Shoulder Season: Vermont Bounces Back

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by Matthew Wexler

Food For Thought

With much of Vermont untouched by industrialization, you can traverse the Green Mountains and stumble across a wide array of culinary finds, from local farm stands and cheesemakers to unexpected edible discoveries.

Grab a map and head out on The Vermont Cheese Trail and get your dairy fix from the state’s southeast corner of Brattleboro all the way to the Canadian border. Highlights include Grafton Village Cheese Company, which has preserved the cheddar-making tradition since 1892; Crowly Cheese, the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in the country; and Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery - started with $2,000 in savings and a $4,000 loan from an agriculturally-minded neighbor, the creamery now helps support 17 local goat farms as well as St. Alban’s Cooperative Creamery.

For a broader perspective on Vermont’s farm to table scene, stop by Lisa Kaimen’s W.A.A.W.W.E. (We Are All What We Eat) Farms Market, where you can find humanely raised poultry, beef, and pork, comfort foods like quiche and goulash, and a revolving door of fresh produce from local farmers. Kaimen isn’t short on opinion, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch her at the store and get a passionate earful on the importance of raw milk and eating local.

You’ll find an unexpected fine dining experience in a casual setting at The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow. Chef Rogan Lechthaler convinced his Mississippi spitfire wife Abby to move back to his home state. Together they opened a restaurant where the couple presents seasonal, regional cuisine with country flair. Be sure to call ahead or you’re unlikely to get a table, especially since most guests linger over Lechthaler’s signature dessert, "Late Night Breakfast" - French toast, buttermilk-bacon ice cream, and local maple syrup.

Green Mountains with a Pink Glow

Consider spending your gay greenbacks in the Green Mountains, as it’s one of the country’s most gay-friendly destinations. With a population teetering over 625,000, the state is notoriously progressive in its equality laws and has made a concerted effort to welcome LGBT travelers. 
"Across Vermont, citizens and businesses continue to make a concerted effort toward welcoming the LGBT community," says Tourism Commissioner Megan Smith, "Ahead of the curve, our state led the nation in LGBT equality and we take pride in being an open, safe and non-judgmental culture."

Jen Butson, Director of Communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing (VDTM) adds, "LGBT travelers from around the world visit Vermont annually. Vermont’s progress on LGBT equality is historic. Vermont was the first state to legally recognize gay couples when it created civil unions, and was the first state to pass marriage equality through the legislature." The state’s official tourism site has a dedicated page for LGBT travel and often includes special offers as well as an annual calendar of events.

The Vermont Gay Tourism Association is also a great resource for planning your gay vacation. Founded in 2003, it has grown into a comprehensive hub of lodging, restaurants, services and shopping. And if you’re planning your gay wedding, you’ll find a list of wedding professionals that will keep your bride- or groomzilla tendencies in check.

Mark your calendar for September 21 and 22, when the Vermont Gay Tourism Association (with the support of VDTM) presents Northern Decadence. Held at Battery Park in Burlington, the food and travel expo will feature a Pride Cruise on Lake Champlain, after party at Red Square, silent auction, and an opportunity to taste some of Vermont’s most delicious offerings. "It’s the only food or travel show, in a state that is full of food and travel shows, that targets the LGBT community," says Willie Docto, President of the Vermont Gay Tourism Association, "However, it does not exclude the general population. I see food as a way to bring people of different backgrounds or points of view together. While not everyone may go to a Pride festival, some might attend because a food festival is part of it. Everyone is welcome at our Pride festival."

New on the calendar for 2013 is Vermont’s first Winter Pride at Killington Resort (February 1-3). A collaborative effort between one of Vermont’s most highly rated ski resorts and GNAR (Gay Network Alliance of Riders). The 3-day event will be packed with live entertainment, parties, and plenty of time on the mountain. Ski Magazine recently rated Killington as having the "Best Resort Nightlife in the East".


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