Whenever I’m traveling to Burlington Vermont, I always indulge in ice cream, cheese and chocolate along Route 100 in Waterbury. First I hit the Ben & Jerry’s, then Cabot Cheese then Lake Champlain Chocolates.
Before doing the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour I walk up the hill to the Flavor Graveyard where I pay my respects to a de-pinted friend, Dastardly Mash. Each grave is marked with a wooden tombstone with the flavor’s name, when it was produced and when it was de-pinted (killed off the production line). I usually pause at a few other favorites; Fresh Georgia Peach, Rainforest Crunch and Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Swirl, all great in their time. I certainly hope I never see Cherry Garcia in this group.
People in my tour hailed from around the world, Massachusetts (me), Alaska, England, Australia and France. Our guide told us that over 400,000 people visited the factory in 2018. She also said that all the ice cream is made in Vermont; the St. Albans and Waterbury plants combined produce 700,000 pints a day.
We started in the aptly named Over the Moon Theater and a video telling how Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in seventh grade. Yes, there really is a Ben and a Jerry. After taking a $5 business correspondence course they decided that since ice cream was their favorite food, why not make their own. They started concocting and tasting flavors in the basements of their parents’ homes.
In 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington Vermont Ben & Jerry opened their first ice cream shop. The rest is history.
Exiting the theater, we watched through glass windows as the flavor of the day was being processed from large stainless-steel vats to cartons to shrink wrapping to freezer. Then it was time for free generous samples of their number one selling flavor, Cherry Garcia. In my next life I want to be a taste tester for Ben & Jerry’s.
From there it was down Route 100 to another Vermont institution, Cabot Cheese. Cabot Creamery was founded in 1919 when 94 dairy farmers pooled their life savings, $3,700, to purchase a creamery building in the tiny town of Cabot in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
Today that creamery mixes, slices and packages millions of pounds of cheese a day. Not to mention the hundreds of gallons of cottage cheese, sour cream and butter that are processed there. Just goes to show you what Yankee ingenuity can do. The shop was not lacking in samples, everywhere I turned there were plates of cheeses; Pepperjack, Five Peppercorn, Monterey Jack and Smoky Bacon Cheddar. I munched as I shopped.
My last stop is always Lake Champlain Chocolates. This shop, with its to-die-for hand crafted chocolates, is a chocoholic’s dreams come true. The truffles come in delectable flavors; cappuccino, vanilla malt, raspberry and champagne to name just a few. The company’s Five Star chocolate bars, filled with fruits and nuts, have been named “The ultimate chocolate bar” by Vogue magazine. Of course, I helped myself to samples while choosing treats for the road.
Images courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot Cheese and Lake Champlain Chocolates