A "culinary tour" from CT to Montreal - where to even begin?
A friend of mine has requested that we take a road trip from Connecticut to Montreal. She is a chef and I'm in the wine business. We both have a great deal of information for Montreal as far as restaurants and other food-related stops (I'll still post a question on that board for further suggestions), it's everything in between that we are struggling with. The only thing we know for sure is that we both want to stop at King Arthur Flour to go shopping and we also know that there is probably a lot to do in Burlington, VT. Is there anywhere to stop between Connecticut and Burlington, VT?
We are struggling to decide if we will be doing this in the spring or fall. We both desperately want to do the whole fall foliage thing, but we also want to do the whole maple syrup thing in the spring. From what I hear, we should be focusing on New Hampshire, not Vermont, for maple syrup. But where??? Are there any great little foodie towns through this area? Any great gourmet shops, cookbook shops, food artisans/producers, breweries, wineries, cideries (that should be a word.), or anything else? I hear that a lot of cheese making takes place up there...other than Cabot, is there anything interesting along those lines?
All suggestions appreciated.
Vermont is the nation's leading syrup producer by a long shot. They do make syrup in NH but not on the scale of VT. Open house weekend is at the end of March for both states.
Vermont has a fantastic food "scene" focusing on farm fresh/farm to table.
Here are some websites to get you started:
You can get a list of wineries and cheese trail maps from the state departments of agriculture. I think the NH Mushroom Co has some fabulous mushrooms. They are at some of the farmers markets such as the Winter Market in Tilton NH Sat and Sun. http://www.nhmushrooms.com/
Perhaps consider going up thru VT and then down thru NH? You should read The Town the Food Saved by Ben Hewitt about Hardwick VT.
If you went in September that would be the best month for apples so I would pick Gould Hill Orchard in Hopkinton NH (easy off I89) for the variety of heirloom apples. See their website for the list. Don't bother with the foliage thing when it will be hard to find places to stay on weekends.
But in September you could also go to the Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine (near Waterville) sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers. Great farmers market area. One stand was selling fresh ginger and turmeric. Interesting butters. Incredible display of squashes by Johnny's Seeds. Great food vendors. Include Portland ME if you go to that area.
The best pies are made by Sue Richardson at Richardson's Farm in Boscawen NH. They also make their own ice cream. The Garlic Sisters in Canterbury have some interesting products. Have not been to Flag Hill Winery and Distillery near the seacoast in quite some time. They make General John Stark Vodka from apples (but it's not apple flavored).
If you followed I89 from Concord NH you could stop in Concord for Crust and Crumb Bakery, Bread and Chocolate and Concord Food Coop. Head out Rt 103 to stop at Gould Hill apples. There's a Buffalo Farm in Warner but I haven't been there. Get on I89 to VT.Also, if it was September you could go to the farmers market in Montpelier when you visit King Arthur. The food coop in Lebanon NH (follow signs to CHAD hospital) has a very nice selection of local cheeses and is handy to I89. Visit Poverty Lane Orchard http://www.povertylaneorchards.com/ haven't been but I understand they grow apples for cider not eating. See the fascinating list of apples on their website.
If you decide to do maple syrup, I bet there are at least 6 sap houses in the Concord NH area you could visit. Some just don't advertise except for Maple Syrup Sunday. Again, check the Dept of Agriculture for some dates. You would need a weekend just to explore the corridor from Concord NH to Norwich/King Arthur. And if you chose the maple syrup weekend you could visit Tilton Winter Market, see their website for a list of vendors. (the mushroom people are there)
Vermont produces more maple syrup than NH. Just a point of fact, not looking to start a "war". :) Here is the website that will give you the best information about syrup on Vermont: http://vermontmaple.org/
A great resource for the farm to table experience is the Vermont Fresh Network (http://www.vermontfresh.net/).
If you're looking at visiting during maple syrup season, you're looking at March, not April, not May. March. March in this part of the world is not very pretty and it is still firmly within "winter". If you'd like to have some sort of farm experience, or really fresh produce you're not going to really get that in March. I don't know as much about the smaller cheese producers or what they have available for you to experience, but I think someone else has provided you with some good resources.
Food/beverage related places in central Vermont that are worth stopping for:
Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen, Barre (Yes, I said BARRE).
Salt Cafe, Montpelier
Three Penny Taproom, Montpelier (brew pub).
Nutty Steph's, Middlesex (just off exit 9, amazing chocolate, bacon Thursdays).
Prohibition Pig, Waterbury
Hen of the Wood, Waterbury (This is the best restaurant in central Vermont as far as I'm concerned, it has the best food, best service, and best atmosphere).
Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Waterbury Center
Grandview Winery at Cold Hollow, Waterbury Center
The only place I haven't actually been to on the above list is Kismet because every item on the menu has something in it that my husband (a picky eater) doesn't like.
Cold Hollow comes across as a tourist trap, but do not let that fool you. They have the best cider and cider donuts in all of central Vermont and there's loads of Vermont-made products for sale there at not unreasonable prices. I do not buy my syrup there, though. I buy my syrup from the bulk container at Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. :).
No matter which season you're planning to visit, you'll want to start getting your lodging reservations in place sooner rather than later. In March we have skiers and in Sept/Oct we have leaf peepers.