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The Localvore Connoisseur: Uncommon Eats

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 Visitors Center & Café, 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 bagged coffee and brewing accessories. In warmer weather, take a rest on the shaded porch – if your timing is right, you make even catch the Amtrak “Vermonter” as it rumbles in for its stop.

Tank up and lift off because just down the road is Waterbury’s best kept secret: the Green Mountain Coffee Factory Outlet. Great deals are yours on coffee implements, out-of-season flavors, and discontinued items. If you have a single-cup brewer, it may be your lucky day: at the Outlet, Green Mountain Coffee K-cups can be occasionally found at half price.

Deep discounts are one way to induce euphoria; Ben and Jerry’s is another. 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 Cheese Annex and Lake Champlain Chocolates make up a two-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.

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.

Thirsty? With more than 500 craft beers from nearly 200 breweries, the Craft Beer Cellar features brews and hard cider from Vermont, across the country, and internationally. You’ll discover a dozen Vermont labels from The Alchemist and The Shed among brands from the Czech Republic, Japan, and Norway. Gather tips on pairing with food and cooking with beer, or plan on an evening tasting event with Citizen Cider, or Otter Creek Brewing.

As evening approaches consider chef-owned Michael’s on the Hill for dinner, where Vermont Restaurateur of the Year 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 grist mill 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.”

If you discover the Waterbury Farmers’ Market, 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.

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.

As your tour wraps up, would you like to take home a piece of Vermont? If becoming a Vermonter yourself is not likely at the moment, bring home your own localvore transplant. Visit Evergreen Gardens of Vermont in the spring for vegetable starts, herb pots, and seeds. In addition to a collection of edibles, Evergreen also features garden tools, accessories, many varieties of flowers, and holiday trees in December.