Local merchants selling hand-made crafts, food, and microbrews, and large-scale operations have managed to maintain their Vermont sensibility. -- Rob Liguori"A vibrant public market is our threshold to the world," Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator from Vermont, said.
His words are emblazoned in stone on the walkway of a mall in Burlington, and it's a sentiment that plays out state-wide – but with the counterculture attitude Vermont is known for.
Local merchants selling hand-made crafts, food, and microbrews, and large-scale operations have managed to maintain their Vermont sensibility.
Here, our friends at Trazzler.com have put together a list of the best shopping in Vermont.
Farm to table is the rule here at Mountain Creamery, not just a quaint phrase to lure hungry travelers. Most of the ingredients, including poultry, beef, pork, and produce, are grown and raised on the owners’ ranch, Hinterland Farms.
The atmosphere is distinctly greasy-spoon, with waitstaff who seem to be part of the décor. It’s the kind of place where people come in to chat about the weather or the local high school sports teams and the soundtrack is provided by a portable radio circa 1975.
The food, however, is fresh, expertly prepared, and features signature items such as the “mile-high apple pie," hand-carved turkey breast, and homemade potato salad. It’s not called Mountain Creamery for nothing; they produce fresh and delicious homemade ice cream at a secondary shop downstairs, and it’s worthy of the name. Beware, the restaurant is cash only.
The first surprise upon arriving at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market is that it doesn’t appear to be a farmers’ market at all — at least, not the traditional, open-air example. The second surprise is that inside the building, visitors will find everything they'd find at an outdoor emporium, and then some.
Named Retailer of the Year from the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (an award whose previous winners include Fairway in New York City and the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle), this grocery store does homemade, local, organic, sustainable, and conventional — but it doesn’t do gourmet.
Though the inventory and atmosphere suggest the very model of a gourmet grocery, the Woodstock Farmers’ Market deliberately shuns the use of that word, banned because, as an employee will say, it implies exclusivity. What you’re left with, then, is a modern, eco-conscious market that checks all pretensions at the door.
As the menu board says, there’s “a short order revolution” happening inside this authentic 1946 diner car. The Farmers Diner motto is think locally, eat neighborly — and it shows. The diner is supplied with produce that is grown within a 100-mile radius, most meat is locally and humanely raised, the heat is kept at a modest 65 degrees (with a sign on the thermostat that reads, “reduce our carbon footprint”), and the butter comes from… right around the corner at the Cabot factory.
The menu isn’t devoted to egg-white-and-sprout omelettes and wheatgrass smoothies, it's hearty and delicious, and as visitors wolf down a stack of buttermilk pancakes or the Hog Heaven special (2 hotdogs wrapped in Vermont bacon and deep fried), they may realize that eco-conscious eating can still be incredibly decadent.
5573 Woodstock Rd. RT 4 Quechee, Post Mills, (802) 295-4600
Walk into this unassuming storefront and step back into the 1960s, where counterculture merges with artistic expression. Inside HoT Glass Works, visitors will often find Hank Schwartz, owner and master glass blower who, along with his wife Toby (HoT stands for "Hank or Toby"), began crafting glass masterpieces by hand more than 30 years ago in the mountains outside the town of Jamaica.
Though their business has been thriving for decades, they’ve only recently set up shop in town, occupying the 160-year-old former site of Muzzy’s General Store. Don’t be alarmed by the sound of crashing glass inside the store; the Schwartzes have adorned the entrance with glass coins, both to alert the proprietors to visitors' arrivals and to demonstrate the durability of their work. Hank and Toby are of a bygone era, when artisans created for the sake of creating, not profit — but their wares are timeless and elegant.
The official name of this brewery is “Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center," and its production line is known as the “Artifactory." That should provide a good enough glimpse into the manic, positive energy of this company, its headquarters, and all of its employees.
The self- or employee-guided tour, which begins with a trip through the “Information Superhallway," is both fun and informative. The haunted-house vibe gives way to the factory floor, where you’ll learn that Magic Hat is a 100% vegan beer, and non-pasteurized, meaning it will never "skunk." Visitors will discover the meaning behind all those quotations on their bottle caps, check out some psychedelic décor and artwork by Jim Pollock, and hear a short, evangelical (but humorous) presentation by the company’s founder and president. Or skip the tour, and just hang out in Magic Hat’s eminently cool swag shop/tasting room, where you can sample all of the beers they’re currently brewing, and walk away with some funky gifts and a heady buzz.
5 Bartlett Bay Rd, South Burlington (802) 658-2739
Flour is one of the essential building blocks for a vast array of baked goods and other foods, and King Arthur Flour is the undisputed gold standard among baking obsessives. Still, most casual cooks might be only aware of King Arthur’s standard, all-purpose flour variety.
A trip to this unassuming, gray, clapboard-shingled store will open minds — it turns out that King Arthur produces dozens and dozens of specialty varieties, all of which are available for purchase at their flagship location. It’s not just a place to buy milled grain, however; this store is a full chef’s shop, featuring hard-to-find specialty products such as exotic oil extracts, sourdough yeast starter cultures, cooking equipment, and more. Across the parking lot is King Arthur’s bakery education center, which offers a wide array of baking classes and demonstrations for bakers of all skill levels and ages.
Kermit the Frog once said, “time’s fun when you’re having flies.” There’s no better place in the world to catch flies — of the hand-tied fishing variety, that is — than at the massive Orvis Company Store. The Orvis company opened its doors in Manchester in 1867, just a few hundred yards up the road from their current flagship location, and they’ve been supplying the world with handmade bamboo fly-fishing rods, reels, lures, and all manner of outdoor activity equipment ever since.
The store itself feels like an extension of the natural world it serves — expansive, bright, and laden with the faint scent of the outdoors. Shoppers will find everything and more: Binoculars for bird-watching, rifles and shotguns for bird hunting. Plaids, greens, browns, and natural wood are everywhere, and the place is authentic—you might be chatting with a fellow customer, who turns out to be a fly-fishing legend that's immortalized on the store’s walls. There’s even an indoor/outdoor fish pond for ambiance, and an outbuilding houses Orvis’ fly-fishing school and rod repair shop.
In a world of nearly disposable children's toys, it is touching to see that Vermont Teddy Bear devotes an entire wing of their factory floor to a “hospital” for injured or sick bears. No child’s whim, Vermont Teddy Bear’s crafters stand behind the quality of their work so strongly that they will repair or replace any of their stuffed toys at any point in its lifetime, no matter the severity of the injury.
Indeed, if your bear is somehow obliterated into stuffing and fur, all you need to do is return the bear’s tag and you’ll be given a replacement. With commitment like that, it’s no wonder that the company has an extended family of loyal customers. Stop by their factory and enjoy a short, fun tour, or spend some time picking out your own unique bear, which can be customized in a variety of “flavors” and personalized outfits.