The Great Vermont Cheese Crawl
There was a time when I considered driving tours little more than field trips for grownups—who, presumably, should have worthier, more-grownup things to do. That outlook was bred from my growing up in the heart of Kentucky’s bluegrass country: Blessed with both legendary horse farms and notorious bourbon distilleries, its back roads play host to an ant-line of tourists who keep slowing down to either ogle a few million dollars on the hoof or simply let the boozy vapors of the car’s occupants dissipate a bit, or both. It’s hard to grasp the allure of such pilgrimages when you’ve been jaded by grade-school outings to Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark. (Possibly the racetrack, too.)
As an adult, though, and especially as an adult living in New England, I find I’m as big a sucker as anyone for these things. Pub crawls, wine loops, diner treks, even (gah!) foliage tours—I’ve done them all. And now along comes The Vermont Cheese Book by Ellen Ecker Ogden (The Countryman Press, $19.95), and I discover a whole new reason to get out the map and gas up the car.
Clearly a labor of love, and deeply respectful of the small-farm tradition, this 180-page paperback guide is also useful from beginning to end. It covers more than 30 cheesemakers across Vermont—from curd king Cabot down to one-man operations like Bonnieview Farm in Craftsbury Common—offering profiles of each region and farm, descriptions of signature cheeses, driving maps and contact info, as well as plenty of photos of blissful-looking livestock and charming scenery. There’s a glossary to help you brush up on your affinage vocabulary, and a tasting worksheet with suggested descriptions (“goaty,” “brothy,” “barnyard-flavored”).
But which route to try first? Windsor County, with Woodstock Water Buffalo mozzarella and Cobb Hill’s Welsh Caerphilly? Or Washington and Orange, with Blythedale Farm’s Jersey Blue and Vermont Butter & Cheese’s chevre. High season for most of these cheesemakers doesn’t start for a few months yet, so luckily there’s time to map the tastiest itinerary. And for a little inspiration, one might just pop by Formaggio Kitchen for a bit of Jasper Hill’s Constant Bliss or Peaked Mountain’s Vermont Dandy—something to savor while contemplating a most excellently cheesy driving tour.