Falling For Vermont

Sho standing on a big rock in front of bright yellow trees along the mountain ridge
Smuggler’s Notch casual

Ahh yes, a post title that is both cheesy and true to my new found love for this state. While I’d been to Vermont for snowboarding trips and enjoyed it, my feelings changed during my weeklong stay back in September. Amazing natural beauty, great food, BLM signs in rural towns – where else will you find that combination? I’ve captured some of the spots from the week that helped boost Vermont to the top rung of my unofficial “favorite states list” Let’s go!

Making It Work

Gravel trail flanked with trees with changing colors
Strolling in Jeffersonville, Vermont

Back in late September, my friend Connie and I cleared COVID tests (safety first!) and headed up to a small town in Vermont we’d never heard of to work and “rest” for a week. With an indefinite work from home situation and city-sized office-less apartments we were both itching for a change of scenery – more trees, fewer people. In our search for a reasonably priced rental, we scanned the whole northeast of the US of A and came across a house in the little town of Jeffersonville, VT that fit the bill (affordable, with WiFi and some form of downtown in walking distance). It wasn’t until after I booked that I looked at a map and saw it was in northern Vermont, 6 HOURS from NYC. I put my cruise control to work for once.

On The Road Eats

Vermont Country Deli is a destination. It was right on our route and I was determined to stop their after experiencing their macaroni and cheese at the Sugar Bush Ski Resort outpost in February. My friend, Sam Sam, turned me on to there bronze capped cheddar masterpiece served out of huge cast iron pans. It was mesmerizing and tad magical. I ate a “medium size” ½ lb serving each day for lunch, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

In addition to mac and cheese, they have a full deli counter, prepared foods and a plethora of baked goods. It was a bit overwhelming because I wanted every thing, but settled on a modest 1/2 dozen items for myself.  I definitely went a bit overboard with my order this time thanks to my scarcity mentality but I had lunch for the next two days.

Holding a cup of soft serve maple ice cream in the shop
My first Maple Creemee

After a quick coffee run, we saw what looked like an Apple festival and pulled over to check it out. At Cold Hollow Cider Mill they’ve condensed all the trappings of a northeast apple picking experience into one spot with nary an apple tree. One building sells cider in growlers and cans, and offers tasting flights. The other stayed making fresh apple cider donuts, serving up maple creemee’s and purveying country farm inspired souvenirs. I was stuffed (see mac & cheese abouve) but tried the maple creemee because I never heard of it. Turns out “creemee” is Vermont’s name for soft serve, and yes, it was very creamy. I also got an apple cider donut because I’m no heathen.

Carbs & Shopping in Burlington

We spent our Sunday in Vermont’s largest city, about 45 minutes from Jeffersonville. Our first stop was August First, a bakery café I selected after seeing pictures of their open air space (it’s still Covid times) and Maple Biscuits. These biscuits looked legit but as a native southerner, I was cautiously optimistic. I’ve been burned by dry or just confusing Yankee biscuits in the past. As I waited in line to order, I’d watched a father, son, grandfather trio devour the massive biscuits in what turned out to be their “1st course” preceding egg sandwiches. That sealed the deal for me. I ordered mine toasted with butter and raspberry jam, and have no regrets. The biscuit was only mildly sweet and had all the makings of a respectable southern-style buttermilk biscuit,– tender crumb, a bit of tang, slightly crisp edges. Delicious. The jam was homemade by somebody and was a nice compliment.

The sleeper hit was their 7 grain bread used in the Avocado toast. While the portion of avocado was lacking, the bread was so light and chewy and much more than I expect from a 7 grain bread. I had to loop back inline and buy a loaf for the road. Connie had a delicious breakfast sandwich that I did not remember to photograph.

Waterfront Park overlooking Lake Champlain with NY state in the background

Downtown Burlington is down the hill from the campus of the University of Vermont, and sits right along Lake Champlain. It’s so picturesque. The sky, grass and trees were so vibrant and popping like a Microsoft screen saver. Who knew?! I definitely didn’t. There’s a walkway around the lakefront where you can see all the way to the NY shores and the islands in between. We spent some time on bench swings facing the lake. Best front porch, ever. It was pretty chill, which was a nice departure from the parks back home where there are so so many people these days.

