Remember that time I went to Vermont for Cheese Camp with Vermont Creamery? And then I promised I'd tell you all about it, but then went on a million trips and didn't? Well, let me start by saying, prior to my visit in August, I was a Vermont virgin and was not prepared for how gorgeous and sprawling it is. Even though it's clear across the country and the Pacific, it reminded me of Hawaii in a lot of ways. The air felt so clean and crisp, and all I could think as we drove around (long distances on one-lane roads) was how do I live here? Of course, I was there in August when it was 80°F and sunny, not 40°F and dropping, so that may have played a role, but... rather than delving further on that, let's focus on all the magic of Cheese Camp in Vermont with a rad crew of babes: Ayse, Kristen, Kate, Amanda, Carey, and Krissy.
The camp kicked off in the best way possible, starting with a tour of Vermont Creamery's facilities, where we learned all about the history of the company and how fresh and aged goat cheese, butter, and créme fraîche are made. Joey, who supervises the aged cheese, walked us through the many steps of his process while keeping us entertained with an endless stream of jokes + mad knowledge. He even let us scoop curds, which was easier said than done. I've got a new-found appreciation for curd scoopers--that's tough business!
After all the learning, we were treated to an epic lunch spread, cheese tasting, and some end all mascarpone-swirled brownies (scroll on down to droll over 'em) made by Betsy, who is both a ray of sunshine and my baking soul sister. I still dream about those and should probably, definitely make some this week. We spent the afternoon at the home of Vermont Creamery co-founder, Allison Hooper. We were immediately "Hoopered," which can basically be defined as being welcomed with open arms by her entire family. Don, Allison's husband took us hiking through their sugaring trees. We hung by the pool whilst sipping Stonecutter Spirits cocktails, gorged on a feast fit for kings prepared by our amazing "camp counselors" Betsy, Kara, and FM, and ended the night with a bonfire.
During my visit, I had such a wonderful experience discovering the depth and how many people are involved in the cheese-making process along with Vermont Creamery's engagement with the community. The education continued on through the second day... We headed over to Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, to learn the importance of starting with the best milk possible, and of course, to pet baby goats—Eeeee they are so cute! I about died and was tempted to figure out how to get two extra plane tickets (goats like to hang in pairs) home when I saw them. We picnicked in Woodstock then spent the afternoon with Farmhouse Pottery, for a tour that lead to making our very own pieces!! I made a shallow bowl, which I'm way too proud of, that is prominently displayed in our apartment. Zoe and James, owners and founders of Farmhouse Pottery, have the most enviable aesthetic and create pieces you can build your home around. I loved spending the afternoon, crafting and learning from the talented team there. The day ended with a lovely meal at NECI (New England Culinary Institute) on Main, with a Vermont Creamery themed menu (each dish had something VC!).
On our final day of Cheese Camp, we treated to some cooler weather, it even rained! We toured Citizen Cider, where all ciders are made from locally sourced apples and without added sugars. After their team dropped some dope scientific cider distilling knowledge on us, they treated us to a cheese and cider pairing lunch, where we enjoyed the fruits of their labor (literally, lol). And just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, we headed over to Shelburne Farms, a farm and non-profit organization, which also happens to make crazy good cheddar cheese. They toured us through the farm and spoiled us with trays of perfectly braised, roasted, and/or pickled veggies (grown there, of course). We met baby brown Swiss cows, mini donkeys, all the chickens, sheep, and I saw my first chipmunk ever (ohemgee, it was so cute). We learned about sugaring, and then ended the day at their Inn with a ridiculous decadent meal and a gorgeous sunset. Pretty much the best way to end Cheese Camp!
If you're a Vermont Creamery newbie and looking for a good place to start, honestly you can't go wrong with any of their products. I'm a huge fan of all of their cheeses but if I had to go top three, I'd say their newest cheese, St. Albans, is up there along with Bonne Bouche, and Bijou! And of course, they make the best crème fraîche, their mascarpone is aces, and I'm obsessed with their cultured butter. It's an honor and great privilege to work with brand that I admire and respect both inside and out. If you've got any questions, don't hesitate to shoot 'em over! This post was not sponsored, though Vermont Creamery did host me for their first annual Cheese Camp! Oh and if you want to read more bout Cheese Camp, check out Ayse's post!