemaking operation, which is pretty straightforward really, and relaxed in the grass before catching the last cart ride back to the festival and our cars.
In the morning it was time to head back to Boston with our swag. I would not at all mind making this into a tradition!