If you follow me on Instagram, you probably caught me overgramming just a little last weekend. In July, Stonyfield Organic invited us to spend a few days with them in New England–you know, touring organic dairy farms, driving through the most beautiful scenery, kayaking in the ocean. I’ve always had this fascination with New England and have dreamed of going there, but between living half a country away from both my husband’s and my parents, plus having little kids, I just didn’t see it happening anytime soon. Sara wasn’t able to make it, but I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
I ended up needing to drive three hours to fly out of the New Orleans airport (turns out flying from one small airport to another small airport is next to impossible), which is both the friendliest and dirtiest airport I’ve ever been to. Next time, I think I’ll just throw my socks away after I go through security lest I contract a debilitating dirty foot disease.
I had a lot of flying (and airporting) that day, so I started reading All the Lights We Cannot See.
I was feeling a little emotional about leaving my family three weeks after our trip to Seattle, and I just sat there and read and cried and I’m pretty sure the people who sat next to me thought I was having some kind of breakdown, and I kind of didn’t really care.
When we finally landed in Manchester, New Hampshire, Britt, Máiréad (it rhymes with “parade”–this was, like, the very first question I asked her), and Kristina, the darling, hilarious, fantastic Stonyfield girls were waiting for us. In these super-cool vans.
I basically sat in the back and took pictures of all the hills and gorges and trees and wildflowers and said about 10 million times, “THIS IS SO GORGEOUS!” Yep, I was that person.
We stayed in The Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont (which is not the same Woodstock as the music festival–that’s in New York.) Woodstock is probably the cutest little town I’ve ever been in; it totally reminded me of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls.
The inn itself was perfect. Small and charming with a giant fireplace in the foyer, huge vases of local flowers,
unbelievably comfortable beds and pillows, and a restaurant that served an incredible steak at night and had an omelet chef in the morning (I probably need an omelet chef in my life…)
The first night, all the bloggers and Stonyfield peeps met for dinner at the Red Rooster at the inn. For an appetizer, I had the roasted beets with goat cheese.
I’ve had similar dishes before and tried to re-create once when I was about 10 weeks pregnant with my youngest, which was a terrible idea. So I was excited to have someone else show me that these didn’t have to taste like morning sickness.
Like I said, I had the steak. It came with a potato cake (which I had a lot of in New England…not sure if it was a New England thing or a food trend that I’m not cool enough to know about yet, but they’re pretty dang delicious–kind of like a fried or baked piece of mashed potatoes).
I also had the creme brulee trio–“trio” and “creme brulee” are words that should pretty much always go together. They were vanilla, butterscotch, and maple and I really, really tried to show some restraint and not murder all three of them, but I kind of failed.
The next day, we were up early for breakfast (with my boyfriend the omelet chef), then we were on the road to Greg Beaudoin’s Farm in Jeffersonville, VT. The trip was full of twists and turns (like me fixing a roadside gas station toilet…I’m the one you want on The Amazing Race, guys.) I’m writing a Scoop post on Thursday that will go into more details about the farms and organic dairy in general (I learned a lot…and it was all pretty dang cool), but here’s a peek at the farm.
After that, we discovered the place we were supposed to eat lunch had a fire, so we found a little diner. I think it was called the Charlemont. I’m not even totally sure what state we were in (Vermont??). Finding a place that was open on a Saturday afternoon that could accommodate 16 of us was no small feat. They also had the most spectacular Muzak selection ever; from Beyoncé to smooth jazz, we literally could not wait for the next song to come on.
We then headed to Winsome Farm Organics in Piermont, NH.
This was another small, family-owned farm with the most incredible views and the nicest farmers who made the visit complete with cake, Muddy Buddies, and raw organic milk. I’ll be the first to say that I was pretty scared of raw milk. I’ve never been a big milk drinker and part of it has always been this hint of a “fishy” taste or aftertaste, and I was sure that it would be worse with raw milk. Turns out it didn’t taste like that at all–it was seriously the best milk I’ve ever had.
