Eat & Drink, Stay Local

Fourth of July: Summer in Vermont

07/04/2017

Happy Fourth of July to all our readers, near and far! As you may have guessed, Vermont is a bit delayed in its seasons compared to where our guests call home. Being as far north as the Upper Valley, we eagerly await the signs of spring that may have already made their debut in Boston, for instance. This delayed gratification of warm spring days and blossoming blooms, however, simply makes the arrival of summer that much sweeter! Memorial Day is certainly a sign of warm days to come, but Fourth of July is the sure-fire mark that summer has arrived. What better way to kick off the season of ice cream, hikes, pond swims, and picnics? We’ve rounded up our absolute favorite summer activities to enjoy in the area this season.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream
We’re lucky enough to call White Cottage Snack Bar our neighbor. While their Giffords ice cream selection is impressive, we love this place most for their view! There is truly nothing like grabbing some fries or a cone and sitting along the Ottauquechee River in the evening. Feel free to dip your toes in the water on those few sweltering days of Vermont summer!

Cheers Along the River
Many consider Long Trail a staple in these parts. We especially like visiting Bridgewater in the summer months, when the brewery’s outdoor beer garden is open! Overgrown hops surround the covered deck as the Ottauquechee River flows beside you. Enjoy a freshly made brew and a selection from Long Trail’s new food menu – we can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon!

Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Thursday evenings here are revved up a notch in the summertime. Enter the Feast & Field Market, complete with live music, local vendors, and farm fresh eats to satisfy your belly. This market is made possible by a collective led by Fable Farm. The best part? You can taste Fable Farm Fermentory’s delicious libations at the market too. BYO picnic blanket or utilize the market’s picnic tables while you watch the sunset and feast!

Life’s a Picnic
Bring along your picnic basket and blanket – Vermont is the ideal place for outdoor snacking! One of our highly recommended picnic spots is along Silver Lake, across from the Barnard General Store in Barnard VT. Stop into BGS to grab some eats (made-to-order sandwiches and baked goods are available on site) and wander across the street to enjoy the view! Another favorite spot of ours includes the yard behind the Woodstock History Center. Walk through the alley between The Prince & the Pauper and the History Center to find the most beautiful view of Woodstock’s covered bridge. Picnic tables are available to enjoy your eats. We suggest grabbing a little something from nearby FH Gillingham & Sons or The Village Butcher.

A Dip in the Swimming Hole
A Vermont summer is incomplete without splashing around a local swimming hole. We particularly like the area below the Quechee Covered Bridge. If you’ve ever been to Simon Pearce in the summer, you’ve most likely seen swimmers below the falls, hopping from rock to rock. To us, this epitomizes summer in Vermont!

Float Down the River
Located amongst the lively shops in Artisans Park, Great River Outfitters offers up kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and tubing throughout the summer months! Enjoy bucolic scenery surrounding the Connecticut River and spot undisturbed wildlife along the way.

Stroll Through the Green
Wednesday nights in the summer mean Market on the Green in Woodstock VT! This is the perfect opportunity to stroll through our town green, listen to live music, as well as peruse fresh and local goods from local vendors. Producers such as Plymouth Cheese and Free Verse Farm are regulars at the market. We also love Vermatzah‘s delicious bread, stuffed with seasonal ingredients. This is a mid-week treat we love to frequent!

 

Summer is here according to the calendar and the weather, so it’s time to take in the variety of activities around Woodstock.  Enjoy any you choose!

 

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

Authenticity in Tradition: Sugarbush Farm

06/29/2017

This week, we venture up the winding dirt road to Sugarbush Farm, first through the Woodstock Village and past Billings Farm, along the backroads toward Quechee. We pass by a few of the most idyllic little barns along the way (and maybe some “not so little” ones) and spot the yellow signs for Sugarbush. A smile appears on our faces each time we drive by one of Sugarbush’s bright signs. They are a welcomed reminder to “keep going” or that we’re “almost there!” – reassuring us that we have just a bit more to go up the dirt hill. 

We consider Sugarbush Farm one the mainstays in our little town. Not only was the farm settled following the Revolutionary War, but they’ve also been doing “agritourism” before it was even a word. Sugarbush is a truly historical destination that exemplifies a long-standing personalized way of doing things. In other words, it is the traditional Vermont cheese & maple syrup farm. 

