For our very first food blog, we thought we would take this opportunity to recognize the local and regional food and beverage growers/suppliers that we use for Weathertop's breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner services.
- The product meets or exceeds our expectations for taste and quality relative to other products on the market. Plain and simple, we need to enjoy it...
- The product must be cost effective. We will pay a premium for quality, within reason...after all, we are a "for profit" business...
When we sat down to compile this list, we were surprised and pleased by the extent to which we utilize local and regional products. We are not formally trained chefs nor food experts, just innkeeping foodies who know what we like and make every effort to deliver an end product that meets our expectations and hopefully exceeds our guests' expectations. This list is a testament to the world-class quality and commitment of our local food producers. We are lucky to have so many in our area. Without them, our business as such wouldn't be possible.
If you haven't tried these products, take the opportunity to do so. You may find some new favorites! If you do use some of these products, make the effort to say "thank you" in some way to the business owner - in person, e-mail, phone call or a good, old-fashioned letter. As local business owners ourselves, we can assure you that both positive feedback and constructive criticism go a long way.
We are always on the lookout for new local products. If you have any suggestions, please let us know, so we can try them out. If they can meet our simple criteria outlined above, we can assure you that they will be on our list in the future!
- APPLE CIDER JELLY: We purchase this from Wood's Cider Mill in Springfield, VT. No preservatives, no additives, no added sugar...just evaporated cider. Wonderful on freshly baked bread and muffins. Willis Wood also produces BOILED CIDER, which is more liquid than the jelly (less evaporation). We use this product in our homemade oat bread (more on the oats later...), and as a glaze component for pork or chicken.
- BACON & SAUSAGE: We purchase both products of these products from North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, NH. The bacon is marinated in maple syrup then fruitwood smoked. It is uncured, so it contains no added nitrates, nitrites or phosphates. It is very lean and about as meaty and tasty as you can get. Our sausage is a Maple Breakfast Link that is custom produced for Black River Produce (one of our local distributors). It too is nitrate, nitrite and phosphate free, with no filler...just packed with delicious pork flavor.
- BEER, ALE & CIDER: There are many great local brewers. We happen to focus on three of them. Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, VT makes Vermont Lager (a great all-around beer...), Stovepipe Porter (a favorite winter offering and also great in our gingercake...) and Wolaver's IPA (nicely hoppy and organic...). For BIG beers, we have chosen two offerings from Harpoon Brewery's Leviathan Series, namely Big Bohemian and Saison Royale, both weighing in at 9% ABV! For hard cider, Green Mountain Cidery in Middlebury, VT fits the bill with Woodchuck "802 Dark & Dry", "Granny Smith" and "Pear".
- BUTTER: We purchase butter from two sources. For baking, we use Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery in Websterville, VT. For table service, we use wrapped chips from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. Yes, we know...Cabot makes their butter in West Springfield, MA, but the cooperative is still headquartered in Cabot, VT, which makes them regional, if not local, in our minds!
- CHEESE: We purchase a variety of cheeses from many local sources. Consider Bardwell Farm in Pawlett, VT makes both raw goat and raw cow cheeses. We have used their Dorset, Equinox and Manchester for cooking and cheese boards. Green Mountain Blue Cheese in Highgate, VT makes the ultimate blue - Boucher Blue - beautiful on a salad or bison tenderloin. Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, VT makes a veritable plethora of goat, cow and mixed cheeses. Some of our favorites are La Petite Tomme, Oh My Heart, Rapture, Trillium and Valencay, all cheese board offerings. Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery makes the world's best Chevre (outside of The Loire, that is...). Von Trapp Farmstead right here in Waitsfield, VT makes Oma, a lovely washed-rind, raw cow cheese, which will satisfy cheese palates from the most to least adventurous. Willow Hill Farm in Milton, VT makes a raw sheep cheese called Autumn Oak which has been a big hit on cheese boards. And of course, don't forget Cabot Creamery, who makes every flavor of cheddar known to mankind! A perfect choice for our breakfast omelets and stuffed chicken breast (along with Wood's Cider Mill Boiled Cider...).
