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Snack, Sip and Ski: Specialty food producers serve Vermont’s finest local fare—slopeside.

by Hilary DelRoss

Skiers and snowboarders need to refuel during and after a day on the snow and, lucky for us, specialty food producers in Vermont are eager to share their offerings with hungry snow enthusiasts right at the base of our mountains.

Vermont’s thriving community of farmers, chefs, bakers, confectioners, and brewers prepare delicious local agricultural products to nourish visitors and locals alike. Food and beverage enthusiasts have an abundance of opportunities throughout the year to visit farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants, local cafés and watering holes, and tasting rooms of all kinds to experience locally made flavors, but no other experience is quite like sliding up to a food vendor at the bottom of your favorite ski trail.

Each season, resorts across Vermont host a series of special tasting events which, together, form the Ski Vermont Specialty Food Days Tour. Follow the tour from resort to resort to experience the finest fare Vermont has to offer—on the slopes. Iconic pantry staples like Vermont Maple Syrup, the world’s best cheddar from Cabot Creamery and Vermont’s Finest Ben and Jerry’s ice cream are crowd pleasers—as are thirst quenching samples from Long Trail Brewery and Woodchuck Cider for après refreshment—but the real stars of the tour are our beloved hyper-local brands. Many of these small but mighty brands are distributed throughout the region, and some can only be found in local markets. Ski or ride right up to the table and find out what makes each of them so special.

Kimball Brook Farm - North Ferrisburgh

Organic milk and cream, flavored milks (try the chocolate and maple milks!), and iced teas are made with processes that respect the health of the environment and the herd. Every drop of milk comes from the North Ferrisburgh farm and teas are made with water sourced from a pristine local spring in Stockbridge. Owners JD and Cheryl DeVos are third generation dairy farmers who transitioned to an organic herd and started bottling GMO-, pesticide-, herbicide-, antibiotic-, and growth hormone-free milk under their own label. They raised four children in Vermont and are dedicated to keeping the state’s beautiful landscape, local fresh foods, and amazing recreational opportunities available for future generations. Nutrition, taste, sustainable farming practices, and fun are all equally important to the staff at Kimball Brook Farm.

“Visiting different ski areas throughout the winter allows us to speak with folks who might otherwise not have the chance to taste our wonderful milks. Specialty Food Days are the best way to let new customers taste our premium products before they buy, and tell them where they can find our milks and creams in Vermont as well as at their local markets when they get home from their vacations. When we offer tastes of our chocolate milk to skiers and snowboarders, who benefit from the recovery benefits of the drink, they want to know where they can buy more. Most of the ski areas in Vermont sell our products right at their base area so visitors can refuel during a day on the slopes…even on days when we aren’t there giving away free samples! It’s such a pleasure to meet skiers and riders at the mountains, talking about snow sports and about good food and nutrition while enjoying the outdoors. For a healthy lifestyle, it all goes hand in hand.”

It’s Arthur’s Fault! - Jericho

Originally made for holiday gift baskets for family members, Arthur finally packaged his creations for distribution. It’s his fault we can’t get enough of his sweet and savory sauces, marinades and confections made with natural, gluten-free ingredients. Local ingredients are sourced whenever possible and include products from Cabot Creamery, Monument Dairy, Shelburne Orchard, Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters and Walker Organic Maple Syrup. Taste a sample of Arthur’s latest concoctions on the snow or take an exciting class to learn how to cook a delicious meal using his products.

Karen’s Artisan Popcorn - South Burlington

Made in small batches, Karen’s kettle cooked popcorn packs a big punch. Karen sources local, organic kernels and pairs them with indulgent flavors for a whole grain, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan snack. Hurricane Flats Farm in South Royalton supplies her kernels locally and maple sugar from Square Deal Farm in Hardwick goes into her bestselling variety, Maple Kettle Bliss. Try it for yourself, as well as Karen’s nine other savory and sweet flavors on the tour or at farmers’ markets around the state. Enjoy the light, buttery flavor and satisfying crunch along with natural antioxidants.

“We moved to Vermont because we fell in love with the surroundings, the people and the way of life. We’re happiest when we’re out playing in the snow, but we’ll hike and bike until the snow comes back again, and we bring along a bag of my popcorn in our backpacks for a snack break while out enjoying the scenery. The landscape, availability of organic food and support for small businesses in Vermont inspire me and the Specialty Food tour connects me to the people and places that make the state so special.”