We chat with owner Betsy Luce and clearly understand that family pride runs deep at this farm. Betsy’s parents moved to Woodstock in 1945, when she was just 2 years old. “My grandparents were from southern Vermont and my parents had been living in New York City and were a part of the back-to-the-land movement.” The farm evolved through the years to produce the kind of food it does today. Betsy’s father began smoking cheese in the 1950’s as a way to supplement his farming income. Betsy also married Larry Luce, who had grown up making maple syrup. “So we combined the maple syrup and cheese business,” notes Betsy. By the 1980’s, Sugarbush Farm started inviting folks to the farm to sample their cheese and syrup. Word spread and the people kept coming!

Family is the main vein running through this business. Betsy and her husband have converted their home’s old living space to accommodate tastings, as well as their farm’s gift shop. Their two sons, Ralph and Jeff, also operate the sugarhouse, ship international orders, track cheese inventory, and maintain the grounds. Thus, the farm is the perfect combination of old and new. The farm maintains its natural beauty and old-school character, while also continuing to evolve as the next generation takes over.

Tradition, history, and agriculture define Sugarbush, and Vermont provides the perfect opportunity for such a place. “Vermont is very proactive in promoting Vermont products and agritourism,” says Betsy. “The buy local movement in our state is very helpful to a business like ours.” In this fashion, it is important for Betsy and her family to maintain the bucolic integrity of the farm. This, in turn, pays respect to the history of the farm and Vermont’s agricultural efforts as a whole. Such pastoral landscape is a large part of what draws residents and visitors to Vermont, and Betsy fully supports the maintenance of Vermont’s lush scenery. “I believe the push to keep open spaces and prevent more sprawl is helpful in keeping our state beautiful which will make more people want to visit.”

Sugarbush Farm finds inspiration in the feedback they receive from their visitors. Betsy mentions, in particular, the “comments, return visits, and telephone orders made by visitors who are appreciative of us opening our farm to the public.” This kind of reaction is of no surprise to us. When you walk onto the farm, you immediately feel the welcomeness of the place. Tastings are held directly in the farm home. A kind staffer greets you and offers a sampling of cheese and maple syrup. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to try a special edition cheese, such as the 11-year-aged cheddar we tasted (extra sharp, extra delicious!). Stepping further inside the house, you find the old farm-kitchen-turned-gift-shop. Its multiple shelves don many of our Vermont-made favorites, like Potlicker jellies and Whisper Hill soaps. Sugarbush obviously loves to promote Vermont brands, like themselves. Still, Betsy would like to “be able to feature even more local producers!” 

Once you’ve had your fill of cheese and syrup samplings, you can make your way down the hill to the farm’s working sugarhouse. A promotional video and self-guided tour await you. Believe us – you’ll leave this place with all the maple syrup knowledge you could ever want! There is truly nothing like gazing out from the farm’s sugarhouse to see grazing cows and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. We consider this particular spot a true Vermont gem.

Visit one of the original agritourism destinations yourself! It’s just around the corner! This farm is certainly a fun place for kids and those who are kids at heart. Feel free to peruse the Sugarbush products on their website, or find them in local stores throughout Woodstock and Quechee. Take a step back in time, and see what a traditionally-run farm looks like today at Sugarbush Farm!

Eat & Drink

Meat Raised with Integrity: Hogwash Farm

06/20/2017

Hogwash Farm is one of those family-run producers we immediately associate with Vermont. If you’ve ever visited their quaint farm stand in Norwich VT, you’ll get the idea. Locally raised poultry, beef, pork, and lamb cuts are freshly packaged and neatly stacked in the stand’s fridges. You can leave with the meat of your choice, along with a dozen farm fresh eggs, by logging your purchase and paying on the honor system. And – this stand is open 365 days of the year. Can you think of anything as quintessential Vermont as this?

Originally from New Jersey, Nancy LaRowe started Hogwash Farm about 11 years ago in 2006. She had no farming background prior to moving to Vermont. In fact, Nancy was in the food service industry and practiced vegetarianism! “I realized animals can have a great life, and I’m pretty good with animals myself,” Nancy says. She now manages 250 acres of land (hay, pastures, and all) in Norwich.

Nancy found herself in Vermont because she loved the culture and farming. Aside from her liking to nature and hiking, the Green Mountain State offered Nancy the opportunity to join a community innately supportive of its local agriculture. “I got really lucky in Vermont in that I started a business that parallels the movement of people caring about where their food is coming from,” says Nancy.

