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The Localvore Connoisseur: Uncommon Eats

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In a state that focuses on community and the rural economy, “Buy Local” has become the anthem of Vermont. With so much abundance within the Waterbury region alone, “Feast Local” is our uncommon manifesto.

Wake up to a fresh cup at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Café & Visitor Center, in the heart of the Village of Waterbury’s historic neighborhood. Located in a meticulously restored 1875 rail station, the café offers an extensive menu of coffee, espresso, and blended drinks. Pause at the exhibit for a self-guided tour of coffee’s long journey “From Bean to Cup” and shop for a wide assortment of K-cups and brewing accessories. In warmer weather, take a rest on the shaded porch – if your timing is right, you may even catch the Amtrak “Vermonter” as it rumbles in for its stop.

To sample another coffee option, visit Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea, a small coffee roaster crafting fresh coffee daily. Visit their new European style coffee bar, taste a variety of special roasts or attend their School of Coffee to learn to roast and brew your very own blend!

Dubbed the "Happiest Place in Vermont,” the Ben & Jerry’s Factory hosts 30-minute guided tours, concluding with a generous sample of the flavor of the day. If you have more room, visit the scoop shop for ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. You’ll find classics like Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch and Chocolate Fudge Brownie next to limited-batch flavors that are only available for a short time.

If coffee and ice cream are basic food groups, cheese and chocolate must follow. As you head along the Green Mountain Byway, the Cabot Farmers’ Store, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery and Lake Champlain Chocolates make up a three-in-one destination. Taste from an assortment of more than 20 different varieties of Cabot cheese. This delicious cheese is brought to you by the farmer-owners of New England and New York who own the Cabot Creamery, a nearly century-old cooperative with an innovative business model that is based in Vermont. From White Oak Cheddar to Hot Buffalo Wing and everything in between, you’ll find some flavors that are only available at Cabot stores.

Stop by Smugglers’ Notch Distillery Barrel House Tasting Room to sample their entire fleet of spirits. Using the finest ingredients blended with pristine Vermont spring water, they make, barrel age, blend, and hand-bottle remarkably distinctive, award-winning spirits one small batch at a time.  They will be happy to educate you on the craft distilling process and teach you how to ‘taste’ their spirits so you get the most enjoyment and appreciation of each spirit.

Stroll over to Lake Champlain Chocolates, where chocolate bars and truffles are often offered as samples. Dark sea salt caramels, raspberry truffles, almond butter crunch, and white chocolate cranberry bark make their home among an extensive array of fresh delights sold from the case. Wrapped bars, squares, and hot chocolate mixes are also displayed in beautiful, seasonal packaging. Ask for a sample of Lake Champlain’s own ice cream of dairy cream fudge – staff members will oblige with a smile.

Waterbury’s version of “apple” is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Apple Core Luncheonette and Brew. Celebrate the tastes of Vermont in a classic country store setting with an extensive array of spreads, salsa, and condiments, many of which are available for sampling. From among every apple product you could imagine, the cider donuts are a favorite, as well as complimentary frozen cider popsicles for kids. Stop for a meal at the Apple Core Luncheonette, Cold Hollow’s on-site restaurant serving locally-sourced comfort food like chicken pesto paninis and sweet potato bread. And don’t forget to step into the Boyden Valley Winery Tasting Annex where you can sample their award-winning wines and Vermont Ice wine, renowned ciders and spirits.

With more than 700 and counting different craft beers, Craft Beer Cellar features beer, cider and Mead from Vermont, New England, and all over the world. The well-organized layout is easy to navigate with ample cold storage as well. The friendly and knowledgeable staff can provide tips on beer and food pairing, specific Vermont insights, or any other questions related to beer – the staff is always available for questions and recommendations. Come by for tasting events held on some Fridays and Saturdays to learn about and taste new brews!

As evening approaches, consider chef-owned Michael’s on the Hill for dinner, Michael Kloeti creates seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine that begins with a warm, linen-wrapped sourdough baguette, sweet butter, and a bowl of marinated olives. With a network of farmers and a flair for creativity, Chef Michael’s menu traces back to the food from his Swiss homeland: fresh, sustainable, and unprocessed. Celebrated by Wine Spectator and Sante, Chef Michael also offers themed cooking classes including “A Taste of Vermont.”

Another jewel in Waterbury’s crown is the Hen of the Wood Restaurant, located in a preserved gristmill on the banks of the Thatcher Brook. Serving simple, uncomplicated and down-to-earth dinners, Hen of the Wood sources much of its food from the Green Mountains and Champlain Valley. With dynamic menus and fresh ingredients, Hen of the Wood also offers an exquisite array of Vermont cheeses, such as Jasper Hill’s raw milk Bayley Hazen Blue or Woodcock Farm’s creamy raw goat milk cheese, “Ewe Too.”

Discover the Waterbury Farmers Market, where you will meet Vermont’s farmers and cottage chefs in person. Every Thursday from mid-May through mid-October, an eclectic mix of merchants set up shop from late afternoon until evening at Rusty Parker Park in downtown Waterbury. From spring greens, vegetables, berries, squashes, and wild edibles, the Farmers Market is a snapshot of Vermont agriculture and food culture. Stroll through the market in the early evening and catch a concert hosted by the local Rotary Club.

A stationary farm market open from June through October, the bounty of summer and autumn lives at Grenier’s Farm Stand and Bakery. Juicy strawberries, new potatoes, crisp corn - legendary for their just-picked freshness - these are just a few of the produce traditions for which Vermonters wait all year, marking the coming of the season. Need dessert? Choose from a mouth-watering selection of pies, biscuits, fruit breads, and coffee cakes.