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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vermont Travelogue, Continued...

We move on to Friday--a beautiful day.  Sunny, breezy, about 80.  Perfect weather to visit Shelburne Farms.

Shelburne Farms is a 1400 acre working farm (circa mid-1800's) on the shores of Lake Champlain.  It includes an inn and is also a non-profit environmental education center.  The buildings are simply gorgeous.  Stonework, cedar shingles, copper roofing.  And the barn building (shown here) is immense.  Really impressive.

The farm houses farm animals of many kinds--chickens, goats, alpacas, horses, cows, miniature donkeys, rabbits, turkeys.  You know how sometimes you go to a farm and the animals seem, well, kind of shabby?  Not the case at Shelburne.  These animals are cared for by a staff that loves to share their knowledge and love of farming with the visitors. 

With our little farmer-to-be, we were there literally all day.  But there was plenty to do.  By the end of the day, most of the crowds had left and that opened it up for Jake to do all sorts of cool things--holding and feeding 2-day old goats, feeding a baby cow, milking a cow and a goat, feeding the horses, holding a bunny.  He was in heaven.   

During the day, we took a long walk around the grounds on some of the many paths.  We visited their "market garden" where they raise all the vegetables served in the inn's restaurants.  The gardens were impeccably cared for and really colorful with the many varieties of vegetables they grow. 

After the long walk, I was hungry and, luckily, they have a food stand there offering all sorts of delicious sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods, etc--all made from local ingredients (some from the farm).  I had a delicious local turkey sandwich with pesto and fresh greens on homemade bread and a wonderful salad.  Jake snacked on a soft pretzel made with the farm's own cheddar cheese (the cheese was mixed in the dough, so he didn't know it--we told him later). 

Speaking of the farm's cheddar, it's some of the best you'll ever taste.  They make it right there on the farm using raw milk from their purebred herd of Brown Swiss cows.  They offer a number of kinds: aged 6-8 months, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years.  The youngest cheese is mild and creamy.  As the aging gets longer, the cheese gets sharper and more complex.  They also have hickory smoked, something they call tractor cheese (cheese that sort of takes on a mind of it's own as it ages and doesn't come out the way it's expected) and another kind (I'm forgetting what they call it) that's made in a much more labor-intensive way, so it's much more expensive (about $21/pound).  It is incredible.  A little hard with a crunch (sort of like Parmesan) and an intense taste.  Really amazing stuff.  In 2009, they earned Best 12-month Cheddar, Best Smoked Cheddar (3rd year in a row), Best Cheddar Spread and 3rd Place Best Mature Cheddar (their 2-year) from the Amercan Cheese Society.  Read more about their cheeses and how they make them here.

In the picture above, the cork-shaped curds are in the molds ready to be pressed into 40-pound blocks.

A bakery also is right there on the farm.  A wide variety of artisan breads and pastries are made by hand.  Man, it smelled good in there. (Forgot to take a picture.  Sorry!)

So do you need to have an animal-crazed kid to enjoy Shelburne Farms?  It helps, but it isn't necessary.  It's a wonderful place to visit, learn, relax and eat.  Well worth the trip.

Next time, we head home...but not before eating some more goodies!

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