Those who consider themselves oenophiles know that California's Napa Valley is a top culinary travel destination, rich with exquisite wines, boasting renowned restaurants and chefs, and set in lush, vineyard-covered rolling hills. Vermont, with its picturesque views, bucolic landscapes and sumptuous artisanal foods, is emerging as the "Napa Valley of Cheese" and is fast becoming a first-rate destination for foodies.
If you're looking for an end-of-summer gourmet getaway, the first annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is gathering in Shelburne, Vermont, at the stunningly beautiful Shelburne Farms on August 23, 2009.
"Vermont has become one of the top culinary destinations in the United States," says Catherine Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. "Cheeses from Vermont consistently rank among the top in national and international competitions. This is a great event for those wanting to experience artisan food at its best."
The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is a spectacular opportunity for food lovers (particularly cheese lovers) to spend a day amidst Vermont's lavish landscapes while sampling some of the most delicious foods available anywhere. Tickets to the fabulous food event are available online at www.vtcheesefest.com for $20 each, and the event will be open to the first 1,000 people who register.
Dozens of cheesemakers and other artisan food producers will share their edible wares at the one-day event, which is hosted by the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, and the Vermont Cheese Council.
"Vermont has more artisan cheesemakers per capita than any other state, and it produces some of the best cheese in the world," says Allison Hooper, co-owner of Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. "We wanted to create an event that not only showcases the cheesemakers' skills but also gives the wider community a chance to learn about their craft."
Festival visitors can sample more than 100 types of cheese from 40 different cheesemakers, a variety of locally produced wines and beers, and several other artisan foods, including maple syrup, honey, chocolates, and baked goods. The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival will also feature four tasting seminars, teaching festival goers how to pair cheeses with wine, beer and other foods.
Among the "big cheeses" taking part in the festival, Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chef of 2008 Eric Warnstedt and executive chef of the New England Culinary Institute Tom Bivins each will lead a cooking demonstration designed to show visitors innovative ways to incorporate cheese and other local products into their cooking. Laura Werlin, cheese authority and author of Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials, will lead a seminar on the best wine and cheese pairings and how to host your own pairings event.
If one day of food lover festivities isn't enough, turn your trip to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival into a weekend of gastronomic fun. On August 22, more than 20 artisan food producers will take part in the Vermont Artisan Food Open Studio Day. Creameries, vineyards and breweries across the state will be open for special tours and tastings, allowing visitors a chance to go behind the scenes and taste some of Vermont's best known culinary offerings. Further information on Open Studio Day is available at the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival website.
The official destination resort for those attending the festival is The Essex, Vermont's Culinary Resort and Spa. Located in Essex, Vermont, the food-centric resort is home to the award-winning New England Culinary Institute. The Essex is offering special rates to media, vendors and visitors attending the festival, as well as an exclusive festival package that includes reduced rates, special amenities, admission for two to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, a special welcoming event and more. Visit www.vtculinaryresort.com for lodging information.
If you can't make it to the festival, you can still sample Vermont's award-winning cheeses. Ninety-five percent of the state's cheeses are distributed throughout the US. Organizers of the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival recommend these winning wine and cheese -- and beer and cheese -- pairings.
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