- COFFEE: Sure, coffee doesn't grow here, but it's locally roasted and distributed. Just breathe deep when your driving through Waterbury on roasting day, and you'll know you've found the home of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. We use two of their single origin, fair trade offerings - Sumatran Lake Tawar for regular and Mexican Huatusco Cooperative for Decaf. Both are dark, rich and aromatic.
- DUCK: We buy boneless Pekin Duck breast from Brome Lake Ducks Ltd. in Lac Brome, Quebec. Lac Brome is just across the border, due north of Enosburg Falls. The product is absolutely delicious - rich, meaty & tender. We serve it Thai style, oven-roasted in a soy/sherry marinade until the outer skin gets nice & crispy, then served with a dipping sauce of rice wine vinegar with chilies & peppercorns. Simple yet flavorful...forget Duck l'Orange...
- EGGS: We get ours straight from the farm, Donald Terry's in Moretown, VT. We started buying eggs from his father, and have continued our business relationship from father to son. Donald is one of the most reliable suppliers we have EVER seen, in ANY business. He calls every Wednesday at 7 AM (plus or minus 5 minutes...) to find out how many eggs we need that week. On Thursday, at 9 AM (plus or minus 5 minutes...), he's at our door with the eggs. For all intents and purposes, his product is organic...he just can't afford the high cost of certification. And for flavor, nothing can beat a farm-fresh egg!
- FLOUR: King Arthur Flour Company gets our vote for all types of flour. Yes, we know their wheat isn't grown in Vermont, but they've been processing it and distributing it from Norwich, VT for 220 years! They've got to be doing something right...
- GRANOLA: We've given up on making our own granola...With Nutty Steph's available in Middlesex, VT, why bother trying...you can't improve on perfection...almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds & oil, oats, maple syrup and nothin' else. Superb in our yogurt parfait, as a breakfast cereal, as a trail mix, in cookies or dipped in dark Belgian chocolate (OK, some of our products aren't local...).
- MAPLE SELTZER: This is a unique product purchased from Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company in Poultney, VT. No preservatives, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. Just carbonated maple sap with a hint of maple syrup. Not as sweet as one might think...even less intense than traditional fruit-flavored seltzers.
- MAPLE SYRUP: The quintessential Vermont product...we get ours from Eastman Long & Sons, right here on Tucker Hill Road in Waitsfield, VT. "Easty" is a 4th generation syrup maker, and his sugar shack is just a stone's throw from our inn. If you snowshoe or cross-country ski around Tucker Hill, there's a high probability you're wandering through his maple groves (mind your head on the sap lines...). While we always "debate" over the rising price of maple syrup, it would be nearly impossible for us to consider purchasing elsewhere. He is an excellent supplier with a tremendous work ethic. He is also Donald "The Egg Guy" Terry's uncle, so commitment to hard work must be a family tradition. If you must know, we use Grade B for everything - pancake syrup, yogurt parfait, baking and salad dressing.
- MILK & CREAM: We have three sources for these products. When we need a heavy cream for cooking or baking, we bring out the heavy artillery...Organic Sweet Jersey Cream from Butterworks Farm in Westfield, VT. It has the highest fat content of any heavy cream on the market and is SUPER RICH. Our primary source of milk is Monument Farms Dairy in Weybridge, VT. Their milk is wonderful by itself. Additionally, we use it exclusively to make our own yogurt (more on that later...). We also use their heavy cream when the extra fat content of Butterworks' cream isn't required. Our third supplier is Booth Bros. Dairy in Barre, VT. Yeah, yeah...we know Booth was bought by Hood several years ago AND some of the milk comes from out of state (NY, NH & MA)...get over it. They're based in VT and employ Vermonters and that's a good thing. Besides, their milk is rBST-free.
- OATS: We purchase organic oats from Les Moisson Dorees (The Golden Crops), owned by M. Gaudreau, Inc. in Compton, Quebec. Terrific oats. Try them cooked in Monument Farms Dairy Milk then topped with fresh fruit sauteed in Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery Butter and Easty Long's Grade B Maple Syrup (a dash of non-local Cinnamon and Nutmeg is a big plus...). Rich, delicious and utterly satisfying. Nothing else will give you the energy to ski the bumps and trees of MRG all day...We also use it to make our homemade oat bread (with Wood's Cider Mill Boiled Cider...).