Nancy loves animals and the very simple, heartfelt relationship she has with them. “I could spend hours in the fields with the pigs,” she says. “Animals are always appreciative.” And this is why Nancy takes such great care in raising her farm animals. “Grass-fed makes a tremendous difference,” Nancy notes, for example. This is the way these animals were meant to be raised. Moreover, this practice is most beneficial to the overall environment! “It makes the soil and animals happier.” When it comes time to slaughter, Nancy inevitably feels sad. However, she goes through the process gently, ensuring the animals experience no stress. To put this final step in perspective, Nancy tends to live by one motto: appreciate the past, respect the now, and look forward to the future.

Most importantly, Nancy believes that how she raises her animals results in superior health and flavor. “It’s not about the volume. It’s about rebalancing your plate with meat and chicken.” Instead of a heaping portion of grain-fed meat, this product is better for you. Pasture-raised meat and eggs are beneficial to your health. They offer you more “good” fats and fewer “bad” fats than commercial products. Plus, Hogwash Farm’s meat and eggs contain no traces of added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. Grass-fed animals result in meat with two to four times more Omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals.

As the Hogwash business grows and continues, Nancy would like to “continue rotational grazing, but learn to be nicer on the soil.” She’d like to get a system in place where the land’s earthworms and microbes are just as happy as her farm animals. This means being gentler to the earth, getting rid of the tiller, and directly seeding herself. Such a practice is more in concert with nature. Nancy says, “In agriculture, there is always more to respect and appreciate.” 

Hogwash Farm is well known for their meat CSA. In fact, they were the first in the region to offer the particular kind of CSA! The program has been running consistently for seven years now. You can also find Hogwash at the Norwich Farmers’ Market! Hogwash Farm obviously takes great prides in the way they raise their animals. Their efforts to maintain a healthy, happy environment for both the animals and land are certainly not lost on us. Try it for yourself! Hogwash Farm will not disappoint.

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

But First Coffee: Mon Vert Cafe

06/13/2017

Woodstock is a small New England town with so much charm, once named “the prettiest small town in America.”  An afternoon stroll through the village’s green and the many main street shops are among our top recommendations on fair weather days. Lunch in Woodstock, however, is something for which we like to call on Mon Vert Cafe in particular. Newly relocated and focused on local fare, we love to visit their space nestled right on downtown’s Central Street.

The cafe itself began about six years ago, after which Sam DiNatale and her mother, Sandy, took it over in January 2015. This duo has worked to build the cafe into a place for communal gathering, healthy food, and (arguably most important) good coffee!

Sam grew up in Woodstock. After moving away and having her son, Sam returned to Vermont to give her child the same New England upbringing she enjoyed. Sam began working in the bakery department at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market. “I baked at home and really enjoyed it,” she says. “At the market, I started as an entry level cookie scooper and after a few years, had the opportunity to step in as head baker.” As a way of expanding her culinary knowledge base a bit more, Sam also took on the role of pastry chef at Worthy Kitchen.  Now she has baking implicitly woven into her own business. “It’s been an incredible learning curve. I really enjoy it and continue to find new ideas,” Sam mentions.

“This town is my home, and its people are my extended family.” As such, Sam and Sandy aim to create a place where residents, as well as visitors, can enjoy themselves! Their recent move down the street to a larger space allowed Mon Vert Cafe to grow and meet their customer demand – not a bad problem to have!

Image thoughtfully provided by Mon Vert Cafe

Food is a main contributor to the act of gathering, and this is not lost on Sam. “My father once owned a coffee shop. Growing up in my household, anything less than flavors of chicken cacciatore or linguini with white clam sauce was a rarity.” Basic food doesn’t seem to be in Sam’s vocabulary. She grew up to truly appreciate good food and, in turn, takes pride in the food she serves others. The fact that she can share the food she loves with a community she admires is the cherry on top of the successful business.

Vermont has a very large impact on Mon Vert Cafe. Sam notes, “With all the amazing products and farms around here, Vermont makes it easy!” Offering local food isn’t difficult because it is so abundant in these parts. “The food industry in Vermont is an awesome group of people. They love food, high quality food.” The cafe proudly dons a list of local producers used in Mon Vert on a daily basis. More than simply supplying, Vermont producers also have this way of building a relationship with customers like Sam. Jesse and Sarit of Plymouth Cheese, for example, will come and deliver their cheeses in person. They will take their time to chat and maybe even eat lunch at Mon Vert. The cafe also supports local makers! Just check out their Farmhouse Pottery serveware that came from right down the road. This is the beauty of Vermont’s food and community-based culture … there are so many deep connections to be had here. 

