A Visitor's Critique
by Jeremy Freed
The bedside reading at Hotel Vermont is a book called Vermont is Where You Find It, full of old photos of farmers and folksy wisdom about the weather. Along with a soft plaid robe from Vermont Flannel Company, a wool blanket from Johnson Woollen Mills (Johnson, Vermont) and a pair of hand-thrown mugs by Jeremy Ayers made in nearby Waterbury, one starts to sense a theme in the decor. Indeed this new, modern boutique hotel is dedicated to celebrating all things local—and in Burlington, Vermont’s biggest (and craftiest) city, there is a lot to celebrate.
Vermonters are passionate about their state in a way usually reserved for tiny island nations and Texas. As a result, everywhere you turn in Burlington are products proudly made in Vermont, and a refreshing absence of chain retailers. “Church Street is Burlington,” says Ron Redmond, the executive director of Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, a cobblestoned pedestrian shopping street in the heart of town. Redmond moves excitedly through his favourite local shops: Outdoor Gear Exchange for ski parkas; Lake Champlain Chocolates for locally-milled confectionary; Simon Pearce for fine hand-blown glass and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s—everyone’s favourite Vermont success story.
With more than a dozen craft breweries and cideries (and many more to be found in the surrounding area), another thing you learn quickly about Burlington is that it’s a place that’s serious about beer. At Foam Brewers, the taps of experimental brews change every few days, with over 150 varieties made in just the last 18 months. “Your beer doesn’t travel more than 25 feet,” says a bartender, proudly gesturing to the brewing tanks that line the walls as she pours a pint of their latest cultured sour.
If your love of craft beer isn’t quite at Vermont levels, Burlington still has you covered. While the wine list at Hotel Vermont features an array of delectable bottles (a couple of them made locally, of course), an even bigger selection is just a short cab ride away at Dedalus. This combination wine shop, fine foods market and wine bar is designed to take the snobbery out of wine appreciation. With a wide range of natural and biodynamic bottles, free guided tastings and a case of cheeses, cured meats and imported goodies, there’s no better place to discover new grapes, regions and growers.
Back on Church Street, one of Burlington’s best new restaurants awaits for dinner. Honey Road, which opened in 2017, is a perfect representation of what’s great about eating in Vermont right now. The menu is a selection of Mediterranean small plates with an emphasis on local ingredients. The hummus is made in-house and the pita is baked to order. Luxuriating over a plate of braised lamb chops seasoned with za’atar and a glass of Lambrusco may not feel particularly Vermont, but it is. Vermont, after all, is where you find it.
In case you missed it, read Part One of our Vermont series through Stowe.