- SEAFOOD: Salt water fish in the land-locked portion of New England??? You betcha! Ever have Barramundi? You should...We ate this fish all the time when we lived in Singapore and loved it. How did an Australian ocean fish get here? Fingerlings are flown in from Australian waters and sustainably farm raised by Australis Aquaculture, Ltd. in Turners Falls, MA! Light, sweet and better than sea bass. Here's a cooking hint: sear it quickly and keep any sauces or chutneys fresh, fragrant and light, the way it's consumed in SEAsia. We've seen many a chef kill it with a heavy Mediterranean prep - tasty for sure, but you lose the fish.
- TEA: Vermont Liberty Tea Company in Waterbury, VT makes local, herbal teas and also packages the highest quality teas from around the world. If you're into serious tea culture, you owe it to yourself to stop by. Two of our favorites are Jasmine Gold Dragon and Caramel Rooibos.
- VEGETABLES: From Spring through Fall, our primary source of vegetables is Gaylord Farm in Waitsfield, VT. We manage most of our dinner service salad and vegetable offerings through their CSA program. One of our simple pleasures in life is seeing what is delivered in each week's CSA basket - a critical factor in determining our menus for the week. Our guests unanimously love the concept, and besides, it's Good Eats (sorry Alton, we couldn't resist...)! To supplement Gaylord's basket, we also use produce from Hartshorn's Santa Davida Farm in Waitsfield, VT and Old Shaw Farm in South Peacham, VT. What do we do in Winter? Go skiing and dream of local Summer veggies!
- VENISON: We procure Venison Top Round Roast from Hollandeer Farm in Holland, VT. This is farm-raised red deer that is flavorful and tender (if cooked properly...) without a "gamey" taste or texture. Perfect with a light juniper/black peppercorn rub and a side of cranberry-maple-walnut chutney.
- WINE: This was a tough one for us, since we normally do not like fruit wines (which are plentiful in VT...), nor do we typically enjoy wines from cold-climate hybrid grapes. Our attitude has been altered by two products from Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge, VT. We carry their Riverbend Red made from Sabrevois and Baco Noir grapes. While it isn't a Cote de Nuits (it doesn't claim to be), it is a fun-to-drink red loaded with cherry & berry flavors. Nice with a steak, pasta or on it's own. Their Seyval Blanc "American" is made from grapes of the same name. It's packed with green apple, pear & grapefruit aromas and flavors. Crisp and quite dry, it goes well with spicy foods or on it's own, while lounging on your patio on a summer afternoon. The winery claims it to be "Cabot Cheddar's Perfect Match". See for yourself!
- YAK: Here's one that is currently NOT on our list, but deserves a mention because it is so unique, and their product may be on our menu in the near future. Vermont Yak Company in Waitsfield, VT has taken on the challenge of raising Vermont's first yak herd! Why aren't we using them yet, you ask? Here's an honesty check - we've traveled around Tibet long enough to have consumed Yak in every form imaginable - steaks, burgers, meatballs, sausages, stews and even curry puffs. While all were fine because we were hungry, we didn't really like the pungent aromas and gamey flavors very much. On top of that, the ever-present odor of burning yak grease used to light monastery lamps permeated everything. We know, we know...this is farm-raised and grass-fed in Vermont, so the flavor, texture and aroma will be much improved; however, there's a momentum thing going on here and a personal hurdle we'll have to overcome...soon. Anyway, our hats are off to these Mad Yakkers!
- YOGURT: We're nearing the end of the alphabet, and we're at the end of our list. Told you it was pretty long...We used to buy our yogurt from Bufala di Vermont, until they left the state. Now we make our own, thanks to encouragement and a recipe from Robin McDermott - local food goddess, Localvore champion and internationally famous radio talkshow host on WMRW (well, at least famous within a 10 mile radius of Warren, VT...). We use Monument Farms Dairy Whole Milk to make our yogurt. It makes a great breakfast parfait (with Nutty Steph's Granola and Easty Long's Maple Syrup...). It also works well in cooking because it doesn't separate like some other yogurts (it's richer, like a Greek-style yogurt).