People sitting at outdoor cafes. Trees line the street with a church steeple at the end.
Church Street in downtown Burlington

Next, we strolled along Church St.; a promenade street full of restaurants and shops. Our first stop was The Cosmic Grind, a coffee shop specializing in mochas. I’m usually a black coffee person, but decided to let loose and dessert-it up with a coconut caramel concoction. While their indoor space was limited to employees, they had a friendly server taking orders by the door and serving people in an outdoor patio. It was such a charming area and reminded me of La Rambla in Barcelona. Oh Burlington! So full of surprises.

Cheesy pizza on the table
I was really living my best life when this flatbread arrived

After some shopping, we headed to American Flatbread and sat in their expansive patio surrounded by brick buildings. Like everywhere we went in Vermont, they take safety seriously. It was great to see. They have an extensive beer list featuring many local brews. You can order half and half pies which was perfect because we wanted to try a couple different flavor combinations. The special of the day featured a sweet potato puree bacon and leeks with a melty cheese.. maybe gouda? We paired that with a sausage and mushroom pie and were legit grinning when our oblong beauty arrived. Both were delicious and the crust was well fermented and flavorful. 10 out 10 with leftovers to add to that mac and cheese reservoir. It’s the little cheese-filled things, isn’t it?

Around Town

View of the slow moving river at sunset
Sunset from the Lamoille Valley rail trail

Jeffersonville, has an entrance to Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, an old railroad track turned into a recreational trail. It follows a river and passes by fields, fern forests and is a great spot of walking or running. I even came across a woman on horseback strolling with her dog. Something for everyone!

The town has a couple of restaurants and shops. We loved The Farm Store, which is a market and coffee shop with some dope baked goods (especially muffins) and a rotation of breads from local bakeries. When we learned Saturday is croissant day, we made sure to return for their sourdough ham and cheese croissant. It had a slight tang and was perfectly flakey and delicious. 5 stars!

Burger Barn in the glow of the cars pulled up for take out

Burger Barn is a must see if you’re in the area. It’s a tiny green trailer off the edge of VT-15 serving a couple dozen burgers and delicious fried things. It was less than a half a mile from where we were staying, but hard to find on foot.. you have to cut through an auto shop parking lot to get there. My burger was one of the best I’ve had and their hand cut fries served in a brown paper bag (a telltale sign of tastiness) were top notch.

Slightly Into The Woods

Tall pine forest
Hiking Mill Trail before sunset

One day, we hustled to hike after work and before the sunset (approx. 6:55 according to Google!). The closest EASY hike was Mill Trail, about 20 mins away and well worth it. It was a magical forest filled with pines and trees just starting to turn golden with fall colors. We didn’t make it to the end because the sunset beat us but it was a serene respite.

Bingham Falls

More Food & Wine

Boyden Valley Winery was a fun stop to soak in some happy hour sun. They have a range of traditional wines, fruit wines and dessert spirits. We chose white wine since it was probably one of the last warm weekends for dranking outside.

The Maple Outlet is a wonderful store despite it’s basic name. It’s situated in front of a thousand acre maple forest where maple sap has been harvest by the same family for over 100 years. They sell a range of maple syrups and maple products (including creemees) as well as wild flower honey from the local bees. I got some darker more concentrated “robust maple syrup” designed for cooking and honey to take home. The prices are very reasonable and the only thing that’s outlet-like about this spot.

The Grand Finale

By the time we were driving back, the fall colors were in full effect and it was truly breathtaking. We made an unplanned stop along the side of the road to check out Smuggler’s Notch. It’s narrow state park situated on either side of a super windy narrow road cutting through the mountains. The bright yellow leaves against the cool gray granite mountain faces were so striking. We tried to Ansel Adams our way around for a bit then headed back down the mountain towards the highway. I was very glad I got my brake fluids replaced before this trip. It’s a bit intense.

Smuggler’s Notch State Park
Views from Smuggler’s Notch Park

Work-cation mission accomplished! I came back from Vermont refreshed and excited to return again. Since I couldn’t stop talking about the beautiful landscapes at every turn, amazing food and drinks and friendly people, I wrote this post. Please let me know if you get to visit any of these spots. I’m all for vicarious living these days.

Until next time!

Sho

8 comments

  1. As usual some great looking and sounding spots during this getaway! I’m salivating :P…. and I agree with you that Vermont is easily overlooked and underrated.

    Liked by 1 person

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