We went for a mini-vacation to Vermont yesterday - it was my first full day off since August (although I confess to sneaking some empirical finance reading in the car and talking about research ideas). We had a fabulous day of food tourism, hitting the Lake Champlain chocolate factory, the Eaton sugar house, the Ben & Jerry's factory, Cabot Cheese factory, and our favorite grocery store, the Lebanon Food Co-op. As we should have a long time ago, we finally became members of the Co-op.
For me, the highlight of our day was definitely the Lake Champlain factory. The company makes gourmet chocolates using Callebaut base and fresh Vermont ingredients, and having tasted of their lower-end as well as higher-end lines, I can attest to their standards of excellence. The two workers there were incredibly nice, and although we arrived at the half-hour mark instead of on the hour when the tours run, the young man at the counter made us a generous sample platter (2 each of solid dark, dark chocolate raspberry, dark chocolate mint, and Aztec hot chocolate) and played the video for us anyway. The factory store has a glass panel along one wall which looks out into the factory, and you can watch the workers make their wonderful confections. Since chocolate-making has become one of my favorite hobbies lately, it was a treat to see how the professionals do it.
The factory store sells their line of seasonal and standard packaged chocolates in various flavors along with a large array of freshly-made truffles and other confections. In addition, they also sell factory seconds - chocolates from their line which are less than perfect in appearance which are sold at discounts. I bought several kinds of factory seconds as well as several of their fresh specialty truffles. The Aztec truffle was transcendent, with different citrus and spice notes playing out from the time it hits your tongue until long after you've devoured the whole thing. I also tried the mango, mole, and sumatran truffles, which were all delicious.
The chocolates were so amazing and the people were so nice that I forgot to take any pictures there. But since I'm definitely going to go there again, I'll just be sure to remember next time.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Saturday, March 11, 2006
At the Haymarket the last couple of weeks, vendors have been selling cape gooseberries, wonderful little fruits I remember from my childhood in China. While I've seen gooseberry jam at Ikea and recently, dried gooseberries at Trader Joes, I have rarely if ever seen them sold fresh in the United States. Whereas the fresh gooseberries pictured above are American Gooseberries, however, the ones for jam and dried fruit are another species, the European Gooseberry (read more). I was so excited to see them at the Haymarket that I bought 12 pints last week, and 10 more this week. At 50 cents a pint, they are a steal!
These orange berries are covered with papery leaves, and the fruits inside are tart and sweet. They contain tiny edible seeds which have a texture similar to raspberry seeds, and they are low in sugar and high in antioxidents. Their taste is a little reminiscent of pomegranates, with a complex floral flavor that is best savored fresh and unadorned. The ones I got from the Haymarket were at peak flavor. I saw more vendors selling them this week than last week, so they may be available for a while - get them while you can!