Sunday, September 28, 2014

Travel Diary: Burlington, Vermont

I had a feeling I would like Burlington, Vermont. When a friend of mine moved there, I began to learn about what I at first had thought of as, "the other Burlington", since the only Burlington I knew was the suburban town outside of Toronto. The more I heard, the more Burlington, Vermont conjured up visions of my visit to Berkeley, California, or what I think Portland, Oregon might be like: craft beers, entrepreneurs, farm to table cuisine, hippies, and beautiful scenery. With all of this, and a friend whom I missed dearly calling me, I set out on my journey. 

I decided to travel the long way, through the Adirondack Mountains, and take the ferry across from Port Kent, NY. After chatting with a group of seasoned Harley Davidson bikers on the ferry, I reached my destination in the form of a lakeside marina and a smiling friend. 

Just as the sun was setting, we drove to the nearby town of Shelburne to watch the sunset at the beautiful Shelburne Farms (more on Shelburne Farms later). We took in the multi-hued view of mountains and lake while enjoying a nice evening breeze. 

We then hit the road and drove to Fiddlehead Brewing Company where we enjoyed some local craft beer, and then went next door to indulge in some wood-fired pizza at Folino's Wood Fired Pizza. It was a perfect, comforting way to ease into a fun weekend away. 

The next morning we woke up with a full itinerary planned. With only one full day together, we didn't do everything on our list, but we got pretty close! We started the day at the City Market/Onion River Co-op with a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. This co-op is amazing! It was very inspiring, as I am a member of the West End Well, a food co-op here in Ottawa which is just in its infancy. Visiting City Market was like seeing what the West End Well could be in the future. It was also fun because it made me feel like I was back in San Francisco with the focus on delicious, healthy, sustainable food, and California wines everywhere. 

After breakfast, knowing how much food and drink we would be enjoying throughout the day, we started the day with an invigorating hike up Mount Philo. Huffing and puffing my way up the path was worth it to take in the beautiful view and familiar foliage. 

The view from Mount Philo

After our hike, we decided to head straight to Lake Champlain for a refreshing dip, and what a good decision that was. After our cold plunge we sat on the rocks, letting the sunshine dry us off before heading on to our next destination: Ben & Jerry's

Our hands were too busy gluttonously devouring ice cream cones to take photos, but next to the ice cream itself, our favourite part of the Ben & Jerry's factory was The Flavor Graveyard. Here is one of my favourite little gems describing one of the flavours that went to the graveyard to die. 

Between our ice cream and our next meal, we enjoyed touring the town of Shelburne, visiting some cute shops, and heading to the Cheese Traders & Wine Sellers to pick up some wine. It is so fun to shop for wine when you have a wider variety of California wines to choose from, as well as wines from Oregon and Washington State. After shopping, we grabbed a light lunch at Healthy Living Market before heading back to the house to relax before dinner. 

Later that evening we took a stroll to downtown Burlington for dinner. We started at the Hotel Vermont at their rooftop bar, Juniper. After enjoying some cocktails and an absolutely delicious heirloom tomato and Burratta dish, we headed next door to Hen of the Wood, which is also owned by Hotel Vermont.

We sat at the Chef's bar and enjoyed a multi-course meal featuring fresh fish and delicious local ingredients. My friend let me take a sip of her Heady Topper, which was voted World's Best Beer in Beer Advocate Magazine. I enjoyed some refreshing wines and we indulged in some house-made Parker House rolls with fresh butter. Finishing the meal by sipping a lovely Amaro, I was very satisfied with our shared meal. I would highly recommend Hen of the Wood for its amazing food, service and atmosphere. 

When the sun rose the next day, my friend headed back to work and I drove to Shelburne Farms for the day. A non-profit, sustainable working farm that was born out of a historical family estate, Shelburne Farms works to make the future more sustainable through teaching, farming, and food production. 

I started by visiting my animal friends including some sheep who were having a little chinwag, and a calf who was giving me her best smize, ready for her closeup. My favourite was the goat who was chilling in his shed, boasting a beard that would make any hipster envious.

I wandered over to the teaching garden and the cutest little farm stand. The garden was bursting with local veggies, bordered by a row of colourful zinnias. 

The 1,400 acre property boasts different barns and buildings, some used for food production (cheese, meat, vegetables, bread, eggs, maple syrup), some for education (school groups, families), and some for events (the Coach Barn). 

I felt like Elizabeth Bennett walking through these fields, with only my thoughts to accompany me. 

The Coach Barn, which has been 

Check out these gorgeous almond croissants! 
The O Bread Bakery has been operating at Shelburne Farms since 1977. 

Just down the road from the barns is The Inn at Shelburne Farms, a gorgeous throwback to the 19th Century which combines the relaxation of a summer home with the pomp and circumstance of a place like Downton Abbey. There were amazing spots surrounding the inn where you could take advantage of the view of Lake Champlain. The restaurant at the inn serves a 75% local menu to diners and guests alike, and you can take your glass of wine out into the English garden at dusk. 

Shelburne Farms was really a highlight during my trip to Vermont. A place where any food-obsessed person would love to visit or work, it exudes passion for sustainable farming and provides fresh, local food to its guests. I was very inspired and my wheels started turning, conjuring up ideas and dreams for future food and business adventures. 

On my final morning in Burlington, I grabbed a coffee and boarded the ferry to set sail for New York state. It was a grey and windy day, and as I left the port for home, I smiled, knowing that this trip was truly an experience where I got to eat delicious, local, fresh food, drink lovely wines, and connect with my friend, through laughter and good conversation. I highly recommend checking out "the other Burlington" when you get a chance.