Sam looks forward to learning more about offering to this community. With a baking backbone well-secured at Mon Vert Cafe, she’d like to delve deep into the coffee aspect of her business. Sam plans to learn more about the detailed roasting process that goes into artisan brews. Mon Vert currently offers Vermont Coffee Company for their coffees (found here at The Jackson House Inn as well!), which makes for a true and classic customer favorite. Mon Vert Cafe may also be expanding their cold-brew options in the near future!

Mon Vert Cafe is the ideal place to sit, relax, and enjoy some lunch or breakfast. In fact, Mon Vert now has outdoor seating! On warm summer days, we can’t imagine a better situation. Sam is working on some patio seating to place behind the cafe as well! Ahhh there is nothing quite like sipping on coffee with a view of the Ottauquechee River. We are really looking forward to this addition! What are you waiting for? Head on down to the Woodstock Village and get a taste of our local fare.

Go Explore

Wood-Fired & Whimsical: Two Potters

06/08/2017

Tucked in the hills of Bethel VT, two potters have created a homestead in which they, along with their two children, could live out their dream of craftsmanship. A balance of family and work makes for an inevitably busy, yet vivacious day-to-day schedule. However, this chosen lifestyle evokes a strong bond between them. The children see their parents following their passion and creating a home which can foster that creativity. It is here in Vermont’s bucolic landscape where Becca and Nathan have created Two Potters – a manifestation of their love for family, ceramics, and the thoughtful process behind their product. 

The couple met each other about nine years ago, when Nathan called Becca out of the blue to inquire whether she’d be interested in teaching a clay workshop in his studio. Both potters with similar interests and obvious chemistry, a two-hour phone call led to their engagement three months later! The couple found an old hill farm in rural Vermont to live, work, and raise their family. Since moving, Becca and Nathan began transforming the property to accommodate their trade and vision.

They started by collecting bricks to build their own wood-fired kiln. In fact, it took the couple three years to design and build this massive structure themselves. The final design now earnestly sits beneath a barn roof, large and impressive, awaiting its next firing. The kiln is big enough to walk into and stand straight up. Becca and Nathan construct make-shift shelving to utilize as much of the kiln space as possible. Once the pieces are stacked and ready, Two Potters begins their single firing process. This labor-intensive technique creates a beautifully unique look for which Becca and Nathan are now known.  

It takes months to create enough pottery to pack the kiln to capacity. Once fully stocked, over 800 pottery pieces are fired for four days straight, day and night. Becca and Nathan stoke the kiln with scrap slab wood throughout the firing to reach a temperature of over 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. The subsequent wood ash creates a natural glaze on each piece. After a week of cooling, Becca and Nathan remove the pottery from the kiln. This process is no joke, making each piece highly anticipated and special. Hearing about the amount of time and care involved in Two Potters’ firing prompt us to appreciate their pottery even more. After all, many of Becca and Nathan’s ceramics have been in the making for months!

The couple behind Two Potters also built their own timber-frame pottery studio. Nestled just behind their home and storefront, Becca and Nathan walk across their lawn to begin the workday. They each take turns playing with their two kiddos and throwing behind the wheel. Pieces such as bowls, mugs, mason jars, and pitchers consistently turn out of the Two Potters studio. A few of these pieces are fired in a small electric kiln Becca and Nathan have on hand. In a very resourceful fashion, the power in the studio derives from solar panels on the roof of the Two Potters showroom. Additional electricity from these panels helps power their pottery wheels and other studio electronics as well.

You can find Becca and Nathan’s pottery in the Two Potters showroom (located in the farm’s old milk house!). Simply call or email Becca and Nathan to schedule a time to visit. Some pieces are also available on Etsy. Good news for you newly engaged couples – Two Potters now also accommodates registries! We suggest you keep an eye out for Becca and Nathan at the Mount Sunapee Craftsmen’s Fair this August, if you are in the area, as well. We’ve fallen in love with the burnt oranges, light blues, and tiny birds that adorn Becca and Nathan’s pottery. It seems that there is a piece to fit every person’s aesthetic. Moreover, Becca and Nathan are two of the most genuine people we have ever met. Their passion and enthusiasm for their craft is not only visible, but also contagious. The beauty of Two Potters’ pieces truly reflects the down-to-earth personalities of the craftsmen who made them. 

