Shaksbury & Co at The Soda Plant
Part I of our latest Vermont story, covered Manchester; and now we’re off to Burlington…
The ridiculously scenic drive from Manchester to Burlington is genuinely like traveling back in time; and, at any point, you might be the only car on the road. Along the way we took in the soaring mountain vistas, stopped at roadside farm stands for fresh-picked produce, and found quirky treasures at village antique shops.
It helped that Land Rover was kind enough to loan us a Range Rover Sport Hybrid PHEV to get us there in style. While the vehicle isn’t yet available in the U.S., its agile handling and luxurious feel are the familiar hallmarks of Land Rover’s entire range of SUVs.
Of course, there is obviously legendary skiing up this way. But spring is turning to summer soon, and ours was a much more epicurean mission.
Here’s how it all went.
This working farm has been in operation since the 1840s, and has evolved as a community gathering place and a model for regenerative agriculture, with its own research and education center. Its market offers farm-produced meats, cheeses, and other local items and sells a seasonal shortlist of home made soups, salads, pizzas, and sandwiches on site. We ordered the better-than-Thanksgiving freshly sliced turkey breast with cranberry mustard on house-made Pullman bread, savory herb-flecked chicken salad, and gooey Vermont grilled cheese – we were definitely not disappointed. Oh, and make sure you visit Odyssey and his llama pals for an Insta-worthy selfie.
As we traveled the route from Charlotte to Burlington, we felt ourselves being pulled back into the 21st century. The University of Vermont’s sprawling campus welcomes visitors into Vermont’s largest city, and offers a hint at its vibrant culture. Once in town, all roads lead to the Lake Champlain waterfront and the striking Adirondack mountain range bordering it to the west. We stretched our legs with a stroll around the waterfront and popped into the celebrated Foam Brewers on Lake Street to see what was on tap that day, check out some local music, and chill on its patio.
Named among the best new brewers in the nation by Beer Advocate, RateBeer, and Men’s Journal, Foam offers a rotating selection that varies by season and inspiration. We tried the Mythological Beauty, a lavender-hued fruited sour beer with notes of blueberry, coconut, and lemon, as well as Nightmares on Wax, a modern white IPA with notes of vanilla, spice, and citrus.
We checked into the appropriately monikered Hotel Vermont, and as happens, its Juniper restaurant also focuses on locally-crafted spirits and home-grown provisions that drive the menu. For dinner, we started by nibbling on roasted carrots with pistachio hummus and buttermilk crumble and Maple Wind Farm chicken drumsticks with spicy house-made sauce. For entrées, the seasonal gnocchi specials are highly coveted (ours featured chevre gnocci with sunchokes and caramelized Brussels sprouts, but the new spring version is filled with fresh spring peas and other first-comers from the garden).
But fall-apart-tender was the grilled pork belly served on a bed of creamy polenta with a dollop of tomato jam. Insider tip: You can ask for local wine pairings from Shelburne Vineyards or celebrated Vermont winemaker Krista Scruggs of ZAFA wines. But if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, their drinks alchemists boast a menu of inspired tipples crafted from local distillations – for a refreshing twist on a gin and tonic, we tried the Business Thyme, featuring Barr Hill Gin, lime, honey, and, of course, thyme. A seat on the outside on the patio and promises breathtaking views of sunset over Lake Champlain.
Come the weekend, we started the day with the hotel’s in-house yoga classes…though a refreshing run along the waterfront before settling down to brunch at Juniper meant we didn’t have to regret ordering the decadent Red Flannel Hash (grass-fed corned beef, beets, potatoes, topped with two golden-yolked eggs) and the savory mushroom tartine oozing with creamy Spring Brook Tarentaise cheese. Safe to say we also made a selection from their Bloody Mary Bar, and we went as spicy as possible.
Before the day was up, we made a stop at the city’s South End, a former industrial area emerging as a galvanizing point for artists and young entrepreneurs. The Soda Plant is, as we had guessed, a former soda factory space that has been transformed as a collective for small, upstart businesses. Brio Coffeeworks has a space, both roasting and selling their beans; CO-Cellars is a winery and tasting room, a collaboration between the founders of Shaksbury hard ciders and Krista Scruggs of ZAFA wines. The space is used for active fermentation, experimentation, and an open-to-the-public tasting room – and we highly recommend stocking up on their rosé cider before you depart.
Other forms of fermentation can be found at Pitchfork Farm & Pickle, which, sure, is one big hipsterriffic cliché – but they will literally pickle anything from butternut squash and carrots to classics such as Bavarian-style sauerkraut and Korean kimchi, if that’s your thing. After you’re done with all that tasting, stroll through a few of the art galleries, jewelry makers, and other intriguing independent shops.
Although Burlington isn’t lacking in good, atmospheric hotels, the Hotel Vermont is a more contemporary choice, sleek and modern, but with rustic design touches and a welcoming atmosphere. Perfectly located between the Church Street shopping and entertainment hub and the waterfront, the five-year-old hotel has become central to the character of the community and is a staunch supporter of Burlington’s groundswell of emerging businesses. From the architecture to the food and beverage program, almost everything is sourced locally – including the in-room coffee mugs created by a Burlington-based potter and the coffee served in them, from award-winning Burlington roaster Brio Coffeeworks. Urbane rooms feature patterned carpets, warm woods and stylishly muted color schemes.