Things got extra cheesy for culture this past week, even before the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival on Sunday. Editor Katie and myself were lucky enough to be invited by Grafton Village Cheese Company to tour their cheesemaking operations in both Grafton and Brattleboro. Even more time to spend in Vermont this summer, plus more cheese knowledge? You didn’t have to ask us twice.
Our trip began with checking in to the charming Grafton Inn and enjoying a cheese-centric dinner at their restaurant with the crew from Grafton Village Cheese. Katie and I couldn’t get enough of the sweet corn, potato, and Vermont Leyden soup served in shooters at the beginning of the meal (ahem, Grafton Inn, want to give us the recipe? Pretty please?), and the fried green tomato sliders topped off with Grafton’s new Smoked Chili Cheddar were top-notch as well.
After our entrees, towering desserts, and several glasses of wine later, we all headed off to bed feeling warm, fuzzy, and full of cheese.
The next morning, we walked a few minutes down the road to check out Grafton’s cheese caves. Their Grafton, Vermont facility is utilized mainly for their cave aged cheeses; their Brattleboro location is where their cheddars are made. We saw some wheels of Vermont Leyden being hooped in the make room, and took a peek at some Clothbound Cheddar, Bear Hill, and Shepsog wheels all aging gracefully, and waiting for their day in the cheese case.
We also got to taste some vintage varieties of cheddar, Bear Hill, and Shepsog — because what’s a visit to a cheesemaker without some cheese eating? All were incredibly delicious — the Shepsog was even more crystalline and crumbly than usual, and the Bear Hill (my personal favorite) delivered wave after wave of deep, fruity flavors on the palate.
Next, we headed south for a visit to Grafton’s Brattleboro facility, but decided to make a pit stop in Townshend to say hello to the folks at Big Picture Farm. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve accidentally consumed an entire box of their goat’s milk caramels in one sitting (no? Just me? Well, now you know). Big Picture Farm is now making cheese (they have a lot of milk at this point in the season, and don’t need it all for caramels), and though it be young (at least compared to Grafton’s line up!) it was pleasantly complex.
Like the cheesemaking facility in Grafton, Grafton Village Cheese Company’s cheddar hub in Brattleboro is also equipped with a store stocked with not only their own products, but other Vermont cheeses, specialty foods, beer, wine, cider, and swag. Visitors can shop, and then walk upstairs to view (as we did) the cheddar-making process through wide windows. Grafton is one of the few cheesemakers still cheddaring by hand, which they believe allows for greater control over the finished product.
Our visit ended with lunch in downtown Brattleboro and a scenic, traffic-free(!) drive back to Boston. Have you gone on any cheesy trips or vacations yet this summer?