Celebrating local flavor: Food festivals in abundance this summer

Celebrating local flavor: Food festivals in abundance this summer

If there’s one thing besides art steering folks to the historic villages and rural communities of Southern Vermont, it’s got to be the food. Here we enjoy a warm, sophisticated, yet rustic lifestyle based on family traditions fed by authentic and local food experiences.

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Ah, but find out for yourself. Here we’ll help you start a culinary vacation at which you’ll enjoy the sights, tastes, sounds, smells, and textures of the works of dedicated farmers, local and celebrity chefs, producers, food entrepreneurs, food co-ops, restaurants, CSAs, farmers’ markets.

For a summer of what Southern Vermont serves up best, we recommend you start with these choice festival picks:

Grafton Food Festival

June 22-23, 10a-4p, The Grafton Inn, 92 Main St. (800-843-1801, graftoninnvermont.com).

The annual Grafton Food Festival, newly established by Northeast Flavor magazine, is a pure celebration of Southern Vermont’s local food and farms. Offerings include tastings, cooking demonstrations, farmers’ market tables, and special dinners at The Grafton Inn. Conveniently, the Festival is held under an all-weather tent behind the Grafton Inn., and lodging packages are available. There’s live music, too, of course. $10 per person, free for kids under 12. Must be at least 21 with proper ID for beverage tasting. The event features two experiential events: Grafton cheese cave tours (max. 12 people per tour) and a Grafton wine and cheese hike at Grafton Ponds, 2p.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

July 21, Coach Barn of Shelburne Farms, Shelburne (212-576-2700, vtcheesefest.com).

Vermont is the premier artisanal cheese state, boasting the greatest number of cheesemakers per capita — widely estimated at more than 40. We invite you to experience our passion for making fine cheeses, taste local and fresh foods and wines, and meet the artisans who make them. Spend a fine summer day along the shores of Lake Champlain at the historic Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, and sample, buy, learn, and network. Hosted by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company of Websterville, and the Vermont Cheese Council, the Festival is at Shelburne Farms from 11a-4p. The event is open to the public, and in 2012 attracted more than 1,100 visitors from across the country. This year’s attendees will sample more than 100 types of cheese from fully 50 cheesemakers, a variety of locally produced wines and beers, and several other artisanal foods such as maple syrup, honey, chocolates, and baked goods.

Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival and Parade

July 26-Aug. 4, various venues in the Mount Snow Valley area (vermontblueberry.com).

Berries, vintage cars, music, food, and tarp displays; if it’s blue, it’s probably happening in the Mount Snow area towns of Wilmington, Whitingham, and Dover. The event, coordinated by Janet Boyd from Boyd Family Farm and the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, has dozens of businesses, organizations, and individuals creating blueberry or blue-themed events for families to enjoy: There’s a Big Blue Parade, a Blue Street Fair, children’s activities, jam making, blueberry themed specials in the local eateries, blue music events, a blue car auto show, blueberry bake sales, blue beer, special “blues fees” at Mount Snow’s golf course, and — naturally — a rich field of choices for picking your own blueberries.

Mount Snow Brewers Fest

Aug. 31-Sept. 1, Mount Snow Resort at 39 Mount Snow Rd., West Dover (800-245-SNOW, mountsnow.com).

Mount Snow’s annual tribute to summer and its finest elixir, beer, has returned for a new round. The Mount Snow Brewers Festival is famous for its great beer, live music, huge crowds, and good times. This year, organizers say they expect to host well over 20 breweries. All paid adult entries (21 and over) receive a one-of-a-kind souvenir pint glass and a free beer, courtesy Mount Snow. Tokens can be purchased for $2 after that, and are good for an 8-oz. sample of well over 60 different kinds of brews: stouts, ales, Hefeweizens, porters, and, for all of our non-beer drinkers, cider.

15th Annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Fest

Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 10a-5p, Camelot Village, Bennington (802-447-3311, lovegarlic.com).

Garlic lovers from throughout New England are converging here to revel in food, arts, and crafts from 50 vendors: everything from garlic ice cream to garlic jelly, pickled garlic, roasted garlic, garlic braids and, of course, plain garlic bulbs of every variety. You’ll find something to sample or purchase, and how will you not soak up what’s on tap at all the planting, braiding, and cooking demonstrations? Herbalists will guide guests on “weed walks” that will give you a new appreciation for the valuable uses of everyday weeds. Perfect for aspiring gardeners, garlic growers, garlic lovers, or those simply looking for a fun way to wind down with summer, Vermont style. Also check out garlic golf, a hay maze, face painting and hair braiding, and so many other family friendly activities. You can wander the spacious lawns and sample garlic delicacies and just enjoy the ambiance. (Particularly at the beer and wine garden tent, which will warm considerably with live music both days.) Our vendors do sell out, so come early if you’re looking to buy seed for next year’s crop.

Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival

Sept. 20-22, junction of Rt. 9 East and 100 South in Wilmington and various inns, farms, and wineries in the Mount Snow Valley (thevermontfestival.com).

A weekend showcase for Vermont wines, specialty foods, and artisans of all types celebrating the rich uniqueness, quality, and ingenuity of Vermont producers. The 2013 festival adds to its list of events a “Welcome to Vermont” celebration in historic downtown Wilmington, featuring select Vermont producers and entertainment anchored by downtown businesses, historic Memorial Hall, Buzzy Towne Park, and the award-winning new Bank Park overlooking the Deerfield River.

16th Annual Oktoberfest and 40th Annual Harvest Art and Craft Show

Oct. 12-13 (mountsnow.com).

A celebration of German music, beer, food, and games, this family-fun event features face painting, pumpkin painting, arts and crafts, a hay pile and the famous “schnitzel toss.”Adults have much to enjoy as well: an array of German-style beers and a wide selection of favorite brews provided by New England breweries. All adult admissions (21+) receive a souvenir pint glass and a complementary drink.

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