Couture’s Maple Shop and Bed & Breakfast - Westfield

Jacques and Pauline Couture run their maple store and B&B on the same farm where they raised their six children. For four decades, they’ve shared their home with store customers and lodging guests who love waking up to maple sap boiling in the spring and fresh maple syrup waiting next to pancakes and farm raised eggs on the breakfast table. This sweet retreat is just down the road from Jay Peak Resort so guests can rest and refuel before skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Visitors to the farm can taste an array of homemade maple products at the shop and can taste their certified organic milk in some of the best known dairy brands. Couture’s is part of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, providing their certified organic milk for Cabot’s famous dairy products.

“We love going to Jay Peak for Specialty Food Days to promote our maple shop and B&B because it is very casual and we love to see the smiles on faces when they taste our maple cotton candy. We’ve been farming here for over 46 years and we’re proud to be able to hire local folks for full time work here on our farm and go out to the resorts to tell people that our milk goes into making some of their favorite yogurts and cheeses.

 

Ambrosia Chocolates and Confections - Weston

Homemade candy for grownups has never tasted so good. Ambrosia incorporates natural ingredients, and ingredients from Vermont when available, into vintage candy recipes to create unique, sophisticated and delicious treats for snow enthusiasts of all ages. Try their wide variety of brittles, caramels, espresso hazelnut and chocolate almond butter crunches, peppermint patties, chocolate truffles and other delights on the Specialty Food Days Tour or at the year round farmers’ markets in Rutland, Dorset and Manchester.

Fortuna Sausage - Sandgate

Fortuna’s is a family affair. Proud of their century old heritage, recipes include only natural, nitrate- and gluten-free ingredients and local, humanely raised pork. The family moved the business from Rhode Island to southern Vermont to downsize and enjoy the lifestyle, but have found another niche market and continue to grow production of their small-batch, handcrafted, old world dry cured Italian sausage. Their curing process is a 130-year-old family technique, preserving authentic flavors and natural traditions.

“The Specialty Food tour reflects our family’s values and allows us to work in outdoor venues with folks who share our enthusiasm for an active lifestyle in Vermont’s natural landscape. Our products are all natural and do not require refrigeration, so outdoor enthusiasts find our products are perfect to bring along for a quick protein packed snack on the go. Hikers, skiers, mountain climbers and bikers all love Fortuna's salami and snack sticks.”

Gringo Jack’s - Manchester Center

Stop at this booth to try flaky flour tortilla chips made with non-GMO and expeller-pressed canola oil, fresh unique salsas made with all natural ingredients in small batches, and BBQ sauces inspired by local craft beers, which are also available at Gringo Jack’s Market. Then swing by Gringo Jack’s Southwestern Bar and Grill to taste additional fresh, bold, healthy flavors from the Tex-Mex inspired menu in their renovated 1800’s train station restaurant, now celebrating 20 years in the Green Mountains.

Skiers and riders love Specialty Food Days because they can slide right up to the tasting tables and grab a quick bite between runs—many sample-sized snacks are portable enough to grab on the go to be enjoyed on the next chairlift ride. The vendors create a festive atmosphere at the base area of each resort on the tour, with the tastings often coinciding with another resort event on the same day. Tasters can spend a lot or a little time at each booth learning about the ingredients, processes, and people behind the products available for sampling. Many of the sample products are also available for sale so guests can bring home a taste of Vermont to enjoy again with family and friends.

The Specialty Food Days Tour runs from late January to early April and the schedule of dates, locations, and coinciding resort events is posted at skivermont.com at the beginning of each New Year. It’s well worth planning your ski vacation around the tour schedule, but if the timing doesn’t quite work out, there are many opportunities to experience a taste from these vendors plus more from Vermont’s cornucopia of flavors the next time you’re in town.

•             DigInVT is your resource for culinary travel of all flavors. Visit diginvt.com to access maps and build an itinerary of all types of tastings, food pairings, farm visits, markets, classes, foodie events and more.

•             The list of specialty food producers in Vermont is ever growing, so be sure to find out what’s currently cooking at the Vermont Specialty Food Association at vermontspecialtyfoods.org.

•             Vermont’s ten most beautiful drives are flanked by great local food and drink stops. The “Chews and Brews” itinerary for each scenic byway highlights can’t-miss spots you’ll eat up on your next trip. Find them all at vermontvacation/byways.  

Bon appetit!