I asked a lot of questions about raw milk because I know that there are some risks associated with it and this is what the experts (the dairy farmers and the dairy science guy).
- Know where it comes from. Ask to see the cows, how they live, how they’re treated, their processes, etc.
- You should pack it on ice after you purchase it and drink it quickly. It’s full of living stuff that’s good for you, but it also means that it spoils quickly.
I know this is kind of a hot topic and I’m not endorsing (or un-endorsing) raw milk, but I will say that it was not at all what I expected. One thing I learned from this whole trip was how much as a society have distanced ourselves from our food sources and that I think we would have a lot more respect for the food that we put into our bodies if we spent a little more time getting to know said food, whether it’s animal products or produce.
After Winsome Farm, we headed back to the hotel before we headed to dinner at Market Table in Hanover, NH. I got to sit across from Gary Hirschberg, the chairman and former president of Stonyfield. He was fascinating, kind, gracious, and full of incredible amounts of information.
The next day, we headed up to Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport Maine (which is the cutest little beach town I’ve ever been to and I wish we could have spent more time there!)
This farm was a little different because it’s a teaching farm and not a for-profit working farm. So in many respects, it was a little more laid-back. It was also on the edge of the ocean, so after we explored the farm and learned more about their very cool mission (that’s coming on Thursday, I promise!), we hopped on down to the ocean
and I paddled around in a canoe with Scarlett from Made It. Ate It. Loved It.
We were facing each other the whole time–turns out you’re supposed to be facing in the same direction, not chatting it up like love birds.
After our ocean adventure, we had a few hours’ drive back to New Hampshire. We had our last dinner at MT’s Local Kitchen where I took my first Uber ride and prayed the whole time that we weren’t going to wind up on the nightly news (I’m feeling really old here). Fortunately, we made it there without getting murdered and dinner was delightful. I got another steak and another potato cake, because when in Rome…
The next morning, we headed to the Stonyfield plant. One of the very nice gentlemen who greeted us looked like Dr. McDreamy, white coat and everything. I hope he’s cool with me posting this picture I snapped on the sly. Although we had to vigorously wash our hands later on in the tour, we unfortunately did not get to scrub in with the doctor.
We got to try all sorts of Stonyfield delights that aren’t available where I live, like this Pear-Ginger Oh My Yog yogurt. Layer of ginger-y pears on the bottom (and not mushy, slimy yogurt fruit, it was still slightly crisp. Ah-mazing.), a layer of yogurt, and a cream layer on top.
We then went on a tour of the manufacturing facility. It was kind of a funny, stark contrast from all the farms we had been to, just going from the farms, which are naturally messy, to this clinically clean factory environment. I had toe protectors, a white lab coat, a yellow reflective vest, a hair net, safety goggles, ear plugs, and a hard hat.
We washed our hands thoroughly and walked through a foot bath to clean our shoes. But I can tell you that from all the organic regulations that the milk has to meet to the cleanliness of the plant, they take the quality of their yogurt very seriously.
After the plant tour, I had a very long day of travel ahead of me–a delayed flight in New Hampshire, a two hour flight, a few hours laid-over in Chicago, another two hour flight to New Orleans,
then a three-hour drive home (plus a few minutes…I made a very interesting detour where I was fairly sure I was going to be murdered. Yes, I do jump to the worst possible conclusions, it’s one of my gifts.) When I got home after midnight, my two cats were waiting for me anxiously on the back steps. Except they weren’t my cats, they were two big, fat raccoons who were entirely unbothered by my presence.
So in recap, I traveled like I was 19, did things I never thought I’d be able (or want to) do, learned and laughed a lot, didn’t sleep nearly enough, and am mentally planning another trip to New England in the future with my family! Be sure to check back in Thursday when I share more about the farms and what I learned while I was there!