Five Unexpected Vermont Maple Treats Worth the Drive
Words and photos courtesy of Seven DaysFive Unexpected Vermont Maple Treats Worth the Drive
By Jordan Barry
Here's a totally unsurprising piece of trivia: In 2020, Vermont was the top maple-producing state in America — again. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our maple trees pumped out more than half of the country's crop, resulting in a record-breaking 2.22 million gallons of syrup.
Sap is still flowing and there are plenty of ways to tap into the spirit of sugaring season.We took a scenic drive into the sugarbush to try five maple-based products that go beyond syrup (though there's plenty of that, too).
The Gateway Farm, 506 N. 116 Rd., Bristol
When you pull into the driveway of the Gateway Farm, don't be surprised if curious cows across the street are eyeing you. They'll keep watch as you head into the tiny, rustic self-serve farmstand.
Inside, if you're lucky, an old Pepsi fridge will be stocked with the farm's ever-popular maple butter ($7). The diversified operation, which is split by Route 116 in Bristol Flats, also sells its pasture-raised meats, eggs, maple, birch syrup and other local products. But the maple butter is really worth the drive.
The combination of pure maple syrup and salted butter is distinct from traditional maple cream, which is essentially spreadable maple syrup. The butter adds a richness that mimics a melty, slightly salty maple caramel. Who wouldn't want to spread that on some toast for breakfast?
Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, 1168 County Rd., Montpelier, 800-242-2740
The creemee window at Morse Farm may have snowbanks piled up on both sides, but don't let that stop you from grabbing a late-winter cone — just knock on the window or call to let them know you're there. Inside, the farm's sprawling gift shop is open seven days a week all year round, and you can order frozen maple treats along with a hot coffee or tea to balance your internal temperature.
If you're worried about eating a creemee in the car — or simply want to stock up — the store offers to-go pints ($4.79). For a DIY sundae in the comfort (and warmth) of your own home, don't leave without a bag of maple-covered kettle corn ($2.25) and a variety of candies sold in a "maple bento box" ($11.95). They range from soft, stretchy taffy kisses to gemlike drops.
Bragg Farm Sugarhouse & Gift Shop, 1005 Route 14, East Montpelier, 223-5757
Posters about the sugarmaking process and the chemical composition of pure maple syrup provide educational reading material as you contemplate the merits of each grade. After you've chosen a favorite, head into the shop to grab a gallon to take home.
But beware: Maple-coated treats abound, and the massive bucket of kettle corn ($6.95) is nearly impossible to resist. Its salty-sweet crunch is ideal for car snacking — as long as you've got hand sanitizer.
Nose for New
Woodnose, Branon Family Maple Orchards, 539 Branon Rd., Fairfield, 827-3914
A sign opposite the long driveway up to the Branon Family Maple Orchards sugarhouse proclaims that the solar-powered, multigenerational family business is "tapping the sun." Now, part of the family has also started tapping into the booming nonalcoholic spirits market.
A corner table in the sugarhouse's well-stocked store displays tall, slender, brightly labeled bottles of Woodnose's Sacré ($35 for 750ml). Justin and Roger Branon Rodriguez craft the zero-proof aperitif from the Branon family's organic maple syrup, which is fermented with a vinegar mother and aged in bourbon barrels. That elixir is combined with fair trade, shade-grown coffee and fresh maple syrup.
The result is a complex, tangy nonalcoholic beverage that's enjoyable as is — like sipping a booze-free amaro — or mixed into a mocktail or cocktail. Bottles from the 2020 vintage are also available at Winooski's Beverage Warehouse, if a drive to Fairfield isn't in the cards. No matter where you get it, Sacré puts a whole new spin on maple.
Bean There, Drank That
Vivid Coffee, 150 Cherry St., Burlington
Technically, Vivid Coffee's new café just off of Church Street isn't in the woods. And no, the coffee roaster's signature Sugar Shack blend doesn't actually contain any maple. But if you're heading off on a maple road trip, it's a good idea to stop in for thematically appropriate fuel.
The maple-like sweetness of the Sugar Shack blend makes for a delightful espresso experience on its own, if that's your style. Taking it up a notch, the Sugar Shack latte ($6) — espresso, oat milk, maple syrup and coconut-maple whipped cream, available hot or frozen — is the perfect drink to put in your cupholder. Thinking ahead to tomorrow's maple-drenched pancake breakfast? A bag of freshly roasted beans ($11) will certainly perk things up.
About the series
This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run seasonally, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.