Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival: Part 1

If you waited too long, then you were out of luck. There were plenty of posts on Craig's List seeking tickets, yet no one seemed to be selling. Only 1000 tickets had been sold, and those holding tickets were not surrendering them. Cheese had never been so popular.

The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival was held on August 23 in Shelburne, Vermont at Shelburne Farms Coach Barn. The first festival had been held here back in 1996. This Festival was organized by the Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. in partnership with the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and the Vermont Cheese Council.

The Festival included about 50 cheesemakers, 20 Wineries and Breweries, and 15 Artisan Food Producers. There were over 100 cheeses available for sampling as well as other foods, from corn bread to sausages. Plus, you could purchase most of these items. You could also attend cooking demonstrations. As the Festival lasted from 10am-5pm, you had plenty of time to sample all of the delicious food and drink. Here is a list of all the cheesemakers who attended this event.

Tickets were only $20, which I think was an excellent value for all of the food you could sample. If you wanted to sample the wine and beer, you had to pay an extra $5 for 16 tickets which could be traded for 1/2 ounce tastes of beer or wine. There were also a few seminars which you could attend, for an additional charge of $45. I just attended the main event, getting wine tickets too.

Artisan cheesemaking is quite popular in Vermont, as the state has the highest number of cheesemakers per capita, over 40 of them. These cheesemakers produce over 150 different styles of cheese, made from milk obtained from cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo. Check out the Vermont Cheese Council for a cheese trail map, list of cheesemakers, cheese varieties, event lists, and much more.

To get to the Coach Barn, you had a take a leisurely drive through the beautiful grounds of Shelburne Farms. The various vendors had tables within the Coach Barn. As I showed up just as the festival opened, it as easy to walk around, checking out all of the available samples. But as I posted about before, the event eventually got too crowded and hot. Though it was a nice venue, it was not large enough for all of the attendees.

Cheese! I enjoyed so many different cheese samples, from many Vermont cheesemakers, as well as cheesemakers from Rhode Island and New York too. An excellent diversity of cheeses and some very passionate cheesemakers. I have already posted about the Vermont wines I tasted, including some very good ones. Plus, there were interesting specialty foods, from chocolate covered cheese to pickled veggies. I will be posting more detail about specific vendors in the near future, highlighting those I found especially interesting.

I will return again to this festival next year, though I hope they hold it at a larger venue. But if you want to go, I strongly advise you to buy your ticket early so you don't get shut out. At $20, this event was a bargain. If you are a cheese lover, you certainly won't leave the festival hungry. And it is cool to meet and chat with all of the local farmers.

Mmmm...I think I need to go and eat some cheese right now.

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