A Taste of Place: Exploring the Vermont Cheese Trail
Cheese from the green mountain state is rich with flavors of clover and rain.
In Vermont you can smell the color green. The majestic pines and the clover-filled meadows infuse the air with an aroma conjuring up nourishment and quiet. In the distance, the edge of a storm cloud took shape, making its way toward me. I ignored it while meandering the gravel roads, making a couple of stops on the Vermont Cheese Trail.
"The taste of a place" – I heard many variations on that expression from dairy farmers.
According to Shelburne Farms cheesemonger Nat Bacon, what distinguishes farmstead cheeses (produced entirely on the farm) is a combination of climate, topography, and vegetation. The farm, located on the edge of Lake Champlain, is a lush site with abundant fields. The herd grazes on grasses that contribute to the flavor and texture of the cows' milk. Farther down the road, Fat Toad Farm co-owner Calley Hastings, who just loves goats, uses a movable fence to rotate grazing for the same reason. I arrived at her farm just as the storm caught up with me. As we sat down to chat, a crack of thunder shattered the Vermont calm.
The air was pungent with green. Blades of grass glistened with raindrops as the smell of the earth rose up. With a block of cheddar and a tub of goat cheesekeeping me company, I made my way back to Boston. Now I understood "a taste of place." The ingredients for cheese are the same all over the world. Milk and salt. But as I bit into the cheddar and then the goat cheese, the underlying flavor was unmistakable – green.