A nice welcome from Vermont!

It’s hard to be too caught up in the fast paced life when you’re a state whose capital city boasts under 8,000 people and no McDonalds. As many on the bumper stickers proclaim “Vermont was green before it was cool”, this is not a bunch of people excited by bigger, better, faster – rather they are happy to embrace the “loca-vore” project whole-heartedly.
It was easy to see this the minute we landed in Burlington – the biggest town in the state with a population standing at ~40,000 (mostly uni students!) – the cutest, smallest international airport ever! Quiet yet efficient, it was a breath of fresh air after a three-hour stopover in NY (at JFK).

A cure for jetlag – looking out over Lake Champlain, in the heart of downtown Burlington (10 mins from the airport)

And the “Vermont experience” of local culture, food, nature only got better from there! Even at the peak time of year (yes I’ll admit, there was a bit of “leaf peeping” to be done!) you could always find somewhere to escape to…and feel a million miles away from reality, or immerse yourself in fine dining and art.
My highlights were numerous and too much detail to contain in just one (or even two) posts…I’ve broken them into categories:

  1. “Playing the Food Critic”: FOOD
  2. “Playing the Tourist”: HISTORY and SIGHTSEEING

Possibly the most memorable “food” experience took place on a wet and grey Saturday in quaint Montpelier (the capital city)…we strolled down the street towards the main shops for the weekly fresh farmers market. I stood out as tourist no matter how hard I tried to blend (not just because of the accent), mostly because I was sans gum boots. Those in the know had indeed donned waterproof footwear (and clothing!) as the rain continued to steadily fall all morning – I guess living somewhere where you experience “mud season” you need that kind of footwear!
Yet, the inclement weather didn’t dampen people’s enthusiasm…there was the school band fundraising money for a football trip, families out for their weekly grocery shop, and children happily jumping from puddle to puddle. Plus, many more sensible folk flocking into the nearby coffee spot to dry out and have a warm, friendly catch-up.
It was hard to resist the fun, and one big thing stuck with me long after I had changed into a dry pair of socks….the sense of community and caring. There was palpable sense of goodwill, people that were above all interested in doing what they could to sustain others’ livelihood. Nothing like a dose of feel-good with your morning coffee!! 

Mmm, the yummiest fresh crispy apples for breaky…an unknown variety!

What’s autumn without a pumpkin, or two (mostly gourds actually)!

My only disappointment from the morning was that I had miscalculated and eaten breakfast before I left the B’n’B….that left no room for sampling the cooked market wares – and the wood-fired pizza smelled mighty good!!

Staying in Montpelier to many native Vermonters seemed like a strange decision – numerous people made comment that “it was a nice place to visit, but who’d wanna stay there” – however the places we did visit were a mighty fine ambassadors for the state’s good taste in fresh produce, and seasonal menus cooked by some talented cooks.
Firstly, who wouldn’t want to stay in the quaint “coach-house” room at the B’n’B and be able to walk 300m (downhill!) for a fresh croissant and coffee?? Oh, did I mention that then you’re in the heart of town, plenty of options for exploring then! Bookshops – tick. Clothing and shoes shops – tick. Even a vintage second-hand store-cum-record shop!

“Vermont Fresh Network” display of produce at Shelburne Farm

And then there was this place for the most amaz-balls dinner that I can recall – simple, fresh, wholesome food. “That’s Life Soup” is the epitome of slow food – small, local, seasonal, all put together in a small family run kitchen. Candle-lit dinner of salad, soup and sandwich has never tasted better – especially with the rain bucketing down outside on a cool autumn night!! All topped off with a delicious tiramisu mousse dessert and I was one content little monkey.

But….if you want to know the way to really win me over it’s by finding the ultimate in good coffee and culture. Now, a lot of America(ns) does not know the difference between flavoured water and good coffee, but thankfully Vermont had it’s fair share of coffee connoisseurs. A trend established itself way back on the west coast (the first part of my trip) that good coffee came with a smile and prepared by bearded men**. Indeed the best coffee I enjoyed in Vermont was also make with a smile, some wonderful tips for what to explore next and of course he had the most amazing beard (and no I don’t have a photo, sadly!).

Right in the heart of Burlington’s pedestrian mall is this little street vendor who not only made a yummy brew but made his customers each feel like they were the single most important person he had served in the day. The coffee beans themselves came from a fair trade local company (go local!!) but the barista set about making me feel like i could be in New York, Paris or even Melbourne!!

Stay tuned for another installment of my adventures in the Green Mountain State. More on the sights and things to do, less on beards.

** My sincere apologies to any non-bearded baristas who make awesome coffee…it’s just that you are aesthetically less appealing!! If you have croissants then I’ll call it even…

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