Get Cookin'

The Proof is in the Pudding: Heady Jelly Bread Pudding

05/30/2017

Weekends seem a bit sweeter as we head on into summer. Spring has a way of reenergizing us around this time of year. The warm weather has us savoring our breakfasts as we chat in anticipation of the day’s plans – outdoor hikes and leisurely drives are a few of our favorites. Regardless of what you have in store for the afternoon, a day of true enjoyment should start off with a spectacular morning meal. Here’s the trick – something light yet filling, flavorful and enticing. Bread pudding is just the ticket to start your day off right!

Our bread pudding is a fairly rare dish coming out of the kitchen. It came about for the first time upon a guest’s request. In true Jackson House fashion, we wanted to serve a pudding that digressed from the standard recipe. Instead, we aimed to create a surprising yet delightful recipe of our very own. We opted for a version on the more loose and fluffy side.

Combining airy bread with farm fresh cream helps lighten up this traditionally heavy dish. Our bread pieces fall into the bowl and fully soak in the citrus broth. We ditched the traditional firm square portions for a creamy and luxurious bowlful of pudding, instead.

If you’ve dined with us before, you know how much we like to put a little Vermont twist on our breakfast plates. We elevated this particular dish by adding some Potlicker Heady Jelly (that’s right…Heady Topper bear jelly!). Have you tried it? Heady Jelly is special due to its pleasant complexity. A subtle hop flavor balances a fruity base, and we swear you can feel a hint of carbonation as you spoon this jelly into your mouth. Of course, this recipe rocks because it’s adaptable! Have a particular ingredient on hand that you think will be tasty atop your brioche? Replace or add it into the broth recipe! We love the idea of experimenting with other Potlicker beer jellies (Apricot Ale and India Pale Ale, in particular). Feel free to also alter ingredients based on seasonality. Fresh blueberries, for instance, can replace the dried cranberries in the height of summer. That’s the beauty of this soft and delicate bread pudding…so many ingredients can complement its brioche foundation.  Make ours or make it yours!

Soft Bread Pudding with Heady Jelly

Servings: 6
Difficulty: Easy
Print recipe here.

Pudding Ingredients:
1 cup farm fresh whole milk
3 cups farm fresh heavy cream
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (save seeds)
12 large free range egg yolks
1 cup tart dried cranberries
1 ¼ cup natural cane sugar (set aside 1/4 cup)
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 loaf – brioche, challah, or sourdough (tear into 1-2”pieces – brioche & challah will yield lighter, feathery texture)

Prepare Pudding

Preheat oven to 300°.

Lightly butter a 9 ½” x 13 ½” x 2” baking dish and set aside. Bring the milk and cream to a slight simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat and add the vanilla seeds and pods. Cover and allow to sit for 20 minutes to infuse flavors. Combine egg yolks and 1 cup of natural cane sugar in a large bowl, whisk until blended to light yellow color.  While whisking constantly, temper the yolks with a very small amount of warm cream mixture. Continue to gradually pour the remaining milk mixture into the yolks until completely combined – whisking at all times. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer and discard the vanilla pods (these can be reused to flavor sugar or another recipe). Add nutmeg and combine well. In a large bowl, toss the bread pieces and the cranberries. Place in baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the liquid over bread pieces and let rest for 5-7 minutes. Repeat two additional times until all liquid is incorporated. This will ensure that each bread piece is sufficiently soaked. Sprinkle the top with remaining sugar.

Bake the uncovered pudding in a water bath in the oven for 1 ¼ hours, or until the pudding is set and the bread is puffed and lightly brown on top. Remove from water bath and allow to rest for minimum of 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Citrus Broth Ingredients:
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 tsp of orange skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
1 tsp of grapefruit skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
1 tsp of lemon skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
½ cup tart dried cranberries
3 Tbsp honey
1 star anise
pinch of finely chopped rosemary & thyme
4 Tbsp Potlicker Heady Jelly (adjust to your liking) 

Prepare Broth
Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Very lightly simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to infuse.  Adjust sweetness level accordingly to desired taste. Remove star anise.

Serve
Cut the warm pudding into square portions and place in center of plate or soup bowl. Top each serving with 2-3 tablespoons of citrus broth. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

»